Location, Location, Location #1

Location No. 1 – St Mary’s Church, Rufford

Come on a journey with me…

The setting is very important to a novel: the sense of place, time and social environment contextualizes the story so that the reader can visualize and experience it.

I thought it might be fun over the coming weeks for us to go and visit some of the places where my novels have been set. Each time I’ll give you a little of the background as why these locations were important to my story and important to me, and you can read how they fit into the narrative of the book.

We’ll begin in Rufford, a little village in West Lancashire, England, where my debut novel, The Silver Locket, is mainly set.

My route to work each day took me through this pretty little place with its traditional houses, surrounded by flat, fertile farmland. In the evening, I’d see a hawk hovering over a field, then swooping down to catch its prey, and through the early morning mist, a bright barn owl would fly low across the road, almost touching the windscreen.

Near the centre of the village, there is a big, brick-built Victorian house, set back from the road, in large grounds. I was particularly drawn to the huge old oak tree in the garden. It grew in my imagination and over time, the house and garden became the perfect location for my heroine, Laura, to begin her ‘journey’ through the pages of my story.

Early on in the book, Laura visits St. Mary’s, the local church in Rufford. Here, in the churchyard, we learn some important clues about the past inhabitants of the house that Laura has recently inherited, and we meet a new character, about whom there is a definite air of mystery.

St. Mary’s Church, Rufford, is a real place, although its resemblance to the church and churchyard in my story is no more than a passing one. However, I do share Laura’s passion for visiting old graveyards…

Excerpt from ‘The Silver Locket’

Laura was keen to explore some more of the village. She walked down the twisting side road towards St Mary’s Church. Laura had always loved old graveyards; there was something about the hint of past lives engraved on old lichen-covered gravestones which she found curiously satisfying. As Laura worked her way through the headstones reading names and dates it occurred to her that the inhabitants of Rufford had been a particularly hardy bunch, all living to a ripe old age over the last couple of centuries.

One grave stood out to contradict this. It belonged to the Martland family. She leant forward and read the inscription: ‘In memoriam: Peter, beloved son of Thomas and Sarah, aged 22 years, died in a storm off the New Hampshire coast, 28th April 1912.

Then beneath that: ‘Captain Thomas Edgar Martland, aged 49 years, lost with his ship “Ariadne” and all her crew, 14th April 1913.’ There was a poem:

‘Safely moored amongst the peaceful dead
And from his labours rests his weary head,
With Neptune’s waves many times he’s fought,
Yet the blow was struck when least was thought.’

and underneath that…

‘Rest in peace: Sarah, loving wife and mother, died of a broken heart, 15th July 1916, aged 45 years.”

“So sad,” someone said softly behind her.

Laura started. She hadn’t heard anyone approach. She turned to see a big, powerful-looking woman with thick greying hair drawn up into a bun. She wore a brown coat and sturdy-looking shoes.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.” She spoke with a trace of an Irish lilt in her voice. “So sad, both Peter and the Captain gone and Peter’s first time at sea too.”

“They died within almost a year of each other,” said Laura, looking at the dates.

“That’s right. Peter was on his way back from his first trip to New York and the Captain, he was lost at almost the same time the following year. His poor body was never found. Mrs Martland was never the same again, losing them both… and then…” her voice trailed off. The woman shook her head, gazing beyond the gravestone into the distance. “Sad, so sad…”

“You remember them?” But how could she, thought Laura. The captain and his son had perished 75 years ago. “No, surely it was too long ago?”

The woman smiled back her, her expression far away.

“Do you live round here?” asked Laura. “I’ve just moved into my aunt’s old house in the village.”

“So you have,” said the woman in agreement.

Laura looked at her, wondering how she knew. News travelled fast in a small place like this she supposed. Memories too, would be in the psyche of the village.

“It was my home once.” the woman replied. She reached inside her coat and consulted a small silver fob watch which was pinned to her dress.  “I must go now.” She turned abruptly and walked away, her upright figure disappearing behind the west wall of the church.


The Silver Locket: available as a paperback, ebook and on KindleUnlimited

My characters have their say (again)

You'll Never Walk Alone by Chris Hall Share the love this Valentine's month

‘I do like this new cover, Ms Hall.’ Cynthia opens the book and riffles the pages in front of her. ‘And I love the smell of a brand new book!’ She holds it out in a finely manicured hand and examines the cover again. ‘It conveys an air of romance, but without all those bulging biceps and bosoms like so many of the genre.’

Connor frowns. ‘I’d never really thought of it as a romance novel per se; it’s more gritty and down to earth, but with the elements of mystery and fantasy cleverly woven in.’

‘Oh, but Connor, it’s full of romance, right from the start. When Pierre sweeps Lucy off her feet… But you’re right; it has much more substance to it than a typical romance.’

For a moment I bathe in my characters’ praise.

Connor hands me a cup of tea, then picks up the whisky bottle from the sideboard and waves it in my direction. I shake my head. Connor shrugs and returns it to its place. ‘I hear you’re running another promotion*, Ms Hall; riding on the wave of Valentine’s month, so to speak.’

‘Romance Reading Month!’ exclaims Cynthia clapping her hands together so that the fine bracelet on her wrist jingles. I haven’t seen that before. ‘Charming idea.’

‘And you have a couple of interviews lined up, I gather,’ Connor continues. ‘You know, my few days at the Edinburgh book festival last year made such a difference.’ Connor sips his whisky-enhanced tea. ‘My agent’s got me an advance for another slim volume of my poems on the back of an interview I did.’

Okay, so my poet’s doing better than me. I did give him the agent though. And the gig at the book festival.

I change the subject. ‘Where’s everyone else?’ Normally I’m confronted with a roomful of my characters.

As if on cue, there’s a tap on the door.

‘It’s open, darling,’ calls Cynthia.

Lucy appears, her long blonde hair shining. I notice her face and arms bear a lovely honey-coloured tan.

‘You’re back, Lucy!’ I exclaim.

‘Of course I am; we’ve Gina’s wedding to plan.’ Well, okay, I knew Gina had got engaged after the book ended, I saw the ring.

‘Is Pierre with you?’ I should know, but my characters have a habit of making it up as they go along.

Lucy nods. ‘He’s got a job at Probe Records.’

‘I suppose having a…’ Connor interrupts himself with a cough. ‘Sorry, I almost gave an important piece of your plot away there.’

‘And guess who else is coming over for the wedding… oh,’ Lucy clamps her hand over her mouth, ‘now I nearly did I!’

‘There seems to have been a lot happening in your lives,’ I say.

Connor raises an eyebrow in my direction. ‘Enough to write a sequel perhaps? Of course we know you’re busy with another project but…’

‘…maybe next year?’ Lucy winks at me.


If you’ve no idea who these people are, or what they’re talking about, you’d better read the book!

*Valentine’s Month Offer:
Download for 99c at amazon.com or 99p from amazon.co.uk

read it anywhere

 

Eyes like saucers!

Following the Green Rabbit by Chris Hall
Following the Green Rabbit – proof copy

Today I’ve been busy proof-reading my new novel. In all modesty, I have to tell you it’s a really good story, and because I haven’t looked at it since sending it through the publishing process, I almost have to remind myself that I wrote it! But, of course, I must remember that as usual several of the characters had a hand in the plot too (animals included).

Although I wrote it as a story aimed at younger readers, the more I think about it, the more I’m certain it will have much wider appeal – 9 years to 99 years! That’s also the impression I got from those of you who were reading along under it’s former working title ‘A Nick in Time’. Thanks once again for all your encouragement.

Also today, for a little change from the Rabbit, I’ve been casting a critical eye over friend and fellow author, Paul English’s latest novel-in-the-making, the next in his wonderfulFire Angel Universeseries. This is a real treat, because it’s all fresh and new. We have an excellent reciprocal arrangement of reading and commenting on each other’s work, which naturally also involves coffee and cake!

‘Following The Green Rabbit’ is due to be released next month, and I’m sure Paul’s new novel ‘Fire Angel: Igniting the Spark’ will not be far behind.

The Green Rabbit illustration
Lino-cut by Cliff Davies

 

 

And they’re not even in it!

pimms-lunasonline.png

At first, I think I’m having a flashback. I’m sitting on Cynthia’s garden bench and the sun is shining. A bead of moisture runs down the glass I’m holding.

“Cheers, Ms Hall!” Connor raises his glass to me. “Here’s to another great review of our book!”

Cynthia smiles at me. “It’s so nice to see our author doing well.” She sips her drink and leans over to stroke Asmar, her beautiful Abyssinian cat, who is lounging by her feet. “And even darling Asmar gets a mention.” Asmar pricks up his ears at the sound of his name. “Well, he was rather a hero, wasn’t he?” Cynthia continues. Asmar rolls over and looks up at me, the suspicion of a smug smile behind his long whiskers.

I stretch out my hand towards him, nodding in agreement.

Next I hear a familiar screech and Fingers bounds up to me from the side gate where Bob and Gary have just appeared. The little monkey launches himself at me, chattering excitedly. Bob hurries to retrieve him. “Sorry about that luv, but he’s dead excited about being in a book review.”

Connor refills he glass from the jug of Pimms which is sitting on the little wrought-iron table. He sits back down and leans towards me. “I understand you’re running a wee promotion on that first book of yours?”

“Marketing eh?  Sound.” Gary gives me a ‘thumbs up’ sign. His face lights up as Gina appears at the French doors. “We got any beers upstairs, luv?”

Gina rolls her eyes and sits down next to him, ignoring his request.

“I’ll go,” says Bob, lowering Fingers into Gina’s lap.

“And bring some crisps,” Gary adds. Fingers chirrups in agreement.

The Silver Locket, it’s a lovely romantic book with a touch of mystery and magic,” says Cynthia.

“Oh yes, it’s dead good,” chimes in Gina. “Just the kind of book to read sitting in the garden on a sunny afternoon. Like that nice Ms Scott said.” She sighs. “They even go to Paris! Wouldn’t that be wonderful, Gary?”

Gary pulls a face, he’s not one for ‘abroad’. “How do you two know what’s in the book anyway?” He glances at me, frowning. “She wrote it a while before ours.”

“Ah,” Cynthia reaches for her glass. “Gina and I, and Lucy too, were in a short story Ms Hall wrote, even before that.”

“That’s right,” Gina continues. “We had to wait ages for her to write our book.” She looks at me and smiles, fiddling with her engagement ring. “You could take us to Paris…”

Connor clears his throat. “Interesting idea, this downloading, Ms Hall. Not really sure I understand. I suppose it’s something from the future which we haven’t been written into yet.”

Was that another hint?


kindle edition cover

Mystery, romance, ghosts and dreams: perfect reading for a lazy sunny afternoon!

Get your ebook freebie of The Silver Locket,
written under my pen name Holly Atkins by clicking on the links below.

Offer runs until Fri 23 August:
USAhttp://ow.ly/Px5t50vD8nT
UK –  http://ow.ly/4hwF50vD8nU
Aushttp://ow.ly/Q2Lc50vD8nZ
Canhttp://ow.ly/cUgu50vD8nV
Other countries, such as South Africa

 


And if you really want to do it properly…
although Cynth would probably add a large shot of gin to the mix!

how to mix a perfect pimms lunasonline
Source

The #WritingMyCity book anthology

writingmycity new pic by mak1one
Image: Mak1one

I came across this interview yesterday about the #WritingMyCity project in which I participated as a facilitator and writer a few month’s ago.

I was particularly excited that our little group, who are part of the Women for Change programme, got a mention. Their stories obviously struck a chord even if they didn’t make it into this particular collection.

Here’s an extract from the interview:

***

Q. Tell us about the fantastic book project ‘Writing My City’

A. There are so many people with wonderful stories but rarely a vehicle to share them. To help people do this, Cape Town libraries offered creative-writing workshops earlier this year. Now we’re launching a collection of everyday Capetonians’ stories about living in the city.

Q. The project is an incredible collaboration with local libraries across the city. What is your experience of connecting with these very diverse community hubs?

A. I was so impressed with the librarians who took on this challenge. It was heart-warming that each participating library had passionate teachers, writers and poets who freely gave their time and expertise to facilitate the workshops and to help would-be writers pull their stories together.

Q. It must have been exciting getting such diverse perspectives on Cape Town. What kinds of submissions really moved you?

A. As part of the workshops, the Women for Change Group had a chance to share their stories. I cried when I heard of mothers talking about losing their children, abuse and dependencies. I also embraced how they helped each other through these experiences as one big family.

 ***

That last paragraph is so important to me. When the ladies eventually felt able to tell me their experiences I was incredibly humbled and moved.

The collection is going to be launched at an event at the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town in September. I’m looking forward to attending.

A copy of the anthology will be in more than 100 libraries across the city, so it will be available to a wide audience. Books don’t come cheap in this country. Copies of the book will be sold at the Open Book Festival in September. It will be awesome to see my words in print alongside the other 39 chosen Capetonians.

 


Read the full interview with Christelle Lubbe, of the City of Cape Town’s Library and Information Services, and Frankie Murrey, Co-ordinator of the Open Book Festival by Carla Lever on Times Live

Feel Free to Use this Badge

Hands off our content, Tygpress!

This, That, and The Other

With all of the unauthorized harvesting of our posts that is going on at tygpress.com and seemingly not much that can be done to stop it, I created this badge that I will attach to all of my blog posts going forward.EDC343BA-4E67-4F78-BDFB-02FE6D5C0A26Please feel free to grab this image and post it on your blog. By doing so, this image should show up on your posts that have been stolen by tygpress.

You’re welcome.

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Writing My City – Update

writingmycity new pic by mak1one

Just a quick update on the outcome of the submissions to the #WritingMyCity project.

To recap: Cape Town Libraries, in conjunction with the Book Lounge and the Fugard Theatre, launched the project earlier this year to encourage Capetonians to write stories and poetry about the city they live in.

The initiative was aimed at giving Capetonians, from a broad range of backgrounds, the opportunity to tell their stories to a wider world, and for more local community stories to be told and shared. By doing this there is an opportunity to celebrate and deepen the understanding of who and what makes Cape Town the city it is, and build better social cohesion. 

You may remember that I volunteered to facilitate a series of workshops, leading a group of people to help them produce their own unique submission. Things didn’t entirely go to plan but in the end we did tell our stories and we did submit to the project. 

My hope was that at least one of the ladies’ stories might be accepted. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. Perhaps their stories were just a bit too gritty. But it was an interesting journey for us all, and I hope that one or two of them will continue to write and get that release and enjoyment from doing so.

The names of those who have been selected suggest that a range of different voices will be published, including the immigrant English woman who wrote a little piece from the point of view of a child from the township.

 

 

 

Submission Day – we did it!

Open Book Cape Town

Well, if you’ve been following my #writingmycity project journey, you’ll know we’ve had a few challenges along the way. Now we’ve come to the end of this particular road and there’s really good news.

Stories have been written, author’s bios have been composed and now our entries to the project are ready to go.

How pleased and proud I am of this group of women. They’ve produced disturbing, gut-wrenching and thought-provoking stories. There’s been anger, there’s still sadness but there is definitely hope.

These stories may not be selected for the Cape Town Library Book, but they will certainly give the selection panel food for thought. I don’t know what image of the ‘Mother City’ the editors of the publication intend to portray, but members of the Suiderstrand Library writing group have borne vivid witness to the gritty, dirty underbelly of beautiful Cape Town.

The voices of these strong women deserve to be heard. My thanks to every one of them for sharing their stories with such bravery and honesty.

20190612_114904

 

Just sayin’

000Make an author's day by JI Rogers

Some really helpful advice from author, J I Rogers.

If you were wondering how to jump aboard the ‘author’s helping authors’ band wagon, this makes it so easy!

You can see from the side panel that I regularly read and review books on Goodreads. I also post the review to Amazon for the books I’ve downloaded and read by indie authors. I know how important it is.

So, all of you ‘indies’ out there, time to help each other out. Share the message and post your book links!

And to all you gallant readers: let’s have your reviews! Pretty please?