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Christmas Blog Hop party

This Christmas party is one with a difference. It was held on Christmas Day 1914 for Belgium refugees living in England after their villages had been overrun by the invading German army.

Like many women of the time, Elen, the heroine of ‘We That are Left’ had watched the men march proudly away in the summer of 1914 to rescue gallant little Belgium. By Christmas 1914 it was beginning to sink in that this was not going to be so simple, and the world would never be the same again – not least for women like Elen, taking over work they had once been considered to frail to even attempt, and embarking on a journey of self-discovery from which there was no return….

So come and join the Belgium refugees, who have lost everything, being taken to the hearts of their hosts in an English moat house for a Christmas of joy and tears.

And if you want to join in their celebrations, there’s nothing better than the legendary WW1 Seed Cake from ‘We That are Left’ – delicious at all times of the year!
  You can find the recipe HERE

Seed cake

And I’m giving away a signed copy of ‘We That are Left’. Leave a comment on this post to be entered into the draw – winners to be announced on Monday 23rd.

A Christmas Day reunion at the Moat House for Belgium Refugees – Christmas 1914

By a happy inspiration it was decided to extend an invitation to Belgians resident in the Borough who have passed through the Moat House Reigate, to partake of dinner at the Moat House on Christmas Day. A happy party numbering about 24 were enabled to respond to the invitation so kindly given and no efforts were spared to give them a right good time. Their happiness was contributed to in every way and everything possible was done to obliterate the sorrows of the past in the kindly hospitality lavishly dispensed. The Moat House was appropriately decorated for the occasion and the reunion proved of a most happy character. A Christmas dinner of good old English fare was served about 5 o’clock.

 

 

 

 

 

You can find a copy of ‘We That are Left’  published by Honno Press here:

UK     US

We that are left

 

Thank you for joining our party
now follow on to the next enjoyable entertainment…

 

1. Helen Hollick : You are Cordially Invited to a Ball

http://ofhistoryandkings.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/you-are-invited-to-party_17.html?

2. Alison Morton : Saturnalia surprise – a winter party tale

http://alison-morton.com/2014/12/20/saturnalia-surprise-a-winter-party-tale-and-giveaway/

3. Andrea Zuvich : No Christmas For You! The Holiday Under Cromwell http://www.andreazuvich.com/history/no-christmas-for-you-the-holiday-under-cromwell/

4. Ann Swinfen : Christmas 1586 – Burbage’s Company of Players Celebrates http://annswinfen.com/2014/12/christmas-party/

5. Anna Belfrage : All I want for Christmas

https://annabelfrage.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/all-i-want-for-christmas-the-christmas-party-blog-hop/

6. Carol Cooper : How To Be A Party Animal http://pillsandpillowtalk.com/2014/12/19/how-to-be-a-party-animal/

7. Clare Flynn : A German American Christmas http://www.clareflynn.co.uk/blog/a-german-american-christmas

8. Debbie Young : Good Christmas Housekeeping http://authordebbieyoung.com/2014/12/20/christmas/

9. Derek Birks : The Lord of Misrule – A Medieval Christmas Recipe for Trouble https://dodgingarrows.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/christmas-blog-hop-the-lord-of-misrule-a-medieval-christmas-recipe-for-trouble/

10. Edward James : An Accidental Virgin and An Uninvited Guest https://busywords.wordpress.com/an-accidental-virgin/
and https://busywords.wordpress.com/the-birthday-party/

11. Fenella J. Miller : Christmas on the Home front http://fenellamiller.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/christmas-on-home-front-and-giveaway.html

12. J. L. Oakley : Christmas Time in the Mountains 1907 https://historyweaver.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/christmas-time-in-the-mountains-1907/

13. Jude Knight : Christmas at Avery Hall in the Year of Our Lord 1804

http://judeknightauthor.com/2014/12/20/christmas-at-avery-hall-in-the-year-of-our-lord-1804/

14. Julian Stockwin: Join the Party http://julianstockwin.com/christmas-bloghop-join-the-party/

15. Lauren Johnson : Farewell Advent, Christmas is come” – Early Tudor Festive Feasts http://laurenjohnson1.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/farewell-advent-christmas-is-come-early-tudor-festive-feasting-christmas-party-blog-hop/

16. Lucienne Boyce : A Victory Celebration – http://francesca-scriblerus.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/a-victory-celebration.html

17. Nancy Bilyeau : Christmas After the Priory http://nancybilyeau.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/blog-hop-christmas-after-priory.html

18. Nicola Moxey : The Feast of the Epiphany, 1182 http://nickymoxey.com/2014/12/19/the-feast-of-the-epiphany-1182/

19. Peter St John: Dummy’s Birthday http://jennospot.blogspot.fr/2014/12/dummys-party.html

20. Regina Jeffers : Celebrating a Regency Christmas http://reginajeffers.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/celebrating-a-regency-era-christmas/

21. Richard Abbott : The Hunt – Feasting at Ugarit http://richardabbott.authorsxpress.com/2014/12/19/the-hunt-feasting-at-ugarit/

22. Saralee Etter : Christmas Pudding — Part of the Christmas Feast http://saraleeetter.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/christmas-pudding-part-of-the-christmas-feast/

23. Stephen Oram : Living in your dystopia: you need a festival of enhancement… http://stephenoram.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/living-in-your-dystopia-13-you-need-a-festival-of-enhancement/

24. Suzanne Adair: The British Legion Parties Down for Yule 1780 http://www.suzanneadair.net/2014/12/19/the-british-legion-parties-down-for-yule-1780/

25. Lindsay Downs http://lindsaydowns-romanceauthor.weebly.com/lindsay-downs-romance-author/o-christmas-tree-o-christmas-tree

Thank you for joining us

Happy Christmas! Nadolig Llawen! 

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Portmeirion Wilderness

The Wilderness in Portmeirion

 

And so the end of the year has arrived.

 

Dolbadarn Castle with Snowdon behind

Dolbadarn Castle beneath Snowdon

The end of the ancient Celtic year, that is. Samhain was the end of the agricultural year, when the harvest was in and secured for the winter ahead. A time to relax after months of hard physical work. A time to celebrate, but also to pause and reflect. To take stock and prepare for the new year ahead. It was also a time when the barrier between the living and the dead thinned, allowing the loved, who are always with us, creep in around the fire to join their families once more.

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An autumn walk in Snowdonia

 I love this time of year, with its soft light and vibrant colours, with its fragility and sense of urgency. With its call to enjoy every moment of warmth and sunshine before the dark cold of winter really sets in. And it’s still a lovely time to reflect and plan before the serious partying of Christmas and New Year begins. So I’ve been tidying up my garden, preparing it for next year, enjoying the sun and walks amongst the changing scenery.


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Portmeirion at night

It’s been quite a year, with the publication of ‘We That are Left’ and ‘Eden’s Garden’ becoming a finalist for ‘The People’s Book Prize’, followed by the excitement of the Kindle version of both novels reaching the top 5 in the Amazon Kindle store. I’ve celebrated with finally getting my poor neglected garden under control, and a visit to Portmeirion to spend time with my lovely American author friend, Nadine Feldman and her husband.

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Portmeirion at night

Portmeirion is always a magical place to stay, with its eccentricity and sheer love of life. I’ve come back refreshed, reinvigorated and ready to get back down to the next book – and the unknown adventure that awaits next year.

For Samhain and Halloween I shall light my candle in memory of all those who are still with me, and take a last look back over the fading year, and huddle round the fire to prepare for the unknown year ahead – undoubtedly with a dram or so of sloe gin once the Christmas season arrives!

Happy Halloween!

 

 

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In the V&A

 

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Downton …..

I loved my time in London at the Historical Novelists Association Conference this summer. It was great meeting up with old friends and new, along with the inspiring talks and discussions to set the little grey cells racing. I arrived a day early, as I hadn’t been to London for a while and was looking forward doing a bit of research – not least in the V&A. Seeing costumes of a time is so different from a photograph, for one thing you see how tiny they were, and just how constricting some of the dresses. The transition from Victorian to Edwardian were my favourite exhibits, and especially this one. I had to suppress a giggle, though, when two Italian girls arrived behind me, took one glance and announced ‘Ah, Downton!”. And so it is.

It was also a visit to another past. The Conference and the accommodation were a few minutes from Regent’s Park, with Baker Street nearest tube station. Once, long ago, I used to trudge from Hammersmith to an office in Baker Street, escaping each lunchtime into Regent’s Park and my dream of becoming an author. It was very strange walking once again by the lake and between the flowerbeds, and retracing my steps from Baker Street tube up to the offices in Baker Street. After all this time, it looked very much the same. The tube station even smelt the same.

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The flowerbeds in Regent’s Park

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Walking among the swans and the moorhens (who also looked very much the same) I couldn’t help but wonder what I might have said to my 23 year-old self, if I had met her coming the other way.

So, with my hindsight of thirty-odd years, what would I have told her? Like most writers, I beat myself up quite enough, so I think I would be kind. I’d tell her not to worry that the manuscripts bashed out on a dusty old typewriter in every spare minute always came winging back. It takes years, and rewrite after rewrite, rejection after rejection, to make a writer. This was only the start. I’d tell her not to worry that she couldn’t quite find a career her heart could follow. She already had one. I’d tell her not to be frustrated by the slightly ramshackled variety of jobs. Each was a learning curve, each a learning experience being stashed away to be brought out later. And I’d tell her that twenty-five was not old. Nor thirty-five, forty-five, even fifty-five. Most of all, I’d tell her to live her life, work her socks off, and make her dream come true. Just dreaming never got anyone anywhere.

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Practice!

My 23 year-old self (being horribly lacking in confidence and filled with youthful angst, and taking herself so impossibly seriously, I’d probably have wanted to shake her) would not have believed me. Wouldn’t dared to have believed me, just in case. But hey, that’s youth.

Meanwhile, I wandered through old haunts, stumbling across cavalry practice (where else can you say that?), before heading back to meet up with my fellow authors.

My own revisiting of the past made me appreciate the present, big time. It’s been a long, hard journey, and it’s only just begun. I’m sure my 23 year-old self would never have believed me –  but now’s the time I’m having the time of my life!

 

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Buskers in Covent Garden

 

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In A Foreign Country

Ghana in 1976 with a baby and a suitcase

An interview with Hilary Shepherd

Today I would like to welcome to the blog fellow Honno author, Hilary Shepherd, whose second novel ‘In a Foreign Country’, set in Ghana, was published in March, and is currently in the Amazon Kindle summer sale. 

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I was 23 when I went to Ghana with a baby and one suitcase in 1976. All these years later the experience remains vivid, for the simple reason that I’ve never been back, nor have I ever been anywhere else quite like it.

Hilary 3There is an upside for a writer, writing about distant places, as authors like Peter Ackroyd have observed. However exacting it is to re-immerse yourself in faraway sounds, smells and colours, you don’t have so many decisions to make about what to include and what to leave out because the setting has been pre-edited by the limits of your memory. All you have to do is bring remembered detail to life. And because you are revisiting a place in your head, the detail that does come back is exciting, heart-rending, revitalising. That’s a pretty useful starting place for telling any story!

 

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As for the plot, I had written already about the trials and tribulations of living in the Sudan with a young family in my first novel and I wanted to write about somebody who thoroughly enjoys Ghana, however challenging she finds it. My character, Anne, is just out of university, keen to put her anthropological studies to good use at the same time as getting to know the father she has hardly seen since she was small. He has been working in Tamale for many years. Like him, she loves the place at once and decides to stay. And like him, she then falls in love awkwardly, perhaps unforgivably, with someone she finds there.

I didn’t want to write about northern Ghana outside the rainy season I experienced because the dry season is so different, so something had to happen to Anne within the same short time-scale of seven months. Hospitals I knew a bit about, having spent an unscheduled day in one in Tamale. I threw in some of my maternal experience in scenes with a secondary character, and drew on a brief trip we made to Burkino Faso, and horse-riding in Kumasi. But schools and teaching, which is where Anne gets to know her priest – that bit I had to shamelessly invent. After all, we’ve all been there, at some stage. It just needs a bit of imagination to go back as a teacher and in a West African setting.

As for the priest himself, a friend once told me the merest outline of something experienced by someone she knew, which has fascinated me ever since. What happens to a charismatic man if his life outgrows the framework he imposed upon himself long ago? And if you find yourself emotionally implicated, should you keep away or should you stay?

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 I’m not living in Ghana inside my head anymore. The book I’m currently working on is set in Spain in the aftermath of the Civil War. Writing historical novels is another foreign country in itself.

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Currently just 99p in the Kindle Summer Sale, you can get your copy HERE

Even in your father’s house you can feel like an outsider…

Recently graduated, Anne is in Ghana for the first time. Her father, Dick, has been working up country for an NGO since his daughter was a small child. They no longer really know each other.

A few days into her six-month stay, the houseboy Moses returns
from a trip. As the weeks pass, Anne has a growing feeling that she’s surplus to requirements. Dick is grumpy and distant; Moses distinctly put out at her continued presence. She finds respite teaching eager young pupils at a local Catholic school. Then, out of the blue, a terrible accident changes everything.

In its aftermath, Anne’s closeness to a priest in trouble with his superiors at the Mission, reaches a tipping point that endangers them both.

Praise for In a Foreign Country

“intelligent, subtle and sensitive… I was conscious throughout of the author’s deft control and understatement. Less was definitely more, and what she chose to omit, as well as what she included, made it a much greater book… a thought-provoking, absorbing and rewarding read, which I highly recommended.”
Debbie Young (Debbie Young’s Writing Life)

“Will leave you thinking about the characters after you put it down, and wanting more as you read the last words…[Shepherd’s future as an author looks bright]”
Gwales

HILARY SHEPHERD

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 After a lifetime of organic farming, and more recently making windows and stairs in oak for a living – and kitchens in all sorts of woods – Hilary Shepherd published her first novel with Honno in 2012. ‘Animated Baggage’ is set in the Sudan, where she lived with her young family for two years during the 80s. It is a wasp-on-the-wall view of the world of international aid but sadly is no longer in print. Earlier this year Honno published her second book. ‘In A Foreign Country’ follows a young English woman as she arrives in Ghana, where nothing is quite as she expects it to be, including the hidden faces of love.

Hilary is married to Nick and they live on a wild Welsh hillside where they spend a lot of time pushing rocks about. They also spend time in Spain, in a remote mountain village in the Maestrazgo, where the book she is working on now is set.

You can follow Hilary on Facebook: 

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Thank you!

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Thank you to everyone who downloaded, posted on Facebook and tweeted and retweeted – and took We That are Left not only into the top 10 best sellers on the Amazon Kindle charts, but to the dizzy heights of number #4. Not to mention being #2 in Sagas, Family Sagas and Historical Romance.

One very proud, and slightly bemused, author here.

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WTAL 2 in Sagas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you to my brilliant publishers Honno Press, shouting encouragement from the Hay Festival whenever there was a spot of Internet reception. And thank you to the lovely supportive Novelistas of Novelistas Ink, and especially Louise Marley, who was cheering me on all day, and told me I’d make it to the top 100, then the top 10, and like in the true Oscar speech this is turning out to be, I didn’t believe a word of it! I’m honoured to be up there with real (not just for a day!) best selling Novelista Trisha Ashley.

I have a feeling the next Novelistas meeting is going to involve cake.

The WW1 poppy seed cake from We That are Left seems to be the order of the day!


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Old wellies never die – they become growers of garlic!

Today I’m blogging on the Novelistas Blog about how I’ve loved seeing the gardens in this year’s Chelsea Flower Show commemorating the First World War. You can read the post HERE, and you can find my favourite garden, the Potter’s Garden HERE.

As I learnt in my research, many grand gardens were abandoned during the war, as the men left. But many new gardens were created to grow much-needed food, by women, schoolchildren and conscientious objectors, along with men too old or too young, or otherwise unable, to fight on the battlefields.  As WW1 dragged on, and shortages increased, many discussions appeared in the newspapers of the time, like this one from 1916, expressing a very modern outrage at NIMBYism (Not in My Back Yard), but with a chilling twist, that brings home the reality of daily life for its first readers: ‘We are living in the 20th century in the time of the greatest war ever known …‘ You can read the original HERE.

 

Derby telegraph allotments 1916

Derby Telegraph December 1916 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)

 

By 1918, the arguments had settled down into a dealing with the practicalities. Here,  in 1918, home grown food supplies are discussed alongside home rule for Ireland and the exchange of prisoners. You can read the original HERE

 

Liverpool Echo allotments 1918

Liverpool Echo May 1918 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)

Also in May 1918, the newspapers announced that Britain was almost self-sufficient in bread – alongside a report of a recruiting rally for the Women’s Land Army in Exeter – the delicate creatures of the pre-war world (excluding the Suffragettes, of course, who didn’t count as real women at all) have clearly gone forever! You can read the original HERE.

Land army 1918 Western Times

Western Times May 1918 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)

Where I get my delicious veg box each summer – this must have been a familiar sight in WW1, wherever you lived.

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In The Spotlight Guest Blog Author Juliet Greenwood….

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