I thought I’d let some of the main characters loose, so you can meet them. Small, but with a huge personality, is Brian…
Please allow me to introduce you to Brian. Brian is a monkey and if you comment on his diminutive size, you may notice his cute expression turn into a scowl because he doesn’t want to be known for being small. There’s nothing wrong with being small, of course, but try telling Brian that.
Tiny in stature but his presence in the band of friends has huge significance because he’s often the voice of reason. And luckily, he doesn’t bear a grudge because otherwise he and Eddie would have parted company a long time ago – and that would’ve been a shame because he’d have missed out on all the Eddie-driven adventures and mayhem.
Although Brian may never forgive Eddie for the nasty shock he received when Eddie got them jobs working for Leonora Da Finchy, a local artist. But I’m sworn to secrecy about that particular calamity. But here’s a tip – if you turn to the chapter entitled “Waxing Lyrical”, then you’ll see what I mean. And you can make up your own mind about how you’d feel if a friend allowed that to happen to you! But let’s not get distracted. I must mention Brian’s talent as a musician. He plays in a band with the others and let me tell you – he can drive the audience wild! And he’s also the most adventurous of the band and plays an important part in the friends’ joint scheme on a desert island, which Eddie, of course, claims is his idea. Brian’s motto for life would be: Friendship above everything – especially with my mate Colin.
I thought I’d let some of the main characters loose, so you can meet them and typically, Eddie wanted to be first. So, here goes:
Please allow me to introduce you to Eddie. Although he thinks he’s the protagonist of THE MACAROON CHRONICLES, he’s actually just one of several main characters. However, with his inflated sense of self-worth, he believes he’s the star.
And that’s not Eddie’s only misconception. If you were to meet him in person, he’d introduce himself as Eddie the Bald Eagle however, even the most short-sighted amongst us would very quickly spot that his avian heritage owes more to the Chicken family than it does to the Eagle’s. And sadly, Eddie is also under the delusion that he is an astute businessman – and a red-hot band manager.
Please don’t tell him I said so, but his business and managerial skills are negligible.
And his common sense – such that he has – often disintegrates the minute a contract is placed in front of him. He can’t see the small print for the zeros in the financial details.
Well, so much for what Eddie isn’t. What is he? Many words spring to mind – conceited, over-confident, ruthless and disloyal – and yet his friends seem to follow him everywhere so they must find something lovable in the chicken masquerading as a bird of prey. And it’s not as if he means any harm – he’s just a bit impetuous – and reckless – and sometimes downright careless.
Eddie’s motto for life would be: Friendship above everything – except making money.
Although I’ve never met Jim face to face, we’ve been friends for some time, having ‘met’ virtually on Paula Readman’s Facebook group, For Writers only, The Clubhouse. We both regularly write short stories for CafeLit and also record stories which are broadcast on Tony Cranston’s Talking Stories programme on East London Radio and have exchanged emails from time to time. Jim has a new book about to be published and I thought I’d find out more.
Dawn – Thanks for joining us, Jim. Can you tell us about your next book release, please?
Jim – I am thrilled to announce that my next book release with be my FIRST book release! LOL!! Its publication has been slowed due to the pandemic but it is scheduled for release later this year. It’s a collection of 27 short stories, most, but not all, previously seen on CafeLit. Its title is “Resilience” and it’s being published through Bridge House Publishing. Next year, I will also have a collection of Flash Fiction coming out in 2021 published by Chapeltown Books. I’m very excited!
Dawn – I know you’re a prolific writer, but how did you first become interested in writing?
Jim – I enjoyed reading as a kid and always wanted to be a writer. I wrote my first story while in the fourth grade which, of course, was horribly awful. My father told me that after I grew up and had more life experiences other than playing hockey and blowing on the trombone, I’d have more to write about. He was right! It just took me over fifty years to get around to starting.
Dawn – Do you prefer to write in any particular genre and if so, which?
Jim – I prefer literary fiction such as flash fiction and short stories. I like working with characters, putting them in situations and seeing how they will react in those situations. I’m very comfortable in that genre. That being said, I do enjoy dabbling in drabbles, and writing some horror and fantasy and science fiction, primarily to challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone.
Dawn – Are there any genres that you avoid and if so, why?
Jim – I’d take a stab at any genre, just for the challenge, but if I did romance or erotica, I promise you that the end result would be extremely embarrassing!!
Dawn –Is there a genre that you haven’t yet tried which you intend to and if so what’s holding you back?
Jim – Nope. I’m pretty much open to trying anything.
Dawn –Of all the stories you’ve written, which is your favourite and why?
Jim – Right off the bat, “Remembrance Day” comes to my mind. It was the first story accepted for publication by CafeLit, the first story of mine that ever appeared on-line and it’s the first story in my collection. It’s the first story where I really felt I began to find my voice. My story “The Jump” also in my collection would be second choice because it’s kind of funny.
Dawn –Have any of your characters ever decided to take things into their own hands and write themselves a bigger part or a different part than you’d intended? If so which one?
Jim – That’s a very interesting question, and my answer is YES. Last year I started writing a science fiction series for the fun of it that was planned out to be ten episodes long. Not only did I find a publisher for the stories, but the characters wouldn’t let me stop at the planned ten episodes. I’ve written two more episodes and have ideas for more. The characters keep evolving and I’m not in the mood to let them go, so who knows how long the series will go on? LOL!
Dawn –Is there a specific word count to which you usually work either intentionally or unintentionally?
Jim – No. You’d be surprised how many of my stories start out as 75 pieces that I sent to Paragraph Planet. I can then take them and craft them into a 100 word drabble and/or expand the drabble to a flash fiction or longer story. It’s really fun. My earlier stories were much longer, some at 12k or more!! I don’t limit myself to word count unless it’s some sort of restriction based on where I’m submitting.
Dawn –With my latest publication, ‘The Macaroon Chronicles’ in mind, I’m going to ask you a few fun, food-related questions! So, here goes! Does food feature greatly in your current release or work in progress?
Jim – LOL!! Only in the back of my mind when trying to put off having a snack!
Dawn –Do you like macaroons? If so do you prefer coconut or almond?
Jim – I love macaroons, specifically coconut. In fact, I wrote a short story once about a guy with celiac spruce (intolerance to gluten) that mentioned coconut macaroons. It was published a while ago on CafeLit if I recall correctly. (And, yes, I have celiac spruce.)
Dawn –In ‘The Macaroon Chronicles’, on the Isle of Macaroon, there are Meringue Mountains with chocolate waterfalls, cheese mines and a custard river. Imagine you were to visit the Isle of Macaroon which one of those sites would you visit first? And why?
Jim – I’d head for the chocolate waterfalls as fast I could run. I love chocolate. My treat in the afternoon is a hot cup of coffee and a bit of a peanut butter/rice crispy bar with chocolate lathered on top of it. I get them at the grocery store. Love them! So, yes, the chocolate waterfall would be my decadent downfall!!
Dawn – Well, my thanks to Jim Bates for taking the time to join me today on my blog to tell us a bit about himself and his writing. I wish him the greatest luck with his new release, ‘Resilience’, when it’s published.
In addition to the soon to be released collection of Short Stories by Bridge House Publishing entitled “Resilience”, Jim will also have a collection of Flash Fiction coming out in 2021 published by Chapeltown Books.Find out more about Jim on his blog The View from Long Lake
Fellow author, Paula R.C. Readman and I first met at a Bridge House Publishing Author event a few years ago and since then, we’ve both had stories published on the CafeLit site and in many of the anthologies released by publisher, Gill James, of Bridge House Publishing. Paula has joined me again to help celebrate the release of my latest book, ‘The Macaroon Chronicles‘ which is now available on Amazon and to tell us about her latest book, ‘Stone Angels’, published by Darkstroke Books which has hit the top of several bestseller lists since its launch.
I put some questions to Paula…
Dawn – What is your latest book release, Paula? Please tell us a little about it.
Paula – In August this year after taking six years to write, edit, and submit I finally found a publisher who would publish my first crime novel, Stone Angels. It was a huge learning curve for me. I’m now busy editing the first novel I ever wrote. When I first completed Seeking the Dark, I submitted it to an American publisher who gave me some guidance on how to improve it, but I wasn’t familiar with editing terms. I had mapped out the whole story I wanted to tell, but I hadn’t the skills I needed to tell it as I wanted to.
After spending eight months, working with an editor on Stone Angels and writing drabbles for Black Hare Press, my writing and editing skills were much improved. Seeking the Dark is a vampire novel with a twist and a publisher has shown an interest in it once I finished the edits. I also have plans for a follow on novel to the Funeral Birds, soI’ve plenty to get on with for future books.
Dawn – How did you first become interested in writing?
Paula – I’m dyslectic and was diagnosed when I was in my junior school. This wasn’t followed up in my senior school, and for that reason I found school to be frustrating. I could do the schoolwork, but couldn’t get it down on paper. I’ve always loved books. My father was a great reader and used to share his sci-fi novels with me. At sixteen, I used to carry a small dictionary with me so anytime I was reading while travelling to work on the bus I could look up words I didn’t understand. I loved reading, and would memorise patterns of words I couldn’t pronounce. I still have a problem with spelling but I use an electronic dictionary on my computer as it pronounces the words for me. It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I decided to see if I could become a writer. When computers become more affordable I decided to teach myself from books, how to write to be published.
Dawn – Do you prefer to write in any particular genre and if so, which?
Paula – My writing style is dark, but not quite horror. I love the Victorian gothic ghost and horror short stories. They are scary and dark without being gory. So you could say I model my writing style on Gothic horror, if it needs to be categorized.
Dawn –If you write in several different genres are there any that you avoid and if so, why?
Paula – I don’t do romance. I write psychological crime, Gothic horror or dark fantasy, but romance. Not for me, just not a romantic person.
Dawn – Of all the stories you’ve written, which is your favourite and why?
Paula – That’s a little unfair, Dawn. That’s a bit of a Daddy or Chips question! At a push I have two to short stories I love, but as all of the stories in my single collection, Days Pass Like A Shadow are all my favourite ones, I’ll select Chimes at Midnight and Rat Trap as two of my best favourites. Yes, Dawn, I know the question was one, but how do you choose? Rat Trap was my first crime story and the start of my writing career that brought me to meet Gill, Debz and the rest of the Bridge House family. Chimes at Midnight wrote itself and was the easiest story I’ve ever written.
Dawn – Well, Paula, I think your answer is quite reasonable and you’ll see my answer to this question on your blog – I didn’t choose only one story either!
Dawn – Is there a specific word count to which you usually work either intentionally or unintentionally?
Paula – Not at all, I write until I have to stop writing to sort out my husband’s dinner. Some days it might be a few hundred, some days it’s a thousand, it really depends on what I’m writing. Now I’m editing so I might be rewriting a sentence or a paragraph.
Dawn – My mind has been on ‘The Macaroon Chronicles’ for some time now, so please, Paula, forgive the following food questions!
Dawn – Does food feature greatly in your current release or work in progress?
Paula – If feeding on blood is classed as food then yes, if not, then not at all.
Dawn – Do you like macaroons? If so do you prefer coconut or almond?
Paula – I haven’t had them for years, so I will go for almonds.
Dawn – In ‘The Macaroon Chronicles’, on the Isle of Macaroon, there are Meringue Mountains with chocolate waterfalls, cheese mines and a custard river. Imagine you were to visit the Isle of Macaroon, which one of those sites would you visit first? And why?
Paula – If the Cheese Mines are suitable for vegetarians then that would be the place for me. Do I have to bring my own cheese biscuits? I love cheese it’s the reason I can’t become a vegan.
Dawn – I’m reliably informed biscuits are available at all cheese mines on the Isle of Macaroon, which are also suitable for vegetarians, Paula, and if you make it to the island, there’ll be a special welcome waiting for you!
Thanks to Paula for being my guest today and if you want to buy her book or indeed, find out more about her, here are some details:
‘The Macaroon Chronicles’ is a romp through relationships amongst some anthropomorphic characters. It is one of those quirky books that awakes your sense of humour. Come and follow the fun.Take a tour of the exotic Isle of Macaroon with Eddie and his zany friends who will be pleased to show you the cheese mines, Meringue Mountains and the Custard River while they flee unscrupulous promoters, bandit badgers and low-flying seagulls. But a word of advice – don’t refer to Eddie as a chicken, he thinks he’s a bald eagle. And don’t mention Brian’s small stature, he’s rather sensitive about his size. Oh, and don’t call Brian a monkey, he’s actually a lemur. And finally, if Gideon takes a pen out of his pocket and you value your life – duck.
Trailer for ‘The Macaroon Chronicles’
I’d intended to simply write a short story to read out at the Basildon Writers’ Group, using a writing prompt I’d been given. We were asked to incorporate at least five items from a list to compose a story. I selected: a ballpoint pen, a pair of fisherman’s waders, a Hawaiian shirt, an electric guitar and a billboard.
I’d been watching a video of legendary ski jumper, Eddie the Eagle Edwards and the name appealed to me, which is how Eddie, the bald eagle who’s really a chicken was born!
I recently got in touch with the real Eddie the Eagle, Michael Edwards, and told him I’d borrowed his name for one of the characters in the book. However, I pointed out that absolutely nothing about Eddie the Bald Eagle (Chicken) resembled him! I also sent the real Eddie the Eagle a copy of the book and I’d be interested to know what he thought!
If you’d like to see how all the elements came together, here’s the first chapter of ‘The Macaroon Chronicles’. See if you can spot the items I’d chosen to include!
The Three Wise Monkeys
Oscar held the mobile phone against his ear with his shoulder and grabbed a ballpoint pen.
“Oscar’s Signs. Oscar speaking, how can I help?”
“Hello, it’s Eddie. I emailed the other day to enquire about a large poster.”
“Yes, Eddie the Bald Eagle.”
Oscar held his paw over the receiver of the phone, rolled his eyes towards the ceiling and whispered to his apprentice, “It’s that bald chicken what thinks he’s an eagle.”
“I heard that! I’ll have you know I am a bald eagle!” Eddie yelled into the receiver.
Oscar held the phone at arm’s length and winced. When he was certain Eddie had finished, he placed it next to his ear again. “All right, no need to shout. So, Eddie the Bald Eagle, what can I do for you?”
“As I said in my email, I’d like a large poster put on a billboard in Spudwell, as close to the music festival as you can, to advertise my band.”
“Hmm.” Oscar glanced at the calendar, “I’ll do my best but most of the billboards around Spudwell have been taken. You’ve cut it fine, you know. The festival’s in two days.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. I’ve had a few problems but they’re all sorted now… So, can you do it?”
Oscar sighed, “Yeah, okay, let me take down the details. Name?”
“Eddie, I told you!”
“No, not your name, the band’s name.”
“Oh, I see. It’s The Three Wise Monkeys.”
Oscar scribbled on the notepad. “And I assume the band members are actually monkeys?”
“There’s no ‘of course’ about it. You’d be surprised the sort of stunts bands pull these days to get themselves noticed. So, your band members are monkeys and their names are?…”
“Brian and Colin.”
“Brian, Colin and?…” asked Oscar, scribbling on the pad.
“Just Brian and Colin.”
Oscar paused and chewed the end of his pen, “My maths is a bit shaky but I definitely make that two monkeys. Didn’t you say The Three Wise Monkeys?”
“Yeah, that’s our angle, see. Two monkeys called The Three Wise Monkeys. Get it? Good eh?”
Oscar sighed. “Yeah, whatever. I’m just checking my emails and I’ve found yours but you don’t seem to have attached any photos of Brian and Colin. You did send me some, didn’t you?”
“Never mind, we’ll use some stock photographs.”
“Okay, thanks, you will have it ready in time for the music festival, though, won’t you?” asked Eddie
“Of course. I’ll deal with it myself,” Oscar said and cut the call.
“’Ere, you can do this one,” he said and threw the notepad to the apprentice.
Eddie was striding about the car park outside the picturesque village of Cakehall when Brian and Colin arrived.
“About time!” said Eddie stabbing at the face of his watch with the tip of his featherless wing.
“Yeah, sorry we’re late. Colin was hungry, so we stopped off at the cheese mine down the road,” said Brian.
“Yeah,” said Colin, “want some?” He took a packet out of his bag and unwrapped it, to reveal a large portion of steaming, golden cheese. It had several bite marks in it. “There’s nothing better than cheese fresh from the mine,” he said and bit off a chunk.
Eddie shook his head. “Nice to see you two cheese-malingerers are taking the music festival seriously,” he said scowling at them.
“All right, keep your feathers on, Baldy, we are taking it seriously but we have to eat. You don’t want us fainting all over the place do you?” said Colin.
“I’m warning you, cut the ‘bald’ jokes!” snapped Eddie.
“Well, anyway, we’re here now, so let’s get going,” said Brian, looking about the car park. “Where’s the van?”
“It broke down,” said Eddie.
“Oh no! How’re we going to get to the festival? There are going be scouts there. It might have been our first big break,” said Brian.
“Don’t worry, while you two were stuffing your faces in the cheese mine, I managed to arrange alternate transport. Follow me.”
“Why are we heading away from the car park?” asked Brian.
“Yeah,” said Colin, “this path leads to the river.”
“That’s right,” said Eddie “with so many people on their way to the music festival, you can’t hire a van, car, or even a bicycle for love nor money.”
“Please don’t tell me you’re expecting us to swim there!” said Colin.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Eddie, “you can’t swim in custard. You’d drown. No, I’ve hired a rowing boat.”
“What! Are you serious? You’re expecting us to row through custard?” asked Brian, “If I get a blister, I won’t be able to play my guitar, then what?”
“I’ll row,” said Eddie “and don’t be so ungrateful. If we don’t go by boat, we don’t go to the festival, it’s as simple as that. I would’ve thought you’d have been glad I’ve sorted the problem out.”
“Well, you are our manager. We pay you to sort things out. I don’t see why we have to be grateful as well,” said Colin.
“Yeah,” said Brian, “you get paid more than we do and we’re the band.”
“Ingrates,” muttered Eddie.
There was silence for a while as they trudged through the field of candyfloss bushes.
“Is it much further?” asked Brian, “This case is getting heavy.” He shifted the electric guitar to his other hand.
“Yeah, I know what you mean,” said Colin, “my back’s killing me carrying these bongos.”
“Quit moaning,” said Eddie, “the river’s just around the bend.”
“Is that it?” asked Colin pointing at the tiny rowing boat moored to the jetty, bobbing in the custard. “You are joking, aren’t you?”
“It’s that – or you walk,” said Eddie.
A weather-beaten ferret stomped down the jetty to meet them, “Which one’s Eddie the Bald Eagle?”
“Are you for real? He’s a monkey,” said Eddie, stabbing his wing in Brian’s direction “and he’s a monkey.” He nodded at Colin, “so have a guess who’s the bald eagle!”
“I’ll have you know, I’m not a monkey, I’m a lemur!” said Colin.
The ferret moved his captain’s cap backwards and scratched his forehead, “Seems to be a lot of identity confusion round ‘ere,” he said, “I don’t care what you are. All I want to know is who’s paying. Is it the chicken or what? I’ve got more parties interested in The Saucy Tart, so if you’re not goin’ to hire her, I’ll bid you good day.”
“All right, all right!” snapped Eddie taking his wallet out of his pocket, “here you are,” he said and handed over some notes.
“Rightio,” said the ferret, folding the money and stuffing it one of his fishing waders, “I’ll see you back here on Tuesday. Make sure you look after her.”
“Wait a minute!” called Eddie as the ferret walked briskly off the jetty, whistling tunelessly, “Can’t you give us a hand to start?”
“I thought you said you knew what you was doin’,” said the ferret frowning.
“Well, theoretically I do.”
“Not so much,” admitted Eddie.
The ferret put his paw inside his wader and began to withdraw the money. “I’m not sure I trust you with my boat.”
“I’m a fast learner,” said Eddie quickly, “and if you could see your way clear to giving us a crash course in boating, I could cover any expenses involved…” He pulled another note out of his wallet and held it out.
“Landlubbers!” muttered the ferret. He was still tutting, as he untied the painter.
“This is a bit cramped, isn’t it?” said Colin.
“Stop fidgeting,” snapped Brian.
“I can’t help it; your knees are bony.”
“D’you want to swap places?”
“Don’t be so stupid, you’re far too large to fit on my lap. Could you move that guitar case a bit? You keep jabbing me in the throat.”
“Well, move those bongos!”
“Can you two in the bow keep still? The chicken’s trying to board!” shouted the ferret.
“Eagle! I’m an eagle!” snapped Eddie.
“Yeah, whatever!” said the ferret, “By the way, you’re facing the wrong way, you’ll find it easier to cut through the custard if the pointy end goes first.”
“Oh! Sit down, Eddie, you’re rocking the boat!” shouted Brian, “I feel sick!’
“Well, keep your vomit to yourself!” snapped Colin.
The ferret crept away and left them to it.
“Are we nearly there?” asked Brian.
“I’ve no idea,” grunted Eddie.
“If you row any slower, the custard will skin over and we’ll be trapped,” said Colin, “we may never get out of this boat.”
“Don’t be ridiculous! And I’m going as fast as I can. There’s no current here.”
“Well, it can’t be much further,” said Brian, “I just saw a poster advertising one of the bands who’ll be at the festival.”
“A poster!” said Colin, “What a great idea! Shame we didn’t think of it.”
“Actually,” said Eddie, “we did. At least, I did.”
“So, any minute now, we could see Frogs’ Scorn in enormous letters with our photos?” asked Brian.
“Um… well, not exactly,” said Eddie, “you see, I changed the name of the band and I didn’t have any photos of you, so they’re going to use stock photos of monkeys.”
“I am not a monkey, I’m a lemur!” shouted Colin.
“Sit still, you’ll capsize us!” yelled Brian grabbing the sides of the boat.
“Ow! Move that guitar case!”
“Boys, boys! Calm down!” said Eddie.
“And what d’you mean you changed the name of the band? You can’t do that without consulting us?” said Brian.
“I made an executive decision. I never liked the name Frogs’ Scorn anyway.”
“So, what are we called now?” asked Brian.
“The Three Wise Monkeys.”
“I’m not a monkey!” screamed Colin.
It was another hour before anyone spoke.
“Well,” said Brian finally, “let’s look on the bright side. At least we’ll be playing in the festival. And even if our name is really stupid, it’s our music that counts and it could be our first lucky break.”
“Yeah, s’pose,” said Colin sulkily.
“Is there any water left?” asked Eddie hoarsely, “I don’t think I can row much further, I’m exhausted.” He was quivering and his wing tips were covered in blisters.
Gradually, the tall broccoli trees in the woods gave way to roads and gingerbread houses.
“There’s a sign for Spudwell, we must be nearly there,” said Colin.
“Hey, look! said Brian, “that’s our poster! The Three Wise Monkeys.”
Eddie took the opportunity to stop rowing while they inspected the billboard on the side of the road. He gulped.
“What is that?” shrieked Colin.
Eddie let go of the oars and cradled his head in his hands.
Beneath the heading The Three Wise Monkeys it said‘Appearing at the Spudwell Music Festival 2020,’ and beneath that, were photographs of two chimps wearing Hawaiian shirts drinking from tea cups. Below one chimp it said ‘Brain’ and below the other, it said ‘Colon’.
“Eddie!” shrieked Brian and Colin in unison.
Eddie estimated how far they were from the riverbank, then he peered over the edge of the boat. He’d heard that it was possible to walk on custard although he wasn’t convinced.
It might just be worth a try, he thought.
Here is the second chapter ‘#ChickenInCustard’ from ‘The Macaroon Chronicles’, read by John Guest.
It Happened in Essex – Tall Tales from the Basildon Writers’ Group on sale to raise funds for Basildon Hospital Radio. You can purchase your paperback or eBook here on Amazon If you buy a copy, please leave an honest review on Amazon to give the book a greater chance of being noticed.
So, how did I get involved with the book? Well, about seven or eight years ago, I did something I’d previously been very reluctant to do. I joined a writing group. Some time before, author, Jenny Drew, had started the Basildon Writers Group and had included it on the MeetUp site where I discovered it after carrying out a search of local writing groups.
Feeling extremely nervous, I turned up one Wednesday evening in the hall at the back of the Castlemayne pub in Basildon and met Jen and the other writers. Lack of confidence had been my main reason for not joining a writers’ group in the past, but in having picked the Basildon Writers because they met during the week and because I knew the area well and would hopefully avoid getting lost, it turns out, I made a brilliant choice! Not only was Jen encouraging, but so were all the other members too. Each writer read out a piece of their work at each meeting and then the others in the group offered them advice, made comments or asked questions. But always, people were respectful and positive.
A few years further on, sadly, some people have moved away although many stay in touch and currently it’s not possible for Jen to join us. Our venue has changed twice but still, there is a core of lovely supportive people with some original members and some newcomers. Of course, the pandemic has meant we now meet on Zoom rather than in person.
As a group, we’ve been fortunate to have the support of Jacqui James, chairman of Basildon Hospital Radio BHR 87.7FM, who has invited most of us, at one time or another, to join her or one of her presenters on Basildon Hospital Radio. When she became associated with Basildon’s local radio station, Gateway 97.8FM, Jacqui introduced a book club spot which featured one of our writers each month. So, most of us have been to either Basildon Hospital Radio or Gateway, or indeed, both. Here’s a post about one of my previous trips to Gateway.
Fellow member, Colin Payn’s idea to gather stories from the group and publish them to raise money for BHR 87.7FM was greeted with enthusiasm and it was decided that the stories contributed should have a link to Basildon or to Essex. Amongst our number, we have a designer (Paul Burridge), an editor (Wendy Ogilvie) and Colin, who organised the entire book and drew up the marketing plans.
Initially, we contributed a story each, and they can be found in Part One of our book, ‘It Happened in Essex’. Then, by chance, I was invited to contribute a story to the Hawaii Fiction Writers Fractured Fairy Tale anthology which they are publishing to raise money for their library (how I came to be included in the Hawaii Fiction Writers deserves a post of its own and I’ll blog about that soon!). A fractured fairy tale, in case you’ve never heard the term, is a classic fairy tale or children’s story which is brought into modern times, possibly with a twist added, or characters changed. They are refreshingly different whilst being quite familiar!
I wrote a fractured fairy tale which was accepted by Michael Little from the Hawaii Fiction Writers, who was calling for submissions. It was a variation on Rumpelstiltskin and as I was writing the ending, a different finish occurred to me, so I wrote that down as well. Then, I thought of yet another way of finishing the story and decided it would be a good idea to pick the ending I preferred. Then it occurred to me that perhaps I didn’t need to make a choice at all! If I included all three endings, the reader could decide which conclusion they preferred.
However, I then had a completely different idea and wrote yet another story, which Michael preferred and so my Rumpelstiltskin story was replaced in their book ‘Kissing Frogs, and Other Quirky Fairy Tales’ which will be available later in 2020.
And that, gave me the idea to write the beginning to a fractured fairy tale and to challenge all the Basildon Writers to come up with an ending. Consequently, Part Two of ‘It Happened in Essex’ consists of the Basildon Writers’ fractured fairy tale, ‘Once Upon a Time in Basildon’, which has a variety of endings – one even written by Jacqui James, chairman of BHR!
The writers who have a story in the book are: Colin Payn, Wendy Ogilvie, Saul Ben, Nihal Paul, David O’Neill, GK Lomax, Janet Howson, Emma Marks, Liz Keeble and me
We’ve had support from Essex celebrities such as Richard Madeley, who wrote: “Basildon Writers’ Group and Basildon Hospital Radio are one of the good things to come out of the Covid crisis – as an Essex man myself, I’m proud of them.” Richard Madeley (Richard & Judy Book Club)
We also have a statement of support from ‘Diddy’ David Hamilton and from Basildon Mayor, David Sampson-Burton; Basildon MP, Stephen Metcalfe and Baroness Smith of Basildon.
If you enjoy reading or writing stories set in 1940s – or indeed, both, you might be interested in a Zoom event hosted by publisher, Gill James, of Bridge House Publishing who has a special interest in this time period. She has written a fascinating series of books entitled ‘The Schellberg Cycle’ set in Nazi Germany which you can find here on Gill’s Amazon Author page.
The House on Schellberg Street: A Holocaust survival story (The Schellberg Cycle Book 1) – Renate Edler loves to visit her grandmother in the house on Schellberg Street. She often meets up with her friend Hani Gödde who lives nearby. This year, though, it is not to be. Just a few weeks after a night when synagogues are burned and businesses owned by Jews are looted, Renate finds out a terrible secret about her family. At a time when the world is at war and the horrors of the Holocaust are slowly becoming apparent, Renate has to leave behind her home and her friends, and become somebody she never thought she could be. The house on Schellberg Street needs to stay strong. Will it and those who work in it be strong enough? Will Renate ever feel at home again? And what of those left behind?
Gill has organised a Zoom event in which she will be talking with several authors, Lin Treadgold, Stuart Larner and me which will take place on Thursday 17th September at 20:00 to 21:30 BST and is a free event. If you are interested, please book your place here Eventbrite.
The authors will discuss what they are reading and writing, how they conduct their research and what draws them to the 1940s as well as answering questions in a Q&A session. They will also be reading examples of their work and there will be free giveaways.
Welcome to Plotlands – (Set during 1930s but leading on to others in the series) – 1930: Joanna Marshall lives with her beloved mother in the household of her somewhat less-beloved aunt, who wishes the pair of them gone. When her mother dies, a grief-stricken Joanna sees an opportunity to escape – Ma’s title deed to a rural patch of land. Welcomed into the Plotlands community, Joanna begins to make a new life for herself, and meets handsome solicitor Ben Richardson. But he wouldn’t be interested in an ordinary girl like her…would he?
A Touch of the Exotic – From India to war-torn London to a grand estate in Essex, Samira’s life is one of rootlessness and unpredictability. With her half-Indian heritage, wherever she goes, she’s seen as ‘exotic’, never quite fitting in despite her best efforts. To add to her troubles, her beauty attracts attention from men that she’s not sure how to handle. But when she falls for handsome RAF pilot, Luke, none of her charms seem to work, as it appears his heart is already bestowed elsewhere…
Touched by Two Wars – France, 1914: Isabelle and her mother are pleased to take in British soldiers as they pass through the countryside on their way to the front. But Isabelle’s attempt to comfort a distressed soldier leaves her with an illegitimate yet dearly beloved daughter, Madeleine. As Isabelle and her own mother struggle with the upkeep of Chateau Bellevais, another soldier, James, comes into her life – and out again. During the ensuing chaos of yet another war, Isabelle flees to England. Is it possible that she and James could find each other once more?
Wild Spirit – It’s Rae’s dream to sail away across oceans on her family’s boat, the WILD SPIRIT – but in 1939 the world is once again plunged into conflict, and her travel plans must be postponed. When Hitler’s forces trap the Allies on the beaches of Dunkirk, Rae sails with a fleet of volunteer ships to attempt the impossible and rescue the desperate servicemen. However, her bravery places more lives than her own in jeopardy – including that of Jamie MacKenzie, the man she’s known and loved for years…
My latest romance, ‘Wild Spirit’ came out at the beginning of August, published in large print by Linford Romance Library.
It’s part of the Plotland Saga Series of books which are mainly set in Essex although in this book, the heroine, Rae, starts life in Sussex. The previous books in the series are: “Welcome to Plotlands”, “A Touch of the Exotic” and “Touched by Two Wars”
Information about all three can be found here and can be purchased here in The Reading House. They are also available on Amazon but prices can be much higher than in The Reading House – although very occasionally much cheaper too, so it’s worth a look! You can find my Amazon Author’s page here with all my books. And perhaps a better idea might be to support your local library and borrow a copy from there. If you’ve read “Welcome to Plotlands” and you remember the character Joanna Richardson who moved from East London in 1930 to the Plotlands of Dunton in Essex – Rae, the irrepressible, heroine of “Wild Spirit”, is Joanna’s second cousin.
Blurb: “It’s Rae’s dream to sail away across oceans on her family’s boat, the WILD SPIRIT – but in 1939 the world is once again plunged into conflict, and her travel plans must be postponed. When Hitler’s forces trap the Allies on the beaches of Dunkirk, Rae sails with a fleet of volunteer ships to attempt the impossible and rescue the desperate servicemen. However, her bravery places more lives than her own in jeopardy – including that of Jamie MacKenzie, the man she’s known and loved for years…”
There are three more romances linked to “Wild Spirit” coming out during the coming months – all set in World War Two.
During the research I carried out to write “Wild Spirit”, I was interested to learn that several of the ‘Small Ships’ which sailed to Dunkirk to rescue our troops, sailed from Leigh-on-Sea, Essex. These included the cockleboats, the Letitia, the Endeavour, the Resolute, the Reliant, the Defender and the Renown which set off on May 31, 1940, at 00.30 hours, travelling across the Channel with a convoy commanded by the Navy. Read more about the brave cockle fishermen from Leigh who rescued many of our troops here. Tragically, the Renown went over a mine and her crew of four were killed in the explosion.
There is an excellent museum in Leigh-on-Sea which is well worth a visit, with a fisherman’s cottage furnished as it would have been during past times with its fishing nets hanging in the stairwell!
Interestingly, during my visit, I took the following photograph which looks like it might well have been taken in the same place as the photo on the cover, although, of course, in my picture, the tide is out! What do you think?
If you read “Wild Spirit”, I’d be thrilled if you’d leave a review on Amazon to let me know what you think. Thanks.
The Writing Slut’s Blog: Guest Book Tour and Blog Swap.
Paula – Good morning, Dawn. Thank you so much for inviting me onto your blog.
Dawn – Nice to have you here Paula. Before we start, can I say, that’s a very unusual title for your blog!
Paula – (LOL) It’s okay Dawn, please allow me to explain my new title The Writing Slut since finding a publisher for my crime novel, Stone Angels, I’ve been touting for business on Twitter, Facebook and any other street corner I can find. You spend years writing, editing and rewriting to produce a book that someone wants to publish, but in that time you haven’t really thought about what happens next. Yes, I was aware I might have to do a certain amount of promoting and marketing, but I had always imagined sitting in a bookshop or being on the radio, doing something physical. Instead, I’m strutting my stuff across an invisible place with no idea whether its making a difference or not.
Dawn – Well, Paula, perhaps you’d like to tell us a bit about your writing experience.
1) When did you first begin your writing journey and what drew you to choose that genre?
I guess it was my nature, Dawn. I have always been interested in the dark and mysterious side of people and the world as a whole. Ancient history, the supernatural, ghost stories that sort of thing. The unspoken and unsaid part of life. As humans we all have two sides, the side we show to the world, and the part we keep hidden. I like writing about the hidden side.
2) What writing elements do you think are your strongest points, and what would you like to be better at?
I like to think that I think outside the box and come up with an original story line. Hmm, tricky question, Dawn…What would I like to do better, or be better at? I suppose the main thing is to have more self-belief, and be better at editing. It’s tough to let go of what you see as perfect writing, especially, after putting in long hours to get it right, only to cut it in the end.
3) Tell us a little about your latest writing project – is it a new idea or one you have been mulling over for some time?
I’m working on a novel I wrote in 2004. It’s a vampire novel with a twist. Of course. I have a publisher who’s interested in the novel, but I need to cut the word count by half. I’m also working on a new novel. It’s a follow on novel using the characters from The Funeral Birds. The Funeral Birds tells the tale of Dave Cavendish and his failing detective agency. In the crime novella published by Demain Publishing is a murder, a witch and owls in a ruined church. My next book finds Dave setting up business with his wife, Joan, and his long dead ancestor, Granny Wenlock.
4) How many unfinished projects do you have on your computer at the moment?
When I first started writing, I couldn’t channel my thoughts to one thing at a time. I started quite a few projects. My first novel had some promising feedback but wasn’t taken up, so for a while I focused on writing short stories while learning my craft. This means I have plenty of short stories as well as unfinished novels. I tried my hand at writing a sci-fi novel, but the subject matter was too big for my writing ability at the time.
5) Do you write a synopsis first or dive in to the first chapter? If you’re writing a short story, do you plan your story or let the characters lead you?
Usually, I map out a basic story line. A sentence i.e. the story is about a man buying a dog. Then I start asking myself a series of questions. The who, what and why. Who is he? Why does he want to buy a dog? And what is his reason for buying a dog and not a cat?
6) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I’m up early as my husband starts work at five in the morning. I try to write all day when working on a story or novel. I do have breaks and try to exercise as much as possible in between. Sitting too long isn’t good for the body.
7) Do you set yourself a daily word count?
No, not at the moment as I’m editing, but once I’m back working on my next novel, I’ll try to set targets to keep myself motivated
8) How do you select the names of your characters and do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?
Well, I have several books on surnames and baby names. There has been an occasion when I’ve glanced up at my bookshelf and taken a name off the spine of a book, if I needed one in a hurry. No, I don’t know everything about them, I like the characters to show me their true colours as the story unfolds.
9) What sort of scenes do you find it hardest to write?
For me it’s writing tension and pace. As Iwrite horror and psychological crime, I’m never sure whether I’ve achieved enough tension to scare the pants off my readers without turning to writing blood, guts and gore. My aim has always been to have my readers turning pages and not their stomachs.
10) How long on average does it take you to write a book?
My first crime novel Stone Angels took me a year to write, but another five years to knock into shape. Of course, life has a habit of getting in the way as I lost my mum during the five years I was busy rewriting, editing and cutting the book about. I’m hoping my next novel doesn’t take me as long as I’ve learnt a lot more about editing since its completion.
Dawn – Thanks Paula, it’s great to find out a bit more about you and your writing.
Paula – It’s been great chatting with you, Dawn. You make a great cup of virtual tea too!
Desert Islands I Have Known – Part 2 Have you ever dreamed of being castaway on a desert island? Perhaps at this time of pandemic with all its accompanying restrictions, for many, the idea of such solitude would be quite alarming. It would certainly be the ultimate lockdown.
In my last post I wrote about a desert island on which I’d been castaway for several hours in the middle of the Red Sea. You can read about it here.
That particular island was memorable not because of its lush, tropical vegetation and pristine beaches but because it was the complete opposite – barren and featureless. But once I’d started thinking about desert islands, I remembered another one I’d visited in the Maldives.
Again, my husband and I were on a diving boat and strictly speaking, I wasn’t exactly cast away because a group of us were escorted to an uninhabited island by the dive guide, Chris. But this island lived up to my expectations, with its beaches and waving palm trees. What I hadn’t expected to find, was the reason why Chris took us there.
On each diving trip, he stopped off on the island with a group of that week’s divers and two black plastic rubbish sacks and he carried out a litter pick along one of the beaches. And each week, sadly, he filled two sacks easily. There was no more room to store rubbish on the dive boat and therefore he couldn’t take more than two sacks per week although that meant a lot of the rubbish on the beach was left behind. But each time he visited, unfortunately, more debris had been washed up to litter the sand.
As you might expect, there were remnants of fisherman’s nets and line and other marine paraphernalia as well as assorted flip-flops but there were also more surprising items such as an old television and a fluorescent tube. If you want to see more photos of that litter pick, you can see them here.
It was so sad to see what had been washed up on the tide line and to know that if Chris hadn’t been so conscientious, what should have been pristine beaches, would have been rubbish tips.
So, this desert island memory was bitter sweet with the beauty of nature and the diligence of Chris, alongside the obvious contempt of some people towards the environment.
And as my mind moved on, I wondered what it would really be like to be washed up on a desert island and have to wait to be rescued. With BBC Radio 4’s programme Desert Island Discs in mind, I wondered what luxury item I would want with me. And that, of course, led to me wondering which book and songs I’d want to accompany me but that’s a topic for another post…