Paperchains and Nelson’s Eye: Christmas Days at Nan’s remembered

2-vintage-christmas-wrapping-paperMy earliest Christmas Days were spent at Nan and Grandad’s.  Until I was six, my parents and I lived upstairs in my grandparents’ three-storey house (a railway house – Grandad was a train driver).  After we moved out, we made the trip across Brighton, but that was no problem because the buses ran on Christmas Day.

There was always a crowd of us for Christmas Day, including my aunt, uncle and cousins from London, whom I couldn’t wait to see. The same decorations came out year after year; paperchains strung across the ceilings (licked by me in the preceding weeks – I must have been high on glue by the time Christmas came!), shiny paper stars, crumpled with age, and a small fake tree from Woolworths with red berries on the ends of the branches.  The tree took pride of place in the front room window upstairs while we were downstairs in the basement, making full use of the small living room – called the kitchen – the dining room at the front, and the scullery at the back.  This arrangement was old-fashioned even then.  Looking back, it seems incredible that Nan cooked Christmas dinner for us all on the ancient gas stove in the scullery, with none of gadgets we seem to need now to make the simplest meal.

It wasn’t just the turkey dinner with all the trimmings, either.  The Christmas cake andwalnuts-558488_960_720
pudding were made weeks before, mince pies and sausage rolls baked on Christmas Eve.  Christmas Day tea was almost as big a meal as dinner.  With tangerines, nuts and sweets in plentiful supply, I remember the day as being one big feast.  I disgraced myself one Christmas tea-time.  Nan asked me if I liked her Christmas cake.  ‘It’s a bit puddeny,’ I announced.   I’d heard my mother say that of course.

A point to note here:  my mother did not like Christmas, a fact she made all too plain.  She didn’t like her father much either.  Also, at some point in the proceedings, at least one of the London contingent would have misbehaved.  One year, the oil painting in the attic of Moses in the Bulrushes was used as a dartboard after a go at the cherry brandy. Our Christmases may have looked idyllic on the surface, but underneath, tension ran like wires through cheese.

As a treat, I was allowed a small glass of port and lemon.  I don’t suppose there was much port in it but I thought it was marvellous.  This early introduction to alcohol had me in disgrace again when, being taken to visit another aunt around Christmas time, I was asked what I would like to drink.  I didn’t hesitate. ‘Port and lemon.’  My mother was mortified and tried to cover up my faux pas.  I think I only got the lemon that time.

chineseAt Nan’s, when we weren’t stuffing ourselves silly, we played games. Dominos, draughts, snakes and ladders, all emerged from years-old boxes.  There was a game called Chinese Checkers.  I never did understand how to play it – I don’t think any of us did, and there were pieces missing anyway.  There were other sorts of games, too, and these, miserable child that I was, I found no fun at all, but it was Christmas and I had to endure them or be labelled a spoilsport.  One of these involved being blindfolded and sat on a chair.  Then you were lifted up, everyone calling out how high you were going, until bang, your head hit the ceiling and you screamed.  At least, I did.  It wasn’t the ceiling, it was a plank held above your head when you were only a foot off the ground.  Then there was Nelson’s eye.  Blindfolded again, your finger was guided into the soft squidgy eye, to much hilarity all round.  I never found it the least bit funny to be shown half an orange when the blindfold came off.

No Christmas would have been complete without Grandad enticing me and my cousins to crawl into the cupboard under the stairs to find what ‘treasures’ we could in this glory hole.  Once we were in, he would hold the door shut, trapping us in the airless pitch dark, until we became hysterical.  This trick wasn’t confined to Christmas, but we fell for it, every time.  Well, we didn’t want to spoil Grandad’s fun, did we?  What with the blindfolds and the entrapment, is it any wonder I’m a fully paid-up member of Claustrophobics Anonymous?

Grandad did have one party trick I loved, and would ask him to do, over and over.  It was simply this: he would cut a brazil nut in half and set light to the cut side, turning it into a magical, miniature candle.

Our day ended with the adults playing cards and my cousins and I lolling around, half asleep, clutching our favourite present from Father Christmas.   Mine one year was a black doll.  To my mother’s puzzlement, I’d longed for a ‘black dolly’ and was overjoyed when I got one – I must have been a very PC child, that’s all I can say.  This plastic beauty was dressed in orange knitted clothes, which, funnily enough, were the same as those I’d seen my other grandmother (Dad’s mum) knitting for the babies in Africa. Pure coincidence, of course  😉

Merry Christmas, all!

Deirdre

Deirdre’s latest novel, Never Coming Back, will be published by Crooked Cat Publishing on 8th December.  Order from Amazon UK here:   http://amzn.to/2fG0FrJ   or from Amazon.com http://amzn.to/2fbMJBe

 

 

 

 

 

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Mind the Gap

MindTheGapVictoria

So, you’ve finished writing the book.  You’ve taken it through several drafts, heaps of edits and marathon proof-reading sessions.  You’ve read it on your computer, your e-reader and in hard copy (please say you have…) and it’s passed through the capable hands of your editor, if you have one, and your trusted beta readers.  Now it’s ready for submission to your chosen agent or publisher.  Right?

Wrong.

You don’t want to send it off to meet its public with its hair in curlers, naked-faced and wearing an old cardi, do you?  Of course you don’t.

Television programme: "Last of the summer wine".
Actress Kathy S

Not so long ago I didn’t believe this either, but the moment you decide your book is ready to go, a strange, silent force moves in and deposits sneaky typos, repeated words, unclosed speech marks, rogue commas and other blemishes upon your nice clean script – all of which you’re a hundred percent sure were not there before.  At the same time, your mind starts working away behind the scenes all by itself.  Suddenly it throws out a cracker of a word or sentence or idea that absolutely must go in your first chapter, or wherever.  If you’ve already submitted, that’s an opportunity missed.

This is where The Gap comes in.

The book needs to lie low for at least a week or two – longer if you’re strong-minded enough.  Hide the computer file, throw the hard copy on top of the wardrobe.  Do whatever you have to do, but put some distance between you and it.  Fill The Gap with reading, writing that short story, or planning your next novel.  Or take a break from the whole kit and caboodle and open a bottle of something bubbly.  You’ve written a book and that’s no mean achievement, whether it’s your first or your thirteenth.  Celebrate that.11427579974_8537896b98_k-800x530

When your book has served its time in exile, set it free and read it again.  You’ll be reading from a new perspective and with fresh eyes, eyes that, miraculously, can now see what was there all along.  Add that make-or-break sentence and fix the errors.  Take out the curlers, make up its face and pour it into a slinky dress.

Now it’s ready to dazzle its public.  Right?

Right.

Deirdre

Author of Remarkable Things and Dirty Weekend (Crooked Cat Publishing)

 

 

 

Crooked cats, rescued dogs, love shacks and the chapters of life… They’re all in Tina K Burton’s writing life!

Tina BurtonOur guest on the blog today is the lovely Tina K Burton. Tina writes short stories, articles, novels, and even the occasional haiku. Both her novels, Chapters of Life, and The Love Shack, are signed with Crooked Cat Publishing. She’s working on her third novel, a story about a girl who dies suddenly, and finds herself back in the thirties. When she’s not writing, Tina spends her time crafting, relaxing with friends, and taking her rescued greyhound for walks across the beautiful moorland in Devon, where she lives with her husband.

We got loads of questions we want to ask Tina, so we can’t wait to get started…



What’s the best bit of feedback you’ve had about Chapters of Life?

One reviewer who loved the book, described me as an English Maeve Binchy. I was so flattered by that.

How important was it for you to sign with a publisher as opposed to going down the route of being self-published?

I had initially self published it on Amazon and Smashwords, but because so many people liked it, I thought it deserved to be with a publisher. I do think there’s more kudos to having a publisher, and other people seem to take you a bit more seriously too.

How did it feel the first time you saw Chapter of Life available for sale?

It was the best feeling in the world. I don’t think I’ll ever get blasé about having a book published though. For me, it’s such an achievement.

What has surprised you most about being published and has it lived up to the dream?

Yes, it’s a wonderful feeling. The only thing that would top it, would be walking into a bookshop and seeing my novels. I’m surprised at how many people have read and liked the book. I thought it was a good story, but we all think that about our books. It’s fab when other people think so too J

Your second novel is called the The Love Shack. How would you define love? sfondo arcobaleno vintage

Hmm. The feeling you get in the pit of your stomach, and your heart, when you think about or look at the person you love. Wanting to be with that person as much as possible, not being able to imagine life without them.

We love the name of your new novel, how did you come up with it?

I had the idea for a fun novel set around a dating agency, and was trying to think of names for it. That evening, I was running on my treadmill, while listening to my ipod, and the B52s song came on. I knew I’d found my title.

Can you tell us a bit about the plot for The Love Shack?

The main character, Daisy Dorson, stomps into The Love Shack, to complain about how useless their matchers are, and ends up getting a lot more than she bargained for. There’s plenty of fun, quirky characters, and of course lots of romance too.

What’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever done?

I’m not particularly romantic myself. I don’t like all that lovey dovey hearts and flowers stuff, but, I used to write little notes to my husband and tuck them into his lunchbox, so he’d find them when he opened his sandwiches at work. Nothing slushy, just things like, ‘Have a good day at work, see you later.’ I guess you could call that romantic.

author 2Who was your first hero and how do you think he’s influenced your writing, if at all?

I was in love with Donny Osmond when I was about twelve, ha ha. Apart from that, I’ve never had a hero really. I’m not that sort of person.

Do you think it’s true that you should ‘write what you know’ and, if so, to what extent have your experiences influenced your writing?

Yes I do. I like to read about ordinary people, and that’s what I write. I’ve worked as a youth counsellor, in a homeless centre, and in the funeral profession, and I think this has helped me to write characters with real emotions and feelings. It’s no good trying to write crime, if you’ve never read it or experienced it. Having said that, we can easily learn how to write a different genre by reading as much of it as we can and seeing how writers for that particular genre do it.

What are you working on at the moment?

A time-slip story about a girl, Emily, who dies suddenly, and finds herself back in the thirties. It’s a huge shock, but she’s looked after by her great aunt Clarissa, who explains she’s experienced Sudden Death Transition. You’ll have to wait to find out what that is. On the whole it’s a fun read, but it does have an underlying sadness to it.

Do you ever think about writing in a different genre, if so, what would you choose?

Well, I’ve written a couple of children’s stories, but haven’t plucked up the courage to send them off yet. It’s something I’d like to explore though as I’m a big kid myself most of the time.

What’s the hardest type of scene for you to write?

Sex scenes. In fact I don’t do them. I’d much rather just suggest what’s going to happen, with something like, ‘Jacob, grabbed Clara by the hand and with a meaningful look, led her into the bedroom.’ Readers have imaginations, I’d rather leave it up to them!

Can you tell us a bit about your other writing?dreamstime_s_28682146

I actually started by writing articles and short stories, which I’ve sold to the women’s magazines. I still do, and have articles on the OapsChat website, short stories up with Alfiedog Fiction, and stories in several anthologies.

Do you ever get writer’s block and, if so, how do you deal with it?

Yes I do, far too often. I start a quilling project – I’m a quilling artist – and that usually helps clear my head.

If you could have three writing-related wishes, what would they be?

That my books were sold in bookshops, that I actually made enough money to pay the bills, and that I can continue coming up with enough ideas to write future books.

What piece of writing advice do wish you’d known when you started out?

That it isn’t as easy as you think, it’s a long hard slog, but, the sense of achievement when you’re finally published makes it all worthwhile. Thank you, Write Romantics, I enjoyed these questions xx
Thanks so much Tina for joining us on the blog and we wish you every success with The Love Shack, which you can buy here.

You can also find out more about Tina and her books at the links below: http://tinakburtons.blogspot.co.uk/

@TinaKBurton

Publication Day – The Friendship Tree by Helen J Rolfe

 

Helensparklers

I signed my contract with Crooked Cat Publishing in October last year and the lead up to publication day for The Friendship Tree has been hard work, but really exciting.

bookcaketopperChoosing the cover for my debut novel was one of the most exciting parts of the process because it all began to feel so real. I loved discussing images with my publisher and working out what was the best fit for The Friendship Tree, and I was delighted with the finished design.

The book came out for pre-order on Amazon a couple of weeks ago and it was fantastic to see The Friendship Tree ‘out there’, but nothing compared to the actual publication day itself. I slept until 5:30am when I couldn’t resist the temptation any longer, and then switched on my Kindle to find my own book waiting there for me. It was the best feeling in the world.

 

cupcake2I was a bit unsure of what to expect with an online Facebook launch party, but I had a fabulous day with so many lovely messages from friends, family and strangers who not only said well done, but also told me that they were enjoying my book.

Publication day was a whirlwind of excitement with cupcakes, champagne and congratulations, and I enjoyed appearing on a number of blogs to talk about The Friendship Tree.

Cheers to a brilliant year of writing for all The Write Romantics!

Helen J Rolfe x

 

 

Mega Monday Announcement – It’s Helen J Rolfe’s turn to sign a publishing deal!

Mega Monday Announcement – It’s Helen J Rolfe’s turn to sign a publishing deal!

In 2011 I wrote my first novel. Of course I thought it was fabulous, I thought that I’d be an overnight success and that I’d have publishers falling at my feet. However, reality soon hit after I submitted it to a few agents and was of course rejected. Realising what a feat it really is to not only write a book but write a book that people would want to read, I joined the RNA’s New Writer’s Scheme in 2012 and began to get serious.

‘The Friendship Tree’ was my second completed novel and just over a week ago on a Saturday evening I received an email from Crooked Cat Publishing. Glass of wine in hand at eleven o’clock in the evening I decided to turn off the iPad and relax but of course, I quickly checked my emails first. Skimming the mail I noticed there was a reply from Crooked Cat but totally missed the title which said that this was an offer of a contract. I clicked on the email fully expecting a rejection but what a lovely surprise it was to receive that offer.

‘The Friendship Tree’ will be published in 2015 and I am beyond thrilled to have become part of the team with Crooked Cat Publishing and to be so warmly welcomed by the other authors. I join fellow Write Romantic Harriet James who will also be publishing her novel, ‘Remarkable Things’, with Crooked Cat in 2015.

A very timely article appeared in the Romance Writers’ of Australia’s Hearts Talk magazine recently titled ‘Living the Dream’. In the article Anne Gracie writes about how the learning curve of a writer never stops whether you’re just starting out or whether you’re writing your next book, or the one after that. My writing journey has been both fun and exhausting along the way. At times I’ve written for hours on end, at other times I’ve wondered whether it’s all worth it. But those ups and downs, I now know, are all a part of a writer’s life. And it’s the life that I really want.

Yesterday I celebrated my publishing deal and the realisation of my dream in the only way I could…with a few glasses of champagne overlooking Sydney Harbour 🙂