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Guest Post from Tracey Norman: Thinking magic

Today I’m delighted to welcome fellow Exeter Author Association member and friend, Tracey Norman, to my site. Tracey is an actress, audio book narrator and writer…and there isn’t much she doesn’t know about witches. Why not grab a coffee and have a read…

Hi Jenny – and thank you for inviting me to talk about my writing!

I’ve written stories and poetry since I was very young, but it is only in the last couple of years that I have finally taken the plunge and decided to actually do something with my work. That all started in 2015, when I was invited to contribute a short story to Secret Invasion, a Lovecraftian-themed horror anthology which was being put together to raise money for MIND. I wasn’t hugely knowledgeable about Lovecraft’s work, so I decided to marry what I did know with my deep love of history. Thus, Dark Words was born.

The story is told from two perspectives, one modern-day and one from the 1930s, as an archaeologist works on a site on Dartmoor and accidentally uncovers not only a dark and horrific secret, but also why an entire village was drowned beneath a reservoir in the late 1930s. It takes as its inspiration the terrible mind control of “Asenath Waite” from Lovecraft’s The Thing on the Doorstep and the various artefacts which lie unseen and quiet beneath the waters of the Fernworthy Reservoir, not far from Chagford in Devon. Having spoken to a few archaeologists and curators about the submerged bridges, hut circles and boundary markers, I found that no one really knows much about the village – so in Dark Words, I have given it my own back story, as well as explaining why so much archaeology should be lost beneath the waters of a reservoir. Believe me, it was for the best….

The normally submerged, Fernworthy clapper and medieval pack bridge

I’m delighted to say that Dark Words has been accepted in another anthology, Fairy Tales and Folklore Reimagined, which is due out shortly from Between the Lines, a publisher in Minneapolis.

Something happened in 2016 which changed my perception of my writing forever. I accidentally became a playwright. In 2015, some friends and I had started Circle of Spears Productions, a professional audio production house and theatre company. Our initial focus had been on gathering authors and working with them to turn their books into audio. I thought it would be good if I could write something for us to perform for a summer season to build up the theatre side. Again, I wanted to blend my love of history into my writing, so I kicked a few ideas around and eventually hit upon the idea of preserving a moment in history by using the actual words spoken by those involved. I decided to try to use the words from a witch trial. This began a wonderful relationship with the fabulous team at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Boscastle, Cornwall, who were incredibly supportive and helpful right from the outset and who introduced me to the woman who has since become an obsession for me.

Gimmerton case paper

In Lyme Regis, Dorset, in 1687, a woman named Deanes Gimmerton went on trial for witchcraft. Hers is one of the most complete written records of an English witch trial. The papers consist of four pages of witness evidence from one of her ‘victims’, his parents and the mother of a second ‘victim’, who had actually died two years previously as a result of being ‘bewitched’. What fascinated me the most, however, was the fact that the accusation had arisen after Deanes shared a pipe of tobacco with her young victim. A simple, everyday action that she probably didn’t think twice about and yet which had such staggering consequences.

My play WITCH tells Deanes Gimmerton’s story using three fictitious characters – Margery Scrope, the accused, Thomas Latimer, her accuser and Sir William Tyrell, the landowner-magistrate who has to evaluate the accusation to see if it should proceed to trial. However, as there was so little of Deanes herself in the papers – no indication of a plea or a verdict – I needed to research more widely to build Margery’s character and she ultimately became an amalgamation of the experiences of Deanes and about seven other women.

Tyrell, Margery and Latimer

WITCH was originally intended to run for a summer season at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic (and a more fitting venue I cannot imagine). However, over the course of the summer of 2016, something changed. At our second performance, we were asked if we used it as Theatre In Education and this resulted in our first school booking. Since its premiere in July 2016, we have performed WITCH 54 times and have dates booked for 2018 already. WITCH has become its own entity and that, I think, is because it tells not just Deanes’s story, but the story of all the women – and men – like her, who found themselves accused of witchcraft as a result of some ordinary, everyday action like sharing a pipe of tobacco.

I am delighted to have been given a contract by Troy Books in Cornwall to expand on the research I did for WITCH and write a book about it. I have been looking further into Deanes’s story to try to find out what happened to her, but she is frustratingly invisible in the historical record. As I write  this, I have just ordered a couple of documents from the National Archive, where I am spending the day on Friday of this week, to try to find some mention of Deanes in the legal records of 1687 and hopefully discover her fate. I am incredibly excited at the prospect of seeing the original court documents in the flesh, but as Deanes has been a huge part of my life for so long, I know that it will also be an incredibly emotional moment for me if the information I am seeking is actually in those documents.

So what leads on from witch trials? Well, for me, it was dragons. I have always been a rather eclectic writer and am totally unable to stick to just one subject or genre, so I followed WITCH by self-publishing a story I wrote for my daughter when she was about three years old. She is now ten, so it was about time something happened to this particular story! Sammy’s Saturday Job is the tale of a little dragon who desperately wants to be a firefighter, but when she finally gets the chance, everything goes wrong. She has to think creatively and persevere in order to put things right and save the day.

And now? Well, now it’s elves. And more dragons. The dragons haven’t appeared yet, but it’s high fantasy, so it won’t be long before they show up. At the moment, though, I am having some difficulty in persuading my elves to stick to the chapter plan. As someone who, in the past, just sat down and wrote with no plan anywhere in sight, the fact that I actually took the time to plot an entire book is nothing short of miraculous, so the elves really do need to get with the programme.

This is the first in a projected series of books about a young elf who turns her back on the life her influential family has mapped out for her and follows her as she travels the length of the Empire in which she lives, learning new skills and trying to find a place where she belongs. The central character is my gaming alter ego, who, again, has been with me for a long time and whose back story I really wanted to explore. However, when I was planning the first book, The Battle for Dragonheart, I realised that it was not her story that I needed to tell, but her mother’s. Then, as I started that story, I realised that it wasn’t her mother’s story, either – not entirely. A completely new character made herself known and Dragonheart, the first of The Fire-Eyes Chronicles, is her story.

I would have loved to be able to take part in this year’s NaNo, but unfortunately, I have to grab my writing time whenever and wherever I can in between everything else I do, so the chances of me reaching 50, 000 words in a month is, sadly, highly unlikely. However, I do have the advantage of being a member of the Exeter Authors Association, which provides me with plenty of opportunities to discuss my writing with other authors and the 2018 programme of events we have put together will certainly encourage me to ensure that Dragonheart is finished sooner rather than later. There are a number of books to plot in the Fire-Eyes series, as well as a bunch of rather interesting (non-sparkly) vampires waiting in the wings and periodically trying to grab my attention. It looks like 2018 will be a very busy year….

You can find out more about WITCH at www.traceynormanswitch.com

WITCH’s Twitter handle is @WITCHplayCoS

You can buy the audio play of WITCH from www.circleofspears.com/store

You can also follow me on Facebook – @TraceyNormanWITCHbook and @TraceyNormanauthor

Secret Invasion is available as a print on demand, with all proceeds going to MIND – https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/secretinvasion

Sammy’s Saturday Job is available as an ebook and a paperback – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sammys-Saturday-Job-Tracey-Norman-ebook/dp/B0736DL7KP

 ***

Thank you ever so much Tracey- fabulous blog.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

 

 

 

 

 


MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT: Robin of Sherwood…If I’d known then…

I have amazing news….but let’s start at the beginning of the story…

I’m sat in my corner in the café where I write every day. I have the radio on via my headphones. Bryan Adams is on. He’s singing the theme from the panto-esque Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.  It’s a song I have affection for, even if I don’t actually like it that much.

It was, for one thing, the tune that formed the soundtrack my ‘first dance’ after I got married. It was not the song my husband and I picked. It was, however, the song our best man thought such a devoted Robin Hood fan should have playing at such a moment in her life.

If I’d know then…

I first came across the 1980’s television series, Robin of Sherwood, when I was 14 years old. I had been absent from school for some time with one of those boring illnesses that aren’t even worth gracing with typing time, and I was bored out of my mind. My parents, being good folk, decided to surprise me by renting one of those new fangled video recorder things so I could watch television during the day (We’re obviously talking pre-day time TV, Channel 5, the Internet, mobile phones etc). The very first programme my Dad recorded for me to see was the ninth episode of the third series of Robin of Sherwood. An episode entitled, Adam Bell.

Adam Bell

I watched it seven times on the first day. Eight times the day after that. By the following Saturday, when it was time to settle down at exactly 5.35 pm to watch the next episode (The Pretender), I didn’t need to see the pictures that went with Adam Bell anymore. I knew the episode word for word. It was like audio to me by that point. I could see the images so clearly even with my eyes shut.

By the time seven days of non-stop Adam Bell watching had finished, I had also despatched my dad to the library to borrow everything he could find on Robin Hood and medieval outlaws in general.

The obsession had begun.

If I’d known then…

Robin Hood. Anything. Everything. The daft, the serious, the bizarre and the historically sound. I gobbed up all the information about the legend, and the history behind the legend, that I could. I watched every film, every programme. Everything.

My parents thought I’d grow out of it.

I didn’t grow out of it.

Fast forward 30 years.

One PhD on medieval crime, 200 story publications (long and short), a book selling session at the Hooded Man Event 2016, a trip to the Knight’s of the Apocalypse premiere to meet the RoS cast, and a genre diverse writing career later, and I’m sat at my computer- right now- listening to the aforementioned Bryan Adams while contemplating how incredibly lucky I am – because…

I HAVE BEEN ASKED TO WRITE AN AUDIO EPISODE OF ROBIN OF SHERWOOD!!!

ME!! Writing an audio script for Robin of Sherwood.

Not only that , but the gorgeous Judi Trott (Maid Marion for the uninitiated), has narrated it.

Photo credit: Kim Jones

My story is called The Waterford Boy. It features Robert of Huntingdon as Robin, and slots into the action after Knights of the Apocalypse. I won’t tell you anymore, because I don’t want to ruin the story.

Photo credit: Kim Jones

I could say it’s awesome. Unbelievable. Incredible. Mind blowing.

And it is. It’s all of those things. I’m certainly in a state of shock that out of all the possible stories submitted, mine were two of the lucky ones.

It is also humbling, a bit scary, and a huge responsibility. I’ve never written scripts before!

My 14 year old self doesn’t believe this is happening- I keep telling her it’s real. But she thinks I’m dreaming.

If I’d known then…

… when I was a messy haired, fashion hopeless, introverted teenager, that one day I’d be sat writing words for Judi Trott to say, or that I would have the power to make Will Scarlett mumble, “I’m gonna kill ‘im,” – I’d have thought the daydream had got out of hand and I’d read one storybook too many.

By some miracle though, the daydream came true. I really have just written words that involve the Sheriff giving Gisburne a hard time…oh, and Will Scarlett is in a foul mood…

Myself, and many others, have been working quietly on our episodes for months and months to try and get them perfect for you. A HUGE thank you to Barnaby Eaton-Jones and Iain Meadows for giving me this opportunity.

Can you imagine how hard it has been not telling anyone when all I wanted to do was shout yippee!?

Mind you…

I have a horror of letting the loyal RoS fan base, and the memory of the wonderful Richard Carpenter, down. All I can say is on that regard is that I promise I’ve done my best. That’s all I can do.

So? How do you order The Waterford Boy? Well – keep an eye on this link…it will be available soon!

https://www.spitefulpuppet.com/shopp.php

Jenny x

 


Interview with Mark Colenutt (a.k.a M.J.Colewood)

Today I’m delighted to welcome Mark Colenutt  co-author of The Last Treasure of Ancient England. You may be surprised to learn that M.J. Colewood is not one, but two authors: Mark Colenutt and Jacqueline Wood who joined forces to write this wonderful book. Today I am joined by Mark.

Why not make a cuppa and join us for a quick chat?

What inspired you to write your book?

At the age of eleven I went to a remote Devon boarding school which was steeped in history and legend so that got the imagination flowing. Over the years it grew into the story that you can read in the novel.

Do you model any of your characters after people you know? If so, do these people see themselves in your characters?

There is only one character that was a real person at the school. Sadly, he has since passed on but his nephew has read the book and said that I did his uncle justice by depicting him in the humane way that we all admired about him.

What type of research did you have to do for your book?

I had to swot up on my medieval history and iron out finer points over the Battle of Hastings and the Norman invasion to ensure it was accurate according to the historic record. It was also fortunate to benefit from the very latest discovery of the site of the Anglo-Saxons’ last stand following Hastings in north Devon.

Do you prefer to plot your story or just go with the flow?

It is imperative to plot the story before sitting down to write in the case of this novel as it is a treasure hunt and mystery, several mysteries in fact, all wrapped up into one. It is therefore essential to pace the revealing of the mysteries and discovery of the various clues. If not, the storyline cannot function and the reader would not only get lost but not be given a fair chance of working out the solutions and guessing the mysteries. That said, once the writing commences the story comes to life and unexpected twists and turns present themselves, which are enthusiastically embraced and pressed into service for the greater good of the plot and characters.

What is your writing regime?

As I hold down a full-time teaching job and an even fuller-time job looking after and a three-and-a-half-year old, basically my writing regime is whenever I can but predominantly in the early hours while all are asleep. So, I tend to rise around five or five thirty and get an hour and a half’s writing done and at the weekend that extends to a couple of hours on Saturday and Sunday mornings. It’s not ideal but it’s that or nothing and I don’t want the writing to inhibit family life during the waking hours.

What excites you the most about your book?

The fact that it is a real treasure hunt filled with clues, riddles, symbols and adventure that really does end in a revelation worth discovering. Few treasure hunts bring that to life and so that was the missive with this novel. If you have read a book or watched a film about a treasure hunt and were disappointed that the hunt was lackluster and the treasure not worth waiting for, then that is not the case in the Last Treasure of Ancient England. It is not only what excites me the most but also the novel’s greatest achievement.

If you were stranded on a desert island with three other people, fictional or real, who would they be and why?

For debate Christopher Hitchens, for companionship my daughter and for survival Bear Grylls. In the case of my last choice, there’s no point Einstein or Billy Connolly coming along to keep me company if I can’t even make a fire or shelter.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

The novel does in fact transcend generations. The older reader will be returned to their youth and enjoy not only the quick-paced storyline but also writing that immerses them in the past, in several pasts, teaching them what they were never told at school about the Norman invasion of England. For the younger reader it will capture their imagination as they are thrown onto the front lines at the Battle of Hastings and then later find themselves in the wilds of Devon hunting down the last treasure of ancient England, shadowed by dark forces. One reader has called it ‘the Da Vinci code in Devon’ and I can settle for that briefest of epithets, although the writing is of a higher standard, believe me.

Links

Read more at www.chesterbentleymysteries.com

Twitter @MJColewood

Facebook @chesterbentleymysteries

Bio

Born in Plymouth, Devon, I was educated at Blundell’s School and then at St. Mary’s College, Strawberry Hill, London. Upon completing my degree, I took off to Malaysia and New Zealand before returning one last time to the UK capital before I boarded the plane that would eventually carry me to my adopted homeland of Spain.

After a year and a half in the Spanish capital, I decided it was time to leave and seek colour and adventure in the Andalusian south. I settled in Seville, which had been a place that had fascinated me from a very young age and I was not disappointed. Eleven years later and it was time to move on again, this time the north of Spain.

By this time, I had completed two books and was engaged in a third, imagining a fourth and wishfully thinking of a fifth.

At present I live and work in Girona, a pleasant, laidback green part of the country which is ideally sandwiched between the Pyrenees, France, Barcelona and the Mediterranean.

Not surprisingly, I have produced a collection of books on Spain over the years in ‘The Hispanophile Series’, from literary criticism in the form of my Handbook to the ‘Legacy & Odyssey of Don Quixote’, to a city guide in Old Seville and even a book of photography and the first in the novel form of a paperback, hence the format: ‘photoback’, and entitled ‘A Vision of Seville’.

I have also written two history titles about the British Raj.

***

Many thanks Mark, great interview.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x


10 REASONS TO GO ON AN IMAGINE WRITING RETREAT

Alison Knight and I are proud to present our very first “Imagine” writing retreat…

10 reasons to go on an Imagine Writing Retreat…

1                    Writers need writers! No one understands writing and a writer’s life like another writer. Mutual support is the name of the game!

2                    Located in the stunning Victorian manor, Northmoor House, Imagine’s retreat gives you the chance to stay in a home untouched by time (But don’t panic, there is Wi-Fi). You can even indulge in the waters of an original Victorian bathtub…don’t forget your bubble bath!

3                    With so many of the manor’s period features still in place, Northmoor is the ideal location for sparking inspiration and dreaming up new plotlines.

4                    On the edge of Exmoor, near the popular village of Dulverton, there are plenty of beautiful places to explore should you, or any non-writing friends or partners, wish to. There are miles of good walking land on hand. The pre-historic Tarr Steps are but minutes away, and the cafes in Dulverton are excellent. I can personally recommend the poached eggs on crumpets in The Copper Kettle.

Tarr Steps

5                    However, you might not want to stray into the village for food because we have employed an excellent local caterer, who is providing a delicious menu that will cater for all dietary requirements. All food is locally sourced.

6                    Come along for a confidence boost! At Imagine we pride ourselves on helping everyone to get their words onto the page. We are here for beginners and experts alike.

Kate Griffin

7                    Meet Kate Griffin! One of Faber and Faber’s most successful crime writers. Kate Griffin is the author of the brilliant Kitty Peck Mysteries. An expert on Victorian London, Kate will be our guest speaker on the Wednesday evening.

8                    Find your inner writer’s peace of mind. Let mentor and fellow writer, Trina Stacey, help you” Set Your Sails for Writing Success”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9                    Let’s face it – Monday to Friday in a beautiful Victorian Manor, with time to write, all food provided, plus three optional workshops, a chance to meet Kate Griffin and Trina Stacey, and the opportunity to share writing ideas over a glass of wine (or two) – for only £450  is a BARGAIN.

10             It would make a BRILLIANT Christmas present for the write in your life.

***

Full details are available at https://www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk/writing-retreats 

If you have any queries please email Alison or myself at imaginecreativewritng@gmail.com

Now is the time to drop heavy hints about wanting a writing retreat for Christmas… 

Happy writing everyone,

Jenny xx


10 REASONS TO GO ON AN IMAGINE WRITING RETREAT

Alison Knight and I are proud to present our very first “Imagine” writing retreat…

10 reasons to go on an Imagine Writing Retreat…

1                    Writers need writers! No one understands writing and a writer’s life like another writer. Mutual support is the name of the game!

2                    Located in the stunning Victorian manor, Northmoor House, Imagine’s retreat gives you the chance to stay in a home untouched by time (But don’t panic, there is Wi-Fi). You can even indulge in the waters of an original Victorian bathtub…don’t forget your bubble bath!

3                    With so many of the manor’s period features still in place, Northmoor is the ideal location for sparking inspiration and dreaming up new plotlines.

4                    On the edge of Exmoor, near the popular village of Dulverton, there are plenty of beautiful places to explore should you, or any non-writing friends or partners, wish to. There are miles of good walking land on hand. The pre-historic Tarr Steps are but minutes away, and the cafes in Dulverton are excellent. I can personally recommend the poached eggs on crumpets in The Copper Kettle.

Tarr Steps

 

5                    However, you might not want to stray into the village for food because we have employed an excellent local caterer, who is providing a delicious menu that will cater for all dietary requirements. All food is locally sourced.

6                    Come along for a confidence boost! At Imagine we pride ourselves on helping everyone to get their words onto the page. We are here for beginners and experts alike.

Kate Griffin

7                    Meet Kate Griffin! One of Faber and Faber’s most successful crime writers. Kate Griffin is the author of the brilliant Kitty Peck Mysteries. An expert on Victorian London, Kate will be our guest speaker on the Wednesday evening.

8                    Find your inner writer’s peace of mind. We all know that authors suffer from imposter syndrome: “Why am I writing? I’m not good enough!” We all say it! Local happiness mentor and fellow writer, Trina Stacey, will be available for optional one-to-one conversations about how to believe in your abilities, and convince you that you are allowed to do what makes you happy.

9                    Let’s face it – Monday to Friday in a beautiful Victorian Manor, with time to write, all food provided, plus three optional workshops, a chance to meet Kate Griffin, and the opportunity to share writing ideas over a glass of wine (or two) – for only £450 (10% less if you book before 31st October) is a BARGAIN.

10               IT WILL BE A LOT OF FUN!

***

Full details are available at https://www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk/writing-retreats 

If you have any queries please email Alison or myself at imaginecreativewritng@gmail.com

PLEASE REMEMBER THAT THE EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT ENDS ON 31ST OCTOBER

Now is the time to drop heavy hints about wanting a writing retreat for Christmas… 

Happy writing everyone,

Jenny xx


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