Carrot Ranch #FlashFiction Challenge: ‘What if?’

This post was written in response to Charli Mills weekly flash fiction challenge.

January 5, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rattling sound. It can be an intimidating sound of protest, a disorienting loud sound, a musical expression or a gentle baby’s toy. Go where the prompt leads you. To take part, join in here!

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Today’s flash was inspired by the Christmas season, which has just passed.

 

The Good Nephew

‘Go away,’ he shouted, covering his head with the woollen blanket, but the rattling grew louder.

‘Leave me alone!’ He was trembling.

More rattling.

‘I don’t want to go there again!’

‘I warned you last Christmas,’ came the ghostly echo with more thunderous rattling.    

Minutes later, the ghost discarded the heavy chains and stood by the skeletal corpse in the icy bedroom.

‘I was only reminding you to keep your promises,’ he said closing Ebenezer’s blank eyes.

Then he opened the safe where the miser kept the gold coins and dropped them into his purse.

‘Rest in peace, uncle.’

***

One of the strategies I use in my retellings of Victorian fiction are ‘what if questions.

In the case of A Christmas Carol I asked myself:

What  if Scrooge didn’t change after all?

What if there were never ghosts, just a trick to scare the old miser?

What if the nephew wasn’t such a good person?

What if his nephew, became more greedy and tired of waiting to inherit?

The same story with a ‘what if’ becomes another story, which is complimentary to the original story.  The more feasible the ‘What if’, the more credible your new version becomes.

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There are many possible ‘what ifs’ to any story. Here are some more for A Christmas Carol:

What if Scrooge was an opium addict instead of a miser?

What if Scrooge wasn’t as rich as people thought?

What if the ghosts were time travellers?

What if his nephew was really his son?

What if Scrooge had killed Marley to take over the business?

The options are endless and exciting if the questions are reasonable. It can also work with ‘unreasonable’ what ifs.

For example, if I asked, ‘What if Scrooge was really Prince Albert who was bored at home with Queen Victoria?’ It might work as a nonsense story, but not as an alternative version.

In the Eyre Hall Trilogy, my sequel to Jane Eyre, some of my ‘what ifs’ were the following:

What if Bertha had a child in the attic?

What if Rochester had the child removed?

What if Bertha’s daughter returned to Eyre Hall as an adult to claim her birth right?

What if Rochester went back to his old ways shortly after marrying Jane?

What if Jane stopped loving Rochester?

What if Jane fell in love with another man?

And many, many, many more!

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Creating alternate, complimentary, versions of well known novels or stories is fun and creative, because it opens up a whole new world of possibilities.

I love reimagining fiction and reinventing stories.

Some people criticise me for doing so. I answer that writers have been borrowing stories and retelling them since pen was first put to paper (Chaucer, Shakespeare and Scott, did it all the time! Even Dickens did it occasionally).

My retellings are a tribute to the original authors and works, and I consider it an honour to be able to share my reimaginings with my readers.

Do you ever venture into the world of ‘what ifs’ in your writing?

My Favourite Novel: Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall on #kindle Countdown Deal

Today is a very special day for my novel Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, because Twelfth Night is the night before the twelfth and final day of the Christmas season, which started on Christmas Day, and that day, the 5th of January, is today. Although it’s no longer celebrated in the UK, it used to be a merry festivity in Victorian England.

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Asking a writer to choose a favourite novel is like asking a parent to choose their favourite child. I’m going to own up to the truth here, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall is my favourite novel. It’s a quick and easy answer, because I enjoyed writing it so much more than the others.

 

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Let me explain, book one, All Hallows was hard to write because it was the first and I had to prove to myself, and my readers that I could do it. I could write a novel. It was a cathartic experience and although I’m thrilled with the result, it was also stressful process.

Second came Twelfth Night, and I felt liberated and capable, so I let my imagination run wild and wrote the most exciting, adventurous and optimistic novel in the trilogy. Twelfth Night has everything that can entertain a reader: wonderful and varied characters, servants, villains, murderers, heroes, supernatural beings, pirates, children as well as adults. There’s romance, a murder investigation, child theft, blackmail, unveiling of family secrets, and a sea voyage. The settings are varied, we move away from Eyre Hall and travel to Dickens’ Victorian London, there’s also a sea voyage across to colonial Jamaica.

Although it’s part of a trilogy, it can be read as a standalone. There is no cliff-hanger ending, the ending is satisfactory, although not happy ever after. I hope readers will read the final instalment, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, but Twelfth Night is a self-contained novel.

The titles of the three books represent the day one of the major event in the novel takes place. In the case of twelfth Night, a significant event takes place. It’s the death, or rather the murder of one of the characters. I can’t say any more without including a spoiler, but I can read the first two paragraphs of the chapter, which is narrated by Jane.

Chapter XVI

Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall

The morning after Twelfth Night, Eyre Hall woke up to an alarming blizzard. I had risen and was looking out to the vast whiteness where no shape, human, animal or natural, could be discerned due to the snowy curtain pouring down. I pitied anyone who would have to leave the house in such weather.

I turned my thoughts to Michael, in London. No doubt, the weather as always, was kinder there. I wondered if he had found Helen, and how soon he would return. He had said by Twelfth Night, so I was looking forward to his arrival shortly. The snow might slow down his journey, but it was a small impediment for such a tenacious person. I wondered wistfully as Nell helped me dress, if we could ever be together as any couple who are in love, but we were not any couple. There were so many obstacles in our way, although now, more than ever, I was sure our future was entwined, and we would find a way to overcome all the complications.

I was shaken by cries coming from Mr. Mason’s room…

****

So, if you’d like to read a Victorian Gothic romance, including some of the characters in Jane Eyre and many other engaging characters, in a novel which is full of mystery, suspense, romance and adventure, now is the time to give Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall a try because it’s on Kindle Countdown Deal at less than a dollar or a pound until the 11th of January.

Amazon USA

Amazon UK 

And when you read it, don’t forget to write a review, just a line or two is enough, and let me know what you think.

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Happy Reading and Happy New Year 2017!

 

Days of Yore #SoCS

This post is written in response to Linda Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday (SoCS) prompt

Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “your, you’re or yore” Use it in your post as a noun or a verb… or a name! Enjoy!

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Days of Yore

We all have our own days of yore. They start when we’re still children.

As soon as we’re old enough to have memories we can recall the days of yore.

Even so, the word yore has a distant sound to it, as if it refers to things which happened long before our own memories began.

The days of yore refer to the memories of others who have died generations before us. So why do they belong to us, too?

Perhaps their recollections are still alive in our collective unconscious. Don’t we all remember and re-imagine the same things?

Isn’t storytelling and all forms of literature a way of recalling and passing on events of the days of yore?

The big bad wolf, the fierce dragon, the handsome prince, the wicked stepmother, the Trojan Horse, the pairs of animals in Noah’s Arc, King Arthur’s Round Table, etc. Someone must have seen and recalled them of yore and passed on the memory, because, don’t we remember them as if we’d seen them ourselves?

The problem is, it’s like Chinese whispers, as the stories are passed down over generations they gradually change; they transform into something else, something later generations can relate to…

They say the legend of the mad woman confined to an attic was told to Charlotte Bronte on a visit to a local country house in her youth. Years later she recreated the legend in Bertha Mason, who became the catalyst in Jane Eyre and most famous secondary character in literary history.

I also shared Miss Bronte’s memories of the days of yore and remembered the story of the screams on the third floor and imagined that a baby was crying in that windowless attic, a baby who returned as a young woman to claim her birthright by her father’s deathbed: Annette Mason in The Eyre Hall Trilogy.

It happened of yore, but I remember it so well, don’t you?

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Midsummer Dreams

“Whatever is dreamed on this night, will come to pass.” —William Shakespeare, A MidSummer Night’s Dream

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There are many magical nights in the year, which mark ancestral celebrations.

The three novels in The Eyre Hall Trilogy reference one of these traditions.

I’ve already written posts on Halloween, Christmas, and Twelfth Night.

In this case, I’d like to talk about ‘Midsummer’, the title of the final installment of The Eyre Hall Trilogy, which I’ve just published.

Midsummer is a magical night, as Shakespeare reminded us; it’s a night to make wishes and dream that they will come true.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the 21st of June, the summer solstice, or the longest day of the year, which has been celebrated throughout history as a day of magic. It is the one day of the year when the sun is at its highest point in the sky.

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The summer solstice marks the middle of the year. Six months later,  comes the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year.

Have you ever wondered why Midsummer’s Day is celebrated between the 21st of June coinciding with the summer solstice and the 24th of June coinciding with the festivity of St. John?

Nowadays this date represents the beginning of summer, but this wasn’t always the case. We need to go back to Anglo-Saxon times to understand the meaning of the word.

The word midsummer comes to us from Old English, although it probably comes from an older Germanic language. The Anglo-Saxon calendar had two seasons, summer and winter. For these calendars, “Midsummer’s Day” would have fallen near the middle of their summer. The beginning of summer would have been around May Day, so the middle os June would have been the middle of the ‘warm season’.

Spring and Autumn were not used for the seasons until Middle English (approximately 1400).

The summer solstice, was one of the pagan festivals taken over by the early Christian church, which aligned it with the feast of St John the Baptist, on 24th June. By the sixteenth century, Midsummer Day had a mixture of Christian and Pagan meaning.

In Tudor times, the typical celebration on Midsummer’s Day included Marching Watches, which were parades accompanied by lit torches with thousands of marchers. There would have been Morris dancers, giant straw puppets and hobby horses, and pageants.

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Midummer Watch Parade in Chester 2016

Fire and the sun were also important themes, so there were bonfires, too. The Fire Wheel is an ancient ceremony from the British Isles. The wheel was set on fire and rolled down a hillside. If the fire, which represented the sun, burned until the wheel reached the bottom of the hill, it was thought to bring good fortune to the entire community.

It was also traditional to use flowers and plants as decorations especially front doors, which were decorated with garlands or wreaths.

There was drinking, merrymaking and for everyone on this magical night in which wishes and dreams were made.

Midsummer celebrations often began at sunset the evening prior to Midsummer. The twilight hours were considered magical. It was a time when fairies and witches were more active. It was also considered the best day of the year for enchantments. This magical quality was immortalised by William Shakespeare in “A Midsummer’s Night Dream”.

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The Eyre Hall Trilogy ends on Midsummer’s Day, I’m afraid I can’t add an excerpt because that would be a huge spoiler! I’ve already told you it has a happy/satisfactory and hopeful ending, that’s why the cover shows flowers on a bright summer’s day. The final scene takes place on Midsummer’s Day at Eyre Hall, while the residents are preparing a celebration in the gardens for the local families, especially children.

Don’t forget to make a wish on this magical night!

 

#Book #Launch! Midsummer at Eyre Hall

Launch Day has arrived at last!

Those of you who have pre-ordered will receive a copy on your kindles, and those of you who haven’t bought it yet, can do so and download it and start reading at once!

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It’s on special offer at 0.99 as a kindle ebook. The paperback version will be coming out later this month.

The three novels can be read as standalones, except perhaps book one All Hallows at Eyre Hall because it ends on a mini-cliffhanger, so if you read book one you will need to read books two and three!

Book two, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall can be read as a standalone, but again, you’ll want to read book three, although it does not end in a cliffhanger.

In order to get the best reading experience it would be best to read the trilogy in order, but feel free to skip around. There are no rules for readers!

 

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I’m very excited about completing the trilogy, and although I’ve written ‘The End’, I’m already thinking about novellas and short stories related to the characters and events which appear throughout the trilogy. I’ve actually started a sequel to my sequel, which may be a novella or it may become a full-length novel. Time will tell.

Pick up your copy, or even the three copies!

They’re all on offer at 0.99 each for the Launch!

You’ll have plenty of time to read this summer.

I promise you will be enthralled in this gripping trilogy:)

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Rediscover the mystery and magic of a Victorian, Gothic Romance in this breathtaking sequel to Jane Eyre.

Readers will be transported from the breathtakingly beautiful Yorkshire coutryside, to Victorian London, across the Atlantic Ocean and the Sargasso sea to Colonial Jamaica, and finally to magical Cornwall.

Adventure, suspense, mystery and passion unfold as the original characters come to life once again, interacting with a host of new ones to ceate an intertextual narrative, which will chronicle the lives of the inhabitants of Eyre Hall from the beginning to the height of the Victorian era.

International Buy Link: http://authl.it/B01EEN6RK0

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?