Inspiration and Some Kind of Synchrony

So I find have omitted to say that the third of my completed novels is now available online from annmade.co.uk and Amazon. Some Kind of Synchrony offers double value for money in a way, as within the novel the main character, Faith, tells another complete story to her friend as they travel everyday from their un-named town suburb up the motorway to the centre of a midlands city  to go to work and back. The story is told to while away the time but this story is a bit special and is integral in the events that follow.

I have dedicated this book to ‘my friends who inspire me’. One of those was a friend who, in passing, told me about a long journey she undertook with another friend and to while away the time they took it in turns to add to a crazy story in a Mills and Boon vein….I can’t even remember the details now, but the idea of telling stories on a car journey did stick in my mind. This, combined with some unusual co-incidences between characters that I had pinned my first (never to be published apprentice piece) novel on and what happened to the real life counterparts or how they went on to achieve in real life, somehow collided and became the germ of an idea for this book.

The story of ‘Some Kind of Synchrony’ borrows nothing from either of these true life scenarios but the ignition of the idea can be traced back to these inspirations, and the rest developed within my subconscious over a number of years, patiently waiting for me to write it all out.

You can read the first three chapters of Some Kind of Synchrony FREE at

http://www.annmade.co.uk/shop/books/novels/some_kind_of_synchrony__pdf_.ann

where it will appear as a PDF file if you click on the orange line that says ‘click here to read the first 3 chapters’

 

Some Kind of Synchrony is available in three eformats, for your kindle, for your Nook or Sony ereader and as aPDF.

What’s in a Name? Naming characters….

I was recently browsing a forum that asked how authors gave their characters names. There were a few great ideas there; choosing names from an atlas, from the census for the historical time your book is set in, ditto gravestones, even asking friends to nominate names.

I had used the atlas approach once, only to be asked by someone I knew whether I had manipulated their name to make a character’s name. I could see where he was coming from, but it hadn’t crossed my mind, it’s the one thing I would never do – use the name of someone I actually knew.

However, as an author you have to name your characters and it’s something that I have taken a mixture of great care and random luck over. My main characters, the lead characters and often other pivotal characters, I think long and hard over their names. Often I have a theme linking them, nothing too overt (I hope) but there may be literary or historical meaning attached to the names, or they may be suggestive of a type when you hear them. In my first, never to be published apprentice piece, my characters names had links to characters from Greek myths. In the book I am currently writing the names are basically biblical, though not all.

I kept a couple of babies’ name books from when we were selecting names for our own children. Thank goodness as an author I don’t have to compromise and agree with someone else. The process of choosing each of our own children’s names went something like this. We’d each choose 10 names we liked. Then compare lists. None would match, not one. Then we’d have to each make a second list of 10 names having none of our original ones on the second list. We would compare lists again. By this time we usually matched on two or three. These combined, we would then individually rank for favourites, and take the one with the highest score. Then do it all again for their second name. FOUR times, and each time for a girl or a boy!! That was time consuming I can tell you!

Anyway, it did result in me having this collection of ‘a name for your baby’ type books that I dip into on occasion – especially when I want the name to have a meaning behind it – to check the origin of the name. Similarly I have a dictionary of surnames which I occasionally use, however my most common way of finding names for my other characters, the odd people that pop up to interact with my main protagonists in their everyday life, well these are the random ones, often chosen from glancing along the books that line the places where I write and picking one first name from one author and the surname from another, avoiding names that are too recognisable as a stand alone name – like Dahl or Binchy. So I might take the first name of a female character of a certain age from Philippa Gregory and the second name from Richard North Patterson (could have easily been the other one James Patterson) and end up with a character called Philippa Patterson – and somehow instantly I feel I know what she’d look like and how she’d speak and behave. So it is a matter of matching name and character.

The male counterpart of this bookish pairing, of course, would be Richard Gregory, another good name for a character – or Gregory Richards… its quite fun too, as for me, each name combination calls up a slightly different face, age, colouring and behaviour.

So that, random or not, I am quite choosy about the actual name I end up with.

 

ps  Sorry the email alert doesn’t seem to be working at the moment…

Making Jam and writing this blog at the same time!

I am making Jam! Right now… while the bowl of fruit and sugar bubbles safely in the microwave I am using the eight minutes, until it is ready for a stir and to reset microwave time and power to simmer, to start this blog.

Jam making is one of my ‘other passions’, it takes hold of me when I find beautiful free or cheap fruit and I have a bit of time. I have my regular jams to make, the blackcurrant which is the staple jam on our table is made from fruit harvested from our garden and frozen, so this is often made as required, five jars at a time (this being the maximum quantity I can make in the microwave in the largest Pyrex bowl I have). I cannot resist making apricot jam when in France in the summer and boxes are being sold cheap in the markets and supermarkets, we eat apricots, make desserts out of apricots and then make jam from the rest – enough to take back to use at home for the rest of the year, each spoonful crammed full of the flavour of summer.

Right now, hang on… ok stirred and set to simmer for another 8mins…right now, I am making Bullace jam. This year the small semi-wild trees in our orchard hedge that bear these slightly smaller, slightly sharper, damson like fruit have been heavy with their glossy bloomed and black fruit, so I mused that I might try making some jam with them, perhaps just one batch of 5 jars as I haven’t made jam with these before and as I adapt my WI preserves book recipes (WI recipes are the best!) to make them suitable for the microwave as I go, I usually do a smaller sample first, however, M immediately went out and picked a box full – about 7lbs (yes I still work in imperial when cooking) which was enough for 15 jars!

So, problem… not enough sugar, in fact not enough even for the first batch (I was only musing remember) and it is Saturday afternoon. So, I hear you think, just go and buy some. Well, I always buy my sugar from my village post office and stores and that is closed on a Saturday afternoon – it’s part of my effort to support this shop in the hope that it will stay viable, so I don’t want to buy it elsewhere and elsewhere would also mean a drive into the nearest town, when I would prefer not to take a car journey for just one thing, part of an effort for the environment.

So the fruit goes into the cold room until Sunday morning, when I can pick up the sugar at the shop and take it into church with me (opposite the shop) and bring back after the service.

Ok…I’ve just put a small spoonful on a plate in the fridge to see if its ready to set and poured boiling water into recycled jam jars and put them in the microwave to boil away happily for a few minutes.

Already… the jars are done, I’ve put the jam back in the microwave to bring it to the boil again, the test shows a decent set…bullace are high in pectin and so I was on to a winner there.

 

Continued 2 days later…. it didn’t take 2 days to make… just 2 days to get back to my blog!

Fifteen jars of gorgeous looking jam now stand on the shelf in the cold room, alongside this year’s apricot. Yum!

 

My Microwave Recipe: makes about 5lb of jam.

2 ¼ lbs damsons or bullace – washed, stalks removed

3 tablespoons of water   (this is the main ingredient difference in using a microwave)

3lb sugar.

Butter – walnut sized piece (it really makes a difference to the finished product)

1, Place bullace and water in large* Pyrex or similarly heat proof microwave safe bowl, covered, 10 mins high power to soften fruit. (*large enough to hold at least twice the amount of fruit you are putting in it)

2, Stir and squash fruit to help release the stones, further 6 – 8 mins until stones come free of the flesh.

3, Using a slotted  spoon lift out as many of the stones as possible and drop into large-hole colander to squash off as much of fruit and skin as possible to return to the fruit pulp – discard the stones ( a few stones remaining in the pulp do not matter and adds to the home made feel of the jam)

4, Re-heat for about 3 mins to bring back up to simmer.

5, Add sugar and stir in well, add butter and make sure it melts.

6, Lid off, bring up to the boil again in MW – about 8 – 10 mins.

7, Stir well and put back into MW to simmer for 8 mins

8, Stir well, and put back into MW to simmer for 8 mins and check for set (place a teaspoon of jam mix on a cold plate – pop back in fridge – will show a set if the jam skin forms wrinkles and feels thick when finger is pushed though it when cool)

9, Into well washed jars pour about 1 cm (half an inch) of boiling water, place in microwave on full power for 3 – 4 mins until the water boils in the jars. Take care and tip them out well and stand to evaporate the last bit of water while you re-heat the jam mix

10, If a set is demonstrated by your test – return jam mix to microwave and heat until bubble appear then remove from microwave and ladle into hot jars. (if no set then simmer for another 3 mins and retest, continue until a set is demonstrated)

11, Cover with clear jam-covers as per instructions with the packet, and label.

12, Enjoy!

 

The Second Novel is now available on Annmade.co.uk!

Divining the Line was actually written before Nothing Ever Happens Here but is the second novel up on annmade.co.uk. It really doesn’t sit happily in the romance genre but I can’t find a genre that describes ‘divining’ without sounding too weird altogether – ‘paranormal’ and ‘supernatural’ have overtones (or is that undertones) of superheroes or vampires (or both) However, the aspect of Divining is quite strong in this novel, as Perran is a water diviner by trade. Sounds odd? Not when you can look up ‘Water Diviner’ in the yellow pages and find them… usually associated with borehole drilling water services. One of the most famous, certainly in the West Country, was Don the Diviner. His business was* based (if you can believe it) in Chacewater. [* still is though Don himself has passed away] They boasted that if they didn’t find significant water supply for you then you didn’t have to pay for the drilling. Watching him and his wife (who I was later told by another water diviner was actually a better diviner that Don) was so interesting, and yes, like Perran in the book, they offered to show us how it was done and it worked for us too and continues to work for us, the best amongst us being our eldest son who had a real flair for it.

In the book, however, it is not water that Perran sets out to find… there is a new and different power line that he has to follow….

Read the first three chapters free in PDF form here  http://www.annmade.co.uk/shop/books/novels.ann

Here’s the blurb…

Divining the Line

The first time it happened it felt like stumbling across another avenue to an ancient monument, but this one pulled at more than just his head, there was a tightness in his chest, the lights twinkled and flashed inside his mind, the intensity giving Perran a firework of a headache.

Following the line – years later in the early nineties – leads him into Liz Hawkey’s ordered life, and together they discover the source of the line.

A story of family, love and loss, Divining the Line brings the ordinary and the extraordinary together into everyday life.

 

(84,000 words in 20 chapters)

 

 

The first Novel now available on AnnMade.co.uk

Now you must understand that this isn’t my first novel, the first will probably never be distributed, but this is the first to be available to the public in many e forms, as Mobi for the Kindle users, in EPUB for the SONY readers and NOOK and as a PDF for anyone else – I guess.

The novel is called Nothing Ever Happens Here and would, (if it was forced to – see my blog about genres) be in the crime and possibly the romance sections. The blurb reads:

Living in London suddenly becomes too uncomfortable for the attractive Jo Smart and her sixteen year-old son, Alex, after he is beaten up, so when they are offered the chance to take an immediate holiday in a peaceful Cornish town they jump at it. But not all is as peaceful as it seems as they become involved in a murder enquiry, drug raid and abduction.

DI Rick Whittington has also escaped from London and the reminders of the death of his wife and child, and through his investigations finds himself meeting Jo and being drawn into the events surrounding her.

This is a love story set in the early 1990s which combines the historic Cornish love of the sea and smuggling with hard faced twentieth century crime and detection.

So take a look – you can read the first three chapters free as a pop-up PDF * HERE *

BTT sand sculptures – getting started

As I said in the last Blog – making sand-sculptures for my own children to play in was how it started. I guess most people make a boat in sand for their youngsters to play in but in my case it didn’t stop there – all sorts of vehicles were made and then the animals started, hippos, stegosauruses (the boys were very much into their dinosaurs at the time). It wasn’t long before the older boys started creating their own sand-sculptures, so we would hit the beach and soon a wide variety of sculptures would be created. A child as young as four can create an impressive starfish with a little guidance from an adult. Three year-olds can even collect shells and ‘make’ and decorate a simple tortoise.

There are a few simple steps for a basic sand sculpture like a starfish with a youngster – they can help at all stages, and, depending on age, may just need to be shown the first little bit of each stage and allowed to continue on their own..

1, Draw the outline on the sand then go round it again deeper.

2, D2ig from the outside into this line throwing the sand onto the shape within the outline, more where it will need to be higher, less where it needs to be lower.

3, When they have dug all round the shape assess whether there is enough sand to make the raised form… if not dig all round again.

 

4, Shape the sand in the outline. Knead it with your fingers to break down lumps, shuffle it with your hands into the rough form

5, When in the rough form pat the sand evenly, smearing loose sand up into dips and patting it smooth again.

6, Draw any lines required with the knife, making two lines near each other for each line you want. (not needed on this one)

7, Trim tidily all round the sculpture leaving a crisp edge between it andthe surrounding sand.

8, Using a brush sweep away loose sand and finger marks from the surface of the sculpture.

 

 

9, Draw loose sand back with the flat of the blade of the spade, to form a frame for their sculpture.

10, Don’t forget to pat a smooth place within the frame and get them to sign it – with their initials and the date – it is their sculpture!

‘Between The Tides’ Sand Sculptures

So I have been away, and when I am away I get to do three things more than I do at any other time of the year. Write my novels, body boarding, more about both elsewhere, and sand-sculpt. Now if you were expecting those magnificent semi-permanent structures created by teams of professionals in special sites all over the world then you may be disappointed, my type of sand-sculpture is ‘between the tides’ which means it is made with ordinary beach sand and in the time between tides, usually remaining on the beach only until the next high tide.

Beach sand is not favoured by the professionals, the grains are too round and do not stick together well enough or allow for the crisp outlines they require. The time between tides is also not sufficient for these elaborate structures as each must be built up over time, with formers being filled with the correct mixture of lake sand and water and tamped down until firm, where upon a second former is placed on top and filled and tamped down and only when that is firm and stable enough can the subsequent formers and layers be added. As you can guess this takes quite a long time and, indeed, a team of people. There may be only one named sculptor, though frequently there are the ‘rough sculptors’ who take the blocks of sand away and the finisher who does the fine work.

However, BTT sand sculptures are possible for everyone who has a bucket and spade and a knife (normal cutlery – not necessarily sharp) and a brush or two (the cheapest from the DIY store) and sand that will stick together – if it would make a reasonably firm sand castle tipped from a bucket – it can be used to sculpt. This year my husband and I have been away with family again, our eldest son, wife and two small grandchildren. This has changed the basic repertoire of my sculptures, which were getting more arty and less representational, back to where I started, sand-sculpture for my own children to play in.  So this year I have had to make a series of Thomas the Tank engines, boats and aeroplanes as well as having the lee way to make a stegosaurus, a shark and my trademark mermaid.

 

More Port Eliot Festival …..

Wow! What a great festival… the weather gave showers for the Friday but they soon cleared, and I ended up leaving my wellies in the car and favouring sandals all day.  So, if you’ve never been to Port Eliot Festival you have to know that most recently it was a Literary Festival with a wild past (known as Elephant Fayre in the 80s) that has now matured into a brilliant all round, family friendly festival, something for everyone, everyone pretty laid back and in such beautiful surroundings.

There is plenty of the literary festival still there with readings, discussions, interviews etc but is combined with music, to suit many tastes, wild swimming, cinema both in the house and at night down by the river, fashion, flower arranging, poetry, food from small Cornish frozen yoghurt business to Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, cookery demonstrations, bars, comedy, cabaret, stalls, a whole area just for children to enter into a fantasy land of making  playing play acting, dressing up and doing wonderful stuff, wandering musicians, jugglers and dancers. Dovegreyreader (blog-site) even had a tent where you could sit while she did interviews and you could knit, should you wish to.

What did I notice… well people always dress a little differently when at Port Eliot (especially if they’ve visited the Fashion tent) and the stalls selling weird and wonderful hats, (vintage and modern) and the same in clothes attract a lot of people who obviously arrived and only then realised people treat the place like a big fancy dress event. Me? Well I went wearing one of my belly dance coin belts, over layered skirt and wrap and jingled my way about…. part of my reading included words describing a belly dance and so it was also a prop! Secondly… as I said the weather really didn’t need wellies…yet all through so many people were wearing their wellies (all sorts – multi-coloured to standard green or black)… even on the stage, as did Kate Winslet when she read to the children from Mr Gum … perhaps they didn’t bring any other footwear … it being a festival and all.

Our reading in the round room went well with nearly a capacity audience – everyone in bare or stockinged feet in there as have  to take your boots off at the door …. can’t wait for next year!

Port Eliot Festival and Poetry

I’ve wanted to write a page on Poetry, but you know it has a funny effect on people. I suppose it is from forced poetry at school or something, but to me poetry has a life of its own. I know it has pursued me from about the age of nine when I realised that you could not only learn poems but you could also write stuff that had rhythm and rhyme. I blame my mother… though that should be praise, she could, and would, recite ‘The Lady of Shallot’, or great swathes of ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ off by heart. I learnt large sections of these two and Cargoes and my long time favourite GK Chesterton’s Rolling English Road.

Poetry has got me a free weekend ticket to the Port Eliot festival these last 3 years.. that’s amazing enough. What is even better this is because we perform at this festival and people who are not related to us, nor are our friends, come and listen! How magic is that!

This year we took as our theme Elephants, from the crest of the Lords of St Germans (who own the Port Eliot estate) and Castles.

We perform in the Round room, an acoustic gem where if you stand under the central chandelier there is no need of amplification, and which is painted all round by the late Robert Lenkiewicz in a weird and wonderful montage.

Genres – if life isn’t pigeon-holed why are novels?

Genres are the bane of my writing life. One of the things you are supposed to be able to tell the agent or publisher that you are sending out your synopsis, 3 chapters and covering letter to is what genre you book fits into.

I always have difficulty with this. Is it a romance novel because two (or more) people happen to fall in love in the book? But if they also happen to be involved in a crime incident that runs throughout the book and one of them is in the police… then what – is it now a Crime novel? Can it be both – a Romantic Crime novel (that sounds weird)

Sometimes novels come as they are, mixed up just like life. Even for Amazon you have to choose 2 genres maximum to put your ebook in.

Sarah Harrison, an author I much enjoy, told me that when she wrote a book after her debut and sequel, The Flowers of the Field and A Flower That’s Free, and it fell into a different genre her publisher wanted her to publish under a pseudonym, because ‘the reader will be confused’. Sarah stuck to her guns, I can’t recall if she threatened to change publisher (her first two books had been international best sellers) or whether she actually did change publishers but she continues to produce delightful and entertaining books of all sorts of genre under her own name – I suspect that she is ‘muse led’

When I put my books out for beta reading I must ask my readers what genre they would put each book into – if really pushed to choose one, or two. I might then get a consensus I can work with.

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