Location, Location, Location #22

Location No. 22 – Somewhere in Yorkshire

On our literary tour this week we’re going on a little time-travelling detour. Let me take you back to my school-days when I deftly managed to avoid a week’s work experience by wangling my way onto a historical workshop run by a local theatre group.

There were about 10 of us from our all girls grammar school, and we were about to be transported to the time of the English Civil War, accompanied by a handful of enthusiastic actors, who were keen to recreate the correct conditions for our plight under the iron fist of the Royalists who held the walled City of York.

The historical details were somewhat lost on me, but the story was that our fathers, fearful for our safety, were sending us out of the city to an unspecified rural location, were we would conceal our identities as daughters of prominent Parliamentarians and assume the roles of farmer’s daughters.

There were various preparations including the fitting of period costumes and, for the sake of historical accuracy, being urged not to wash or wear modern undergarments (which of course we ignored). Then the following day, with minimal baggage and concealed toothbrushes, we were whisked away to the past in the theatre minibus.

We were undoubtedly too compliant for young ladies of the time thrown into such a situation, but eager to get into our roles we got down to work. There was much peeling to be done. I chiefly remember the potatoes and onions. The onion skins were boiled up to make a dye for some rather malodorous sheep’s wool, which was marinated overnight, and came up a vibrant shade of yellow the following day. We learned to card and spin wool. My spinning was woeful and I was sent to the kitchen to busy myself about the potatoes again. I learned to milk a cow which was brilliant, unlike the subsequent butter-making. Churning is absolutely arm-aching.

We were also shown the hayloft where we would hide should anyone in authority from the ‘wrong side’ come calling. Little did we know that the following evening we wouldn’t have time to hide.

The sun was setting and we’d finished our supper. We were all sitting together in the large room at the front of the farmhouse which looked out onto the yard. I chanced to look through the window to see a group of soldiers, wearing high boots and feather-plumed hats, marching towards the farmhouse. They were undoubtedly the enemy. Almost before I’d had time to call out a warning, they were hammering on the door.

They took the farmer into the back room. His wife followed. One soldier stayed guarding the door. We heard punches, screams and cries; furniture was being overturned. If we hadn’t been in character before, we certainly were in those few moments.

Then they emerged. The make-up was very realistic.

The soldiers moved on.

I really don’t recall what happened after that, but what an experience! One on which I was to draw on for a little piece, written about 30 years later, in a response to a writing group prompt: ‘A Scary Moment’. Revised and updated it became the first piece in my tiny collection of short fiction, released in 2018.

~~~

The Day the Soldiers Came

I smile as I watch my mother play with my little brother Tommy on the hearth-rug. My father sits in his chair, still but alert. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye I detect a movement in the yard.  I turn to look. Soldiers, four of them! By the way they are dressed, I know them instantly as ‘the enemy’. My father has followed my gaze as I gasp in fright and immediately he’s on his feet, sweeping up Tommy in the same movement and shoving him in my direction.

‘You know what to do Annie,’ he says quietly. He nods urgently at me and I grab Tommy’s hand and propel him through the kitchen. I look through the window, checking our route to the barn. It’s clear, so I open the door and we slide through and dash into the slatted wooden building. Behind us, I hear the soldiers hammering on the front door, shouting.

Although Tommy’s only little he knows what to do. Just as we’ve practiced so many times in recent months, I help him up the ladder to the hayloft. He doesn’t make a sound as we creep across the creaky boards and hide ourselves in the straw behind the loosely baled hay. We lie there, waiting. We haven’t practised what happens next. Then I hear a scream; I know it’s my mother, although the sound is like none I’ve ever heard her make. Her pain and terror flood my head. I grip Tommy tightly; he’s trembling and sobbing silently. The minutes tick by; I wonder what’s happening in the house. My father is shouting, but I can’t make out what he’s saying. The shouting stops abruptly and I hear the back door slam against the outside wall of the kitchen.

Heavy boots march towards the barn; I bite down hard on my knuckles. A cold fist contorts my stomach as I realise I forgot to drag the ladder up behind us. I hear the soldier’s heavy breathing down below. He’s pulling things over, searching. He approaches the ladder and in my mind’s eye I see him grab the ladder and place his boot on the first rung. Sweat runs down my back. Tommy is rigid in my arms.

There is a loud call from the house: ‘Move on!’ I hear the sound of the ladder clattering to the floor.  It settles and there is no sound apart from the blood pumping in my ears. Slowly I get up, my legs are shaking. I grab the rail at the edge of the loft and feel for the rope which we use as a swing when it’s too wet to play outside. Telling Tommy to stay where his is, I let myself down and run towards the back door which is gaping off its hinges.

Inside the house furniture has been overturned and one curtain has been ripped from the window. My mother cowers in a corner. Her blouse is torn and there is blood on her skirt. Father’s face is bruised and bloody. He reaches for her, but she turns her face to the wall.


The English Civil War, 1642 – 1651. Scenes from ‘Cromwell’ with Richard Harris and Alec Guinness, music by The Clash.

A Sextet of Shorts is available from Amazon in paperback and ebook and on Kindle Unlimited

Photo credits: naturalhomes.org, http://www.sheepcabana.com, pixels.com

NaNo Update #4

November is drawing to a close and another NaNoWriMo with it. Mine hasn’t been the all out marathon slog and final race to the finish as, once again, I’ve played by my own rules.

There’s one more day to go, but with that in mind, how have I done?
Not bad. Not bad at all.

  • My target of 30,000 words won’t be smashed. But I’ll be close.
  • Twenty chapters? I’ll be a chapter short. Not a problem.
  • Have I enjoyed it. Certainly!

I have lots of flesh on the bones of my main plot and I’ve a couple of subplots bubbling away nicely. My characters have been chased up several trees and fires set under them. I still don’t know quite how it will end, but where would be the fun in that?

Now, like any good brew, I shall leave it to stand for a little time before launching into the second half of the book, which I hope to complete by next (southern hemisphere) spring. In the meantime, the novel I started last November, Song of the Sea Goddess, will be released in early January 2021.

My conclusion:
November is a good month to start writing a novel.

NaNo update #3

Week 3 came to an end all too quickly but I’m still almost on track to achieve my personal target for this ‘dedicated’ writing month. I’ve dropped a chapter behind, but it’s not a train smash. The story is shaping up nicely and a few unexpected elements have emerged. I love these kind of surprises!

Meanwhile this week, I launched the ARC for Song of the Sea Goddess – do help yourself to a copy, there are still some left. Since it’s the sequel to Sea Goddess that I’m writing now, I’ve been truly immersed in my imaginary world on the west coast. It’s an exciting place to be.

Eight more writing days left to the end of NaNoWriMo2020. I wonder what further surprises lie ahead? Apart from a planned interruption to the electricity supply for the whole of Tuesday, which is really not going to help. Ah well, this is Africa!

Have a wonderful rest of the weekend – whatever you’re up to!

Nano update #1

The first week is over – already! All is going well (so far). Words are flowing, characters are cooperating, and lo, I’ve even done a little bit of ‘panster planning’.

I’m embarking on the sequel to my soon-to-be-released novel and it’s certainly easier working with a core cast of fully-formed characters. New ones too, are appearing from the wings and it’s exciting getting to know them.

Here’s the mind map I’ve been scribbling, which is supplementing the jottings of my developing thoughts in a notebook. Don’t try to read my terrible handwriting. I blame it on years of note taking.

So, in summary, how am I doing?
Five chapters (almost) completed
7169 words written (all of them good ones)

Verdict: Just a handful of words shy of my target. I’m happy with that!

To NaNo or not to NaNo?

Shall I? Shan’t I? This is what I’ve been asking myself over the past few weeks. I think I vowed not to do this again at the end of last November. I’d made hard work of it, although I didn’t need to; not that I signed up for the ‘real deal’, just a modest target of 30,000 words. However, in the end, I did get half a novel almost completed within the month.

So it was worth it!

That novel is now complete. Song of the Sea Goddess is due for release early next year and, in the meantime, I shall be offering advance reader copies to any of you who’d like to read it and review it. More about this soon.

So, NaNo again?

You bet! But on my own informal personal terms like last year and the year before:

– Target 30,000 words.

– Write at least 5 chapters each week.

– Enjoy it!

That won’t be a whole novel. It will be a good start.

~~~~

and Sinead and Moonsprite’s saga will continue too!

My Monday warm up with Sadje’s What Do You See will continue

.

.

.

Good luck to all NaNoWriMo participants!
Especially those who have committed to doing it properly.

#Indie #Author #Interview: Chris Hall discusses #reading, #blogging, #writinginspiration, and other delightful bits of the #writinglife. Thanks, @ChrissyH_07!

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.

Jean Lee's World

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…

View original post 2,758 more words

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

 

It’s all over now

nanowrimo 2019

The final week shuddered to a grinding halt yesterday, with not a single word more written since Thursday. ‘Life’ got in the way. 

Never mind.

The ‘life’ bit included trying to persuade people to help themselves to the free download of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone.’ I’m pleased to say there has been some success so far, and the offer will still be running for almost another 24 hrs.

Back to NaNoWriMo. I didn’t quite reach my hoped-for word count of 30K, but I’m beyond 25K and story-wise I’m reaching the mid-point, although there are a few blank spaces in the chapters I’ve written so far. Compared to last year, I’m about two chapters shy of where I got to with Following the Green Rabbit, so I’m pretty satisfied.

Of course it isn’t all over. The story continues to drip forth. I’m hoping to have something approaching a completed MS by next Easter. Then comes the tricky bit. To paraphrase one of Mr Shakespeare’s characters: ‘To query or not to query?’

If you were participating in NaNoWriMo on any level, how was it for you?

Imagination

what do you see 5 by chris hall lunasonline
Island perspective by Chloe Smith

As the world turns,

you turn with it

always just a little out of kilter;

existing within a land of virtual friends

and made up characters,

submerged in the limpid pools of your mind’s eye,

where with every throw of the dice

you win.


Written in response to Sadjes ‘What Do You See #5 photo prompt.

NaNoWriMo Week #3

nanowrimo 2019

Well, I’m pretty pleased with myself at the end of week 3. I have a further six chapters more or less completed, although obviously not polished, and the story is flowing now.

My characters are fleshing out nicely: they have quirks and foibles and they’re starting to spark off one another. Yesterday I nearly fell off my chair trying to imagine what it would be like to climb up the inside of a cave, and I became quite breathless swimming along an underwater tunnel.

It’s been fun!

I’ve fallen a little behind today, as I spent all morning chatting over rooibos tea and biscuits with one friend, and half the afternoon chatting over coffee and stollen with some other friends. I must take advantage of the sudden sugar rush!

On to the final week…

Enjoy, fellow NaNo writers! My tip of the week: cake helps.