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Sarah Dahl: The Awakening

Today I’m delighted to welcome Sarah Dahl to my blog to help celebrate the launch of her latest book, The Awakening.

OUT TODAY, The Awakening is a passionate romance inspired by our Viking past.

Over to you Sarah…

Inspiration for my book:

“The Awakening – Embrace beyond Passion” is a story I wrote some time ago and now had to considerably edit to make it more like my current ‘voice’ and in keeping with the other stories in my Tales of Freya collection. Therefore it was hard to recall the exact inspiration for this story – I get inspiration from many things and then let my mind play with it. For my characters, I’m often very visual and discover someone on Pinterest or TV. Then I imagine them as a person from the early medieval – what if I made them a ‘Viking’ character. I have an inspirational mood board on my wall right opposite my desk that I look at to let my mind wander. Most stories just start with the idea of an interesting character or an event, or both. From there I let it all flow and try different directions for a theme. In “The Awakening” the theme is “liberation begins in the mind” and “follow your passions”. As the Tales of Freya stories are short, I don’t have to plot much but can just write from the heart and then edit. Which brings me to:

Plot or flow:

I’m a pantser as they say, and find plotting a long story from beginning to end very hard to pull off. Naturally, I’d just write from scene to scene and develop as I go, often not knowing the ending myself. For the stories in the Tales of Freya collection it was easier, as for short stories the plot and character arcs can be more straightforward. I always just start with an idea, something I want to happen, and then write with the flow until I’m happy.

The research for “The Awakening”:

Of course, as a historical fiction writer I have to be firm and confident in the Viking environment and era. I read all the books and see as many sites as I can. My fave non-fiction is “Vikings at War” by Hjardar/Vike; it has brilliant detail and is the most extensive and visual book on the era I have seen. Also, every year I go to at least Haithabu/Hedeby here in Germany for a few days, to this once huge, Danish Viking trading town that is now a museum and open-air site by the Slien. The atmosphere of the reconstructed houses and pier just sparks creativity and a sense of the time. Soaking it all up, I just let my feet and mind wander, focussing on the big picture and then the details, imagining what stories could have happened in those narrow streets and houses. This year I became aware of the harsh winds, the never-ending gusts that penetrate the streets and houses, so much so that roofs don’t need smoke holes … the smoke from the fires just disappears through the walls and roof of the Viking town houses. So I tried to incorporate the harsh elements and their effects more in my story “The Awakening”, too.

I take great pride in being authentic and never use the era as mere stage props. I did several blog posts about authenticity: how every author should do their thorough homework and really know what they are writing about, especially if using a historical time period. Read it all until you don’t have to look stuff up anymore (ideally, but there’s always something …) Once my first draft is written and I checked details myself, I let my Viking reenactor-friends read it for authenticity and plausibility, and also discuss with beta-readers. “The Awakening” is set in a rural village by the fjord, so in smaller Viking houses, not the huge rural longhouses readers might first depict. More the kind you find in villages and towns like Hedeby. So naturally, when I went there this year, I focussed on the layouts of houses and daily tasks my characters would need to do in the story, because something secret and daring is hidden in Ingrid’s little farmhouse. Most things I don’t have to research anymore, but what about details such as how someone undresses? In which order would they do it and would the jewellery clang? How loudly? These are the things my reenactors then have to discuss with me, and go through step by step as I see it happening before my inner eye 😉

Preferred POV:

That’s a good question … I can do both; it all depends on the story and which character should tell the story, through whose eyes we should see and feel things. It doesn’t matter if it’s a man or woman, and I use both first person POV or deep third depending on what works best. In the Tales of Freya stories, I mostly use deep third. The view points can be that of men or/and women. For some reason I can work really well from a male POV. “The Current – A Battle of Seduction” is told from the warrior’s perspective on this seductive shield maiden, and I found it easy to slip into his skin. Whereas “The Awakening” is Ingrid’s story, and the next one, “Monk”, will even be told from three different POVs … I guess it’s all about gut feeling. With experience and craft comes a gut feeling for whose story I want to tell and how.

Most exciting about book for me:

For “The Awakening” the most exciting has to be that a story that I’ve worked on for so long finally gets to see the light – I get it ‘off my desk’ and out to people – and it starts its own life now, can be read by everyone, like a child that grows up and after tender care leaves the house. Which is frightening, of course, because one grows so attached to the story-baby over time. After the great success and many positive reviews of “The Current” I’m very excited and anxious to see what people will make of this very different story. “Awakening” really can’t be compared to the first one, “Current”, in the collection. The first spans several weeks whereas the latter covers only a few hours. The whole plotline and tone are different and the themes of course … so, yeah, we will see. Deep breath and fingers crossed 🙂

Blurb – “The Awakening – Embrace beyond Passion”

 The second in the collection of sensual short stories set in the Viking age, the Tales of Freya:

In a world of crackling fires and rough landscapes, long winters and bloody raids, the immediacy of life and death ignites undeniable passions. Warriors and monks, healers and housewives – all follow the call of their hearts and bodies to indulge in pleasures that may forever change their lives …

Ingrid leads a quiet, joyless life with a husband who is oblivious to her needs. Every time the dragon boats carry him away, she resigns herself to the solitude of her modest hilltop farm by the fjord. But her uneventful world is shaken to the core when the shadows of her house reveal a secret that sets her passions afire.

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Release date: July 21, 2017, by Pronoun

Buy links:

https://books.pronoun.com/the-awakening3/

http://amzn.to/2tyak9p

Author homepage: sarah-dahl.com

Mailing list for Book Alert: https://mailing.sarah-dahl.com/?p=subscribe&id=2

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sarahdahl13/

Twitter: @sarahdahl13

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Bio

Sarah Dahl lives on the edge of the rural German Eifel and writes historical fiction primarily set in the Viking age. She also works as an editor, translates, and coaches new writers in German and English. She is interested in everyday life in bygone centuries and the human stories that may have occurred behind the hard, historical facts. Her author page is: sarah-dahl.com

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Many thanks Sarah – and congratulations on your brand new book!

Happy reading,

Jenny xx


Interview with Bethany Askew: Poppy’s Seed

I’m delighted to welcome Bethany Askew to my site today to talk about her latest novel, Poppy’s Seed. I was lucky enough to meet Bethany while we were both being interviewed by the lovely Suzie Grogan on 10 Radio last week. I had no hesitation in asking Bethany if she’d mind sharing information about her excellent novel with us today.

Over to you Bethany…

What inspired you to write your latest novel Poppy’s Seed?

This book was based on a dream I had. It was very vivid. I remembered every detail. The moment I woke I up I scribbled it down so I wouldn’t forget it.

It was about a couple who moved to Lyme Regis and met someone who changed their lives, and whilst causing havoc in their relationship, she also showed them things about themselves and each other that they never knew before. Only the ending was left uncertain.

Initially the girl they met ran a shop in Lyme Regis. It was only when the storyline became clearer to me that I made her into an artist and jewellery maker. I had a very definite idea of where in Lyme Regis her shop was and what type of shop it had to be.

I didn’t really know why the couple had moved to Lyme Regis, but when my husband and I retired and moved house it became clear to me that I could write with experience of this difficult time.

The main protagonists were very real in my dream, particularly the girl who had to be unique: a free-thinking, free-spirited girl, living by no rules and knowing no boundaries.

The character of Poppy is inspired by reading biographies of artists and writers such as Vita Sackville-West and Vanessa Bell, women who lived outside the social norms of society in their time. I have always been fascinated by the Bloomsbury set and their contemporaries and Poppy’s untidy habits and messy house are based on the artist Augustus John and his family, who put their creativity above mundane things like tidiness and cleanliness.

Poppy’s Seed is a contemporary novel that deals with the problems of many modern families, including the effect of children and stepchildren on a couple; the balance of power between two people; and the compromises made to keep a relationship going.

I like to write about women’s lives and relationships and am particularly interested in a woman’s role as wife and mother and the effect of marriage and divorce on family dynamics.

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

My main female protagonists tend to be versions of me, with some of my characteristics exaggerated. I’m certainly not as house proud or as sexually adventurous as Emily in Poppy’s Seed but we share the same practical and optimistic view of life. And there is a lot of myself in Charlotte in my novel Out of Step:  Charlotte’s experiences of divorce, access, and custody battles are based on my own.

The World Within is my most auto-biographical story. Set in the 1970’s, when it was still socially unacceptable to be an unmarried mother, it tells the story of Jemma, who has to give up her plans for further education when she becomes pregnant. Set in my home town of Taunton, this book is inspired by my own teenage years, with an alternative version of Jemma’s life played out simultaneously, the reader left at the end to decide which Jemma has the more fulfilled life, the one who went to university as planned or the one who married and had a baby and stayed behind in Taunton.

The only one of my novels that has nothing of me in it is Counting the Days , which is a true story, based on my parents-in-law’s letters written during World War Two. A bit of a departure for me, this was written mainly for the family, but it has sold well at the presentations my husband and I give to local interested societies, where we show the photographs my father-in-law took on active service overseas and read extracts from the letters.

My website www.onactiveservice.co.uk is a valuable resource to anyone interested in World War Two: it reproduces the letters and war diary entries verbatim, seventy three years ago to the day they were written, together with wartime photographs of England and Egypt and India.

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

I’m not one of those writers who plans their books chapter by chapter. My stories evolve as I go along. My ideas for characters change and even when the characters  are fixed I find they sometimes do things I don’t expect and I have to re-think everything.  Originally Poppy’s Seed was going to be far more about relationships and family dynamics but as I wrote it Poppy took over more and more and I found she had a secret agenda that I could weave through the story. The character of the step-daughter also changed: at first she was far more bohemian and artistic but I couldn’t have two characters like Poppy so I toned her down a bit. I like to include step-children in my novels as it is something I can write about with experience.  I feel it is a reflection on modern society and a situation many people nowadays can relate to.

Which point of view do you prefer to write in and why?

I like my readers to be involved in what my characters are thinking, to hear the characters thoughts and feelings and experience their lives. I have experimented with different perspectives. I have found that if I write as “I” then it is hard to describe how “I” look or sound or even what “I” may be wearing.

Writing as a man is also hard, though I seem to have done it successfully in Poppy’s Seed. One male reader said, “It was as though you had read my mind. Reading your book made me realise how difficult I must have been to live with I when I first retired.”

In this book the reader hears Emily’s and Peter’s perspectives on the same situation. She thinks she’s trying to help him find ways to enjoy his retirement; he thinks she’s trying to boss him around. This way I can also describe each character as seen by the other.

The only one of my novels that has varied from this approach is Counting the Days, which is written from an objective point of view because, although it is a novel, it is based on fact and apart from the few intimate thoughts expressed in the letters I was using, it was hard for me to know the exact feelings of my main protagonists. It was more a case of charting their joint story.

What is your writing regime?

 I don’t have one. I just write when the mood takes me. Certainly not every day. And I rarely write for hours.

Although I don’t write every day the book I am working on is constantly on my mind and I am usually jotting down notes or words or phrases that come to mind.

I try to keep these logically in a notebook but they often end up on endless scraps of odd paper as ideas strike me suddenly.

I write on my laptop in my armchair if I am writing a fair bit, or at my desk in my study if it’s only a few odd sentences or ideas.

When I have an idea for a story I live with it for a while, even up to a year, getting the characters clear in my mind and letting myself feel how the story will progress, what the characters look like, where they will live etc.

Each part I write is like a scene in a film or play. I “see” the  characters in my mind acting it out for me and just write down what they do. I like to take a break between chapters for my actors to re-group before they act out the next scene. Sometimes I’ll come back to the previous scene and add a bit or re-write it. My writing for the day might just consist of a few sentences, but every little bit matters. I start my stories without any structure at all and see what happens. Then, as I progress and the story becomes clearer I plan what will happen in future chapters. Characters and events often change!

I am completely self-taught. I have never been on a creative writing course or any workshops and have never liaised with other writers. I have always known I wanted to write and when I had fewer family commitments I just sat down at my PC one day and started to write a novel. This first novel, The Time Before will never be published. It is very much a first attempt. I didn’t plan it or structure it. I just had an idea and off I went! But I learnt a lot about writing just by doing it. Now I have written five novels and a short story as well as a modest amount of poetry. I couldn’t imagine life without a novel to work on and I have just started writing my sixth! I like to have something to channel mu energies into, something completely my own that I have accomplished. I miss my characters once I have finished though. Maybe that’s why I’m always ready to write another one!

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Links

Poppy’s Seed

https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Poppys-Seed-Bethany-Askew/1785899198/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1500110671&sr=1-3&keywords=bethany+askew

The World Within

https://www.amazon.co.uk/World-Within-Bethany-Askew-ebook/dp/B00C3L8LL4

Out of Step

https://www.amazon.com/Out-Step-Bethany-Askew-ebook/dp/B00BIJ0GRY

Counting the Days

https://www.amazon.com/Counting-Days-Bethany-Askew-ebook/dp/B00J2VOTQY

The Night of the Storm

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Night-Storm-Bethany-Askew-ebook/dp/B00CDL6CBU

Bethany Askew Amazon Author Page (all titles)

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bethany-Askew/e/B00BJ61C56

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Bio

Bethany Askew is the author of five novels: The Time BeforeThe World WithinOut of Step, Counting the Days and Poppy’s Seed.

She has also written a short story, The Night of the Storm, and she writes poetry.

Her work is published on Amazon and available in major retailers.

Future projects include a new short story, this one for the young adult market, and another full-length novel.

www.bethanyaskew.co.uk

www.onactiveservice.co.uk 

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Thanks again for such a great interview Bethany.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx


Penzance Literary Festival

It’s good to be back where I belong; tucked away with a huge black Americano, toast and marmalade, after three days away as a contributor to the Penzance Literary Festival.

My adventure began last Thursday when I left Tiverton Parkway (only slightly delayed), and travelled the rail line to Cornwall. The scenery between Devon and Cornwall is stunning, and my plans to work as I went along were quickly scuppered in the face of the beauty of South West England.

As you’ll know if you read my previous blog, that coming down to Penzance was a big deal for me.  I hadn’t been there for 20 years, and I was unprepared for how emotional my arrival there would make me feel. More details about that here – http://wp.me/p75ZD9-WA

Acorn Theatre

Having found my guesthouse and left my luggage in the owner’s reliable hands, I took the advice of one of the literary festivals organisers, the lovely Teresa Benison, and headed to the Honey Pot Cafe. This was conveniently placed directly opposite the Acorn theatre – location of the panel I was due to appear on at three that afternoon.

I can’t recommend the Honey Pot Cafe enough- if you happen to be in Penzance at any time, make sure you pop in.

Anyway – the panel I sat on, with the illustrious novelist Liz Fenwick and YA novelist Christopher Vick, was enormous fun. Teresa hosted the panel, which was based on the theme of authors setting their books in Cornwall. I happily chatted about Abi’s House and Abi’s Neighbour, while Liz shared the background to her new novel, The Returning Tide (incredible story) and Chris talked about Storms, his new YA novel (a must read).

Teresa Beniton, Jenny Kane, Liz Fenwick

On the Friday I had no festival responsibilities. Instead I had my coffee shop blogger hat on. Travelling through the sheering heat (we were blessed with incredible weather) I moved around Penzance, sampling coffee and nibbling cake. I rather love my job sometimes! All the resulting blogs will appear on my Have Americano and Pen…Will Travel blog over the next few weeks. Check out the first one here.

As much as I enjoyed the panel I took part in, not to mention listening to the other visiting authors and poets (the poetry event on the Thursday night was amazing- and diverse! I’ve never heard poems about dissecting David Bowie before- unusual….), the highlight for me was the life writing class I taught on Saturday morning.

Based in the fascinating Morrab Library, within the Morrab Sub-Tropical Gardens, I was in my element. Surrounded by works of nonfiction that went back decades, 15 intrepid creative writing workshoppers came in. All smiling- some clearly nervous and wondering what on earth they’d let themselves in for- others clearly confident; every chair filled, and we were soon ready to launch into the world of fictionalising our lives and personal experiences.

Morrab Sub-Tropical Garden

I’m not sure which memory from that class will stay with me the longest.

The wonderful lady whose imagination decided that her ice cream didn’t want to be an ice cream, but wanted to be fruit pieces instead.

The terror so perfectly described by the gentleman whose memory of his first day at school involved lining up outside his classroom while his teacher flipped his cap off with a cane because it wasn’t quite straight.

The two friends who came in giggling, laughed all the way through the class, and left with even wider smiles- having produced some incredible writing along the way.

The Australian traveller who summed up how it feels to be a young woman trying to please the world via the medium of a scoop of Neapolitan ice cream…

They were a dream class to teach. So much talent- so much potential. I look forward to seeing some future short story competition winners and novelists amongst them.

Morrab Library

My time in Penzance was over all too quickly. I would like to thanks Teresa, Linda, Barbara, and all the organisers and stewards who made my visit so much fun. Special thanks must go to the lovely chap who wrestled with the projector and its screen for me at Morrab Library – and to the kind library staff for providing tea, coffee and cake for my workshoppers.

Thanks must also go to the Edge of the World Bookshop on Market Jew Street, Penzance. The friendly and wonderful folk who work there not only managed to order loads of my books, but kindly displayed them at both my events as well as displaying lots of them in their bookshop. There is a never ending thrill in knowing my books sit on bookshop shelves.

Penzance Literary Festival is styled as the country’s most friendly literary festival with good reason.

Roll on next year’s event.

 

Happy reading,

Jenny x

 

 

 


End of the month blog: June bustin’ out all over

It’s that time again! Let’s buckle up for another dip into Nell Peter’s end of the month reminisces… 

Hi Jen – and everyone else!

As the month totters to a close, was it a case of June bustin’ out all over? What does that even mean? When I was weeny, hearing the Rogers and Hammerstein song from Carousel on the radio, my lurid imagination pictured a rather buxom woman wearing a too-small blouse that strained at the seams to cover her modesty. Think Donald McGill postcards, or Beryl Cook-type painted ladies. In reality, of course, the lyrics refer to an exploding renewal of life for flowers and trees, plus all other things summery. Because I’m so easily amused, I’ll stick with my childish version.

June 2017 was not exactly a fun-filled thirty days. There was the General Election, rocking up on the 8th – as someone who typically shies away from making political comment, thereafter for me it came as a huge relief not to be bombarded with so many posts from others, championing their own particular favourite in the most blinkered, patronising and dogmatic fashion. Did they really think no one else capable of cogent reasoning, to weigh up pros and cons and sensibly make up their minds how best to vote? How very dare they? I’ll have them know I’m (thankfully) not as stupid as I look.

And the spats on social media if someone had the nerve to disagree! Some exchanges were simply amusing to those munching popcorn whilst indulging in a spot of spectator sport, others downright nasty. My lovely late brother-in-law used to vote Monster Raving Loony, because he couldn’t be doing with any of the other parties – he may have had a point. And at the end of the day, it’s probably fair to say nobody got the result they wanted, except perhaps the DUP, who must have thought all their birthdays came at once. That Arlene Foster looks a bit scary!

Before all the carnage at the Polls, #3 son made a brief, last minute trip home on June 1st to attend a friend’s wedding. Sadly, the date had to be massively brought forward because the bride’s father was given a short time to live. Son landed at Heathrow from Bangkok around 6 pm, got through customs and picked up a hire car to drive to Norfolk, stopping off at #4’s en route. To repay his brother’s hospitality, he broke the toilet seat in the downstairs loo before heading on here, arriving at gone midnight – the day of the wedding.

Up bright and early (well early, anyway) he sped off for a haircut and to buy a suit, shirt, tie and shoes to wear to the nuptials (he lives rather well on expenses and has grown out of the suits hanging in his wardrobe, playing hide and seek with the moths) – oh and a new toilet seat. As ever falling on his feet, Next had clobber packages on offer so he got himself sorted in record time, then back here, 2nd shower (can tell he’s been living in a hot climate), dressed, paraded for ‘does my bum look big in this?’ scrutiny, scribbled in a card and shoved in some money – all the friends did that to fund a honeymoon. Then he was gone, to pick up mate Charlie (also home for the occasion, but only from London – amateur!), leaving detritus and much dirty washing in his wake. Oh, and the huge open suitcase obstacle in the hall, guaranteed to cripple anyone entering the front door. By ten the next day he had returned from the venue, grabbed his stuff (including clean clothes) and left for Heathrow, to fly to Bangkok-Mumbai-Jaipur – rather him than me.

The first leg was a thirteen hour flight and #3 would have been roughly halfway through when Richard, a colleague of the OH, started walking across London Bridge with his brother-in-law (his wife being abroad on business.) They were minding their own business after dinner and drinks when a white van crashed and Richard ran toward it to help – I imagine when three men wielding very serious weapons leapt out he realised he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and decided to make himself scarce. He can’t remember; possibly not a bad thing.

He does vaguely recall sitting on the pavement, thinking he’d been punched and wondering where all the blood that was pooling underneath him was coming from – and why he couldn’t breathe. When he heard shots, he thought his end had come, but a soldier on leave had other ideas, pushed him down and lay on top of him to stop profuse bleeding from stab wounds that had penetrated spleen, diaphragm and lung; interesting but effective technique that they don’t actually teach at med school. And because of that soldier’s quick thinking, and the fact that he is super-fit, Richard will make a full recovery – physically at least.

Two days after that, I heard that my long-ago American friend James (Jim) Angel had died from Lewy Body dementia, a multisystem disease which, like all forms of dementia, cruelly turns the sufferer into an empty shell, a shadow of their former self. I knew that he had been diagnosed and was receiving treatment in a specialist care facility in Portland, Oregon – last Christmas a mutual friend sent me a photo of a frail, grey-haired old man looking blankly at Santa. He wasn’t much older than me. But let me tell you about the Jim I knew and adored (in a purely platonic way!):

He was a peace-loving draft dodger (Vietnam – can’t argue with him there), living in London with his first wife (also American and a trainee nurse), working at BA Heathrow as an aeronautical scientist.

About my height (5’ 9”), he wasn’t much less around his girth and had a Brian Blessed-type voice and laugh, though cuter because of the accent – especially when he called everyone ‘shit bag’ as a term of affection. Bearded with a mass of dark, curly long hair and always dressed like a scruffy hippy, his larger than life personality belied a pretty grim childhood; his father was an alcoholic and aged eleven, Jim discovered his mum’s body in the garage of their home after she’d shot herself. One can only imagine …

We didn’t share a taste in music – he Captain Beefheart, me far more prosaic stuff, but we did go to a lot of gigs, including Pink Floyd and Elton John, which he cringed all the way through. After his wife left him, he returned to the US and while I was living in Montreal, I flew to California and spent most of one summer there. It was a brilliant time – he bought a rust bucket car for touring and we camped in forests and on beaches (so cold, even in CA!), watching seals in the Pacific Ocean and collecting beautiful driftwood, which he thought he might turn into ‘something real neat’ when he got time. We also went skinny-dipping in creeks – my first and last time, as it’s me that creeks now!

The Chinese Exhibition was on in San Francisco and we queued for hours from dawn to see it – passing the time shivering and watching the mist roll from the hills to engulf the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, listening to eerie foghorns. When the time came for my return flight, I didn’t know I’d never see him in the flesh again, although we did communicate in other ways, but not for some years now. Fly high, Jim Angel – you are free.

After living with it at close-ish quarters for more than a decade, dementia has touched me (actually, more like hit me over the head with an iron bar!) more than usual during June, after my mother was taken to hospital following an early morning fall – although couldn’t remember what happened because she, like my father, suffers from the vascular form. So, off I went to sit on trains for four hours in order to imitate Florrie Nightingale on her less impressive days. Neither of my parents have any short term memory whatsoever and refuse to leave the house – they have a team of visiting carers to ensure they are fed, watered, clean and safe, most of whom are very good, a few not so much. Lately, my father spends all his time in bed and when he’s not sleeping, he’s barking orders through the house – he seems to have regressed to childhood, when the household retained several servants. Fortunately, the OH was able to base himself in Twickenham for the nine, very long, days that I spent chez folks, disappearing to Starbucks or the library to use the internet when required. Don’t tell him, but without his company and the very late dinners we shared in the garden when all was quiet, I would have quickly overtaken certifiably insane. My ears are worn out from conversations with medics and bods from all manner of agencies, many of whom contradict the others. Mum is home and all is quiet on the western front again – for how long, your guess is as good as mine.

In 2012, along with over three thousand other hopefuls, I submitted a radio drama script to the BBC Writers’ Room hoping to have it accepted for production.

My masterpiece made it through three weedings and made the final thirty, before it fell flat on its face at the final hurdle. I’ll leave you with an excerpt – Jack and Joyce are an elderly couple with dementia, and Glenda their long-suffering daughter.

Toodles

NP

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SCENE ONE:

INT: EARLY MORNING. KITCHEN. A WOMAN (JOYCE) IS HUMMING TUNELESSLY, WAITING FOR A KETTLE TO BOIL.

SFX: KETTLE. DISTANT TAPPING ON GLASS.

MALE (JACK) CALLING JOYCE’S NAME THROUGH GLASS.

JOYCE:                                           (REGISTERING) What on earth…? (LOUDER)

What are you doing out there, Jack? I’m making tea.

JACK:                                                   (OFF, MUFFLED THROUGH GLASS) I seem to have locked myself out, Majesty.

JOYCE:                                                You old fool. (HUFFING) Well where are the keys?

JACK:                                                   (OFF) I don’t know.

JOYCE:                                                Have you tried your dressing gown pocket?

JACK:                                                   (OFF) Erm…I’m not sure, I don’t remember.

JOYCE:                                                Well, have a look!

                                                                SFX: KEYS RATTLING THROUGH GLASS. THEN A KEY TURNING IN THE LOCK AND A DOOR OPENING.

JACK:                                                   I found them (LAUGHS) they were in my pocket all the time.

JOYCE:                                                What were you doing out in the garden anyway – you’ll catch a cold.

JACK:                                                   I went out to do something, but now I can’t remember what. Can I have a naughty, to warm me up? I don’t feel very well.

JOYCE:                                                I think I put the kettle on to make tea.

JACK:                                                   (LITTLE BOY SNIGGER) I’d rather have a naughty.

JOYCE:                                                Or did I make a pot of tea?

JACK:                                                   Is it Thursday today, Joyce?

JOYCE:                                                I don’t know – have a look at the paper.

JACK:                                                   Where is it?

JOYCE:                                                I don’t know. Shall I make tea?

JACK:                                                   Good idea, Majesty.

                                                                SFX: JOYCE OPENS THE FRIDGE. GLASS MILK BOTTLES CHINK.

JOYCE:                                                Oh dear; we do seem to have a lot of milk. Perhaps I should write a note for the milkman.

JACK:                                                   Why?

JOYCE:                                                No, you’re right – we’ll use it up, I expect. Or I’ll end up throwing it away…maybe I’ll put a note out next week.

JACK:                                                   What day is it today, Majesty?

JOYCE:                                                I don’t know – is it Friday? I’m not sure… No, it can’t be Friday because the dustmen haven’t been. Or at least I didn’t hear them.

JACK:                                                   Do the dustmen usually come on Friday?

JOYCE:                                                Yes, except over Christmas and Easter – then you never know when they’ll turn up. (TUTS) Disgraceful, when we pay so much in rates, or whatever they call them now.

JACK:                                                   Did we put the rubbish out?

JOYCE:                                                Oh yes, I expect so. That doesn’t mean to say they’ll collect it though. They don’t always – probably because you didn’t give them a big tip at Christmas.

JACK:                                                   Is it time for a naughty yet? It’s for medicinal purposes; I don’t feel very well at all. I think maybe I should have stayed in bed.

JOYCE:                                                I wonder if the dustmen have been…or if we’ll have to wait until next week…

                                                                PAUSE FOR A MOMENT.

JACK:                                                   Do you remember my friend Ralph Windsor?

JOYCE:                                                Of course I do, Jack – he was your Best Man… and he had that nice wife from Scotland.

JACK:                                                   Scotland? I don’t remember that. Have we had breakfast yet?

JOYCE:                                                I’m not sure. Would you like some toast? I think we’ve got some bread left.

JACK:                                                   I fancy fish and chips…could we have fish and chips? Do you fancy fish and chips, Majesty?

JOYCE:                                                Someone has to go out and buy fish and chips and we’re not dressed. Anyway, I’m not sure if they’re open yet; shall I do some toast?

JACK:                                                   Okay, yes please. With marmalade…no, make it honey. I like honey, don’t you? And if I could have a naughty with it, that would be very nice.

JOYCE:                                                Now, did I make the tea? Or have we drunk it already?

                                                                PAUSE FOR A MOMENT.

JACK:                                                   My friend Ralph Windsor was a jolly nice chap…very clever. Is he dead, Joyce?

JOYCE:                                                I think so. Shall I put the kettle on?

JACK:                                                   Why did he die?

JOYCE:                                                I don’t know.

JACK:                                                   Very clever boy, old Ralphie. I met him when we were seven – he’d dug a hole in the woods and when he went home for lunch I played in it. He came back and we started fighting over whose hole it was. (LAUGHS) Is he dead, now?

JOYCE:                                                Probably – I don’t think we’ve seen him for quite a while. Wasn’t his wife from Scotland?

JACK:                                                   Was she? Is she dead now? Do you know, I must be getting old because I can’t remember.

JOYCE:                                                I think she went back to Scotland…his wife. I forget her name.

                                                                SFX: TELEPHONE RINGS OFF IN THE HALLWAY, CONTINUING.

JACK:                                                   Is that someone at the door, Joyce?

JOYCE:                                                No, of course not – it’s the phone.

JACK:                                                   Who is it?

JOYCE:                                                How do I know?

PAUSE FOR A MOMENT

JACK:                                                   Aren’t you going to answer it, Joyce – I don’t feel at all well. I may have to go back to bed.

JOYCE:                                                (SIGHS) Looks like I’ll have to – I wonder who it is.

JACK:                                                   Poor old Ralphie…such a nice chap – and clever with it too. He had a very important job in the war – I remember he was on several convoys that were attacked by U-boats… (BEAT) Ralph’s father was a Regimental Sergeant Major, then a Yeoman of the Guard at the Tower – he looked magnificent when he was all dressed up in his uniform. A real gentleman…

                                                                THE PHONE STOPS RINGING.

JOYCE:                                                They’ve hung up! They didn’t wait very long…no patience at all some people…Never mind – if it’s important they’ll ring back next week.

JACK:                                                   That’s what my dear old mum used to say. I think it was her, anyway.

JOYCE:                                                There was nothing ‘dear’ about your mother – she didn’t think I was good enough to marry into her precious family…Huh! Would you like a cup of tea? I could put the kettle on.

JACK:                                                   Yes please, Majesty – unless I could have a naughty instead? I feel a bit rough – I think I should go back to bed.

JOYCE:                                                Well go back to bed, if you really think you should. I’ll make tea.

JACK:                                                   I remember meeting Ralph’s dad on the station once – he was all dressed up in his regalia. Magnificent – I felt I should salute him. Pucker gentleman, he was.

JOYCE:                                                What did you have for breakfast?

JACK:                                                   Damned if I can remember. (BEAT) Is it Monday today?

JOYCE:                                                I expect so. (BEAT) What do you fancy for lunch? (BEAT) I really must get my hair cut – I’ll make an appointment next week. (BEAT) I think I’ll get a shower now.

SCENE TWO:

INT: MID-MORNING. JOYCE HAS GONE TO ANSWER THE FRONT DOOR.

JOYCE:                                                (FROSTILY) Oh hello; it’s you, Glenda. I wasn’t expecting you – is it Saturday today?

GLENDA:                                            Yes, it’s Saturday. I tried ringing earlier – but there was no reply.

JOYCE:                                                Oh, I was probably out shopping.

GLENDA:                                            (VO) Pull the other one – you haven’t been out shopping since Elvis was breathing. (TO JOYCE) Never mind, I’m here now – shall I put the kettle on?

JOYCE:                                                What a good idea, I fancy a cup of tea. So, how are the girls? We haven’t seen them for a very long while.

GLENDA:                                            (TO JOYCE) Chloe was here in the week, Mum. She made you a nice chicken casserole. (VO) Stop wasting your breath. (TO JOYCE) They are all fine, thanks, except Claire’s a bit worried about these ‘A’ level exams she’s got coming up. If she doesn’t get the grades, she won’t get into her first choice of university so she’s panicking a bit.

JOYCE:                                                That’s nice dear – just hang your jacket on the banister and we’ll go on through to the kitchen.

SFX: COAT BEING FLUNG OVER WOOD, CARRIER BAGS RUSTLING.

JOYCE:                                                Ooh – is that something for me?

GLENDA:                                            I picked up a few bits and pieces on my way here – we’ll make up a proper shopping list in a minute, while we’re having tea. Where’s Dad?

JOYCE:                                                Oh…um…he’s around somewhere. Or maybe he went shopping.

JACK:                                                   (OFF) Is that you Glennie? I’m just up here getting dressed. I haven’t been feeling too well…

***

Another corking blog. Thanks Nell- especially for taking the time to write this wonderful piece when you’ve had such a testing month!

Great script!! You should resubmit it.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx


Writer’s Block and Champagne

One of the main characters in my Another Cup of… series is a writer called Kit Lambert. When we first met Kit in Another Cup of Coffee, she was making a name for herself by writing erotica. As her career progressed Kit moved into contemporary fiction, and now she has a novel publishing contract, with all the pressures of having to produce work to tight deadlines upon her.

Another Glass Of Champagne

In the final novel of the series, Another Glass of Champagne, Kit, mum of twins, and wife to bookshop owner Phil, suddenly finds herself unable to write at all, but he can’t understand why. Surely writer’s block is something that can be easily shaken off- or is just a myth invented by those who can’t be bothered to write today…or is it?

Not even sitting at her usual table in the corner of Pickwicks Coffee House, (run by her friend Peggy) is helping the words become unstuck…

writers block

Extract

When she got back, Kit found Peggy looking thoughtful, ‘Why have you closed your work down, honey? I usually steal a read of your latest work in progress when I think you’re not looking.’ ‘I haven’t got much done today.’

Kit mumbled. ‘It’s been a mulling things over sort of a day.’ Changing the subject, she said, ‘Scott says there are some sandwiches ready for your lunch when Megan comes back through.’

‘Good, I’m starving.’

‘Are you and Megan managing alright with only two of you on the serving team? It’s already busy, but by July it’s going to be packed between eleven and two.’

‘Actually, Scott and I were talking about that over the weekend. Would your Helena fancy giving us a hand and earning some money before she heads off to university? Where is she going again?’ Flinching slightly, and hoping Peggy hadn’t noticed, Kit said, ‘She’s aiming for Bath to do Chemistry, and Thomas’s hoping to be off to Exeter. Assuming they get their grades, that is.’

‘Of course they will. What’s Thomas going to study?’

‘History.’

‘Sounds good. So, do you think Helena will want the job? It would save me a lot of bother with adverts and stuff.’

Kit nodded. She knew exactly how much time it took to go through interviews and training staff in this place, so someone who was already familiar with Pickwicks layout would be a real advantage to Peggy. ‘I’ll ask her. Helena’s bank balance could certainly do with a top-up. Goodness knows it’s time she stood on her own two feet financially.’

Megan came back into the café and Peggy got up to go and have her lunch before another influx of customers forced her to forego her only real break of the day. As an afterthought, she turned back to Kit. ‘If you’d rather your daughter wasn’t here during the day, just say. I mean, this is your office after all!’

‘I don’t mind at all. I’ll ask her this evening, assuming she comes home She seems to live at her mates’ houses these days.’

‘Making the most of seeing her friends before she heads west, I suppose.’

Peggy waved as she disappeared into the kitchen, to what Kit hoped wasn’t a tuna sandwich, before she could see the tell-tale glint of tears fighting to form at the corner of her eyes. Cross with herself for being so emotional, Kit looked at her screen. Peggy had opened a new document and typed the words You can talk to me, you know. Love Peggy xx across the top of the page.

Kit should have known that she couldn’t hide anything from Peggy. The manageress knew her habits better than anyone, having been host to them for the past decade or so. Kit didn’t even want to guess how many cups of coffee, scones, and slices of toast she’d consumed at that table in that time. Just the thought of the amount of butter she’d spread over her early morning snacks was enough to make her feel as though her hips were expanding right there on the seat.

Making her mind up to talk to Peggy soon, she picked up her mobile and sent Helena a text, telling her about the possible employment opportunity at Pickwicks. Kit wasn’t sure if she did actually want Helena around all day while she was writing. But then, she thought, I’m not exactly writing now, am I…

***

You may be thinking that Kit sounds like a real writer you’ve come across- and you’d be right. Kit and I are pretty much the same person- but with huge exaggerations into fiction of course!! For a start, I do not have twins!

The reason behind Kit’s writers block is very personal to me. I’m not going to tell you why she is suffering – it would ruin the story! However, I will say that my motive for giving Kit the problem in question was a pre-emptive strike. Perhaps it was even therapy – because I knew that I was about to go through a similar experience to Kit myself. And now- today – I can feel myself on the edge of it. (Sorry I can’t tell you what ‘it’ is, but it really would ruin things for you as a reader.) I thought that if I tackled the issue on paper via a pretend me first, it wouldn’t be so bad in reality.

Only time will tell whether my plan will work. My writing isn’t blocked at the moment- I am eating a hell of a lot of cake though…

If you want to discover if Kit manages to get to the root of her own word block, and see what else the Pickwick’s crew are up to, then you can buy Another Glass of Champagne from all good bookshops and eBook retailers, including-

http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Another+Glass+of+Champagne+Jenny+Kane

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss/188-7813436-7626710?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Another+Glass+of+Champagne+Jenny+Kane

***

Happy reading,

Jenny xx


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