According to WordPress this is my 500th post, which to me seems like something of a milestone for a self-styled ‘accidental’ blogger, even though it must seem modest to many.
I’ve always been happy writing. I even enjoyed writing up insurance inspections and composing reports for council committees. Words, I’ve come to realise, are just ‘my thing’.
‘Once I’ve written something it does tend to run away from me. I don’t seem to have any part of it – it’s no longer my piece of writing.’ – David Bowie
This quote, from the late and great David Bowie, is very apt. Words run away with me too. Especially in the mouths and actions of my characters. You’ve heard how some of them go on, even outside their own story.
Which brings me to the term for ‘my kind of writer’ that I’m not very fond of… Pantster!
I’m not alone, as discovered last week after I read an interview with fellow author and blogger, Liz Gauffreau. I’m always interested to read about other writers. This brief(!) exchange followed:
I got to thinking after that. What about a new term to replace the irritating ‘pantster’?
I mulled over some alternative words for pants: braggas (Spanish); breeks (Scottish); broekies (South African); but knowing that Liz is a Latin scholar, I came to braccas. I have to admit I had to look it up. My schoolroom Latin is too distant to recall, besides it wasn’t a word to feature much in Caesar or Cicero, although I’m sure Liz will correct me if I’m wrong!
And so here *drumroll* is the first mention of a new word – a neologism
Braccaneers of the world unite, you’ve nothing to lose but your…
‘Another new book? I say, Ms Hall, that is admirable.’ Connor raises his whisky glass in my direction and takes a long pull. ‘And you’re already onto the follow up novel. You’re becoming almost as prolific as The Poet!’ He strikes a dramatic pose from his position by the fireplace.
I smile politely as my eyes travel around Cynthia’s sitting room. Cynthia is lounging languidly on the battered silk chaise-longue. Her eyes are shining over the large glass of red wine she’s sipping. ‘Song of the Sea Goddess; it’s a lovely title,’ she smiles at me encouragingly. ‘Do you have a copy for us?’
I’m still waiting for them to ship from the printers. ‘Next time,’ I promise.
Gina is sitting in the armchair opposite her. Her left hand rests on her knee and the light is catching the diamond in her ring. She sees me looking at it.
‘We decided to put the wedding off for a bit.’
‘I hope you weren’t waiting for me to…’ I stop in mid-sentence, feeling awkward.
Gina laughs. ‘Only Ma and Auntie Marie are bothered. You know what they’re like!’ She shakes her head. ‘No, I’m concentrating on my career.’
‘Good for you,’ I say, raising my glass and taking a sip. The pleasant taste of the cheap Bulgarian Cabernet Sauvignon takes me straight back to the early 1980s. A sudden thought occurs to me. ‘Where’s Gary?’
‘Oh, he and Bob have gone to the match, nursing their New Year hangovers.’ She grins. ‘Fingers has become quite a celebratory at Anfield.’
‘I can imagine,’ I say, smiling back.
Gina’s expression darkens. ‘Your new book’s set in South Africa, isn’t it? She raises a disapproving eyebrow. ‘You do know we’re boycotting everything South African*.’
Connor clears his throat but says nothing and Cynthia shifts awkwardly on the chaise-longue.
‘Yes, I know. I did the same.’ I reply, remembering short supermarket dilemmas. ‘But things have changed. The country celebrated 25 years of democracy last year. Apartheid is over. Nelson Mandela became the first president.’
‘Well I never.’ Connor stares thoughtfully into his glass. ‘But I suppose we’re part of history now.’
‘I’m afraid so.’ Strange as it still seems, the 1980s are history. It feels to me like only yesterday.
‘Oh, but Ms Hall, you bring us to life.’ Cynthia casts a theatrical gesture in my direction.
‘Which is what’s happening to us now,’ says Gina determinedly. She shifts in her seat and pulls a crumpled postcard out of the back pocket of her jeans. ‘This came from Lucy last week. She and Pierre are working on a cruise ship now. He’s a DJ and she’s a croupier in the casino.’
That makes perfect sense.
Connor interrupts my thoughts. ‘As a fellow writer, I understand you have to go where the muse takes you, as it were.’ He strides over to the sideboard to top up his glass. ‘But I thought there might be at least one more historical fiction book in you.’
‘Our sequel?’ Gina waves the postcard at me.
I glance down and see my notebook has fallen open on my lap. I look up at their expectant faces. I guess there’s no harm in jotting down a few more notes…
*For a long time, Nelson Mandela and the issue of South Africa under the Nationalist apartheid regime weren’t widely discussed in the UK. When this song hit the UK charts in 1984 more people started asking questions, which contributed to the issue rising to national prominence. The rest, as they say, is history.
Side Note: I vividly remember my flat-mate, who makes a tiny cameo appearance in ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone, dancing round our kitchen singing this!
Many of you will know that the characters from You’ll Never Walk Alone are frequently tugging at my sleeve. One day, I will give them their wish and write their longed for sequel. They’ve certainly come up with a few good ideas to start to shape the plot. Meanwhile, my new novel, Song of the Sea Goddess, is coming very soon.
And finally, a Happy New Year to one and all. Keep safe, keep sane, and let’s hope for a better 2021!
#ArmedWithABingois a year-long reading challenge hosted by Kriti Khare & Ariel Joy and this is my end of June update.
The books I read for the challenge in this second quarter of the year are outlined in yellow, and straight away I’ll tell you that my stand out book was Trevor Noah’s ‘Born a Crime’. If you’re curious to know what I thought of this or any of the books I’ve read, pop over to Goodreads where you’ll find my reviews. I do think it’s important to support authors with reviews – I know how much it means to us.
You can also find out more about my reading habits and my response to the #ArmedWithABingo challenge in aninterviewI did with Kriti Khare at the beginning of this month.
And now, with only four more books to go to complete the challenge, maybe I’ll try do a second bingo board for the second half of the year. Meanwhile, if anyone has a suggestion for a book with a food in the title, please let me know.
How much the world has changed since I did my first ‘check in’for the challenge. Here in South Africa we were about to go into lockdown. We thought it would be for just 21 days, but it continued for 100 days. Like most of the rest of the world, the country is only just beginning to open up.
My reading has continued and so has my writing. Most of all though, I’m so grateful to all of you, my online friends, for being there and being you!
I was honoured to be interviewed by the wonderful author, reviewer, blogger, home-schooler (and so much more), Jean Lee! This is the outcome.
P.S. – make sure you vote for Jean’s short story – there’s a link at the end of the post.
Greetings, one and all! After a rough week schooling the kiddos at home (stay tuned for THAT post), it’s high time we celebrate Indie April with an interview with an AMAZING writer and reader, Chris Hall.
Let’s begin with the niceties. Tell us a little about yourself, please!
Nice to be here, Jean!
I was born, grew up, lived and worked in the UK until 10 years ago, when childless, in our forties and fed up with our jobs, my husband, Cliff and I upped sticks and emigrated to South Africa. We’d already met people here through a school exchange programme which Cliff was involved in, visited numerous times, and finally decided to come to a new country and do something different.
We’ve settled in a town about 30 miles from Cape Town, where we can almost see the ocean from our house. Our cat, Luna (after whom my blog…
#ARMEDWITABINGOis a light-hearted reading challenge from Kriti Khare & Ariel Joy which I signed up for at the start of this year. Reading is good for writers and I read a lot anyway, so why not? I also set myself a target to read 36 books this year for the2020 Goodreads Reading Challenge.
I’ve enjoyed them all for different reasons, although I have to say that Moby Dick was pretty hard going! If you’re interested you can read all of my short and snappy reviews here onGoodreads.
And now… back to the writing! I’m busy with my fourth novel and with the South African lockdown starting at midnight tomorrow for 21 days, I really have no excuse. Of course, I’ll still be keeping up with my little stories and occasional poems on here.
Take care and stay safe wherever you are in the world. At least we can still meet here.
I’m not very good at self-promotion but, deep breath, here goes…
I submitted my debut novel, The Silver Locket which I wrote under the pen name Holly Atkins, for the 2020 Reader’s Choice Awards, hosted by TCK Publishing.
The novel is part mystery, part romance and includes various other themes. Romance is such a popular and over-crowded market that I decided to enter it into the mystery category. I’m pleased to say it’s been accepted.
Voting continues until 13th November, so there’s plenty of time to cast your vote and I’ll leave the voting link up on the sidebar.
You don’t have to read the book to vote for it – you can just show your support. However, I will be running a short promotional offer for ‘The Silver Locket’, starting on 7th February. It’s also available to borrow on Kindle Unlimited.
This weekend wasn’t the best time to try an ebook giveaway. I really should have known though, because if I’d checked on what happened this time last year, I wouldn’t have bothered.
So what happened? I hear you ask. Especially after the (northern hemisphere) summer giveaway of The Silver Locket did so well: 292 copies downloaded and up to #7 in the genre hit parade (albeit briefly).
Oh, but how quickly I’d forgotten the November 2018 debacle. A five day giveaway of the same book had resulted in just 20 copies downloaded. Now this year, buoyed up after the happy surprise of last August, disappointment reigned supreme again.
I was all over LinkedIn and more than a little bit on Twitter. I pitched in on Instagram and posted all over my personal Facebook page. Loyal friends locally liked and shared: one more download!
Of course it didn’t help that the Facebook Elves took 6 hours to approve my US ad. Maybe they were busy approving the million other ads (or were they busy giggling naughtily over the slightly racy start to chapter ten?). Or, when I tweaked the UK audience demographic yesterday morning, the edit was still under review 10 hours later, well past the Great British tea-time.
Two days of ‘bigging it up’ and busily checking the KDP reports. All for just 17 bites. Couldn’t I even give these away???
No! No, because everyone’s in a Massmart store filling their shopping carts with improbably-sized flat screen TVs, so huge that they totter precariously over the edge of the super-sized luminous pink trolleys they wheel, dodging and weaving through the slippery-floored over-peopled mall. (Or so my friend Jonathan told me. You don’t think I ventured out that day? Are you mad?).
Still, after a tiny flurry of downloads in Canada, You’ll Never Walk Alone peaked at a heady #47 in Romance Action and Adventure.
All wasn’t lost anyway. I have three free books from other indie authors to read on my Kindle.
Just remind me next year to concentrate on the last few days of NaNoWriMo and give the Black Friday thing a miss.
Writers, we love to write, don’t we? That’s the best, even if NaNoWriMo can make us a little jittery (I know I had a wobble last week). But if you’re a writer, or an artist or creative of any kind, you know how wonderful it feels to be in the zone.
The converse of this: you still have to sell.
For indie authors, it’s all down to us.
This is why friend and fellow author, Paul English and I were selling our books at the local car boot sale last Saturday. My husband Cliff was there too with his some of his lovely artworks. He’s a very important member of the team as he has the transport (that’s his bakkie in the background) and the tables and the all-important awning were borrowed from his school.
I have to tell you, it was not a great success. I sold a copy of ‘The Silver Locket’ very early on, but that was it! No other sales of anything! A couple of sniffs… and a couple of people said they’d come back next time. And there will be a next time, in two weeks.
I mean, who wouldn’t want a lovely book for a Christmas present?
Ah well, there’s always next time.
Meanwhile I’m planning some Black Friday and holiday offers – stay tuned out there!