The Perfect Blend: Coffee and Kane


Currently Browsing: Jenny Kane

Abi’s House: Time for a warming read

My Cornish novel, Abi’s House, is the perfect to cheer up those dull weather days!!

Abi's House_edited-1

And if you’re quick- you have time to read it before its sequel, Abi’s Neighbour, comes out on the 4th of May!

Here’s a reminder of the Abi’s House blurb!!

Newly widowed at barely thirty, Abi Carter is desperate to escape the Stepford Wives-style life that Luke, her late husband, had been so keen for her to live.

Abi decides to fulfil a lifelong dream. As a child on holiday in a Cornwall as a child she fell in love with a cottage – the prophetically named Abbey’s House. Now she is going to see if she can find the place again, relive the happy memories … maybe even buy a place of her own nearby?

On impulse Abi sets off to Cornwall, where a chance meeting in a village pub brings new friends Beth and Max into her life. Beth, like Abi, has a life-changing decision to make. Max, Beth’s best mate, is new to the village. He soon helps Abi track down the house of her dreams … but things aren’t quite that simple. There’s the complicated life Abi left behind, including her late husband’s brother, Simon – a man with more than friendship on his mind … Will Abi’s house remain a dream, or will the bricks and mortar become a reality?

Check this out this video about Abi’s House!!-  YouTube link https://youtu.be/VAumWAqsp58

You can buy Abi’s House here- http://www.accentpress.co.uk/Book/12915/Abis-House– as well as here…

Kindle

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Abis-House-Jenny-Kane-ebook/dp/B00UVPPWO8/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1426711175&sr=1-1&keywords=Abi%27s+House+Jenny+Kane

http://www.amazon.com/Abis-House-Jenny-Kane-ebook/dp/B00UVPPWO8/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1426711253&sr=1-2&keywords=Abi%27s+House+Jenny+Kane

Paperback

http://www.amazon.com/Abis-House-Jenny-Kane/dp/1783753285/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1426711253&sr=1-1&keywords=Abi%27s+House+Jenny+Kane

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Abis-House-Jenny-Kane/dp/1783753285/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1426711343&sr=1-1&keywords=Abi%27s+House+Jenny+Kane

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Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

 


Interview with Jennifer Macaire

I’m delighted to welcome Jennifer Macaire to my place today for coffee and chatter. Why not grab yourself a soothing beverage and some cake, and come and join us? Then you can read the fabulous book extract at the bottom of this page…

Hi Jenny, thank you for having me as a guest blogger! I’m here to talk about my upcoming book “The Road to Alexander”, the first in a series about a time traveller who is sent back to interview Alexander the Great. He mistakes her for Persephone, goddess of the dead, and kidnaps her, stranding her in his time.

What inspired you to write your book?

It started out as a short story – I had been writing and selling short stories to magazines, and I just had an idea of a sort of alternate history short story where Alexander the Great is never bitten by the mosquito that caused his fatal malaria. I wrote it from the viewpoint of a woman time-traveler/journalist, but when I came to the part where she slaps the mosquito away…I just kept going. In fact, I kept going for seven novels which became the Time for Alexander series. In the first book, The Road to Alexander, I even left the part about the mosquito in and you can catch it if you’re paying attention, although it’s no longer part of the plot! I ended up shifting everything around, because he dies in Babylon and I needed to introduce the time-traveling character at the beginning of his great adventure.

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

I used Alexander the Great as the hero, but I took a lot of liberties. In fact, I used my husband’s character to flesh out the great hero (please don’t tell my husband, he’s quite conceited enough as it is!) I had a lot of fun imagining how my husband would react to such-and-such situation, and I have to admit he did really well. It helps that he’s a high goal polo player, so a fantastic rider. He also loves to travel, is charismatic, and speaks several languages fluently. But I also tried to stay true to history’s Alexander, and so (unlike my husband) he has terrible flashes of temper, is bi-sexual, and is polygamous.

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

I researched extensively. I used several books on Alexander the Great, including “In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great”, but Michael Woods, which was produced by the BBC. It was extremely helpful, because the author literally took the path Alexander’s army took across Persia and Bactria, and so was indispensable for calculating how long it took to get from one place to another. More research was done on the army, how it moved, who was in it, and how Alexander fought his battles. Still more was for daily rituals, things like food, medicine, clothes, money, toothpaste, and religious ceremonies. I researched constantly – every time I had a question I’d either write to an expert or hit the library and search out books. I’m not big on Internet research, too hard to verify facts, but I did use the Internet to put myself in touch with authors and historians. Everyone was very helpful, and I learned a great deal about ancient Greece and Rome!

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

I am a plotter and use outlines. I’ve written a couple books just “going with the flow”, but they took forever to finish because I kept getting distracted.  I much prefer a chapter by chapter outline.

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

My husband, of course, and then it would be fun to be stranded with the Swiss family Robinson couple – because, did you ever see their tree-house in Disneyland? It’s amazing.

If I had to be stranded on an island, it would have to be with someone who could build a really luxurious shelter, find food, and be easy to get along with. My husband is fun to be with, but he can’t build a lean-to – he’s hopeless with a hammer and nails!

Links:

The Road to Alexander: https://authorjennifermacaire.wordpress.com/category/tme-for-alexander-series/

Tree house in Disneyland: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xlsW6WQkYI

Author site: https://authorjennifermacaire.wordpress.com/

Blog: https://jennifermacaire.wordpress.com/

***

Bio: Jennifer Macaire lives in France with her husband, three children, & various dogs & horses. She loves cooking, eating French chocolate, growing herbs and flowering plants on her balcony, and playing golf. She grew up in upstate New York, Samoa, and the Virgin Islands. She graduated from St. Peter and Paul high school in St. Thomas and moved to NYC where she modelled for five years for Elite. She went to France and met her husband at the polo club. All that is true. But she mostly likes to make up stories.

You can see her books at her author site, and read her blog here.

***

Excerpt:

Alexander tilted his head. “There’s something so strange about you,” he said, and he sounded almost sad.

I looked at him and wished that I could tell him everything. But I knew that if I changed the course of history, the people at the Time-Travel Institute would activate their infernal machine and erase me from time, as easily as Alexander was taking out the small villages on his map with the poke of a stick. I would cease to be. I didn’t want that to happen.

Marrying Alexander might change a few things, but nothing radical. Alexander had had numerous wives; supposedly he married one woman in every city he conquered. No one knows for sure how many he married. Officially, there were Roxanne and Darius’s daughter. However, marriages at the time were not like our marriages. They weren’t written contracts. They were often, as he’d said, politics. His heirs would be the boys or girls he cared to claim. Alexander had been born to his father’s concubine.

I wasn’t worried about suddenly appearing in the history books. The written word was rare. I was in an aural society, where speaking was more important than writing; where people chose what they said with care. Pledges were made orally, and they held as much power as a document would centuries later. When someone asked a question, he listened carefully to the answer because survival could depend on what was said. Stories were told, but lies were few. People in this time picked up every nuance in speech. When they talked, it was to communicate. They would gather and discuss religion and philosophy, and the latest way to make purple dye. Everything interested them. They had come to a point in history where the world was changing and people were traveling more than ever. New ideas were coming from the four corners of the known world, and all ideas were considered. Everyone embraced everyone else’s notions. They were new, different, and amusing. It was a time of expansion and people were ready.

Alexander’s army had been carefully chosen. As a soldier, he wanted fighting men. However, as a keen politician, he wanted men who would impress people in other lands. He wanted his men to be educated, so he would often talk to them about the things he’d learned from Aristotle. And the men listened. Most were young men eager for travel and change, open-minded and curious. They remembered his words. Afterward, when they were left behind in a garrison town, either because they had been wounded or had been married to a local girl, they continued Alexander’s mission. They repeated everything he’d told him, and people listened and told their families and friends. So, much faster than you would expect, Greek civilization swept across Asia.

With Alexander’s army were doctors, biologists, priests, merchants, historians, minstrels, actors, whores, soldiers’ wives, children, and diplomats. And then there was myself.

I was an only child of elderly parents; a freak accident that my mother, well into menopause, could never explain. She found she was pregnant when it was too late to do anything about it, and she resigned herself to being a mother at an age when most women are grandmothers.

To say I was an embarrassment would be an understatement. My mother hardly dared tell her closest friends. I believe most people thought I was the cook’s daughter. When I was old enough to be toilet-trained, I was shipped off to boarding school. I came home for vacations and wandered around our huge, empty house alone. I had no friends in the neighborhood, and my schoolmates were never allowed to visit. Summers were the worst. Our house was the biggest one in the village, my parents were the richest people, and the other children hated me. My mother had our chauffeur drive me to the country club for my lessons every day. I had swimming lessons, golf lessons, riding lessons, and tennis lessons. At home, there were piano lessons, and I was tutored in French and Italian. Everywhere I went I was alone, except for my various tutors and our ancient chauffeur, whose only attempt at conversation was to ask me every day if “Mademoiselle was well”.

My father died of old age when I was ten. I dressed in black and paraded down the street behind the hearse to the cemetery. It was the first time I’d ever walked through the village. I walked behind the hearse, alone. My elderly mother rode in the car. I must have looked ridiculous, but the people lined up along the streets nodded sympathetically to me. I remember seeing them and wondered where the parade was. When I realized I was the parade, I was glad of the black veil hiding my face.

At the cemetery, my mother and I stood in front of a huge crowd of mourners. I didn’t cry. I had already learned to smother my feelings. The mourners walked back to the house where a huge banquet was set up on the lawn. It was mid-July, and the whole atmosphere was like a garden party. Except for the black clothes, you would have thought it was a fiesta.

After my father’s death, my mother took a bit more interest in me. It was the sort of interest one takes in a rough gemstone. She decided to polish me and put me in the best setting she could find. That’s how, when I was only sixteen years old, I found myself married to a French Baron.

Married. I had been standing still, thinking about all this, while Alexander watched me. He had stopped poking holes in the map and his eyes had their jaguar look.

I blushed. “I’m sorry, did you say something?”

He shook his head. “No, but some day you’ll tell me about it. You’re face is thawing, my Ice Queen. You are turning into a human being.”

***

Many thanks Jennifer- great interview and fabulous taster…

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx


The Importance of Instant Impact

There are many rules in the construction of good story. One of the most important is instant impact- the art of capturing the attention of your readers/potential readers as quickly as possible.

Take your lead from the balladeers and the storytellers of history. If they didn’t impress the audience who gathered to hear their tales by the end of the second line they’d uttered, then they wouldn’t earn enough money to eat that night.

For the modern writer this lesson is a good one. There are so many books in the world that, if you don’t take a firm grip of your reader’s imagination within the first two or three paragraphs (if not sentences), then the chances of you selling your work is automatically harder. If not impossible. Editors and agents read hundreds of first paragraphs each month. If you don’t engage them straight away they won’t read more than a few pages. Consequently, every single word you have written after page four is in danger of being nothing but a waste of time.

Here are a few ways to create instant impact to grab that elusive audience- and hopefully keep them grabbed!

–          Start with some powerful first line dialogue. Something that makes you want to know what follows, and why what is being said, is being said. Such as…

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” – (Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier)

–          Add immediate tension by starting in the thick of the action. Such as…

Dr Clouston could barely keep himself on the seat. The wheels of his carriage kept cracking over humps and puddles, breaking the night’s silence as they rode frantically towards Dundee.  –  (The Strings Murder, Oscar de Muriel)

–          Build a scene on paper that draws the reader in so much, that they want to be there- or that leaves them feeling relieved that they aren’t.  Such as…

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.” – (A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens)

–          Start with a sentence that makes sense- but makes the reader need to keep going to find out what on earth is going on. Such as…

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” – (1984, George Orwell)

–          Begin with a recollection. A situation that your novel will later explain. Such as…

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” – (One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez)

In an age of instant technology and an immediate availability of information, people are used to instant gratification- so the faster you engage your readers mind, the better!

Happy writing,

Jenny x

 

 

 

 


Excuse Me While I Pinch Myself …

I’m delighted to welcome April Hardy back to my place today to help celebrate the launch of her new novel!

Over to you April…

Excuse Me While I Pinch Myself … 

Hi Jenny, thanks so much for letting me share my excitement with your readers. I’ll try not to waffle on too much and bore them all away!

This time last year I was doing the edits on Sitting Pretty, which was to be my début novel. I was completely new to the whole editing process and, as I’m a 100% technophobe, must have driven my poor editor nuts with my silly questions! Whilst working on it I couldn’t help daydreaming about what it would be like to be a published author.

Fast-forward a year and here I am, Friday 3rd March 2017, not only doing my first ever author session at one of the biggest and best literary festivals there is, but launching my second novel at it too. It really is a case of Excuse me while I pinch myself!

The theme of this year’s Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is “Journeys”, and my own journey to this point started in January 2011, when my husband and I moved back to Dubai from Abu Dhabi. I’d been writing since 2008 – secretly at first, even my husband didn’t know – and, with no guidance or feedback because I wasn’t sharing my work with anyone, getting nowhere. And who knows how long that might have carried on if I hadn’t gone into Ibn Battuta, my new nearest shopping mall, by the entrance which took me past a huge branch of Magrudy’s bookshop having a closing down sale. I was sad to see another bookshop close, but that didn’t stop me buying so many books I needed a supermarket trolley to get them to the taxi rank. It was a mix of novels and writers’ reference books. I opened  a random page of the first one I picked up and my eye was immediately drawn to an article on Winchester Writers’ Conference.

Well, I’m from Southampton, and have family in Winchester, so it felt like I was meant to go. I had a fabulous week and met some wonderful writers, including  amazing Ali Spencer and Adrienne Dines, who told me about the Romantic Novelists’ Association and advised me to join its New Writers’ Scheme

It turned out there was another RNA member living in Dubai at the time, lovely Liz Fenwick, who kindly took me under her wing over many cups of tea in bookshop coffee shops. It was Liz who told me about the Emirates Lit Fest and so in 2012 I went  to my first one, rushing from session to session like an excited puppy, absorbing as much writerly wisdom as possible. I even collared agent, Luigi Bonomi in one of the corridors to ask his advice on what I was working on at the time. In 2013’s festival I entered the Montegrappa Fiction Prize. I didn’t get anywhere, but three new friends, Annabel Kantaria, Rachel Hamilton and Linda McConnell,  came first, second and third.

But 2014 was lucky for me. Armed with the opening pages of two romantic comedies, Kind Hearts & Coriander and Hazard at The Nineteenth, I booked two Quick Pitch sessions with Luigi Bonomi. I also entered both in the festival’s Literary Idol competition. Cutting a long story short, Luigi liked Kind Hearts and we arranged a meeting which ultimately led to my being signed by his agency. And, championed by Judy Finnigan, Hazard at The Nineteenth won Literary Idol. I couldn’t stop grinning for a week. All I had to do now was finish writing them!

As you can imagine, 2014/15 flew by in a flurry of writing and rewriting, and the excitement went up a further notch when, in August 2015, I was signed up by Accent Press. The subject of one day being an Emirates Lit Fest author myself was broached – ELF and its sister organisation, Dubai International Writers’ Centre are very supportive of the family of locally based authors they’ve helped nurture over the last nine years.

The 2016 Lit Fest saw me, like one of the Bisto Kids, nose pressed against the glass, thinking “This time next year … This time next year …” But there was still plenty to do before then. Sitting Pretty had to be edited and, when it came out we had a launch in London and another in Dubai, which might seem a tad greedy but we had so much fun! And I like to think I was better prepared when it came time to editing Kind Hearts ready for e-book publication in January.

 

And here we are, Friday 3rd March 2017. A very important point in my writing journey. Today I’m not a Bisto Kid. Today I get to be one of the authors up on the platform. Today I get to sit behind one of the tables in the book signing area, and see not just the one I expected, but two of my books on sale on the bookshop area. Oh, and the bookshop  in question? Magrudy’s! Magnificent Magrudy’s! I love that shop!

Bio

April Hardy grew up on the outskirts of the New Forest. After leaving drama school, her varied career has included touring pantomimes, children’s theatre and a summer season in Llandudno as a Butlins  red coat. All interspersed with much waitressing and working in hotel kitchens!

After moving to Greece, she spent many years as a dancer, then choreographer, and did a 7-month stint on a Greek cruise ship before working for a cake designer and training as a pastry chef in a Swiss hotel school in Athens. Whilst living there, she helped out at a local animal sanctuary.

Relocating to the UAE with her husband and their deaf, arthritic cat, she has lived in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, where she is delighted to have found herself so unemployable that she’s had plenty of time to devote to writing her romantic comedies!

At the 2014 Emirates Lit Fest she won the inaugural Literary Idol competition with the opening page of Hazard at The Nineteenth. She also had a successful Quick Pitch session, showing Kind Hearts & Coriander to agent, Luigi Bonomi, whose agency, LBA Books went on to sign her up.

In 2015, she signed a 3-book deal with UK publisher, Accent Press. Sitting Pretty was her début New Forest rom-com. Kind Hearts & Coriander has just been published and Hazard at The Nineteenth is due out later this year.

***

Thanks April. Many congratulations on Kind Hearts. (You didn’t bore a single person away!)

Happy reading,

Jenny x


Goodbye February: Nell Peters’ end of month round up

Where did February go? Have you got it? I could have sworn we were only halfway through the month…

Still… the plus side of the days dashing by is that it’s time for Nell Peters to pop along with her end of month round up. It’s another cracker…

Hello! Let’s start with a straw poll – hands up all those being sued by their postman, for back/shoulder injuries sustained while delivering your many sacks full of Valentine cards … Nope, me neither.

The end of February means we can take a short breather from family (ergo horribly expensive) birthdays – ten between 24/12 and 20/2. TEN! So far this year we have had two first birthdays, two ninetieths and one fortieth amongst the more run of the mill anniversaries, including two daughters-in-law who were both born on 11th January.

What are the chances? I don’t know, but it should most definitely not be allowed! During March, there are just two card-only relative birthdays, in April three close family celebrations – all lulling us into a false sense of security before May hits the bank balance right between the eyes once more. Two sons, a grandson and a niece all chose to turn up during the ‘merry’ month (although not so merry for us!), plus a whole array of other family and friends. Please remember to send food parcels and wine at that time.

A bit of a grasshopper post this month, going boing, boing, boing all over the place – so listen carefully, I will say this only once. Speaking of which, about a hundred years ago, I used to know Stuart H-C, brother of the actress (Kirsten H-C) who played that part in Allo, Allo – I wonder what he’s doing now … probably not being a grasshopper, or even going boing. He never did strike me as much of a boinger.

28th February has been a musical day over the centuries: in1728 George Frideric Handel‘s opera, Siroe, re di Persia (Siroe, King of Persia – now Iran) premiered in London, followed ninety-one years later by the first performance in Vienna of Franz Schubert‘s song, Schäfers Klageleid (Shepherd Song Suit – perhaps something gets lost in Google translation? Suite I could understand, but suit?) Poor old Franz was only thirty-one when he died (I’ve got jeans older than that!), by which time he had composed more than six hundred pieces; that’s an awful lot of bum notes and treble clefs. Also in Vienna, in 1828, Franz Grillparzer’s Ein Treuer Diener (A Faithful Servant) was first performed, but in1862 Charles Gounod bucked the trend and chose gay (can you still say that?) Paris to unleash his Grand Opera La Reine de Saba (The Queen of Sheba) upon the world. Slipping ever so slightly downmarket, the first American vaudeville theatre opened in Boston, Massachusetts in 1883.

Sticking to a musical theme for a moment, now your toes are tapping and you are discreetly la-la-ing, an awful lot of composers have been born on 28th February – step forward and take a bow Kaspar Förster (1616); Justin Morgan (1747); Juliusz Zarebski (1854); Gustave Adolph Kerker (1857); Viliam Figus (1875); John Alden Carpenter (1876); Sergei Bortkiewicz (1877); Artur Kapp (1878); Richard Heinrich Stein (1882); Roman Maciejewski (1910); Vladimir Sommer (1921); and sharing a date of birth, we have Seymour Shifrin and Stanley Glasser in 1926. Charles Bernstein rocked up in 1943, Stephen Chatman in 1950, with William Finn spoiling his poor mother’s day two years later, and Junya Nakano bringing up the rear in 1971. A cast of thousands – and a few strong candidates for this month’s weirdo name competition. I wonder if Artur Kapp has any remote connection to Andy Capp? I’m thinking anglicised name … no, perhaps not. Forget I spoke.

On the world stage, this day in 1933 Adolf Hitler banned the German Communist Party (KPD), and not to be outdone, German President Paul von Hindenburg abolished free expression of opinion (except his own, I expect) – the slippery slope to dictatorship and WWII. But two years before war was declared, came the Hindenburg Disaster – the airship LZ (Led Zeppelin; not the rock band) 129, which was presumably named after the president who had died in 1934 while still in office, came a right royal cropper. I don’t know about you, but the thought of trusting my luck to an inflated pillow case with an engine attached doesn’t appeal too much.

The Hindenburg left Frankfurt on the evening of May 3, 1937, on the first of ten round trips between Europe and the US scheduled for its second year of commercial service – American Airlines had contracted the operators to shuttle passengers from Naval Air Station Lakehurst to Newark for connections with conventional air flights. Except for strong headwinds massively slowing progress, the Atlantic crossing was unremarkable, until the Hindenburg attempted an early-evening landing at Lakehurst on May 6. Although carrying only half its full capacity of passengers (thirty-six of seventy) and sixty-one crew of which twenty-one were trainees on the outward flight, the return flight was fully booked. Many of the passengers with tickets to Germany were planning to attend the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in London the following week – choosing to travel in comfort and style, much like an ocean liner only quicker.

As the pilot tried to dock, the Hindenburg caught fire and quickly became engulfed in flames. It had a cotton skin covered with a finish known as ‘dope’ – no, not the recreational drug or idiot person, but a plasticised lacquer that provides stiffness, protection, and a lightweight, airtight seal to woven fabrics. In its liquid forms, dope is highly flammable, but the flammability of dry dope depends upon its base constituents. One hypothesis for the cause of the accident was that when the mooring line touched the ground, a resulting spark could have ignited the dope in the skin – goodnight Vienna (which is getting a pretty good airing in this blog). Other theories favoured sabotage, even naming the crew member they held responsible, but since he’d died in the fire, the poor chap couldn’t defend himself.

Best of all, it was suggested that Adolf Hitler ordered the Hindenburg to be destroyed in retaliation for Hugo Eckener’s (former head of the Zeppelin company) anti-Nazi opinions. Whatever the cause, thirteen passengers and twenty-two air crew died, plus one ground crewman – but if you see the speed with which the craft burned, it’s nothing short of a miracle that anyone walked away.

Let’s cheer up! On this day in 2016, the 88th Academy Awards ceremony (aka the Oscars) was held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles – not being much of a cinema goer, I haven’t seen any of the films nominated. My only real interest, to be honest, is to gawp at the posh frocks; not too much Primani on show as a rule, but then if you know 34.42 million people in the US alone are going to be tuned in, casting a very critical eye over your choice of clobber, you’d make a bit of an effort, I guess. Even so, some make amazing fashion faux pas in their effort to be noticed. In the unlikely event that I ever get an invitation, I think I’ll play it safe with my usual Tesco super-skinny jeans and some grotty top – to make my entrance incognito as one of the cleaners, so I don’t have to have my photo taken.

Just in case you were wondering, Spotlight won two awards, including Best Picture, and Mad Max: Fury Road won six, the biggest haul of the evening. The Revenant earned three, including Best Director for Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Best Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio. Brie Larson won Best Actress for Room, and Mark Rylance and Alicia Vikander won supporting actor Oscars for Bridge of Spies and The Danish Girl, respectively. And the Oscar for the most difficult to pronounce name goes to …

Major General Quincy Adams Gillmore was born on this day in 1825 in Black River (now Lorain County), Ohio – that’s unless you believe Wikipedia, which gives his dob as 25th Feb. But who believes Wiki-p? Call me suspicious, but I think he was named after the 6th President of the US, John Quincy Adams, who was voted in by the House of Representatives earlier in February. 1825 was the same year that the idea to store food in tin cans was patented; the first detachable shirt collar was created; the first hotel in Hawaii was opened (I wonder if it was a Travelodge?); Charles X became King of France and the Stockton to Darlington railway line was opened.

The Maj Gen must have been something of a Smarty Pants because he graduated top of his class at the US Military Academy at West Point in 1849, and received a commission in the Corps of Engineers. He helped build forts until 1852, taught at West Point from 1852 to 1856, and was the head of the Engineer Agency in New York City from 1856 to 1861, when the American Civil War began. He was noted for his actions in the Union Army victory at Fort Pulaski, where his modern rifled artillery pounded the fort’s exterior stone walls – an action that essentially rendered stone fortifications obsolete – and he earned an international reputation as an organizer of siege operations, helping to revolutionize the use of naval gunnery. Not much of a pacifist, then.

Four racing drivers born on this day are Belgian Eric Bachelart (1961), Brazilian Ingo Hoffmann (1953), and Italian-America terrible twins Mario Andretti and his much lesser-known brother Aldo (1940), who gave up his fledgling career after a serious accident in 1959. Rising from a background of extreme poverty in Europe and moving to the States when very young, the boys really lived the American Dream – as well as every schoolboy’s dream of driving a racing car. Speeding like a lunatic must either have been learned behaviour or in the genes, because both Mario’s son, Michael and grandson Marco, also became racing drivers.

Who remembers mention of Stuart H-C at the beginning of this twaddle-fest? OK, you get a prize. His dad, Miles (known as Bill) was a test driver/mechanic on the team of racing driver Tommy Sopwith, whose own father – also Thomas – was the aviation pioneer who built the Sopwith Camel aircraft in 1916/17. (My paternal grandfather probably flew one as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps during WWI.) Ironically, Miles H-C was tragically killed in a road traffic accident when his children were very young, and they grew up not really remembering him. But at least he was driving an E Type Jaguar when he crashed, as Kirsten once said.

Unlike the aforementioned Andretti brothers, Benjamin Siegel (nickname Bugsy, ergo a definite contender for the weirdo name contest) – born in Brooklyn on this day in 1906 – wasn’t so keen on doing an honest day’s work to get ahead. A gangster with the Luciano crime family, he was one of the most infamous and feared gangsters of his day and a driving force behind the development of the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada. Nowadays, the tacky area is packed with casinos and hotels – fourteen of the world’s twenty-five largest hotels (by room count) are on the Strip, with a total of over 62,000 rooms. That’s a lot of beds to make.

Bugsy’s career met a premature end in June 1947, when he had an argument with a bullet and the bullet won – those who live by the sword … And on that point (snigger) I’m gone – thanks again for having me, Jenny!

Toodles

NP

Author.to/NellPeters

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Always welcome hun – another wonderful blog! Thank you xx


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