Category Archives: Personal Posts

#IWSG Reworking Old Stories @TheIWSG #amwriting #WWWBlogs

This post was written in response to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly (first Wednesday of every month) blog hop to where writers express thoughts, doubts and concerns about our profession.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

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Every month there’s an optional question to discuss.

March 1 Question: Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

Some people think we live in chaos.

I don’t believe in chaos. There is order in nature, in the universe and in our comparatively small lives, because every cell in our bodies is both part of the universe and contains the universe.

There is no chaos.

The sun doesn’t rise every now and again, the moon doesn’t spin and show its dark side whenever it pleases, leaves don’t turn blue if it’s cold, people don’t have two noses. There are exceptions to some rules; it might be hot on a spring day, someone may claim to have seen a heavy snowfall in the middle of summer, really? But when exceptional events do occur, it doesn’t mean there’s chaos, it’s only a tiny glitch.

The universe works like clockwork.

And nothing happens quite by chance. I mean there’s always a reason for everything that happens, although we might not realise at the time, or ever, in fact, but that needn’t worry us; there’s so much we’ll never understand.

The IWSG question resonates with me this week because, quite by chance, I’ve been rereading the beginning of a novel written by my sister twenty-eight years ago. Of course, you all know by now, that I don’t believe this happened by chance, at all. It was meant to happen.

My sister died, twenty-eight years ago. It seems like yesterday, every day, but still, the calendar says it happened twenty-eight years ago.

Last week, one of my sister’s friends ‘found’ me on Facebook and we started chatting. I’m afraid I didn’t remember her very well, she and my sister were five years younger than me, which isn’t a lot when you’re over thirty, but is a great deal when you’re under twenty!

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She was intrigued that I had become a writer, and I mentioned that it must run in the family, because my sister was writing a novel when she died. Her friend knew, but she had no idea what the novel was about. Elsa, my sister, was very secretive about it. I myself found out about it after she died.

She lived in Harrow, London, just around the corner from where she had been born twenty-five years earlier, and I was married and had moved to Spain, where I lived with my husband and three children, so we only saw each other once or twice a year, although we often spoke on our landline phone and wrote letters, as people used to do twenty-eight years ago.

Elsa had only just started her novel when she died, unexpectedly and tragically. 

I have a prologue and one chapter printed out on an old dot matrix printer, and obviously corrected. There are a few more chapters, but although they’re also typed, these were typed on an old typewriter and it’s obviously a first draft, which hadn’t been edited yet, in fact, it may not even be part of the same novel.

Unfortunately, there was no outline, no handwritten notes, or any other evidence of how she meant the novel should progress, and nobody knew about it, because she hadn’t discussed it with anyone, at least not with anyone I knew. This leads me to believe she was obviously a pantser and it was all in her mind, or there might have been a plan, but it has been lost.

I’m not a pantser, but I have nothing against panters, yet I don’t believe she wrote without a plan, because it was some kind of intricate thriller, so she must have written notes somewhere. And, in the 80s, people used pen and paper a lot, I was there, and I remember.

The novel is called ‘One Woman’s Story’, which may be a working title, and starts out with a woman who dreams about her own murder, death and funeral. She tells her best friend about her recurring and distressing nightmare. Shortly after, she is murdered and everything happens just as she had told her friend it would. There it stops.

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The few pages I have of my sister’s novel, One Woman’s Story.

I have no idea at all what she had in mind for the rest of the novel, but it was obviously going to be either a detective or psychological thriller, which would have required at least some notes, and a brief story line, yet, there is nothing at all to go on.

Elsa had no first hand knowledge of police procedure, that’s why I’m inclined to believe it was more of a psychological thriller, but that’s a hunch. We both loved reading Ruth Rendell novels at the time, and psychological thrillers weren’t as popular in the 80s, as they are now, but who knows?

I’ve often wondered whether I should continue her novel or not.

Last week, after speaking to her friend,  I reread it once again and tried to imagine a novel of my own, unsuccessfully. My version would probably look nothing like hers would have, because I have no idea what she had in mind.

Yesterday, reading the IWSG question, I started to think about continuing my sister’s novel, again. Is that a coincidence? But I don’t believe in coincidences, do I?

Any suggestions or ideas? Should I go for it or forget about it?

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2 Days to Launch Midsummer at Eyre Hall. My Genre: What is a #Victorian #Gothic #Romance?

I’m relieved, overjoyed and excited to tell you that The Eyre Hall Trilogy is complete.

There are two days to go to the launch of Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, on the 21st of June, and I’m aiming to write a post a day about my writing process to celebrate my achievement.

Day two is all about genre. The Eyre Hal Trilogy is a Victorian Gothic Romance, but what exactly is that? Read on to find out.

3 BOOKS ALL HALLOWS

The first word in my genre description is straightforward. A Victorian novel is a novel that is set in Victorian England, roughly between the 1830s and 1900, although many scholars extend it to the encompass the end of the 18th century, too. Most Victorian novels were written in Victorian times, but many others, sometimes called neo-Victorian novels, were written in the 20th and especially in the 21st century. There is more information on the characteristics, themes and style of Victorian and neo-Victorian novels,  and why I write them in these other posts in my blog:

What is neo-Victorian Fiction

https://lucciagray.com/2016/03/28/why-i-write-neo-victorian-fiction/

Why read neo-Victorian fiction instead of authentic Victorian Fiction.

A general introduction to Victorian times

A general introduction to Victorian literature

The Eyre Hall Trilogy is set in Victorian England between 1865 and 1879, although some of the events included as back story occurred in the 1850s and before.

The third word is also relatively easy to define. A Romance is a novel whose central concern is a love story. Romance novels are immensely diverse. Apart from the central theme of love, the rest of the characteristics are infinite, except for the presence of some kind of conflict, which must be resolved (remember Aristotle and Vonnegut; someone get’s into trouble and out of it…).

That’s the sum of common characteristics of romance. There are endless types of conflict and endless types of love stories. They can be set in any time period and in any setting or location. The ending is generally satisfactory, optimistic or downright happy ever after, although it can be partially or totally unhappy, too, see for example: Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte, 1846), Love Story (Erich Segal 1970), or The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks, 1996).

Wuthering heights

The Eyre Hall Trilogy is a Romance, because it includes several love stories, and romantic love and the conflicts brought about as a result of  the characters’ love interests are central to the plot and the sub-plots.

The genre which is going to prove most complex to define is ‘Gothic’, especially because there are many subgenres. In my case I’ll be discussing the Victorian Gothic Romance genre.

It’s origins are attributed to Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto, which he himself subtitled ‘A Gothic Story’.

Castle

The name of the genre is derived from gothic architecture, specifically from the gothic neo-medieval buildings emulating the architecture which flourished in Europe between the 12th and the 16th century, including pointed arches and vaults, flying buttresses, narrow spires, stained glass windows, latticed windows on the exterior, and dungeons, secret passages, ghosts, long winding corridors, dark furnishings and a gloomy atmosphere in the inside.

Not surprisingly, one of the salient features of this genre is the setting, which must include an isolated and spooky, gothic mansion or castle. Think of The Castle of Otranto, Thornfield hall in Jane Eyre, Satis House in Great Expectations, Dracula’s Castle in Dracula, The House of Usher, Manderlay in Rebecca (20th century), Hundred’s Hall in The Little Stranger.

House

In the case of The Eyre Hall Trilogy there is a large country house, Eyre Hall. Jane Eyre rebuilt a house on the site of Thornfield Hall, which had been burnt down by Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre. Jane purposefully made sure that Eyre Hall didn’t have an attic, a rookery, vaults, or a flying buttress, in an aim to make its appearance less gothic than Thornfield  Hall, and although it was a more modern building, there were plenty of nooks and crannies to hide unspeakable secrets…

There are plenty of characteristics which are common to gothic novels. Naturally, the more elements the novel contains, the more gothic it is! Here are a few of the most recurrent, apart from the house, in no particular order:

A mystery and a secret, often a family secret or mystery including murder, torture, or illegal confinement.

A prophecy or ancestral curse on a family.

Omens and paranormal situations.

A persecuted heroine, or damsel in distress, who is generally innocent or naive and easy to fool, by…

An evil character, or villain, who causes havoc in the heroine’s life, often including a seduction, rape or forced marriage. This person is often seeking financial gain and social status.

A supernatural element, which may be a ghost or any other type of unearthly being, such as a devil or a vampire.

Macabre situations such as death, decay, graveyards, churches, exhumation, etc.

Situations which terrorise or frighten the characters.

A dark and gloomy atmosphere, including foggy, dark, cold weather.

Complex plots with secrets and scheming characters.

Strong emotions of love, hate, fear, distress, etc.

Dangerous journeys in carriages, often at night.

One of the essential elements is the opposition between good and evil. The Picture of Dorian Gray and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are prime examples. The writer is concerned with the description of the spiritual and psychological challenges of the human soul in extreme situations.

The wicked are usually punished, although they may be redeemed if they learn their lesson and change their evil ways. The good yet physically weaker characters are often empowered due to their moral superiority.

Endings vary widely. Gothic Romance usually has happy endings, whereas Gothic Horror may have unhappier endings.

The Eyre Hall Trilogy must be a very gothic novel, because it contains all the elements I’ve named in spades!

I’ve tried my best to transport the modern reader to Victorian England and experience a gothic romance. There is adventure, suspense, the mystery and magic, dark family secrets, including murder, kidnapping, child theft, blackmail, exhumation, supernatural elements, journeys, asylums, villains, scheming, twisting plots, and plenty of conflict and obstacles for all pairs of lovers in the diverse love stories.

I’ve had great fun researching, planning and writing The Eyre Hall Trilogy, and I hope my readers also enjoy the ride!

Which is your favourite gothic romance?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Days to Launch Midsummer at Eyre Hall. My Writing Process: Intertextuality

I’m relieved, overjoyed and excited to tell you that The Eyre Hall Trilogy is complete.

There are three days to go to the launch of Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, on the 21st of June, and I’m aiming to write a post a day about my writing process to celebrate my achievement.

Day three is all about Intertextuality.

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Intertextuality is a literary device which creates interrelationship between two or more texts.

The term was coined by Julia Kristeva in the 1960s and has been widely used by poststructuralist and postmodern literary scholars.

The most frequent form is when one book refers to another book’s characters, plot, or scenes.

This reference can be simple or complex. The simple form may reference the title, or a famous character. The complex form may adapt a complete storyline or various characters from another book.

It can be an accidental, subconscious, casual, or deliberate endeavour. It can also be explicit or obvious or implicit, so the reader or scholar will need to delve into the text.

The Eyre Hall Trilogy employs simple and complex forms of intertextuality deliberately and explicitly.

The simple form of intertextuality is employed by most writers. Charlotte Bronte mentions Gulliver’s Travels, The Bible, among other texts in Jane Eyre, for example.

I mention Victorian writers, their works and their characters throughout my trilogy. Some examples are, Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, Dr. Watson from Sherlock Holmes by Conan Doyle, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Emily Bronte, among others.

The complex form of intertextuality in The Eyre Hall Trilogy includes the use of many characters and back story from both Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea.

jane_eyre_an_autobiography_by_charlotte_bronte_2370006095781   Product Details

On the other hand the plots and most of the characters in the three novels which make up the trilogy are my own.

Intertextuality can be carried out using any or several of the following literary devices: allusion, quotation, parody, paraphrase, mimesis, expansion, transfer, among others.

The Eyre Hall Trilogy makes use of all of them, there are direct allusions to other works, including quotations. Some of the original characters are parodied. Events which took place in Jane Eyre are paraphrased as back story for the reader. I have also attempted to emulate the literary style, although I have adapted it for a modern audience. The original work is expanded and many events and characters have been transferred.

Many writers borrow ideas from the works they have read. Scholars call this literary sources, and all authors from Shakespeare to Joyce have done so in their works. It’s nothing new, and nothing to be ashamed of.

I wrote another post on sequels, prequels, reinterpretations, rewritings and writing back which explains my intentions in writing a sequel to Jane Eyre.

I also wrote a post on why Jane Eyre needs a sequel on author Shani Struther’s blog earlier this year.

There are plenty of examples of writers using this literary. James Joyce retold The Odyssey in Ulysses. Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead, is based on two characters from Hamlet. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys is based on Bertha Mason’s story from Jane Eyre.

The purpose is to modify the readers’ understanding of the primary text by adding another perspective or layer of meaning to the original text leading to a reinterpretation of both texts.

My main aim in writing The Eyre Hall Trilogy was to invite the readers to rethink their opinions of Mr, Rochester, and expose Rochester as the tyrant he was and reinstate his victim, Bertha Mason.

Another aim was to honour the Victorian writers whom I consider my literary Masters, by referencing their works for contemporary readers.

Stevenson, Carroll, Dickens, Wilde, Kipling.

Few readers have never read Jane Eyre or seen a film or television series based on this novel. Most of those who have never done so directly, have heard the story of the poor governess who falls in love with the owner of the house and discovers that his mad wife is locked in his attic.

For those few who have absolutely no idea of who Jane Eyre was, there’s plenty of back story in book 1, All Hallows at Eyre Hall, to help fill in the blanks.

I hope my readers will enjoy a fascinating journey into Victorian England when they read The Eyre Hall Trilogy 

 

4 Days to Launch Midsummer at Eyre Hall. Writing Stage Three: Plotting

I’m relieved, overjoyed and excited to tell you that The Eyre Hall Trilogy is complete.

There are four days to go to the launch of Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, on the 21st of June, and I’m aiming to write a post a day about my writing process to celebrate my achievement.

Day four is all about plotting all the scenes into a three part structure.

3 BOOKS ALL HALLOWS

Plotting From Aristotle to Vonnegut.

Most novels combine engaging characters and a compelling plot to varying degrees, however some novels are more concerned with how and external conflict is solved. A prime example is a detective novel concerned with a criminal case and its solution. Other novels focus on personal conflict and the relationships between the characters. In this case, the outcome is often a change of attitude, or a new situation in the characters’ lives, not the solution of a specific incident.

I’m more of a character-driven writer than a plotter, because I’m more concerned with how my characters feel about their problems, and the processes they undergo to overcome them.

Nevertheless, I do plot and my plot is also important, it’s just not more important than my characters personal journey of self-discovery.

In this post I’m going to tell you about my plot structure for The Eyre Hall Trilogy.

According to Aristotle’s Poetics, all drama has three basic acts corresponding to the beginning, the middle, and the end of a story.

Three thousand years later, Kurt Vonnegut told us that a good story has a hero who gets into trouble and then out of trouble, everyone loves that story.

 

Screen writer David Trottier put it like this, ‘Put your hero in a tree, throw rocks at him, and get him out.’

There are few surprises to this basic structure, which has been used over and over again, of course, the fun is in the way it’s presented.

Basically, the first part presents the conflict, the middle complicates it even more, and the end resolves it.

I use this basic 3-part structure in my novels, too.

My three novels have three parts with ten chapters per part.

Each chapter has one scene and some have two related scenes.

Part I includes the setting, main characters and first crisis. I start throwing the rocks as soon as possible. In fact the first crisis happens in chapter I in the three books. I thrust both readers and characters into the situation without warning. This event changes the main character’s life drastically and unexpectedly, to such an extent that Jane literally loses control of her life.

This first crisis is sometimes referred to as enticing incident. It’s what sets the ball rolling.

The rest of the novel is spent dealing with and sorting out this situation, which is partially resolved in books 1 and 2 and finally tied up in part 3.

Part II, also called the midpoint, the central character takes stronger actions, the conflict intensifies, or more conflict appears, and the pace quickens. The main character is at a point of no return. Jane must go forward even if she’s walking straight into another crisis at midpoint, and she knows it. When all seems lost, things take a turn for the better, leading up to part three on an optimistic note.

Part III starts well, but there is another major turning point, which is usually referred to as the crisis or dilemma, occurring towards the end of the novel. It usually involves making a decision aimed at solving the initial problem. It’s often a low point where all seems lost. It is followed by the climax, which is the result of the choices made and leads to the final outcome.

If the novel is part of a trilogy, as my case, there can be no satisfactory solution to the crisis in book I, or there would be no reason for a further book, so it ends on an unsatisfactory ending, sometimes called a cliffhanger if it’s more dramatic, so the reader will want to know what happens in book II.

Book two starts with the same structure all over again, leading to book three, which has a more satisfactory ending. I say satisfactory, because the ends are partially tied up, not because it is totally happy. But more about happy-endings tomorrow.

Scenes

Each of the thirty chapters include scenes.

These scenes include crisis, turning points, surprises, complications, revelations plot twists and turns, and a climax, and a resolution along the way, otherwise it would be a very boring ride!

Scenes are vital, because they drive the story forward. Each scene must have a purpose within the novel, which will move the plot forward or give us some vital information about the characters or back-story.

I give each of the three parts a name, and each chapter a number and a name, too. It helps me in the planning stage, and it signposts the action for the reader (by the way, these names undergo multiple changes throughout the writing process).

This is the Index of Midsummer at Eyre Hall

Part One: Season of Darkness

Chapter I – Abodes of Horror

Chapter II – The Best of Times           

Chapter III – Betrayal

Chapter IV – Winter of Despair         

Chapter V – The Worst of Times       

Chapter VI – Fugitives

Chapter VII – Nothing Before Us       

Chapter VIII – Hell is Empty   

Chapter IX – The Age of Foolishness 

Chapter X – Wrath     

Part Two: Spring of Hope       

Chapter XI – Locked out of Heaven   

Chapter XII– Everything before Us    

Chapter XIII – Epoch of Incredulity

Chapter XIV – Stairway to Heaven    

Chapter XV Pride, Greed, and Lust.   

Chapter XVI – The Agony and the Ecstasy

Chapter XVII Manderley        

Chapter XVIII – In Search of Helen    

Chapter XIX The Road to Hell

Chapter XX –  First Love         

Part Three: Season of Light   

Chapter XXI – Persuasion       

Chapter XXII – Seashells and Puppies

Chapter XXIII – Present Blessings      

Chapter XXIV – Mr. de Winter’s Request      

Chapter XXV – Thunder Moon at Eyre Hall   

Chapter XXVI – Susan’s Inferno         

Chapter XXVII – James Eyre Kirkpatrick        

Chapter XXVIII – Max and Helen       

Chapter XXIX – The Light and the Darkness  

Chapter XXX – Return to Eyre Hall    

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I didn’t plan it all before I started. I started book one with some characters and a situation and let them speak and act. A third of the way through, I planed it all, loosely. I didn’t consciously use Aristotle’s proposal, although it may have been ingrained in my subconscious due to my literary background as a graduate in literature.

This plotting structure has worked for me with the Eyre Hall Trilogy. It helped me to organize my erratic thoughts into coherent scenes, but I honestly have no idea whether it would work with any other novels I’ll be writing. There are lots more methods for plotting a novel.

How do you plot your novels?

 

 

 

5 Days to Launch Midsummer at Eyre Hall. Writing Stage Two: From Pen to Keyboard

I’m relieved, overjoyed and excited to tell you that The Eyre Hall Trilogy is complete.

There are five days to go to the launch of Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, on the 21st of June, and I’m aiming to write a post a day about my writing process to celebrate my achievement.

Day five is all about the transition from the scene I’ve seen in my mind to the written version.

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As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, once I’ve visualised the scene and run through it in my mind’s eye, I start my writing process.

The first thing I do is pick up a pen and a writing pad (I prefer large ones, but sometimes I use smaller ones I can carry in my handbag) and jot down my thoughts.

This first draft looks nothing like the final version and works like this:

First I write some loose ideas or instructions, like detailed playwright’s stage directions. I might add some snippets of dialogue, and some instructions or notes to myself, like ‘remember to make sure the reader knows it’s late afternoon and the journey will take four hours.’ I’m sure nobody would make any sense of it, except myself!

A few days ago, I learnt that this technique is called ‘Freewriting’ and is very useful for writers thanks to a post by Icy Sedwick How can freewriting help writers with plotting or blocks? Read this fascinating article if you want to know more about how this process can help writers.

Lucy EScribiendo

This is a small notebook because I’m writing on a plane, but I prefer big bulky ones!

Next, I usually do some more visualisation, because writing it all down has sparked my imagination and raised more questions or included more people or actions in the scene. I might have to do some research or rethink the whole scene.

The second time I take up the scene, I start writing all over again, using my first notes and any new ideas I’ve come up with. At this stage it is usually a much more coherent text, but it’s still nowhere near finished.

At this point, I usually stop using my pen and take up my keyboard. This is the most productive part, five or six handwritten pages, about 1,000 words, easily become 5,000. And the best thing is that once I get to this stage, the words flow like a waterfall.

 

Lucy writing

I usually write in my garden or patio or near a window overlooking my garden and the countryside. I was at my daughter’s house here, by the beach.

 

When I finish my first typewritten draft of a scene, I know there’s more work to be done on it in the future, but I move on to another scene, for the time being.

Although I move on, I reread and edit what I’ve already written regularly, expanding, cutting out, and modifying as I go along.

I follow this process this with every scene, and each scene usually becomes a chapter, although some chapters have more than one scene, but more about my scenes tomorrow.

Do you your pen before your keyboard too?

Do you ‘freewrite’?

 

6 Days to Launch Midsummer at Eyre Hall. Writing Stage One: Visualisation

I’m relieved, overjoyed and excited to tell you that The Eyre Hall Trilogy is complete.

There are six days to go to the launch of Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, on the 21st of June, and I’m aiming to write a post a day about my writing process to celebrate my achievement.

3 COVERS

I’m a visual learner, thinker and writer.

This means I need visual input to learn, understand and interact meaningfully with my environment.

As a learner, it means I need to see and/or make charts, images, diagrams, mind maps, videos, etc. to fully understand what I’m learning.

Visual 2

As a reader, it means that if the writer doesn’t show me where I am and what and who I’m seeing, I can’t relate to the novel, which is probably why I love the detail and atmosphere conveyed in Victorian novels. However, this doesn’t have to be wordy. Think of poetry; just a few words can express complex feelings and situations.

As a writer it means I need to see images in my mind of who and what I’m writing about, before I write, and it’s why I want my reader to be there with me, inside the characters’ shoes and looking around through their eyes.

These mental images can be based on memories, or something I can see, either physically or virtually, but I need that trigger.

Visual 1

For example, I need to see Eyre Hall before I can imagine anything happening there. I also need to see my characters: their clothes, hairstyles, accessories, mannerisms, etc. before I can hear them speak or watch them interact.

This visualisation stage happens in my mind’s eye, sometimes consciously as I take a walk, sit and think, or unconsciously when I dream.

It is the starting point of all my scenes. I’ve seen it all before I write it down.

I call this the summoning or activating stage, where I’m thinking scenes through, like a chess game. I purposefully think about my characters and location. I see what the characters are doing, where they are and what they are saying like film shots. I rewind, repeat, change, until I’m comfortable with the scene.

I can’t start writing until I’m satisfied with the scene I’ve seem.

Sometimes my imagination isn’t enough to visualise what I want to see, and I need to see photographs and paintings, of people, places and objects related to my scene, because if I don’t ‘see’ it, I can’t conjure it, and I can’t write my scene.

For example, I was having trouble writing about the sea scenes in Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall. I saw plenty of pictures about naval battles and storms, but I needed to get inside the ship, before I could hear Michael and Captain Carrington speaking in the Captain’s cabin, and I couldn’t see the room at all.

Sea 1

Quite by chance, I went to Madrid for a weekend in March 2015, and decided to look into war museums, and I discovered that there was a fabulous Naval Museum, which is very close to the Prado Museum, where I spent an unforgettable afternoon. I was lucky enough to take part in an enlightening guided tour of naval history from Columbus to the present, using the museum exhibits.

Captain's cabin.1

There was one exhibit which mesmerised me and enabled me to write the scene I mentioned; an exact replica of a captain’s cabin in a 19th century frigate. It struck me powerfully how grand it was. The polished wooden walls and furniture, rich carpets, drinks cabinets, paintings, upholstered chairs, which were in stark contrast to the rest of the rooms on board.

That visit was like magic. On the two-hour train ride back home, I jotted down all my ideas for the scene, and when I returned, I sat on my computer and it happened. But more about how the actual writing process tomorrow.

Are you a visual thinker?

Here’s an excerpt of one of the scenes on the ship in the first part of Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall.

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Captain Carrington looked up from his desk and waved a hand towards the chair facing him, and then busied himself with some papers, seeming to ignore my presence.

It was rumoured that he had spent so long waiting for a captain’s commission, that his hair had turned white and his skin grey. His face was dented with deep ridges that cut his hollow cheeks, and his head and stomach were unusually large compared to his scrawny limbs. I wondered how he had become so overweight with the meagre portions we ate while at sea.

He folded a document, which looked like a letter, and then stared at me before speaking at last. “Why are you here, Midshipman Kirkpatrick?”

“I wanted to be in the navy, like my father, sir.” I had said the words so often I had convinced myself they were true.

“Who are you running away from?” 

I took a few seconds to reply to his unexpected question. “I have never run away from any man, sir.”

“I can believe that.”

His eyes dug into mine, once again. “Cold blood. Determination. I’ve seen you kill without a second thought, when you needed to.”

The crew were mostly decent, self–respecting men, who worked hard and obeyed the regulations. However, there had been a few blackguards of the worst sort, tough, merciless men who stole rum and provisions, slept on guard, and increased the workload of the rest of the crew. Many of them had served their time in prison, where they should have remained. A group of such criminals had provoked a mutiny threatening the captain’s life shortly before our arrival in Jamaica. In spite of being flogged for not joining their criminal uprising, I managed to escape with the help of a few brave and loyal sailors and suppressed the rebellion by slaying the scoundrels.

“I’m prepared to do what is necessary for my ship and the crew, sir.” I was relieved that the conversation had returned to professional matters.

“Then it’s a woman you are running away from.” He smiled wryly, and I knew there was no point in denying it. I could not imagine how he knew, because we had never spoken about personal matters. “Not a woman, sir. A very special lady.”

“They are all special to someone, my boy. Beyond your station, perhaps? Her family didn’t think you were good enough, did they?”

“Something like that, sir.”

“So you came here to fix that, did you? To prove that you’re worthy of the damsel?”

“I came to forget.” I had not spoken to anyone about Jane since I left Eyre Hall and it was more painful than I had imagined.

“Of course, to forget.” He nodded mockingly, pressed his fingers on the mahogany desk and raised himself up painfully, swearing as he limped around the cabin. He stopped behind me, breathing down my neck. “But you can’t, can you? She is in your thoughts, under your skin, inside your blood, and you cannot pull her out. You smell her before you fall asleep and touch her in your dreams, don’t you?”

I was relieved that he stood behind me. I needed time to compose myself. How could he know how I felt if I did not understand my feelings myself?  

“And when you wake up, your whole body misses her, and your heart aches to hear her voice, you long to look into her eyes, preferably looking up to you from beneath.” I felt his hand on my shoulder. “Am I right, Kirkpatrick?”

I was silent, containing my breathing. How could he know?

“So, what are you going to do about it, man?”

“Nothing, sir. It’s impossible.”

He returned to his seat, staring at me again. “And if you were to return as a commissioned officer, as a lieutenant. Would that make it easier to convince her father?”

“No, sir. It would not.”

“Interesting, no father.” He shuffled the papers on his desk then looked up. “Is that why you’ve been trying to get yourself killed almost every day since we set sail six months ago, Lieutenant?”

“I’m not a lieutenant, sir.”

“You’re a dangerous and valuable man who can kill with one hand and plan the mathematical coordinates of the ship with the other. Your father would have been proud of you, and, one day, so will your beloved’s family.”

“Thank you, sir, for your concern, but I’m afraid not, sir. The lady is out of the question.”

“Then you’ll have to replace her.”

“Never.”

“Admirable self–control and loyalty. I presume she must be married?”

“She is beyond my reach, sir.”

“You were a valet at a country estate before enlisting, am I right?”

I nodded.

“I don’t think a young maid would have made you flee, or rejected you, and seeing the ambition and astuteness in your eyes, I added two and two, and realised it must have been the mistress of the house, or her daughter. Which was it?”

*******

Did I manage to bring you into the captain’s cabin? Did you see the characters? Are you intrigued?

 

 

 

 

 

7 Days to Launch Midsummer at Eyre Hall: On planning and pantsing

Many things have been happening during these bloggingly silent months, and I have an important announcement to make.

I’m relieved, overjoyed and excited to tell you that The Eyre Hall Trilogy is complete.

There are seven days to go to the launch of Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, on the 21st of June, and I’m aiming to write a post a day to celebrate my achievement.

 

3 COVERS

 

The idea of writing a sequel to Jane Eyre in order to revindicate Bertha Mason and uncover Rochester’s real nature, opening many eyes, including Jane Eyre’s, had been taking shape in my imagination for a few years before I put pen to paper.

On a warm, sunny day, towards the end of June 2013, I sat in my garden with my brand new PC, and started pantsing my novel.

I had a location: Thornfield Hall had been burnt down and Jane had inherited a great deal of money from her uncle, so she had built another more modern country house on the same spot: Eyre Hall. It had neither an attic nor a rookery.

I had a setting: Twenty-two years after Jane and Rochester’s marriage, while Rochester is on his death-bed.

I had an antagonist: My first scene was crystal clear; Richard Mason would arrive at Eyre Hall, causing havoc in Jane’s life once again. He was Bertha’s brother, the man who had interrupted Rochester’s first bigamous marriage attempt in Jane Eyre.

I had the catalyst: This time he had a more shocking revelation. Bertha had given birth to a baby girl in the attic, whom Richard had removed to Jamaica under Rochester’s orders. Annette Mason was twenty-two years old and ready to claim her birthright. Annette is the most vital character in the novel. Without Annette there would be no Eyre Hall Trilogy.

I had the anti-hero: Rochester was responsible for Jane’s ‘unhappy marriage’, and the tragic events which will ensue, due to his crimes and misconduct.

And of course  I had my dear protagonist: Jane Eyre. She is the link to all the other characters and events. The trilogy is concerned with the way in which she will react to the events and other characters, and how her fate will develop as a result.

My characters were strong and well-defined in my mind, so I just made them interact and talk to each other and the story gradually grew.

My first surprise was that more characters appeared of their own accord, right from chapter one. The most significant was an unplanned and unexpected hero, who emerged, and practically took over my novel and Jane’s life, on page two; Michael.

More characters appeared, interacted and events started to get out of hand. I soon realised two things I hadn’t counted on:

1) I needed a plan, and  2) one novel wasn’t going to be enough.

So about a third of the way into book one, All Hallows at Eyre Hall, I planed the rest of the first novel and outlined the next two, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall and Midsummer at Eyre Hall. Needless to say, my early plans have changed drastically along the way, but even though plans change, you need a plan as well as an open mind.

It’s been a fascinating adventure. Months of research, reading, rereading, writing, rewriting, editing, discussing, fretting, and 280,000 words later, I have finished my journey, or not?

 

#IWSG Writing Book Three in a Trilogy

This post was written in response to The Insecure Writers Support Group, which posts every first Wednesday of every month.

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

Today I’m feeling especially insecure and apologetic, as a blogger and as a writer.

I can’t believe it’s been almost two months since I last blogged. I definitely need to explain myself.

Apart from work and a few personal matters, which cropped up unexpectedly and inconveniently, and I’m not going to bore you with, the rest of my time was taken with re-re-re-editing the third and final novel in The Eyre Hall Trilogy. Everything else had to stop, including my blog (and the A-Z Challenge) and most of my social media interaction, because I just couldn’t cope with everything that was going on, and I’d put my book up for pre-order, thinking I had plenty of time… and I didn’t, as always.

I struggled with book one, All Hallows at Eyre Hall, because I was proving to myself (and the unsuspecting world) that I could actually write and publish a novel. In the end I felt and still feel proud of my efforts.

On the other hand, I really enjoyed book two, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall. I had proved I could do it, so I was just enjoying the ride. Lots of romance, action, adventure and suspense. It’s definitely my favourite.

Unfortunately with book three, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, the insecurity, struggle and strife has returned… in a big way. Can I do it? Can I finish this trilogy the way it deserves? Can I close all the threads? Do I even need to tie it all up neatly? Where do I stop?

I completed my first draft at the beginning of April, and since then I’ve been listening to beta readers’ and editors’ comments and tweaking bits here and there, and adding a chapter, which they convinced me was needed. The whole process has been driving me crazy.

Don’t get me wrong, most of the comments were positive and my ‘test’ readers have enjoyed it, but, there are always comments and suggestions for change or improvement, so over the previous months, I’ve been  focussed on what needed to be improved, which was a stressful focus.

I’m now waiting for the last proofread to be returned to me. Then I have to re-read it once more and make the final decisions before I upload it on kindle next Thursday, the 9th of June. I should be looking forward to it, shouldn’t I? So why aren’t I?

I’m more than insecure this time, because I’m downright terrified of not getting it right and spoiling the end and the whole trilogy.

I can’t wait for next month, when the launch will be over and I’ll be feeling more optimistic perhaps…

How do you feel just before your book launch?

Have you written the third part of a trilogy? What was your experience like?

If you’d like to read some of the other posts by insecure writers, they’re here

Compassion and Happiness: A Room Without a Roof #Happiness #1000Speak

We normally think of compassion related to pain, sadness, poverty, misery, but today (I’m a day late, I mean yesterday,) is also International Day of Happiness, so I’d like to join 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion and reflect upon compassion as a way of bringing some happiness to other people.

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It’s not a pleasant situation for me when I’m feeling happy and someone around me is in emotional pain. It could be a colleague, a friend, a neighbor, or a relative. Today I’d like to suggest simple strategies for making people happy, or at least less unhappy.

The satisfaction of knowing I’ve helped others is priceless, so it’s something I normally try to do, and it’s really not as hard as it seems. I’m not an expert or a psychologist, but I’ve been a teacher for over thirty years, a mother, a grandmother, a wife, and friend to many, so here are a few things I’ve learnt along the way.

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  • Listen to someone who is obviously unhappy.

You may think they don’t want to talk, or you may be too embarrassed or busy to listen, but you should make an effort to find out what’s the matter. They say a problem shared is a problem halved, and I’ve experienced it so many times myself, that the power of listening is invaluable.

Why to listen

Firstly because it lets them talk, which means verbalizing what’s happening to them, and crazy as it seems, it’s not something people do unless they talk or write about how they feel, and you’d be amazed how many people do neither. It stays bottled up inside…festering. You can’t solve a problem you don’t verbalise and analyse. Amazingly, I’ve noticed that very often, just telling someone why you’re upset is enough to feel a little better. Isn’t that worth a few minutes or half an hour of your time?

Listening 1

How to Listen

Active listening means talking as little as possible yourself and focusing on the speaker. You may need to ask a few questions to keep them engaged, but don’t be judgemental, don’t tell them what to do (unless you’re specifically asked, which mostly you won’t be), don’t give them examples of your own; it’s about them, not you. This stage is only about listening to them. Finally you can recap what they’ve said to make sure you (and especially they) have described the situation clearly.

  • Comfort them. It’s a good idea to give them some comforting words or a hug. You don’t even have to talk or say more than a few words. The power of a hug, a smile, and a few comforting words like, ‘I’m sorry you’re feeling sad,’ or ‘Is there anything I can do to help?’ is invaluable, and it only takes a few seconds.

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  • Give them ideas to cope. If theyre ready to listen you can speak now. If they’re too upset to listen to you, you might want to postpone this stage, but often, they’re in need of your input on the situation, after all, that’s why they’ve opened their hearts to you. Now it’s your turn to speak. I love this part, because there are so many simple things you can do to cheer yourself up that you forget when you’re immersed in your own sadness.

The first thing is to admit that you don’t have a solution to their problem, but you have ideas to lighten their load and help them think things through or move on with their lives.

Problems

This is where the room without a roof (from the song Happy by Farrell) comes in. when you’re unhappy the roof oppresses you and doesn’t let you see the daylight outside, so you need to do simple things to make holes in that roof until you’ve broken it completely.

One quick and easy way to cheer up is to listen to music, sing your favourite song and dance or go for a walk with your headphones. There are so many songs which cheer you up, we each have our own. These are a few of mine, depending on my mood: Happy by Farrell, anything by Bruno Mars (Uptown Funk), Black Eyed Peas (I Gotta Feeling), Madonna (I’m Breathess), or Simply Red (Jerico), Adele (Rolling in the deep). There’s no excuse with Spotify and Youtube, you can listen to almost anything free!

You can also watch your favourite film, even if it makes you cry, but better if it makes you laugh.

You can phone your special friend or relative who lives thousands of miles away, and if they’ve passed away, you can still speak to them in your mind. Try it, they’re listening to you. Tap onto them through your subconscious, see them, hear their voice, have that conversation you need to have with them. You’ll be surprised what they say.

You can write about how you feel in a diary or write some flash fiction, or plan a novel with the situation. If you don’t feel like writing a coherent text, write a lists of things you’re grateful for or things you want to do in the next few months, or a list of things to do or say in your situation.

If you’re a writer, use your negative feelings for your characters and think what they would do and how they would feel in your situation. It helps to let off steam and extrapolate.

Read a book. There are so many, from self-help to romance, suspense, historical, science fiction, whatever catches your eye. Read the blurb and ‘Look inside’ first, and if you don’t like it move on. Don’t feel like bothering to find a book? Reread your favourite novels or your favourite parts.

There are plenty of self help books out there, I’m not up to date, but I got a lot out of these books: The Flow (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi), To Be and To Have (Fromm), I love all of Deepak Chopra’s books, The Prophet (Gibran), The Power of Now (Tolle) Here are a few more suggestions:

Do whatever you like, whether it’s cooking, shopping, painting, gardening, yoga, do it. Spoil yourself. Buy ingredients for your favourite meal or cake, or pay a visit to a Garden Centre…

So often in life, problems improve over time, but we need to fill that waiting time with activities that will lift our spirits. They’re like bridges taking us from one side of the river to the other.

Happy 2

  • Check up on them. Make your shoulder available for a good cry. Let them know you care. Phone up or ask them how they are. Don’t exaggerate or dramatise, just ‘morning, how are you feeling today?’ or ‘Fancy a coffee?’ is enough. You’ll know how to take it from there.

Take part in the International Day of Happiness 2016. Download your free Happiness Guidebook packed full of ideas and actions to create a happier life for you and those around you. Read other posts on Compassion and Happiness.

There’s only one pitfall: Negative people. People who are always grumpy and seem to be unhappy, but on the other hand, they thrive on complaining and playing the role of martyr or loser and try to infect you with their negativity. I know you can cope, but just in case: keep away! They’re pretty poisonous. for everyone else,

Be Happy and make someone else Happy!

Smile

Dressing Up for an Eventful Week

I don’t usually write diary-like entries to my blog, but today is going to be an exception, because I’ve had a strange and eventful week, which I’d like to share with all of you. A lot of work, fun, excitement, and dressing up has been going on…

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My daughter and granddaughter, getting ready for Halloween!

Sunday 26th was great! I spent the day with my daughter, her husband, and children at the beach, watching the new generation gradually take over. She used to be my little girl, but now she has two children of her own, a job, a car, a mortgage, just like most adults do…

In the evening, I wrote my blog post on The Truth about Halloween.

Monday was amazing. It was the official opening of the Academic Year at the University where I teach English Language part-time, so I dressed up with the Faculty of Arts (called Philology in Spain) Academic Dress, namely a black robe with a short light blue cape or hood, and tasselled cap (the cap is worn by those with a PhD). I had never worn this gown before, but I thought I’d do so at least once, so that I could show my grandchildren in the future… I did feel rather grand!

Waiting for the ceremony, tassled cap in hand!

Waiting for the ceremony, tasselled cap in hand!

UNED Opening Ceremony in Academic Dress

UNED Opening Ceremony in Academic Dress

On Tuesday, on my way to work, I literally waked through an exhibition, in the Orange Tree Patio in the Cathedral-Mosque in Cordoba, where I admired the sculptures, by a recently deceased, international, Cordoban artist, Aurelio Teno, He’s the one who designed and made the Don Quixote sculpture near the Kennedy Centre in Washington.

Quijote Teno

Don Quijote by Aurelio Teno. Kennedy Center, Washington.

Aurelio Teno Exhibition in Patio de los Naranjos, Cordoba.

Foto taken at Aurelio Teno Exhibition in Patio de los Naranjos, Cordoba, Spain.

I also wrote my blog post on Halloween Festivities in All Hallows at Eyre Hall.

On Wednesday I was busy working all morning and all afternoon, at school and college. We rehearsed Stop all the clocks by W. H. Auden, for a poetry recitation at the Halloween Festivities we’re organising at school.

In the evening, I went shopping for Halloween goodies such as hats, stickers, sweets, and ingredients for Halloween biscuits/cookies, with my grandson.

My grandson, the Wizard!

My grandson, the budding Wizard!

On Thursday morning, I made tons of cookies, for my grandson, my students, and colleagues, before going to work. I work afternoons-evenings evenings on Thursdays.

Scary Cookies made by me!

Scary Cookies made by me!

On Friday, we had our big event at school. I teach at an Adult Education Centre, although we have mostly young adults, under thirty. The three English teachers dressed up as witches, and performed the opening scene of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, in English and Spanish. The students also read poems in Spanish and English, and a beautiful short story by Jorge Bucay.

English Teachers with a cauldron, preparing for their act!

My colleagues and I preparing the cauldron for our act!

Performance of the opening cene of Macbeth with the three witches.

Performance of the opening scene of Macbeth.

Afterwards, we ate all the cakes and biscuits we (students and teachers) had made for the occasion.

Halloween biscuits/cookies and cakes!

Halloween biscuits/cookies and cakes!

In the evening, I wrote my Flash Fiction Story for Flash! Friday, as I do almost every Friday.

This morning, Saturday, 1st November, I woke up to a wonderful surprise. This week, I had scheduled a special reduced price book promotion for All Hallows at Eyre Hall, and as a result of my diverse efforts by using Twitter, Facebook, Blog, word of mouth, some paid promotion on Masquerade Crew, and Ereader news today, I discovered had sold 183 books! More than I’ve sold since my book was published in May. I’m overwhelmed, and very excited.

All Hallows at Eyre Hall: The Breathtaking Sequel to Jane Eyre, has also managed to get into the Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store ranking today in three categories!  Best Sellers Rank #26 on Sagas, #29 in Family Sagas, #41 in Historical Fiction. Overall ranking #727 out of over a million Ebooks! Not bad for a debut novel, which was self-published in May, 2014!

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I’m feeling really proud! Did someone cast a good spell last night? Am I dreaming?

Wow, what a week! Fortunately, they’re not all this exciting or busy, or are they?

My daughter and a friend.

My youngest daughter (at the back) and a friend celebrating Halloween in London, last night.

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What can I say? Dressing up runs in the family! We just love it!

 

By the way, All Hallows at Eyre Hall (international link) is on special offer all over the world for the next few days, £0.77 /$0.99 / €0.89. Please help spread the word. I still have a long way to go, but I couldn’t have got this far without your support. A big thank you!

 

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