By now you’ll be used to me and my little ‘jollies,’ visiting lovely houses and gardens and sharing my experiences and my photos with you.
Today I thought I’d share a past visit with you.
A visit to a wonderful ruined Manor House in 2007: Cowdray House.
I came across the photos at the weekend and had forgotten all about the visit and how much I enjoyed it until I saw them again.
We visited on a lovely sunny day in August 2007 and enjoyed a leisurely stroll round, using a head-set to guide us as we explored the ruins.
Here’s a little history to put you in the picture.
Cowdray House is in Midhurst, Sussex, and is the most beautiful ruin. It is set in 16,500 acres of West Sussex countryside. There is a golf course, holiday cottages and much more on the site today, but back in 2007 it had only just been opened to visitors when we visited.
The house has been in existence in one form or another since the Middle Ages. The village of Midhurst pre-dates 1066 when it developed as a Saxon Village.
In 1158 the estates of Midhurst and Easebourne, which had been owned by Savoric Fitz Cana from Normandy, are split upon his death between his son, Savaric II, who keeps Ford, near Arundel, where his father had made his home, and his other son Geldwin who inherited Midhurst, and it is here Geldwin builds a fortified manor house on St Ann’s Hill.
In 1197 the estates are reunited under Geldwin’s son, Frank, who returns to Ford. This is the family home until 1284. The Hill only being occupied infrequently. By this time the family call themselves de Bohun and later Bohun, and in 1284 Sir John Bohun moves from Ford to his new home, Coudreye, on the site of Cowdray ruins.
There are various marriages and royal visits to Coudreye and in 1488 Sir David Owen (great-uncle of Henry VIII) marries the de Bohun heiress and after her death in about 1496 acquires Coudreye.
Sometime during 1520 and 1529 Owen gradually demolishes Coudrey and begins building Cowdray (hope you are still with me).
There seems to be some funny business to do with the illegal sale of Cowdray to Sir William Fitzwilliam for £2,000 by Owen’s son, Henry, in about 1529, though Sir David Owen continues to live there.
In 1533 Sir William is licensed by Henry VIII to empark and crenelate Cowdray.
IN 1537 Sir William is ennobled as Earl of Southampton and in 1538 Henry VIII visits for a few days in August, and William’s half-brother and heir, Anthony Browne, receives Battle abbey.
I gather they know how to impress and influence the monarchy to their advantage.
A dispossessed monk (there was some shenanigans to do with the Dissolution of Easebourne Priory) curses the family ‘by fire and by water.’
Hold that thought….
Lady Margaret Pole, the Countess of Salisbury is imprisoned at Cowdray from November 1538-September 1539.
1540 sees Sir William created Lord Privy Seal – he’d already been Lord High Admiral 1536-1540.
In 1542 Sir Anthony Browne inherits Cowdray. And in July 1545 The Mary Rose sinks and Henry VIII visits Cowdray in the August. He’s been several times by now.
In 1548 Browne’s son (also Anthony) inherits. and in 1554 Sir Anthony Browne is ennobled as 1st Viscount Montague upon the marriage of Queen Mary to Phillip of Spain.
There’s a pattern developing here; royal visit, rewards…but it can’t last.
The 1st Viscount finds himself under house arrest at Cowdray in 1588 (Defeat of the Spanish Armada) because he is a Catholic. In 1592 the 2nd Viscount inherits not long after a visit from Queen Elizabeth 1st.
1595 Montague issues his Book of Orders and Rules for the direction of his household. And in 1605 – Gunpowder Plot – the 2nd Viscount is imprisoned briefly for complicity.
Guy Fawkes came from Midhurst and he was employed at Cowdray in his youth – makes you think!
In 1611 he is imprisoned once more for refusing to take the Oath of Allegiance to King James 1st and is fined £6,000.
1629 sees a 3rd Viscount inherit and in the 1630’s Robert May is employed as Chef at Cowdray.
1643-60 During and after the Civil War, two-thirds of the Cowdray estates are sequestered and all plate etc. seized. The house is Garrisoned by Parliamentary forces but escapes demolition.
1682 the 4th Viscount inherits and orders an inventory of furniture.
More deaths and inheritances take place throughout the rest of the century. Capability Brown is employed to ‘modernise’ the gardens in 1770.
Once more fire semi-destroys Cowdray (September 24th 1793), and the 8th Viscount drowns on the Rhine in Switzerland (early October) and the title passes to a descendant of the 2nd Viscount, who dies childless and the Viscountcy becomes extinct.
1794-1840 and the estates are inherited by the 8th Viscount’s sister, who married Colonel Poyntz who out lives her and dies in 1840. The family lives in the former Keeper’s Lodge in Cowdray. Two sons are drowned off Bognor in 1815 and the estates pass to three daughters who cannot agree upon the division.
That curse seems to be coming true.
1843 sees the estates sold to the 6th Earl of Egmont for £300,000.
In 1874 the 7th Earl inherits. Keeper’s Lodge is rebuilt and becomes the present Cowdray Park (1878). 8th Earl inherits in 1897 and the estates are sold in 1908 to Sir Weetman Dickinson Pearson who in 1917 becomes Viscount Cowdray.
1913-19 Sir William St. John Hope is asked to report on the ruins of Cowdray, Easebourne Priory and St. Ann’s Hill. Some restoration work is undertaken.
Various Viscounts inherit and in 1995 the 4th Viscount Cowdray inherits and in 1996 Cowdray Heritage Trust is created and from 2006-7 major conservation work is undertaken.
From March 2007 Cowdray has been open to visitors. We visited soon after, in August.
It was such an interesting place to visit. There was a lady (guide) sitting inside the ruins who told us about some Graffiti we’d spotted, which had been left by various occupants of the property which I found too difficult to photograph as it had faded so much.
There is a lovely little restaurant just before you enter the site of the ruins and there are lots of interesting things on sale, such as pottery, and other items usually available at such places. It was clean and all brand new. The staff were friendly and helpful. We watched a typically English cricket match just outside the main ruins at one point.
It was a lovely day out. Later we walked around the village of Midhurst which is delightful. The buildings are fascinating – do look up if you visit.
The church is so pretty and there is a lovely lake at one end of the village which we sat beside whilst drinking a glass of wine (or two) as we watched birds on the water.
In addition to Guy Fawkes, other famous occupants of Midhurst village included H.G. Wells. Also, pop singer Billy Piper, Actor Trevor Eve and his wife Sharon Maughan. I took a photo of the blue plaque outside H.G. Wells’ home, but cannot find it.
The Cowdray Heritage Trust is Heritage Lottery Funded.
As ever all photos are (c) Jane Risdon 2007 All Rights Reserved.
I really hope you enjoyed reading about my visit to Cowdray Park and if you get the chance do visit the ruins and the village.
The present Lady Cowdray recently renovated the Tower and there is an art studio, Lady Cowdray Renaissance Art Studio, situated in there (2016) and art courses are held. The artist in residence is David Cranswick and he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org for information and bookings.
You can get details of opening times at Cowdray and information about their Holiday lets and more, by contacting email@example.com or phoning the estate office at +44 (0)1730 812423
Cowdray, Easebourne, Midhurst, West Sussex GU29 OAQ England.
Let me know what you think. I’m always interested in your feed-back. Thanks for your visit.
At the end of last year I read a book which made me laugh out loud. I enjoyed it so much I left a review on Amazon and decided to invite the writer, Jeff Lee, to pop in here to chat about his book, his life and the city he loves; Los Angeles.
I love L.A. and so many of the locations for his story are very familiar to me, and I’ve met a few Vonda’s in my time, all of which added to the enjoyment of this rip-roaring tale. I base many of my stories in this wonderful city for the same reasons he does.
The book I enjoyed so much is ‘The Ladies Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour.’
What a fab title.
I hope you enjoy his interview and will leave your comments at the end as usual, for Jeff to read.
Welcome Jeff, tell us about yourself:
First off, Jane, thanks very much for interviewing me.
Ok, on to a little bit about myself. I write full time. Mostly, fast-paced, hysterical crime novels that poke a ton of good-natured, satirical fun at Los Angeles, crime, murder, sex and the entertainment industry.
I’ve spent most of my adult life here and I love this town. I mean, can you think of a more fertile hunting ground for a satirist? I’m retired now, having spent more than 40 years thinking up and writing ads, commercials, brochures and billboards that left a lot of readers shaking their heads and laughing.
I once did a print ad campaign for the L.A. chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, focused on their ‘clients’ who were available for adoption. We used the same photo for a couple of different ads – a group portrait of half a dozen dogs, all looking happy and irresistible. And I decided to have a little fun with some of the commonly held stereotypes about the singles life in this town. The headline on one ad read, “Some L.A. males are actually hungry for a commitment.” Its partner’s headline said, “Some L.A. females don’t care what you drive.”
I still write in that same iconoclastic, wise-ass voice. Only now, I don’t have to worry about hurting a client’s feelings, or getting some network’s mammaries in a wringer. And that’s where the fun truly lies.
It certainly does Jeff
It would appear that your location is important as a source of inspiration and setting for your work, or doesn’t it matter? Does the story finds its own location?
Like I said, I LOVE this town, and I know an awful lot about it, since I’ve been living here since the earliest days of disco. So, I like to inject a lot of this area’s personality and idiosyncrasies into my books. I’ve had reviewers comment that they felt Los Angeles was actually an unnamed character in my books.
I’ll drink to that.
You mentioned your former career. Please share your ‘official’ bio so people understand more about you.
Born near New York City and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jeff Lee has spent his entire writing career in Los Angeles. For more than 40 years, he has been a copywriter, producer and creative director for some of the advertising industry’s most recognizable agencies, winning numerous awards for his creativity and wise-ass sense of humor. Typical for his industry, none of those ad agencies are still in business, but he appears to have pretty solid alibis for the deaths of each one.
Retired from advertising, Jeff now spends his time on his own writing, having produced three novels in his Adventures in La-La Land, L.A.-based comedy crime series – The Ladies Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour, Hair of the Dog, and Chump Change. And, looking at life from the other end of the comedic spectrum, he also penned Bird Boy, a cautionary, para normal novel about extreme teenage bullying and the frightening places it could lead. Each of his books debuted to rave reviews, garnering all 4 and 5-star reviews.
Jeff is currently slaving away in his dungeon, hard at work on Hurricane Kretschman, the fourth novel in his Adventures in La-La Land series. And annoying everyone within earshot with his jokes.
Trained as a cook in the Army, he still enjoys being creative in the kitchen, and admits that few things in life compare with the thrill of discovering you’ve just given a nasty case of food poisoning to 140 heavily-armed troops.
A multi-decade resident of the Los Angeles area, Jeff has resided there almost long enough to apply for his L.A. native papers. He currently lives with one of his sons, a dog that’s a diagnosed foot fetishist, and a cat with half a Hitler moustache, that thinks it’s part golden retriever.
Tell us how you first began writing and why. What first inspired you to write?
That’s a tough one. I’ve been writing since I was about 12. I wasn’t exactly the class clown; more like the class Jonathan Swift. That’s more than 55 years of always poking fun at something on paper. Add to that a 40+ year career as an advertising copywriter and professional wise-ass. But I’m no different from every other copywriter who’s ever typed out the words, “But that’s not all…”
We all have a desk drawer somewhere, stuffed full of short stories, novels, screenplays and god-awful poetry. Particularly in this town, where everyone is a hyphenated writer. You’ve got your bank teller-writers; cop-writers; chef-writers; parking lot attendant-writers; undertaker-writers; realtor-writers…well, you get where I’m going here. “
Jeff, I can’t tell you how many times my lunch or dinner has been enhanced by the presentation of the collected recordings of one of the waiting staff, for my enjoyment and consideration – occupational hazard.
The first thing I can remember writing as a creative exercise was a report for my 8th grade teacher, on the American Civil War. He had a PhD in American History and was truly rabid about the subject. And every one of us 12 year-olds had only a couple of months to produce a minimum 50 page-long, typewritten and fully annotated research paper on the subject. I made it to around page 35 before my sense of humor started rearing its ugly head, filling the second half of my research paper with jokes, one-liners and a ton of irreverent humor. For which, I received a grade barely above failing and the handwritten comment, “I had no idea the Battle of Gettysburg was such a hoot. Stop making fun of our country’s history.”
How do you describe your writing and genre? Do you think you fit into a particular box or have you created your own?
You mean my writing style? I prefer to write for the ear, instead of for grammatical precision. Almost fifty years of writing radio and TV commercials will do that to you. I write the way people speak and think, which makes it much easier on the reader. And why my books are chock-full of sentence fragments.
And one-word paragraphs.
And paragraphs & sentences that start with the word “and”.
Which gives me a writer’s voice you won’t find anywhere else.
And has earned me the undying hatred of high school English teachers from coast to coast.
Who or what inspires you?
Everything inspires me in one way or another. My first book, The Ladies Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour, was inspired by a ham and cheese omelette and breakfast conversation I was having with someone, about RV’s – I think you call them ‘caravans’?
Another, Chump Change, was inspired by a pocket full of quarters and a morning spent washing my t-shirts, jeans and unmentionables at the local laundromat.
You just never know where that next idea for a book is going to come from. At least, I don’t.
Whose books do you read and do you always read similar genres to your own?
When I have the time to read, I tend to pick up authors whose style is at least somewhat similar to mine. Carl Hiaasen, Fannie Flagg, early Dan Jenkins, Janet Evanovich, early Tom Robbins.
Who are your favourite authors and why?
My absolute favorite author has to be William Goldman. The man is a literary god, who’s written the novels and/or screenplays for, among other things, Boys and Girls Together, Soldier in the Rain, Magic, No way To Treat A Lady, Harper, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and dozens of others. He’s also written the screenplays for A Bridge Too Far, plus the novel and screenplay for The Princess Bride. And may have also script doctored Goodwill Hunting.
Toss in Faulkner, some Hemingway, James Clavell, Ludlum, Trevanian, Ian Fleming, Leon Uris, Joseph Heller and thirty or so others, and you’ve pretty much got my list.
Can you recall the first book as an adult you read?
There have been so many that I can’t recall which was first. I do remember devouring Shogun in two evenings.
Do you have a brain spewing ideas or does an event set the little grey cells dancing?
LOL. My brain is constantly spewing out ideas, especially for book themes. My problem is, I forget to write them down.
What kicks an idea into words?
After coming up with an idea for what might make for an interesting book – AND THEN WRITING IT DOWN, I like to spend some serious time thinking the idea, plot and characters through. Then I’ll fire up the computer and start pecking away at it.
Tell us about the first book you ever had published and how this came about – are you self-published or do you have a publisher?
I finished writing my first book, The Ladies Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour, some time in 2005. Then I started sending out query letters to literary agents.
Six years and 500+ rejections later, I finally said the Hell with it and published the book myself on Amazon (trust me, they make it sooo easy).
Do you have an agent? How did you find one or if you don’t have one, are you considering employing one? Did your agent obtain your publishing contract or had you done the leg-work already?
Interesting question. I don’t have an agent yet. But I DO have a collection of more than 500 rejection letters I’ve received from them.
When I was briefly with my publisher, an agent had nothing to do with it. I found the publisher myself and approached them. Since I’m self-publishing my eBooks, I have no need now for an agent to handle them. But I’m still interested in finding one to handle everything that isn’t eBook related. Like, paperback & Hard cover rights. Publication rights for other languages. Movie and TV rights. I would love to find an agent conversant with those disciplines.
How many books have you written and do you have a favourite and why?
So far, I’ve written four novels: The Ladies Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour, Hair of the Dog, Chump Change and Bird Boy. Farewell Tour and Chump Change are both available as eBooks on Amazon. I’m going to be re-publishing Hair of the Dog and Bird Boy, and they will be. Too. But right now, they’re not available.
Tell us something about each of your books
The Ladies Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour is a fast-paced, hysterical road trip, involving three middle-age best friends, a humongous RV, massive quantities of Chardonnay and a stiff, frozen solid and wedged into the large freezer in the RV’s basement. The body belongs to the waste-of-skin boyfriend of one of them, and the three are on a white wine-powered quest to find the perfect place to bury his worthless body. Imagine Thelma and Louise…on the road with Lucy & Ethel.
This is the one I read and enjoyed so much. I have to admit the Thelma and Louise reference didn’t sway me having never seen the movie.
Chump Change is really a longish and satirical love letter to many of the things I love about life in Los Angeles – all the pomp and posturing; all the success worship; all the shallowness of life among the fit, tanned, and morally clueless folks whose big goal in life is to wind up on a reality TV series. We’ve got a crew of un-wise guys who steal an armored car hauling part of the city of Los Angeles’ monthly parking meter swag – roughly $300,000 in twenty-five cent pieces.
They, in turn are being pursued by a group of villains who want that seven and a half tons of quarters for themselves. There’s a corrupt televangelist who wants to use the loot to finance his first venture into biblical-themed porn to peddle to the faithful; his wife and co-minister, who’s laughably insane over winning toddler beauty pageants; the city’s parking meter czar, who would just as soon shoot you as talk to you; and a defrocked talent agent, looking to fund a TV show pilot that will get him back into the reality series biz.
I’ve read (and thoroughly enjoyed) The Last Ladies Temperance Farewell Tour which had me laughing out loud at the antics of your three female femme fatales as they go on a West Coast (USA) road trip, hauling their guilty secret along with them in their RV. What inspired this story? Do outline the story for my readers here.
When my then partner and I had our little ad agency, one of our clients was a huge club for the owners of RV’s and trailers. I used to love to hear stories about some of the shenanigans that went on at some of their huge jamborees and get-togethers. One day, over lunch with my client, she started re-regaling me. Next thing I knew, I was daydreaming about my book’s story. I think the best way sketch this story out would be to pick up the book’s back cover copy. So, here goes:
“Vonda Mae Ables could never hurt a soul. Now she’s on the lam in a huge RV, with her best friends, gallons of Chardonnay and a stiff in her freezer.
Vonda has suffered her alcoholic boyfriend’s abuse for twenty years. But when she finally stands up for herself, she overdoes it and crushes his skull with a football trophy.
Rather than turn herself in, she enlists her friends to help ditch the body. They stash the boyfriend in the freezer of his humongous RV and take off for Arizona, planning a quiet desert burial.
Unfortunately, the plan goes more sideways with every mile. Vonda finally finds a likely place to plant the dead SOB, but now he’s frozen solid and stuck in the freezer.
Exhausted from their day of digging and unsuccessfully trying to extricate him, the women stop at a local cafe. While they’re drinking dinner, a gang of Harley-riding repo guys makes off with the RV and a Good Samaritan reports the theft. Vonda panics when the police arrive to investigate, knowing that if the cops recover the RV and discover what’s in the freezer, she might have to turn that old trophy on herself.
Imagine THELMA AND LOUISE—on the road with Lucy & Ethel.
It’s about good friends, good wine, manslaughter and the crazy lengths we’ll go for those we care about.
You are in the middle of a new book, with some of the characters I met in the Farewell Tour – The Harley riding Fish, Kenny and Einstein – and I can’t wait to read their adventures. Can you share a little more about this new book with us?
Actually, that’s a tough question to answer right now, since I’m not even 25% through with the first draft yet. Since I don’t outline, but prefer to let my characters write the story for me, there any number of directions this book could scamper off to. But, what I can share is the overall theme of the book: Harley riders Fish, Kenny and Einstein have taken a couple of weeks off, and are going to spend their vacation getting to, and taking part in the event that’s almost a holy requirement for every Harley Davidson rider and enthusiast.
They’re on their way to Sturgis, South Dakota for the annual motorcycle rally. Just our three heroes and five hundred thousand of their closest friends – hard driving, hard drinking, hard partying “hog” riders. And they’re accompanied on their journey by an off-duty female cop who’s got a thing for Fish, her own full-race Harley, a very short fuse and a violent temper to match.
Do you write in long-hand or are you straight to the computer when working?
I write exclusively at the keyboard. My handwriting is so atrocious I should have gone to medical school and had career scrawling out prescriptions. And two, it’s a lot more efficient to compose at the keyboard than to write it all out in long hand, and then have to copy everything to the computer.
Do you ever stare at that blank page and wonder what the hell? How do you motivate yourself? How do you work?
Only at the end of every single chapter. I sit staring at the screen for a while. Then I say to myself, all right, genius. You’ve gotten your character out of that pickle. Where to from here?
What props (if any) help you settle down and work in comfort?
None, really. Just maybe a cup of coffee. I hate to sound so boring, but that’s about it.
Do you find yourself distracted with endless coffee breaks, sessions on Facebook? Music, TV? Do you work silence or do you have a soundtrack as you write, and if so whose music do you play?
Of course! That’s half the fun of expressing yourself on paper. I’ve got to be in a quiet place in order to write. No TV. No talk shows. No (Pick your favorite country)’s Got Talent. For me, all that stuff isn’t background; it becomes the foreground, and I forget all about what I was trying to write. That’s why I can’t listen to music when I write, either.
When you get an idea do you have the full story in your head and write from beginning to end, or does your story just spill out as you write without any real idea where it is going? Does it write itself?
I usually have a rough idea about a theme for the book, and where I might want to take the story. But since I live in a democracy, I like to let my characters have a vote, and they usually override me. In Farewell Tour, I had such a good feeling for the characters, I pretty much left them free to write the story for me.
Have you any formal training in writing? Taken classes in Creative Writing for example? If not, would you ever consider it or do you think learning on the job is the best route to take?
No formal training as a writer, as such. But, I’ve also spent 40+ years writing professionally in advertising. I know my unique voice; I know how to make a lot of seemingly un-funny things hysterical; and I’m not afraid to take big chances.
What are your aspirations as an author? Do you want to be a NY Times best-seller or are you writing for your own satisfaction; fame and fortune would be a nice by-product but not your sole motivation?
Nothing extravagant. I would just like to earn enough from my writing to afford to have “people”.
So, when some producer hits me with a suggestion that defies both logic and physics, I can respond by gushing, “Sounds de-vine, darling! Have your people call my people, and we’ll set up a meeting.”
But now that I think about it, it would be seriously cool for some toy manufacturer to come out with a line of Jeff Lee action figures. Especially if one comes with a Kung-Fu grip. You listening, Mattel?
Have your people call my people and we’ll set up a meeting.
Very Hollywood Jeff; Let’s ‘do’ lunch, meaning let’s chase a lettuce leaf around a plate together, or just a glib invitation soon forgotten as I recall.
Describe your writing day – or do you write at night?
I try to wake up early. Usually, before the local drunks have called it a day. Have a little coffee, and then spend the next eight hours answering all the emails and notifications that came in overnight.
Then I’m ready to actually write for two or three more hours.
Quit for the day to let loose the dogs of cooking in the kitchen.
Then I pass out from exhaustion, some time between midnight and 1am.
Do you write every day?
I try to. But there’s an old Yiddish proverb that roughly translates to, “Man makes plans, and God just laughs.
In my case, the Almighty’s got a Hell of a sense of humor!
Do you set yourself targets – word count or chapters per writing session?
Nope. Who needs the pressure? Since I don’t have a publisher’s deadline breathing down my neck and fogging up my glasses, I choose not to.
I average between five hundred and 1500 words per day, depending. If I can hit within that range, huzzah! If I fall short, there’s always tomorrow. I mean, what am I gonna do — threaten myself with breach of contract?
I don’t scare easily.
Let’s have a taster of one of your books
Ok, Jane. As a parting gift for you and your readers, here’s a little sample of the way I hammer words together.
It’s the first chapter from my book, Chump Change.
It’s a short 6-page chapter, but it’ll give you a quick view of the love affair I’ve been having with L.A. for all this time. Along with a couple of landmarks you’re sure to recognize.
If you’re trying to get from one end of Los Angeles to the other during rush hour, you’ve got two choices.
Assuming you’re the head of Disney, ABC or 20th Century Fox, your corporate helicopter can whisk you where you need to be before the Grande, half-caf two-pump Chai Latté in your cup holder has a chance to cool off.
But if you’re anyone else, you’re stuck sharing the Ventura, Santa Monica or San Diego Freeways with three or four million of your closest friends.
Which means, sometimes the best way to get where you’re going in L.A. is just to be born there.
The man checked the rear view mirror on the left side of his handlebar, pulled in his clutch lever and kicked his Harley down into second gear. Then he eased his old school chopper into the space between his traffic lane and the one on his right and moved out at a steady thirty five miles per hour. Meanwhile, the rest of the vehicles on either side of him continued inching forward like a herd of caterpillars, all busily converting the Sepulveda Pass section of the San Diego Freeway into the world’s longest parking lot.
The rider’s name was Moe Fishbein.
“Fish” to his friends.
In this town, everyone was a hyphenate of one kind or another. You had your actor-producers; your actor-directors; your parking valet-screenwriters and orthodontist-talent managers.
But Fish was a hyphenate of a different color.
He was a chef-attorney-repo man-bounty hunter, enjoying a few days off.
Fish had worked his way through night law school as a restaurant sous chef and passed the California Bar exam on his first try. Then, a few years later, he turned his back on the partnership offer at Uptight, Rigid, Repressed & Lipshitz to live at the beach and just dabble.
These days, he practiced a little law here, a little vehicular repossession and fugitive apprehension there.
He might never earn enough to get a write-up in Forbes.
But then again, as founder and CEO of Big Dog Recoveries, he worked when he wanted; for whom he wanted; and still managed to support a lifestyle that included a home perched above the cliffs on the North end of Malibu. Not to mention days off playing on seventy K worth of custom designed “old school” chopper, blasting up and down the coast and carving some of the local canyons with the two heavily tattooed, hog riding junior members of the firm, who lived in his guest house.
Small wonder Fish spent a lot of his waking day smiling.
He pulled to the curb in front of a modest $800K post World War II starter home a block South of Ventura Boulevard, climbed off his Harley and started hoofing it down to the busy thoroughfare. If the San Fernando Valley had a main drag, Ventura Boulevard was it, a twenty five-mile long collection of boutiques, trendy salons, overpriced little restaurants, discount furniture and lighting galleries and garish strip malls that stretched from just outside Universal Studios in Studio City, all the way out to the Kardashian’s back yard in Calabasas.
To Fish, the Valley was a lot like Long Island–with palm trees.
He strolled a hundred feet up Ventura Boulevard, held the door for a junior development exec from NBC who was too busy texting on her smart phone to nod a polite thanks, and then walked inside.
The huge neon sign above the entrance pretty much said it all:
“ART’S DELI. Where every sandwich is a work of Art.”
Muslims the world over might pray to Mecca five times a day.
But for members of the tribe who resided within a time zone or two of Studio City, one of the holiest spots on Earth had to be Art’s Deli.
Starting fifty some-odd years ago with a passion for cold cuts and traditional Jewish fare that was just like momma wished she used to make, Art and his wife opened a small storefront deli just down the street from where Ventura Boulevard collided with Laurel Canyon. The place was a monument to good food and gargantuan servings, and it became an instant hit, doubling and then tripling its size as the stores on either side became available.
Fish scanned the inside of the eatery, looking for his appointment.
Over in one corner, he spotted a couple of stand-up comics he recognized from their HBO specials.
In another, sat a height challenged “bad boy” rock star with a pirate bandana wrapped around his head, a tendency to punch first and ask questions later, and a voice like a cat caught in a Cuisinart.
Fish watched as a pair of middle aged, former Valley Girls approached him for an autograph, interrupting the flow of the ketchup he was pouring over his breakfast.
Bad boy’s unspoken answer was the handful of loosely scrambled eggs and Del Monte he tossed at his two fans.
Little guys with big-ass egos.
Fish chuckled silently while a Cheshire cat-like grin spread across his face.
You gotta love this town.
Since he still couldn’t spot his appointment, he let the hostess seat him in a booth along Art’s Art Wall, an unbroken surface that ran from the front of the deli back to the rear and separated it from the high end toddler boutique next door.
Equally spaced along the wall were humongous four foot by six foot, framed full color photos, extreme close-ups of some of Art’s creations. Each sandwich was posed with its two halves facing each other at an angle that lovingly displayed every moist, glistening layer of rare roast beef, ham or pastrami and every luscious globule of fat in all its glory.
And earned the wall full of oversized food portraits the nickname of “Jewish Porn”.
Fish rested both arms across the back of his booth and tilted his head straight up, taking in his upside down view of the entire wall. He started to chuckle as he caught himself wondering what would have happened, had Hugh Hefner had been born into the tribe. The centerfolds in Playboy would probably have sported a completely different look.
“Sorry I’m a little late, Fish.”
“Lemme guess. Car trouble? You couldn’t find your way?”
“Something like that. Anyway, sorry if I held you up.”
Fish slowly tilted his head down from his view of the wall full of salacious Hebraic wall decor.
“No sweat, Arnie. I mean, you gotta take that left on Wilshire at Crescent Heights, stay on it until it turns into Laurel Canyon, then follow it over the hill and hang another left on Ventura. Hey, I know it’s a long way from brain surgery, but some guys just can’t handle the pressure.”
He chuckled and motioned for Arnie to take a seat.
“Here, take a load off.”
Having been an attorney for a number of years, Fish didn’t have a lot of use for most barristers.
Or even much respect.
Especially for Arnie.
At best, they were usually long on brains and education, but missing that special chromosome that governed conscience, ethics and morality. Dig deep enough into any big-time financial or political scandal and you’re bound to unearth a few law school graduates rooting around in the muck.
At worst, they could be too bumbling and/or unimaginative to do anything but make life a living Hell for their clients.
Like Arnold Kaufman.
Arnie Babe to his showbiz clients.
He was bright enough to graduate UCLA Law in the middle of the pack, but had to take three runs at the California Bar exam in order to pass. From there, he did what any newly minted lawyer with limited talent and big family connections did–he became a Hollywood agent.
Eventually, he pushed his first and only client into her big break in the movies.
Too bad she had to go and get clipped by a hit man who paraded around in black Armani and talked like Marilyn Monroe.
After that, Arnie made the jump from agent to producer, selling his former client’s life and death story for a movie that was so bad it premiered on airliners. And not American or United; the only place to catch that turkey was aboard a Southwest Airlines Flight.
But that was then.
“OK, Arnie. You called this little meeting. What’s it all about?”
Arnie Babe started rummaging around in his briefcase. “Fish, you ever heard the saying, ‘Opportunity only knocks once?”
“So, right now it’s pounding hard on your front door, Buddy. With both fists.”
He tossed a stack of slick looking brochures onto the table top. “Pitch” folders that TV production companies put together to sell broadcast and cable TV networks on their ideas for new series.
“And it wants to make the two of us rich.”
“So, why is opportunity being so generous with me?”
“Reality TV, Fish. You ever hear of it?”
“Y’mean like that father and son who build custom choppers together, but hate each other’s guts?”
Fish tossed the brochures back onto the pile.
“Thanks, Arnie. But I need that kind of opportunity like a moose needs a hat rack.”
“Don’t knock it, my friend. That show’s made multimillionaires out of both those guys. The same for those nut jobs who fish for crabs out on the Bering Sea. Or what about that guy who whispers at dogs?”
Arnie dug another brochure out of his briefcase and set it face down on the table. “You get a hot reality show and you can make millions off it. Trust me.”
“And you want me to help you produce a reality TV Show?”
Arnie shook his head.
“No Fish, I want you to star in your own reality show. What do you think of this?” He held up both hands with index fingers reaching skyward and thumbs pointed at each other to frame what he was saying.
“Fish … Bounty Hunter to the Stars.”
He turned the brochure over and slid it in front of Fish.
The show’s title was printed in huge letters that took up two lines of type.
Below that was a photo of Fish, on his old school chopper, along with his two assistants, Einstein and Kenny, on theirs.
All Fish could do was shake his head and chuckle.
His cell phone suddenly rang and he switched it over to speakerphone as he answered.
“Speak,” he chuckled at the phone.
“That you, Fish?”
“Yeah, Elias. What’s up?”
“I’m in a real bind here. And I need your help.”
Elias Hope was the owner of There’s Always Hope, a bail bond agency he ran out of a tired old double wide trailer along one of the rare stretches of Hollywood Boulevard that hadn’t gone insultingly upscale yet. Elias was a good guy, one of Fish’s major sources of income. And if he was in a pickle, only one thing could have put him there.
“You got a Failure to Appear for me?”
“What do you mean, an FTA? We’re talkin’ a foursome here.”
What Elias had was Norman Shimazu, Robbie Gubbins, Antwon Porter, and Javier “Bosco” Chubasco, four knuckleheaded, lifelong friends with big dreams of making it in the exciting and high-paying field of car theft.
They’d gotten picked up a couple of weeks ago in a huge award banquet sting at the Queen Mary, a joint venture run by LAPD and the County Sheriffs. The four were charged with a smorgasbord of small time misdemeanors and Elias bonded them out.
Their hearing was yesterday, only they must not have gotten the memo.
Hence, the Failure to Appear warrants. If Fish could round them up and deliver them forthwith to the nearest pokey, he’d pick up a fast eight grand. If not, Elias would be out eighty large for all their bails.
“So,” Elias said. “Can you help me out here?”
“No worries, man. I’ll bring Einstein and Kenny, and we’ll grab these guys up tonight around three, when they’ll either be asleep or sleeping it off. You got an address?”
Arnie kept his eyes glued on the sheet of paper on which Fish was writing Norman Shimazu’s last known residence.
Fish promised to give Elias a call as soon as central booking handed him the body receipts for the four and then hung up.
”See what I mean?” Arnie Babe piped up as Fish slid his cell phone into his shirt pocket. “You’re a natural for this, Buddy. Next couple of calls you go out on, let me come along with a cameraman. We’ll get enough video to put a killer pilot together. And you won’t even know we’re there. Trust me.”
Thanks so much Jeff, I have my copy of Chump Change and will be diving in to familiar locations and characters soon.
It’s been fun and a delight to host you on my blog. I hope you’ve enjoyed it too. Many thanks. I hope my readers enjoy learning about you and will seek your books following the links provided and give us both their valued feedback. I wish you all the best for your future writing career.
Jane, this has been a real pleasure. Thanks for inviting me, and I hope none of your readers’ eyes have crossed by now.
Seriously, I’ve had a wonderful time. And I’d love to do this again.
You can find Jeff following these links:
Farewell Tour’s Amazon link: amzn.to/1KEN8U3
Chump Change’s Amazon link: amzn.to/1LDs9VS
Amazon Author Page: amzn.to/20j8CQp
Facebook Author Page: on.fb.me/1QPczqQ
Let us know what you think folks, please leave your comments, thanks.
I thought I’d share a very short story I wrote a while back. It’s under 5,000 words long, but I enjoyed writing it immensely.
It started out as a piece written for submission to a short story competition, but in the end I decided not to enter. As with most of my writing about Music, I draw from my own experiences or those well documented to give them some authenticity.
Not that I am saying I am a Mafia member – Italian or Russian – I am not. But having worked in the Music Business I got to hear stuff, meet people, and read a lot of books about famous characters…you know the sort of thing.
This story is not based on any particular individuals or events
and is drawn from my imagination entirely.
Just saying….I don’t want any horse’s heads in my bed or concrete boots to wear.
Vegas or Moscow?
Marty Palermo looked around the conference table at some of the most powerful men in the Music business and waited for someone to have the guts to speak up. He knew where the bodies were buried, knew their deepest secrets, and knew how to damage them if push came to shove. It amused him to see them squirm, to see the anxious looks on their faces and to smell their fear. They reeked of it lately, more than usual.
‘Well?’ Marty looked at the President of Five Music, David Klein, raising his eyebrows, barely able to conceal the smirk playing around his mouth, he watched the small bald man’s dark eyes dart around the table, searching for a saviour.
‘What? Lost your voice? Nothing to say now that you know I know what’s coming, eh?’ It was that time of year again; here come the threats if they didn’t get more money, better treatment – whatever! Marty waited for the annual attempt at a power play. As much as it amused him to see them wriggle, he was getting tired watching them flexing what little muscle they thought they had left. They’d been beating around the bush for almost ten minutes now. Just cough it up; grow some balls.
David cleared his throat, his hand smoothing his shining pate. ‘I know you’re pissed off Marty, but you’ve gotta understand, we had no choice.’ He fidgeted in his seat, beads of sweat forming on his top lip.
‘No choice?’ Marty thumped the table, the bottled water jumped and so did the three men sitting around it. ‘There’s always a fucking choice.’ He bellowed at them. Secretly he always quite enjoyed the pretense, but he didn’t let it show. Let them sweat. Three fish on the end of his line.
‘Marty, please, you gotta keep calm, we can work this out.’ Ricky Rossini raised his hands; always the peacemaker, the Vice President hated seeing his long-term friend bullied by the cocky VP of Business and Legal. Marty was going to learn soon enough that the world didn’t revolve around him these days.
‘Yeah, we can work it out, let’s all keep the stress levels down. I’ve had a coronary don’t forget.’ Ernie Roth touched his chest defensively.
The VP of Finance was retiring at the end of the year and wanted to spend time on his ranch breeding horses and generally chilling after years of living in Los Angeles, keeping one step ahead of the movers and shakers ready to trample over him given the slightest opportunity. ‘I’d like to get some quality time before I snuff it.’
‘How the hell can we forget Ernie, you never stop reminding us.’ Marty snapped.
‘Look, Marty, you know how it is, we wanted to tell you, didn’t we guys?’ Ricky looked at the other two who nodded, relieved that he seemed to be taking the lead. ‘You gotta understand, we got leaned on. We had nowhere to go.’
Marty was confused. What the hell were they trying to say? ‘Spill it for Christ’s sake.’
‘You know we’re grateful for what your father, The Family and you’ve done for us Marty, we didn’t want this, we just didn’t know what to do and then, well, and then it got out of control.’ David found his voice again. ‘We didn’t dare tell you, they’d threatened us, our families. It was….’ He trailed off looking at the others for help.
This wasn’t about more money or power then – Marty’s patience was being tested now. Being leaned on? What the hell was going on?
‘Fuck the excuses, I said spill. Better talk to me now or I’ll be flying to Vegas and you know what that’ll mean.’ They knew what that meant. He always dangled the threat.
Five Music had been in business five decades and for most of that time they’d ruled the Charts, ruled Radio and ruled the Music business in LA. They’d sailed close to the wind. They were the hard men of music and only fools butted up against them and those fools were soon dealt with. Back in the seventies they’d pleaded the Fifth Amendment when the Payola scandal threatened to swallow each and every one of them. Serious jail time was on the cards and their saviour came in the form of an Italian Attorney, Chuck Palermo, Marty’s father, whose platinum coated contacts with a certain Italian ‘Family,’ located in Vegas, with an offer to ‘do them a favour,’ managed to get everything to ‘disappear.’ In return for a large share of their business he would look after them and their interests.
‘Welcome to the Family.’ Chuck told them.
‘We look after our own,’ he said and he did; the Family did, and from that day onward the company thrived, never again under attack from the authorities or from rivals. When Chuck died Marty filled his shoes just as he’d been groomed.
They’d been in bed with the Italians from Vegas for decades. Well, until now. Unfortunately the three men couldn’t see any way round Vegas finding out, but first they had to tell the attorney.
‘Remember doing the contracts for ‘Crimea,’ to write all the music for ‘Malibu,’ last year, and the crap their management tried on about wanting control of this and that, like they were some sort of mega noise or something?’ Ricky took over, sitting upright and trying to appear confident. This sucked big time; he felt like a stupid kid in front of his teacher.
‘Yeah, I stuck a flea in those Russians’ ears. They got the message.’ Marty recalled the pair of thugs trying it on, though what that had to do with whatever was going on with these three, he had no idea.
‘If the band hadn’t had such a huge following with massive download sales, I’d have kicked their butts back to Moscow,’ he said. ‘Fucking Russians are everywhere these days.’
He’d planned on getting rid of the managers soon after the band signed, but none of the band spoke English and in the end it hadn’t been worth the aggravation. They seemed to settle down after a while, stopped trying to play hard-ball at every opportunity. Everyone assumed they’d got the message, but now he was wondering. Not that crap again he hoped.
‘Malibu’ was the world’s most successful TV series, reaching two billion viewers in two hundred countries weekly and owned by Five Music’s Production Company, Fifty Percent.
‘They should be over the moon, getting their music on the show’s been a major earner for the band and their management thugs.’
‘But Marty, they didn’t get the message. Those guys sent some heavies round for a ‘friendly word’ with each of us a while back. They made threats; they really put the heat on. I’ve got kids, we’ve all got kids. It was terrible.’ Ricky shuddered. ‘They meant business, serious business, and we had to do it. We had no choice.’
‘What the fuck are you saying?’ Marty was losing patience, this wasn’t about the annual wobble.
He put his face up close to the sweating man, dragged him to he feet. The others gasped, shocked. ‘And we don’t mean business Ricky?’
Marty kicked his chair away and loomed over the table. ‘You guys forget who’s calling the shots, who keeps things nice for you guys, who runs this fucking business? You forget or are you just stupid?’
He walked round the table standing behind the others. ‘You forget who made all that money your wives’ love to spend all these years? You got short memories, or what, tell me?’
‘We, we know what you’ve done, The Family’s done for us, but what could we do?’ Ricky whined. His fleshy, face ashen. ‘They made us an offer we couldn’t refuse, you know, like your Dad did.’
‘Who thinks they can put the heat on?’ Marty’s was purple with anger. ‘Who thinks they can mess with The Family?’
‘You gotta understand, they’re more powerful than you can imagine. For Christ’s sake, those guys are fucking ex-KGB!’ Ricky shrieked stabbing his podgy finger at the attorney.
For a few seconds whilst he swallowed the information, Marty said nothing. The men exchanged fearful looks.
‘Like who said?’ Marty thought about the two thugs managing the band. He’d heard stuff about the Russians in LA, buying up buildings, heavy-handed with tenants, and from what he’d been told, many of them were into gangs and small-time organised crime of some sort, but ex-KGB; he didn’t buy it. They were just trying to muscle in where they imagined they’d found a gap, but he didn’t rate them much. Small fry. He’d sort them before Vegas found out, no big deal.
‘You got your head stuck up your ass, you gotta see what’s going on in this town. It’s changing, the old alliances are dead Marty; the Families are losing their grip, you wise-guys are history. These Ruskies are mean sons of bitches.’ Ernie found his voice at last.
Marty couldn’t believe what he was hearing. The stupidity of them, thinking they could get their protection elsewhere and he wouldn’t – the Family wouldn’t – find out. And if they found out it wouldn’t be a problem? Yeah right. They thought he’d smooth it over. No way was that going to happen. After all these years they couldn’t split from Vegas. It wasn’t and never would be, an option.
‘After all I’ve done for you bastards over the years, you knife me in the back, you crawl to those red-necks first time they put the heat on.’ The Italian felt his blood pressure rising and took a deep breath. ‘Well I can put the heat on, know what I mean?’ He glared at them.
Ricky stood up almost nose to nose with the younger man. ‘You think we stand a chance against them? It’s your Dad and Vegas all over again for us. We had to make choices, we couldn’t tell you until now, but it’s sorted, finished.’ He poured a glass of water and guzzled it. ‘We were stuck between a rock and a hard place; Vegas or Moscow.’
‘I expect you to come to me, to tell me, you dicks. Not go dealing on the sly. How the fuck did you think you’d get away with it?’ Marty pushed his hands down on Ernie’s shoulders and the man shrank under the weight. ‘Did you think there wouldn’t be consequences?’
‘We got protection, like we did from you guys. Now, if we need to get protection against you, The Family or whoever, well, they’ll look after us. You wise-guys are history, what could we do?’ David moved round the table to join his conspirators, safety in numbers.
The young attorney’s blood ran cold as a thought occurred to him. He loomed over the three men he wanted to beat to a pulp. Stupid, stupid, fucking stupid, they couldn’t have, could they?
‘What the fuck did you give them? What do they think they’ve got?’
‘Fifty Percent.’ David spoke at last, his voice hoarse. Sweat poured down his face.
‘Fifty percent of the company?’ Marty was shocked.
‘Our Production company, all of it, not fifty percent of it.’ David whispered.
‘What?’ Marty could hardly believe his ears. He was going to have to fly to Vegas and face The Family after-all. This was deadly serious. These guys had sold them out, had done the dirty and he was stuck in the middle. He wasn’t going to be the fall-guy; he was going to have to do some creative thinking if he was going to survive.
‘And ninety percent of everything else. We get to keep some back catalogue too, but mainly artists not selling well or who’re about to go into the Public Domain.’ Ricky was sheepish for once.
‘We get to stay on the board, salary and stuff, but we’ll be just figure-heads because of our name and clout.’ David’s voice faltered.
‘Fucking nuts! You are so dead!’ Marty yelled, his hands tight fists itching to smack their heads in. In the old days his Dad would’ve given each of them a ruby necklace after emptying his Gluck into them. If he hadn’t, The Family would’ve sent someone to do him as well. Their fucking clout! As if.
‘Stay on the….what about me? What about Vegas? You think they’ll take this, you are out of your skulls; you are so dead, and your families are dead too, believe me. I’m fucking dead!’ Marty had to think.
‘What’s going to happen? What will they do, Vegas, I mean?’ Ernie was shaking so hard his teeth chattered.
‘I need to think before I tell them. What’s the deal with the Ruskies, when do they think they take over? Where are the papers you signed? Was there an attorney there? Get me copies, like yesterday!’
Laurence was pacing, trying to figure a way out. The stupid, stupid bastards. All the friggin’ hints and the run-around they’d been giving him lately. Why hadn’t he realised it was something else, not the usual. If only they’d told him as soon as they got leaned on, he could’ve got some guys in to sort it. Now he wasn’t sure if it was too late or not. Visions of the St. Valentine’s Day massacre flitted across his mind and he shuddered inwardly; no kidding, there’d be consequences.
After a hurried look around, the three older executives left the offices by the elevator to the underground car-park; their swagger gone, their shoulders sagging and fear exuding from every pore. They’d spent another hour with Laurence before leaving him. Suddenly they didn’t feel so sure things would work out the way their new ‘partners,’ had promised.
‘You go home, stay there, don’t do shit, you get me?’ Marty yelled. They got it all right.
They got into their expensive chauffeur driven cars and headed home to await their fate.
The attorney sat in his office, deep in thought. He’d got copies of the documents the men had signed over to the Russians and had read them through several times. He had to hand it to the Russians, they’d covered every eventuality and his colleagues had, as far as was possible, covered their asses too. Still, it wasn’t their asses he was worried about. He was going to be in some serious shit back in Vegas. He’d allowed himself to get too close, too friendly, too ‘into’ the Music business in Los Angeles, which he had to admit he loved. He’d not forgotten his masters back in Vegas, but most of the time things ran smoothly and he’d had little cause to get them involved in running the company.
These days most wise-guys knew to keep their distance from Five Music and so life was pretty good in general. But now, well, now he was going to have to use all his negotiating skills and his wits to try to stay alive and to somehow turn this situation to his advantage. But how?
There was a noise from the outer office and just as he was about to call out, the door flew open and six huge men in dark clothes stood glaring at him; two pointed guns at him, and he raised his hands. His first thought was robbery; someone had come for the office equipment and anything else they could find, but then the taller man spoke.
‘You are Marty Palermo, yes?’ He had a heavy accent.
Marty nodded slowly, ‘Yes, what is it? What do you want?’ His heart pounded in his ears.
‘We’ve come to make you an offer, Marty.’ The man walked round to Marty’s side of the desk and pointed the gun at his temple. The Italian shook from head to foot.
‘Vegas or Moscow?’ The man smiled and waited.
(c) Jane Risdon 2014
I hope you enjoyed my tale, do let me know what you think.
I posted this once before but I thought I’d offer an update to the story and post again.
I hope you don’t mind.
Those of us who have grown up in the middle and latter part of the twentieth century, take a lot for granted. We know how to use a telephone and may well have first used one in a red phone box with the old-fashioned, ‘push button A or B’ method of making a call usually via the ‘operator.’ Many didn’t have phones in their homes back then and so a call box was the only option. We then got to grips with phones in our homes and now, of course, we nearly all carry a mobile or cell phone. Just think what they are capable of.
Our family got a Television when I was quite young so I can recall ‘Watch With Mother’, ‘The Wooden Tops’ and ‘Bill and Ben the Flower Pot Men’ – all in Black and White – back when Children only had an hour of Television programming daily. Now television is going twenty-four hours a day with an over-abundant choice of channels to watch.
I was lucky to grow up taking electricity for granted and never questioned its availability. It was there to light my bedroom when I did my homework, powered my hair-dryer and record player. We listened to ‘the wireless’ back when wireless didn’t mean WiFi.
Imagine then, my conversation recently with an elderly relation (aged 83 at the time ), who has been given an iPad as a gift, to keep her occupied and provide some company and interest as she sits alone day after day gazing out at the world passing by her front window. She has mastered the TV remote and digital TV, can send texts and has used a microwave for decades, but the iPad filled her with terror.
‘You seem to forget, I was born into a home with ‘Harry Randals’ and Gas lamps,’ she sighed, ‘I’ll never get my head around all this.’ I should explain that ‘Harry Randal’ is a well-known English way of saying ‘Candles,’ for those of you reading this outside England.
She is right. She was born into a home with gas lamps, and the only lighting upstairs at night was by candle light. There wasn’t an indoor bathroom or W.C. and so the ‘Gerry’ was kept under the bed (‘Gerry’ is another name for a chamber pot), for emergencies on cold nights when a trip down the garden path to the outside ‘privy,’ was a step too far. Bath night was in a tin bath in front of the fire in the living room, the water heated on the blackened stove fired by coke and logs.
It was rare to own a car back then, rich people had them, but normal every day folk used their feet to get about or a bicycle – her mother rode something called a ‘sit up and beg’ which I have to say is still in use around the village to-day, having been sold several times since they owned it. it is still going strong and was made in England! So I guess you can imagine how alien many of the items we use to-day would appear to someone from her era.
She never learned to drive although her family did have a car which was the preserve of her late husband, she being content to be a back seat driver. Now she competes with Sat Nav (GPS), from the rear of any car she is travelling in, shouting at the female voice giving instructions, telling her that she is going the wrong way, the directions are wrong and ‘why doesn’t she listen?’ It is all a bit ‘too much.’
My elderly relation opened the iPad, hands shaking with the start of a stress headache. I knew how she was feeling. We spent several hours going through ‘how to’ do this and that when suddenly she asked to send an email. Although it was obvious she had no idea just what an email is – she kept getting it confused with texting – I did eventually get her to understand that we needed to get on to the Internet to send emails. She wanted to know if I could turn on Facebook so she could send emails….it was hard going.
I rang and arranged for a sister to set up broadband access for her as I had to go back home. However, I was sure my relation knew how to do the basics with her iPad, and could keep herself amused until she was on-line. My head was killing me – you forget how much we accept about technology and using it; we (I – the baby boomer generation), seem to have the basics where technology is concerned; well, enough to get our heads round most things we use daily. It is all a bit much for someone growing up in the early nineteen thirties.
Broadband was installed and ready to go, so I called in to get her up and running, ready to learn the next steps. All the time I tried to get her online she chatted non-stop, asking me questions that had nothing to do with the situation I was dealing with.
‘One step at a time,’ I kept telling her.
‘How can I goggle at people?’ If she asked me that once she did a million times.
‘If I goggle at people, how can they know and can they goggle me back?’
‘I want to email Face-time, make sure I can email Face-time.’
‘Get me onto Facebook, but I don’t want perverts getting me.’ ‘Make sure you blockade them.’
There was a problem with her connection and no amount of relocating the router and checking her Password would sort it out. I rang the company who informed me there was ‘nineteen hours, fifty-five minutes and four seconds,’ until my case could be dealt with by the technical team, however, ‘my call was appreciated and I was valued,’ etc.
So I had to put it all on hold and come back another day as time was moving on and I had things to do. My relative then decided she didn’t want any of this ‘nonsense,’ and would I take it all away.
‘I’ll just send emails on my phone.’ Which of course would be another migraine, setting up and teaching her to do. Ye Gods!
‘You don’t know what you are doing, I’ll get an electrician in.’ Was her parting shot.
Ten days later and my sister and I have been fiddling with the phone socket, the router and following instructions being issued my our, now expert, elderly relation who has had a conversation with another relation six thousand miles away, who knows all about putting in broadband, and getting the iPad to work – well he should, he gave it to her and there is a hefty price on his head now!
We decide that we need to get extension leads and use the main phone line into the house instead of the socket our relation insists on using. The leads are not long enough and the router doesn’t like being anywhere else. By this time my sister has a migraine too. Our ‘expert’ has told us both how to set up the router, connect the leads and filters and how to ‘get online,’ more times than we’ve had spam!
To cut a long story short, we got it sorted and gave her another lesson in getting online, and sending email. We told her we would do more next time. We didn’t want to overload her with too much information too soon. Within days we were getting bombarded with emails and phone calls…..’I have not had a goggle from anyone, why is that?’
The latest is that a brother called in to visit and managed to get her using Google. He messaged Facebook to say he had to disappear to the local (pub), to sink a few pints for an hour or so, before he went back to see how she was getting on. Apparently she now wants to ‘Surf the net’, so she can find out what we are all doing to keep us all ‘logged on,’ and ‘wasting time on the internet.’
It has been a quite a journey from Gas lamps and Harry Randals to Sat Nav and iPads for one lady born before the invention of The Internet. She has taken to it like a duck to water and has opened up a whole new world for herself; one she is not just watching, but is taking part in once again.
The rest of us will never rest in peace again – she’ll find Facebook and then God help us all!
http://wp.me/2dg55 – my Facebook page.
That was then (2014) and this is now:
God indeed needs to help us – she is now on Facebook and life will never be the same again!
There is NO hiding place.
No comment unnoticed and noted. NO photo unseen and questioned. No activity fails to be judged or admonished.
We can all run but we cannot hide.
An 85 year old has been let loose on Facebook.
Wishing each and every one who has visited and followed me here during the ups and down of 2015,
a very happy festive season and a wonderful 2016.
Thank you so much for your friendship and for making this blog so enjoyable for me and, I do hope, enjoyable for you too.
I’ve had so much fun reading your comments and reactions to what I have posted,
and best of all, having a giggle with you.
The last 18 months has been really exciting for me.
In April 2014 I signed my first ever publishing contract with Accent Press
and in October 2014 I saw my short story,
The Haunting of Anne Chambers, appear in the Anthology, Shiver.
Followed by Wishing on a Star (anthology) which included my short story,
Merry Christmas Everybody, published December 2014.
Thanks to Accent Press and all their fab staff for all their help and for giving me the opportunity to share my work.
A special thanks to my editor, Greg Rees. You are a star.
I am really excited to announce that in May 2016
Only One Woman
co-written with my life-long friend and award winning author,
is to be published by Accent Press.
It is available for pre-order in paperback or ebook from Accent Press
Those who follow me might be surprised to discover that this does not feature any CRIME.
Only One Woman:
One boy, two girls, and a journey through the heady, mad, rock’n’roll 1960s.
June 1968: Renza is preparing to leave school – and England. Her family is moving to Germany and she can’t wait – till the four gorgeous boys who make up pop band Narnia’s Children move in next door.
She falls head over heels for lead guitarist Scott, but after a romantic summer of love together, Renza has to go … December 1968: Stella meets Scott at a local dance where Narnia’s Children are playing.
Scott’s the most beautiful boy she’s ever seen, and she falls for him hard … As the colourful, exciting final year of the sixties dawns, both Renza and Stella realise there can be only one woman for Scott…
Chrissie and I go back a long way and we pooled our experiences of the late 1960s music, fashion scene and the whole vibe of the last wonderful exciting years.
I am busy writing and working towards the publication of Ms Birdsong Investigates later in 2016/2017
Once more it has been a fantastic year meeting new like-minded folk and I’ve had a blast visiting your blogs too.
I’ve really had a lovely
experience meeting new bloggers and readers and finding out about the wide range of subjects you blog about too.
Some of you have been a great support to me since I started this blog about 4 years ago, and I want to thank you all so very much
and tell you how I really appreciate every comment and interaction with you; too many of you to list but I am sure you are well aware who you are.
Thanks so much to all those generous authors and bloggers who have hosted me throughout the year and are too numerous to list here – links are on my blog if you want to check them out.
I never expected to play host to other writers when I started this way back when.
But I have discovered a whole new wealth of talented writers who may well have passed me by had I not been here.
It’s been fun finding out how other
writers work and what makes them and their characters tick, and I know from comments left by you here, that you love it too.
If you are still stuck for Xmas gifts, do consider giving a book by one of these lovely people – do check out my posts with them.
Thanks to all my Guest Authors including:
Margot Kinberg – http://wp.me/p2dg55-1so
Margot kindly invited me to contribute to In A Word: Murder – anthology, published in paperback and ebook, in aid of The Princess Alice Hospice, in memory of her friend, Crime author, editor and blogger – Maxine Clarke:
Mar Preston – http://wp.me/p2dg55-22z
Jenny Kane – http://wp.me/p2dg55-1W4
John Holt – http://wp.me/p2dg55-1eF
TC Chandinha – http://wp.me/p2dg55-1ez
L W Smith – http://wp.me/p2dg55-1AI
Barbara Freethy – http://wp.me/p2dg55-1vV
I’d like to give a special mention to author and blogger, Kim Scott, to highlight awareness of her efforts to raise funds for her treatment for her life-limiting disease Sarcoidosis:
Kim Scott – http://wp.me/p2dg55-1Cx
I really cannot miss this opportunity to remind you all about a fabulous singer, Sarah Weller, who I saw at Ronnie Scott’s in Soho back in March. She was performing at a 91st birthday tribute to one of my all time favourite singers and actresses,
Sarah kindly allowed me to use some of her personal photos of the show in my blog feature on Doris and Sarah.
Read all about it here and if you get chance to see her in concert, do check out Sarah Weller. She is NOT a tribute act, but she sings Doris Day’s songs and tells her life story through anecdotes about the Movies and Music Doris Day.
Sarah Weller – http://wp.me/p2dg55-1Cv
A few years ago I contributed a short story, The Look, to an anthology published by FCN Publishing,
in aid of three charities, and the book is still available via Amazon.
The proceeds go to: Women’s Aid, Breakthrough and Women for Women.
Do please consider
I Am Woman (vol 1) – http://amzn.to/MDkDc6
when looking for Xmas gifts.
Once more thanks to each and every one who has visited, commented, and been a friend to me here during this last year.
You are all so very appreciated.
I wish each and every one of you a very Happy, Healthy, Safe and Secure Festive Season and New Year.
I look forward to having a good old natter with you all again in 2016 and to visiting your blogs and reading your posts.
A Day in the Life
with Author Mar Preston
I thought it would be fun to invite Mar to write about a day in the life of one of her main characters with some details about them as a person, about which her reader’s may or may not be aware.
So here goes. I hope you all enjoy reading this and that you’ll let us know your thoughts later.
I asked her:
How does your character’s day usually begin? Let us know how your character might spend a typical day, working or being a parent, whatever it is they might get up to. Perhaps they have two jobs, or are retired?
Dave Mason is 37 and a homicide detective in the Santa Monica Police Department. Santa Monica is an upscale glitzy seaside suburb of Los Angeles and hardly the murder capital of the world. Santa Monica is home to the homeless, a city of haves and have nots, ripe for dirty politicians, psychopathic homeowners, car thieves, and celebrity troublemakers. So Mason works homicide as well as major crimes against persons. His 10-hour shift four days a week starts with checking his phone and email for a message from his nine-year-old daughter who lives too far away with her mother and new step-Dad, a comic book artist. When he finds something from her in his email box, it makes him smile. Most days he meets with his partner Art Delgado at the Public Safety Building two blocks from the ocean in downtown Santa Monica, a few blocks from the mall, which brings tourists from every corner of the world.
Today he’s scheduled for a krav maga training, the Israeli self-defence system. He and his partner Art will pull themselves away from the minutia of the four or five cases they’re working for an hour or so of dirty street fighting practice that will get his blood up. With the high tension anxiety/sudden low tension life he leads, the irregular meal times, and too much coffee– like a lot of detectives– Mason struggles to keep his weight down. He played beer league hockey until a few years ago but then his knees went.
He and Art Delgado head down later to the basement forensic specialist lab to check the white board where any hits on cases they’re working are displayed. It’s also a chance to hound the forensics people on some fingerprints they sent in two weeks ago. Mason takes a call from his long-time lady love Ginger McNair at 10:15. Another non-profit fundraising job is about to collapse under her, no fault of Ginger’s. Mason doesn’t always say the right thing to Ginger—he always knows how to talk to some dirt bag in the interview room–but this time he does. They arrange to meet for lunch at Chez Jay’s on the bluff above the oceans. Both of them know a detective’s life is iffy. Anything could happen at the last minute—and does.
Mason and Delgado usually work cases together but when one of the occasional whodunit murders comes along that eats up the budget and gives Mason hives, Laura Fredericks is assigned to them. Fredericks is an over-eager, loud and brassy investigator with a crush on Mason. 11:15 a.m. and they get a report of a dead body in the high-end real estate part of the town. Is it a natural death, a suicide, or a homicide? Delgado has to testify in an old court case, and so Fredericks is assigned to go with Mason to check it out. Even cops can’t get through the traffic in Santa Monica quickly.
Fredericks fusses and fumes, cursing slow drivers. Mason goes silent while she brags through the entire 8-square mile city about taking down the krav maga instructor. She could put Mason down in a heartbeat and she knows he knows it. Finally he tells her to tame down her mouth or get out and walk. Her red-head freckled face goes pink with embarrassment. Sometimes she can’t stop herself. Mason makes a string of short calls on his cell phone keeping other cases going. Illegal use of cell phones while driving really sets a good example for the citizens.
The dead body is a suicide so Mason and Fredericks are back at the station for a meeting to update the Sarge. Their major cases are 459 burglaries. Then a call comes in that the new subway to the sea that’s in the test phase has crashed into a truck. A sign of things to come some hot August Sunday when the subway brings half a million people to the beach looking for a good time? Back about 3 pm to snatch a half-hour writing reports, which usually takes up too much of his day. Eighteen new emails: updates from the forensic specialists, stupid cop jokes, BOLOs, notifications from the FBI and Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. Four insistent phone messages he can’t ignore. He postpones his weapons qualifying test for another week hoping sometime this weekend he can get in some practice. Gnawing hunger pains at 4 o’clock. He clatters downstairs to the vending machine in the lobby for a candy bar.
Another call: a disgruntled girlfriend diming out the cheating boyfriend Mason’s been dogging for a two-year-old gang murder in a low end part of the city (which might be high-end anywhere else.) Is she believable? Will she change her mind if this goes to court? Go now. Move it, Mason. Down to a beach parking lot…more traffic. She isn’t there, but now he’s got a name and a phone number.
More report writing. More knock and talks on doors looking for a witness to an assault on a Korean tourist staying at one of the luxury a B&Bs overlooking the ocean, the pier and the little roller coaster. His daughter calls and Mason’s face brightens as they plan a weekend together with Ginger. Ginger knows how to have fun. His day ends with a call from the wife of the victim of a carjacking. His spirits sag. No, nothing new to tell her. He slaps his partner on the shoulder as he passes his cubicle, checking out for the day. Maybe Ginger will have a frozen dinner to heat up for him in a hurry. He knows he’ll feel more energy when he hits the tango lesson and the music starts flowing through him.
Mason passes the Watch Commander’s office with the dancing display of the map of Santa Monica showing the location of all the cars out on patrol around the city.
He accomplished something today he hopes.
The dirt bags haven’t taken over yet.
Wow, that was really cool, so Mar tell us:
Does he juggle a career and a family? If has either/both, does his career drive him to the detriment of everything else, home life for example?
Mason’s divorced now for a few years, a move by his ex-wife he didn’t see coming. He’s a little obtuse sometimes, surprising in an investigator who’s tuned in to a bad guy’s every secret thought. His daughter lives 70 traffic-choked miles away through the Los Angeles sprawl. At nine, she likes spending time with her old Dad, but he worries about when she becomes a teenager. Her mother has a new baby and a new life and the custody arrangement is now amicable. Mason knows all about cop divorces and is grateful that he and Haley’s mother have sorted things out in a friendly way.
That’s cool, so I asked Mar:
Does Dave have a love interest? How does this ‘interest’ impact his story? Does this significant ‘other’ often drive the story, interfere with his character and his plans? Are they important to the story or just there in the background? If there are kids, how do they fit into Dave’s story?
Mar gave us the lo-down:
Mason’s love interest in Ginger McNair, his long-time girlfriend. They are political opposites, a factor which appears in the books in a minor way. Her perspective on the world is a lot more trusting than Mason’s. He’s asked her to marry him but she says, “Oh yeah, cop marriages. You want me to be number two out of four?” Maybe she’s right.
Ginger skids from one non-profit fundraising or public relations job to another. Contracts get cancelled, agencies get blown up, and executive directors embezzle. It’s discouraging for Ginger. She bounces back, but every job loss takes a toll on her. Mason keeps telling her it’s not her fault and he’s always there to encourage her to go on. Yeah, she knows he’s a great guy. But he’s a cop and growing up in a law enforcement family with her father and brother deputies in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, she knows the averages. But she loves Mason and his daughter Haley. Maybe someday she’ll marry him when he’s retired from all his cop business. She did persuade him to take tango lessons and they’ve gotten pretty good. They’ve made up some bad fights on the dance floor.
Cops and their love lives eh! Next I asked:
I asked Mar:
When you first envisaged Dave’s character, did you have his whole life mapped out?
I wish I could say I had Mason and Ginger’s life mapped out from my first novel No Dice. It astonished me that I could write 300 plus pages and it never occurred to me they would be series characters.
Does he have political views? Strong views about controversial topics for example? Perhaps you steer clear of involving your character in strong viewpoints, being vocal about them – why?
Mar replied, mentioning Santa Monica, a place I know well:
Mason never had strong political opinions until he met Ginger who was running a Santa Monica election campaign. Like a lot of cops, he came out of the box cautious and conservative. Ginger is an avowed progressive. She faces him down nose to nose with arguments that make him think. There’s not much chance either will ever change fundamentally. These arguments are played out in the books around the ideas of urban development. Santa Monica, also known as Silicon Beach—is a leftist, progressive city for the most part. People have strong opinions about urban development, environmental regulations, and smart growth. This is back ground for some of the books and sometimes the McGuffin.
Oh, I miss that place. So Mar…
Do you think Dave’s views might alienate him in some way from his readers, or perhaps stimulate their interest in his character even more, even though Dave’s views and opinions might be worlds apart from their own? Are you worried about writing anything too controversial?
I’m hardly worried about tackling controversial topics. My book On Behalf of the Family featured an honour killing in a rich Muslim family in Santa Monica.
Wow, very topical, so I asked:
What made you decide upon the physical attributes of Dave’s character? Is he the amalgamation of several people you know, or have you created him from scratch? Your perfect man for example – someone you might/might not care for if you met them in real life?
Isn’t your protagonist always some reflection of yourself? Like a lot of cops, Mason is tall, strong and assertive, and aggressive when he needs to be. I’ve met a lot of cops who are like him: most of them I’ve liked. I’m not so blinded that I don’t realize there are cops who need to be chained up in the back of the station. But Mason’s not one of them. I wouldn’t want to meet him on the inside of the crime tape, but I’d love to dance with him.
If only our characters popped into the ‘real’ world now and again!
What made you decide upon Dave’s personality/character? Was his profession or personality the driving force behind you creating him? Is he a music fan? Which genre and why? Does he read? Which authors and why? Help us get to know something about Homicide Detective Dave Mason.
Cops aren’t great readers, and mysteries and TV cop shows make them laugh. Tango and fado music have gripped Mason in a way he can’t understand. This, along with the tango, he keeps to himself.
What are Dave’s character’s flaws/faults or failings? You’ve created him with these if he has them, why was that? Did you want a perfect all rounded lead character or a flawed one? Is he kind and caring or a bully, arrogant, cruel….?
Mason’s life-consuming job and his dogged pursuit of every case makes him a less-than-good romantic partner, especially when his second priority is his daughter Haley. Ginger, his girlfriend, has no illusions about where she features in his life, and it’s good that she has she is self-sufficient, which bothers Mason.
Does your character, Dave, convey a moral message or aren’t you bothered about that sort of thing?
I don’t know. I hope not. I’m too old and disillusioned to preach some kind of moral message to anybody else.
I always want to ask authors this:
Does your story write itself or do you plan and outline in advance, every aspect about your character and their life and exploits? Was this difficult to write, especially if it was not part of your ‘plan’ for them originally?
I wish I could outline in advance. It would save me so much agony and rewriting. But I get an idea in a blinding flash and just race in, hitting a white wall by about page 50.
Think we’ve all been there:
Setting for a character and their story is important. What made you decide upon the setting you have chosen? Is the setting fictional or one you are familiar with?
The setting for the Dave Mason Santa Monica series is an exciting city where I lived for a generation. I wish I hadn’t left for many reasons. Now it’s far too expensive to move back. The setting for the Dex Stafford Kern County Sheriff’s Office series is the tranquil mountain village in central California where I’ve lived more recently. Of course, only nice people live here and there hasn’t been a murder for thirty years, so using Pine Mountain as a setting requires a devilish delight in crime and bloody imagination to write well.
Mar, is your life style similar to your character’s life style in any way? Similar background/family/occupation/profession, education?
I only wish I’d lived such an exciting life. My paid work was as a social science researcher. Good work in itself, but not nearly so exciting as my fictional cop Dave Mason and Dex Stafford.
In and around Santa Monica life can be very exciting not just for the cops, Mar.
Would you like to be your character? What do you like/admire about Dave the most?
I never wanted to be a cop or date a cop. But I admire the good ones and they are the overwhelming majority of every law enforcement organization. They are inspired by the true desire to help people and get the bad guys off the street so that the rest of us are safe.
Thanks for the fab insights into Dave Mason’s day.
Mar, please write a little about your recent book/story involving Dave and why he is experiencing what is happening to him in this particular story. Is Dave Mason character part of a series? List all your books featuring him.
My recent book is A Very Private High School which draws Mason into the world of elite private education, fraud, and carjacking. Mason is a series character and appeared first in No Dice, then Rip-Off, and On Behalf of the Family.
Dex Stafford, a sheriff’s homicide investigator based in the dusty flatlands of Bakersfield, California appeared first in Payback and will appear soon again in a yet untitled novel in 2016.
Looking forward to this Mar, good luck with it.
Tell us briefly about yourself and why you write, and why you write in this particular genre. What is your inspiration? What is your next project?
I write because I’d like to live in a life more exciting than the one I actually live. I can chase bad guys down dark alleys, have guilt-provoking romances, and make myself tall, strong, and young. Hey, what a deal! You should try it.
I’ve also written three eBooks on Writing Your First Mystery available on Amazon
Mar, thanks so much for being such a good sport and taking us into a Day in the Life of Dave Mason and for telling us something about yourself and your writing and books. It has been fab.
I do hope everyone enjoyed this as much as I have. Do comment here and let us both know your thoughts.
Thanks so much and good luck with your books present and future.
For links to Mar and her books, take a look below:
A fourth is about to be published called Finishing Your First Mystery
Mar’s website is http://marpreston.com
YesMarPreston is her twitter handle
And her Facebook Author page is https://www.facebook.com/Mar-Preston-136299239777273/
Mar’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve been off on another ‘jolly.’ You know what that means; photos and blurb.
Somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit and enjoy.
Virginia Water Lake.
The lake, not the small town, though I’d like to visit that when I get chance.
Apparently I visited there as a child but I cannot recall it, and anyway, even if I had been there as a child, I couldn’t have appreciated it the way I can, and have, as an adult.
For those without a clue where Virginia Water is, here is the blurb:
The town of Virginia Water is a commuter town in Surrey, England. It might rings some bells if I mention The Wentworth Estate and The Wentworth Club, where the first Ryder Cup was played.
It is also home to the headquarters of the PGA European Tour (pro golf) and the estate was in the headlines in 1998 when General Augusto Pinochet was kept under house arrest in one of the properties there, prior to his extradition.
The estate is situated in the Borough of Runnymede; you know the place, where the Magna Carter was signed by King John.
The town takes its name from the lake in the nearby Windsor Great Park and the lake’s name was transferred from a previous stream which was probably named after the ‘Virgin Queen.’ Elizabeth l.
The River Bourne provides water for the lake and it exits the lake at the eastern end after cascading down a waterfall.
The bodies of water stretch over the boarders of Runnymede, Old Windsor, Sunninghill and Ascot. Think rich and famous and you’ll get the idea – the area oozes wealth. Sir Elton John has lived in the area and author Bill Bryson spent his early married life in the village, to name but a couple of well-known names.
Windsor Great Park was once part of a vast Norman hunting forest. It was enclosed in the late 13th century. It is the only Royal Park managed by The Crown Estate.
Covering 2,020 hectares of parkland, it includes a mix of formal avenues, gardens, woodland, open grassland and a Deer Park.
The Great Park and its forest are renowned for its scattering of ancient oaks, which all add to the magnificent history of the Great Park.
Windsor Castle can be seen at the end of the long drive. We all know who lives there: HM The Queen.
It is open to the public for walking, running, dog walking, cycling and rollerblading, fishing, flying model aircraft, horse riding and picnicking, plus so much more.
Virginia Water Lake:
From Saxon times through to the present day, every century has left its mark on the landscape. One of the most interesting areas to explore is the southern shore of Virginia Water Lake.
The artificial lake was created in the 18th century under William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, the Ranger of the Park at the time. It was first dammed and flooded in 1753. Until the creation of the great reservoirs, it was the largest man-made body of water in the British Isles. Few details exist of the building of the lake but it has been suggested that prisoners of war from the Jacobite risings, who were encamped at nearby Breakheart Hill, were involved.
Check for changes but The Valley Gardens and Virginia Water is open all year round from dusk until dawn, entry fees apply, and there is a car park fee.
There is a restaurant at the entrance. In 2013 the Virginia Water Pavilion, an impressive structure fabricated by sustainable timber supplies from the Windsor Forest, was opened and offers improved visitor facilities to the area. As well as public conveniences (with baby changing and disabled facilities ) there’s a Visitor Services Team available to help and advise and also seating with stunning views across the lake and a place to take refuge if the weather turns bad. There is seating outside also.
Some trivia for you to digest:
The shores of the lake have been used for lakeside scenes in the Harry Potter films, and for boat scenes in Robin Hood. It seems that the Scottish alternative was unsuitable because of the number of midges.
The lake is also the site of the British Record capture of a Pike (fish) weighing 58lbs 5ozs.
During WW2 the lake was drained, as its recognisable shape was thought likely to provide enemy guidance at night to Windsor and to important military targets in the area.
No point in doing that these days; they can use Google Earth.
Anyway, back to our walk around the lake.
The circuit around the lake is about 4.5 miles (7.2Km) about half of which is paved and the other half is ‘natural’ path. Wheelchairs and pushchairs should manage it easily.
The famous cascade, a short walk from the Virginia Water car park, next to a fab pub where they serve food, also dates from that time. There used to be an earlier cascade a little further east apparently, on a previous pond head, but it seems it collapsed.
We entered from the car park, resisted the pub – until later – and took off around the lake taking a left turn from the entrance.
A word of warning, wear good shoes, especially if it is wet underfoot. The walk around the lake is easy but good shoes or boots make life worth living.
The landscape design was developed further during the reign of George lll. It was Thomas Sandby, the renowned topographical draughtsman, who was responsible for most of it.
In 1818, George lV installed the Leptis Magna ruins. Which is the next place of interest we stopped at, having spent a few minutes watching the cascade not too far from our entry point.
Leptis Magna ruins – a Roman Temple – built from columns and lintels brought from the ancient city of Leptis Magna, in the early 19th century.
Interesting, but a bit of a puzzle. Why you ask? Sorry, no reason that I can think of except for the passion back then for all things ancient and classical, and the fact that many rich noblemen took the ‘Grand Tour,’ of Europe and had to bring back a few souvenirs.
Think Butlins holidays and ‘Kiss me Quick,’ hats from the 1950s and 1960s, postcards and silly ornaments with the name of the seaside resort printed on them. I guess, in the 19th century, bringing a Leptis Magna home was something to remember the trip by.
Following the lake (on the right of us) we found the site of the Chinese fishing temple.…well where it once was; we think. It’s one of the most elaborate adornments to the lake’s shore apparently. A Mandarin yacht, known as a Chinese junk, plied the waters, adding to the exotic effect so we were told by a notice. I have no idea what I was supposed to be looking at, but the yacht had definitely sailed. Typical.
Later on in the 1930s and 1940s The Savill Garden and Valley Gardens were established, continuing the grand landscaping traditions. I seem to recall a trip out to Savill Gardens, one Sunday afternoon, some years ago, with my mother and one of my numerous siblings, when we had a fab pub lunch (we always end up in a watering hole) and a very long and delightful walk around the gardens.
We didn’t enter from the Virginia Water end of the estate, but somewhere else and so missed seeing the lake on that occasion. The gardens are well worth a visit, especially in the Spring and Summer, but actually there is something to see all year round. It’s that sort of place.
Stunningly beautiful and so very peaceful. It’s food for the soul.
Virginia Water is a must in Autumn. The trees were magnificent in their golden splendour, though some were yet to change. So wonderful in fact, that my phone camera couldn’t cope with the sheer brilliance of the colour contrasts. We hadn’t planned on a trip to Virginia Waters, so I didn’t think to bring my proper camera, and I am so upset that many photos didn’t come out clearly. Still, my brother had his iPhone and that seemed to cope brilliantly.
We came across few people on our 2 hour walk, although judging from the car park, there were dozens of people visiting.
We had the lake and woodland paths to ourselves and the sun shone right up until the last 15 minutes of our walk, when it tried to drizzle, but it gave up and the evening sky started to come in.
I was so excited that we managed to find the Totem Pole which I’d heard so much about as a youngster. It is 100 feet high, and was a gift to HM The Queen from the Government of British Columbia, Canada. It didn’t disappoint.
The woodlands surrounding the lake have been continuously planted since the middle of the 18th century. The Frost Farm Plantation at the south-western end of the lake) is also a designated SSI (Site of Special Interest) because of the maturity and biodiversity of the area.
Well, apart from raving about the beauty of the scenery, the tranquility and sense of open space, there’s not much more to say. I think I’ll allow the photos to tell the rest of the story. After an approximate 8 mile and 2 hour walk, we headed to the pub by the entrance for a well deserved vino collapso. Luckily we’d eaten at a lovely restaurant on the way there, so there wasn’t any need to have dinner.
I slept like a log that night. All the fresh air and exercise knocked me for six.
If you get the chance, especially if you find yourself visiting Windsor Great Park, do make a point of seeing The Savill Gardens, The Valley Gardens and the magnificent
Virginia Water Lake.
You won’t be disappointed.
The Crown Estate Windsor Great Park Tel: +44 (0)1753 860222
I hope you have enjoyed my trip around the lake – do let me know.
All photos (c) Jane Risdon 2015 All Rights Reserved.
Pull up a chair, grab a coffee or a nice strong cuppa, and meet author Jenny Kane who is my Guest Author today.
As you know, I don’t host authors that often, but now and again I indulge myself and today I am happy to welcome Jenny Kane – who happens to share the same publisher with me: Accent Press.
Jenny was kind enough to host me on her blog, The Perfect Blend: Coffee and Kane on 13th April 2015
and I am happy to reciprocate here.
Jenny Kane is the author of the contemporary romance Christmas at the Castle (Accent Press, 2015)
The bestselling novel Abi’s House (Accent Press, 2015)
The modern/medieval time slip novel Romancing Robin Hood (Accent Press, 2014)
The bestselling novel Another Cup of Coffee (Accent Press, 2013),
and its novella length sequels Another Cup of Christmas (Accent Press, 2013),
and Christmas in the Cotswolds (Accent, 2014).
Her fourth full length romance novel, Another Glass of Champagne, will be published in 2016.
Jenny is also the author of quirky children’s picture books:
There’s a Cow in the Flat (Hushpuppy, 2014)
and Ben’s Biscuit Tin (Coming soon from Hushpuppy)
One of the most important decisions I make when I’m about to write a story is where to locate the tale.
Last Christmas, I wrote Christmas in the Cotswolds, and thoroughly enjoyed taking Pickwicks’ waitress, Megan, away from her workplace in Richmond, on an artistic adventure in the lovely Gloucestershire countryside.
This year, Christmas at the Castle, the fourth adventure for the characters from Pickwicks Coffee House take regular customer, and writer in resident, Kit Lambert, to a literary festival in the beautiful Scottish village of Banchory, North East of Aberdeenshire.
Christmas at the Castle: Kit’s Scottish Adventure
Christmas at the Castle is a seasonal treat from Jenny Kane, featuring much-loved characters from her bestselling novel Another Cup of Coffee.
A taster to enjoy with your coffee:
When hotshot businesswoman Alice Warren is asked to organise a literary festival at beautiful Crathes Castle in Scotland, her ‘work mode’ persona means she can’t say no – even though the person asking is her ex, Cameron Hunter.
Alice broke Cameron’s heart and feels she owes him one – but her best friend Charlie isn’t going to like it. Charlie – aka famous author Erin Spence – is happy to help Alice with the festival…until she finds out that Cameron’s involved! Charlie suffered a bad case of unrequited love for Cameron, and she can’t bear the thought of seeing him again.
Caught between her own insecurities and loyalty to her friend, Charlie gets fellow author Kit Lambert to take her place. Agreeing to leave her London comfort zone – and her favourite corner in Pickwicks Café – Kit steps in. She quickly finds herself not just helping out, but hosting a major literary event, while also trying to play fairy godmother – a task which quickly gets very complicated indeed…
I only ever write stories based in places I know well.
The Deeside area of NE Scotland, where Christmas at the Castle is based, was my home for a few years at the turn of the century.
I lived in the village of Banchory and worked in the branch of WHSmith’s you can see on the High Street.
While I was there, I was a frequent visitor to all the local castles, including the breathtakingly stunning Crathes Castle, which is the location of the story.
From the first moment I ever set foot onto the grounds back in 1998, I was in love with the place.
Owned by the National Trust for Scotland, Crathes Castle, was originally built by the Burnett family, and with its thick whitewashed walls, incredible wall and ceiling paintings, and atmospheric rooms, remains one of my favourite buildings in the world.
Complimented by a mix of formal grounds and woodland, no matter I write about Crathes,
I will never be enough to do it justice.
Crathes is as much a character in this festive novella as Kit, and her fellow literary festival planners, Alice and Charlie, Crathes is, throughout my book at least, under the careful management of the handsome Mr Cameron Hunter…
Here’s an extract for you to enjoy:
Cameron Hunter rocked back on his desk chair and stared out across the estate grounds of Crathes Castle.
From where he sat he could see the sweep of the formal gardens that huddled neatly around the foot of the sixteenth-century tower house, and on to the woodland beyond.
He still couldn’t believe he’d managed to land a job in one of the most picturesque places in the country.
On crisp winter mornings like this one, when the fallen russet leaves crunched underfoot and the evergreen leaves shone with the spidery touch of Jack Frost, it seemed madness that he’d actually hesitated before applying for the estate manager’s post.
Returning to the pile of paperwork on his desk, Cameron’s gaze fell on a stack of ‘Christmas at the Castle Literary Festival’ flyers.
It had seemed like such a good idea at the time.
The chance to impress his new boss and attempt a “kill or cure” technique on the ghost of his former relationship at the same time.
Cameron often wished he’d never set eyes on Alice Warren.
He hated that he couldn’t stop loving her, even when she made it clear that their time together had just been a bit of a fling.
He thought he’d be safe taking a job back in the area now that Alice was living in Edinburgh.
Yet on his very first trip into Banchory after taking the job, he’d seen her chatting to another girl outside the newsagents.
On his return to the office, unable to stop himself, he’d found himself searching for Alice Warren on Google.
Telling himself that this wasn’t stalking, but that he was merely acting in self-preservation, Cameron had discovered that his ex was running Warren Premier Events, a successful event management business in Edinburgh.
Seconds later, he’d come up with the idea to get her to organise an event for him.
That way his lingering obsession with her would either be shot stone dead and he could get on with his life, or Alice would realise she’d made a terrible mistake and that she loved him after all.
Pushing the sleeves of his thick Aran jumper past his elbows in annoyance at himself, Cameron absent-mindedly signed three documents.
Even though he knew he was behaving like a lovesick teenager, he couldn’t help but hope it would all work out.
Contacting Alice via the Warren Premier Events website, Cameron had asked her to help for old time’s sake.
Trying not to feel pathetic, he justified his actions to himself with the thought that, whatever his reasons, there could be few better places for a literary festival than in a castle at Christmas time…
Although this is the fourth book in the Another Cup of series,
Christmas at the Castle can be read as a standalone story.
If that mini extract has whetted your appetite, you can buy Christmas at the Castle from:
Many thanks Jenny for sharing your work with us.
I wish you much success for your latest and future books.
Keep your eye on Jenny’s blog at www.jennykane.co.uk for more details.
Jenny also writes erotica as Kay Jaybee
Many thanks Jane,
Please let Jenny (and me) know what you think. Comments are always welcome and it’s fun to make contact with you here.
Many thanks for your visit – do pop in again.
In 2013 I wrote this Short story for publication on Morgen Bailey’s Writing Blog. It was also Pod-cast by her soon after.
It was well received and encouraged by this I thought I’d eventually turn it into a longer story, perhaps even a book. But then other stories took precedence, especially the divine Ms Birdsong Investigates and projects for my publisher, Accent Press, so the story was pushed to the back of my mind, and there it might have remained, had I not been reminded of it recently.
It came to me in the middle of the night when, for no apparent reason, I sat bolt upright in bed wide awake.
Something woke me, my subconscious I suppose, working away on my stories , and in only a few seconds it dawned on me; this piece fitted right into another story I’ve been working on – I should incorporate the two stories.
So I have, and they work brilliantly together, but I’m not giving anything away here; it’s a work in progress for some other time.
But I thought it would be fun to post the cause of all my excitement – the 495 word story – once more. So here it is:
For the last three years she had lived another life, had buried her real self, taking on the mantle of a hardened Madam, a trafficker of girls, the worst kind of criminal and, for the umpteenth time, she had fought nausea as she negotiated with the Eastern European.
Her control back at the command had shown concern the last time they’d met. He could see the physical and mental toll this assignment was having on her, but they were committed now; there was no going back. The team had spent too long infiltrating the organisation and she was their only hope. During the time she had been under cover she had alerted them to more shipments of girls than he cared to recall, and the risk had grown with her every betrayal.
She knew it was only a matter of time before they rumbled her and her life wouldn’t be worth a fig if the team were unable to protect her and extradite her, at exactly the right moment. The latest shipment had arrived at Heathrow only hours before and were already on their way to a secret location in London where there would be an auction of the girls, some as young as eight, and where the special unit of police would be waiting to raid them. Her message had been received and the team was ready for any trouble which might ensue.
Marko eyed her from the bed as she gathered her clothes and prepared to shower and dress. He didn’t trust her anymore, she seemed nervous and remote these days and his gut didn’t feel right; she didn’t feel right. For a long time he’d had suspicions. She seemed to be softening towards the girls under her control and he was debating whether to remove her from her role as Madam of the main whorehouse, which she’d run so successfully. Too many things had been going wrong lately. Too many shipments had been discovered and although he had managed to remain more or less anonymous and untouchable, he knew his luck would run out unless he acted soon. Was it her? He hoped it wasn’t but he would soon know; the trap was set. If the latest consignment of girls was discovered, and raided, he would know.
She lingered in the bathroom, fully dressed, senses heightened. Marko had been a bit distant and had appeared suspicious of her movements all week. He seemed to make a point of repeating the instructions for the latest intake of girls – where they would be, even giving her more detail than usual about on-line bidders. Something wasn’t right. She needed to contact control. Marko’s kiss goodbye seemed final somehow.
As she pulled the door gently towards her, the phone rang. She hesitated, listening to the conversation, her ear against the door; terror gripped her as she heard his words. As she turned a strong pair of arms grabbed her and she screamed.
Have you ever done the same thing? Written two completely separate stories and something makes you link them together and when you do, they work like magic.
Our subconscious minds are amazing organs.
Thanks to Jan Ruth for interviewing me in The Chair this week. Who would I invite to a dinner party? What would we eat? Which of my characters would I like to be? There are castles, celebrities and champers….hope you enjoy this. I did.
Welcome, Jane Risdon
How would you describe your writing style in only three words?
Jane: Fast-paced, twisty, realistic.
Jane: This is a hard one. Most of my characters are criminals and I am not gay, so having a relationship with the divine Ms B (Birdsong) is a no-go area. Having given it a lot of thought, I think I might well go for Ms Birdsong Investigates and her ex-lover and ex-MI6 partner, Michael Dante. He and she have had a long relationship which was rocky to begin when he was first seconded to MI5 for a series of operations, however, it quickly developed into a passionate and mutually respectful partnership, which ended violently when Ms B was ‘voluntarily’ retired from The Service when an operation they were involved in, went belly-up. She ended…
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West Green House and Garden: Hangman Hawley, Shenanigans with the Housekeeper, and IRA Bombs – life on a country estate.
I know I am in danger of becoming a visitor attraction blogger, but I am not – honestly!
It’s just that when given the opportunity to visit some of the most gorgeous cathedrals, castles, villages, houses and gardens, we have in England, I feel it my duty to share what I see with all of you. It would be so mean not to.
Recently I was given another little treat out and this time to a gem of a place I never knew existed:
West Green House and Garden.
The 18th century house and gardens sit in a quiet corner of Hampshire – the epitome of a small English manor house – surrounded by farmland. The whole estate covers 10 acres I believe.
Country Life described it as “embowered in trees, with quiet old world gardens spreading around it. This charming building seems the perfect embodiment of tranquil contentment and serenity of spirit, yet there hovers over it the unquiet ghost…”.
To get there is a joy in itself.
Driving down leafy narrow country lanes, passing huge well established houses set back from the road, with long winding driveways, nestling within their own landscaped grounds. The area exudes money and establishment. But I loved it.
I loved the fields with grazing horses, the dappled sunshine hitting the road through the leafy canopy of ancient trees and hedgerows, and the silence – apart from birds complaining loudly, as they streaked from their hiding places above our heads, as the car wound its way cautiously along lanes still abundant in summer flowering weeds and foliage.
The air was fresh but with underlying scents and fragrances only the countryside can yield.
We drove into a large field next to the grand house, set aside as a car park for visitors.
Green houses could be seen across from us, visible through a row of several varieties of apple tree, groaning with fruit to our left.
We were later informed it is a bumper year for English apples: the weather and all that.
I should mention that The Mater was with us on this particular trip, designed to be easy for her to manage, with plenty of places to sit and rest her 85-year-old legs if necessary. There was also a lovely little tea room with tables outside, for when she wanted her coffee fix.
Sadly for her and luckily for us, there weren’t any Edinburgh Wool Shops for her to peruse – but let’s no go there!
Back to the fun part.
During the past 100 years West Green has undergone four periods of transformation apparently.
It was built by General Henry Hawley who is often described as ‘Hangman Hawley’ after the ghastly brutalities he perpetrated in the 1745 Rebellion, particularly at Culloden.
Scottish readers might not want to dwell on this when thinking about visiting the house.
Hawley was a bit of a lad I think. He left his estate to his housekeeper’s second son, William Toovey Hawley, whose descendants lived at West Green until 1898; seems the wages of sin might not be death after-all! I think we can all imagine what the general got up to.
At the beginning of the last century the Playfair family employed architect Robert Weir Schulz to remodel the north front of the house and design new gardens, but after 5 years the family left West Green and a new owner, Evelyn, Duchess of Wellington, continued to perfect the gardens.
The Duchess, later with her cousin, Yvonne Fitzroy, lived and gardened at the house until 1939, largely through the generosity of Sir Victor Sassoon, who bought the house for the Duchess until her death in 1939 – why don’t I ever meet someone like that?
Anyway, Sir Victor left West Green to the National Trust (I adore the NT) in 1957, but it did not actually become Trust property until Miss Fitzroy died in 1971.
The National Trust’s first tenant was Lord Alistair McAlpine (tar-mac roads come to mind), whose lasting contribution to the house and gardens is a collection of neo-classical ornaments designed by the architect, Quinlan Terry.
In 1990 the IRA (Irish Republican Army) detonated a bomb inside the forecourt, causing so much damage that the Trust considered demolishing the house. I have no idea why the IRA wanted to bomb it.
Subsequently, Australian Marylyn Abbott, purchased the lease in 1993 and the National Trust relinquished their financial and management commitment to the property for this period, and Ms Abbott began the painstaking task of rebuilding and making a new garden; so beginning a new era in the history of the house – restoring its ‘serenity of spirit’.
I thought the whole place was just magical. The house wasn’t open to the public, though I understand you can book a private tour in advance. The gardens are so pretty, well designed, and easy to walk around. We didn’t see everything, but we managed to get around most of the formal gardens which were delightful.
Each year flamboyant designs of fruit, flowers, herbs, and vegetables are planted in the last week of March, and great pride is taken to ensure the planting is never exactly the same, so the gentleman at the entrance, taking our money, informed us.
Apple and pear trees of all varieties have been planted everywhere. Some climbing overhead, trained like roses upon arches, others close to the ground interwoven with seasonal planting. Wigwams of sweet peas, stands of corn, sunflowers, pots of artichokes, arbours of peas, beans and nasturtiums add height to regimental lines of vegetables and flowers.
Always planted in shades of the same colour, it can be all red, or yellow, or orange, or perhaps it is a contrasting black and white year so we were told.
Two vegetable patches are planted each season, sometimes one is planted as a story garden.
Near the entrance there are two brilliantly painted red dragons by Nick Muscamp, which rise out of dozens of spring-flowering black red paeonies supported by clipped cloud trees, framed by hornbeams.
Two tiled pagodas were the inspiration for this part of the garden that border the path to the lake field.
We passed a lake with a Chinese style bridge crossing over to an island where ducks, swans, and geese lazed around watching us, watching them.
The island is called Bird Cage Island; there is a large bird-cage there funnily enough.
All plants in this area are of Oriental origin and a small group of red toned Acer Palmatum complete this garden, making superb Autumn colour, we were told.
The lakes reclamation and its follies had been the largest undertaking in the restoration of the gardens. Choked with weeds, leaking, its surrounds thick with brambles, the lake had become a swamp and was remade in 1990.
Nearby there was an obelisk – a monument to a Gardner working there some 40 years.
The lake field contains the architect Quinlan Terry’s most notable collection of small designs: a Doris Temple, a Grotto, to control the lakes overflow, a stylised cage for pheasants with a bronze roof, topped with a large Pineapple which, in Victorian times, was a symbol of wealth.
The Arcadian lake field is entered to the east guarded by Chinoiserie pagodas and from the Walled Garden through old iron gates that open on to an ornamental pond, said to have been a medieval stew pond.
The Walled Garden is entered through a frame of old Wisteria Senensis, opening on to a design that forms two patterns. There is a feeling of mystery and age captured by the planting and design here.
Parterres in the traditional French manner – tightly clipped box hedges forming hearts and ovals – decorated by topiary balls, cones, and pom poms, are simple and striking to see. In one walled garden a chequer board parterre is the centre-piece for an ‘Alice’ garden filled with flowers from the story, in red and white.
There is a Paradise courtyard inspired by traditional Islamic gardens, planted by Marylyn Abbott in 2004, with a simple design of water, trees, and grass framed by the white trunks of Betula Utilis var Jacquemonti. The trees in the island are Malus ‘Evereste’ that appear to be growing from small pots, but are in fact rooted in the earth.
There are several water gardens and the grandest is the Nymphaem, whose focal point is a wall designed by Quinlan Terry, modelled on the fountain of Santa Maria della Scala in the Via Garibaldi in Rome.
Two benches decorate the garden, specially commissioned white benches, designed by Jill Facer and Malcom Last, in 1999.
There is a garden with 5 bridges planted with blue and white Clematis and Wisteria and Japanese Cherry trees.
Open fields and rolling countryside is visible from various places in the garden, all adding to the beauty and simplicity of the gardens and house location.
The house can be glimpsed through iron gates with piers crowned with stone lions. It is square in a colonnaded courtyard. There are busts of gods, emperors and dukes looking down from niches in the house’s facade. I loved the house. It was perfectly formed and situated to my liking.
In late July and early August West Green House hosts weekends of Opera in the Green Theatre. Set outside at night it has been described by Opera Critic, Michael White, as “Stylish, sassy; West Green House is one of the most charming new arrivals on the country house opera circuit, and one of the most promising. It dares to do what others don’t and does it with panache.”
There is a beautiful architect designed theatre, imaginative programming, and a ‘second’ performance of lights illuminating the garden, making West Green House Opera a unique occasion. We were informed. My brother and I would love to try it next year and if we do, I’ll let you know all about it.
You can book and find out about programmes: Tel: + 44 (0)1252 845582
On the way in and out of the gardens you pass through the inevitable Gift Shop, and I must say there were some lovely items for sale including a huge copper bath (distressed) on claw feet, and two amazing long narrow doors which I am sure an interior designer night love. I’m not sure if they’d love the prices tags, but if you can afford it, the price never matters apparently.
We had a quick wander through several green houses and conservatories, which were lovely to see, all designer lay-outs and expensive furniture, and each had grape vines laden with fruit dripping from the roofs, proving too much of a temptation for someone who shall remain anonymous (don’t look at me), as did the apple trees on the way back to the car. I gather a ‘certain someone’ was going to be having baked apples for desert the following day.
On the way home we stopped off for lunch at a 16th century pub called The Leather Bottle, which has really changed little since it was built, even though there had been a fire some 50 years ago, so I am reliably informed by the family Oracle with whom we never argue, mainly because we never win!
You might be interested to know that the pub began life as three cottages.
The name Leather Bottle was often associated with pubs which dated before the time of glass bottles. Leather bottles were hung outside such places to advertise they would provide refills for ale and wine there.
The pub eventually became the White Inn (1714). Though it was also known as The Leather at various times in its history.
At the time Queen Anne died the area was becoming busy with coaches on their way from Reading to Southampton, and a toll road was in use. The area was notorious for robbers and highwaymen – especially on the route from Basingstoke to Bagshot apparently, and William Davis (known as The Golden Farmer, because he only stole gold), used the pub until he was hanged at Tyburn in 1670.
Another to use the pub was Colonel Blood – famous for attempting to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London, who gave himself the name Parson Blood at the time, in order to fool the Keeper of the Jewels.
He made sure he got to know the keeper of the jewels, Talbot Edwards, and used his nephew to chat the keeper’s daughter up and distract the keeper as he tried to steal them. He failed and was caught.
The King (Charles 11) known for taking a liking to adventurous and outrageous folk, somehow decided to pardon Blood, and infuriated everyone by restoring the robber’s lands in Ireland, because his adventure amused him so much! It is also thought that Colonel Blood may have agreed to spy for the king.
It seems crime does pay.
The Leather Bottle, Reading Road, Mattingly, Near Hook, Hampshire RG27 8JU
Tel: +44 (0)1189 326 371
I do hope you have enjoyed my brief trip around West Green House and Gardens – not forgetting the Leather Bottle, which you might like to visit. The food is excellent and not ‘pub grub,’ by any means. The chef is excellent too, at least when we dropped in.
If you fancy visiting West Green, here are the details:
West Green House and Gardens, near Hartley Wintney, Hampshire, opens Easter to September on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Just turn up after about 11am. The parking is free, but if it has rained take your wellies as the car park is in a field and the area around the lake is grass, and possibly a little muddy. There is ‘Pick your Own’ available, and I don’t mean helping yourself. You pay for what you pick.
More Information: Tel: +44 (0)1252 845582
Let me know if you ever find yourself visiting. I’d love to know what you think. I think it is an adorable place and would love to see much more of it at some point. I took far too many photos – too many to share – but I hope those I have posted give you a flavour of the place.
All photographs (c) Jane Risdon 2015. All rights reserved.
UPDATE: Since posting this I have been contacted by West Green (their lovely PR person) and they have added my blog to their website. Apparently Marylyn Abbott is thrilled with my piece and experiences there.
Here is their link – do visit as there is lots to see and experience there.
Another Jolly: Knole House – once home to Vita Sackville-West and a Palace for Thomas Cranmer, and Henry VIII
In my last blog I posted about my latest ‘Jolly,’ when I spent a few days with family members and was treated to a visit to the National Trust property Sissinghurst Castle Garden, former home of the poet, author, and famous gardener,Vita Sackville-West, and her husband Howard Nicolson.
My next ‘jolly,’ with my sister and her husband, was to Knole House, which was, and still is, owned by the Sackville family. Vita Sackville-West always felt resentful about not inheriting the house, which passed to a male heir.
She loved the house with what she described as an ‘atavistic’ passion. She said, ‘Sissinghurst and St Loup are my spiritual homes.’ She later wrote. ‘and of course Knole, which is denied me for ever, through “a technical fault over which we have no control”, as they say on the radio.’ The technical fault being her gender.
Knole came to dominate the Sackville family life and led to bitter fights for control, creating a complex family tree of ownership. Through it all, the treasures remained on show in the house. The house remained in the possession of the Sackvilles until 1946 when the National Trust took over. The current generation of the Sackville family still lives in their own private apartments in the house.
The size of Knole is overwhelming. It reached its present size by the early 1500s but was always too big for its inhabitants. Each generation added to it, but its character remains the same.
It is more like a small town than a house or a palace, which it was when owned by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. Unfortunately for him Henry VIII liked it so much that he forced the Archbishop to give it to him in 1538.
Knole was built to impress, to make a statement about the wealth and influence of its owner, Cranmer. It was a symbol of power. In 1603 Thomas Sackville, 1st Earl of Dorset, took ownership of Knole. The Sackvilles were an aristocratic family who made the most of their royal connections and collection of royal treasures.
The rooms contain rare fabrics and furnishings, many of which came from the royal palaces. As Lord Chamberlain, Charles Sackville could take his pick from unwanted royal furnishings. It was an accepted perk of the job. Designed as sumptuous apartments in the early 1600s, the showrooms have not been lived in for 300 years. They became home of the prestigious collections and a reminder of the wealth and power held by the family.
Visitors come from everywhere today to visit the showrooms at Knole, as they have for hundreds of years, keen to peep inside this fabulous house. It was really busy when we arrived late morning, and extremely hot too. Part of the house was undergoing conservation; scaffolding was covering one large section, which was shame as it got in the way of photos I’d have liked to have taken. Conservation work is being done by the Heritage Lottery Fund – a 5 year programme to preserve Knole for future generations.
Vita spent a very happy childhood there. In ‘Knole and the Sackvilles,’ (1922), she wrote that Knole ‘has a deep inward gaiety of some very old woman who has always been beautiful, who has had many lovers, and seen many generations come and go’.
‘It is above all an English home. It has the tone of England; it melts into the green of the garden turf, into the tawnier green of the park beyond, into the blue of the pale English sky.’
As we approached the house, having driven up a long driveway to the car park, we could see deer roaming, quite tame, right up to the visitors. We decided to sit for a while with a cooling drink (cider) purchased from an on-site ‘cafe,’ as it was already scorching hot when we arrived in late morning.
A cricket match was being played on the nearby field and people sat watching and enjoying picnics in the shade of huge trees.
There are 600 deer in the herd consisting of light coloured fallow deer, which were joined, in the 19th century, by darker, shorter, stockier, Japanese Sika Deer.
Kent’s last medieval deer park is unusual because it’s enjoyed more than 5 centuries of continuous management for its deer herds. Until the early 20th century the hunting of deer was a hugely popular sport among the aristocracy. There were about 700 deer parks in England in the 16th century. Knole was the only one in Kent.
The park is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), best known for its insects. Apparently there are small grassy mounds, around, built by colonies of Yellow Meadow ants. A typical colony contains around 14,000 ants! Thankfully we didn’t see any.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, timber from the park was sold to Chatham (shipyards). During both World Wars areas of the park were used for military camps, but apart from the metalled roads built by the Army, and the bomb craters beside the golf-course, which commemorate Knole’s site astride ‘Bomb Alley’ between London and the Channel, there is little change.
Before looking around the house, we decided to take a walk through some of the acres of parkland, woods, and open meadows, keeping an eye out for golf balls; walkers can cross the course in various places and caution is advised.
Did I say it was hot? Understatement. The sun was relentless and thankfully we were able to get some shade from the enormous trees on the estate. I thought I’d melt.
We walked miles across parkland, through shady dark woodland, and across vast open, wasteland with grass and sandy paths which we followed up hill and down dale. We barely met a soul, even though the car park had been full when we set off.
Eventually we made out way back, in a loop, to the house, and had some lunch and a much-needed rest, sitting under the temporary scaffolding and awnings erected as a make-shift cafe. I supposed the original cafe might be where the conservation was taking place.
We entered the West Front of the house underneath a tower – the central gatehouse with 4 battlements – built by Henry VIII between 1543-1548, and into a vast courtyard with lawn on either side of the main path, called Green Court, the largest of 7 courtyards at Knole. Then we walked underneath another tower – originally the West Front – into the main courtyard (Stone Court) and then on into the Great Hall where, one year, my companions had attended a Christmas Choral event, which they tell me was magical. Looking round the vast hall I could see how atmospheric it might be with Christmas decorations and lighting.
I cannot possibly describe the whole house in any great detail; there was so much, it is so vast. Taking photos was not allowed inside, either, so I was rather disappointed. I can only suggest a visit or a look on the Internet to see much more than I am sharing here.
I can say, however, how helpful and informative the staff were. We were often joined by a NT volunteer, seeing our specific interest in a painting or piece of art, or the wonderful tapestries which were undergoing restoration in some of the rooms, who would step up and tell us more or answer our questions, with obvious delight in their subject and love for Knole house.
We had such a laugh when a little Indian boy of about 4 asked his father why all the chairs, lining the walls in one room, were so old and shabby. He asked why would anyone sit on them, and why didn’t they get them fixed or buy new ones? He kept on, like kids do, asking why. In the end his father took him to one of the volunteers who tried to explain about the age of the chairs, and that kings and queens had sat on them. He was not convinced and told the lady that kings and queens should spend their money and buy new ones. In his house the chairs were not old and damaged.
As with so many of the large houses and estates of England, death duties and taxes have led to the break up and sale of so many of these wonderful, historic assets. Knole passed to the National Trust in 1946 after years of negotiation, with an endowment towards its upkeep. The family retained possession of the park and many of the house’s contents, and were granted a 200 year lease on various private apartments within the house.
If you’d like to enjoy Knole house and the park, and all it has to offer, here are some links:
Tel: +44 ()) 1732 462100.
The National Trust takes care of over 300 historic houses, castles, chapels, monuments, and gardens, including where literary first editions of the classics can be found, and where Jane Austen and others lived and wrote.
Plus hundreds of
Medieval fortresses, Public houses (pubs) that welcomed Charles Dickens, and views that have inspired our painters and poets.
742 miles of coastline including The Giants Causeway to the White Cliffs of Dover, and over 247,000 hectares of land; open plains, rolling hills and ancient woodlands, and landscapes captured by artists such as J.M.W. Turner and setting which feature in the books of Beatrix Potter and many others, where you can walk, ride, and stay and much more.
Membership of the National Trust helps care for our special places – forever, for everyone.
I had a fabulous day and would happily go back again to explore more of the house and park. Hopefully when the weather is much cooler.
It is possible to have a tour of the park on board a red double-decker bus and if I recall correctly, it only costs £2.50 per person
Photographs (c) Jane Risdon 2015: All Rights Reserved.
A new Jolly: Sissinghurst Castle Garden – Vita Sackville-West, Virgina Woolf, and Violet Trefusis come to mind.
Lucky me! I got to enjoy another special treat with a trip to some gorgeous places recently.
I am spoiled I know, but what’s the point of being a big sister if you can’t be indulged by the younger siblings now and again.
I have the BEST siblings going.
A few days away with one of them recently was a wonderful way to re-charge my batteries.
Deep in the countryside with views over a lush valley at one side of the cottage and in the distance, views to the sea on a clear day from the front.
The fields directly behind the cottage host a large herd of very inquisitive cows, who love to pop their heads over the fence when they spy anyone in the garden, and ‘moo’ their greetings whilst their heads turn this way and that, watching what’s going on with the humans.
The garden was full of colour still, shimmering in the heat of the day – we had two glorious days – with the scent of Honeysuckle and Roses drifting on the air early mornings, and late evenings, mingled with the aroma of mown hay, and the sweet smell of the cattle.
The village itself is steeped in history and the buildings are of varying age, but there’s nothing ‘new,’ which I like.
The added bonus is that there are two ancient pubs there; one almost directly opposite, but noise isn’t a problem thankfully.
I spent a while there last year and posted lots of photos of our trips out to Wakehurst Place, Batemans (Rudyard Kipling’s home), Ightham Mote, and Begesbury National Pinetum – just to name a few of the places we visited.
If interested in photos and the history of where we went, go to blog on the menu above, and scroll back a while. There’s lots to see and read about.
My brother-in-law cooked the most amazing meals for me, and my sister and I went out each day visiting local places of interest and beauty.
We got to sample her home-made blackberry liqueur, eat home-grown tomatoes and vegetables, and one evening we lay on sunbeds under the stars at 12 midnight, watching shooting stars and satellites go over, trying to work out which stars we could see twinkling overhead. All enjoyed with a little ‘something,’ to keep us warm.
Another evening we were joined by an old friend of theirs, whom I had met once before, and we sat in the garden eating a fabulous three course meal – courtesy of my brother-in-law – drinking Prosseco, and enjoying a good old natter, trying not to flinch as several bats circled us, and a mouse crept into my sister’s vegetable cage’s on a mission to nibble as much as it could whilst she was otherwise engaged.
Last year she was robbed blind by field mice and rabbits who regarded the garden to be their very own larder, much to my sister’s disgust; hence the vegetable cages. But you know that where there’s a will, there’s a way… still, she had more than enough left to make various jams, gins, vodkas, and liqueurs – the sloes, and blackberries, came from the lanes near-by.
Don’t you just love eating what you grow – or someone else grows – organically too.
We both enjoyed a wonderful day out at Sissinghurst Castle and Gardens,
created and made famous by the poet, author, and gardener,
Vita Sackville-West, and her husband Harold Nicolson, diplomat and author.
When they first came to Sissinghurst Castle in 1930 they didn’t dream they were making something new or pioneering.
‘It was part of ‘our romantic Saxon, Roman, Tudor Kent,’ Howard wrote to his wife once.
In 1932 they set about creating the now world-famous garden at the heart of the estate.
Vita’s long series of articles in the Observer from 1947 until 1961 subtly and even surreptitiously, without actually naming her home and gardens, advertised the garden to the wider world – she longed to put it on show.
She was enthusiastic when the BBC wanted to make a Sissinghurst documentary in the mid 1950s.
Sissinghurst is more than a garden. It is a garden in the ruins of a great Elizabethan house, set in the middle of its own woods, streams, and farmland, with long views on all sides across the fields and meadows of the Kent countryside.
It had once been a pig farm as well as a medieval manor house with a moat.
The family who lived in the small manor house at that time shared their name with the place; the de Saxingherstes.
Nothing remains today of the original house except for part of the moat.
The 16th century prodigy house had been visited by both Mary and Elizabeth, England’s great Renaissance queens, before falling into ruins and being neglected for 300 years.
The Queen herself (Elizabeth 1) was persuaded to visit for three days in August 1573. Richard Baker, to be knighted a few days later, presented his queen with a silver-gilt cup on whose crystal lid a lion held forth in the royal coat of arms.
There was hunting in the park and revels by night. The house was the hero, ‘by day time, on every side so glittering by glass; by nights, by continual brightness of candle, fire, and torch-light, transparent through the light-some windows…’
Many times when Vita wrote of Sissinghurst, the atmosphere she summoned was of that embedded history, a certain rich slowness, even a druggedness, as if evening, when colours are soft and thickened, were its natural and fullest condition:
‘The heavy golden sunshine enriched the old brick with a kind of patina, and made the tower cast a long shadow across the grass, like the finger of a gigantic sundial veering slowly with the sun.
Everything was hushed and drowsy and silent, but for the coo of the white pigeons sitting alone together on the roof…They climbed the seventy-six steps of her tower and stood on the leaden flat, leaning their elbows on the parapet, and looking out in silence over the fields, the woods, the hop gardens, and the lake down in the hollow from which a faint mist was rising…’
By the late 16th century the site had been transformed by the affluent Baker family who built the magnificent Renaissance courtyard house, complete with vaulted gallery, 37 fireplaces and tower at its centre.
The house was leased to the Government during the Seven Years War (1756-1763), and used as a prison camp for 3,000 captured French sailors who largely destroyed the house.
It is from this period Sissinghurst became known as Chateau de Sissingherst or Sissinghurst Castle.
In 1796 the Parish of Cranbrook took out a lease on Sissinghurst Castle Farm , creating a poor house where up to 100 men were offered housing, employment and food.
By the 1800s Sissinghurst was home to the Mann Cornwallis family who repaired the remaining buildings, leaving their legacy on the tower weather vanes marked ‘MC 1839’.
Today Sissinghurst is also a working farm with cattle, sheep and pigs and home to a rare species of wild flowers, insects and birds.
The garden is now looked after by a team of gardeners and volunteers. There are several ‘rooms,’ each very different in their planting scheme, colours and scent.
I thought the ‘room,’ which was all white (every flower was white) was stunning.
The garden was not at its best, summer having taken its toll so my sister told me; she visits often as it is her most favourite of all places, but there was still enough to delight, and the whole place teemed with over-seas visitors and those like me; enjoying a wonderful day out in the 38 degree heat!!
Within the garden are several buildings dating from the original Tudor period.
South cottage and the South side of the house are still occupied by the Nicolson family.
The Priest house to the North of the garden is available through National Trust cottages.
The National Trust now owns Sissinghurst.
For over 50 years the gardens have been tended by 4 women head gardeners.
My sister and I climbed the tower steps, narrow, and winding, and looked in on small rooms as we headed for the roof; one of which was Vita’s work room.
Sadly photography isn’t allowed inside the tower and buildings.
Vita kept her notes and manuscripts in the turret beyond the work room.
It was here in 1962, her son, Nigel, found the locked Gladstone bag which contained the manuscript confession of her love for Violet Trefusis.
After Trefusis’s own death 10 years later, Nicolson published the manuscript as the basis for ‘Portait of a Marriage’, his study of his parents’ lives and sexuality.
It was here in 1931 Vita wrote the poem which she called ‘Sissinghurst.’ It was the best thing, Harold thought, she ever wrote and she dedicated it to Virginia Woolf, who had been her lover.
The poem addresses the core of Sissinghurst; it is a place apart.
Buried in time and sleep,
So drowsy, overgrown,
That here the moss is green upon the stone,
And lichen stains the keep.
For here, where days and years have lost heir number,
I let a plummer down in lieu of date,
And lose myself within a slumber,
I must say I can see exactly where she is coming from with this poem. I found Sissinghurst to be magical and beautiful; where time has stood still. Tranquil, mesmerizing, and arousing.
All the senses are in play as you rove around the gardens and the buildings, with the sounds of birds and bees competing with the symphony played in the moat as the water moves past the apple orchard opposite the woods.
I felt as if I’d gone back in time and any moment a lady in a beautiful gown would appear in one of the sculpted nooks and crannies which you come across as you walk from one vista to another.
It is a magical place and I do hope I get to go again one day. I still had so much more to discover according to my sister.
If you would like to know more about Vita Sackville-West and her beloved Sissinghurst Castle Garden, check out these links.
Sissinghurst Castle, Biddenden Road, Near Cranbrook, Kent TN17 2AB England.
(2 miles north-east of Cranbrook, 1 mile east of Sissinghurst villlge on Biddenden Road, off the A262)
Tel: +44(0)1580 710701
Facebook Sissinghurst Castle – National Trust
The next part of my recent ‘jolly,’ is in the pipeline: Knole House.
(more like a town than a house)
I hope you enjoy this as much as I have compiling and posting it, and that you’ll let me know.
As ever all photographs (c) Jane Risdon 2015 All Rights Reserved.
A blast from the past – well, 2013/2014 actually.
Another of my Flash Fiction stories written to a maximum word count; this time 100 words.
This has been posted before, in 2013/2014, via Morgen Bailey’s Writing Blog,
but, as I am often asked to post some of my older pieces for those just discovering my blog,
I thought I’d post a few every now and again.
Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the one hundred and sixteenth piece in this series. This week’s is a 100-worder by Jane Risdon. This story will be podcasted in episode 36 (with three other stories / with two other stories and some 6-worders) on Sunday 26th January 2014.
So here goes.
I hope you enjoy:
(c) Jane Risdon 2013
My only regret is that when the realisation hits him, when all the evidence points to him and his life is in ruins, I shan’t be there to see the look on his face when it dawns on him.
Revenge is a dish best served cold apparently.
Well, I shall be cold in my grave, unable to enjoy the moment my murder is pinned on him.
I’ve left clues, irrefutable evidence.
No one will ever suspect that I murdered myself, but no matter.
I go to my grave content that, for once, I have the upper hand.
Morgen asked me what prompted this piece:
I love writing about crime and wondered how someone would exact revenge upon another in the worst possible manner. It occurred to me that to be the victim of a crime that was pinned on the person for whom they sought to punish, whom they hated enough to ‘murder’ themselves for, would be a great twist in the tale.
There is the body, indisputably dead, with all clues pointing to the murderer and the victim’s own words convicting him. I love writing twists in my stories and for me this was delicious; the ultimate dish served cold. I hope you agree.
I do, absolutely. Thank you, Jane.
Morgen’s wonderful blog can be found here:
I hope you enjoyed this little piece. Let me know what you think. I love feedback. It helps me with future writing.
Have a fab week everyone.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00I3GJ2Y8 (my Amazon author page)
http://t.co/cptlfh9hFW (my regular music blog)
Flash Fiction Friday 099: The Letter by Jane Risdon 2013
A Blast from the past – this was first published on Morgen Bailey’s Writing Blog:
I thought I’d share it again as I’ve been asked about it many times since.
Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the ninety-ninth piece in this series.
This week’s is a 450-worder by Jane Risdon.
This story will be podcasted in episode 32 (with three other stories) on Sunday 6th October.
Haunted by the neat sloping writing on the blue Basildon Bond paper which lay accusingly on her writing desk,
the old woman sat locked inside her thoughts.
She couldn’t bear to pick the letter up to read it again, but there was no need really.
The contents were not unexpected after-all.
She’d been waiting nearly forty years for something like this to happen.
And now it had.
Every knock at the door, every strange hand’s address on an envelope had filled her with such fear,
the like of which she could never share.
She had never told.
The only reason she had an answering machine on her phone was so that she could screen her calls.
Just in case.
Now, there on the desk along with all her bills and other correspondence, the letter lay,
the words terrorising her silently across the darkening room.
She didn’t ask herself how or why.
She knew the answers and had known this moment would come eventually, either in the form of a visit,
a phone call, or a letter.
Forty birthdays had come and gone, and with each passing one she had agitated in case this time it would be the one;
the day when she would have to face her past.
Long ago she had put away the photo, the little sepia image now faded with age and fingering.
There was nothing she could have done even if she had wanted to,
and she wasn’t even sure any longer if she had ever wanted to do anything.
At first it was not a matter of choice but necessity, but there had come a time,
many years later when she supposed she could have, possibly should have, tried.
Soon it would be over.
Of course she could ignore the letter but that might force a visit, in person, without warning.
She could pretend it had never arrived and feign ignorance if anyone queried its receipt.
Her stricken mind tried to battle with her emotions.
Part of her needed this to happen, craved it, and dreaded it, fought against it and longed for it.
Her tired faded eyes moved across the room to stare at the blue ghost beckoning her.
A date and a time had been suggested and if she didn’t respond the writer would understand,
after all it must be an awful shock after so many years, but hoped that she would consent to a meeting,
without strings of course.
Without strings, the old woman mused.
There were always strings, and there would always be strings.
She sighed heavily, tears brimming as she stood and made her way over to the letter.
She picked it up, reached for the telephone and dialled.
Morgen asked me what made me write this story, here is my reply:
For thirty odd years I’ve been researching and writing our family history.
I’ve made lots of contacts, discovering long-lost and distant relations along the way.
Out of the blue some years ago one of them – a distant cousin by marriage –
emailed me asking if a person who’d contacted him had any links to our family.
They did not, but the story he told me was fascinating and involved two women having babies at the same time,
in a mother and baby home.
They each became Godmother to the other’s child and then went their separate ways.
A letter arrived many years later from one of these children,
asking if there was anyone in his (the distant cousin’s) family tree who might be her mother.
She’d been adopted, and since the surname of her birth mother was similar to a distant relative of ours,
her request was forwarded to me to check my records too.
Sadly there wasn’t anyone matching her mother’s details.
The letter had an enclosure, another letter destined for this girl’s mother,
which she had asked be forwarded in the event she could be found.
I started to wonder what it must be like to receive such a letter, decades afterwards,
from someone kept secret from everyone else for so long.
What would that do to a family or someone alone?
Would they ever meet? What would that meeting be like?
So, I wrote The Letter.
I hope you enjoyed this story. Do let me know. Feedback is always valued and appreciated.
“I like joy; I want to be joyous.
I want to smile and I want to make people laugh.
And that’s all I want. I like being happy. I want to make others happy.” Doris Day.
“I’ll remember this to my grave. We all walked into a room to see the screen tests. The first screen test was Marion Hutton’s. Then came Janis Paige [who ended up with a part in the film]. Then on the screen came Doris Day. I can only tell you, the screen just exploded. There was absolutely no question. A great star was born and the rest is history.” – Sammy Cahn
The second part of my birthday bash this year was a total surprise – a well-kept secret; nothing was revealed to me as we travelled into the West End of London.
I hadn’t been up to Soho for some time and the amount of demolition going on was a huge shock. They’ve even pulled down The Astoria – an iconic venue – where our artist’s performed back when.
Tin Pan Alley is next on the demolition schedule I understand; what a travesty that will be – something to do with Cross-Rail apparently.
I recall many hours standing in this or that music publisher’s, back in the late 1960’s, waiting for my then boyfriend (later husband) and his band, as they trolled through sheet music with their management, looking for new songs to perform. Their own song-writing efforts ended up as sheet music there as well.
It was a fab place to see, and be seen, and boy did we see some famous bands, many singers – even the late Cilla Black was there on more than one occasion seeking songs – and songwriters too, all busy selecting their next big hit!
But, hey! That’s another story for another day.
I have something coming out soon which tells a little of these times.
Back to my birthday bash:
I found myself in Frith Street, and there in front of me loomed another iconic venue. Surely not! It couldn’t be, could it? But it was.
We were in the queue at Ronnie Scott’s world-famous Jazz venue and I still didn’t have a clue why I was there.
Earlier in the year I’d been asked what I was doing on 29th March 2015 – a few weeks after my own birthday – I said nothing much, I seem to recall.
I was told not to plan anything; I was going somewhere special.
Then on 29th March I found myself outside Ronnie Scott’s, just after lunchtime, about to go in and see…I had no idea.
Questions went unanswered, smiles looked knowing. Nothing was being given away. I looked round for clues, but there was nothing.
We were shown to our table and served huge Bloody Marys as the venue filled. I had a feeling of dread spread through me as I spotted a birthday cake set upon a round table on the stage; a spotlight shining upon it.
Oh good grief! They’d better not have!
Still my companions wouldn’t let on who was going to be performing. I was so excited, I’d never had a surprise birthday quite like this before.
The lights dimmed; a pianist, a double bass player, a trumpeter, and guitarist, appeared on stage and settled themselves. My heart almost stopped.
A spotlight followed a young blonde woman on to the stage. She was wearing a lemon 1950’s style gown and she introduced herself and her musicians:
Sarah Weller and her band: The Mad Men.
I still didn’t get it. Who was she? I had no idea. Two pairs of eyes beside me watched my face eagerly, waiting for the penny to drop.
She continued to say that for the last four years she has performed a birthday celebration at Ronnie Scott’s Club for…
Oh my goodness!
Tears trickled – I don’t do crying as a rule, so this was a big deal.
Anyone who knows me, cannot have failed to be aware that
I ADORE Doris Day.
Sarah Weller would be performing a tribute to Doris, whose 91st birthday would fall on April 3rd.
She does not impersonate Doris – who could?
At the end of the show she would be cutting birthday cake and sharing it with those celebrating birthdays around the same time. She does this every year. She is a massive fan too.
Sarah discovered – I later found out – that Doris sings in quite a low-key, which is not apparent when you hear her recordings. If you hear Sarah sing you’d be forgiven for thinking she sounds quite low, and that perhaps the key is wrong. It is not.
“With a humble assurance befitting the experienced performer that she is, singer Sarah Weller treads lightly on the ‘American apple pie’ phenomenon of the iconic Doris whilst touching on some of the darker aspects of her often less than satisfactory relationships with the men in her life. No mere mimicry – this well-paced show is Sarah’s own ‘non-ironic’ take on Day’s life emanating from a genuine love of her heroine’s persona as a great actress as well as the show-stopping singer who touched all our hearts!” (Paul Pace – Music Co-ordinator for Ronnie Scott’s and The Spice of Life Jazz)
Sarah sings a tribute to Doris using the icon’s songs, with snippets of information about her life, recordings, and movies.
Movies such as:
Calamity Jane (my favourite of her musicals) featuring Howard Keel, another of my all time favourites.
Pillow Talk with the gorgeous Rock Hudson, and
Love Me or Leave Me, and Young at Heart.
Songs such as: Sentimental Journey which was Doris’ first million seller in 1945 with the Les Brown Band.
“She (Doris) was every bandleader’s dream, a vocalist who had natural talent, a keen regard for the lyrics and an attractive appearance.” – Les Brown
Rock Hudson was in the Navy when he first heard her singing this song,
which was number one for 9 weeks.
“It was evening, and we passed under the Golden Gate Bridge…its lights went on, and the voice of Doris Day began singing ‘Sentimental Journey’ over the loud-speakers. Well, that was the saddest bunch of sailors you ever saw. She had the whole ship in tears, including me. Fifteen years later, Doris and I worked together for the first time in Pillow Talk and by way of contrast, it was laughter all the way…” – Rock Hudson.
Rock and Doris made three movies together: ‘Send Me No Flowers,’ and ‘Pillow Talk,’ and their last film together, ‘Love Come Back.’ Three of her funniest films I think. Though my all time favourite is still ‘Calamity Jane,’ because I adore the songs.
- “I remember writing with Hal David five different versions of ‘Send Me No Flowers.’ Finally they picked the last one — we kept going because we really wanted her [Doris] on the song. She did it great!” – Burt Bacharach(Songwriter/Pianist/Music Producer)
Sarah is a lifelong fan – like me – and her show pays tribute to the long and varied career Doris has enjoyed, and which made her a number one box-office star in the movies – she made 39 movies in 20 years – and a top-selling singer with almost 500 recordings.
“This girl has never had an acting lesson in her life but she draws on a wellspring of emotion and experience that makes her one of the finest instinctive actresses in the world.” – Michael Gordon (Director of Pillow Talk)
I could hardly contain myself, I was overcome and couldn’t speak. My companions laughed as I choked back the tears.
The music started and Sarah told us a little about the song, when it was recorded, and for which movie, and she continued to do this for every song throughout her performance.
Her first song was ‘Let’s Fly Away, and this was followed by ‘It’s Magic.’
The first set continued with her singing:
‘With a Song in My Heart,’ ‘Stardust,’ ‘I Know that You Know,’ ‘Makin’ Whoopee,’ ‘The One I Love (belongs to somebody else),’ ‘Bumblebee,’ and a medley from ‘Calamity Jane.’ which was awesome.
The audience went wild, many joining in singing along. The atmosphere was magic. I was struck by the varied ages of the audience – young and older – and also by the many accents which we heard around us.
The venue had sold out for the show well in advance of Sarah’s performance. I soon found out why.
Sarah Weller is an amazing performer and singer in her own right, even without having the songs of Doris to interpret.
Sarah left the stage when she’d completed the first set, and meals and drinks were served for those wanting them. We were going on elsewhere later, so just had Bloody Mary refills.
I love Ronnie Scott’s – it is such an intimate and vibrant club where all the greats have performed at some time or another.
Ronnie Scott OBE (1927-1996) was a jazz legend; originally a tenor saxophonist with the Johnny Claes band in 1944, and later with many others including Ted Heath and Bert Ambrose.
He co-owned the club, which opened in October 1959, with fellow tenor saxophonist, Pete King, situated in a basement in Gerrard Street, when it was known as ‘The Old Club.’
They moved to Frith Street in 1965 and the club became ‘Ronnie Scott’s,’ in 1967.
Sarah returned to the stage, dress in a beautiful green full length frock.
Her second set continued with more chat and snippets about Doris, and her recording and movie career, as well as some more background (personal) detail about Doris’ life.
We were treated to:
‘Ready, Willing and Able,’ ‘April in Paris,’ ‘Love Me or Leave Me,’
and one of my personal favourite’s, and Sarah’s, ‘Que Sera Sera.’
Then everyone joined in with ‘Hernando’s Hideaway,’ and ‘Teacher’s Pet,’ then ‘Close Your Eyes,’ followed by another personal favourite Sarah and I share; ‘Pillow Talk.’ from another wonderful movie she made with Rock Hudson – one of three they made.
On working with Doris, Rock said:
“Before we got under way, I had some apprehensions. I had never played comedy before, and here I was, thrown together with one of Hollywood’s most accomplished comediennes…but the best acting lesson came from Doris – her sense of timing, her instincts – I just kept my eyes open and copied her. I don’t really know what makes a movie team….I’d say, first of all, the two people have to truly like each other, as Doris and I did, for that shines through…” – Rock Hudson.
Rock Hudson and Doris became life-long friends right up until his death in the 1980s from Aids.
“…She asked me if I would speak to him (Rock), and move him to a guest cottage or property. She was gonna make chicken soup for the next 5 years if that’s what it took she’d do anything to nurse him back to health….” – Terry Melcher (Doris’s Son)
‘Move Over Darling,’ came next.
A song co-written for Doris by her son; Record Producer, singer, instrumentalist, songwriter and publisher, not to mention her eventual manager,
Terry Melcher (1942-2004).
Terry was her only son from her first marriage to trombone player, Al Jordan.
They eventually divorced. She was married three times in total. Terry was legally adopted by her third husband – the agent and producer – Marty Melcher. A much disliked figure around Hollywood who eventually left Doris with huge debts.
As I mentioned earlier, Terry was a talented musician in his own right, and in the early 1960s was in a duo, ‘Bruce and Terry,’ in which he partnered the future ‘Beach Boy’ Bruce Johnston, on the surf hit ‘Summer Means Fun,’ and he also recorded as ‘The Rip Chords,‘ and worked with Pat Boone and Frankie Laine, as well as the 1960s group, ‘Paul Revere and the Raiders.’
In 1964 Terry produced ‘The Byrds,’ on their version of Bob Dlyan’s, ‘Mr Tambourine Man,’ which is still a favourite of mine, as are ‘The Byrds.’ This record defined the folk-rock genre, topping the charts both in the USA and UK. Other hits included: ‘I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better,’ and another song I adore: ‘All I Really Want To Do,‘ as well as ‘The Bells of Rhymney,’ and the classic, ‘Turn, Turn, Turn,’ and ‘Chestnut Mare.’
A curious piece of trivia for you, which I will slip in, before I continue with Sarah’s set list.
It is widely believed that Terry Melcher was the intended victim of Charles Manson and his followers who broke into the home of Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski in 1969 and committed numerous murders. At one time Terry had rented the property on Cielo Drive, in LA, with his then girl-friend, Candice Bergen. Luckily they weren’t there at the time. Apparently the record producer had turned Charles Manson down for a recording contract and the Cult leader wanted his revenge.
Many years later our son went to work for a movie producer who lived in a newly constructed house on the site of the, by then, demolished house, which had born witness to such atrocities. Before the original house was demolished it was purchased and lived in by a member of the band ‘Nine Inch Nails.’ But he decided it was too sad a place to live and felt uncomfortable there. Not surprisingly.
Terry helped rescue his mother from financial ruin, brought about my her husband, Marty Melcher’s mis-management of her career, when, in the 1980’s he produced his mother’s come-back TV series, ‘Doris Day’s Best Friends,’ and helped her run the Doris Day Animal League and the Doris Day Animal Foundation.
- “She can make a record sound like there’s a smile or some kind of tear behind it.” – Terry Melcher (Doris’s son)
Rock Hudson appeared on her show, just two months before he died.
“I had to have Rock Hudson as my first guest so I called him, and he said “I’ll be there…you can count on me” and that was the truth! All his friends, and there were so many, could always count on him. He didn’t talk about his illness any time…I can only tell you my friends, it was a heartbreaking time for me, without my faith I would be a lot sadder than I am today. I know that life is eternal and that something good is gonna come from this experience. Anyway let’s think of him with laughter ‘cause he was so funny!” – Doris Day
Sadly, Terry died in 2004 from cancer, leaving a wife Teresa and a son, Ryan.
Back to my birthday treat:
Sarah continued her second set with
another of my favourites (there are so many), ‘Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps,’ which
led into the final song performed by Sarah; ‘Sentimental Journey.’
Sarah went on to serve a birthday cake she’d made, to those in the audience who were celebrating their birthdays around the same time as Doris. I was tempted to join in, but decided to sit and enjoy the atmosphere instead. Sarah serves cake every year, which I felt was a lovely touch. Needless to say, there was a long queue for cake.
Disappointingly, Sarah didn’t perform a song which I also really love, and which Doris is supposed to have recorded in one take. But I soon got over it.
‘Secret Love,’ from Calamity Jane.
To record a song in one take is special, and I have actually worked with two female artists (managed them) who could also do this. True professionals and unbelievable talent.
I seem to recall someone writing on one of Doris’ album covers, that she turned up at the studio at 5.55pm and left at 6pm – I don’t know how true it is, but in that time Doris recorded ‘Secret love.‘
“When I recorded for Columbia, I could usually do anything in one take…I would invariably want to use the first take because that would be the one that was spontaneous and fresh.” – Doris Day
I absolutely loved the whole show. The musicianship was wonderful, and I should know. Sarah is an amazing performer, she does not try to be Doris or look like her. She sings in her own voice. Hers is a real tribute to a fantastic performer.
Her band are talented players and it must be wonderful to perform with them.
They are: Freddie Gavita, trumpet: Simon Golding, guitar: Arthur Lea, piano: Spencer Brown, bass: Simon Pearson, drums.
Doris also made movies with other much loved actors such: James Garner, David Niven, Rod Taylor, Cary Grant, and James Stewart to name a few.
‘The Thrill of It All’ was one of Doris Day’s top three highest grossing films and one of her most popular. She loved working with James Garner:
“I had the same kinship with Jimmy (James Garner) that I had with Rock-truly a blessing to have had two such talented, amusing, darling men to work with, men with whom I have had enduring friendships. I really love Rock and Jimmy.” – Doris Day, Her Own Story.
On hearing about James Garner’s death:
“I loved Jimmy. He was a wonderful actor and a joy to work with. We made two films together and just clicked from the minute we met. We remained friends over the years and spoke often on the phone. I knew he was quite ill and unable to talk on the phone in recent months. The world has lost an exceptional human being and I lost a dear friend. I will miss him so much.” Doris Day
Following the performance by Sarah and her band, my two companions, who’d treated me to such a fab time, took me out to eats and to meet some friends of theirs in the Palladium bar, at the London Palladium.
A perfect end to a perfect birthday weekend, although my birthday was earlier in the month. It was a fab way to join in Doris Day’s 91st birthday celebrations.
Ever since I was a little girl I have loved Doris Day, her songs, dancing and movies. I cannot explain why, at such a young age, she captivated me. I can sit through her movies time after time and never be bored. I can listen to ‘the voice with a smile,’ and she uplifts me. There are few female singers I really like, but she is top of the list for me. I wanted to be her when I was growing up.
“I just feel so fortunate and so blessed to have been able to entertain people in the theatres and on record, it’s just an amazing life that I’ve experienced.” – Doris Day
“I always felt that making a living wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, and I decided I was going straight ahead and try to be as uncomplicated as possible. The important thing in life is just living and loving.” – Doris Day
I had great fun researching this article and I hope you have had great fun reading it, and you are uplifted by Doris Day the same way I am. I hope you are left smiling after reading this, and that you might be tempted to go and put her movies or her records on, and dance. Sing at the top of your voice and enjoy ‘The Thrill of it All.’
But…before you do
I thought you might like to know more about the talented Sarah Weller and The Mad Men
who made my treat so special and memorable.
I did, after seeing her wonderful performance.
So, I contacted her and asked her to allow me to use her photos of her show at Ronnie Scott’s. She graciously agreed. Not only that, she agreed to allow me to interview her.
Here is my interview with Sarah Weller.
I hope this makes you want to see her perform, not just Doris Day hits, but Jazz, which she loves and performs in her own right.
She has a record out at the moment.
At what age did you realise you wanted to sing? Age 5. My mum told me to get my head out of the clouds.
Where & when was your first performance (school/clubs etc)? I did a lot of acting at school and one of my earliest performances was as Levi in Joseph and his Technicolour Dream Coat. I always loved both acting and singing.
Did you have, or ever contemplate having, singing lessons? – I had 11 lessons with jazz vocalist Lee Gibson at The Guildhall as a private student until the money ran out… I sang in the school choir and loved that. The highlight was Carmina Burana at the Albert Hall as part of A Night of 1000 Voices.
Did you ever use a hairbrush as a mic, and did you sing in your bedroom? Of course, especially along to Barbara Streisand, Whitney Houston and George Benson.
Whose records did you sing along to growing up, and in your bedroom? Anything by Barbara Streisand, Whitney Houston and George Benson.
Do you play an instrument? What is it, and how did you learn – lessons or by ear? NO.
Do you write songs of your own, or do you prefer to sing those written by others? I do write my own songs and it’s something I should do more often. I have released albums with a mix of originals and covers but it’s hard to beat the likes of Cole Porter and Irving Berlin!
Who is your favourite songwriter/composer and why? Irving Berlin, Gus Khan, Cole Porter. It was their job and so they continually churned out fantastic lyrics and music in so many genres.
What was the first real gig you ever went to? Band? Singer? And where? Michael Jackson 1989 during his BAD tour at Wembley Arena.
Who makes your frocks for your performances? Are your Doris Day frocks made by someone else, or the same person, or do you buy ‘off the peg’? Vintage all the way. I scour the charity shops. The yellow one I wear was my wedding dress from 2002 when I got married in Vegas!
Where do you get your blonde wigs? Are these specially made? No, I chose one-off the internet from a site like wigs.com that seemed appropriate for the show then had it cut whilst on my head at the hairdressers while showing the hairdresser a photo of Doris!
What do you do to relax? Cycle, a sport that Doris herself loved.
Who do you listen to when not learning someone’s songs/music to perform? Jazz, I can’t get enough of it.
What genres of music do you love and why? Jazz, soul and funk. I have to listen to something that has a groove because I love to dance.
What genre of music do you dislike the most and why? There are so many genres I find it hard to appreciate. There is so much good music that I just avoid the sound of anything that doesn’t interest me but then time passes and sometimes I can appreciate things from the past that I hadn’t liked at the time. I’m quite open to change!
If you could travel anywhere in the world to see someone perform, who would it be and where would you love to enjoy the gig? I think I would love to listen to music in Tokyo, a place I would love to visit so it would have to be Pat Metheny at The Blue Note.
Who would you love to give a private performance for and why? Or have you already? Who and where and why? An influential agent who would sign me up and get me on the road 365 days a year! Singing is all I ever want to do.
If you weren’t a performer, what would you do for a living? Be a detective or a writer of detective fiction. It’s the why and how I love.
If you met Doris Day and could spend time with her, what would you like to ask her? If I managed to speak (from adoration silencing me) I would ask her what it was like to be a woman of the 50s. The era fascinates me and I would like every detail, who she met, who influenced her in her life, what made her so strong.
Which is your favourite Doris Day song and why? Que Sera Sera. I love the sentiment, the idea of fate, the idea that no matter what the age nothing changes, it circles around and around. It also makes me think of my children then I have to try not to cry.
Which is your favourite Doris Day movie and why? Pillow Talk for the glamour and the comedy.
Who is your favourite leading man in a Doris Day movie and why? Rock Hudson. He was so handsome.
Which frock from a Doris Day movie would you love to own and wear? Or trousers or other outfit? Anything from Pillow Talk
What is it about Doris Day that made you want to sing her songs and to perform a tribute to her each birthday? Her generous heart and I like strong women and I think there are very few as strong and enduring as Doris Day. She worked so hard all her life and had to go through such hardships in her personal life and she still dedicates her life to others.
If you could have a songwriter/composer write specifically for you, who would it be and why? I would like Cole Porter to write a witty song. I miss comedy in performance.
What style would you like them to write in for you? Jazz from the 50s of course!
How did you come to have the band you work with? When and where did you find them? I’m lucky to have seen and played with many musicians and now I like to choose musicians that I like personally as well as for their talents.
Did they ask to back you or did you ask them? When and where was your first gig with them? I had played with them all in different bands so asked them to join me when I got the band together. The first gig together was at Ronnie Scott’s 2010. Only the pianist has changed.
Ronnie Scott’s is an iconic venue – when was your first gig there and what did you perform? How did it feel being on the stage so many famous stars had performed on? June 2010. It was a dream come true and extremely nerve-racking. I will never take any gig for granted especially at Ronnie’s.
Do you have a recording contract and is it for being a singer in your own right, or as someone who does covers of other artists? No I self-release under my label Daisy Dog Productions. I felt I didn’t want to record or release the Doris show as an album. I encourage people to go out and buy her records and appreciate her voice for the marvel it is.
If you could record/perform with someone from the past – musicians or other vocalists – who would that be and why? I think I would have liked the Donna Summer role in the song Enough is Enough with Barbra Streisand. Barbra was such an influence early on – not so much now, but as a girl wanting to be a singer.
If you could record/perform with someone from the present – musicians or other vocalists – who would that be and why? Christian McBride on bass, Aaron Diehl on piano and Kendrick Scott on drums. They are my favourite rhythm section at the moment.
Have you ever wanted to perform a Movie or TV soundtrack? If you could pick one from the past what would it have been? Are there any movies being made today you’d love to have a crack at performing the soundtracks for? I would love to. I love Mad Men so to feature on the sound track would be amazing because the music is so well-chosen every episode.
Where do you see your career heading in the future and what are your ambitions? As long as I am singing I will be happy.
Sarah, many thanks for agreeing to feature in my blog and for taking the time to share your photos and other information with me.
Huge thanks also to Tim and Mark for giving me such a fantastic birthday treat.
I feel so privileged and spoiled, and appreciate it more than you can ever know.
If you are interested and want to know more about Sarah and her musical career, her gigs, her recordings, and schedule, here are some links:
Sarah’s Website: www.dorisdaybyday.co.uk
Sarah’s Facebook page (tribute to Doris Day):
Sarah’s interview of Jazz FM regarding her appearance this year at Ronnie Scott’s:
Sarah live at Ronnie Scott’s: Perhaps – YouTube
I do hope you have enjoyed reading about my birthday bash, and finding out about Doris Day and Sarah Weller.
Let me know.
Another blast from the past – 2012
Flash Fiction has always interested me.
Here is another story I wrote in 2012 for inclusion on Morgen Bailey’s Writing Blog.
Here is how she presented it:
Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the sixty-third piece of flash fiction in this series. This week I welcome back author Jane Risdon with a 968-worder…
The Honey Trap (c) Jane Risdon 2012
They flirted in the bar, drinking, and chatting, until the music stopped and the bartender shook his head. No more drinks.
Taking the hint they moved towards the revolving doors about to make for the bright city lights and another hotel bar, when his young companion shook her head and whispered her suggestion.
Why not go upstairs to her friend’s room and have some more drinks? Luckily her friend was away for a few days and she had the key, what did he think?
He thought it was a great idea. She thought he was too drunk to go much further anyway, and the prospect of getting the almond-eyed beauty into bed was more than he could resist, she was sure.
He nodded and followed her to the elevator.
She pressed the button for the tenth floor, snuggling up to him, nibbling his ear, whispering suggestive things in a husky voice full of promise.
She knew he couldn’t believe his luck.
His meeting with the Ministry of Trade representatives had gone well, and they decided to go for dinner at the Majestic Hotel a few blocks away. At dinner he and his colleagues were introduced to several young ladies, beautiful, and fluent in English.
A little reward for getting the Eastern Europeans to sign the contracts with little or no hassle, they all assumed.
She had made it clear that she fancied him from the start and they were soon alone, the others having returned to their hotels with companions of their own no doubt.
He had hoped she would want to spend the night with him, it had been on his mind all night.
They reached her friend’s room and she opened the door and put the light on, kicking off her stilettos and heading for the hotel fridge, as he put the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door, and took his jacket off, placing his extra-large briefcase on the floor near the bed.
He moved behind her, kissed her neck and her smooth soft brown shoulders, taking in her musky scent and running his hands over her hips and thighs. She turned to kiss him and soon they were heading for the bed.
However, before things went any further she headed for the bathroom.
He quickly and silently moved around the room, checking the drawers, the cupboard, and looking under the bed and behind the pictures, and lamp fittings. The Cold War might be over, he thought, but he knew a ‘Honey Trap,’ when he saw one.
He found nothing, surprisingly, which worried him more than if he had found a hidden camera and microphone.
After a while she returned, all smiles, and full of enthusiasm, and before long they were having sex which, although he was enjoying himself as much as his partner, didn’t stop him from keeping one eye on the bedroom door.
He was sure that her controllers would be rushing in before long, ready for the ‘Blackmail’ pitch.
Therefore he had to work fast.
He turned her onto her stomach and she squealed with anticipation. Running his hands over her back and shoulders he leaned towards her and nuzzled her neck.
She lifted her head to meet his lips as he quickly took the scarf he had hidden under the pillows, and expertly wrapped it around her neck. At first she seemed surprised and then, thinking it was all part of the game, smiled wantonly at him.
After all, it was her job to please him.
Suddenly he began to squeeze tighter and tighter. As she began to choke somewhere in her oxygen-starved brain it dawned on her that this wasn’t a game after all.
By then it was too late. The last thing she saw was his laughing face gazing at her as she died.
He rose quickly, pulling on surgical gloves.
Then he placed her body on the floor as he removed the sheets and pillowcases, putting them in his large briefcase, along with the wine glass he had used.
He took her body into the bathroom and placed her in the bath where he washed her, and her hair. After she was dry he took her back into the bedroom and laid her on the stripped bed, arranging her in his favourite pose.
He cleaned the bathroom, and with a last glance round the hotel room, checking he had left no trace of himself, he silently let himself out of the room and made his way down the back stairs where his driver waited for him.
He felt a sense of relief and elation as they drove away, sure in the knowledge that this was another ‘situation,’ which would go unreported by the authorities.
After all, she was their agent, and her job had been to involve him, the Second Secretary at the British Mission, in what has always been known as ‘A Honey trap,’ so they could blackmail him into working for them.
Well, he was too good for them, he thought as he settled back in his seat.
He had been in his post for years, working all around the world, and allowing himself to be drawn into their so-called ‘delicate situations,’ and yet he had never been caught.
He enjoyed his work and loved to tease the enemy.
He knew his little calling card would be recognised, but what could they do? Admit they had planned to compromise a British diplomat who just happened to eliminate their ‘Bee,’ before they could act – he didn’t think so.
Next month he was being posted to Tel Aviv. He heard the women there were beautiful and knew how to handle themselves.
They all had to do a stint in the Army. The challenge thrilled him. He couldn’t wait.
I (Morgen) asked Jane what prompted this piece and she said…
Espionage has always fascinated me and I love reading anything about Spies and the way the Secret Services around the world operate. I worked at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall, London, in my youth and it was amazing – so different to anything I had expected; much less stuffy for a start.
All the stories I heard concerning the great Spies such as Burgess and Maclean, (The Cambridge Five), made a big impact on me, and deep down I think I do want to write a Spy Novel. When I began to write The Honey Trap I had spies and espionage in mind, but as it developed it turned into a typical Honey Trap, but with a difference. Many of my short stories have an unexpected twist in the tale… this is another.
I may develop it more one-day and turn it into a novel.
Yes, do, it was great. Thank you Jane.
Thanks for sharing my work, Morgen.
I hope you enjoy this. Let me know.
Morgen’s fab blog with so much for authors is at:
If you are interested in The Cambridge Spy ring, do check this out:
Canadian Voice-Over Actor Elijah Lucien
recently recorded my 191 word Flash Fiction story
Changing The Guard
which I managed to listen to on YouTube recently.
It was such a thrill hearing it read by a professional actor,
I thought I’d share Elijah’s reading here:
I wrote the story in 2013
I recall being inspired, having been shown a photo of some people sitting around a long white clothed table and being reminded of a scene from Some Like It Hot,
and various News items around that time, regarding a Mafia Don who’d just been arrested and was about to stand trial in Italy.
Suddenly Changing The Guard appeared vividly, in pictures, in my head,
and I had to run to get it down before I forgot it.
Morgen Bailey originally featured the story on her Writing Blog and Pod-cast it later in the year.
Here is how she presented it:
Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the one hundred and eleventh piece in this series.
This week’s is a 191-worder by Jane Risdon.
This story will be read by Morgen in a podcast: episode 35 (with two other stories and some 6-worders) on Sunday 29th December.
And here is my story:
Changing the Guard
Sam ‘The Stiletto,’ Musso waited until the noise died down before clearing his throat and looking up from his notes.
‘We are agreed. No more discussion, no more voting. Sonny Versace is toast.’ Hands and cutlery thudded on the white clothed tables as the various Families showed their approval.
‘Don Giacanni, ‘The South-side Chapter,’ has elected to make the arrangements. He has given the honour of ‘retiring’ Sonny to his trusty foot-soldier, ‘Arturo, ‘I invoke the Fifth’ Giovanni.’
Cheering and more table banging followed as Sam smiled at the white-haired Don sitting at the table opposite.
The only female Don watched carefully as her fellow Dons made their way out of the dining room.
They suspected nothing.
Those sitting with her began discussing who would have the largest slice of Sonny’s part of the city.
She waited, silent, amused.
Without warning Sam fell forward on to the table, as dead as he could be.
Before the others could react, they too fell forward; dead.
Sophia, ‘The Nurse,’ sat quietly, listening to the sounds of gunfire and screams coming from outside.
Her foot-soldiers had succeeded, and she was now undisputed Don of Dons.
Morgen asked me what prompted this piece and here’s my reply:
This short story was written for one of my writing group competitions which had a maximum word count of 200 words. I enjoy a challenge.
Anyone who has read anything I’ve written, or seen interviews with me, will know I’ve spent most of my life in the Music Business, and you will have noticed a number of references to ‘certain’ people who’ve crossed my path during those years;
I suppose my love of crime, mystery, and espionage has to come out somehow, and mixing my experience of ‘certain’ people, with one or other of these much-loved themes, proved too good to miss.
I’d also heard of a Mafia trial in Italy, on the News, and I guess it must have sparked my imagination.
Talk was of who would take the place of the Don, now held in custody, and suddenly I thought about a female Don.
I’ve no idea if they exist, or could exist, in such a male dominated world, but what a thought!
One of my all time favourite movies is ‘Some Like it Hot,’ – the birthday party scene came to mind; machine gunner emerging from the cake as they all celebrated at the long table.
(c) Jane Risdon 2013
I loved it (as always). Thank you, Jane. Morgen.
Morgen’s Pod-cast of my story links:
This episode contained: fourth batch of 6-word stories (by including William Bortz, Caroline Cannons, Laura Rittenhouse, Ken Magee, Mark Morris, Kimberly Sperling, Karen Bate, and yours truly), then longer flash fictions: Changing the Guard by Jane Risdon, Old Norse by Jade Kennedy, and The Third Rail by Christopher Farley.
*See the links above to read the stories… or hear Morgen’s dulcet tones on the podcast.
The podcast is available via Google’s Feedburner (final item), iTunes (first item), Podbean (when it catches up), Podcasters (which takes even longer) or Podcast Alley (which doesn’t list the episodes but will let you subscribe).
You will also find some of my other Flash Fiction stories, and Pod-casts of them, on the above links.
I hope you enjoy hearing Elijah’s reading of my story and also my written version. Let me know.
I’ve been feeling chained to my writing desk since the start of the year, and by the end of last week I’d had enough.
So, I got seriously radical (for me these days) and decided to take the day off and escape somewhere lovely.
I didn’t fancy a lot of hassle, so I got a bus to Windsor for a day trip.
Leaving home early I hoped Windsor wouldn’t be too busy with tourists at that hour, leaving me long enough to stroll around and enjoy myself before the streets thronged with occupants of our Global Village.
I know, I often have adventures on buses as many of you might know, but this time I went upstairs (double-decker buses have their uses), to escape the maddening crowd.
Being up so high afforded a fantastic view of huge country houses with their large landscaped gardens, endless green and cultivated fields, and little chocolate box villages.
The countryside on the way was beautiful, lush, and green, and with a cloudless sky overhead; not even the endless take off and landing aircraft at Heathrow (flying overhead every 30 seconds or so), was going to spoil my escape.
Not having my usual Canon camera with me – it is on the blink – I had no option but to take my phone camera. I was uncertain as to how any photos I took might turn out.
I’ll let you decide.
The Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle was about to take place when I arrived and the main road leading to the castle was closed off.
Rather than wait about 20 minutes for it to be re-opened, I got off the bus and decided to walk the rest of the way,
stopping long enough to watch the Coldstream Guards leaving their barracks (The Victoria Barracks) to march to the castle.
I strolled towards the castle in the rising temperature wondering how on earth the Guards coped with their uniforms and busbies.
Too late; the tourists had arrived early as well. I was not going to manage to take photos unimpeded by strangers popping into them.
The last time I visited Windsor, and had a proper look round, including inside the castle, was when our son was about six years old. I can recall the visit really well for a few reasons:
Our son thought he was going to turn into a Knight once inside the castle. Only knights were allowed to go inside them after-all.
The Queens Doll’s house impressed the heck out of him but he couldn’t understand why anyone would want one.
The car broke down on the way home, and we had to wait for few hours until the RAC (Royal Automobile Association) turned up to fix it. Thankfully we were saved from the indignity of a tow home.
And, it was the day Elvis Presley died.
I wandered up the main street but after a while gave up trying to take photos, the crowds were already swelling,
and so I retraced my steps and headed towards Eton.
I’ve not been to Eton for many years either, and was surprised to see the town a little worse for wear, and many favourite pubs and restaurants gone.
Some of its old charm seems to have been lost, which is a pity.
On the whole it was still enjoyable however; some of the buildings retain their magic.
I was sad to see that The Cockpit, an ancient pub I recall from many moons ago, was boarded up and for sale.
Notice the pair of stocks still outside the building.
Here are some photos of Eton, which was still quiet when I was first there.
I noticed, looking in one Estate Agent’s window, that the average price of one of these riverside apartments (below) is £1.2 million.
The apartments overlook where the river boats moor, and operate their businesses, so I’m not sure if I’d want one; looking out on all the boats and tourists queuing for them is not something I’d pay that amount for.
The boat rides go to various destinations and back. You can take a 40 minute ride or a 2 hour ride. You can pre-book a seat on several trips going up and down the river in both directions.
I decided to go for a 2 hour ride from Windsor (Boveney) to Bray and back.
Taking in almost 5 miles of picturesque Thames scenery with lots of historic sights along the way.
Passing little islands with some fabulous houses belonging to the rich, and sometimes famous, their grounds sweeping down to the water’s edge, the boat glided along peacefully, the sound of the water lapping the sides and the birds singing overhead, it was sheer bliss for me.
The boat was not crowded and I sat on the top deck – on the right had side going down and the left coming back. We passed river boats, barges, and the higher end of the market vessels; chic white and slick.
Some anchored alongside the banks where their owners disembarked to picnic under the afternoon sun.
Afternoon tea (cream tea), could be taken on board, if pre-booked – which I didn’t – and all manner of drinks and beverages were available including Pimms and various ciders.
I treated myself to a long cold cider and it was really welcome as the sun grew hotter.
I took dozens of photos but cannot add them all here obviously. There were some amazing houses – Jimmy Page (Led Zep) had one on the river until not too long ago. I could just about see the red brick building through the trees, but I missed getting a photo as someone’s head kept bobbing up in the way.
Suffice to say it was something else!
The house on the left (below), once belonged to the Ballet dancer, Dame Margot Fonteyn. Her mother purchased it for her in the 1950’s. Sadly some years later the M4 motorway was situated a stone’s throw from her home. Not her idea of peace and quiet I am sure.
On the right (below), is Monkey Island Hotel. The island was originally attributed (apparently) to the paintings of various monkeys on the ceiling of a pavilion on the island, erected by the 3rd Duke of Marlborough; or a fanciful corruption of ‘Monks Ait,’ since there was believed to be a monks’ cell there. It is now a 1st class hotel.
Somewhere in these parts Three Men in a Boat (Jerome K Jerome) had their sad lunch of beef with no mustard and an un-openable tin of pineapples, which was consigned to a watery grave.
We came across an Indian Wedding celebration on the lawns, sweeping down to the river, of a huge house. I think we’d missed the ceremony and were passing during the reception. It was so colourful, with lots of red and gold sari’s and the white of the men in their outfits. The water was filled with rose petals – confetti I guess.
If you look closely you will see the petals floating on the water in the second photo.
We went through a Lock on the way there and back. I’ve never been on a boat going through one before and it was magic. It took quite a while for the water to drop and rise again and other boats were queuing behind ours.
We sailed past Boveney Church, dedicated to Mary Magdalene, dating from the 12th century. It is rarely used as a church now, but more by Movie and TV companies who like the Medieval religious setting.
The 1990 Robin Hood movie with Kevin Kostna and ITV’ Inspector Morse were filmed there.
We sailed on past The Bray Film Studios – now derelict – where so many Hammer Horror Movies were made. The buildings are an extension of an old house called Down Place, which was taken over by Hammer Films in 1950. The original house stood there from about 1518 – records of the property purchases go back to then.
The present building to which the studios were added dates from 1750. The most famous occupant was Jacob Tonson, a London bookseller, and founder of the Kit-Kat Club, at first sight a gathering of men of influence, letter and the arts, but in fact a society formed for the defence of the House of Hanover at a time when it was feared there might be another Jacobite claim to the throne.
Way back when (in my other guise in music) I recall meetings with Hammer Films regarding music for soundtracks and other matters. It’s sad to think of the buildings being demolished soon and the links with Bray gone forever.
I could list the sights and add photos for so many lovely and historical points of interest on this trip but that would mean pages and pages…I don’t want to bore you.
Here are a few more photos I took on the trip. I do hope you enjoy them and that if given the opportunity to visit Windsor, Eton and take the boat trip, you will grab it.
I had a fab day out.
I got lots of fresh air, enjoyed the sunshine, and tranquillity of the river, and managed to blow away lots of cobwebs from my fogged-up brain.
Now it is back to the writing desk and
my novel. Refreshed and ready to go.
Thanks for being here.
Catch up again soon.
All photos are (c) Jane Risdon 2015 All Rights Reserved.
I do hope you enjoy this story
which I originally wrote for inclusion in an anthology benefitting a Charity for Domestic Abuse.
Sadly the anthology never materialised.
It was later published by Morgen Bailey on her Writing Blog.
There isn’t a murder or a crime – as such…
Here it is again.
I thought I’d add some photos (taken by me) to add some colour.
A Walk To Destiny
by Jane Risdon (c) 2012
The ancient wooden gate creaked loudly as she pushed against it. The leaf-dappled lane she found herself in smelled of damp earth, moss, and rotting leaves which stuck to the bottoms of her walking shoes as she made her way slowly, taking in the sheer peace of the place. As sunlight filtered through the heavy tree canopy and danced upon the ground in front of her, she could hear rustling and fluttering, as birds and other small animals moved about their business inside the thick green hedges stretching as far as she could see on either side of the lane.
Overhead high in the blue cloudless sky an aeroplane droned as it climbed higher, and she thought how typical of a summer day that sound was. It never failed to remind her of her childhood. She was transported back to about age five, reading ‘Dick and Dora,’ and ‘Janet and John’, somewhere outside, bathed in sunshine, and with the smell of freshly mown grass.
Somehow it made her feel safe and happy.
After a few minutes she came to a stile, made of rusted iron, overgrown with vegetation, and she took great care climbing over it – even though she wore jeans she was wary of the stinging nettles.
She stood looking around at the slight change of landscape. To her left there was a vast expanse of farmland, some fields looked as if something was growing there, but she could not see what, other fields looked fallow.
Beyond the fields in the distance the land rose and was covered in a mass of green. Dark green, light green and almost grey-green leafed trees seemed to hover above the fields. They looked wonderful against the blue sky; almost Germanic.
Memories of the Ruhr valley came to mind with the endless swathes of forests she had loved when she had lived there, a lifetime ago. All along the River Ruhr where housing gave way to forest, the countryside was beautiful and so lush. She had spent many hours walking through them in her youth.
If only she had possessed a camera back then, she thought, as she gazed at the scenery.
Now she only had her memories to fall back on.
She turned to her right and in a huge clearing the ruins of an old farmhouse stood, with roofless outbuildings and a side-less barn, which still held various decaying farm implements, such as a hay wagon made of wood and rusted metal, some sort of cutting machine which looked as if it had been cut in two, and a big old-fashioned rolling machine, which had two huge rusting drums attached to a long handle, which she thought must have been for flattening something once.
An old tractor had been left with doors open and was now overgrown with weeds, and a young oak tree seemed to be sprouting from the driver’s seat, the leather rotted long ago. The tractor was similar to those used in the fields which rose high behind her grandparents’ home where she used to play as a child, long before combined harvesters, and real mechanisation had taken over farming.
When she was a child she used to run alongside Spangle, the local farm-hand, as he pulled various machinery for cutting hay, bundling it behind his rickety old tractor, and then she and her friends and siblings would help by stacking the square bales of hay. Sometimes they would make dens inside them, hidden from the world, where they would play for hours. No-one seemed to worry where they might be.
Other times she would collect eggs at the local farm, and take little lozenge-shaped pellets which had an oaty smell, to feed the cows as they were milked in the milking parlour, a million years away from the modern mechanised milking of cows she had seen on television programmes like ‘Country Ways,’ and ‘Country Tracks’, which even now she really enjoyed watching.
Often she would help the farmer and Spangle pick and collect the potatoes, when they were ready, and the smell of the earth in the lane reminded her of the smell as they harvested the potatoes. Later they would visit the farmer’s mother in the warm cosy farmhouse kitchen, and have a glass of homemade lemonade and hot newly baked biscuits or cakes.
The farmhouse has now been turned into a Harvester’s pub and restaurant, however, the original building seemed to be almost the way it was in her childhood, with obviously modern additions.
She had been once inside just to look around. It was a really strange feeling to stand in the bar, once the kitchen, and remember how it was back then. The huge fireplace had been retained, so had the low beams, and there were sepia photographs displayed of the original buildings and farm.
She had found it a very sad experience.
Sad for the house and the farm, and those she knew who had lived and worked there, and sad for herself; her lost childhood and her happy memories.
For the first time in years she wondered whatever had become of Spangle. He had slept in the big barn and had his meals in the farmhouse, but as far as she could recall, he had never had a proper home.
He must be dead long ago, she mused.
Somewhere in the distance she could hear sheep bleating and, following their cries, she could just about make out a flock high on a ridge to the left of the farm, where a field stretched into the distance. She wondered where the farm they belonged was located.
The farm next to her had long been abandoned, which had her wondering what had happened to cause it to be deserted, seemingly in a hurry, given what had been left behind. It must have been good working machinery back then, and the house would still have been habitable; a mystery which would remain unsolved unless she met someone she could ask.
She didn’t think she would, however.
The lane continued past the farm and became more and more overgrown until it was impossible to go further. She looked around deciding what to do; try and cross the field where the sheep were and take the faster route home, or go back the way she had come. Looking at her watch, she decided she had time to retrace her steps, enjoying the warm sunshine and the scenery.
She needed this walk to clear her mind and refresh her spirit. So far it seemed to be working.
The fresh air, warmth of the sun, and the beautiful scenery, filled her with a calm contentment and her fears, and anxieties, began to be absorbed into the peace and tranquillity that surrounded her.
Now she could think clearly and she stopped for a moment, listening to the sounds of nature around her.
She belonged here; in this place, in this time, in this skin. She had every right to exist just as the animals, the birds and vegetation around her had a right to this space and time. Bending down she touched a fern and recalled how ferns had been on this planet since the very beginning, and no doubt would be here long after she had gone. Long after he had gone.
He. He crept back into her consciousness, ruining the moment.
He. She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly through her mouth. She tasted the earth and the vegetation on the back of her throat and her resolve stiffened.
Looking around her she was filled with an overwhelming sense of self, of her ability to cope with anything, at last; courage. Courage to face what was to come, to face Him. She thrust her chest out and straightened her back and began to walk purposefully back along the lane.
She reached the stile and hesitated for a second or two as she gazed along the lane on the other side. Somewhere deep down she knew, she felt, that once she crossed over the stile to the other side, there was no going back. She would have to carry on now that her mind was made up.
Whatever the outcome, there was no going back. The decision was made.
She mounted the stile and as she alighted on the other side,
she knew that ahead was her walk to destiny.
She felt strong.
Let me know what you think.
Just thought that as it is the Summer Solstice I would post this again.
It is a Flash Fiction piece I wrote
Hope you enjoy it.
Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the ninety-third piece in this series. This week’s is a 490-worder by Jane Risdon. This story will be podcasted in episode 30 (with three other stories) on Sunday 11th August.
Summer of Love
They swayed barefoot in time to the hypnotic music of Jefferson Airplane, multi-coloured kaftans flapping in the breeze, their hands high above their heads, eyes closed; the air thick with the sweet fragrance of weed. All around couples lay on the grass embracing, smoking or just chilling in the hot summer sunshine. Babies slept and small children ran about, giggling, naked, just as drunk as everyone else on the joy of love and life.
The Love-In had been almost spontaneous, a version of Haight Ashbury under the huge shadows of Stonehenge, they’d come from everywhere; by transit vans covered in psychedelic art, by converted Bedford coaches, by motor-bikes with sidecars and…
View original post 1,434 more words
I’ve won two books from Patti Phillips
which arrived today.
All I had to do was make a comment on one of her posts!
She has sent me two books of my choice:
Cop Town by Karin Slaughter
an author I love ,
a book by a new author for me,
which I am excited about reading.
Patti runs a fab website writing as the voice of a Detective, Charlie Kerrian,
Follow Kerrian’s blog – ‘Kerrian’s Notebook.’
Detective Charlie Kerrian solved the most important case of his life in One Sweet Motion.
Quitting was never an option.
Patti is an author in her own right.
Do check this page out as there is so much information there for Crime writers and readers
about Finger printing, forensics and so much more,
which is how I discovered Patti and her blog
when I was doing some research for Ms Birdsong Investigates
although her site caters mainly for the USA a great deal of information is relevant elsewhere.
Patti also runs
Night stand Book Reviews.
Nightstand Book Reviews is a site devoted to reviews of books that are great reads.
Under this umbrella are books written by bestselling authors as well as by debut novelists in both e-book and paper format.
Some are traditionally published authors and some are indies.
If you write or read crime, then her sites are a must.
Patti has a Facebook Page too.
Thanks so much Patti, I am thrilled and so pleased you picked me
I can’t wait to read my books.
to Peter Bouchier
the lucky winner of the 3 book set of
Crime writer and Blogger.
L.W. Smith (a/k/a/ Laurie Smith)
Thanks to everyone for taking part in the competition.
Better luck next time to those unfortunate not to win.
Enjoy your books Peter,
and do let us know
(Laurie, me, and everyone following)
how much you enjoy them.
Thanks so much Laurie for being so generous in giving your books away in the competition.
Readers, and anyone interested in Laurie and his books, as well as his fab blog, which has the most wonderful photographs, alongside his writing,
please follow the links below.
Laurie has hard copies of his books available for postage in Australia only, $16.00 plus P&H.
They’re also available on Amazon, see the links below:
Thanks everyone. Catch up soon.
Crime Author and Blogger Laurie Smith (a/k/a L.W. Smith)
is generously offering one set of three books from his
to someone who can answer this question correctly:
Annie Leeson is a uniformed Constable in Fortitude Valley.
Where is Fortitude Valley?
If you think you know and want a crack at winning this 3 book set
please send your answers via email to
Laurie Smith (a/k/a L.W. Smith)
Put ‘Jane Risdon’s Blog Competition’ in the subject line please.
Laurie will pick the winner.
For more information about Laurie and his amazing life, his wonderful books, and fab blog,
please see my interview with him
(click on my blog roll to read this post)
or follow this link:
Good luck one and all.
Laurie Smith (a/k/a L.W. Smith) is my Guest Author and Blogger today: Medium, Healer, Ex Army, Prison, Police and Defence Security – a fascinating Crime writer and Blogger
Today I am very happy to be able to share the second of my Guest Author and Blogger features with you all.
Laurie Smith – also known as L.W. Smith
Crime writer and prolific blogger,
a Medium and Healer with former careers in the Army, Prisons, the Police, and Defence Security.
Someone with a lot to say and what he has to say is enthralling.
His life experiences leave you breathless.
His writing is raw and real with no holds are barred.
Sit back, strap yourself in and have a stiff drink on hand; you’re going to need it at the end of this ride.
Hi Jane, thanks for taking the time to promote my writing.
What this all boils down to is, I want to make people aware of my novels in the Death Series. I wish to sell to the masses, have the world-beating a deep and well-worn path to my door.
The last couple of years of blogging, for me have been reminiscent of a hack reporter at work, belting out copy for the reading public. Sweating blood into my trusty portable Remington Travel-Riter, it sounds better than keyboard. I have hopefully entertained and amazed my reading audience, and I might add the enjoyment from this labour of love on my part has been boundless.
My original intent for the blog was to promote the Death Series. Then I realised people want to be entertained.
In July 2012 I began A Policeman’s Lot. which ran for 18 weeks, at first a humorous look at the life of a copper. Then it became a little darker and somewhat philosophical.
I followed up with A Turnkey’s Tribulations. This too had its moments of humour and pathos, with some insights into crime and punishment.
Then, You’re in the Army Now. About my time in the Australian Army then quickly followed by,
A Medium, or just well done? Yes, I spent about 15 years working part-time as a psychic/medium and believe me there were plenty of stories to tell. On average for the four series, I’ve written about 215,000 words.
They may not be great words but they seem to have hit a chord amongst most of my followers.
The blogs aren’t in sequence; my careers ran like this, Army, Prison then Police taking up 20 years.
The remainder of my working life involved security with the defence department.
Security work in essence can be boring; this gave me time to study and work at one of the high points of my life, as a Medium and Healer.
Like most things I’ve done it had a use by date, I’ve since retired as a Medium, except for the occasional late night visit, or desperate call for help. As to the healing aspect, I’m my biggest customer.
You may well ask, what have the above blogs to do with my novels?
Plenty! The old saying of write what you know rings true here.
My first novel, Mountain of Death burst into life from my time working in prison.
Whether you like it or not, jail rubs off on you.
I have a bulging storehouse of characters, all participating in a riot to get out and be noticed.
“All right you lot, settle down or there’ll be no television tonight.” Sorry about that.
The story begins in Wacol jail with Jack Hardy on his last night inside. He’s done a hard 10 years for armed robbery, naturally he can’t sleep and we learn about the people and events that brought him there. If he thought doing a lagging was tough, then there are surprises in store for him when he gets out.
If you’ve read my army series you will note that Kings Cross, in Sydney became a second home for me.
Jack Hardy lived and worked there until a chance meeting with ex-jockey, Eddie Barnes changed their lives forever. Sydney in 1969 moved to a new beat.
It’s sleazy, dangerous heart, Kings Cross long known for crime and corruption had something new happening, R&R. It’s denizens, always eager to make a dollar looked upon the influx of the Yanks as sheep, ready for the shearing. Shear them they did, from the prostitutes and massage parlours, to the strip clubs, cafes and souvenir shops.
This story will lead you to places you wouldn’t normally visit.
There are no white hats and black hats; they’re mainly a grimy shade of grey. I haven’t had to invent the nastiness you’ll come across inside, it’s there on our nightly news or the front pages of daily newspapers.
By the time Jack hardy gets out of jail he’s a hardened criminal. When he comes up against Hans Draheim and his family he finds out what true degradation and evil entails.
This story isn’t all about crime, violence and sex.
There is an underlying ancient story at work here, that of the battle between good and evil. The players are human with all their foibles, faults and stories. The stage is the dark alleyways, dimly lit upstairs offices and jail cells.
You’ll get a taste of Australia, from Sydney to Adelaide and Broken Hill to the Gold Coast.
Like most young men Jack’s desires lead him to make decisions that older, more prudent men wouldn’t make. Women and the need to remove the taint of poverty from his life drive him onwards. These same needs lead to his downfall.
I suggest you follow the link to Amazon and see what readers have to say about it.
In 1981-82 I worked as a constable at Fortitude Valley, an inner Brisbane, riverside suburb.
Actually it’s a flow-on from the city and is known as Brisbane’s Kings Cross.
It has its entrenched gangs, sex clubs, nightclubs, drug dealers-runners and the like.
Its train station, and at the time interstate bus depot made it a terminus for runaway kids and crims on the run. An inordinate amount of street people, mental patients and the curious made for a mixed bag of humanity.
I also came up against official corruption, which to my mind is one of the worst crimes.
Valley of Death is not an easy read; it would be if all of the victims were adults. Sadly they aren’t.
In Australia the age of consent is 16 years old, so there isn’t much of an outcry when children that age and over are known to be addicts or sex workers.
Children as young as 10 and 11 make their homes in the streets. They don’t stay there too long, usually ending up in the clutches of perverts. They’re preyed on by drug dealers and find themselves living in small gangs.
Valley takes up 15 years after the gripping ending of Mountain.
Annie Leeson is a uniform constable at Fortitude Valley police station.
She’s young, with a head of bright, copper-red hair, attractive, bi-sexual and the adopted daughter of an ex-Detective Sergeant. Her life is complicated by her inherited wealth and the jealousy of others.
After her part in the conviction of a child rapist she finds herself working as a plain clothes officer, in the then, Juvenile Aid Bureau. Not convinced that the death of a street kid is an overdose, she begins to dig into the girl’s background and associates.
It leads to a group of paedophiles with international connections and no compunctions about removing nosy coppers. Some children die in this book, a sad thing yet it happens daily in every country.
Type child prostitution into Google and see what you come up with, unfortunately I didn’t need to.
I mentioned in an earlier post that I was rented out as a child on occasion. At the tender age of 9, I personally witnessed the murder of two small girls, victims of a group of perverts.
Perhaps that’s why I have no trouble writing about these events.
Their story, albeit slightly rearranged is there in the book, so perhaps they will now always be remembered.
It isn’t there in a gratuitous way, it does however fill in the antagonist’s back story.
You can’t have a character turn up on a page and be evil incarnate, he needs a starting point.
The characters develop and grow, beset with challenges of violence, death, love and family.
Annie, a broken, abused child herself, is taken to the brink and beyond and shows grit, determination and gives a glimpse into the strength and resilience of the human soul.
I like to throw my people in the deep end of a pool, and then throw them a cinder block to hang onto.
River of Death is set once again in Fortitude Valley, south-east and northern Queensland, 5 years after the end of book 2.
Annie Leeson is back, a little older and a lot wiser.
She’s toughened up and doesn’t take crap off anyone.
Working out of Homicide, she finds herself seconded to the Valley after the discovery of a young woman’s body hanging in a shipping container.
We meet Simon Fynch, a new Detective on the block. He becomes the perfect foil for Annie. I can’t say too much here as it will spoil the endings of book 1 and 2.
Suffice to say you will find yourself in the mind of a perverted killer, on a downward spiral. Why does he prefer his victims to be young, pregnant, green-eyed red-heads?
A murderous prison escapee is also on the loose and Annie has more than herself to worry about. Blood is thicker than water and family connections are brought to the fore.
Needless to say, there is violence, death, sex and adventure, relationships are made and lost, and we say goodbye to some old friends and welcome new ones.
Cape of Death, is set mainly in Queensland’s Cooktown and Cape York Peninsular.
I’ve finished this book, I’m holding off for a few more months before releasing it to the clamouring public.
Annie is back, along with the team from River, investigating the deaths of several refugees and smugglers on a lonely beach.
The story takes us from Afghanistan via Indonesia and West Irian to the Cape.
As it unfolds you’ll find yourself alone, naked and terrified on a muddy rainforest track fleeing from horror to….?
Or perhaps you’re a wounded Taliban terrorist living alone in a cave, subsisting on wallabies and burning inside with revenge for mankind in general, while nature wreaks havoc outside.
You could be the Russian crime boss with a nose for gold, stolen Nazi gold and with no compunctions about who gets hurt in the process.
Jack is back big time here and leaves his mark as only he can.
There are: IED’s, big crocodiles, a murderous pair of bastards – Ipswich locals, who hunt more than wild pigs, a beautiful woman doctor with needs that only Annie can attend to, and a new Sydney crime boss from the Cross with an axe to grind.
Throw in a cyclone and a manhunt across the rugged north and I guarantee you’ll need a holiday afterwards… so you can read, Bay of Death. We move to Sydney for this story, I’ve nearly finished the first draft.
Set between Sydney and Thailand it deals with terrorism, biker gangs and arms smuggling. Annie is still with us and all I will say is, this book will re-invent her and I will also add, she’s bloody tough.
I have to make mention here that although I write about subjects that may be distasteful to some, I have to stay true to myself and write it as I see it.
Sometimes I’ll call a spade a spade, other times it’s a fucking shovel.
Since the beginning people have: loved, made love, lived, killed, enslaved, hurt and demeaned others.
You’ll find more than this in my books, you’ll find triumph over evil, family love, loyalty, justice, both natural and man-made, grief, happiness and up-liftment.
There’s physical pain and suffering, debasement and torture.
I have inserted a physic element into the series, usually through Annie’s troubled dreams.
There we have it, a little drum beating and flag waving, it also highlights what I said earlier….. Write what you know.
For those who may be thinking what does he know about debasement and torture? I can assure you that I do.
Wow, what a life, what background for your books Laurie.
Do your stories write themselves, or do you plan and outline in advance, every aspect about your character and their life and exploits?
I tend to write by the seat of my pants and often surprise myself with what turns up. I tried to plan my first book out, bad move. Had to start again after five chapters of rubbish, now I let the subconscious mind work it out. Apparently that’s its job.
Setting for a character and their story is important. What make you decide upon the setting you have chosen? Is the setting fictional or one you are familiar with?
I chose all of the main settings because of my familiarity with them. Either because I lived, visited or worked there. Keeping them mainly set in Australia is a bonus, because my readers here can identify with the locations. As to my overseas readers, well it will give them a taste of life down-under.
Is your life style similar to your character’s life style? Similar background/family/occupation/profession, education?
I share a common past to a degree with Annie as far as the abuse goes and being a police officer.
Other than that I’ve kept away from armed robberies.
Would you like to be one of your characters? What do you like/admire about them the most?
If I were a woman I’d like to be Annie. I admire her tenacity, dedication and strength of character.
What is the most dislikeable aspect of your character’s personality? If there is one.
I think other women are jealous of her and she has that tendency to be bitchy. But hey, who doesn’t?
Tell us briefly about yourself and why you write, and why you write in this particular genre. What is your inspiration? What is your next project?
I’m retired from the workforce due to health reasons and basically write as a hobby. With my first two novels I wrote constantly, perhaps twelve hours a day, sometimes into the early hours of the morning. This is where retirement is good, you don’t have to get up and head off to work.
When I started on the third book I tended to be more restrained and worked about five hours a day. You may stop physically writing but your mind still plots, your characters vie for attention and you wake up at odd hours with, ah-ah moments.
To combat this I took up another hobby, photography. It definitely takes you away from writing, to the extent that I have to make sure I don’t replace one with the other.
I used to be inspired but now I’m not quite sure, all I know is I have two more books in the Death series to finish.
Cape of Death set in far north Queensland looking at the issue of terrorism, smuggling, bikie gangs etc.
This will be released later this year.
Bay of Death set in Sydney and South East Asia goes into domestic terrorism, plus a stand-alone novel.
Laurie, thanks so much for such an interesting interview and for such enlightening extracts from your work.
I hope my friends here will enjoy your Guest Blog as much as I have, and that they will leave their thoughts and comments for you here, and they’ll visit your blog and find out more about you and your books.
Meantime, I am sure you’ll find you need that stiff drink.
Many thanks, Jane.
Readers and anyone interested in Laurie and his books, as well as his fab blog which has the most wonderful photographs alongside his writing, please follow the links below.
Laurie has hard copies of his books available for postage in Australia only, $16.00 plus P&H. They’re also available on Amazon, see the links below.
My Guest Author today is
I thought it would be fun to invite authors I admire to write about the main characters from one of their books.
The character might feature in a series, or in just one book.
I wanted their creator to provide us with more insight into their chosen character; what makes them tick if you like.
So I asked them to write about
A Day in the Life
of their character.
is a mystery novelist.
She is a prolific blogger with a very popular blog:
Confessions of a Mystery Writer
She is also an Assistant Professor
and she is the creator of
Margot has been a great support to writers like myself, and when she asked for writers to contribute to an anthology she was putting together in memory of her friend, crime writer, editor, and blogger Maxine Clarke, called In A Word: Murder, and agreed to take two of my Short Stories, I was thrilled and honoured.
In Word: Murder was published in 2013
Margot has published two other novels in addition to her academic publications.
B – Very Flat published in 2010
Publish or Perish published in 2008
Here is Margot answering some questions I put to her about her sleuth, and telling us about
A Day in the Life of Joel Williams
and other facts:
Margot, I thought it would be fun to invite you to write about a day in the life of one of your main characters with some details about them as a person, which your reader may or may not be aware about. Let us know what makes them tick, what makes their creator (you) invest so much time and effort in their stories.
Thank you so much for hosting me, Jane! It’s an honour. It’s a privilege too to share a bit about my sleuth Joel Williams
How does your character’s day usually begin? Let us know how your character might spend a typical day.
Joel is a former police detective-turned-university professor – he teaches courses in criminal justice – so he has quite a full life. If there is such a thing as a typical day in academia, Joel usually starts it early. He is owned by a mixed-breed dog named Oscar, who doesn’t like to wait long for his morning run and breakfast. Once those are done, Joel gets ready and goes to his office at Tilton University. On some days, he teaches several class sessions; on others he works with his advisees. And there are of course committees, meetings and other university obligations as well. He also tries to make sure to fit in time to work on his own writing (more about that a bit later). After the workday ends, Joel goes home to dinner (unless he has a university function). Then in the evening there are always papers to read, lessons to plan and the like. It is a busy life, but Joel likes working with young people who are planning criminal justice careers.
Does your character juggle a career and a family? If they have either/both, does their career drive them to the detriment of everything else, home life for example?
Joel is happily married to Laura, who’s an Assistant District Attorney. She’s got a busy life of her own, but both are committed to staying together. So they try to have dinner together as often as they can and set aside time for each other. And once a week (Saturday night) is Date Night for them. They don’t have children, although both would have liked to be parents. But if you ask them to be honest, they’ll tell you that maybe it’s just as well, since they’re both passionate about their work. They know the consequences of ‘absentee parenting.’
Does your character have a love interest? How does this ‘interest’ impact his/her story?
Joel loves Laura very much, and depends on her insights when he’s investigating. They met while he was still a cop and she was in law school. They found quickly that they were compatible and the rest is, as they say, history. They don’t always agree on things, but Laura serves as an important ‘sounding board.’
When you first envisaged your character, did you have their whole life mapped out?
Not to the last detail, no. I had some of the basics mapped out, because I wanted Joel to seem more believable. But I didn’t sketch in each thing. I’m hoping to add more in future novels.
Does your character have political views? Strong views about controversial topics for example? Perhaps you steer clear of involving your character in strong viewpoints, being vocal about them – why?
Joel’s political views aren’t an important part of the series, so I wouldn’t say they’re controversial. He is somewhat of a social liberal with working-class roots. But his years as a cop have also taught him some hard lessons about taking any political view too far.
Right now, Joel is working on a book about juvenile crime in the US, and his research has a focus on working with young delinquents. That topic is always a difficult one, as there aren’t really pat answers. He’s hoping that he’ll be able to make some proposals for a solid system of working with young offenders in a way that supports them, but also protects others. None of it’s easy, though.
Do you think your character’s views might alienate then in some way from their readers, or perhaps stimulate their interest in the character even more, even though their views and opinions might be worlds apart from their own? Are you worried about writing anything too controversial?
I don’t worry too much about writing things that might be too controversial. My thinking is, if a character is well-rounded and interesting, readers can appreciate the character even if they don’t agree with her or his views.
What made you decide upon the physical attributes of your character? Are they the amalgamation of several people you know, or have you created this person from scratch? Your perfect man/woman for example – someone you might/might not care for if you met them in real life?
I actually began with the kind of person Joel is, and imagined what he might look like from that. I can’t say he’s an amalgamation or an ideal.
What made you decide upon their personality/character? Was their profession or personality the driving force behind you creating them? Are they a music fan? Which genre and why? Do they read? Which authors and why? Add anything like this which helps us get to know something about your character.
I wanted to create a character who was mature, but at the same time, willing to learn. So I decided Joel would be in his 50’s, and a professional student (i.e. an academic). He was, as I said, a cop (for fifteen years), but he could see himself ‘burning out.’ So he decided to take his interest in criminal justice in a different direction. That’s what eventually led him to his present work. He has had to learn to think like a scholar, but I like it that he’s open to that learning. He does read, but he’s not the passionate reader that I am. He enjoys music (mostly classic rock) and microbrewery beer. He goes to the gym a couple of times a week and sometimes runs. It’s not so much that he has ‘fitness mania,’ but he does want to keep in shape.
What are your character’s flaws/faults or failings? You’ve created them with these, why was that? Did you want a perfect all rounded lead character or a flawed one? Are they kind and caring or a bully, arrogant, cruel….?
Joel’s a good guy, but he’s not perfect. He loses his patience when he has to wait on ‘hold,’ sit in traffic and so on. He generally manages it, but not always with good grace. He’s also not particularly gifted at getting the bureaucratic paperwork of university life done. He didn’t care much for that as a cop, either. He’s rather get right to the point and get things done, and that’s not always possible. He’s mellowed a little over time, but patience is sometimes hard for him.
Does your character convey a moral message or aren’t you bothered about that sort of thing?
I didn’t create Joel with the idea of a moral message in mind. He has his share of beliefs, but I don’t really have an agenda as I write.
Who is your character (not just their name) but who are they as a person? Why did you create him/her? What drove you to make them the way you have?
I think the best way to describe Joel is to say that he’s an ordinary, everyday guy who tries to do the right thing as best he can. And that’s really what motivates him: setting things right. It’s what sparks his curiosity, and it’s what makes him work to find out the truth about a case. He doesn’t let things go because he wants to fix things, even though he knows that not everything can be fixed.
If your character could ask their creator (you) to alter any aspect of their character/personality what do you think it would be, knowing what you know about them now that you have got to live with them for some time?
I think Joel would ask me to make him a little more meticulous. He’s organized enough, but he would probably like it if he were better at the minutiae of paperwork and record-keeping.
Which experience in your character’s life/career has been the most surprising to you, their creator? Even though you wrote this, it may have been a surprise to you when the idea popped into your head (or not).
In Publish or Perish, Joel acquires Oscar the mutt. He didn’t really strike me as the kind to be owned by a dog, but that’s what happened.
Does your story write itself or do you plan and outline in advance, every aspect about your character and their life and exploits? Was this difficult to write, especially if it was not part of your ‘plan’ for them originally?
I do some advance planning. I like to know the general direction that a story is taking, so I do outline it. But I don’t sketch in each detail, because I want to leave room for good ideas, changes, and the little surprises that make a story (hopefully!) more interesting.
Setting for a character and their story is important. What made you decide upon the setting you have chosen? Is the setting fictional or one you are familiar with?
I chose the higher education setting very deliberately. It’s a context I’m quite familiar with, and I thought I could tell a believable university story. Besides, campuses are often lovely places with lots of stories, both ‘out there’ and hidden. So lots of grist for the proverbial mill.
Is your life style similar to your character’s life style? Similar background/family/occupation/profession, education?
I’m in higher education as Joel is, and we have the same views about some things. But we have our differences. First off, course, we’re opposite sexes. And he’s got a slightly harder edge than I think I do, because of what he saw as a cop. He and I both care very much about our students, and we both want to do the right thing. But I think I’m a bit more meticulous than he is, and he’s better at multi-tasking than I am.
Would you like to be your character? What do you like/admire about them the most?
Interesting question! I admire Joel. I admire his tenacity and his commitment to doing the right thing. I like him, too. But I’m not sure I would want to be him. He’s not what you’d call ‘demon-haunted.’ But I don’t think I’d want his memories from his years on the police force. He’s seen some awful things.
What is the most dislikeable aspect of your character’s personality? If there is one.
I’ll be candid here. I wanted to create a character who’d be likeable. So Joel doesn’t have a lot of disagreeable traits (‘though he’s hardly perfect). Probably it’d be better to say he can be irritating, the way anyone can. I don’t think I’d want to be with him in a car when the traffic is stopped for a long time…
Please write a little about your recent book/story involving your character and why he/she is experiencing what is happening to them in this particular story. Is your character in a series? List all your books featuring this person.
Joel is in a series, which so far includes Publish or Perish, B-Very Flat, Dying to See You and (tentative title) Past Tense. In Past Tense, he investigates a 40-year-old murder when a skeleton is found in the ground where a new campus building is going up. This death ends up being connected with a present-day killing, and when Joel discovers that body (not a pleasant moment for him) he knows that someone has gotten away with murder for a long time…
Tell us briefly about yourself and why you write, and why you write in this particular genre. What is your inspiration? What is your next project?
I write because I have stories to tell that just won’t leave me in peace until I tell them. I also write because I must admit I love the act of creating stories and the characters that people them. The process of writing isn’t always fun, but writing itself is a real passion for me. I write crime fiction because that’s the genre that I like best as a reader. I’ve been reading mysteries since I was a child, and I feel a real connection. Besides that, crime fiction lets me explore all sorts of aspects of the human experience. There’s love, loss, grief, hope, adventure, and so much more in crime fiction – much more than there is space for me to describe.
Margot, thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions and for enabling us to get a good insight into your character Joel Williams. I hope this has introduced you and your writing to many new readers, and that your many fans will find this informative and interesting. I know I have. What makes writers conjure up a character and stick with him has always intrigued me. You have managed to allow us into the world your writing and Joel Williams and helped answer this for us today.
It has been such a thrill having you here. Thanks so much.
Margot Kinberg is a mystery novelist (she writes the Joel Williams series) and Associate Professor. She has also been blogging about crime fiction since 2009. She has written three Joel Williams novels and is currently revising the fourth. She is also editor of the crime fiction anthology In a Word: Murder. Margot blogs at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist.
Part Two of my belated birthday bash as promised.
As you may or may not be aware, in addition to my love of writing, reading, archaeology, astronomy, and the sciences, I have a passion for history which I share with my siblings, and one in particular, my youngest brother.
My youngest brother and his partner spoiled me rotten during a fantastic weekend spent with them celebrating my belated birthday.
Part One of my birthday bash found me having a look around Canterbury Cathedral with a special treat;
seeing the tomb of a family ancestor, William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury (1503-1532).
I wrote about our visit to Canterbury Cathedral last time, and I posted photos I took.
We had a fab time wandering around Canterbury, especially the pubs which my brother made a point of taking me in to.
Those buildings with history and character attached to them, not just because we fancied a drink;
though we tasted the local ciders too; yummy!
He is a font of knowledge when it comes to places of historical interest. He can tell you where famous people lived or worked, which pubs or restaurants they visited, where they wrote their books or painted, or made a discovery.
Going anywhere with him is especially fun. He always manages to find places off the beaten track few know about –
He’s always informative and makes every trip out so very interesting.
As you know we visited the spot where St. Thomas Becket was murdered on 29th December 1170 in Canterbury Cathedral. Almost immediately his tomb and the scene of his death became a focus of pilgrimage, and the city therefore found it had to provide accommodation for the large numbers of visitors drawn there.
Eastbridge Hospital was founded to meet those needs.
We were luck in having the whole place to ourselves as we wandered around. It was difficult to take photos – they asked that flash was not used which made taking any photos difficult in the gloom. But I managed a few which I hope you enjoy.
Although there isn’t any firm evidence for the founding date of the hospital, it is most likely, according to records, to have been in existence since about 1176. Ralph, nephew of Becket, was probably the first Master.
From gifts of lands and money, the Hospital soon became rich, but then it fell out of use after about 150 years.
It was refounded in 1342 by Archbishop Stratford, and was at its peak in the 1380s when Chaucer was writing his Cantebury Tales.
In the Reformation following the rift between Henry V111 and the Church of Rome, monasteries and places of pilgrimage came under government control, and many were sold off to the rich.
In 1538, the shrine to St. Thomas was destroyed and the Hospital went into decline,
but in 1584 Archbishop Whitgift made reforms which were protected by Act of Parliament.
The Hospital began to provide accommodation for ten poor people of Canterbury and pay a dole to ten more.
Shelter and care for wounded soldiers passing through Canterbury also had to be provided, and the school for twenty boys, which had been founded in 1569, was maintained, and stayed open until 1880.
The Undercroft was the Pilgrims’ sleeping area and the dividing walls form the cubicles in which they slept, possibly in pairs.
In 1332 Archbishop Stratford restated the aims of the Hospital as being ‘for the maintenance of poor pilgrims and other infirm persons resorting thither to remain until they are healed of their infirmities; for the poor, for persons going to Rome, for others coming to Canterbury and needing shelter, and for the lying-in of women.’
Today Eastbridge as an Almshouse continues to give a home and support to a group of people of varying needs.
We spent a lovely day in Canterbury even though the weather was cold and there was a slight drizzle.
Do visit The Hospital of St Thomas the Martyr in Eastgbridge (Canterbury) if you ever get chance. It is well worth it.
The next part of my birthday gift was to follow the next day, Sunday.
This was a secret which was kept right up until the moment I took my seat somewhere special.
In my next blog I will reveal where they took me.
I would never had guessed in a million years where I was going.
I look forward to sharing it with you soon. Thanks for being here. Have a fab week.
As always all photos are (c) Jane Risdon 2015
It’s busy for me today. I am Guest Blogger on two blogs:
Today Part three of my regular guest blog over on Creative Frontiers is live:
The Auditions in Hollywood for the Super Star Singer’s Touring Band have been in full swing,
so you’ve got to wonder why the drummer is in urgent need of
a plain brown paper bag…
Find out what happens next over on Creative Frontiers:
Do leave me a comment on CF and on here if you are kind enough to visit.
I hope it makes you laugh.
If you need to refresh or want to read Parts One and Two from scratch, then follow the links to:
Snore Poison so I’ll Remember it…
I Must Have A Criminal Mind…
I am also Guest Author talking to Jenny Kane over on her blog today:
You can read
Life Gets in the Way
Do pop over and let Jenny and me know what you think by leaving her a comment there, and one for me here also.
As always, much appreciated.
I hope you enjoy it – it was fun talking to her.
In addition to these interviews I am also a Guest with
over on her blog
My Writing Journey
Do pop in and say hello.
Your visit, as ever, is much appreciated. Thanks so much.
Chat again soon
I am hosting The Grand Callaway Blog Tour – Meet Barbara Freethy: #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author
Meet #1 New York Times and USA Today best-selling Author:
who is my guest today.
Barbara talks writing, publishing, and finding balance, plus gives her advice for new authors…
Check out what she has to say then read on for more information about this blog tour and all its great prizes!
Barbara Freethy talks strong women, hot guys and family series…
she has been making up stories most of her life.
Growing up in a neighborhood with only boys and a big brother who was usually trying to ditch her, she spent a lot of time reading.
When she wasn’t reading, she was imagining her own books.
After college and several years in the P.R. field, she decided to try her hand at a novel.
Now Barbara is a #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author loved by readers all over the world.
Her novels range from contemporary romance to romantic suspense and women’s fiction.
Here’s what Barbara told me about her series and her writing:
One of my favorite quotes of all time is by Eleanor Roosevelt: “A woman is like a tea bag.
You don’t know how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”
Goodness me! Why?
This quote perfectly describes the heroines in my new connected family series: The Callaways.
I love to write about ordinary women who get caught up in extraordinary adventures.
My heroines don’t always know what they’re made of until they’re tested.
True. I think many women would agree with this.
While we sometimes associate strong female characters with over-the-top roles like vampire slayer or some other kick-ass profession, I believe most women, even the quiet ones, have a superhuman core of strength that enables them to change the world they live in and also to change the men who love them.
In my books, the heroine’s strength is enhanced, not only by a new and powerful romantic relationship but also her personal journey to find herself.
Tell me more…
In the first book in the Callaway series, ON A NIGHT LIKE THIS, the heroine, Sara, has grown up in a troubled family and is estranged from her father. She grew up next door to the chaotic, fun-loving Callaway family and often envied the relationships she saw on the other side of the fence. She also had a huge crush on the second oldest male in the family, Aiden Callaway.
While Sara was a studious, serious girl in high school, Aiden was the charming rebel. As teenagers they were not ready for each other, but now they meet again as adults and both are facing pivotal moments in their lives.
Do go on…
Aiden is recovering from an injury he acquired as a smokejumper and grieving for the loss of his best friend, who died during their last jump together. Sara has come home to repair the relationship with her father, only to discover that there are family secrets that will change everything she thought she knew about her past and her parents.
I’m sure we can all relate to that…
Sara has to find the strength within herself to risk her heart on a man who could quite possibly break it, to face a terrible lie and to find a way to forgive her father.
Aiden also has to find a way to deal with the secret that took his friend’s life. Together these two characters find strength within themselves and also draw strength from each other, which is, really, what love is all about.
As a reader, what do you like to read about?
As a reader, I love books that have layers: romance, mystery, adventure and surprises. As a writer, I strive to bring those same elements to all of my stories. My heroines have to be as strong as the heroes. And I always hope that they inspire my readers in some way, too.
I grew up reading books about strong female characters, and I know those reading experiences helped shaped some of my own attitudes about the kind of woman I wanted to be.
Tell us something about your writing:
You’re an icon in—not just the indie publishing community—but the publishing community in general. Your success is something to which we all aspire. In your opinion, what has been the greatest contributing factor to the success of your novels?
There are so many factors that contribute to a successful writing career and it’s hard to say which ones are the most important,
but I do believe that publishing frequently helps to build an audience and also momentum.
I don’t write as quickly as some authors do or as slow as others; I think I’m somewhere in the middle. But I try to put out 3-4 books a year and I think that helps keep my books in front of the readers. I also write what I love to read. Sometimes that means my books are not part of the hot trend of the moment, but that’s okay. I think it’s a mistake to try to chase fads. They blow out as quickly as they blow in. And, finally, I look at writing as my career. I work hard at it. I spend a lot of vacations at my computer.
But it’s a really rewarding career, so it’s all worth it!
writing and publishing books is not a business for the faint of heart. You have to be a risk taker. You have to be willing to speculate on your income and to be able to live through the slow times.
You have to develop a thick skin, because rejection is everywhere: agents, publishers, reviewers, readers… We all know that books are subjective. But if you’re up for the task, writing can be an awesome career choice!
When did you start writing your very first novel, and did it ever get published? How has the world of writing change since you started out?
I wrote my first book when I was pregnant with my second child, who is now a young adult. It was eventually published as a Silhouette romance titled Promise of Marriage under the pen name Kristina Logan.
The writing world has gone completely upside down and spun around a dozen times since I wrote my first book, but it’s an amazing time to be a writer now. There are so many opportunities for writers to get their books to the reading public. I’m thrilled for the writers who are starting out now, whether they want to be traditionally published or publish themselves. There’s more work. There are more changes. But there are also many more opportunities.
Technology has brought many changes to the world of books, but readers continue to embrace new books, new formats, and—at the heart of every book—great stories. I don’t think great stories will ever go out of style.
What advice do you have for authors who are either aspiring to write their first book or are working overtime to try to get that book noticed?
For writers working on their first book, the most important thing you can do is write all the way to the end.
Too many new writers get hung up in the middle or caught up in rewriting the beginning over and over again. To get over the hump, jump ahead in the story or just write something—anything—knowing you can fix it during the editing process.
Until you write to the end, you don’t know what you don’t know. You have to experience the entire process of writing a novel. It takes dedication, determination and stamina to finish a book. But it’s hugely gratifying, and there’s no better experience than the actual writing.
For those writers who have published their first book and are working overtime to get it noticed, I would caution against spending all your time promoting that first book.
What you really need to do is write the second book and then the third. You have to look at your writing as a career. More books will increase your audience faster than any amount of marketing you do. I urge an 80-20 split: 80% of your time should be spent writing and 20% on promotion.
Describe your writing process. Are you a plotter, a pantser, or something in between?
I am closer to being a pantser than a plotter, but I do always know at least the five main plot points of my story before I begin writing. But part of the fun for me as a writer is telling myself the story.
I want to be inspired and surprised as I go along. It makes it more interesting to me. Of course, I would be able to write faster if I outlined, but it just isn’t the way my brain works. There’s no right way to write, just the right way for the individual author.
What was your reaction when you first found out you broke onto the New York Times and USA Today bestsellers’ lists? How did you celebrate?
Hitting #1 on the New York Times with my novel SUMMER SECRETS was an amazing moment, especially because it was my first self-published title.
I celebrated with a lovely dinner out with my husband.
What was even more astonishing was that the novel stayed on the NYT list for 5 weeks and since then I’ve had 19 more novels hit both USA Today and the New York Times. It never gets old!
How do you find balance between writing, publishing, and promoting your books and the rest of your life? Any tips for the rest of us?
I have no balance whatsoever at the moment! I do try to do something in the world of exercise—take a walk or play tennis at least 3-4 times a week. And I also try to refill the creative well by reading and watching movies and television. Inspiration comes from everywhere, sometimes a song on the radio, a person that walks by, a sign on the road… I think it’s important for writers to be out in the world, because all our experiences provide the fabric for our stories!
Congrats on your groundbreaking, new partnership with Ingram to get the paperback editions of the Callaways out to the world. What about this opportunity has you most excited?
I’m thrilled to be able to bring my bestselling digital titles into print and have the books sold at physical bookstores throughout the country. Partnering with Ingram Publisher Services has allowed me to use their national sales team and distribution system to sell my books into Target, Barnes and Noble, airport bookstores and supermarket chains.
I know that some readers still love their print books, so I want my readers to be able to read my books in whatever format they prefer. Until very recently print has been under the control of large publishing houses, but now print readers will have an opportunity to get titles by an Indie author, and I think it’s a game changer for the publishing industry.
Barbara, thanks so much for being my guest and for sharing so much about yourself and your writing with us here. I am sure plenty of readers will rush to try to win these generous prizes and, like me, other authors have really enjoyed reading about your writing and path to success. Congratulations.
About the Callaway Blog Tour & All Its Great Prizes!
This is the week you finally meet the Callaways! Not only are they all over the web as part of their extraordinary blog tour, but they are also out and about in your neighborhood. That’s right; we’re celebrating the print launch with Ingram by throwing a party all over the world! Make sure to follow this tour closely for your chance to win gift cards, swag, autographed books, and other incredible prizes.
All the info you need to join the fun and enter to win amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment—easy to enter; easy to win!
To Win the Prizes:
- Purchase any of the Callaway novels by Barbara Freethy (optional)
- Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity (go here)
- Visit today’s featured social media event (that’s where the HUGE prizes are)
About The Callaways: The Callaways were born to serve and protect! In Barbara’s new connected family series, each of the eight siblings in this blended Irish-American family find love, mystery and adventure, often where they least expect it! Each book stands alone, but for the full enjoyment of the series, you might want to start at the beginning with On A Night Like This! Get the eBooks via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, or Kobo.
Check out her Goodreads page: https://goodreads.com/serie/93999-callaways
Last weekend I had a couple of wonderful surprise birthday treats.
I’ll share my experiences with you and I hope you enjoy the photos and snippets to go with them.
My youngest brother organised this one – the other treats will follow next time.
The first of which was a fab day out at Canterbury Cathedral where one of our ancestors was once Archbishop of Canterbury and the last pre-reformation Archbishop.
His name was William Warham (1503-1532)
We spent a number of hours looking around the Cathedral which is a World Heritage Site.
in AD 597 missionaries from Rome converted the King of Kent to Christianity.
Augustine, leader of the mission, was consecrated as Archbishop and his cathedra (official seat) was established at Canterbury.
The Cathedral has been the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury ever since.
In 1170 Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in the Cathedral and, when soon afterwards miracles were said to take place it became one of Europe’s most important pilgrimage centres.
King Henry 11 is said to have exclaimed ‘Who will rid me of this turbulent priest’ following a long-lasting dispute.
Four knights set off for Canterbury and murdered Thomas – the place is now called the Martyrdom.
The original tomb of Thomas Becket was housed in the Eastern Crypt from 1170-1220 when it was moved to Trinity Chapel, which was destroyed on the orders of Henry III in 1538 (Becket’s cult was one that questioned the King’s supremacy in Church matters). The Pavement above was prepared for repositioning of the shrine in 1220 – a candle burns on the spot of the original tomb.
The Trinity Chapel houses the tombs of King Henry IV and Edward, Prince of Wales known as ‘The Black Prince.’
The Black Prince died 1376. the gilded effigy shows him in full armour and gauntlets including spurs which he won at the Battle of Crecy, his dog and helmet.
The shields on the tomb for the first time show the three ostrich feathers of peace which are still referred to as ‘The Prince of Wales Feathers.’
There is a Huguenot Chapel originally The Black Prince’s Chantry, here he expected to be buried, but his tomb is in a place of honour in the Trinity Chapel. Queen Elizabeth 1 gave this chapel to the refugee French Protestant Huguenots, who first fled to Britain over 400 years ago, and again in the late 17th century when persecuted by Louis I. Services are still held every Sunday and we noticed quite a few French visitors going into the chapel whilst we were looking around.
Facing the Warriors’ Chapel of St Michael is the ship’s bell of HMS Canterbury, it rings out at 11am on weekdays signalling prayers commemorating the dead of both World Wars and other recent conflicts – we heard it and we stood to listen to the 5 minute service.
The tomb of Lady Margaret Holland with her two husbands, John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset (on the left) and Prince Thomas Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, on the right. The chapel was rebuilt by Lady Margaret just before she died in 1439.
The Cathedral houses some of the earliest examples of stained glass in the Britain.
We spent a wonderful day wandering around the Cathedral, we arrived early so we wee lucky to avoid the crowds of tourists who gradually filled the Cathedral and the town a little later. My brother has been before so he knew where to visit first. Unfortunately in the Crypt photographs were not allowed.
Which is such a shame as some of the most interesting tombs and architecture was down there.
More photos taken during our visit.
Next time I will share some photos of another lovely place we visited: Eastbridge Hospital and also Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club where my brother and his partner took me for a very special event, where I got to hear the songs of one of my all time favourite artists and performers.
I hope you will pop back then.
Meantime thanks so much for taking trip around Canterbury Cathedral with me. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
The grounds are well worth a visit, and so is the town.
As always please be aware these photos and content are (c) Jane Risdon 2015.
Canterbury Cathedral general visiting times:
(limited at times of services)
Disability access, guided tours, shopping available.
Today my very first regular music blog post is live over on
where I shall be writing a short piece – 300-500 words – each month,
sharing some of my experiences in the Music Business.
Today you can read the first instalment about two British musicians
invited to audition for an American super-star and his touring band,
and what they got up to.
If you pay a visit to the blog please leave me your comments there
and also pop back here and let me know what you think.
Part one is called:
Snore Poison, so I’ll remember it….
I do hope you will have a blast.
I had a lot of fun recalling the events. Part two is to follow soon.
Yesterday marked the third anniversary of my blog here.
How time flies when you are having fun – and I’ve had lots of fun.
I’ve met some wonderful people on-line and enjoy ‘chatting’ to them;
it is the highlight of my day.
Peoples from around the world share their thoughts and comments with me (and everyone), and I’ve had my eyes opened to all manner of new authors, new books, photographers, and other bloggers with interesting and creative sites which I love visiting.
I just want to thank each and every one of you who has been kind enough to visit, follow, and comment on my posts.
Your input is so essential and most welcome.
I have also learned so much from getting to know you all.
The global village is indeed a source of information, education and new friendships.
I love it.
Thank you so much.
With your help I hope I can continue for another three years.
January turned into a busy month.
I agreed to write an article for Fireback Records.
The record label has a new blog on their website featuring all manner of useful tips and articles for song writers and musicians.
Photo courtesy of Fireback Records
My first article for Fireback Records, The Art of Song Writing, was published January 15th and can be found via this link
They’ve invited me to contribute to their blog regularly and, you never know, I may well be posting more articles in the near future.
I think you will spot the similarities between writing stories and writing songs.
Let me know what you think by leaving the record company a comment on the post, as well as leaving me one here.
I was also interviewed by Creative Frontiers (Martin West) on 21st January and you can find the interview via this link
Logo Courtesy of Creative Frontiers
He posed some interesting questions about my writing which I enjoyed answering no end.
Feedback is always appreciated so do please join the others who’ve left their comments on his blog, and on mine.
On February 1st I was Guest Author on Neal James’ website blog where Neal kindly posted an extract from
which is one of my short stories included in the anthology, In A Word: Murder
When British Rock band Dreamer is about to sign their first major deal with a successful record company, who’ve lined up a big hitting American manager, things get heavy.
Big money is coming their way with huge advances and potentially massive song writing royalties,
and soon who wrote what, becomes deadly important.
The link to Neal James’ blog is
If you pop over and read it please let him know what you think, and me of course.
To buy In A Word: Murder
where you can also read Dreamer
and my other story, Hollywood Cover Up,
along with many other wonderful stories by award-winning crime writers,
follow the Amazon link which is on my Amazon Author Page further down this page.
If you do purchase the book and read my story and those of the other authors,
we would appreciate it if you’d leave some feedback on the Amazon site.
It is always helpful to know what our readers think.
In A Word: Murder is in aid of The Princess Alice Hospice
in memory of Maxine Clarke, crime writer, editor and blogger.
You can find the hospice via this link
You can visit Maxine’s Memorial blog, which is still up and running, via this link
I have an Author Page on Amazon and you can find links to all the books where I have contributed.
I have also been busy with Ms Birdsong Investigates: Murder in Ampney Parva
This is the first book in the series and I thought I’d completed it, but as some of you may know
I was inspired by a family wedding in 2013,
and I soon found Ms B pushing her way in and giving me a new Ms B story: The Safe House
which caused some changes in Murder in Ampney Parva.
I then had a fab birthday week last year – you may have read about – which included a fabulous visit to the Observatory at Herstmonceaux.
Before I could say Sea of Tranquillity,
Ms B was prodding me to write Murder at the Observatory – once again causing me to go back over the first two books and make suitable changes to accommodate her latest investigation.
I do hope she lets me get on with everything before she taps her Manola Blahniks impatiently again. Time will tell.
It is such a thrill to receive feed-back from readers.
Writing is such a lonely occupation and so to know someone has actually read what you’ve written and liked it enough to comment on Social Media, and to then pop across to Amazon to leave a review with some lovely sparkly stars, and a #1 Best Seller spot to boot: well, that is the icing on the cake.
In September I signed with Accent Press Ltd and in October they published their Halloween Anthology, Shiver, in which I contributed my short story, The Haunting of Anne Chambers – a Ghost story set in Cornwall where I have spent many years working with recording artists we managed there.
We used to stay with friends in the village of Paul, not far from Mousehole, and there is a wonderful old church there – Paul Church, also known as St. Pol de Leon – which has some interesting history attached to it. The Spanish came ashore during the Spanish Armada, did a little raping and pillaging – which accounts for so many dark-haired locals with Spanish-sounding names I guess – but perhaps we won’t go there!
Inside the Church Chancel there is a plaque which inspired my story The Haunting of Anne Chambers – it reads exactly as follows:
Interr’d near this place lies ye body
of Captain Andrew Elton
Commander of the Godfrey Gally.
He was killd in an engagement
with a French Privateer
Off the Lands End of England,
Sept. the 4th 1710 Aged 53.
His merit being sufficiently known
He needs no further inscription.
The Haunting of Anne Chambers is a Ghost story about Pirates:
Anne and Andrew are lovers.
They’re also Privateers – Pirates – and they’re planning to run away together to a new life, after one last raid.
But, when Anne is knocked out cold, she comes round to find that the world around her has changed disturbingly.
That people have purchased, read, and really enjoyed this anthology which features some wonderful stories by several successful writers, is fabulous.
I’ve received some positive reviews of my stories on Amazon which chuffed me to bits at the time, and still does.
The thrill of it all – for me – is that they enjoyed my story enough to leave such positive comments awarding it 5* – that really is the icing on the cake.
But it hasn’t ended there.
In December Accent Press published Wishing on a Star which included my short story, Merry Christmas Everybody, which is also based on a true story.
Music lovers will recall the untimely death of Phil Lynott, Thin Lizzy, in 1986; this served as the inspiration for my story.
A couple of years after his death I found myself in a recording studio working with a rock band we managed at the time, over the Christmas period.
The studio was owned by a friend of Phil’s and, not too long before he died, the singer spent some time at the studio and house of the owner – a very famous rock guitarist.
Besides the band being with us we also had a good friend, a clairvoyant, who was interested in the recording process. She loved it and had the time of her life watching how the tracks were put together.
And then we had a very strange experience in the studio – an unworldly experience some might call it.
When asked to write for Wishing on a Star the experiences we had in studio came back to me and I was inspired to write Merry Christmas Everybody.
There are tensions in the studio when Twister records their new album.
The band members are at one another’s throats and someone is messing with their recordings.
The band blames their producer, but it soon becomes clear that someone unexpected is trying to get a message of festive goodwill through to them.
This has been well received and I am really excited that readers have seen fit to give it so many 5* reviews on Amazon.
The Thrill of it all:
The book was #1 on Amazon soon after it was published.
More icing on the cake.
Over the past few of years I’ve been fortunate enough to find my stories included in various Anthologies, several in aid of worthy charities such as :
The Princess Alice Hospice (In A Word: Murder Anthology) Print and e-Book
http://www.pah.org.uk/ The Princess Alice Hospice
Women’s Aid, Women for Women, Breakthrough (I Am Woman Vol. 1 Anthology) e-Book
The Norfolk Hospice, (Telling Tales Anthology) No longer in print.
I’ve been more than happy to write specifically for these causes, especially the Hospices, because my own father was being cared for in one when he died.
They don’t receive Government funding – they rely upon donations. The care they provide is second to none. And I am happy to provide stories for any other similar causes should I be asked.
I am busy working on Ms Birdsong Investigates which should be published later this year.
Ms Birdsong is a former MI5 Officer who is ‘voluntarily’ retired following a messed-up operation in conjunction with her MI6 partner, who somehow managed to remain in the service, finding himself posted to Moscow.
Taking refuge in a small village in rural Oxfordshire where she is hiding from her enemies, and trying to build a new life for herself, Ms Birdsong soon finds all her training comes in useful when she involves herself in investigating murder and dirty deeds in Ampney Parva.
Thanks to everyone who has purchased these books and enjoyed them enough to let me and the other authors know.
It makes it all worthwhile.
That was the year, that was….it’s over so let it go.
What a year!
January arrived with an appointment with the surgeon’s knife, only to be postponed at the operating room door; phew!
A 60’s Icon, Samantha Juste passed away in February
and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of those who read and commented on my piece about her, and who remembered her with the same affection as I.
Her passing reminded me of those wonderful, care-free days in my teens filled with music, fashion, and the changing world around me.
I know many scientists, and others who have changed the world and who have done so much more for human-kind died this year, but Samantha was a link to my teens.
I was also fortunate enough to have some of my short stories and flash fiction published and Pod-cast during February as well as being interviewed by other authors on their blogs. Links for all these are on my blog roll.
February also saw the paper-back publication of In A Word: Murder – a crime anthology – which had been published in November 2013 as an e-Book.
I was thrilled to be asked to contribute two stories for this very worthy cause – The Princess Alice Hospice, Surrey – in memory of Maxine Clarke, writer, blogger and editor.
Both my stories received really positive and uplifting reviews which has been encouraging.
March found me spending a week with my sister and her husband. My week with them was spent visiting some fabulous places which were of particular interest to me, and which I wrote about here.
We visited Rye and Rye Church which was wonderful. Going up on to the roof of the Church and getting the most fantastic views of the surrounding countryside, the town and sea. How I ever got up those narrow wooden stairs and squeezed through the tiny door on to the roof I shall never know.
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I adore anything to do with astronomy and space. As a special birthday treat they took me to a lecture at the Herstmonceaux Observatory where I had the most amazing time. I got to look through one of the telescopes Sir Patrick Moore used to map the Moon – his observations being used by NASA for the Apollo Moon Landings.
I managed to get the idea for a Ms Birdsong Investigates story whilst there: Murder at the Observatory.
I also spent a relaxing and inspirational day walking around the beautiful gardens and house at Wakehurst Place, part of Kew, and where the Millenium Seed Bank is held.
As always I took lots of photos to remind me of my visit.
Later in the week we spent an interesting afternoon looking round the home of Rudyard Kipling – Batemans – and his picturesque gardens.
Such a thrill.
We also took in a visit to the town of Lewes and spent some time walking around Lewes castle. Unfortunately it rained and was misty and so some of the views were obscured. Nevertheless, the castle was fascinating.
Another day found us strolling around The National Pinetum at Bedgebury and the fantastic collection of trees there. It was so lovely, so quiet – apart from birdsong – and very relaxing. I loved it and took lots of photos once again.
A trip to a wonderful medieval manor house called Ightham Mote followed and was delightful. The gardens and the house are such a joy. So much history and fascinating architecture.
March also brought a medical emergency involving our son which was very upsetting and worrying. He was diagnosed with an extremely rare disorder which was only discovered to exist in the last four years and, as yet, there is no known treatment.
Only 1/2% of the male population is known to have it, and he has the rarest form. It is research in progress according to the medical experts.
April found me taking the bull by the horns; I decided to have a go at submitting some of my work to publishers for the first time. I didn’t have any real expectations but I thought the experience would be good for me.
And so most of April and May was spent writing, editing and sending out my submissions. More on this later….
June always brings Heritage Day at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, and I and a friend spent a lovely day wandering around the grounds, exploring the Old College, and the New College, and the Chapel, as well as watching Gurkha displays, marching bands and other attractions. One highlight was having a Gurkha Batt for lunch.
I used to walk in the grounds back in my youth, before they were closed to the public when the IRA threats became too great. My husband and I used to walk there often when we were ‘courting,’ although nine times out of ten his road manager and band would come looking for us before too long, ready to whisk him away for a gig somewhere or other.
My mother played there as a child. So I am familiar with the Academy and always love going back when I can. Several friends married Officer Cadets so I’ve attended a good few weddings there as well.
June and July was also spent doing more Guest Blog appearances on other author’s pages, and interviews. I also submitted two stories for a charity anthology which I am still waiting to hear back about, plus more submissions to publishers.
One of my brother’s, and his partner, gave me a treat by taking me to an evening concert; The Last Night of the Audley End Proms at Audley End House. We spent a fab weekend going to flower markets, long walks, delightful pubs, and eateries topped off with the concert. A wonderful way to spend a weekend and such fun company too.
In August one of the publishers I had submitted to asked me to write two stories for them and so I submitted The Haunting of Anne Chambers and Merry Christmas Everybody.
I spent the month holding my breath….
September and I was back in hospital for my long-awaited, previously postponed shoulder operation. I’d been writing like a maniac throughout July and August trying to get as much done as possible as I knew once I’d had the operation I’d be unable to type properly for 9-12 months. As far as I know the operation has been a success. I am now having physiotherapy and gradually regaining the use and strength back in my shoulder.
Something wonderful happened in September: I signed to Accent Press Ltd and they began working with me on my two submissions for their Halloween and Christmas anthologies.
Shiver was published 9th October 2014 with my story The Haunting of Anne Chambers included. Shiver was number one on amazon best sellers chart and my story received 5* reviews.
November proved to be a very sad month for my family and I. A much-loved uncle who had been in hospital for almost a year was sent home with only a few weeks to live, passed away. He had endured unspeakable suffering with great dignity and humour and it broke our hearts to see such a fun person stricken in such a cruel manner.
The Chapel had over 150 mourners struggling to find somewhere to stand. Being a fan of Elvis and Rock n’ Roll it was fab to see so many of his old school mates turn up in their drain-pipes and cowboy hats. His coffin was in the red of Ferrari (he and a cousin of mine were avid race-goers and Ferrari fans – my cousin owning two of his own), with the Ferrari insignia on the front.
His coffin came in to the strains of The Old Rugged Cross by Alan Jackson; one of his daughters was a bearer.
His children and grandchildren gave speeches and a long time friend sang a hymn for him.
After prayers and other readings, Elvis was heard singing How Great Thou Art and finally we sent our uncle to his untimely rest to the sound of Elvis singing My Way.
Wishing on a Star was published 15th November 2014 with my story Merry Christmas Everybody included.
I have a 5* review on amazon so far.
I am dead chuffed. Mission accomplished. The hard work begins.
We have had a couple of births and deaths in the family this year – who hasn’t!
I know it is all part of the rich tapestry of human existence, but for each of us who has lost loved ones it is still raw and painful to bear, and those of us who have gained loved ones – new family members – it is a joy and a blessing tinged with sadness. Sadness that they will never know those who have left us, and who have enriched our lives beyond words.
I wish my son, his children, and one of my brother’s better health. For all those suffering I hope that this new year will bring better health, freedom from pain, and the worry ill-health brings.
We remembered our War dead – especially WW1 – and those who suffered from their wounds and lived with the pain all their lives.
Especially Great Uncle Thomas Nyhan – who died at the Somme in 1916.
And my maternal Grand-dad who was gassed in WW1 and died from the effects in 1955.
Also Cousin George who never recovered from the sinking of his ship in the Atlantic in WW2 and who died in 1980.
That was the year that was, it’s over so let it go…..
I wish you all a very happy, healthy, peaceful, and safe 2015.
Do join me again soon. It has been a blast.
Thanks for being here. xx
Seasons Greetings one and all
Many thanks for being here and making it such a joy to connect with you.
It has been an interesting year and I have enjoyed your posts and comments so much.
I have had a wonderful time visiting your blogs (those who have them) and I wish you all the very best.
I shall be back before the New Year to see what you have all been up to.
Stay happy, safe, and healthy.
Wishing you all this, and peace too.
If you are planning on reading something over the holiday period I do hope you will consider these:
Wishing on a Star (anthology) featuring some fab stories and one by me – Merry Christmas Everybody – based on a real event 26 years ago at Christmas.
Published by Accent Press Ltd.
Shiver (anthology) featuring some spine chillers including one by me – The Haunting of Anne Chambers – set in Cornwall – and #1 on amazon’s Kindle Store – Halloween. #15 on amazon’s Kindle Scary stories.
Published by Accent Press Ltd.
If you feel like benefitting The Princess Alice Hospice, Surrey, you might consider purchasing
In A Word: Murder
in memory of Maxine Clarke, Crime writer, editor and blogger
all proceeds go to this wonderful Hospice.
There are some cracking murders in this anthology written by award-winning crime, and I have two stories included: Dreamer and also Hollywood Cover Up.
Published by Margot Kinberg.
Enjoy your holidays.
There are tensions in the studio when Twister record their new album.
The band members are at each other’s throats and someone is messing up their recordings.
The band blames their producer, but it soon becomes clear that someone unexpected
is trying to get a message of festive goodwill through to them….
Wishing On A Star
A seasonal collection of short stories
published 16th November 2014 by Accent Press Ltd.
My short story
Merry Christmas Everybody
If you’re into Rock Music,
if you’ve ever wondered what can happen in a recording studio
when the tension and artistic temperament within a band explodes,
if you’d like to read a story based on real events
then look no further.
Wishing On A Star
A seasonal collection of short stories
Featuring stories from
Christina Jones: Comfort and Joy
Santa Lives: Tricia Maw
A Christmas Murder: Marsali Taylor
No Smoke Without Fire: Bill Kitson
Proof Of The Pudding: Jane Wenham-Jones
What The Dickens!: Caroline Dunford
Merry Christmas Everybody: Jane Risdon
Family Matters: Jane Jackson
Do let me know what you think of my story and the others by commenting here and also by leaving a comment on amazon.
Feedback is always welcome; whatever it is.
On the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WW1 1914-1918
I ‘d like to remember and honour all those who lost their lives, including countless civilians, caught up in the horror of war.
In particular I’d like to remember family members.
However, even though I’ve been researching our family for over 30 years, many still remain illusive.
Therefore I decided I would have one family member represent all those too numerous to mention individually.
Guardsman Thomas Nyhan – Ist. Battalion Irish Guards
died of wounds in France in September 1916
and is remembered with honour in the Military cemetery where he is buried at the Somme Battlefields alongside his comrades.
He came from a small rural village in what is now Southern Ireland, the second son in a family of ten children:
seven boys and two girls, one of whom was my maternal Grandmother.
Sadly there aren’t any photos of Thomas that I know of still in existence.
Only the headstone above marks his life and death.
I know he could not only read and write in both English and Irish, he was also fluent in both spoken languages.
Indeed, both his parents could read and write English and Irish as well as speak both languages fluently,
which I understand was rare in the early 19th century in rural Ireland.
The view Thomas Nyhan left behind – view from his village.
Thomas and his siblings had been educated by a governess, which was also evident when reading anything written by my Grandmother.
When she used to write to my mother’s teacher giving reasons for Mum’s absence from school,
her letters were often pinned to the board in class, by the teacher, as an example of a beautifully written letter and handwriting.
I must admit reading anything she’d written was always a joy.
If he had returned to his homeland Thomas would most likely have been laid to rest in this Parish Church eventually, where most of his family now rest.
It is built on the site of 4 previous cathedrals, even though the population of the village was barely 400 people until the 20th Century.
I visited with my mother and sister in 2008, soon after I discovered Mum still had family alive and living where Thomas and her mother had.
It was a very moving visit and sadly, since then, two of her remaining cousins have died and others are very old and frail.
As far as I can establish Thomas never married.
The Nyhan family was a close and loving family from what I am told by those relations who are still living.
Thomas’ father would play the fiddle and tin whistle for the family as they sat inside their home in the evenings.
The girls would dance with their brothers and mother and sing Irish songs which were passed down to me when I was growing up via my grandmother, Thomas’ sister.
I think of Thomas dying so far from home alongside his many comrades,
and how he must have missed his family and longed for home and to see them all again.
I think of his father, widowed by then, having not only lost his wife but two sons and a young daughter before the war began.
Like so many other families at that time their lives changed forever with the outbreak of World War 1.
I feel sad that none of them ever knew what happened to Thomas.
They could only imagine, like many thousands of other families.
I feel happy that I managed to find Thomas as a result of my research into our family history,
and to have been able to let his surviving nieces, nephews, and wider family know about him.
Although some of them have died since, those left behind – direct family and distant family – are remembering him today along with all those others who gave their lives so that we might live ours in the manner we chose.
RIP Great Uncle Thomas Nyhan, and all those family members too numerous to list here who also gave their lives.
RIP all your comrades too.
All Photos (c) Jane Risdon 2014 – All Rights Reserved
Something to snuggle up with on a cold, dark, windy night.
Perfect for Halloween.
Thrills, chills and giggles too.
Hide-under-the-bed stories, laugh-out-loud stories and
food-for-thought stories – something for everyone.
Christina Jones: Laying The Ghost
Cara Cooper: Your Number’s Up
Caroline Dunford: The Dark Night of Dawn
Jane Risdon: The Haunting of Anne Chambers
Tricia Maw: Uncle Henry
Marie Laval: Cemetery for Two Princesses
Andrea Frazer: All Hallows
David Rogers: Curtains
Helena Fairfax: The Pumpkin Hacker
Bill Kitson: Dead Ringer
I hope you Shiver right down to your timbers.
Let me know, let Amazon know, and let Accent Press Ltd know what you think
I know I’d appreciate your feed-back.
I’ve just had a good tidy up and cleared my writing desk ready for a full on session this week.
It’s amazing just how cluttered it manages to get when I have my head down and I’m in over-drive – I have been writing a great deal this summer.
Hence the need to have a good tidy.
Inspired by the publication of my short story, The Haunting of Anne Chambers, in Shiver (Accent Press Ltd)
which has garnered some wonderful 5 star reviews of the book – with even a #1 Best Seller spot on Amazon – and really fab stories by my fellow contributors which I’ve really enjoyed reading, my digits have been itching to get back to work.
It is still difficult to type and sit for too long but artists must suffer for their art – I am suffering…well just a little.
Well, I suffer for as long as is bearable and then I have a wander about, do my physiotherapy, and then have a much longed-for cuppa before settling down for another session.
I am about to begin work again, now with a nice tidy desk, but before I do
I thought I’d give some background to my story in Shiver whilst having a much-needed cup of tea.
The Haunting of Anne Chambers is set in Cornwall and is a tale of Privateers and Pirates with a twist.
I set the story in Cornwall in the village of Paul, just up the hill from Mousehole, because I spent a lot of time in the early 1990’s recording at a studio in the village and looking round the church and visiting the other villages was a great way to distress after non-stop sessions cooped up inside at mixing desk.
The King’s Arms became a favourite watering-hole and the village Church of St. Pol de Leon (St. Paul’s), featured in my story fascinated me even then.
Local tales about Pirates and secret tunnels and sea battles with the French and the Spanish remained with me long after the visits to the village ended, and when I was faced with writing a Ghost story for Shiver, I wanted it to be different – not what I normally write – and the idea for my story began to form from memories of our time in Paul.
The title came first and was additionally inspired by my two-part short story,
The Secret of Willow Cottage: The Tale of the Reluctant Bride and the prequel, The Tale of the Jilted Lover.
This two-parter was published in May and June last year and was also Pod-cast.
The response to The Tale of the Reluctant Bride was so encouraging I went on to write The Tale of the Jilted Lover.
If you ever find yourself in the village of Paul, do pop into the church and check out the inscription on a mural tablet situated between the choir stalls and the pulpit (on the north side of the Chancel). If you’ve read The Haunting of Anne Chambers you will understand why the village was important to Privateers and Pirates and how some of my characters originated.
I shall love you and leave you for now. I have work to do on Ms Birdsong Investigates.
Please check out Shiver, and if you get the chance do let all those contributing (including me) know what you think of the stories.
I have really enjoyed reading them.
There is something for everyone.
There are funny stories, scary stories and plain weird stories but they add up to a great read for Halloween.
You will find stories from:
Andrea Frazer, Bill Kitson, Caroline Dunford, Christina Jones, Helena Fairfax, Tricia Maw,
Marie Laval, Cara Cooper, David Rogers,
Have a great week and thanks for popping in.
Thrilled to be published today in this FAB collection alongside so many successful authors including my life-long friend,
who has been so inspirational and supportive of me and my aspirations to become a writer.
without your encouragement and advice my fingers would never have seriously connected with the keyboard.
Even though we write in different genres she has often read my work when, other than my husband, no-one had ever read anything I’d written.
To find we both have stories in the same collection is such fun.
We’ve shared an anthology once before but this was a complete surprise.
My contribution to Shiver is
The Haunting of Anne Chambers.
If you’ve read and enjoyed my two short stories
The Secret of Willow Cottage: The Tale of the Reluctant Bride
The Secret of Willow Cottage: The Tale of the Jilted Lover
I hope you might enjoy
The Haunting of Anne Chambers:
It’s a Ghost story set in Cornwall – a tale of Privateers, Pirates and ….well,
I’ll let you find out.
My fellow contributors are:
Andrea Frazer, Bill Kitson, Caroline Dunford, Christina Jones,
Helena Fairfax, Tricia Maw, Marie Laval, Cara Cooper and
I know there will be something for everyone
Available from Accent Press Ltd.
There are many who have encouraged me and supported my writing, too numerous to mention – family and friends especially, who deserve my thanks.
Thank you each and every one of you.
I want to thank everyone who has followed me and encouraged me on this blog and in other ways – you know who you are.
My story is dedicated to you all.
Update 11th October 2014: Just seen this
Apparently SHIVER is #1 Best Seller in Children’s Halloween eBooks on Amazon.
It is #4 Best Seller Children’s Scary Halloween Stories on Amazon.
It is #60 Best Seller Single Author’s with Short Stories on Amazon.
I don’t think my story is Children’s story – but it could be I suppose.
Audley End House, Saffron Walden, Essex.
17th Century and one of the finest examples of a Jacobean Manor house in the country.
Set in 6,000 acres of land with gardens designed by Capability Brown.
The grounds are now 1/3rd their original size and the property has been run English Heritage since 1984.
There are over 100 rooms in the house owned by Lord Braybrooke – the 10th Baron – whose family the title was created in 1788.
Audley End House put on an event on 3rd August 2014:
The Last Night of the Proms
which I was fortunate enough to have attended with family…no, they’re not featured in any photos.
One glimpse of my camera and they all run a mile!
Gates opened late afternoon and people began to arrive with their seats, picnics and even small tents complete with candlesticks and silverware.
They tended to remain at the rear of the event where they could make a fast get-away at the end.
As I like to sit near the off-stage mixing desk at such events, between the huge PA’s where the sound is (one hopes) the best, we found ourselves sitting in the centre of the lawns.
Looking over the pictured couple but with a good view.
Unfortunately the house was somewhat obscured by the stage and it wasn’t the sunniest of days, so many photos turned out to be far too dark to post.
Others who hadn’t purchased tickets to come inside the event, sat outside and got free show.
The event was opened with a fly past of a WW2 Spitfire owned and flown by Caroline Grace.
Her Spitfire flew out of the sun and over the heads of the audience, looping the loop, diving, and tumbling through the air,
to the soundtrack of the Dambuster’s (movie) played by The National Symphony Orchestra.
She spent a good ten minutes flying over head before she flew off into the sunset.
The speed of the plane and the way it tumbled and span around made it difficult to photograph – I did my best.
Later she was available for a chat about her plane and further flying events in one of the many tents on site which included the usual food and beer outlets.
We never managed to get over to her as the queues were so long and the concert was about to begin.
The concert began with the setting sun and lasted until about 10pm.
We enjoyed performances by:
Gardar Thor Cortes, Camilla Kerslake, Laura Knight and Amy Dickinson.
Later everyone sang Rule Britannia, Land of Hope and Glory and of course, Jerusalem
followed by a wonderful firework display to music, with all the usual flag waving.
I must admit the highlight for me was the Spitfire, but the whole event was magical and I think I enjoyed it more than The Last Night of the Proms in Hyde Park last year.
My family thought the same. We had a wonderful time with great music and a terrific atmosphere, lots of great food – prepared for us – with plenty of lovely wine too.
The taxi back arrived on time and we spent the night in a cute little Inn not too far away. A wonderful weekend all round.
As ever all my photos are (c) Jane Risdon 2014: All rights reserved.
Audley End House: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/audley
Tel: UK 0870 333 1181
London Road, Saffron Waldon, Essex CB11 4JF
I can hardly contain my excitement.
Publication day for SHIVER
is October 9th 2014.
Published by Accent Press Ltd. at £2.99
Advance orders are being taken so I understand.
My short story, The Haunting of Anne Chambers, is included along with stories by:
Andrea Frazer, Bill Kitson, Caroline Dunford,
Christina Jones, Helena Fairfax, Tricia Maw,
Marie Laval, Cara Cooper and David Rogers.
For more details pop across to
Discover what Anne Chambers and Andrew Pasco got up to in Cornwall.
Those of you kind enough to pop in here from time to time will know I’ve been submitting to Publishers during the summer, more in hope than expectation.
Well, I am very happy to share my good news with you.
I’ve been included in SHIVER,
a collection of horror stories
with contributions by so many authors I admire such as:
Andrea Frazer, Bill Kitson, Caroline Dunford, Christina Jones, Helena Fairfax, Tricia Maw, Marie Laval, Cara Cooper and David Roger.
SHIVER is published in early October 2014 by ACCENT PRESS LTD.
I’ve signed a Publishing Agreement for this collection and I am hoping it will lead to more stories being published by them.
They have a Christmas story I’ve written under consideration, so fingers crossed.
This story is a departure from my usual Crime/Mystery writing – I’ve never attempted a Ghost story before and it was fun to write.
My story is called ‘The Haunting of Anne Chambers’
I am thrilled to bits and really excited.
More information to follow soon.
I do hope you like the cover – Halloween is soon upon us.
Catch up soon. Have a FAB weekend one and all.
I just wanted to pop in and thank everyone for their good wishes and for being so supportive of me during my convalescence following my recent operation.
Your kindness is really appreciated and has kept me going.
Thank you one and all.
Since I went off the radar I notice I’ve lots more new followers here so I want to thank those who are new here as well.
Each day it’s been a lovely surprise discovering new friends and followers who have joined us here.
Unfortunately I cannot thank you all and welcome you personally, not physically up to it just yet, but I want to say a huge welcome and thanks for being here.
Please accept this as my greeting to each and every one of you with my thanks too.
Every day I am getting more movement back in my shoulder and arm, and I can spend a little longer at the computer but unfortunately not long enough to do any real writing yet.
I am not being idle…
I am reading a lot and also visiting blogs and websites belonging to my many friends on here and, where I am able, I am managing to leave a comment. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for ages and now I have a little additional time I am enjoying browsing.
I’ll be back soon with updates on how things are going in general regarding my writing.
Thanks once more for visiting me here and for your friendship. Makes me very happy.
Enjoy your day everyone and keep safe, well, and happy.
I hope you enjoy my photos – a little sunshine for you today.
A great holiday read.
If you are wondering what to read whilst enjoying the freedom of a Summer Holiday,
here is one solution:
In A Word: Murder
A Crime Anthology featuring stories by writers from across the world
set in the world of Publishing:
Book Publishing, Music Publishing, Blogging, Reviewing and Editing….
A world full of danger.
The Agency by Award Winning Poet and Author, Pamela Griffiths
Gives readers a look at a True Crime Magazine and what happens when its senior editor is killed….
The Story by Paula K Randall
A Short Story Competition becomes a life-or-death issue….
The Million Seller by Margot Kinberg
The stakes are high when an up-and-coming author with a lot of earning potential decides to make a major change in his career….
A Beach Report from Myrtle Clover by Elizabeth S. Craig
A holiday at the beach proves to be less than relaxing when Myrtle Clover’s newspaper reporting instincts tell her there’s trouble at the quiet seaside resort she’s visiting….
La Lotte by Sarah Ward
A modern-day crime turns out to have an interesting literary connection to the past. And someone feels that justice had not been done….
The Killing of Captain Hastings by Award Winning Author, Martin Edwards
Book Blog Reviews and a Literary Festival in the North of England come together in an unexpected way….
The In-Box by Margot Kinberg
Shows just how dangerous the life of a Publisher can be. And just how much you can learn from someone’s email….
And, my own two contributions:
Dreamer by Jane Risdon
When wanting something so bad brings out the worst in a 1980’s Rock band, poised for success at any price….
Hollywood Cover-up by Jane Risdon
Crossing swords with the rich and powerful in Hollywood is never a good idea, especially if you write about it and the characters in your book seek to stop publication: at any cost.
Some of our readers said:
3470 C.E said:
‘Jane, I really enjoyed your short stories, especially ‘Dreamer.’ I was on the edge of my seat until I finished it!!
That was excellent! OMG I felt terrible about Jake, but I guess that’s the way it goes…’
William Reichard said:
‘I finally had a chance to sit down and read your stories from In a Word, and I really enjoyed them! I most liked that they felt very modern with the references to Amazon and Android phones and such, but they were also colorful in the vein of Elmore Leonard.
Definitely made me think your stories of the ’60s music biz will be interesting to read! Congrats–the sense that you’re having fun as a writer is strong, and it looks like you’re gaining traction. I’ll definitely be looking for more!’
Col’s Criminal Library said:
‘Well this was an enjoyable way to spend a few hours night-time reading before lights out. All the stories worked for me, but if pressed to choose a couple of favourites I would have to plump for both of Jane Risdon’s stories; Dreamer and Hollywood Cover-up, with the former on top of the pile.
Dreamer gives us a glimpse inside the world of music, with a rock band intent on resolving some artistic differences. Fantastic!
As previously mentioned in another post, purchasing the book which was conceived in the memory of Maxine Clarke will help support the Princess Alice Hospice.
Enjoyable and entertaining.’
FictionFan’s Book Reviews said:
‘Buy it because it’s in a good cause….then read it because it’s good fun! Highly recommended!’ FictionFan’s Book Reviews. http://fictionfanblog.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/in-a-word-murder-an-anthology-edited-by-margot-kinberg/
clothesinbooks reviewed the book – follow the link to read:
The Game’s Afoot reviewed the book – follow the link to read:
Mysteries in Paradise said:
Many thanks to Margot Kinberg for putting this collection of short stories together. I thoroughly enjoyed them all, particularly Elizabeth Craig’s Miss Marple spoof A Beach Report From Myrtle Clover. For me the cleverest was The Killing of Captain Hastings by Martin Edward. Well done folks! http://paradise-mysteries.blogspot.com/2013/11/review-in-word-murder-margot-kinberg.html
Maggie Thom said:
This is a really good collection of short crime stories. There is such a good taste of a variety of styles and of stories. All were rather captivating in their own way. There are secrets, lies, murder, deceit, betrayal, double-cross, being sneaky… you name it you’ll find a story here that has it. There were definitely some surprising twists and some surprising endings. After reading it, it just left me with wanting more, which is a good sign of well written stories. It was easy to identify with the characters and it was easy to get pulled into the story, wondering where it would go. Congratulations to the seven contributing authors. I really think they did a great job of telling a story in a just a few pages and in holding my attention and interest.
Lesley Fletcher said:
When I received my hard copy, I could hardly wait to read it. I left it on my kitchen table and read a story a day. What I really liked about this book was the different writing styles and delivery. Considering the number of authors who contributed it had a great coherence as all the stories were centred around the world of media and the written word.
In a Word, Murder left me wanting the stories to be longer. Totally enjoyable read designed to take the reader away for short periods.
Well done everyone. Maxine Clarke would have loved it, I’m sure. (this book was written in memory of Maxine with proceeds going to the Princess Alice Hospice)
And many more great reviews are out there, but don’t take their word for it:
Purchase In A Word: Murder
Great holiday reading
in aid of a great cause:
The Princess Alice Hospice
and discover what it’s all about for yourself.
Available in Paperback or Kindle from amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com
In my journey through life’s labyrinth of bloody corridors, I walked and talked with death. I shook hands with the Devil many times. I lived a vicious life in one of the most violent countries in the world. I write from the heart. My work is life through my eyes.
UK, Europe and South Africa:
UK, Europe and South Africa:
I’d like to introduce you to a fellow author
who was nominated by me last week to take part in
The World Wide Work In Progress Blog Tour.
John does not yet have his own Blog and so I invited him to share his WW WIP with everyone on my own page; a first for me.
I do hope you will all take time out of your busy day to take a look at his contribution and answers and also take a look at his books.
Here is what John has to say about himself in answer to my questions today:
I live in Essex with my wife Margaret, daughter Elizabeth, and our cat Missy who adopted us. For many years I was a Chartered Surveyor in Local Government. In the nineteen seventies I was a Senior Project Manager with the Greater London Council, staying with them until 1986 when the organization was closed down. I then set up a surveying practice on my own account, carrying out condition surveys, and preparing architectural drawings. In 2004 I suffered a heart attack, and business declined. I eventually retired in 2008.
I came to writing quite late in life. I suppose, like a lot of people, I had always wanted to write a novel, but I could never think of a decent plot. Then in September 2005 we took a holiday in the Austrian Lake District. We stayed in Grundlsee, the first of three lakes. The second lake, Toplitzsee, is the deepest of the Austrian lakes, and was used by the German Navy during the war to test torpedoes and rockets. As the war came to an end many items were hidden in the lake, including counterfeit dollars, and pounds, weapons, jewellery, and there were rumours of hidden gold bullion. Since the war extensive searches have been carried and much has been discovered, but sadly no hidden gold.
This gave me the inspiration for my first novel “The Kammersee Affair” which was first published in December 2006.
I have subsequently written five novels featuring my private detective Tom Kendall,
and a “what if” novel,
“The Thackery Journal” set during and just after the American Civil War.
- What am I working on?
Now that “Kendall”, my fifth novel to feature my private detective, has been published, I have made a tentative start on two other Kendall novels. Very early days I’m afraid, and a long way from a first draft, but I have my villain, I have the crime committed, and I have Kendall investigating. I am also working on an adventure novel based on a true 1931 story about a submarine that was intended to reach the North Pole under the ice. It never got there and was later found at the bottom of a Norwegian fjord. Once again very early days. I have two or three beginning chapters, and the end. Now all I need is about 200 pages in the middle. I am also thinking of a second American Civil War novel.
- How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Tom Kendall is quite unlike many of the other private detectives – Phillip Marlowe, Sam Spade, Mickey Spillane. They were all tough guys, handy with their fists, and a gun. That’s not Kendall’s style. He isn’t the macho type, and he couldn’t hit the side of a barn with a gun. He relys on logic, and deduction. Oh, and the help of his business partner, Mollie, not that he would ever admit that, or tell her. There’s a lot of me in Kendall. He has a wicked sense of humour, so do I. He is stubborn, and I guess I am too. Once he gets an idea into his head it would take an earthquake to shift it. He is a little over-weight, although he would never admit that either, and he is not the fittest person on the planet.
- Why do I write what I do?
A very good question. I love the old film noir movies from the forties and fifties – Humphrey Bogart, Cagney, Edward G. For some while I wanted to write a novel in that same style. Pacey, snappy, punchy, with a touch of humour. I soon found out that for some reason I just couldn’t do it. Certainly nothing like as good as those original writers. But I quickly realised that I was actually doing something so much better. I was developing my own style, and my own characters. I wasn’t copying anyone else.
- How does my writing process work?
I have always admired authors like Charles Dickens, and the Brontes. They started their work at page 1 and continued until the end. Dickens wrote a chapter per week for a magazine. Any corrections probably meant a whole page being re-written. I could never write like that. Fortunately with computers and word processing that way of writing is no longer necessary. I don’t really have a process as such. I mean I don’t sit down every day to write so many thousand words. I start with a basic idea, and then I write as I think of something, and just add it into the right position. I might wake during the night with an idea, or a sentence, floating around in my head. I get up and make a note, then go back to sleep. Maybe my latest idea might mean changes to something I have already written, well so be it. Using that process I now have seven novels self published – 5 featuring Tom Kendall; “The Kammersee Affair”, and “The Thackery Journal”
My facebook link is – https://www.facebook.com/john.holt.98031506
My Amazon author page is – http://www.amazon.co.uk/John-Holt/e/B003ERI7SI/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1
My twitter link is – https://twitter.com/JohnHoltAuthor
THE MACKENZIE DOSSIER
Kendall could just see the television screen. There was a photograph of Governor Frank Reynolds. Across the bottom of the screen the ticker tape announced in large black letters ‘Governor Reynolds Murdered’. The voice over was filling in whatever detail was available. Apparently his body had been discovered earlier that morning. He had been found lying in his garage. He had been shot twice. One shot to the upper chest, the other hitting his shoulder. ‘Police believe that the weapon used was a 38 mm caliber revolver,’ the reporter said. Kendall froze. Anthony Shaw had also been killed by a 38 mm bullet. Kendall was not quite sure of what it all meant. What connection was there between Anthony Shaw, and the State Governor, and the business mogul, Ian Duncan? And what about Senator Mackenzie? Where did he fit in? And who or what was Latimer? Only a short while ago Kendall was a small time private detective, a Private Eye, investigating an insignificant little murder with no clues, no witnesses, and no motive. In fact, no nothing. Now he had so many pieces of a puzzle he didn’t know how they fitted together. He didn’t even know if they all came from the same puzzle.
THE MARINSKI AFFAIR
The Marinski Affair began as a dull mundane case involving a missing husband. Okay, so he was a rich missing husband, but he was nonetheless, still only a missing husband. The case soon developed into one involving robbery, kidnapping, blackmail and murder. But was there really a kidnapping? And exactly who is blackmailing who? Who actually carried out the robbery? Who committed the murders? Who can you trust? Who can you believe? Is anyone actually telling the truth? What have they got to hide? And what connection was there with a jewel theft that occurred four years previously? All is not as it seems. Tom Kendall, private detective, had the task of solving the mystery. He was usually pretty good at solving puzzles, but this one was different, somehow. It wasn’t that he didn’t have any of the pieces. Oh no, he wasn’t short of clues. It was just that none of the pieces seemed to fit together.
ISBN: – 978-1291316032
Tom Kendall, a down to earth private detective, is asked to investigate the death of a young newspaper reporter. The evidence shows quite clearly that it was an accident: a simple, dreadful accident. That is the finding of the coroner and the local police. Furthermore, there were two witnesses. They saw the whole thing. But was it an accident, or was it something more sinister? Against a backdrop of a viral epidemic slowly spreading from Central America, a simple case soon places Kendall up against one of the largest drug companies in the country.
‘To make a killing in the City’ is a phrase often used within the financial world, to indicate making a large profit on investments, or through dealings on the stock market – the bigger the profit, the bigger the killing. However, Tom Kendall, a private detective, on holiday in London, has a different kind of killing in mind when he hears about the death of one of his fellow passengers who travelled with him on the plane from Miami. It was suicide apparently, a simple overdose of prescribed tablets. Kendall immediately offers his help to Scotland Yard. He is shocked when he is told his services will not be required. They can manage perfectly well without him, thank you.
The lake was flat and calm, with barely a ripple. Its dark waters glistening, reflecting the moonlight, as though it were a mirror. Fritz Marschall knew that neither he, nor his friend, should really have been there. They, like many others before them, had been attracted to the lake by the many rumors that had been circulating. He thought of the endless stories there had been, of treasures sunken in, or buried around the lake. He recalled the stories of the lake being used to develop torpedoes and rockets during the war. Looking out across the dark water, he wondered what secrets were hidden beneath the surface.
On the night of April 14th 1865 President Abraham Lincoln was attending a performance at The Ford Theatre, in Washington. A single shot fired by John Wilkes Booth hit the President in the back of the head. He slumped to the floor, and died a few hours later without recovering consciousness. Was Booth a lone assassin? Or was he part of a wider conspiracy? What if Booth had merely been a willing party to a plot to replace Lincoln with General Ulysses S. Grant. Let us suppose that Booth had been set up by a group of men, a group of Lincoln’s own Army Generals; Generals who had wanted Ulysses S Grant for their President, and not Lincoln. And let us also suppose that the funding for the assassination had come from gold stolen by the Confederate Army.
Tom Kendall had been with the 32nd Precinct, New York Police Department for just under ten years. But now he wanted a change. Now he wanted to start his own Private Detective Agency. He had grand ideas. He wasn’t interested in just any old case. Oh no, he would handle only the big time cases, the expensive ones.
He would be able to take his pick, the ones that he wanted, where the stakes were high and so were the rewards. He knew exactly the kind of case that he wanted. Anything else would not do, and it would just be turned down flat.
I’d like to thank Jane Risdon for this opportunity to share my World Wide Work In Progress Blog Tour experience with you all on her blog. I do hope you will leave your thoughts and comments fur us both her. Thanks so much for coming by to read about me. I do hope you enjoy my books and that you will let me know.
Jane Risdon http://wp.me/2dg55
I would like to nominate fellow author
to take part in the WW WIP Blog Tour on 11th August 2014.
Thanks John for sharing your Work in Progress with us. This has been so interesting.
I do hope you will follow these links and read all about John’s nominated authors.
**Please don’t forget to read all about my second nomination for the WW WIP Blog Tour:
who has an equally exciting post which I’ve also added HERE today.
Like JOHN HOLT, TC does not have a blog but does have a very interesting Fan Page on Facebook.
Find JOHN HOLT on Facebook:
I hope the sun is shining on you wherever you are.
Just popped in to say that there are some areas of my blog which might not be accessible for a very short time
I am making some changes behind the scenes and so it has been necessary to limit access to some areas.
Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.
There is still lots to see and read so do keep popping in to visit – you know I appreciate all your visits and comments .
Meantime perhaps you’d like to visit some of the Blogs where I have been interviewed recently, or have contributed to a Guest Blogger Spot.
Here are the links:
Fiona McVie’s blog: http://wp.me/p3uv2y-1af
Megan Cyrulewski (authorsupportingauthors) blog: http://www.megancyrulewski.com/blog
and I took part in The Writing Process Blog Tour
invited by Jane Dougherty to take part – you will find the post right here on my blog – 16th June 2014.
Jane Dougherty can be found over at : http://wp.me/P2ESuy-8v
Of course there have been other interviews and Guest spots over time – here are a few of them with their links:
Made it Moment (Suspend Your Disbelief) on Jenny Milchman’s blog: http://www.jennymilchman.com/blog/2013/02/13/made-it-moment-jane-risdon/
I’m also featured on her blog – The Writing Life: http://www.jennymilchman.com/blog/2014/02/14/guest-post-jane-risdon/feed/
Tea and Talk at Sally Lunn’s on Jo Lambert’s blog: http://wp.me/p2rrw7-eL
Centre Stage (Romance That Rocks The World) on Nicky Wells blog: https://janerisdon.wordpress.com/2013/12/05/11th-december-im-chatting-to-nicky-wells-about-stuff/
and I did another interview with Nicky Wells:
I wrote an article about Song-writing at the request of Morgen Bailey and you can find it under Guest blog posts – #226:
Morgen Bailey’s Writing Blog over at: http://morgoenbailey.wordpress.com/guest-post-song-writing-by-short-story-author-jane-Risdon
You can find my interview with Carol Bond over at theunseenpromise blog and read one of my short stories there:
You can also find some of my pieces of Flash Fiction over on Morgen Baileys Writing Blog/Pod Casts – go to her menu and Flash Fiction Friday and Pod-casts for links to them:
And of course, Morgen is a writer as well as a blogger so do check her work out whilst there….and the work of my other kind hosts.
So there’s a lot to keep you occupied if you wish to find out more about me and my writing.
There are more interviews and Guest blog spots on the way soon….meantime I am back to submissions for publishers (deep joy!).
Be good, keep safe and happy and enjoy your day. Thanks for being here.
All photos and content (c) Jane Risdon 2014 – All Rights Reserved.
Dancing Around Our Zimmer Frames with Generation Z
(c) Jane Risdon 2013
Since writing this piece in 2013, I have had several people read it again and mention it to me. The subject often comes up when talking about music and what life in a Residential Home might be for the Baby Boomers when they get to ‘that’ age.
I thought I’d share it again.
I hope you enjoy it and it gets you thinking.
I think we should start a movement to ensure that such places have a decent music collection available for those of us born in the 1950s and after, for whom George Formby and Pearl Johnson and Teddy Carr – wonderful in their day – is the stuff of nightmares.
At primary school we had Country dancing lessons and it was a good opportunity for the boys to grab the girls and fling them from one end of the gymnasium to the other when the ‘Caller,’ shouted, ‘Change partners.’
Later, at the Convent school we didn’t have dancing as it probably meant ‘touching’ each other, but we did dance around the May pole, trying not to tangle the ribbons or go the wrong way, which is a special feat one of my sisters still manages much to the totally cringing embarrassment of her children.
When we celebrated the crowning of Mary, Queen of The May, we sort of skipped about a bit in our white dresses, all very proper, overseen by The Mother Superior, so there wasn’t any opportunity to grab or be grabbed.
Big school saw us learning how to do the ‘Dashing White Sergeant,’ and ‘The Gay Gordons,’ – nope, not a Gay Scottish dance! I was a dab hand at the ‘Valeta Snowball,’ in spite of the boys still wanting to fling me from one side of the Gym to the other whenever we had to be twirled.
About the same time as we were tripping the light fantastic with our pubescent male partners, The Beatles and Chubby Checker were doing ‘The Twist,’ and up and down the country the sexes danced apart and around each other. Our school dances saw us all ‘twisting’ and ‘shaking it up baby,’ and doing ‘The March of The Mods,’ under the watchful eyes of various teachers, ensuring we didn’t ‘shake it up,’ too much behind the bike sheds in between dances.
Meantime, at various family weddings our parents still waltzed up and down, jitter-bugged and attempted to ‘Walk the dog,’ and ‘Do the locomotion,’ much to the horror of their children who watched ‘the oldies,’ making complete idiots of themselves. I can recall my Dad nearly slipping a disc doing ‘The Twist,’ and hobbling off the dance floor much to my great relief, before I died of embarrassment in front of all the eligible young men I’d discovered lurking near the bar.
Towards the middle to late nineteen sixties something called a Discotheque appeared and every town had one so it seemed. Our nearest town had one every Sunday afternoon in the old dance hall where my parents had quick stepped to the likes of Edmundo Ros, and smooched to Nat King Cole, when they were courting.
We were the generation who hoped ‘We all die before we get old,’ and who cringed at anyone over twenty-five, who we deemed ‘too old and over the hill,’ to know anything about life and us – teenagers. We died of shame at them dancing, or behaving like we did.
The Discotheque (not known as a Disco at that time), was a cool place to hang out. We could listen to the latest Singles and Long Playing Records (later known as albums), whilst checking out the opposite sex from underneath our Cathy McGowan fringes and Dusty Springfield blacked eyes, faces pale with Max Factor foundation, across the distance of table and chairs grouped round the outside of the dance floor. There was something we all thought so sophisticated – from Italy – called Espresso (coffee), and we also had Pepsi Cola and Coca Cola in long-necked bottles with straws. Such decadence.
The boys didn’t dance, they just stood and watched the girls and smoked. The girls danced self-consciously in pairs or groups of four or five, around their handbags piled in the middle of them, on the floor. There was a whole lot of shaking going on to The Mersey Beats, The Beatles, The Swinging Blue Jeans, Herman’s Hermits, The Walker Brothers, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, and the latest music from America; Sam and Dave, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, and all the Motown and Phil Spector bands and vocalists who were so new and exciting. Suddenly we didn’t want to listen to Frank Ifield, Matt Munro or Frank Sinatra.
Woodstock and the Isle of Wight festivals led us into long flowing robes, free love and flower-power and boys with hair to their shoulders and hips to die for. We danced and swayed to Dylan, Joan Baez, and Peter, Paul and Mary and Barry McGuire, who reminded us we were all ‘On the Eve of Destruction.’ No-one held each other to dance, everyone ‘did their own thing.’
It was The Summer of Love and we weren’t going to miss out.
Slam diving, stage diving, and moshing took over eventually and boys were back in the game, dancing on their own, throwing themselves around like the demented. Girls stood and watched and kept money ready to make the 999 phone call to summon an ambulance if one of them misjudged the crowd, and landed on their head and not in the arms of their mates, when they launched themselves off of speaker stacks and high stages.
Disco bounced into our lives with Donna Summer, The Bee Gees and John Travolta and we were all strutting our stuff under the mirrored globes in nightclubs, where lighted floors, strobes and laser lighting created monsters of us all, reflected in the mirrored walls. Everyone dressed to impress. Image was the thing. We all had a swagger to our walk and the boys knew how to swagger the most.
By this time our children were ‘disco’ mad too and it was our turn to be the ‘oldies,’ not safe out alone and certainly not allowed on the dance floor in polite company. They were ‘Dirty Dancing’ to ‘Fame,’ and ‘Grease,’ and holding your partner became all the rage again. But not for parents. That was deemed ‘gross,’ and a step too far.
TV shows featuring ballroom dancing, Latin American dancing and everything in-between has taken off in a big way.
When I was young we could watch Victor Silvester on his TV show ‘Come Dancing,’ – all sequins and taffeta – but only on a black and white set.
Which brings me to afternoon tea dances which are becoming more and more popular now, not that I could ever imagine myself at one, but people are going to them again. I am not sure which generation.
Then I wonder about myself and my generation. We still listen to the music of our youth, and our children enjoy it too, but we also listen to their music as well. I think about my mother’s generation and The Big Bands of the nineteen forties and Rock and Roll of the nineteen fifties.
Whenever you see a nursing home or a retirement home on TV these days, the music they are singing along to is the music of their generation; Sinatra, Crosby and Guy Mitchell, Patsy Cline and so on. They sing along to the piano player pounding out ‘Knees up mother Brown,’ and ‘Roll out the Barrel,’ and I get a funny sensation as I wonder what my generation will be singing along to when we are in nursing homes and the ‘entertainment’ turns up.
I have a vision of a row of tattooed women with face piercings, dancing around their Zimmer frames, watched by rows of elderly men, similarly tattooed and pierced, in sweat-shirts and jeans, longing for a joint and a pint, singing along to ‘Rock and Roll,’ by Led Zeppelin, ‘My Generation,’ by The Who and ‘Dancing Queen,’ by Abba….followed by ‘God Save the Queen,’ by the Sex Pistols. A ‘mosh pit,’ would be in the middle of the room and those brave enough and whose knees still worked, would try to launch themselves off of the leg rests of their geriatric recliners, shouting ‘Up the revolution.’
Outside, Para-medics would be busy loading exhausted ‘Generation Zimmer,’ into their ambulances. For a change they are not being abused and sworn at – shouts of ‘peace and love’ would fill the air with offers to share a spliff – for medicinal purpose of course.
Now there’s a thought.