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Tuesday 29 March 2016

Blast from the Past - November 2010

My Editor, Jo, used to live in Devon (she's recently moved to Somerset) and I visited her at least once a year. To visit her (and her dogs) of course, but when I decided to bring my pirate, Captain Jesamiah Acorne over to England in the Sea Witch Voyages, well, naturally he sailed to North Devon. Which meant combining pleasure with research.

At the time, little did I know that the Tarka Line train I travelled on from Exeter to Barnstaple would go right past the house where I would end up living, nor that I'd even have the good fortune to be able to move to Devon! 

Anyway here's a recycled post from 2010....


Two highlights of my few days away - strolling through the narrow streets of Appledore, and meeting with Mandi from Bideford People to chat about Jesamiah and the Sea Witch Voyages.

photo - courtesy Bideford people
Ripples In The Sand is set in and around Appledore and Instow and the estuary of the rivers Taw and Torridge along the North Devon coast. A sand bar has always made shipping coming into the safety of the rivers hazardous, yet Bideford and Barnstaple were huge centres of trade in the 1600-1800s.

I wanted to bring Sea Witch and Jesamiah to England to make a change of scene for the novels, and decided on the Instow area because that's where my editor, Jo, lives (lived!)  and I'd had a chance to do a fair bit of exploring around there. Plus I could use the enigmatic Exmoor for a few scenes (and bring R.D. Blackmore's famous Doone family into the story!)

When I started writing Ripples I had decided that Jesamiah would be bringing in a cargo of tobacco from Virginia, so imagine my excitement when I discovered that Bideford was the main centre for the tobacco trade in the 1700s. I couldn't believe I'd stumbled on a fact I had no previous idea of.

I also found that there are the remains of a very old chapel on Crow Point, opposite Appledore, of Celtic origin. A place of birth and fertility. The remains of a  Stone Age causeway was discovered - leading towards the Isle of Lundy, which is one those Celtic places, like Glastonbury, that has association with the dead. So - a link with birth to death. And Tiola, of course, is a midwife - birth - and midwives also laid out the dead.

So by sheer chance I had found an ideal spot that fitted perfectly with my idea for a plot.

I was to have another of those OMG hair prickling moments when I started investigating the cobbled streets of Appledore with Jo on the first full day of my Devon Break. The old Appledore streets are very "quaint". narrow, twisting and turning; a rabbit warren maze - a smugglers' haven if ever there was one.

I needed to find a suitable location to place my fictitious tavern where Jesamiah and Tiola are going to stay. I had decided on a name before I'd even started writing - either the Triple Moon or the Full Moon.

Wandering along Market Street, and studying the guide book, Jo and I came to One End Street. Named for obvious reasons. Originally it was called Cock Street, however.

Rather coyly the guide writer assumes the name was given either because a man named John Cock lived there or they held cock fights in the street. Ahem. Appledore was a sailor's port. Cock Street was not a thoroughfare (only having one entrance/exit) so any "street entertainments" would not be interrupted by passers by. Cock Street, I'm afraid, probably has a far more, um, robust - origin!

 I wandered on along Market Street reading the guide book. The present Coach and Horses Tavern was there pre 1800 - though called something different, and at that time it would have had frontage onto the river and harbour (there is a later-built row of shops and cottages there now)

Then my jaw dropped and I felt that prickle of excitement mingled with an "oo-er" moment.
There had also been a tavern on the corner of Cock Street.

I'll give you two guesses as to what it was called....

Market Street - an old photograph.
In Jesamiah's time there would only have
been the left hand side buildings

... Answer:- The Full Moon.

a spine-shiver moment! I had no idea  of the real tavern when I chose that fictitious name!

Voyage Five: On The Account
Published June 2016

Sea Witch Facebook here

The Sea Witch Voyages: available from an Amazon  near you!

EXCERPT: Ripples In The Sand:
Jesamiah takes Sea Witch up the River Torridge  from Appledore to Bideford

The rain had stopped, leaving a damp chill in the early morning air. Jesamiah was making ready to begin the arduous task of taking Sea Witch upriver. The pilot, a small man with bow legs, red face and ears as large as a donkey’s, was advising him to pay the local boatmen to tow her up.
Standing on the quarterdeck, a mug of steaming coffee – that really was coffee – in his hand, Jesamiah took a last assessment before answering. The flood tide was running past Sea Witch’s keel, chattering and gurgling as it swept into the estuary and the two channels of the Taw and Torridge. Taking a ship up a river on the tide was a skilled task, not easy, but Jesamiah knew his vessel, and his men.
Many of them had sore heads from a surfeit of drinking last night, but Jesamiah was not so stupid as to permit them to drink themselves into a stupor with a job half done. They had only received a handful of their due pay, the rest would be tallied once the tobacco was sold and the hold cleared of cargo. Then they could go their own sweet way and do as they pleased. Most would return when he decided to set sail again. If he decided to sail again.
Shoving the uncomfortable thought aside, Jesamiah concentrated on the matter in hand: getting Sea Witch to Bideford and finding a buyer who was desperate for several hogsheads of mediocre tobacco. He snorted. How likely would that be?
“Why would I be paying unknown boatmen,” he asked, “when I’ve good men of my own, and wind and tide to use for free?”
The pilot screwed up his pale blue eyes and peered at the sky a while. The sun was shining weakly, glistening on the blanket of snow covering the higher ground of the Exmoor moorland. “This be a big vessel. Her tonnage be larger’n most. It’ll cost thee a lot more if’n thee run aground.”
That was true.
The fishing fleet had left with the last ebb tide, along with the only other ship that had been anchored last night. Sipping his coffee and peering over the rail at the almost empty Appledore wharves, Jesamiah asked, “How long would it take to assemble these boatmen of yours, then? There don’t seem to be many around at the moment.”
“Aye well, they all be at Bideford. Take a bit of a while to bring ‘em down agin. An hour mebbe?” Scratching at his whiskers the pilot added, “Ye should have arranged a tow las’ night.”
“An hour ain’t no good for me. We’ll work her up.”
The pilot sucked in a long, slow intake of breath. Shook his head, exhaled as slowly and loudly. “I be not so sure, Cap’n. Not so sure.”
Ignoring him, Jesamiah stepped up to the quarterdeck rail and called forrard to Rue, who was supervising setting the anchor to hang a-cockbill from the cathead, held only by the ring-painter with the shank-painter already let go. If they ran into trouble the anchor would need to be dropped in a hurry.
Rue raised his hand in acknowledgement that all was ready. Joe Meadows also gestured that he was prepared, showing the lead line held in his hand. It would be worked constantly the whole three and a half miles upriver.
“On your head be it, Cap’n,” the pilot said. “As long as ye take heed of what I’ve advised.”
“If runnin’ aground is a possibility, why am I botherin’ to pay you a pilot’s fee? Ain’t you ‘ere t’ensure we don’t?” Finishing the coffee, Jesamiah turned to Isiah Roberts. “Bring in the kedge. Let’s get going.”
Playing its part overnight, the small kedge anchor had kept the ship steady while she had rested in the river channel. The last thing any captain wanted, with the change of tides, was for his vessel to swing round and ride over the principal cable, entangling herself and maybe loosening her anchor. At an ebb tide, when most of the river had drained to mud and sand it did not matter, nothing was going anywhere, but the sea came in and out and only a fool relied on the one anchor. Jesamiah had seen the damage created by a drifting ship. He grinned at the thought as he handed Finch his empty coffee cup. On more than one occasion he had seen the consequences of an unsecured vessel set loose deliberately. A useful way for a pirate to slip out of harbour while everyone else was desperately trying to avoid disaster. Useful, but highly irresponsible. Amusing to observe the resulting scrabble of chaos, so long as you were well clear.

Watching the men jump-to with a will, Jesamiah caught sight of a woman on the jetty opposite the Full Moon. He would recognise her anywhere, even without that distinctive dark green cloak. He hated green and wished she would permit him to purchase a new one, but Tiola was adamant about the wretched old thing. He laughed under his breath. She had made a bargain with him. She would have a new cloak if he would get a new coat.
There was nothing wrong with his shabby old buckram longcoat that had once been a dark blue and was now faded to a sun-bleached grey. She knew perfectly well that he would never part with it willingly. Lifting his hat he waved to her, did not bother with shouting a repeat of what he had insisted earlier before coming aboard. “Do not tire yourself!”
“I want to walk,” she had answered. “My strength is returning now I am ashore. In a day or two I will be as right as a robin.”
Beside her stood Pegget Trevithick. Their arms linked. Rapidly becoming friends, a camaraderie helped along by Tiola’s promise to ensure that Master Trevithick, safely ensconced in one of the smugglers’ hiding places, was mending well.
Movement further along the quay. A flash of red, the militia forming into rank. Jesamiah lifted the telescope from the binnacle box, twisted the tube to bring it to its full length and set the glass to his eye. There was that bastard lieutenant from last night. He moved the telescope slightly, observing each face as the men swung into a brisk march towards the larger of the two ferries. Heading back to barracks in Barnstaple? Jesamiah hoped so; he was not too keen on meeting with them again. The one he was looking for among them, a soldier with a broken nose and probably a black eye, was not there. Maybe they had hanged the idiot for incompetency.
Closing the instrument, Jesamiah waved again to Tiola. No point in sending mind words to her, he was unable to initiate their personal conversations. The ability came from her, and her alone. It was a relief to know she was a little better, up on her feet and able to take some air, but she still looked pale and fragile.
Free of the restraining kedge, Sea Witch was drifting broadside with the tide, her mains’l aback to avoid gathering too fast a speed. A few yards only, then losing the strength of the tide, Jesamiah, at the helm, spun the wheel in reverse. With her bow facing almost directly towards the broad sweep of the bend ahead, and turning alarmingly fast to windward – the direction from which the wind was coming – Jesamiah allowed her to fly up and head into the wind, until her stem was almost touching the point of losing control. Quickly, he shouted for the head yards to be braced aback, and again he spun the helm. For a moment Sea Witch drifted backwards, but with skill he brought her to the wind, and the sails filled. The only way to turn a ship when there was not sufficient room to manoeuvre, but a method that, if it failed, could result in disaster and earn the everlasting contempt of the pilot. That momentary pause, when the vessel was hanging in stays, showed the ability of the helmsman and crew. To miss stays – to miss making the turn – was poor seamanship. In a narrow channel it could be the difference between remaining afloat and running aground.
Her sails filling again, Sea Witch glided across the width of the river. Almost it seemed they would hurtle into the opposite bank, but listening intently to the calls from the leadsman, Skylark, the sound of the water, the wind, and his own instinct, Jesamiah shouted the order to tack an instant before the pilot, standing beside him, was about to give a warning.
His sudden alarm subsiding, the man grunted, a gesture of reluctant admiration. He mumbled that Captain Acorne was to carry on. Tactfully, Jesamiah refrained from grinning. It would not pay to be cocksure too soon. They had a couple more miles to go yet.

Bideford and the River Torridge
Appledore and the sea was hidden behind the curved brow of the hill and Jesamiah had no spare time to think of Tiola. She was safe where she was, and Sea Witch was demanding his full attention. Even with the tide in their favour and a willing crew, she was a large craft to manoeuvre within the confines of the two hundred or so yards that were the width of the River Torridge at this point.
Despite the noise, the shouted orders, the harsh screams of gulls flocking overhead, and the cursing and grunting and straining of the men, the pilot barely ceased talking of his personal troubles. His nagging wife, the ungrateful children, even more ungrateful merchants and traders. “They think these ships get themselves upriver on their own, they do. Where’d Bideford be without me as pilot, eh? Ruined, that’s where. River’d be full of wrecks, this entire channel packed with rotting keels and broken masts, aye, and the bones of the dead. Not appreciative, none of ‘em.”
Ignoring the pilot’s idle prattling, by backing, filling and shivering the mainsail while again in stays, that danger time when all control could be lost, Sea Witch sailed neatly and safely around the next headland point. Jesamiah ordered the foresail to remain aback. Once clear of the bend he let the tide take her and the wind fill the sails. Sea Witch proceeded sedately diagonally across the river to the far bank, where at exactly the right moment he put the helm a-lee. The mainsail swung around and she was swinging to face straight upriver again. There, a way ahead, was Bideford with its impressive multi-arched stone bridge spanning the river.
“It will be a bugger getting a vessel up here if this ever starts silting up,” Jesamiah remarked.
The pilot snorted derision. “The Torridge’ll not silt up. We’ve plenty room. Your’n be one o’ the biggest I’ve brought to Bideford, I grant, but look how busy we be!” He gestured towards the town, a mile and a half away. “Fishing boats that bring cod back from Nova Scotia, merchants shipping baccy and cotton from the Colonies. From the Indies, silks and spices, tea and china. The lime boats, the clay boats. If ever we had problems with silting up, Captain, I assure you we’d be manning dredgers from full moon to full moon to keep the channel open. Give up all this? It would be the death of trade ‘ere in North Devon!”
Maybe his denial was right, but Jesamiah had seen it happen in other ports. He kept quiet, not wanting to disillusion the man, or start him off on yet another tedious anecdote.
Concentrating on his ship, Jesamiah could not permit her to come round too much. The wind was gusting, not being particularly helpful. “Steady, my beauty,” he murmured, as again, he spun the helm and completed another sternboard movement. Clear of the bend on the east bank, Bideford was getting nearer. With sails filled, Jesamiah encouraged Sea Witch to stretch ahead along the fairway, sailing elegantly forwards.
Down river of the bridge, an array of other vessels was moored or at anchor, yards, spars and masts soaring skyward like a forest of trees. Small boats bustled between those out in the channel and the quayside, while Bideford itself looked to be a busy place with its array of wharves and warehouses, chandlers, taverns, sail makers, rope makers, coopers, carpenters, saddlers and vintners. Stacks of hemp rope and sail cloth. Pottery, lime, fish, tobacco. Bakers, butchers, tanners, drapers, haberdashers and tailors – Bideford was the second largest port to London for trade from the Colonies. A swarm of people buying, selling, trading or merely passing the time of day.
Mindful of the eddying water and the commanding breeze, her bow now facing away from the town, Jesamiah glanced over his shoulder and let his ship swing round a little more, the tide, rudder, wind and her own momentum neatly dropping her, stern first, into the current.
“Lay mains’l aback. Clew up tops’l. Let her ride t’ windward. Drop anchor!”
There was a splash, and Sea Witch pulled back on the cable, the anchor held, and she came to rest. As neat a bit of seamanship as Jesamiah had ever achieved. Grinning at the pilot he said, “Was that good enough for you? Reckon we still need your lackeys to tow us?”
The pilot grunted, then conceded. “Fair bit o’ sailin’ I grant ye. But I still wants payin’.”
Jesamiah fished the required coins from his pocket and, slapping the pilot’s shoulder, handed them over willingly. “I didn’t need you this time, but who’s t’say I might ‘ave done? You know this river, I know m’ship. We’re safe anchored, that’s all I care about. What’s the draft here at low tide? She won’t lay over, will she?”

“The mid-channel river’ll be a minimum eighteen feet here at Bideford in winter time, lower in a dry summer. Fix your anchorage firm an’ ye’ll be right enough. You can warp her in to any vacant mooring at high tide if’n you need t’ unload that cargo of yourn, or boat it across. Good day to ye, Captain, m’compliments for a smooth passage.”

Tuesday 15 March 2016

Is This Hell? No, Maybe not... A Writing Journey

My Tuesday Talk Guest -  A. J. Trevors
author of 'Birth of Hope: The Gaia Chronicles'

 My Writing Journey

‘This is hell’
Those were the first words that popped into my mind halfway through re-writing my novel for the millionth time. I stared at my computer long and hard, tired eyes drooping as if Father Time was throwing sand on my eyelids by the spadeful. The sickening white glare of the screen washed over me, giving my skin an unhealthy pale tinge.

With fury, I stood up and flung my laptop at the wall and proceeded to shout “FU-”
Nah, I’m just playing with you guys. What’s up?!

My name is Andy James Trevors and I’m a newly-minted author with a fresh fantasy/sci-fi novel out entitled ‘Birth of Hope: The Gaia Chronicles’. In this post, I will be sharing with you lovely people about my writing journey, all the ups and downs and the valleys in between.

First off, writing is not easy. There is no set formula for doing it. No copy and paste format in which all successful novels are written. If there were, everyone would become the next George R.R. Martin or J.K. Rowling!

No, writing is not easy. However, anything that is not easy usually is the most rewarding at the end of the journey. To start off with, since my novel is of the fantasy/sci-fi genre, I had to flex my brain muscles to come up with an original fantasy idea that hasn’t been done before. On top of that, there is the sci-fi component as well, which writers have to be very careful about. You don’t want it to be too much of a space opera, like Star Wars, or too filled with technical jargon, like Star Trek. There must either be a balance between the two, or a new avenue in which sci-fi could be written.

In the case of my novel, the original fantasy idea I chose was the theme of summoning beasts or creatures. Not very ‘original’, per se, but what I realised was that there is a dearth of summoner novels out there in the market and this theme will help ‘Birth of Hope’ stand out from the other fantasy novels. It helps that I am also a huge fan of this theme, being an avid ex-Pokemon and Digimon player, among other things.

As for the sci-fi component, the key issue that I identified was that most sci-fi novels, with respect to all the authors out there that have written one, is that they never explore planets in depth. Planets in sci-fi universes were akin to towns or other countries, where there was only one city or a smattering of villages in one planet, with no other development evident on the said planet. I felt that there should be a novel where one planet has multiple environments, as it should! The Earth has varying environments, from desserts to bogs to cramped cities. Why can’t other planets in the sci-fi universe be the same?

Hence, the subtitle ‘The Gaia Chronicles’, meaning that all the events in ‘Birth of Hope’ take place on the planet Gaia, with different environments at play, from the sand dunes of the Tahiba Desert to the tall, snowy peaks of the Cygnus Mountains.

All of this research, along with stringing the storyline and creating characters, took about three months to complete. That’s when the writing begins. At the start, I aimed to complete at least one chapter in one week. I would start my day at around seven in the morning and write for two hours until nine before I catch the bus to university. However, I soon began to realise that, by the time I got to university, I exercised my brain bone so hard that I couldn’t concentrate in my lectures.

I changed my writing time to seven in the evening until nine at night. That way, I was relaxed when I started writing, with the strenuous tasks of the day behind me and only the warm comfort of my bed ahead of me.

Writing the first draft was fine. It was when re-writing occurred that I felt the stress levels ratchet up. Many authors will tell you that it is in the re-writing phase where patience must be applied and applied well. Your manuscript, when completed, will look radically different from your first draft when you just began writing your novel There will be characters that you delete, new characters created, events changed, climaxed shifted, different endings, villains that perish then resurrected, new weapons, fight scenes, love triangles. The whole works. It will be so different that, when you read the finished product, you will wonder what you planned to write in the first place.

However, one must not equate having a different finished product to having an inferior novel. The things that you change during the re-writing stage are incredibly crucial to writing your novel. It has the potential to make or break it. Thus, I cannot stress enough how important it is for every potential writer to rewrite what they have already written. You cannot make your novel worse during this period. You can only make it better.

Joy. Peace. Fear. Death. Hope. To many, these are just emotions, facial expressions or words that are evoked in the face of numerous situations. However, there are a select few in the galaxy that have the power to wield them into something more. Into a weapon. Into a personification of their inner being. 

They are called Spectres. 

Damien is one such person. With the Spectre Hope, he will shoulder the hopes of the galaxy as he strikes out on an epic adventure that will bring readers to all four corners of the planet, Gaia. From the peaks of Mount Cygnus to the sand-blasted plains of the Tahiba Dessert, Damien and his group of friends will try to find a way to end the war with the merciless Vangarians and unlock the secrets hidden within the depths of their hearts.
A.J. Trevors

Helen - thanks for such an interesting article A.J. .... I haven't read your book yet, but its added to my To Be Read Mountain!

Next Tuesday : reviewing Indie Historical Fiction - from an Historical Novel Society  reviewer's perspective. 

Tuesday 8 March 2016

Listening for Stories

by Margaret Whittock - my Tuesday Talk Guest.

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” (Ernest Hemingway)

Wise words from Mr Hemingway, words I wish had been familiar to the younger me. I grew up in a small market town in Northern Ireland, a town where my grandparents also lived. My paternal grandparents resided in the shadow of the church I attended, and my father, my sister and I, visited each week, on our way home from the Sunday service. My maternal grandparents lived on the edge of town, in a row of granite cottages built for workers at the mill, a mere stone’s throw away. Since our own home was close by, I saw them frequently. 

More recently, as a writer, I became obsessed with WW1, and more particularly with the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign, and the V Beach Landing, where two of my great-uncles died, one still in his teens. These facts were only revealed to me in my forties, following the chance (and spooky) discovery of the latter’s resting place in V Beach Cemetery. Back then I was living in Istanbul and visiting Gallipoli only as a stepping-stone to nearby Troy. However, fired by my discovery, I remained on the Gallipoli peninsula, indeed revisited many times, determined to learn more about my uncles and the facts behind their untimely deaths. What then turned into years of research, both historical and familial, finally resulted in my novel, Ghost of Gallipoli

There is no denying I found this process immensely satisfying. It led to meetings and interviews with family members, and strangers, who I wouldn’t normally have met or spoken to. I attended conferences and talks on Gallipoli, something I continue to do and thus, a body of new knowledge has opened up to me. In Istanbul, the British Council Library was my saviour and I spent many an hour perusing its shelves and digesting what I discovered there. However, had I just listened to the stories of my grandparents … for in those television-less days, storytelling was a regular thing at family get-togethers … I could have saved myself so much onerous work. 

Thinking back, I recall my paternal grandfather, Herbie, talking at length about ‘the war’ as it was always referred to, and about his part in it as a sixteen-year old drummer boy, leading troops into battle in North Africa. He spoke of his brother William, who fought in France, both of them in the Royal Irish Fusiliers, and about his two other brothers, Sam and Jack, Privates in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, and long since dead. Gallipoli would have been discussed, I’m sure, but I, first as a little girl and then a recalcitrant teenager, had decided that all this war stuff was really boring and of no relevance to me. So I chose not to listen. Had I shown an interest there would have been photographs, certificates, medals and letters to examine, documents and artifacts that were dispersed amongst family members following my grandparents’ deaths. Apart from a handful, these have long since vanished. My grandfather, I suspect, would have been only too delighted to display these artifacts and talk about them, no doubt at great length. Like most of us Irish, he was blessed with the ‘gift of the gab’, particularly after a glass or two of porter. Now it’s all too late. I’ve conjured one or two photographs and certificates from the ether, but foolishly, by choosing not to listen, I missed out on so much. 

The same is true of my paternal grandparents. My grandmother lost her first husband in WW1 and then, remarried to my grandfather, watched and waited as he went off to fight in the trenches in France. Gassed there, he suffered badly from asthma and bronchitis for the remainder of his life, dying in his seventies. Joe was my favourite grandparent and again, I recall him recounting stories of the war, and the harshness of life in the trenches. Possibly, because I was so fond of this gentle Somerset man, who grew roses and bred songbirds, I listened a little harder. But, for the most part, it went in one ear and out the other. The Reader’s Digest was delivered regularly to my grandparents and I was more interested in its “How to Increase Your Word Power” than the stories of an old soldier. 

My father participated in this story telling which often turned to tales of the Second World War, when he and his older brother departed for London to work with the Blitz Repair Squads. Fortunately for me, my father, ninety this year, is still around to tell his stories. Now, I listen avidly to every single word and prompt him to talk some more. For there is a reason I’ve moved on from World War One to a new obsession with WW2 … the opening chapters of the novel I am now writing are based on my father’s story, and his experiences in London during that time. Just turned sixteen, and too young to enlist, he and his brother faced dangers every bit as frightening as those who left to fight. By listening to my father, and following up his stories with more in-depth research, I have discovered that the Blitz Repair Squads were among the unsung heroes of their time, braving Hitler’s bombs to try to keep London’s inhabitants in their battered dwellings. Some of my father’s stories are hair-raising and I look forward to repeating them in my forthcoming novel, Billy Blitz. 

Yes, I am fortunate to be able to listen to my father’s stories. However, there is one big problem with leaving this so late. My father is old, and so, unsurprisingly, is his memory. Details and dates become muddled, facts confused. It becomes necessary to check these to ensure historical accuracy. I’ve also found this to be true of my other interviewees. One lady, also ninety years of age, has proven to be a fount of knowledge with regard to post-war Belfast, where the biggest chunk of Billy Blitz is set. This is a period and place about which very little is written, thus this lady’s stories about the artistic community there have proven invaluable. However, while they are of great interest to me as an author, and provide me with much background knowledge, her stories too are laced with inaccuracies. Again, every detail must be painstakingly checked.

What then have I learned from all this?
The following words from Nicole Krauss (The History of Love) sum it up beautifully:

“So many words get lost. They leave the mouth and lose their courage,   wandering aimlessly until they are swept into the gutter like dead leaves.”

For us, as writers, there are stories all around us, everywhere, every day … on the train, the bus, in the family. They are just waiting to be heard … to be told. Endora Welty writes, in One Writer’s Beginnings: 

Long before I wrote stories, I listened for stories.”

We writers first need to listen … not simply hear, but as Hemingway tells us, listen completely.  And we need to listen now, before it’s too late and the tales of the past fall into the gutter like so many dead leaves. 

* * * 
Margaret Whittock is the author of three novels, Ghost of Gallipoli, Blood Sisters and Unintentional Dismount. The latter ‘horsey’ tale is aimed at younger teenagers. All are available from Amazon. Ghost and Unintentional Dismount are also available from Feed A Read. Billy Blitz will hopefully be published later this year. 

More on all above at the author’s website:

* * * 
I haven't had a chance to read Ghost of Gallipoli yet Margaret, but it is on the TBR mountain - thanks for sharing  and YES we MUST listen! I bitterly regret not listening to my amazing Grandmother - an opportunity now lost. 

Tuesday 1 March 2016

Hospitality v Entertaining

You have friends or family coming, either for an evening. lunch or maybe to stay a few days. 
It is an event that has been scheduled for some time - as opposed to a drop-in without an invitation or an on-the-spur-of-the-moment call for a cuppa and a chat.

'Jel Cel' - hospitality!
Ok, so is there a difference between entertaining and hospitality?
Apparently, yes there is.

Ruth Downie and Alison Morton.. hospitality!
Entertaining is 'posh' - the elegant dinner party, the inviting round for drinks and nibbles.
Hospitality is come-as-you find us, make yourself at home.

Showjumper Geoff Billington
 - enjoying our leisurely hospitality
Having had a couple of friends staying recently here at home in Devon (at different times!) I have very much appreciated the pleasure of 'hospitality' over the stress of 'entertaining'.

hospitality - a la Pub
Entertaining means a thorough cleaning of the house, as opposed to the normal clean the loo, bathroom and kitchen and a quick whiz round with hoover and floor mop. Change the bed sheets, set out clean towels and that's it.
entertainment - my daughter's wedding
Entertaining involves the best china, cooking a meal (or various fancy bits on pretty plates and dishes) a thorough clean - which includes dusting - posh frock and smart shoes (what? Not my comfy fluffy socks and slippers?)

Husband Ron and Owen  -
definitely hospitality, he helped build our pond!
Entertainment is (fortunately only occasionally) having to be nice to people you don't particularly get on with.
Ashley - enjoyed formal entertained at the Wedding,
 but also an ace 'hospitality' guest
 not only makes the tea but cooks dinner as well!
Entertaining is fine for Christmas or perhaps those occasional special occasions. Hospitality - welcoming a friend who makes him/herself at home, finds out where the tea and cups are kept and makes you a cuppa.

Wedding entertainment for James -
who came all the way from the USA!
Entertaining is making polite conversation; hospitality is having a good laugh with a good friend.

Sue, Owen's Mum - both good friends from Essex
Conclusion? Give me hospitality any day!

Hospitality for movie producer Robin Jacob
So what do YOU prefer? Feel free to comment....