Welcome, readers, to the second instalment in this short series showcasing the work of the Wentworth Writers. If you read part one (which can be accessed HERE), you will know what this is all about. If not, I urge you to read the first post as there is good work there. I also think it’s quite funny, although I am biased. In short, this series comprises three sets of three pieces of work produced in a workshop during a writing retreat run by The National Association of Writers’ Groups in Barnsley in May. We had such a blast we decided that we wanted to preserve the work and share it a little. Each piece is effectively a parody of a letter of application written in 1934 by a wannabe Hollywood screenwriter named Robert Pirosh. His letter can be read HERE.
[I’m now stressing that I haven’t put the word ‘parody’ to its correct use. Apparently a parody is ‘a humorous or satirical imitation of a serious piece of writing’. The Pirosh letter is not at all serious but never mind. (It’s honestly really stressful writing about writers. I’m now fretting about the square brackets...)]
Anyway, read on and enjoy. First up is Yvonne. Make sure you read all the way down to Henry; he doesn't deserve to be at the bottom of anything other than a long drink!
Our Letters (Part 2)
I like eating. I like large squashy things like gateaux, trifles and fruit jellies. I like savoury aperitifs such as olives, small nibbles of pastry rich pates of game and mushroom, sharp compotes, of exotic fare on the tongue. I like Sunday dinners; roast beef, Yorkshire puddings, lamb with mint and rosemary, and pork with crisp salty crackling. All of which is served with roast potatoes; crispy crunchy outside but soft inside, and beautiful meat juice gravies.
I like cheese, butter, and full cream. Whipped, churned, goats, cow or alpaca. But most of all I like preparing quality food at the right price so that I can eat it; savouring each bite of my tasty platefuls.
Madam I am here, having eaten in fine restaurants, tavernas, cafes in Italy, France and Wales; to offer myself to you as the school cook. May I come over and offer you some of my temptations?
Frances A. Flint
Dear Wildlife Trust,
I like trees. I especially like Willows as they hug the Earth around them and dip their leafy fingers in a passing stream. I like when I can snuggle in to their raised roots and curl up like a resident, gazing up through myriad branches and rest my eyes in cool green.
I also like upright trees, huggable trunks and spiral branches that invite me up in to the canopy, stepping high, past nests and tiny caves, a nod to my neighbours as I reach for the highest thinnest branch.
I like to walk in Forests, breathing with the Earth’s lungs.
I can see the wood for the trees.
May I take a walk in the woods for you?
Note from Editor: I really hope you’ve enjoyed this batch of letters and also finding out a little about the people behind the words. A hearty thank you to those who have participated so far. The next post will be the final one in this series so I suppose I had better dig out my letter. It will appear alongside the fabulous contribution by Jacky Pemberton and I am also hoping for Hester to pull her finger out (nudge, nudge).
In the meantime I am always hoping for new subscribers to my list for blog updates so please do fill out the box on the upper right hand side if you are interested. Each new subscriber keeps me going. I can be found on Facebook under many different guises but my writing page is @bmkeeling and my literary gift shop is @candelabracrafts.
Not your usual start to a blog post, right?
Well this is no ordinary blog post. This is the first in a series of three special posts in which I have the privilege of publishing the collective works of the merry band of writers, of which I was one, who attended a workshop by Leonora Rustamova at Wentworth in May. The Wentworth weekend is organised by The National Association of Writers' Groups and you can read my post on the entire weekend HERE.
The workshop took place on the Sunday morning of the retreat. There were around 15 of us in attendance and we engaged in two writing exercises. We each read out our pieces and there was some great work there. It’s amazing how words can just tumble onto a page one minute and then dry up the next. On this particular day, the words were tumbling, cascading and even pirouetting from our pens and onto the paper. As these little gems were being read out and we were laughing and clapping each other along, it struck me that so many such pieces are produced in workshops and then stuffed into a notebook or file, never to be seen again. When Leonora voiced what I was thinking, I knew what I had to do - I had to publish these literary saplings, together, as a consolidated piece of work by the Wentworth Writers. There are, though, too many words for one single post so I’m splitting it into three.
This is the first.
Leonora gave us a letter. A fat, buttery letter!
Actually it was a copy of a letter penned by Hollywood screenwriter, Robert Pirosh, in 1934. He ditched his job as a copywriter in New York and moved to Hollywood. But he needed to get his foot in the door in a city full of people all trying to get their extremities into the same aperture. So what did he do? He sent out his c.v. attached to one of the most effective cover letters ever written. I would dearly love to reproduce it here but I am uncertain of its copyright status, although it can be read on the Guardian’s website by clicking HERE.
If you have a spare few minutes and have any interest in writing, or indeed job application letters (!), I urge you to take a look. It will also make sense of the pieces which follow. The letter is unconventional and breaks many rules of etiquette but perfectly demonstrates the writer’s suitability for the screenwriting job in question.
Our task was to write an application letter in the same vein, although we sought only to emulate the style of writing; clearly we could not achieve the same thing as Pirosh given that none of us were seeking to use the medium of a letter to inherently demonstrate our suitability for a job involving words...
This is what we produced. Bear in mind that these pieces were written in 15 minutes and have not been reworked.
First up is Anne. Please take a deep breath, relax your shoulders and absorb her beautiful words.
I like art. I like to see through the eyes of others.
I like rough, elemental sketches, lush huge canvases of people and places, and every art form in between.
I like to be taken aback by a scene reduced to sparse lines and a view suggested by mere smears of colours juxtaposed to take me to a place I have seen, or one I would love to see.
I like the intricate building of a landscape or cityscape in such exquisite detail that makes it impossible to take in the the view in one viewing.
I like to be outraged by a picture that represents a person or a place in a way foreign to me, I like the conversation evoked.
I like to be taken aback by superb skills and to be blown over by the deceptively child-like simplicity of some work.
I like to return and return to a picture to learn more and yet more.
I love Hockney and Rembrandt and Van Gogh and Andy Goldsworthy and Dan Viola, and am unreasonably excited by a very small child’s first recognisable drawing.
I need to read so that I can live more lives than mine. I need to visit art works for the very same reason.
Please let me work in your wonderful gallery.
I called my collection of poetry and photographs ‘Casting for Words’ as that is what I seem to spend so much time doing. Finding the best word I can. Reading is an essential part of my life and a wonderful source of ideas and...words.
Photographs help capture the moment and can sometimes illustrate a poem.
My book should soon be available.
Holmfirth Writers’ Group and The National Association of Writers’ Groups are a wonderful support and I value both as great friendship groups.
At Wentworth Castle in May, I enjoyed the company of writers and inspiring workshops.
I doodle as I listen. It really does concentrate my mind.
Just whatever I have in my hand.
I once drew a jazz group on a Sunday paper. In biro. It drew me into the music.
Leonora shared some brilliant letters and asked us to write letters of application.
Above is my plea for a dream job.
I really want it now...
I like photographs.
I like grainy, vivid, high definition, monochrome photographs that are splashed across newspapers to show the dramas of the world.
I like glossy, ten-by-eight fashion photos. All soft filters and luxurious colours draping across magazines.
I like surreal abstractions of fantasy worlds - of fish driving cars and twenty-foot dragonflies - constructed lovingly in photographic enlargers and appearing in a dish full of developer, waiting to be fixed and hung out to dry.
Man Ray was the way to go, and we all followed. Today Photoshop will create his images in seconds, with the same impact but without the heart and soul.
I like pixel heavy super-images, filling walls of galleries, skin pores standing out in twenty-foot masterpieces. Photo realism as never before.
But I am a traditionalist. I like the tug of 35mm film as you wind it on to the next frame, huddling in darkened cupboards struggling to find the top of a developing tank, sitting in the soothing glow of a safety light 100% absorbed in the physicality of processing film.
Which probably means I don’t want your job and would rather lock myself away in the peace and quiet of a darkroom.
When I left school I got a job in a textile mill. I saved my wages so I could buy a Zenith SLR camera, an enlarger, developing tank and processing trays. Using blackout material to cover the windows (donated by the mill I worked at) I then spent many hours taking over the bathroom and developing black and white photographs. This became an obsessive hobby for many years, and I loved watching the images slowly appear in the developer - almost like magic.
Time moves on, teaching took up much of my time, and today I have a digital camera, downloading the images into a computer - but nothing matches the excitement of being shut away in a darkroom, sitting under a red safety lamp and being totally absorbed in the creative process.
I like travelling. I like travelling Europe. I like travelling the world. I like travelling to challenging countries.
I really like Arizona cacti. I like their round, plump, spiny, succulent parts, their delicate flowers that turn into edible fruits is some cases giving us cactus jelly and bonbons. I like the dear little elegant cactus wren who builds her home in a cactus void. I like the fact that the Saguaro blooms after midnight and closes mid-afternoon.
I like Africa and Africans especially the strong African women. I am fascinated by the dusty, curry smelling unkempt streets; loud African music bellowing out from doorways, street parties and buxom women clad and swathed in intoxicatingly vivid fabrics. I like the colour, shape, smells and textures of Africa. I like the fresh fruit and veg markets and constant chatter and battering.
I like United Arab Emirates for its indescribable heat, gold sculptured sand dunes and dune buggies, camel trains and Bedouin camps. I like the tailors, beauty parlours and the outrageous fun of visiting the grog shop. I like the smell of a shisha bar, pungent coffee houses and real hummus.
I like my travels to Europe for the rich fabric of culture. I like the beaches salty air, seaweed, beach combing and the sound ofebbing and waning of these beaches of paradise. I like watching the glorious sunsets and magnificent sunrises; clifftop walks and the flora and fauna. I like the city sights as well as remote country escapes.
I like all these destinations for their culture, diversity, life, people, food and of course a good glass of wine or a delicious cocktail.
I like travel writing and travel photography much better than social work.
Is there an amazing and exotic destination your delightful magazine would like me to visit and review?
My passport is current and ready to go.
Leonora Rustamova teaches Creative Writing at Swarthmore College, University of Huddersfield and is an editor at Blue Moose books. In fact, she edited a rather special book, The Gallows Pole, by Benjamin Myers, which has just won the prestigious Walter Scott prize for historical fiction, although she is so modest I have had to add this into her bio myself. Her workshop was so much fun - if you are looking for someone to run a writing workshop for any ability, then you can’t go far wrong with Leonora. The only problem is that you have to track her down first...
The Gang - this is us doing the exercise...
If you've read this far, thank you. I also want to thank those who have allowed me to publish their work. It takes courage to share your writing and we should applaud everyone who takes that step.
I've loved putting this post together and, happily for me, there's more to come. Watch this space (or, even better, sign up for email updates). This blog is small but these words deserve to be read so please help by sharing with your friends.
Well I'm back from my first, and probably only, writing retreat this year.
It couldn't have come at a better or worse time!
I really was ready for a break and was so looking forward to meeting up with people who wanted to talk about reading, writing and, as it turns out, dragonflies, space exploration and football but then Liverpool FC went and got into the Champions League final and I had to travel back on Saturday night to watch the match before returning for breakfast at the retreat on Sunday.
That's enough said about the football but, on the plus side, I was forced to finally drive on the motorway and I did it four times in three days.
Anyone who knows me will appreciate what a big achievement that was. Whoop!
The retreat was held at Northern College at Wentworth Castle and Gardens, Barnsley. and was organised by a member of the National Association of Writers' Groups (a big shout out to Chris). Whilst I am a member of this lovely charitable organisation (www.nawg.co.uk) I am not part of a writing group and so I'm an 'associate' member of NAWG and I turn up on my own. It is such a friendly group, though, it is not a problem. I have only met many of the people a couple of times but we all keep in touch online and I definitely consider them friends. I arrived at lunchtime on Friday and headed to my room to get settled and work on my novel for a couple of hours before meeting up for a pub dinner in the evening.
On Saturday, professional writer and all-round good-guy, Marvin Close, ran a short workshop designed to get our creative juices going. It's all very relaxed and some people headed to the library rather than the workshop, others attended to their own work whilst sitting in the workshop and the rest of us did Marvin's exercises (writing - not physical!) which were perfectly pitched to get us thinking, and in a good frame of mind to then work on our own material in the afternoon. Marvin was available after lunch for one-to-one sessions, providing advice and assistance with whatever writing-related issue we wanted to discuss with him. He is a great person to be around - always encouraging, enthusiastic and ready with good, experienced advice, I wish I could have him on speed-dial for whenever the doubts hit me.
During Saturday afternoon I managed a walk with my lovely writing gal-pal, Emma. We found a sheep which looked like a camel, vibrant, heady azaleas and rhododendrons and a gnarled old tree right out of A Game of Thrones (well, in my head, anyway). We didn't make it up to the castle but it was a beautiful walk nonetheless. I can't believe that the venue is now closed to the public. Truly sad and I hope it can be reopened soon. It is still in immaculate condition and my kids used to love running up to the castle and then mucking about in the playground. This weekend we had it all to ourselves.
After the walk I managed a couple of hours of writing before a quick dinner and a drive home.
The Sunday morning workshop was taken by Leonora Rustamova and it was a hoot. Like Marvin she guided us deftly through two writing exercises which got us all into our grooves. There was no pressure, plentiful humour and encouragement, and we all surprised ourselves with what we produced. The vibe in the room was wonderfully conducive to creativity and I was so glad that I attended. I had nearly missed the workshop to spend more time on my own projects but I definitely made the right decision. Everyone shared their work and we all listened and clapped and cheered each other on. By the end of Sunday's workshop we really were a little band of writers sharing a special bond, even if just for that moment.
All in all it was a productive, restorative and positive experience and at a great price (£157 including all workshops and meals on Saturday and Sunday).
Shame about the football.
So this little blog has been abandoned lately. I've had good reason but I'm back now and want to breathe new life into it. Give it a Spring clean. Get going again. And I'm going to start off with a look at what I've been reading since my last post.
For a while I was reading books, novels mostly, which I just didn't like very much. I began to think I'd lost my love of reading. I was wondering whether my efforts in learning how to construct a story had resulted in me subconsciously deconstructing and evaluating everything I was reading. It was annoying and upsetting as reading has always been a safe haven for me. Something I could always rely on to distract and absorb me for a while. And if I ate a box of chocolates at the same time, what of it?
I gave it some thought and carefully put together a Christmas wish list of books I had wanted to read for a while but hadn't got around to. I also bought myself three novels and, by January, I had a new pile of books to read.
Fortunately, they got me going again. My interests and genres are varied but I decided to largely go with historical mysteries. I missed that feeling of devouring a series by the same author, the excitement of reading a book where I was already attached to the characters or the period and so didn't need to put in as much effort upfront. And it worked. I've read more than I had in the months before and, most importantly, I'm enjoying it again.
So here are the books that got my reading mojo back for me:
1. The Thomas Chaloner series set in Restoration London (circa 1660's) by Susannah Gregory
I LOVE this series. The books featured above are numbers 2-5. I read the first one, 'A Conspiracy of Violence' at the end of 2015 and my review can be found here: http://bit.ly/2Hvd4I6. Each book has a complex mystery, or series of mysteries which generally come together, at its heart. The regular characters are all there and are developed a little as each book goes by. My favourite relationship is between the main character, Thomas Chaloner, and his ex-boss, Thurloe, who used to be spymaster for the previous regime of Oliver Cromwell. They try to remain friends even when their interests are not aligned. Each time I pick up one of these books I know I am in capable hands. The writing style is accomplished yet accessible and I am quickly drawn in to the period in which the stories are set. I find them absorbing and satisfying, The books do have a large cast of characters and it can sometimes be difficult to keep track of everyone, particularly if there is a gap when you put the book down and don't return to it for a while. Also the pace does not race along, but neither does it drag and I see this as a major advantage of the series. The pace allows the reader to dally just long enough in the details of everyday life of the period, (wonderfully brought to life by the writer) without hampering the plot. It's a fine balance - drag and you lose the reader, dash along and you lose the atmosphere. For me, it is handled beautifully.
There are 12 books in this series and I can't wait to read them all. Oh - and they have maps!
For more of a flavour, head over to the author's website where she sets out each title in order and gives plot teasers: https://www.susannagregory.com/thomas-chaloner/
2 Thomas Hawkins series by Antonia Hodgson
I read these books in the wrong order. I began with 'A Death at Fountains Abbey' then went back to the beginning. My review of the third in the series can be found here: http://bit.ly/2zdwgHn. I have found the other two books to be consistently good. Excellent, to be honest. Here is another talented writer who can weave together wonderful mysteries, great characters and a fabulous period setting. The books are shorter than the Thomas Chaloner series, reviewed above, and the pace is certainly brisker but I find that they actually compliment each other well and I have been happily switching between the two series. The stories take place around 60 or 70 years later than the Chaloner books. The first is primarily set in the Marshalsea - a debtors' prison with two sides - one for gentlemen and one for, well, everyone else. The story takes you to both parts and, be warned, does not spare the reader any of the horrific details. I loved it, though. The characters and the plot develop quickly and the setting is meticulously researched and cleverly brought to life. The writing-style is so good it is hard to believe it is a first novel and certainly sets the bar very high for the rest of us. I'm currently only half-way through the second but enjoying it immensely and could happily finish it in one sitting, if I ever had the time.
This is one of those rare series where I will be waiting for the next one to come out and will buy it immediately.
3 The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor
This has been on my list for ages. I'd seen so many recommendations that I had to give it a go. I've never read anything else by this author and this book is not part of a series. I'm really glad I read it. I thought I was going to struggle at first as it is set at the same time as the Susannah Gregory book I had just finished reading and it was disconcerting at first. Of course this is entirely down to me and nothing to do with the book or the writer.
It was an easy book to read. Well written and really interesting, The details of the fire of London are fascinating and I felt as though I was being taken as close as is possible without a time machine, to the obliteration of London at that time. For this reason it is a book I will always remember reading.
I think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't been expecting something different. The strap line on the cover: 'As the city burns, the hunt for a killer begins' made me think I was going to read a thriller-type novel but it was much slower than that. I would go as far as to say it was more of a character piece than a mystery. I was a little surprised to find out that the author is an experienced crime writer as it just wasn't the main focus of this book. Having said that, it had many excellent points and is a good, expertly-written piece of historical fiction.
Writing this makes me wonder if I've had historical fiction overload! I'm used to hopping around more, from fantasy and sci-fi to crime etc but the lesson I am going to take away is this - read what makes you happy. It is not meant to be a chore. If you lose your mojo have a look around for a story which will bring it back because it's out there - that story and your reading mojo! I'm just glad that I have found mine.
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ and it is one that gives us writerly folk something to think upon.
When plotting a story, we are frequently advised not to rely too heavily on coincidence – the reader must not be cheated; he or she must be led, carefully yet often unwittingly, through a series of events which come together to form a plot. Said plot should, apparently, follow a generally accepted structure of crisis points, resolutions and thematic arcs. What we should not do is make our characters behave in an unbelievable way, stumble through coincidental events or allow something so outlandish to happen that the reader is alienated and throws down the book in disgust.
However... we have all heard stories (have we not?) of real-life events which would break these rules if incorporated into our fictitious plots. Clearly if the writing is of non-fiction then that is excellent news; it probably means that the subject matter we have chosen will make a rollicking read. Also, I am a firm believer that rules are made to be broken, in certain circumstances at least. I can think of many stories where ridiculously unbelievable things happen and, somehow, the writer manages to pull it off. Yet there are undoubtedly situations where using an event, or series of events, which occurred in real life in a fictitious piece just won’t work because the reader would be left saying that just wouldn’t happen. Whilst our response could justifiably be well, dear reader, it did! that just won’t cut it if it does not feel honest to the person you are trying to engage with.
I can recall a fair few training courses and writing workshops where, in group discussion, plot points have been shot down as being too unrealistic only for the writer to declare that it had in fact actually happened. It’s always interesting and it always makes me reflect, particularly as the past year has seen me writing and editing four non-fiction books about incredible, heroic, moving, dastardly and quite unbelievable events, a few of which would have been dismissed as absurd had they been incorporated into a work of fiction. By way of example, meet Henry Brown, a 19th century American slave who escaped to freedom – by post! After thirty three years of living his life in chains in Louisa County, Virginia, Henry claimed to have received a heavenly vision which told him to mail himself to a place where there were no slaves. Probably born of desperation, it is still completely bonkers and a truth which is, I think, stranger than much fiction (although I feel that I should point out that I am currently reading Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams).
If you’d like to meet more of the fascinating folk who have inhabited my year they can be found in the four volumes of the ‘Keeping Up With the...’ series which I have published with Marvin Close. So far we have covered Jones, Williams, Brown and Smith and it has been a roller-coaster ride during which I have met many interesting and noteworthy individuals. I’m planning to set up Facebook pages in the coming months so that anyone can share pictures and stories of their own notable namesakes. I'd love to see old photos alongside family stories of heroes and black sheep. I will also be posting some extra stories on the Facebook pages which are not featured in the books together with some of Marvin's excellent cartoons!
The four volumes are packed with inspirational stories if you are looking for an idea for a piece of writing. Putting them together had my mind racing as I began to imagine how I would tell their stories or include them, disguised, within my own plot. Just make sure you don’t come up with something so crazy no one will believe you!!
Here’s hoping you had a great Christmas and that Santa brought you all of the books you asked for.
Happy New Year,
Each book is £4.50 in paperback and £2.49 on Kindle. Click on an image to take a further look.
If you are starting to think about Christmas presents, I've a few new items added to my stock and I've also been experimenting with discount codes and Paypal buttons!
These mugs are available via the Candelabra Crafts page of this website. I've only 3 or 4 of each one but if they are popular I will get more in. I've also ideas for some new designs which I'll be working on over the next few weeks, including 'sewing & tea'. and 'sewing & coffee'.
I hope you like them! £8 each plus p&p.
These signs are newly available on the CandelabraCrafts (CandelabraCrafts.Etsy.com) Etsy shop. £8.95 plus p&p. Numbers are limited at the moment.
AND FINALLY - USE THE FOLLOWING CODE AT THE ETSY CHECKOUT OF CANDELABRACRAFTS TO SECURE 10% OFF ORDERS OF £10 AND OVER PLACED BEFORE THE END OF NOVEMBER.
I love this book. I love the cover, the title, the period it is set in and I love the easy yet accomplished way in which the author tells a well-paced mystery.
I should point out that this is the third in a series and that I read it without having read the first two. Fountains Abbey isn't too far from where I live, just north of Leeds in Ripon, and I've been there. It is wonderfully atmospheric and when I saw a book naming it in the title I just picked it up and bought it without knowing very much. I was in a hurry and, once I had established that it was a historical murder mystery, I was happy to give it a go.
Thomas Hawkins is the man to whom it falls to investigate threats which have been made against a disgraced politician who has been forced to abandon public life following the South Sea fiasco which left hundreds ruined. He has an ulterior motive but I'll leave it to you to discover what that is. He is ably assisted by the feisty Kitty and a young boy. It is set at Studley Hall and Fountains Abbey in 1728, when the water gardens at the Abbey were being created by the family at the heart of the plot. (These gardens are now a World Heritage site administered by the National Trust.) The plot moves on at a good pace and drew me in from the start. In my opinion the book also benefits from not being too long. I've read a few books lately which run ON such that the pace suffers and my attention falters. However, at a tidy 344 pages, it is just about right. There is plenty of action, good characterisation, an interesting mystery and plenty of luscious period details. And it is all written in elegant prose which doesn't distract from the story. What more can you ask for? I will definitely be reading the preceding books. Now, where's that Christmas list gone?
Some pieces from my Etsy store:
I am very excited to welcome back Jennifer Joyce to my little blog. Jennifer is someone whom I admire greatly as she has turned her love of writing, and creating things generally, into a burgeoning career. Her passion for her characters and stories really shines through and (together with talent, obviously,) this has no doubt contributed to her self-publishing success and the subsequent signing of a contract with a traditional publisher. Now Jennifer boasts hundreds of Amazon reviews and a paperback title widely available in shops. Below she tells me a little about her amazing journey.
Thanks for coming back to my blog. How are you?
I’m great, thank you. It’s lovely to be back!
My last chat with you was in November 2015, I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone. Back then you had self-published a number of books but had just signed a contract with Carina (now rebranded as HQ Digital) for two books. I know that you have lovely paperbacks out in the world now and I was wondering how that came about?
After self-publishing A Beginner’s Guide To Salad and Everything Changes But You (and free short story A Beginner’s Guide To Christmas), I wrote a festive book (The Mince Pie Mix-Up) and was planning to self-publish again. But I thought I’d submit it to Carina on the off chance they’d want to publish it. I didn’t expect anything but a rejection, but they loved it and I was offered a two-book deal. I’ve since published four ebooks with them, with two more on the way next year, and my latest, The Little Bed & Breakfast by the Sea, was released as a paperback too.
I see that ‘The Little Bed and Breakfast by the Sea’ has over 100 Amazon reviews (click here). That is amazing. You must be pleased?
I’m amazed! It’s been so exciting seeing the number of reviews rising – especially as most people have enjoyed the book!
And is ‘The Little Teashop of Broken Hearts’ a sequel?
Although the books have similar titles, they aren’t connected at all – they take place in different locations and follow completely separate sets of characters.
Your latest book, ‘A Beginners Guide to Saying I Do’, is now available via Amazon (click here). Where does that fit in? I believe it is a follow-up to ‘A Beginners Guide to Salad’?
Yes, it’s the second book in the Beginner’s Guide series, following Ruth and her friends during the next stage of their lives. I wrote the first draft around the time I signed with HQ Digital, but it took a bit of a backseat as publisher deadlines kicked in. As with the first book in the series, I self-published A Beginner’s Guide To Saying I Do.
Now that you are signed up with a publisher, what level of involvement do you have with designing the cover? I know you used to like playing around with them when you were designing your own!
I’m not very involved at all, so the reveal is always exciting and I can’t wait to share them with everybody! I do like playing around with images and graphics, so I like having my toe in both camps as I get full control over my self-published designs.
What is your writing routine? Do you write every day?
I write Monday to Friday while my daughters are at school. If I’m nearing a deadline or I’m falling way behind schedule, I’ll write for a good chunk of Sundays too. In the school holidays, I’ll squeeze in bits of writing when I can and catch up in the evenings.
Do you have or are you seeking an agent?
I don’t have an agent at the moment, but it’s something I would definitely like to pursue again in the future!
So, after all this excitement, what’s next??
I’m currently in the planning stages of Book 9 while I wait for the edits of Book 8. Both books will be published by HQ Digital next year.
Thanks so much for coming, Jennifer. Maybe we can do this again in another couple of years? Who knows, there might be a movie to talk about by then!
That would be awesome – both chatting books again and movie talk!
Jennifer has a lovely website at jenniferjoycewrites.co.uk. Why not check it out?
On 24th August I finally took the plunge and opened two shops on Etsy.com, the site for sellers of handcrafted items. One shop, CandelabraCrafts.etsy.com (all one word for Etsy purposes), contains lots of little gifts for lovers of reading, writing and steampunk (and who doesn't love a bit of steampunk?). My mind really raced when coming up with the things that are up for sale: door signs, bookmarks, greeting cards, pin brooches; and I've loads more ideas waiting to be made and photographed. I'm thinking - new signs, handmade dice, magnets. Maybe even the odd tote bag or two...
If you get a chance do check out the store at CandelabraCrafts.etsy.com. There is also a page, Candelabra Crafts, on this website where you can view some of my stock. Driving traffic to the shop is hard and I'm currently working on becoming an e-commerce expert! (If anyone can explain to me how best to use Pinterest for Etsy, please do.) I will ultimately get around to a Facebook page and Instagram account. I am on Pinterest as Candelabra. Any follows would be greatly appreciated. (Click HERE.)
The other shop, CandelabraFamily.etsy.com, contains things to make parents, grandparents and carers, smile after that tough night or tough day that we all have when kids are involved! I love these items as they were inspired by my own little boys and I'd adore it if the signs made their way into the world, spreading a little cheer. They each come prettily boxed and would make great gifts for that stressed out parent. As most of my existing social media contacts are readers and writers, I am finding it more difficult to market this shop but hopefully hard work and perseverance will pay off. I do actually have a Facebook page (HERE) and an Instagram account (HERE) for CandelabraFamily, although it is early days for both. Any visits, shares and likes are hugely appreciated. There's a slideshow below showcasing my favourite products.
Thanks for reading. My next post will be about my latest self-publishing venture (non-fiction - humorous genealogy) and, after that, I have some really interesting things lined up with writers who have kindly agreed to participate in my little blog and share their stories.
Today on the blog I am going to review two books that I have finished recently. The first one I knew nothing about before I began reading, the next is the second in the Lockwood & Co. series by Jonathan Stroud which I was confident I would like as I loved the first (The Screaming Staircase - read my review here: book-review-the-screaming-staircase-by-jonathan-stroud.html).
So, let's turn to 'Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Black Cats and Butlers' by Janine Beacham. It is the first in a series which is probably aimed at middle-grade readers. Not that I let that stop me, and I'm glad because I thoroughly enjoyed it and have been recommending it to anyone who I think will appreciate it.
As the title suggests, the plot centers around a mystery - in fact it is a murder mystery with a few other elements to it. Someone is killing butlers and the main character, a young girl named Rose from a well-to do family, decides to investigate the matter herself when events relating to the matter cross her path. It is set in a fictional version of York in (I think) the nineteenth century. Rose and her friend Emily are fun characters and the butlers who they encounter during their investigations are quirky and engaging (who knew butlers were so good with swords?). The plot moves along at a lovely pace, which was a relief as I have read too many books lately which progressed so slowly I lost interest. Not so here. Each time I put it down I was impatient to return and, in the days before I had so many other demands on my time, I would have read it in a couple of sittings. The setting, fictional Yorke, was nicely gothic and the whole thing had just a spice of darkness to it.
As I live close to York and have been many times (I have set one of my own stories there), I did find it a little confusing at the beginning as I wasn't sure whether it was meant to be real York or not, but once I decided that it wasn't (getting to the bit involving the Shambles which had clearly been renamed demonstrated that it was a mostly fictional place), I was able to move on and just use my knowledge of York to compliment the descriptions within the book.
Overall, a fun and lively read which brought my imagination to life (and made me want to pop back to York!). I will definitely acquire the next in the series.
Now it's the turn of the second instalment in Jonathan Stroud's excellent series for children: Lockwood & Co.. It is called, 'The Whispering Skull' and it follows 'The Screaming Staircase'. Although Amazon places it in the same age bracket as Rose Raventhorpe (9-11), I have to say that Lockwood & Co. is likely to suit an older audience than Miss Raventhorpe. The prose and plot are more complex and the subject matter is darker (although Black Cats & Butlers is also quite dark).
Stroud has chosen to write this series from the point of view of a member of Lockwood's team, rather than Lockwood himself. Her name is Lucy and she has a special talent in relation to ghosts. She is one member of a three person team (the others being Lockwood and George) who are teenage ghost specialists in a world where only children can hear and sense the many ghouls which comprise 'the Problem'. As with the first book, there is a mystery at the heart of the plot, namely who has stolen a dangerous relic and to what ends? However, for me, the book's great charm comes from the interactions between the team members. I really care about what happens to them. Each is strongly written and individual. There is mystery, humour, tension and action and a wonderfully murky atmosphere. Whilst it didn't quite engage me as much as the first one, it was a close run thing and I will be reading the third. The writing is wonderful - seemingly effortless yet of very high quality.
I wish I knew how he does it!
I love most types of fiction - crime, mystery, fantasy. Oh, and historical fiction of course and middle-grade books and, well, you get the picture.
Subscribe for Blog updates via email:
Unique, handcrafted items for readers and writers: