Septembers Book list – what have I read this month?

September has been an unusually busy month, as I completed a five-week writing course and  I also enjoyed attending the Rockingham Writers Convention. There I participated in various workshops and met admired authors, Tess Woods, Natasha Lester, and Annabel Smith. It also gave me a chance to catch with the dynamic team from Serenity Press, Karen McDermott and Monique Mulligan publishers of Writing the Dream and  I saw fellow contributors Sandi Parsons and Michelle Nugent.  I met another author ( more about her later) and caught up for the first time with a  couple of ‘Facebook friends.’  One (J) had come from Queensland to attend the convention and the other(D) has recently moved to Western Australia from Queensland. We’d never met before but we hit it off right away, finding much to talk about.Reading - Sophiekins Pixababy Public domain

 

Under Her Spell by Monique Mulligan
SerenityRomance-1-e1504067499346.png Under her spell

Writer Oliver Pendall is on location for the filming of his book Multiples.
He meets Kaylie by chance. She both teases and fascinates him but he’s not looking for a relationship.Despite this, Kaylie captures his imagination with her passion for using unusual words. Oliver’s writer’s interest is piqued by her lively mind and he’s also captivated by her cute persona too.Sadly, Kaylie appears to be disinterested in him, except when paradoxically, she isn’t.It’s a rare book that has a reader turning to Google to search out the meanings of words, but this one did. A sparkling romance.

Black Cats and Butlers A Rose Ravensthorpe Mystery by Janine Beacham

Black cats and Butlers
I happened on Black Cats And Butlers by chance, as it was shelved with adult fiction. in the library. It’s actually a middle-grade fiction – so I’m not the intended readership. Despite that, I really enjoyed it. The story was fast-paced and exciting. It appealed to me for both the humour and the crime content. Imagine, butlers those bastions of respectability are being murdered. Additionally, I was fascinated to learn about the cat statues in York England being stolen. Note there really are statues of cats on buildings in York and more are being put up. Tourists can take a tour of the statue locations.
Rose Ravensthorpe is a feisty and determined character and I can certainly see the potential for many further adventures. A lot of fun!

Love Under Fire by Carolyn Wren

Love Under Fire

A fast-paced action /romance

I was pleased to meet delightful author Carolyn Wren at The Rockingham Writers convention, we were seated at the same table and talked. She is a contributor to A Bouquet of Love and I was able to tell her how much I had enjoyed her hilarious story Angel in the Baking.  She is also the author of eleven books.Later, I bought a copy Love Under Fire which she kindly signed for me.

Love Under Fire lives up to its promise. Astrid James, aid worker and daughter of a prominent politician is caught up in a coup in small jungle nation. Black ops agent Remy Cross has been sent to rescue her and has three days to do so.Despite the increasing danger Astrid refuses to leave unless the two orphans that she is protecting can be rescued too. It’s an unwelcome complication that Remy hasn’t planned for. The repartee and action continue from this well-matched duo. I was swept along with the plot twist and turns. A fun read.

Chocolate Shoes and Wedding Blues by Trisha Ashley

chocolate Shoes and Wedding Blues
image from Goodreads

Tansy Poole’s relationship with her fiancée Justin is at a stalemate. So she returns to the Lancashire village of Sticklepond. There, Tansy is needed to help her much loved Aunt Nell with her shop Bright’s Shoes. Her aunt’s age and failing health mean that both she and the shop are in desperate need of more care.

Tansy is torn between a boyfriend who spends more time with his mother than with her and who is increasingly critical of everything about her and her aunt who brought her up and who needs her. Guilt and baking are her constant companions as she tries to keep everyone happy.

It’s a relief for her to return to Sticklepond.Tansy’s biological clock is ticking and her hopes for a home of her own and children seem further away than ever. At least in Sticklepond she’s wanted and avoiding her fiancés increasingly pointed criticisms, of her dress sense, her behaviour and her weight.

Staying with her aunt enables her to avoid her two malicious stepsisters and a potential mother in law from hell.Tansy wants to be with her aunt, who she cares for. When her aunt dies Tansy decides to stay and reopen the shop, to sell beautiful wedding shoes, vintage shoes, and even the chocolate shoes of the title

Her next door neighbour is presumed to be an ancient Shakespearian actor who has come to live in the village for peace and quiet. Instead, he is irascible, but a devastatingly handsome man, who dumped Tansy years ago. He doesn’t appear to recognise her or appreciate her dog, the noise of the workmen or the shop bell.

I really enjoyed this lively story, my appreciation sharpened by the fact that I knew so many of the locations, such as my old hometown of Southport, and neighbouring places such as Ormskirk, Rufford Old Hall, though not, of course, the fictional village of Stickelpond

THE PLACE WHERE STORIES LIVE

As a child growing up in Cornwall, my imagination was captured by the exciting tales of smugglers and pirates. I loved hearing the tales and would listen to them, spellbound. Then there were the tales of the pixies, those mischievous wee folk who could lead you astray.

We lived in a village which was just a short walk from a lighthouse and above the coves where seals came to play. Wild flowers grew in abundance along the cliff tops and I delighted in picking them. It was an almost idyllic place. The only cloud in my sunny life was a flock of aggressive geese. They roamed the village green and terrified me. As we lived by the green I often had to face them. I ran quickly past them and they ran after me squawking. Heroes face their demons in all the best stories.

Looking back on it now, I realise now that every story needs its conflict or drama, to keep a reader turning the pages.  My ‘paradise’ had vipers; Britain’s only poisonous snake. They hid in the rocks of the churchyard which I avoided at all costs, especially at night, when my friend said ghosts drifted up from the graves.

Where do stories live? Not in a magic wood. There are no magic woods. woods-841417__480Stories live inside the child who finds and believes the wood is magic, that its trees are alive and that mysterious inhabitants live there. There is an alchemy which takes place between the listener and the story-teller. Stories can amuse us, engage or enrage us. They can transport us to other worlds; magic realms of heroes

Yet all stories are in reality words in our ears, or letters written on the page. We use the term spell for the way that we arrange the letters to form words  Yet spell has another meaning beyond the merely mundane; that of a magical incantation, or an enchantment.

Alice Hoffman, the well-known author, believes that ‘books are the only magic’, while Robert Escarpit, French book historian, notes that books are more than merely words on paper because, ‘ When we hold it in our hands all we hold is the paper-the book is elsewhere.’

I believe the place where stories live is in the hearts and minds of readers and writers. Tales heard in childhood peopled our imaginations and live on in us today. We may tell them to our own children. Readers speak of characters leaping off the page. These are the ones who linger in our hearts and minds long after the book is closed. The magic is the transference from one mind to another of those captivating places and people whose exploits, travels and adventures leave us spellbound.

As a writer I want to create that experience for my readers and myself. We writers are the dream chasers who hunt down that elusive story; one that enthralls both ourselves and our readers; the one only we can tell.

Adult or child alike when we sit down to watch a movie, or open our book our implicit wish is to be captured and transported to a different world. Make me believe you. Pull me into in your imaginary world. Make it so real that I can see it, smell it and taste it so intensely that real life fades away.

I lost myself in the pages of books and I found myself there too, in those stories which snuggled me like a warm blanket in front of a fire. As an only child whose parents ran a business, I spent a lot of time alone; I never felt lonely once I learnt to read. I started inventing stories and I found it easy to lose myself in the imaginary world I created.

What do we demand from story tellers? Conviction. We rely on their ability to hold us spellbound. We are their co-conspirators; we take the words on the page and add details from our own imagination, making the story uniquely ours.

Stories connect us to our culture and enable us to explore other cultures, lives and emotions. They pull us into the centre of the action. We can be heroes, if only vicariously. Stories reassure us we are not alone, that other people feel and have felt the way we do. Our lives are enriched through the power of story.

 

Which Books Have I Been Reading in August?

Write Naked by Jennifer Probyn- A helpful and inspiring guide to writing by a New York Times best-selling author. Not all books on writing hit the mark with me – but this one did

A Bouquet of Love by Various authors .published Serenity Press. An anthology-based around Serendipity bridal boutique. Ten authors give us their own inimitable take on romance. They made me laugh, they made me cry. 

The Forever House by Veronica Henry-

A delight of a book that ticked all my ‘must -haves’.,Simply enchanting I liked the characters so much and wanted to live in The Forever House myself, with its romantic name of Hunters Moon.

Escapism, romance, nostalgia, and even estate agents’ selling secrets. A peek into another lifestyle  which is far  more glamorous than my own I didn’t want to close the pages. A captivating read! *****

Champagne for Breakfast By Maggie Christensen.

A mid-life romance

The Little Teashop of Lost and Found by Trisha Ashley.

Another delight An abandoned baby girl is left near Haworth in Yorkshire – home of the Bronte sisters. Alice is adopted and then left with a chilly stepmother when her lovely dad dies.

The book centres on Alice finding herself through baking and buying a tea shop near Haworth in an attempt to find her past. The tea shop is a dump and she has spent almost all her money., but of course a feisty heroine always has a plan and a potential man, if she wants one. *****

A Desirable Marriage By Hilary Boyd.

What turns a long-term marriage on its head? The declaration that the husband has fallen in love, with another man!  Who could resist reading that?

When?

There is just one thing to ask when we identify as writers- when will we feel comfortable doing so? How many books or articles do we need to have published before we can say confidently ‘I am a writer’?  I have heard published authors confessing that they still didn’t feel like writers.

Liz Byrski for example had published several non- fiction books and was a successful journalist, as well as being an ABC radio co host. It was a comment from her then husband that spurred her into writing fiction. When she said she had published books, his reply was allegedly ‘yes, but they’re not the right books.’

As far as I know he wasn’t a writer, but he certainly was a critic. She needn’t have listened, she could have said ‘I ‘m fine, I’m happy with what I do, Its paying the bills,’ but when your nearest and dearest speak, you tend to listen.

We writers are sensitive souls, we struggle with fear to put words onto the page.  The fear of being exposed as stupid, not clever enough, odd, strange and all those other critical things we say to ourselves and are afraid that others will say to us too.

Is this why we want to have written, but procrastinate about writing? If there is nothing on the page then there is nothing to criticise, but equally there is nothing to praise, nothing to improve, nothing to challenge us to do more and to do it better.

Are we waiting for a sign from the universe?

Folks this is it – here is your sign-

Do it

Write with pen and paper, write on your I-pad, write in a notebook, jot notes and observations while you are out or sit at home with your laptop or desktop computer and simply write without restraint, without fear of criticism. Let the words flow and deal with the overflow, later.

 

 

A Fool for Love

                 

Dog- cat pIxababy
Cats & Dogs: Pixababy

           

 Would you go into a relationship knowing that it had to end?

* How about if you knew that one of you were going to die?

* What if you even knew the likelihood of which of you it would be?

* Could you still commit wholeheartedly to the relationship?

By now most people are probably shaking their heads and saying “No, no way”.

Yet this is exactly what pet lovers do when they decide to share their home with a companion animal.

People have animals for many reasons – Practical reasons such as to boost their security, or the need for a working animal, such as a farm dog.

For others, it is as simple as an animal in distress or turning up in need of a home. Others choose to have a particular breed of pet – “We’ve always had   West Highland Terriers” – feeling an emotional link to a specific breed.

Westie from Pixababy
West Highland Terrier : Pixababy

Pet Lovers Form an Emotional Bond with their Pet

The strong emotional bond that some of us share with our pets, and the feelings of grief and loss when our beloved pet dies. It is unrelated to the cost of the animal.

Moggies are mourned as much as pedigrees. Mutts are missed with as much intensity as the Champion of the Breed.

For us, our companion is a champion, whatever others think.

What matters is the expressive bond and the feeling of closeness. Here is a confidant who will never break that trust. Here is someone who is always pleased to see you, who thinks that you are tops.

While animal lovers often have more than one pet, each animal has a different yet totally unique bond with its owner.

Our Pets are not Interchangeable

When my beloved cat Midnight was killed, others suggested I get another cat.

Black cat silhouette Pixababy

It is not that simple.

Yes, cats of all kinds need homes, but cats and dogs are not interchangeable any more than people are. I was in deepest mourning; a unique family member had died. Nothing in my world would ever feel the same again.

My life held a Midnight-sized space, as the fabric of daily routine wove on. The gaps were evident and poignant.

Classic Stages of grief

I went through the classic stages of grief – including denial and anger. No one seemed to comprehend that I would not “get over it”. Indeed if “getting over it” meant forgetting Midnight, then I did not want to get over it.

Few would be so insensitive when dealing with a human death. It is many years since Midnight was killed. I still think of him often, even find his name on my lips. He was irreplaceable, and although I was tempted from time to time by thoughts of a black kitten, I knew that it would be unfair to both of us. You cannot be what you are not, I could not take a kitten and expect it to behave and interact as Midnight had.

Midnight

Midnight was a jet-black tomcat, estimated at about three years when he strolled into my life. He was solid muscle and power but possessed a gentle nature. Soon, he became my shadow, following me to neighbours if I went visiting. He waited to accompany me home. His miaow had many different tones for greeting, food, milk, and chat. He was never a lap cat whilst indoors. It was different in the garden. There he would perch on, and overhang my knee, all the time purring loudly. His sudden death, at age six and a half, deprived us both of so much. Another of my cats had lived until almost twenty-one years old, so I had expected many happy years together.

Mystic Midnight

Strangely, I did eventually get another black male cat. He walked into my life exactly three years and three months after Midnight’s death. He looked like Midnight, tried to get into the cat flap and finally crossed the threshold as our clock struck midnight. Chance? Coincidence?

Whatever the reason, I believe it was meant to be, and Mystic Midnight enriched my life. I knew he was not the same cat, although he shared many characteristics with the original Midnight. He was as talkative and affectionate and wound his way into my heart. Sadly he too became ill and died much too soon.

We fools for love cannot help but accept that our loved animals will die before us. Meanwhile, we try to forget and cherish every day as precious and special, as indeed it is.

 

The Best of Intentions

How to do what you know you want to do- if only you had the time!

thought-catalog-214785.jpg

We all think we need more time, as our days rush by in a round of busy-ness often at the back of our minds is the dream,the ONE DAY project.

Maybe its something as simple as taking a class, or something more complicated like building a boat,or writing a book.

It’s there in our minds, yet we never find that chunk of time to actually start.

As part of my daily routine I’ve been writing in a journal for a couple of years, two or three pages written while I sip my morning cuppa.Initially I just wrote what was on my mind until one day I wrote INTENTIONS at the foot of the page.

There I listed what I wanted to do that day, often things to do with writing or creativity.If they were there the next day I transferred them to the next day’s page. It showed me how little time I spent on what was to me so important I paid more attention and used my time better,so if I only had ten minutes, I’d begin to write something in ten minutes.

At New Year I took it one step further, I thought about what I wanted to achieve with my writing and set out a list of realistic but slightly challenging goals. I wrote them out and stuck the list by my desk, where I would see it daily. I called it

MY YEARLY INTENTIONS

I ended up with a list of nine items some were simple,  like joining Romance Writers of Australia. While other required more effort from me ,such as completing a novella of around33,500 words.

Perhaps you’ve guessed that one of those intentions was to start a blog?

It’s almost mid-point of the year and so far I have completed five of the nine items on my list.

The things that made it work for me were.

Having a mix of easy and more difficult things

All were slightly challenging but achievable I hadn’t for example put write a best seller on the list

They were things I actually wanted to do but hadn’t got round to doing.

Seeing them daily as I sat at my desk encouraged me towork to achieve them.

Maybe its time for you to write your own list of intentions?

Make it specific and give yourself a mix of tasks that you think might work for you.