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

 

 

Almost there!

Following the Green Rabbit artwork by Cliff Davies

Here it is! The artwork for my new novel for younger readers, commissioned from my artist husband, Cliff Davies. Since the action happens in the ‘olden times’, I thought it might be nice to have a wood cut design. This is actually a lino-cut but the effect is similar and we’re both rather pleased with it.

You may remember my working title was ‘A Nick in Time’ but now the book is finished, a further transformation has occurred. From the chrysalis of the completed manuscript, and after readings, re-readings and feedback, a new title has emerged:

‘Following the Green Rabbit – a fantastical adventure’

If all goes to plan the rabbit will be released into the wild at the beginning of October.


And not to forget those who encouraged me on the journey and who were left in suspense as we neared the finish line: a voucher for the e-book will be coming your way.
Debra ~ Tom ~ Jean Lee ~ Teresa Violet Lentz ~ Sadje 

And friend and author, Paul English, who has painstakingly read all the chapters and provided such useful feedback, will receive the first paperback out of the box when it arrives here in South Africa.

The Green Rabbit illustration

 

 

 

Ducking Under the Radar

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Okay, those of you who’ve been following the unfolding story of ‘A Nick in Time’, my children’s novel, will know we are reaching the climax and soon the story will draw to a (very satisfactory) close.

I’ve decided to devote the next couple of weeks to doing just that, so I shall be going rather quieter than usual, although I will be popping up now and then to see what you’re all up to.

One more cliff-hanging chapter will appear here, but the ultimate finale will remain undisclosed until the story is ready for publication. Then you, loyal followers of ‘A Nick in Time’ (and you know who you are), will receive a free advance copy of the ebook. 

Bear with me. If I work hard it shouldn’t be too long.

see you soon

 

 

The Characters’ Verdict

youll-never-walk-alone-by-chris-hall-proof-copy.jpg“Here it is!” I hold up the proof copy of You’ll Never Walk Alone to Cynthia and Conner, who are sitting outside in the little garden wasteland outside Cynthia’s flat. It is pleasantly and unseasonably warm for an April afternoon in mid 80s Liverpool.

Connor stretches out his hand. “Let’s have a look then.”

I hand the pristine proof over to him. He turns it over in his hands and nods. “Look rather fine, I must say, Ms Hall. Worth the wait, so it is.” He flicks through the pages and frowns. “Print’s a bit small.”

Cynthia takes the book from him. She riffles the pages, holding it up to her face. “I love the smell of a new book.”

I nod and grin enthusiastically. “What do you think?”

“It’s very nice, my dear.” She looks at the pages more closely. “Oh look, Connor, there’s a little drawing of a cat here.” She holds the book out to him, open at the title page. “Is that my clever boy, Asmar?” 

As if on cue, Cynthia’s beautiful Abyssinian cat emerges from the bushes and stretches languidly in front of us, mimicking the pose in the drawing.

Cynthia turns to the back cover. “Nice photograph of you, Ms Hall.”

“Thank you!” I smile delightedly.

“It must’ve been taken quite a while ago.”

I wince. Cynthia leans forward and pats my hand. “Well why not? None of us is getting any younger.”

Before I have the chance to reply, we hear voices coming around the side of the house. It’s Gina and Lucy. As soon as they see me, they call out in greeting. I hold up the second proof copy I have ordered for my household of characters.

“She has our book!” Lucy and Gina say together. Never mind that it’s my book. Whose name is on the cover?

They take it from me and sit down on the tatty wooden bench next to the wall. They exclaim in delight at the opening paragraphs. Lucy and Gina are, of course, in the opening scene. They start to read and for once they fall silent. After a couple of pages they look up. I can see in their eyes that they approve.

asmar


You’ll Never Walk Alone‘ a novel by Chris Hall will be published next month (we hope).

Character Confusion

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Previously

I’m back in Cynthia’s flat and the main characters from my very-soon-to-be-published novel are all staring at me. They don’t look happy.

“The book’s going to be out soon. Aren’t you pleased?” I say brightly.

Connor stares at the bottom of his empty wine glass then looks directly at me “We’re pleased that you’ve set the wheels in motion, so to speak.”

“Good.” I nod. “I’ll get the draft copy of the paperback around Easter.”

Connor looks around the room at his fellow characters. Cynthia nods at him.

“Well, Ms Hall, the thing is…”

Lucy interrupts. “We’re sorry,” she says, squeezing Pierre’s hand, “but we’re not really sure about the cover.” She smiles at me weakly.

“Oh?” I shake my head. “Have you any idea how long it took and how many versions of my beloved’s artwork I uploaded before we, or rather I, was happy?” I frown at them all. “I’m really pleased with it. It looks really…”

 “Old-fashioned.” Gina interrupts.

I was going to say ‘retro’ actually. Like a Penguin Original.

“But why a drawing?” Lucy says, fiddling with her long golden hair. “Why not a nice photo of all of us?”

“That’s, er, not going to be possible.” How do I tell them they don’t actually exist?


Another true-life story of an author and her characters 😉

When your characters really come alive

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Elena Koycheva @lenneek on Unsplash

Connor turns from the window where he has been gazing out onto the empty street. “You’re the author, Ms Hall; we’re entirely in your hands.” He fiddles with the change in his trouser pockets. “But well, we were wondering, when exactly is our book coming out?”

I stare back at him, not comprehending the situation. My gaze travels around the room. Next to me, dressed in a blue silk caftan, legs curled up underneath her on the couch, is Cynthia. She is busy examining her beautifully manicured nails. Opposite sits Lucy, long blonde hair glowing.

“It’s just that it’s been so long,” Lucy says, a little breathlessly. “I mean…” her voice trails off and Pierre, her boyfriend, who is perched on the arm of her chair, squeezes her shoulder gently.

Lucy turns to Gina who is sitting in the matching armchair next to her. I notice she is fiddling with a shiny new ring on her third finger. The light catches the bright solitaire diamond sending patterns flashing across the worn Persian rug where Asmar, Cynthia’s cat, is lounging. He dabs at the flickering light with a casual golden paw. The blaring of a televised football match filters down from the flat upstairs where Gary, Gina’s boyfriend fiancé now? must be watching.

Gina sits forward and leans towards me. “It’s not that we’re ungrateful. We’ve loved our story. It was so exciting!” She pauses for a moment. “Well, mostly.” She frowns momentarily. “It all turned out all right in the end though,” she adds, grinning. “It’s just that, I’m sorry to have to say this, but we feel like we’re in limbo.”

I look around the room at these people whom I know so well; these people with whom I’ve spent so many hours.

Connor clears his throat. “Time waits for no man… or woman.” He takes his hands out of his pockets and puffs out his chest. “I have had a second slim volume of my poetry accepted for publication since you finished our manuscript.”

I gave you an agent, I think to myself. I fiddle with the pen I’m holding and glance down to see my notebook open on my lap.

Connor darts forward and grabs it. “Oh no, Ms Hall. No more changes. It’s done. Finished. You told everyone so.”

I hold my hands up. “I know. And it is. Finished I mean.” I sigh, my hands dropping into my lap. “I’m just waiting for the artwork for the cover.”

Connor nods gravely.

At that moment there is a knock at the door.

“It’s open,” calls Cynthia.

Tony Wong, whose flat is across the hall and who is landlord to Cynthia, Gina and Lucy, smiles and enters. He pads over the rug and holds out a bowl stacked high with pale brown crackers. “Would you like a fortune cookie, Ms Hall?”

I take one and pull out the little paper message, but it’s like one of those plot-halting moments. I can’t read a single word.


A true-life story of an author and her characters 😉

A Nick in Time – Chapter Seven

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Lessons continued in the school room every weekday morning. The afternoons were devoted to a selection of pastimes; outdoors if possible or else in Papa’s library, ‘for a change of scenery from the schoolroom’, Mr Eyre had proclaimed as he darted about the room. One rainy afternoon, Mr Eyre had attempted to teach them all knitting but, as Hodge had pointed out, the girls were actually rather better at it than he was. Mr Eyre simply didn’t have the ability to sit still for long enough. He would spring up from his seat in the middle of the row to consult a book or demonstrate something about a topic which he and the girls were discussing. Stitches would unravel from his needles and he would be forced to start again.

Next he found a book about knots in the library. After a couple of afternoons’ practice, each had mastered the intricacies of the sheep-shank, reef knot, half-hitch and more. “You never know when a skill like this might come in handy. I mean, we might have to tie up a runaway horse!” Mr Eyre had exclaimed to a sceptical Hodge when she came upon them in the garden tethering the wheel barrow to the garden bench with a length of Mr Eyre’s abandoned knitting wool.

Of course, as any kitten would, Astra loved the twine and wool that they were using, tugging and pulling at any stray piece which came her way. The little black cat was devoted to Bethany and had taken to following her wherever she went anywhere outside, and every afternoon, just before teatime the two of them would ‘take a turn about the garden’. “Very Jane Austen,” Mr Eyre had remarked.

“That cat’s done Miss Bethany the world of good,” Hodge observed, as they watched the young girl and her little cat wander around the garden one afternoon. “She doesn’t seem to be missing her Mama and Papa nearly so much.”

The following Saturday, Mr Eyre had an errand to run in the village and invited the girls to accompany him. Hodge had several things she’d like them to fetch too, so off they went with their empty baskets and a list which Bryony had made out to make sure they didn’t forget anything. Astra had accompanied them to the end of the driveway, but Bethany had spoken to her firmly and seemingly the cat had understood, remaining perched on top of one the large, square gate posts like a miniature Egyptian statue when they turned out of the drive and into the lane.

Weaverton village was a pleasant fifteen minute walk from Bluebell Wood House. The narrow lane was lined with leafy hedgerows where insects buzzed. “We collected blackberries and elderberries for jam along here last year, Mr Eyre.” Bryony pointed out a row of tall bramble bushes. “Look Bethany, there are so many again, and they’ll be ripe soon.”

“And did you eat as many as you picked?” Mr Eyre said, laughing as he rummaged about in the bushes, examining the fruit. “I know I did as a boy.”

“Do they have blackberries in London?” asked Bethany.

“Well, not in the city itself, apart from in some of the parks. But I grew up in Kent. I only went to London later on when I became a tutor.”

They walked a little further. “So tell me, ladies of the flowering vine and house of figs, what other useful plants can we find here in the hedgerows?” He rubbed his chin. “You know we really should’ve brought a flora.”

“A flora?”

“Yes, you know, Miss Bryony, a book for identifying flowering plants. No doubt your Papa has such a volume in his collection?”

“Oh yes, I’m sure he has.”

Mr Eyre plucked a couple of likely samples from the hedge and tossed them into Bethany’s basket. He crouched before her, eyes wide with enthusiasm. “Maybe you could try drawing some of them?”

Bethany nodded happily.

“And I could label them,” added Bryony.

“Splendid idea,” Mr Eyre exclaimed, rising swiftly to his feet and waving his forefinger in the air. “Using the original Latin names, of course.” He spun around and pointed down the lane. “Now let us press on into the village.”

The lane broadened out at the crossroads at the edge of the village which boasted a line of neat brick cottages arrayed around the village green. There were couple of stone water troughs for passing horses and, much to Mr Eyre’s delight, the old village stocks, which fortunately were padlocked shut, or otherwise, no doubt, he would have felt himself obliged to demonstrate.

The post office and general store was on the far side of the green. Mr Eyre lengthened his stride on seeing his objective to such an extent that the girls had difficulty keeping up with him.

A little bell sounded as Mr Eyre opened the shop door. Rosy-cheeked Mrs Gilbert was standing behind the post office counter. She greeted the two girls warmly and asked when they were next expecting a letter from their parents. “So exciting dealing with post from such a distance!” she exclaimed. Bryony answered politely and swiftly introduced Mr Eyre, who she noticed was twitching with impatience.

He rubbed his hands together. “Mrs Gilbert, delighted to make your acquaintance; tell me, have you a package for me? I am expecting one.”

“Likewise I’m sure, Mr Eyre, I’ll have a look in the back.” Mrs Gilbert bustled through into the storeroom. A few moments later she returned with a parcel almost the size of a shoe box neatly-wrapped in brown paper. She looked at it inquisitively, peering up at Mr Eyre from behind her half-moon glasses.

“May I?” Mr Eyre put his hand out.

“An intriguing parcel from my newest customer. What can it be?” she said speculatively.

“Aha, you will have to wait and see, Mrs G.” Mr Eyre replied, touching the side of his nose. He turned to the girls: “Miss Bryony, Miss Bethany, will you accompany me further?”

“Well I never did. Not a word of an answer,” said Mrs Gilbert as they left the shop.

“Onward to Mr Fenton,” announced Mr Eyre as he sallied forth. The girls exchanged glances as he strode away from Mrs Gilbert’s curious eyes.

“You have it then?” said Mr Fenton as they entered The Weaverton Dispensary.

“I do,” Mr Eyre held up the parcel. “I’ve just collected it from Mrs Gilbert. She was so desperate to know what was inside; I couldn’t resist not telling her,” he said grinning widely.

Mr Fenton chuckled. “That’s Ida Gilbert for you.”

Bryony and Bethany looked at each other. Bryony raised her eyebrows and Bethany looked as though she was about to speak when Mr Eyre placed the parcel on Mr Fenton’s counter and started to unwrap it. “So, Mr Fenton, what do you think?” Mr Eyre removed the brown paper. Inside was a box labelled ‘Eastman Kodak Brownie Camera’. With reverential care he drew out a small rectangular case with a handle on the top and a small round glass window at one end. The two men gazed at the object. Mr Eyre turned to the girls. “This is my new toy; a very special present to myself. It’s a camera.”

“She’s a beauty, isn’t she?” said Mr Fenton.

“Indeed. Now all I have to do is figure out how to use it.”

“What does it do?” asked Bethany, looking at the object with her head on one side.

“Why, it takes photographs, of course.” Mr Eyre picked it up and pointed it at her, squinting through the viewfinder. “Smile!”

“It’s not like the one Mr Craddock had when he did our portraits before Mama and Papa went away.”

“No, Miss, that’s the beauty of it,” said Mr Fenton leaning forward on the counter. “It’s small, easy to carry and easy to use. The exposure time is so much shorter,” he saw Bryony’s puzzled look. “It takes a photo in just a jiffy.” He turned to Mr Eyre. “You have film, of course?”

Mr Eyre took two small, bright yellow boxes with the word ‘Kodak’ written in red on the sides out of the wrapper and held them up. “Two rolls.”

“You’ll need the wherewithal to develop your pictures. I have the chemicals if you need them, although I’m sure old Craddock with help you out if you ask him.”

“I thought it might be rather fun to set up a darkroom of our own.” Mr Eyre looked at the girls, who stared back at him blankly. “Well, first things first; I’ll need to take some pictures with it.”

“I’ll be interested see how you get on.” Mr Fenton reached under the counter. “Here’s the book on photography, I promised to lend you.”

Mr Eyre bowed his thanks and gathered up his new camera, pocketing the two reels of film. “Right-ho, Mr Fenton, we still have some errands to complete. We’ll bid you good morning.”

The two girls hurried off with their baskets and Hodge’s shopping list while Mr Eyre sat on a bench at the edge of the village green and started to peruse the instructions for his new Box Brownie.

The girls darted ahead on the way back. Mr Eyre strode after them so engrossed in his camera, that they had to come back and help untangle him when he got caught up in an overhanging branch. When they arrived home Astra was waiting for them by the gate. She immediately started twining herself around Bethany’s legs to such an extent that she had to hand her basket to Mr Eyre so she could pick the kitten up and carry her.

After lunch they took a basket with the samples, the plant book and drawing materials up to the orchard. It was far too nice a day to be working inside, and Mr Eyre was keen to take some shots with his camera now he had loaded the film. 

As they passed through the gate he remarked. “You know, there’s something I’m very keen to take an image of,” he paused and scanned the orchard, shading his eyes with his hand. “The other morning when I was out for a stroll I saw the most curious-looking rabbit.”

“A rabbit, Mr Eyre?” asked Bryony.

Mr Eyre nodded. “Of course I’ve seen rabbits before, but never one with green fur.”

The girls exchanged glances.

“Oh, my word, look,” Mr Eyre cried, pointing. “There he goes!”

Just then Astra shot past them through the gate, chasing at full pelt after the rabbit.

“Astra!” Bethany dropped the basket and scampered after the kitten. Bryony hurried after her.

“Wait!” Mr Eyre took out his camera and fiddled with the settings before joining in the chase.

Bethany and Bryony reached the bluebell clearing just in time to see the rabbit leap over the fallen log. Astra, meanwhile, was clinging to the uppermost branches of the tree above it, mewing piteously. The girls charged forward, Bethany calling anxiously to the kitten. It was then that she tripped and fell. Bryony, with no time to stop or change direction, landed on top of her sister. She seemed to be falling for a long time, then everything went black.

©2019 Chris Hall

On to the next chapter


From my latest work-in-progress. What do you think? I’d really appreciate your feedback.