Evolving the Stories

 

Some time ago, before I started writing books, I belonged to a group on Facebook called Fast Fiction. At one point we were challenged to write a story around an inanimate object, and so I wrote a short story called ‘The Seat’. The seat in the title was a stone bench in an old garden. My latest book ‘Aunt Bea’s Legacy’ grew out of that short story, extra inspiration gained through my love of the house I’ve set it in.

 

When I wrote ‘Aunt Bea’s Legacy’, I had intended it to be a one-off, stand alone. However, no sooner had I finished it, another story clamoured to be written. The idea for it came unbidden into my head and wouldn’t give me any peace. So, I wrote it, very quickly indeed and ‘Aunt Bea’s Legacy’ suddenly became book 1 in a series of stories that will centre around River View Farmhouse and the village of Sutton-on-Wye.

 

While book 2, ‘By the Gate’ is being beta-read, I am face with writing Book 3. But what to do? I didn’t want Sutton-on-Wye to become a place where people died wholesale, like in ‘Midsommer Murders’, nor did I want it to be a revamp of Rebecca Shaw’s ‘Village’ series. My village is rather different and in any case, her central character is a vicar and the ‘big house’ in her books is a posh place, a private health club (as far as I can remember) and my ‘big house’ in Sutton is a nursing home. ‘Aunt Bea’s Legacy’ is not a murder mystery but it does involve a crime investigation. ‘By the Gate’ is the story of the investigation into a seventy year old murder after a skeleton is unearthed in a field. I have an idea what the fourth book will be about but first I have to write the third one.

 

I can almost hear you asking ‘why don’t you make the fourth book the third one, if you know what it’s going to be about?’ Good question. The only answer is that I have to have some key players in place before that and they will arrive in book three.

 

All this got me thinking about my other books. ‘The Hiraeth’ was intended to be a one-off but evolved into a trilogy and my children’s book, ‘Robin’s Ring’ was also going to be a stand alone, but will now have more books to follow.

 

It seems that writing books is more like ‘real life’ than I realised. One decision made leads to another, or an original plan ultimately becomes something different. Writing – and life –  can also be a struggle, or a puzzle, but eventually it pieces together and evolves into something that makes sense – we hope!

 

Review of Broken by Barbara Spencer

I’ve never written a review of a book on my blog before but I was so impressed by this book that I had to do it.

Firstly, an honest confession that I had put off reading this book, feeling it would have content that would make my heart ache. I was right, it did indeed make my heart ache and there were times that I felt I wanted to cry. But don’t let that admission of mine put you off, for this book is so worth reading.

The story centres upon the two main characters, Jem, a young boy of fourteen and Katrina, a social worker and each chapter is seen either through the eyes of Jem or Katrina. You know straight away that Jem’s situation isn’t what it should be; he is a caring young lad trying desperately to look after his family because his mother is ‘ill’. The situation escalates from a bad situation to worse and the social services are brought in, where we meet Katrina.

One can’t help wondering about this woman, who is the best social worker in her office but it seems that essentially it’s because she doesn’t care. But does she? The story surrounding her unfolds in an interesting way.

I am not into giving spoilers in my reviews but I will say that I have worked in child care and have myself written a book based around it. Ms Spencer shows that she has great understanding of the complexities of addiction and the consequences of bad situations in childhood affecting the adults that those children grow up into. However, don’t get the idea this is heavy reading, it’s very far from it. It gripped me from the beginning and found it hard to put down; these characters evoked tender feelings in me as they played their roles. I rather loved the boy nick-named ‘Spooky’ and I do wonder how many children are so injured by the thoughtlessness of the people who are supposed to love and care for them. I have known and worked with children like him – and loved them too. Spooky needed someone who cared, and in Jem he found someone who did, and likewise Jem was the recipient of caring and help from his friend in the only ways Spooky could provide. This friendship touched my heart.

This book is, I feel, a triumph and should be read by lots more people. Thank you for this inspiring story, Barbara Spencer.

A Poem

 

When you are feeling prickly
And the rains are thundering too,
When you’re finding it hard to stand straight and tall
‘Mid the winds that are battering you,
Please put your trust upon The One,
Who will always be with you.
He will take your hand and be there
Until your trials are through.

 

The storms that come along life’s way,
Are tough and hard to bear
But the rains don’t last for ever
Nor do the clouds of care.
And when the sun begins to show
You will find there are left behind,
Jewels you never saw before
And you’re richer now, you’ll find.

J.T.F. 2017

 

Inspiration!

In ‘guest interviews’ I often get asked what inspires me to write. The short answer to that is usually ‘places that capture my interest’ i.e. Gwrych Castle in North Wales became ‘Castell glas’ in my trilogy, The Castell Glas Trilogy, comprising of three books with Welsh Titles: The Hiraeth, Bronwen’s Revenge (with ‘Bronwen’ spelt the Welsh way) and Yr Aberth, subtitled The Sacrifice. I have blogged before about Gwrych and how it looks like a conventional ‘fairy castle’ from the road but is actually now a ruin, much beloved by a boy called Mark, now a man and a professor of Welsh History, who has campaigned since he was ten to preserve this wonderful place.

As I am on the threshold of publishing my seventh story book for adults (and young adults), I felt I should say a little about what really inspires me. My latest book, ‘Aunt Bea’s Legacy’ is set in a lovely old ‘black and white’ farmhouse that I lived in when I was a late teenager. My mum and I loved this house, although we only rented it, and that love lived on. A few years ago I ventured to visit it and met the people who live there and they showed me around and I told them how it was in my day, fascinating for us both.

It is an interesting thing about the human mind that, however old you get, the places and people that have been important to you actually never leave you, even though you might have left them. Therefore, when I wrote my first book, The Sixpenny Tiger, it was my memory of the children’s home I worked in, and my love for the children I cared for that inspired me.

My second book, a novella really, Bell of Warning, grew out of my love for my birth town, Cromer, in Norfolk, and my fascination in the knowledge that whole villages had been swallowed by the sea off that coast for centuries and that one lay just a few yards from the end of the pier. There is even a road in Cromer named after it, Shipden Avenue.

Rosa, book number 3, was inspired by the many beautiful National Trust houses and stately homes I have visited throughout my life. My parents always did that and it was something my husband and I have continued to do. Although the third book I wrote, Rosa was the first book I published, four years ago. It continues to thrill readers, both male and female.

My trilogy I have spoken about already. It has captured the imagination of many readers both sides of the Atlantic. I continue to follow the work that Mark and his team are doing at Gwrych.

So, back to Aunt Bea. When I began to feel I would like to write a story around the beloved farmhouse, the lady who lived there graciously gave me her permission to use an actual photograph of the house for my cover. However, to protect its identity I renamed it River View and set it in an imaginary village sitting on the bank of the River Wye on the west side of Hereford with the Black Mountains visible in the distance. My description of the house is a sort of mixture of how it was when I was there and what it’s like now. I so enjoyed moving back into the farmhouse with Lucy and remembering the atmosphere of the place.

Once I’d written Aunt Bea’s Legacy, suddenly, another story came which I was compelled to write, set in the same village where I’d put River View Farmhouse. And so, The River View Mysteries series was born and I really can’t say where the idea for ‘By the Gate’ came from! So much for knowing where I get my inspiration…

My Dip Into The World of Writing For Children

Tags

, ,

With a number of published books for adults under my belt and the eighth book about to come out any time now, a few weeks ago I finally published my first book for children.

‘Robin’s Ring’ was first written four years ago and I took some spiral-bound copies to the school where I used to work to get some children’s opinions on it. A teacher of a class of eight and nine year olds read it to her class and a small group of ten year olds read it as a group assignment. The results were favourable; the children all loved it, both the ones who read it themselves and the class it had been read to.

I had the great pleasure of spending an afternoon in school with these children. I met with the small group and they told me what they liked about the book and also we had a ‘brainstorm’ as to what they would like to read in subsequent stories about Robin. As one, they all adored what Robin did at the end of the book – and that was something my own dad did when he was at school! I think every child who has read the book has told me they loved that bit!

When I went to the class who was having the book read to them, I was given the great pleasure of reading to them myself – and then I answered their questions about the book and how I came to write it. I was also asked if the cave under Stoney Clouds was still there (Stoney Clouds is a local landmark and beauty spot). This was a sticky situation; I could just imagine children dragging their parents to Stoney Clouds to search for the cave!

“Well,” says Mrs Ford, “The cave is probably still there but unfortunately, the entrance was blocked up when they built the motorway so you would not be able to find it now.”

Fortunately, the children accepted this explanation – phew!

Because of the children’s brainstorm, I added a few chapters. The book was now done and ready for editing and publication. The problem was, it needed pictures – and I can’t draw. I tried to persuade my daughter-in-law who is a good artist. She did a cover but the inside pictures never got done. So, Robin and his magic ring were left on the metaphorical shelf and I got on with other things.

And then I eventually had a brainwave! A young woman who lives in the same village as me has learned how to draw and paint. I have known her and her mother for some years. I knew she could paint, in fact, I have one of her painting hanging in my living room. It was when I saw her advertising art classes that it occurred to me. Perhaps I should go to Kathryn and learn to draw. I thought about my writing and all the things I do and then thought, ‘why not ask her to do the drawings for me?’ So that’s what I did, and so began an adventure for both of us and a working relationship that is a delight to both her and me.

Kathryn suffers from ME and is not able to work but she has learned to achieve her goals slowly and determinedly by pacing herself and knowing just how much she can do at a time. Her work is slow but very good. I don’t mind slow, Robin didn’t mind slow, he knew he was going to happen at last. The next Robin book will emerge, slowly but surely and hopefully the children who have and will enjoy Robin’s first adventure will also enjoy the next.

More importantly, the emergence of Robin’s Ring is an achievement – for me and for Kathryn. Through the merging of our talents, we have created something we can both be proud of.

 

Medieval Misconception: They Didn’t Bathe

Very interesting write. An aspect of history re-thought!

Kim Rendfeld

When I decided to write a novel based on one of the Roland legends, I knew very little about the Middle Ages, but I was certain of one thing: medieval people didn’t bathe. I recall being told by teachers that the folk thought it was unhealthy. As an author, all I needed to decide was whether the characters would notice how bad they smelled.

So imagine my surprise to find a section about bathing in Pierre Riche’s Daily Life in the World of Charlemagne. Carolingian princes took baths and changed their clothes once a week. OK, so that’s not as often as Americans who can’t live without their daily showers, but it’s a lot more frequent than what I was led to believe.

Commoners would have bathed less often than aristocrats because of the time and labor it took to fill a tub, but they would have bathed as…

View original post 275 more words

A Bit of Confusion and an achievement

This year I achieved something that I’m very proud of. I have finally published the last book in a trilogy I have been writing. I know there are many writers out there who have done that, perhaps they’ve written quite a few trilogies and that’s really great; I admire someone who can do that because I’ll probably not do it again. I can tell you, it’s hard.

I wrote my first book, The Sixpenny Tiger, in 2010. Some of my friends read it and loved it. My writing mentor, David, read it and his verdict was that it was a collection of incidents joined up together. He knew I’d written it ‘out of order’, that is, not starting at the beginning and working through to the end. I wrote the beginning, then a bit in the middle and so on. ‘You must try to keep the metaphor’ he would say. I tried to be intelligent but no matter how much I talked with him about it (after all, I knew what a metaphor was) I didn’t understand what he was getting at. The book was no good, I decided disappointedly, so it was put on one side.

After a ‘barren’ period of writer’s block, I wrote three books in one year. Then I wrote another. Eventually, after a lot of thought, I decided to publish with CreateSpace, or Amazon. I started with ‘Rosa’ the third book I wrote and I followed it up with Bell of Warning and The Hiraeth.

‘Yes, yes,’ said David, ‘they are all good, but when are you going to publish Tiger, it’s your best work.’

To say I was stunned would be accurate; ‘but, you don’t like Tiger, you said so.’

‘I never said that; I said make sure you keep the metaphor. It’s great; it’s my favourite of all your stories.’

Well!!

So, The Sixpenny Tiger was next. In the meantime, I’d decided, having written The Hiraeth, that the story should continue so I wrote ‘Bronwen’s Revenge’ and now I have done book 3, ‘Yr Aberth’ (The Sacrifice) which is the first book I have written that David has not seen because he died in February. It seems strange that I can’t send it to him so he can read it but I know he would be proud of me for doing it.

I feel that if I never wrote another book, I have achieved in completing a trilogy, something that, as far as I’m aware, nobody else in my family has done so far. So, even if no one else sees fit to give me a pat on my back for it, I give myself a pat. It just goes to show that even if a person doesn’t achieve much at school, all is not lost.

In finishing with Shelly and family and the beautiful ‘Castell Glas’ I thought I would feel bereft because they have been with me for so long. But I think, because they have been with me a long time and finally their story is told, I have done my best by them and now it’s time to leave them in peace and move on. Now, I can hold all three books in my hand, or set them side by side and admire them; not only am I proud of my achievement, I am also proud and very grateful to Jezz Lewis, photographer, who has produced the beautiful covers.

cecbf0_aa345e38e1904aef8995d7f71154bec8mv2