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For the Love of Books - Writer's 'Blog

14/06/2019: Research is Everywhere

Recently I visited Los Angeles. It was essentially a research trip and while we were there we had great time.

Sadly, there was a need during this trip to call 9-1-1 because I'd become so ill an ambulance was called. It wasn't a decision taken lightly and for me, barely able to comprehend what was happening, it was a scary situation.

Details of my complaint aren't necessary, the taking on board of the processes are useful especially if a situation like this cropped up when writing a novel. Despite remembering very little of what went on - only recalling some bits in part - I've been told about it by my family who witnessed all of it.

As an ambulance was called, we expected to see an ambulance; after all, why wouldn't you? My daughter and husband waited at the door as the siren was approaching but instead of an ambulance, a firetruck showed up. Puzzled, my family saw the paramedics get out and showed them the way to me.

Fortunately I was going to be okay but it would take some time. Between my husband and daughter they gave the person in charge my details (husband forgot my birth date, presumably due to the intensity of the situation, and gave them his!) They remained for about 15 minutes but to me it felt like hours, not because it was boring but because i had lost all ability to comprehend and track time.

With copious amounts of sympathy for my situation, they advised two options: wait for the ambulance which was on its way anyway/use our car to get me to the hospital or tough it out. I chose to tough it out because the thought of taking up their time and utilising an ambulance and hospital bed that someone else worse off than me frightened me more than what I was going through.

Information and advice was given by two very sympathetic paramedics and the woman in charge (plus the firefighter/firetruck driver) and they advised my family to send the details to our travel insurers once their bill had been received by us when we were back in the UK. Our bill came through this week and we're in the process of sending it to the insurers.

All of this would have been a mystery to me unless I had seen it first hand. Hollywood movies and TV dramas don't necessarily show you the ins and outs of paperwork processes - essentially because it would be boring. But it is real life.

A month on and I can take some positives from my ordeal like some vital research information that I wouldn't normally have known. It seems the Anaheim Fire and Rescue Department share equipment (like the firetruck that brought them to me) like they do on, say, Chicago Fire (TV drama) but to witness it in real life means I can write about it with authority. After all, who sends a firetruck to someone in need of an ambulance?

Finally, if they ever read this blog, I want to extend my sincere thanks to the guys who came out to me that night and to my family to whom I gave quite fright.

29/05/2019: Writers of Essex Meetup

It does seem to come around quickly, but these quarterly meetups are back again.

This coming Saturday 1 June from midday until 3pm at Caffe Nero in Chelmsford, Essex, UK, I will be hosting another social session.

Originally these meetups were set up for myself so I could escape the solitary environment of writing along. I am, by my very nature, a sociable person so when there is an opportunity to chat (usually about writing) to other writers going through the same issues as me, I'm one happy bunny.

Now in its third year, these meetups have proved to be more than just a catch up for me, by other writers (hobby and professional) have joined me to discuss ways out of ruts they've written themselves in to, brainstormed new ideas and even come up with collaborative efforts that they'll take forwards.

Some sessions have even created new friendships - the best part of socialising in my opinion.

So, don't ignore the invitation, if you are free for up to 3 hours every quarter, why not join in with the other writers who show up? It is free to attend - but do buy some refreshment from the cafe (we don't want to upset them) ;O)

See you there. :O)

26/04/2019: A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty

by Mimi Matthews
Published by Pen and Sword Books

Elegant cover with pastels of cream, pink and shades of sepia. Illustrated with coloured pictures, this incredibly informative book gives a good idea of fashion between 1840 to the end of the century.

It provides information on clothing, varying activities for women of the time including horse riding, formal occasions and even what was worn on holiday. The restrictive and confining designs are a far cry from today’s fashions!

Aside from the fascinating aspects of fabric choice, needlework techniques and research undertaken for the cosmetics available at the time, this book would make a brilliantly helpful research companion for writers and artists focusing on that era. Reviewed by Sarah Banham for Pen and Sword

25/04/2019: Forgotten Royal Women

Erin Lawless’s book ‘Forgotten Royal Women’ is not only a fascinating and insightful read, but it is also written in an entertaining style with a great blend of historical prose, unusual words and modern parlance.

It traces female historical characters from the dark ages through to Victorian times. It covers legendary figures from the near mythical Scottish ‘Scota’ to the tragic Princess Charlotte, who had she survived would have prevented the invention of the word Victorian.

The book covers Queens, lovers, mistresses and tragic mothers.

Scota’s story stems incredibly from Egypt and includes the potential origin of the ‘Stone of Destiny’ (this rock gets more than one mention in the book!) as being from Egypt. Her existence is still a subject of conjecture, and it’s not often that a UK royal history book has a commentary that pre dates Christianity.

In the story of Cartimandua, Erin entertains with her references and descriptions. When this Queen of the Brigantes takes a second husband whose names means ‘better in battle’, I loved the reference that for the queen he was ‘clearly better in other respects too…’ Interestingly it is suggested that the love triangle that surrounds her story might have given origin to the story of Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot.

Edith Swannesha gets a noble and tragic mention who was the common law wife of one of my historical heroes Harold Godwinson. It is sad that history does not record what happened to her after the Norman invasion. But lineage can be traced from her to the current Queen through Edith’s daughter Gytha, meaning Queen Elizabeth II is Edith’s 29th great granddaughter.

Another touch of what I found to be an almost satirical use of English that entertained me was the story of Joanna Plantagenet. Erin describes how ‘it would have been totally inconceivable that a married pregnant woman be admitted to an Abbey’. Something in her story had clearly been very conceivable! Joanna was another tragic royal woman who died following child birth along with her child, much like the final tragic story of Princess Charlotte. Charlotte’s death, when she was the immediate heir to the throne, led to family expansion elsewhere to produce a new heir: Queen Victoria.

Writing royal history with its twists and turns in who accedes to the throne and from which house is difficult to commit to paper having read much on this subject. Erin has done a commendable job to try to allow the reader to follow these lines, and she has entertained along the way.

Good work, recommended read!

Reviewed by Bryan Lightbody,
For the Love of Books
for Pen & Sword Books

02/11/2018: BIKER BLOGS: It's not easy being green!

Remember when Kermit said that? I think I understand him now.

Menopause – or peri-menopause (the bit I’m in) creates a very colourful time in a woman’s life. Now, before all the guys click onto a different page, this affects you too. After all, why should we be the only one to suffer with it. Let’s share that suffering.

Kermit was green. I relate because my eyes are green. My hair is dyed red, the air is often blue when a mood hits me and within seconds from being sweary and shouty, my face matches my hair. Then my eyes see red.

Like I said, it’s a colourful time.

On the back of a motorcycle though, life feels different.

Because hubby and I (perhaps purposely?) do not have Bluetooth communications inside our helmets, and because he is a lot taller than me, I tend to see and hear very little while we ride out. This may sound restrictive, but it does provide a major positive: thinking time.

I run my own small business as a writer, ghost writer, business blog writer, workshop host, etc and I also present a weekly radio show on writing. On the days of the week I don’t do those things, I study. I’m now in my penultimate year of an Open University degree which is, you guessed it, writing related. Because of the often-intense nature of juggling my schedule, having time to think is paramount.

Between excellent riding skills, looking sexy in biker gear and generally being rather patient with his potentially volatile wife, hubby seems to enjoy the challenging mix of negotiating the traffic while having an anxious (will even jump at my own shadow!) pillion rider. We’ve had this bike for 3 years now and have had some amazing adventures on it.

We often take a long day trip out around Essex, an occasional weekend away (Lincolnshire, Wales etc) and we even battled the extreme sunshine earlier this year as we rode through the Cotswolds for a week. The term boil-in-the-bag was a reality for us during those five days. You can imagine what a delight I became for hubby while I endured menopausal hot flushes in 40-degree heat wearing a biker jacket and helmet! I probably lost a few pounds but then regained them during dinner each evening.

Aside from the thinking time you get on the back of a bike, you get to see life. Due to the lack of vision – I see both sides as we are on top of them rather than as they approach – when we slow down for traffic, I get to notice wild flowers, partially-hidden ancient stone walls, the reluctant rodent and occasional owls and other shy birds.

As a fan of architecture, I often get the chance within our county of Essex to take in the stunning lines and curves of gothic, classical, Victorian, medieval and even brand-spanking modern buildings.

So, between my hormones, thinking time, our weather and the countryside, pillion-riding is exciting and often peaceful in great measure.

That said, in unexpected torrential rain, the adventures are quite different again.

But that’s a story for another time.

25/10/2018: Time Sensitive - Autumn Creative Writing Course

Each Tuesday from November 6th to December 11th 2018, I will be hosting an in-depth creative writing course at the Albert Edward Community Hall in Clacton, Essex.

During the stages of the course, aspects from the germ of an idea through to final publication will be covered in an informal and relaxed, flexible atmosphere.

If you aspire to becoming a creative writer, or are already writing, and want some tips on any aspect, then join us for a fresh look at the creative writing process.

Cost of the course is just £120 per person, for 18 hours of tips, exercises, one to one assistance and actual writing.

Book your place now by emailing and showing your interest.

01/10/2018: Health - work balance

More often than not, we all try our hardest to do what we do to the best of our abilities.

Sometimes, it doesn't work like that.

I want to mention the M word. I don't want to scare away any gents to my blog though so won't use the whole M word. Let's call it 'm-pause'.

Yeah - we all know what I'm talking about now.

M-pause or peri - m - pause (the bit I'm going through), is tough. Some women get it bad, some hardly notice it at all.

The problem arises when brain fog sets in. Brain fog, zombie-esque days, joint ache, low motivation, mixed into your work day and you'll find yourself having a very tricky time.

My memory isn't fab and I was never blessed with patience so when someone mentions a mistake I've made - an obvious one like a typo or the wrong time for an event - I have a tough time telling myself that I shouldn't sweat the small stuff. The thing is, ANY mistake, any error and anything not utterly right is not small stuff, certainly not when you are a writer by trade so the tiniest error is emphasised by the masses. But before the masses spot it (if you are lucky), you spot it and then continue to beat yourself up about it.

So, I put to you people of Interweb-land, is it worth punishing yourself for a small error or should you just remind yourself you are human?

24/09/2018: Trying to keep up… with everyone!

Do you ever have that feeling that if you don't keep up with everyone you will be left behind? I find this a lot in business. I'm absolutely shattered today due to a busy weekend meeting up with relatives both days and then going to the cinema last thing on Sunday night.

We didn't really stop the whole weekend. I am beyond exhausted. I feel really dizzy and I've got brain fog and unable to focus much but still I've got a lot to do.

I'm doing this blog and vlog just to find out from other small businesses how they deal with it. Just be kind to yourself. Yes the calendar doesn't match up with how you feel inside, yes, you need to earn money to pay bills but sometimes…sometimes it's just not possible.

All morning I've been beating myself up in here (points to head) because I feel guilty because I've not been able to keep up. Now rather than do a really poor job of trying to keep up I feel I just cannot.

I've got a radio show to present this evening which I'm hoping in my heart of hearts that I don't have to do but I might have to anyway. It is voluntary but sometimes you still have to do these things. Somewhere in amongst the guilt in my mind I'm still privileged to be able to do it.

Mental health is vital to your physical health and everything else. (sigh)

Is it the answer though - to just be kind to yourself? Or should I just pull up my big girl pants and get on with it?

I don't know what the answer is….you tell me.

30/06/2018: Elegant Etiquette in The Nineteenth Century

by Mallory James
Published by Pen and Sword Books

An amusing yet informative take on good manners and behaviour in years gone by.

The cover* alone evidences the off-beat tone used in the content which includes fashion, politics and acceptable social behaviours of both genders.

Incorporating behaviours between social classes, it looks at marital and class status too. This charming book offers a selection of black and white photography showing the intricacies of 19c fashion.

An amusing read, of potential value to a historical writer needing to research characteristics of people from this era.

* image of cover is on its way

Reviewed by SJ Banham
For the Love of Books
for Pen and Sword Books

25/06/2018: Myths that Shaped our History Simon Webb Published by Pen and Sword

An interesting book showing how propaganda and handed-down, unquestioned stories have created a belief system.

The dark green cover drew me to this book and the title got my curious mind wanting more.

Starting with the Magna Carta and journeying to the Battle of Britain, this timeline of unchallenged stories have provided the country with a way to raise the morale of soldiers at war and civilians with a way of life. Webb suggests that Great Britain needed to believe historical events happened in a specific way in order to show our strength and prevent threats.

The content provides several photographs which serve to evidence the propaganda with ‘another example of …propaganda being taken at face value without anyone bothering to look at the facts’.

An interesting, if somewhat cynical read that makes you think.

Click here for more images