Monday, 24 November 2014

WHAT? NO PAGE NUMBERS?

Just a short blog, dear ones, as I don't want to dwell too long on my error. 

Ok, I'm going to tell you about a big, big mistake that I made in republishing my book, Future Confronted


This occured because I had not read the instructions fully. Why? Well, because I was in a rush, that's why. I was adding a back chapter to my book, and didn't want it 'off-sale' for longer than necessary. Being a self-publishing newby, having had a company do it for me before, I felt all fingers and thumbs with the process. Be warned! Read all the instructions VERY carefully.

On the instructions for publishing the Kindle copy of the book to amazon, it says that page numbers aren't necessary, as the book's pages can be made larger or smaller depending on the size of the font chosen by the reader. OK, got that, then I went to upload the POD version of my book to CreateSpace, and, because I was rushing, I totally forgot to put page numbers in. Geeeez! Talk about a mammoth faux pas!

So, dear ones, I now have to take down my book, and enter the page numbers, and resubmit it up to CreateSpace. This means that the book will be off sale for a few days. I will be doing this sometime this week. The Kindle version, however, will still be for sale!

Lesson #1
Always, but always read the instructions, no matter how rushed you perceive yourself to be.

Lesson #2
Always, but always read the instructions, no matter how rushed you perceive yourself to be.

Lesson #3 - Yeah, you've got it, all of the above!

I can laugh at myself now, but initially I felt like crying, such a stupid, stupid mistake. On reflection, my son Rob, who my book Future Confronted is about, would have been sympathetic for a wee while, and then would have made me see the funny side of it. And with that in mind, I can smile, just, about an idiotic omission.

Lesson learned in triplicate.....


Sunday, 23 November 2014

A SKYPING VIRGIN

ANNOUNCEMENT

Last night I Skyped for the first time. 

This sounds like a confession, doesn't it? Well, it is, sort of. In this age of electronic communication, mobile phones, emails, instant messaging, Twitter, Facebook... well, you know.... there's Skype. I dipped my metaphorical toes into the metaphorical water. I didn't drown! It was fun! It was.... well... it felt like magic! I was talking to my laptop, and my friends were talking to theirs, and somehow, we all three managed to have a meeting, a discussion, and, most of all, a really good laugh!

Ever since I found that icon, "Skype", some months ago on my new laptop it filled me with interest and curiosity. I clicked onto it... Hmmm..., I clicked off. I Googled it, read all about it, and thought I understood it. But with whom would I Skype? Nah! I decided to forget about it. But every now and then I would click onto it, and just wonder....

Well, I wonder no longer. Last night I Skyped for the first time! I know dear ones! I had not one, but two people to Skype with. It didn't hurt, it was totally painless! I found myself smiling at my screen, we didn't have live pictures, just sound, but it felt like I imagined it must have felt the first time somebody used that wonderful invention, the telephone, or the first time they had listened to a phonograph record. It felt magical, to hear the voice of someone living over 4,000 miles away, and nine hours behind the UK, on my laptop, my laptop for goodness sake!. Often we have 'chatted' on Messenger, and on Facebook, and I had imagined what my far-away friend's voice was like, but when I heard her, all those miles away, well, I felt emotional. Now I can put a voice to the face, and that is really wonderful! 

I know, I know, I know, I could have phoned my friend, but, Skype is just sitting there waiting to be fired up, and it is FREE... imagine, something that's free to use just sitting there on your laptop! There are services that you do have to pay for, click this link to find out more http://www.skype.com/en/  but for 'just Skyping' it's free.

Two of us live here in the UK, we have met on several occasions now, even been on a trip together. We live about 50 miles from each other, so nothing like the 4,000 miles plus for our other friend. So..... a week ago my friend and I met up in Chichester, West Sussex, to buy our tickets, and now we are going to visit our dear far-away friend next June, all the way to Anchorage, Alaska! 


Well, who knew, eh? It is going to be a trip of a lifetime, we're going to splurge photos all over Facebook, selfies grinning out at you wherever you look... well..., maybe not, that would be a wee bit scary, but we will be Facebooking everyday!


Do you recognise us yet?

Aha! You've guessed! 




So, dear ones, through the wonders of wireless technology, I have Facebooked, Twittered, or is it supposed to be Tweeted? (Images of birds on telephone wires chatting, comes to mind!) And now I've Skyped! No longer am I a Skype Virgin! (waggles eyebrows). Now I feel like an all-round-communicator. Oh yes, I forgot, I am also an author and I communicate
through my blog! So, dear ones, please add those to the list then.






Please visit me on my Facebook Page

Skype image and Birds image from Wikipedia








Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Research Visits: Are They Important?

I am in the middle of writing my first historical fiction book, the working title of which is: The Touching of Stones. 

Initially I saw it as a trilogy, though it may possibly turn into a saga, as I have an ongoing idea of where my story will go. and for this reason I feel it is important for me to visit the places that I am writing about. I also think that even if it wasn't my first foray into historical fiction, I would still need to visit the places that I will be writing about. 

I visited Edinburgh in May to research St. Giles' Cathedral, Rosslyn Chapel, and John Knox House. I felt it was important to visit these places to obtain some idea of their history first hand, and to soak up the atmosphere too. In all of these places the history was, and is, palpable, and I wasn't disappointed either. The visit added much to my Work in Progress. Without the visit I don't think that I could have placed my characters securely within the story.

This begs the question: How important is it to visit the places that will be in your story?

I have read, on Facebook, that some authors include places in their novels that they have not visited. All their information having been gleaned from books, or the internet and still create the atmosphere that is needed. I am lucky inasmuch as I am able to visit Scotland, but if my novel had been set in Australia, or New Zealand, then I would be able to go, but find it a little difficult, I think. It would be better to rely on information gathered from books and DVDs, and the like, not to mention much cheaper!

Having said all that, taking a research trip gives the mind the opportunity to concentrate more fully on the writing process, I think. When I was in Edinburgh in May I wrote more freely, not being hindered by the normal run of the day. Plus being in the place in which you are writing helps enormously. Well, it certainly helped me, and I know that we are all different.

So, I went back again on 7th November. This time I stayed for a week. Four days in Stirling and three days in Edinburgh. It was a real boon. When I was in Stirling, I visited the castle, The Wallace Monument, Stirling Bridge, and The Robert the Bruce statue and visitor centre. The visitor centre was very helpful. They have a weapons handling room. This is where I really appreciated the weight of the mail, the coif, the helmet, the sword, all of it. It gave me a real sense of the power that the knights had, the stamina, and the weakness if pulled from their horse. Once on the ground, they were practically helpless because of the shear weight of that which they wore.

In Edinburgh I was lucky enough to come across some stone masons at St. Giles' Cathedral. They were engraving the name of the cathedral in the stone: St. Giles' Cathedral. There will always be controversy over whether St. Giles' is a Kirk or a Cathedral to the people of Scotland, In St. Giles' Parish Profile they refer to it as: St. Giles' Cathedral, The High Kirk of Edinburgh. The controversy continues. 

The stone masons had taken two years going through different procedures with the authorities in order to be able to engrave St. Giles' Cathedral into the stone in front of the main entrance. 

They had started the previous day sketching out the letters, measuring them, to get them equidistant to each other. On the day that I first came across them at around 13.30, they had been at work since 08.00 that day, and had already achieved the full work, but were doing finishing touches ready for the next day. This is when they painted the lettering a beautiful dark red, made from natural minerals mixed with a spirit. The idea was for the lettering to stand out from afar. At first I thought it a shame to paint them at all, but on reflection, I think I have to agree that it does look so much more stylish; it has a certain permanence.



As my WIP is fundamentally about a family of stone masons whose lives get caught up in the politics of the Scottish War of Independence, among other events through time, then I felt it most fortuitous to come across these wonderful people in the execution of their work. I visited them on two consecutive days to view how the work was coming along. As you can see by my pictures, for which I have their permission to show, their work is splendid in every detail. The weather was bitterly cold, a face-numbing cold, and they sat there cheerfully carrying out their work. Although I have had a continuing interest in stone masonry for some years, I learned a lot from them, which will be a great help in my writing.

My visit to Stirling Castle, The Wallace Monument, and The Robert the Bruce Centre was extremely helpful, and I am really glad that I went to all three places. The castle was extraordinary, and I spent most of the day there. It was captivating, the architecture, the furniture, the tapestries.... marvellous. I had an audio-guide, so that I could just take my time in each part of the castle, and listen at my leisure, depending on where I was in the castle. I took many photos, thankfully these were not prohibited, as in The Writers' Museum, which I visited whilst in Edinburgh.

One of the guides


Beautifully crafted furniture

Replica wall tapestries
each one taking longer than two years to complete

View of The Wallace Monument from Stirling Castle
A detail from The Wallace Monument - William Wallace
Robert the Bruce at the
Bannockburn Heritage Centre
I knew it was large, but it is enormous!
For myself, and I can only talk of my own experiences, the visit to the Bannockburn Heritage Centre was one of the most important visits I made. An afternoon well spent.

Edinburgh Castle, missed the first time in May, was a totally different experience, being a working castle. I stayed there for about three hours, and tried to imagine how it was back in the day. Not much different to how it is now, I imagine. The history, as with Stirling Castle, is palpable. I sat on a bench, shut my eyes, and just listened. When I had managed to edit out all the nations that were wondering around, I imagined how it would have been. It is a formidable place, I also experienced the two minute silence for Armistice Day here. It started with a gun salute, and finished with a gun salute. The intervening two minutes silence was extraordinary.... there was a crow hopping around my feet pecking at crumbs, another came and squabbled for them, a fluttering of wings, cawing, and then silence. The second gun discharged, and the birds rose momentarily, and settled back to scavenging, and the hubbub of the people restarted, rising incrementally as each group resumed their tour.

Two hours later it was the One o'clock Gun. This time I was no more than 20 feet away, and when it went off, well, you can imagine, it was deafening. Difficult to know which was the louder though, the gun or the teenage girls screaming and laughing straight afterwards.

So, to answer my question at the top of this blog; How important is it to visit the places that will be in your story? I would have to answer yes, it's very important to visit those places, if it is at all possible.

All in all, my visit to Scotland was a complete success, what it has left me with, however, is writers' block. I have so much information which I am trying to put into some order, that my writerly mind has quite simply checked out, and my 'organising the information' mind has taken over. Very frustrating!

I've had many suggestions from fellow writers on Facebook, after I had asked how others cope with writers' block, and I am on my way to trying them one by one. I have no doubt that once the muse has recovered from her holiday, I will be off to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries again, and, yes, I will most definitely be sometime, the muse willing!

You can find me on these links:

My book Future Confronted, which has been awarded a BRAG Medallion, can be bought in paperback from CreateSpace and as a Kindle from amazon

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Sergeant Harry Wilsher, Highland Light Infantry, A Survivor of The Great War

I never knew my maternal grandfather
He was killed before I was born.


My grandfather was born in Sandy in Bedfordshire in 1891. When he married my grandmother, who came from Scotland, the people in his tiny village said that he was marrying a foreigner. 

They set up home in rooms in London, and their family life began.

In 1914 The Great War started, and like all young men, grandfather enlisted to fight for his country. He joined The Highland Light Infantry, and became soldier 10527, just one among the many who set off to fight, all thinking it would be over by Christmas. The Great War, it was supposed to be the war to end all wars. 

My grandfather was seriously injured on the battlefield, and left for dead, after half of his face was blown away. It wasn’t until a soldier saw him move slightly in the mud and the filth, that the alarm was raised.

He was sent home in a terrible state. He was in hospital for months and months. They stitched him together as best as they could, but he no longer looked like himself. Some time later, (sadly, I have nobody left to ask how long that was), he was put in the hands of the surgeon Archibald Mclindoe, who, during and after World War Two, was famous for coming up with innovative ways of helping burn victims. Well, he miraculously rebuilt grandfather's face. The right half of his lower jaw bone was rebuilt from part of his hip bone as this has a good blood supply, then he underwent skin grafting, and using a photo of my grandfather, they proceeded to make him look more like himself.


When my grandfather joined up to fight in France, he took with him a blank notebook, which he turned into his diary of events. I am amazed that he had the presence of mind to write in this diary on an almost daily basis, not only write in it almost daily, but with a hand that was always neat.

When I came across his diary, after my mother passed away, I wept for almost the entire way through. Not just because it was his ‘War Diary’, but because he was my grandfather, a brave man whom I had never had the good fortune to know.

So, he survived that terrible war, battered, but alive. Life turned back to normality, until one Saturday in 1946, when he was cycling home from watching is beloved Chelsea football game. The last thing he had said to my mother was, “Can you buy me a box of matches please lass?” They were the last words that she would hear him speak. Hours later a policeman knocked at the door to give her some devastating news. Her father, my grandfather, survivor of The Great War, had been killed by a trolley bus. Killed outright. Dead. Gone. Truly, to survive so much, and yet to be killed even so, could not be more tragic. He was 55 years old. His wife, my grandmother, had been bedridden since having a stroke when she was just 50. She too died when she was 55 years old, some three years after grandfather.

Life is full of many twists and turns, but nobody knows how or when they will die, just that they will die.

I am writing this, 100 years after the beginning of that terrible war, to pay homage to my grandfather. To tell him that I am so proud of him, that he did his ‘bit’ for King and Country. He survived, but not for long, but he did survive.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.


They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.


They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.
by Laurence Binyon 


The last entry in my grandfather's diary is this:
PS - I had only been discharged from hospital for about twenty minutes, when a Lady told me in a bus, that my place was in France, not riding in buses!
Sergeant Harry Wilsher, 
of the Highland Light Infantry, number 10527.
My grandfather, a man of whom I will be forever proud.


To The Fallen