Thanks to Sally for hosting the second of my archive blogs at her delightful ‘Smorgasbord’.
Long before the existence of Blogs, long before I had heard the term, I had Writer’s Block. Every morning in my Church of England junior school we had to write in our news books, dinky little notebooks with lined and plain pages; one side for script, the other to draw a picture. One Monday morning I said to my teacher ‘I can’t think what to write.’
Did you spend all weekend in a cardboard box? Was his reply.
Sometimes it was easy, one morning at assembly there was an incident. One boy wrote for his news Tony was sick in assembly. There was a lurid picture, the puddle of vomit had become a lake.
Parents’ evening was the only chance mothers and fathers had to see what their little darlings had written. Apparently I wrote regularly that Mum and Dad had moved the furniture around at the weekend. My mother claimed the teachers were nosy and wanted to know what went on in our homes; she was amused to meet another mother who was mortified. Her child had written Mummy went out dancing with John’s Daddy, her explanation was that their respective spouses did not like dancing…
If we finished our news book we could not be idle, we had to quietly get on with a dictionary exercise, but I enjoyed doing that. Only when that was finished could you do free reading. One time my friend had a new plan. On my unescorted one and a half mile walk to school I would call for her on the way. Her mother would wave us off, once out of sight we would slow down. If we were late for assembly we had to go straight to the classroom and get on with writing our news; thus having an advantage over the rest of the class. I did feel guilty about this, our parents didn’t know, the teacher perhaps guessed we did it deliberately, but God, being Omnipotent, was sure to know we were absent from hymns and prayers.
Scripture lesson was a better opportunity for creative writing. We had a similar little exercise book, but horizontal. We would write that morning’s bible story in our own words on one page and draw a picture on the other. Illustrations were easy, flat roofed houses and people in long robes were simple to draw. I can’t remember how much I elaborated the story, but even then I felt there was not enough back story and character development in The Bible. Maybe if the disciples had kept a news book there would have been more detail in the Gospels.
The first part of my novel Quarter Acre Block is inspired by my four years at junior school.
This week I was very happy to be a guest on Sally’s website ‘Smorgasbord’. Visit her weekly round up to see the terrific variety and sharing with other authors. Better than the Sunday papers, you are sure to find more than one item to match your interests.
Life is very difficult if you don’t have one; Scott Bailey’s poem addresses ‘Address’ perfectly.
Where your heart is
It has become
Identifying you for what you are
What you stand for
And most importantly
The most effective way to
Extract money from you
In response to #JusJoJan, JusJoJan,
Thanks very much to Sally for inviting me aboard Smorgasbord, a place I have enjoyed visiting regularly since discovering it.
For the benefit of those who have not visited one, JD Wetherspoons are a large chain of British pubs where you can eat cheaply all day, take children and have refillable mugs of coffee. Some are in beautiful buildings with amazing toilets and we have visited them from Canary Wharf up to the top of Scotland.
One of the two Wetherspoons in Bournemouth town centre is a former night club with nothing distinctive about its architecture. It is called ‘The Mary Shelley’ and I wonder what a famous authoress and wife of a great poet, would have thought had she known she would end up as a pub, as a result of her final burial wishes.
The pub faces the lovely St. Peter’s church. Bournemouth celebrated its bicentenary in 2010, the church was consecrated in 1845 and was rebuilt from a little rustic church to boast the towering spire it has today.
Mary was the daughter of Mary Wollstoncraft, writer on women’s rights, who died soon after her birth, she was brought up by her father William Godwin a writer and liberal thinker. Percy Bysshe Shelley was a friend of her father’s; famously at the age of 23, he ran off to France with 16 year old Mary and her step sister, leaving behind a teenage wife whose life would end in tragedy. Perhaps these days he would have been accused of ‘grooming’ and there would have been an all ports call to find a vulnerable teenager. With Lord Byron as a friend, what parent wouldn’t be worried about Percy? But he was the love of her life.
It was a night like no other that would go down in literary legend. To be precise, three days in June 1816, the Year Without a Summer. Severe climate abnormalities were caused by a combination of an historic low in solar activity and major volcanic eruptions capped by the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), the largest known eruption in over 1,300 years.
The five young people cooped up by the endless rain in the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva, could not have known the causes. They passed the time telling fantastical tales and challenging each other to create their own. Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Godwin, not yet married to Shelley, are well known, Mary’s step sister and Lord Byron’s physician, less so.
Mary is most famous for writing Frankenstein and January 2018 marks two hundred years since it was published.
I have always felt sympathy for Doctor John Polidori finding himself in such a writing group. Was he eager to emulate Lord Byron? Apparently the others were dismissive of his poetry and stories. His painting shows a dark good looking young man resplendent in the smart clothes of that era. He was clever; university at fifteen, a degree in medicine at nineteen. Twenty years old in that summer of 1816. He is credited by some as the creator of the vampire genre, his most successful work, conceived in those drug filled nights. But his story ‘The Vampyre’ was at first attributed to Byron, published without the permission of either man. The theme was adopted by others and it is Bram Stoker’s name that comes down in history. Perhaps Doctor John Polidori should become the patron saint of sidelined and unrecognised writers!
Polidori was not completely forgotten, appearing (without permission) as a character in numerous novels and films inspired by Doctor Frankenstein, vampires and the scandalous romantic writers. His diaries were ‘redacted’ by his sister, so we shall never know all his thoughts on that summer.
In the true fashion of the romantics his life was cut brutally short. He died in August 1821, aged twenty five years. The coroner gave a verdict of natural causes, despite strong evidence he took prussic acid – cyanide. Perhaps if he had followed medicine and not Lord Byron things might have turned out differently.
Mary Shelley’s life was longer, but hard, only one of her children survived and thirty year old Percy was drowned at sea, his body recovered and burnt on a funeral pyre on an Italian beach. Legend has it his friend seized his heart untouched from the flames and it is only these remains that are in the family tomb.
Mary’s son Sir Percy Florence Shelley had moved with his wife to Boscombe, near Bournemouth, during her final illness and she requested she be buried there with her parents. This involved the building of a family tomb and the disinterment of her parents’ bodies from a Paddington cemetery. Percy Florence and his wife are also buried in the tomb.
Her family are also remembered in street names, but more importantly Percy Florence built a family theatre at his home, Boscombe Manor, which has now been restored. You can read more about the family history and the theatre at their website.
‘Meet The Author’ on the BBC 24 Hour News Channel is usually the cue for Cyberspouse to sigh and reach for the remote control; we’ve caught up with the news, watched tomorrow’s newspapers being discussed, seen Film Review and ‘Click’ featuring the latest technology. No one actually wants to watch news 24 hours a day, hence the interesting filler programmes repeated at intervals.
Meet The Author is a simple formula, a presenter and author chatting. In the unlikely event of me being invited to participate, the interview might not go well. It is pleasing when anybody is interested enough to ask questions, but we Indie Authors must remember that in the real world life does not revolve around our current novel and connecting with other writers on the internet. When someone you haven’t seen for a while, or who has just been introduced, asks if you are still writing, do not reply with heavy sarcasm ‘Does the earth still revolve around the sun?’ Smile and say ‘Oh yes, still writing all the time’ and refrain from adding ‘You obviously haven’t looked at my website lately.’
Another common question is ‘How long does it take to write a book?’ perhaps many authors do know, but I have no idea. I lose track of when I first typed the title, let alone when the original ideas or characters popped into my head. Toby my camper van detective started as an exercise we were given for writing group, he first took an active role in a short story, ‘The Ambassadors’, in An Eclectic Mix Volume One published by AudioArcadia.com 2015. He also features in my two novellas published last year. He must be wondering when I am going to finish his novel; this year I hope. It is nearly three years since I had the idea for an opening chapter of a novel, when we went to the cliff top at high tide the morning after the Valentine’s night storm of 2014, inspiring the title ‘At The Seaside Nobody Hears You Scream.’
The follow on question is ‘How much time do you spend writing?’ Every available opportunity is the simple answer. When I first started with a second hand lap top on the dining table, connected to nothing except electricity, I wondered what authors in writing magazines were talking about; time wasting on social media? Even after acquiring sole use of a desk top it was a while before I realised you could have more than one page open at a time. Now writing my blog or novel is interspersed with messaging friends and relatives, looking at the latest family photos from (depending on the time of day) Australia or USA. And of course chatting with writers from all over the world. Dashing downstairs when the doorbell rings, the washing machine beeps or the oven timer goes off are all ways of avoiding deep vein thrombosis, but can seriously disturb the creative flow. Breaks to hang the washing out or put the chicken in the oven are ideal if you are editing; your brain and eyes need a break from the screen.
‘What sort of books do you write?’ A fair enough question, but ‘all sorts’ would be the best answer. ‘Quarter Acre Block’ is my only novel that could fit a genre, family drama. My trilogy encompasses family drama, love stories, crime, medicine and music; as strange things happen it is also science fiction. The real answer is I enjoy writing about ordinary people; especially when extraordinary things happen to them.
You can read the stories featuring Tobias Elliot Channing, private investigator specialising in missing persons, operating from a camper van, in Someone Somewhere.
2018 looks set to be as doom filled and gloom laden as 2017 and the actions of our leaders as silly and unbelievable as ever. Individuals feel powerless, but the beginning of a new year is the time for individuals to get their own lives in order, a more achievable goal perhaps. But what is taken seriously by one person might seem plain silly to their family or Facebook friends, the latter being the ones who will have to read ad nauseam about their lofty aims. If you became healthier and wealthier after Sober October, perhaps you will be inspired by Veganuary. While millions waste money on annual gym membership for one assessment, a few laps of the pool, a sit in the sauna and a go on the cross trainer that resulted in a pulled muscle, others might decide this is the year they train for a marathon, or seven marathons in one week across Africa…
Why don’t we just have a silly season instead, to brighten up northern winters or celebrate southern summers. What would your sillutions be? To acquire more Facebook friends in North Korea or Antarctica, to take up guerrilla knitting and dress all the lampposts in your street or why not turn your house inside out; bring the garden indoors with artificial lawn, trees in pots, house rabbits and free range parakeets?
Or you could spend January in the world of fiction and enjoy strange surroundings and events without annoying those you live with. I hope to be busy writing, finishing my latest novel, which has some very strange events and penning a few short stories. In the meantime ‘Someone Somewhere’ will take you into spring and summer with two strange novellas and other weird tales.