Bah Humbug!

Merry Christmas!

 

Christmas is almost upon us, so this is the last post on my blog for the year. As ever, I’m extremely grateful to all the readers, reviewers, bloggers and other writers (many of whom I class as friends) that have taken the time to read my third novel, Time Will Tell, which was released earlier this year, and to all those that continue to read my books and support me.

 

Writing wise it’s been a tough year for me. Much of my time has been taken up caring for poorly family members, which at the moment doesn’t look set to change much next year. However, although my writing time is minimal, I’m determined to keep at it until my fourth novel is finished. In the meantime, over the festive period, I look forward to spending time with loved ones, and taking some time out to read. Snuggled up with a good book, a small glass of Baileys and a mince pie at hand is my idea of heaven, and the book I’m currently reading is Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. It’s one of my absolute favourites and has now become a bit of a tradition of mine to read every Christmas.

 

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For those of you that don’t know it, this famous Victorian tale tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a solitary miser who is shown the true meaning of Christmas through a series of ghostly visitors on Christmas Eve – namely the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, as well as a visit from the ghost of his old business partner Jacob Marley. First published in December 1843, the first edition of A Christmas Carol sold out by Christmas Eve, and by the end of the following year (due to public demand) a further 13 editions were released. In 1849 Dickens began public readings of the book, which proved to be so successful he undertook another 127 readings, right up to the year of his death in 1870.

 

A Christmas Carol (which has never been out of print) has been translated into several languages and adapted many times for film and stage. Some of the lesser known versions include: Carry on Christmas starring Sid James as Ebenezer, and The Six Million Dollar Man – “A Bionic Christmas Carol”, whilst some of the better known adaptions include Mickey’s (Mouse) Christmas Carol, Bill Murray’s Scrooged, Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, The Muppet Christmas Carol, and my favourite film version, Disney’s A Christmas Carol starring Jim Carrey.

 

Back in October this year I was honoured to the great-great-great-granddaughter of Dickens, namely author and historian Lucida Hawksley. With a keen interest in her family history, she was speaking at Wanstead Library (as part of the Fabula Festival) where she discussed Dickens’ life, including his early childhood and how his constant fear of poverty, despite being the greatest celebrity of his age, always stayed with him, due to time spent as a child labourer. She also explained that not only was he a superb novelist, but that he was also a brilliant campaign journalist, philanthropist and social reformer.

 

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Above all else though, at a time of year when many families feel the financial burden of Christmas in what too often becomes a celebration of wealth and consumerism, A Christmas Carol reminds us that a joyful Christmas does not require Ebenezer Scrooge’s gold and that instead, “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.”

 

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful Christmas, and a healthy, happy New Year xxx

“God bless us, every one!”

The Deepings Literary Festival

If you like going to Literary Festivals but don’t have the means, money or motivation to travel to more established ones that take place throughout the UK literary calendar, you’d do well to remember one that started three years ago.

Following on from the enormous success of the first festival in 2017, Deepings Literary Festival this year was a 4-day event running from 23-26th May, and I was one of the authors invited to take part.

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For those of you who don’t know the area, The Deepings are a series of settlements in the south of Lincolnshire near the River Welland, some 8 miles to the north of Peterborough and 10 miles east of Stamford. The Deepings include: Deeping St James, Deeping St Nicholas, Market Deeping, and West Deeping. The area is very low-lying, and as a Saxon name is translatable to either ‘deep places’ or ‘deep lands’. 

 

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My event took place on the Saturday in Market Deeping but my first stop was Coronation Hall to hear best-selling author Barbara Copperthwaite give a talk. Barbara explained how, although born and bred near the seaside resort of Skegness in Lincolnshire (a location slightly north of The Deepings), she more or less regards herself as local. She discussed how her journalism background has helped her writing and how the flat, rural setting of her childhood has influenced the settings of her psychological thrillers. I had a quick chat with the author afterwards and bought a signed copy of her latest novel The Perfect Friendwhich I’m currently reading and thoroughly enjoying.

 

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Next up was my event, Read Dating, along with fellow authors, Ross Greenwood, Jane E James, Tony Forder, Helen Claire Gould, Tony Millington, Margaret Castle and Sarah Bennett, which took place at Deeping Library.

 

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Based on the popular speed dating format, Read Dating is a big get together of local authors and readers in one fun-filled event, inviting members of the public to spend ten minutes with eight local authors so they can find out about their books, writing, work in progress and inspiration. The event was extremely well organised, the location perfect, the staff friendly and helpful, and the public, just brilliant. All in all it was a very pleasant, entertaining afternoon, and I even sold a few books to boot.

 

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Other authors that took part in the four-day festival included Sophie Hannah, Milly Johnson, Cathy Cassidy, Cathy Bramley, Lizzie Lamb, Darren O’ Sullivan and Louise Jensen, to name just a few. The festival also incorporated live music including the brilliant, The Bookshop Band, not to mention a plethora of mouth-watering homemade cakes offered for sale (the cheese scones and coffee cake were sublime).

However, if you missed out this year, I am reliably informed that preparations are underway for the next festival which at present is a biennial event, so will take place in 2021.

Put it in your diary folks!

 

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Talking and laughing with writers Graeme Cumming and Esther Chilton

It’s Not Always Fiction!

Happy New Year everyone! May 2018 bring you health, happiness and success (in whatever way you measure it) and if you get thrown a few curve balls along the way, may you have the strength to manage them. I would also like to wish all the book lovers out there many happy reading hours. May we all find the time to read lots of books this year, and hopefully put a dent in that ever growing TBR pile while we’re at it (pssst, we all know that will never happen and that TBR piles are only ever apt to grow!). And to all my writer friends, I wish you every success for the coming year, may you be blessed with the time and inspiration to do what we all love to do the most – write!

In the meantime, take a look at some of the beautiful gifts I received over the festive period and on my 50th birthday in November. There’s a diary with a difference, a toolbox for writers, a colourful book about some of  history’s amazing women and a treasury of unusual words. Each one is lovely or unique and just goes to prove, that when it comes to reading or writing, it’s not just about fiction!

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First up is the Me.You. Diary by the lovely Dawn French. Bought for me by my OH, it is absolutely gorgeous and in the words of the lady herself:

This book is a way for us to tell the story of a year together. Feel free to write your appointments in it, lists, thoughts and reminders of, say, who to kill, and when, and in what order. But I’ve also written about age and life as I see it, through the seasons and the months, and I’ve added some places for you to join me in some fun and some thinking. By the end of the year, I am hoping you will have a fatter, scruffier book that is written by me but totally personalised by you.

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Secondly, bought for me by my lovely children is The Writer’s Toolbox, a fun approach to helping with writer’s block, getting past that difficult opening line, or simply rounding out characters. Developed by long time writing teacher Jamie Cat Callan, The Writer’s Toolbox is described as:

An innovative kit that includes a 64 page booklet with exercises and instructions that focus on a ‘right brain’ approach to writing. Sixty exercise sticks will get stories off the ground, 60 cards fuel creative descriptions and four spinner palettes will ignite unexpected plot twists. For an aspiring writer this kit is the perfect first step on the path to literary greatness!

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Thirdly, if, like me, you’re bit of a history buff, then I highly recommend  this beautifully illustrated book by writer and artist, Ann Shen, again bought for me by my lovely children, which takes a look at 100 remarkable women that helped shape and change history. Great for young and old alike, it provides a perfect snapshot of each woman, alongside Shen’s lovely illustration of each.

The 100 revolutionary women highlighted in this gorgeously illustrated book were bad in the best sense of the word: they challenged the status quo and changed the rules for all who followed. From pirates to artists, warriors, daredevils, scientists, activists and spies, the accomplishments of these incredible women vary as much as the eras and places in which they effected change. Featuring bold watercolour portraits and illuminating essays by Ann Shen, Bad Girls Throughout History is a distinctive, gift-worthy tribute.

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And finally, just for sheer amusement and the love of unusual words, I highly recommend Foyle’s Philavery, another wonderful gift from my other half. Written by Christopher Foyle (chairman of the world famous Foyles bookshop in London’s Charing Cross Road) this book is a collection of some the overlooked gems of the English language.

Some of these words appeal because of their aptness, some for their obscurity, some for their euphony, and some for their quirkiness. As a collection, they represent the fruits of a lifetime of reading and will delight all word lovers.

Eva Jordan reviews… Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas Fair by Heidi Swain

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Published by Simon & Schuster UK

I met author Heidi Swain earlier this year, albeit very briefly, at an author/blogger meet up. Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas Fair is the first of Heidi’s novels I’ve read and like the lady herself, it is absolutely charming. Whether you’re looking for something jovially celebratory to read in the run-up to Christmas, or something to curl up to with a mince pie and glass of your favourite tipple over the holidays, I can thoroughly recommend this festive, feel-good tale. 

Set in the fictional Fenland town of Wynbridge (with its very own Market Place not unlike my own home town) this is the story of Anna, who, for reasons not at first obvious, isn’t particularly fond of Christmas. A bit of a nomad, she pulls out all the stops to make sure she works every Christmas, preferably in a position that will keep her both busy, and as far away from the holiday festivities as possible. Anna spots and applies for what appears to be the perfect occupation, as companion to Catherine Connolly, convalescing after an operation. Catherine, along with her husband Angus, is the owner of the somewhat isolated Wynthorpe Hall, situated on the outskirts of Wynbridge, a remote town in the Fens, which sounds ideal to Anna. “Hunkering down in the barren and frosty Fenland landscape, without so much as a carol singer in sight, would be a much appreciated soothing balm to my troubled soul and I mulled it over with relish”. Only, as is often the case with most things in life, things are not quite as they seem.

When the Connolly’s youngest son, Jamie, arrives home just before Christmas, after spending time abroad, he finds himself faced with some difficult decisions. Ones that will no doubt affect his future and that of Wynthorpe Hall. Disillusioned with the family home, can Anna help Jamie fall in love with it again, and, more importantly, can Jamie help Anna, after years of refusing to celebrate it, help her fall in love with Christmas again?

Easy to read, the story is well paced, and, as one who lives in the Fens, the setting feels heart-warmingly familiar. The characters are well rounded and believable, although it is the rather eccentric, not to mention slightly mischievous, Angus, who really captured my heart. Full of festive cheer, love, laughter and hope, Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas Fair is a pure joy to read, providing some light relief and escapism from, what at times, feels like a very troubled world at the moment. Definitely one I’d recommend.

Remember, Remember the 5th of November!

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So, it’s  November already, the shops are stocked for Christmas and in less than eight weeks time, those that do, will celebrating Christmas. However, before we all get too festive there is one more tradition many will be celebrating across the UK, mostly with a huge crackling bonfire and fireworks, which dates back to the 17th century, otherwise known as Bonfire Night. On 5th November every year, the effigy of Guy Fawkes is still burned on bonfires across England in recognition of his part in the failed ‘Gunpowder Plot’ of 1605. However, what’s interesting, and perhaps not widely known, is, Fawkes didn’t devise or lead the plot to assassinate James I, so why is he still singled out as one of British history’s greatest villains more than 400 years after his death?

Born in April 1570 in York, Guy Fawkes’s immediate family were Protestants, in keeping with the accepted religious practice in England at the time, however his maternal grandparents were ‘recusant’ Catholics, who refused to attend Protestant services. When Guy was 8-years-old, his father died and his widowed mother married a Catholic. It is suggested that it was these early influences that forged Fawkes’ convictions as an adult.

An imposing character, Fawkes is described by historian Antonia Fraser as, “a tall, powerfully built man, with thick reddish-brown hair, a flowing moustache in the tradition of the time, and a bushy reddish-brown beard”, while school friend, Oswald Tesimond, described him as “pleasant of approach and cheerful of manner, opposed to quarrels and strife and loyal to his friends”.

By the time he was 21 years old, Fawkes travelled to Europe to fight for Catholic Spain against the Protestant Dutch and his military career flourished. Later, when on campaign fighting for Spain in Flanders, Fawkes was approached by Thomas Wintour, one of a number plotting against the English Protestant King, James I, due to his extreme intolerance of Catholics. Wintour asked Fawkes to join what would become known as the ‘Gunpowder Plot’, under the leadership of Robert Catesby.  Fawkes was an expert with gunpowder, which gave him a key, and very dangerous role, in the conspiracy. However, despite months of careful planning, James’s I spymaster, Robert Cecil, foiled the plot with just hours to go, and Fawkes was arrested at midnight on 4 November 1605 beneath the House of Lords. Thirty-six barrels of gunpowder were found stacked in the cellar exactly below where the king would have been sitting for the opening of parliament the next day. 

Fawkes was tortured and withstood two days of excruciating pain before he confessed all. However, his fortitude throughout impressed James I, who said he admired Fawkes’ “Roman resolution”. Fawkes was sentenced to the traditional traitors’ death, which meant he would be hanged, drawn and quartered. However, he jumped from the gallows, breaking his own neck, thereby avoiding the horror of being cut down while still alive, having his testicles cut off and his stomach opened. His body was then hacked into quarters and his remains sent to “the four corners of the kingdom” as a warning to others. Ringleader Catesby, on the other hand, was killed evading capture, so never tried.

Guy Fawkes instantly became a national bogeyman and by the 19th Century it was his effigy that was being placed on the bonfires that were lit annually to commemorate the failure of the plot.

#Writing – it’s not a life, it’s an adventure!

I’m over on WE Heart Writing today talking about my journey to publication!

On 19th October my second novel, All The Colours In Between, was released followed a week later by the book launch at Waterstones. And, in several weeks time, I will also be celebrating a … ahem … certain milestone birthday. I’ve always wanted to be a writer but for various reasons it just never seemed to be the right time to knuckle down and get on with it, however, with two books now bagged before my 50th birthday it just goes to show that old saying is true – it’s never too late! ♥

 

Eva Jordan book launch, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, on October 26, 2017.

Now, pop over to We Heart Writing to read the full article.