Friday, 16 December 2016

The Idea came from my own ancestry....

...And from a part of British history you didn't know about.


Like most who watched Who Do You Think You Are, last week, I was most intrigued to discover that the well known TV Science presenter, Liz Bonnin, like me, also has Indian-Trinidadian roots. In fact, I didn't watch the programme at the time, but friends contacted me the following day to ask me if I had seen this most interesting revelation. So I watched it on Catchup TV.

The Indentureship period lasted for 79 years between 1838 -1917. An estimated total of 551,395 Indians were taken to work from India to the Caribbean, on ships that were previous slave ships, with the chains removed. The journey across the sea was horrendous and lasted between 3-6 months from Calcutta. Not all survived the journey. On arrival, life was far from the rosy picture that was promised. This Indentureship period, a part of  British history, is little known except by some historians - mainly ones who studied West Indian history.

My novel, The Last Year of Childhood, is set in 1917 Trinidad, in the backdrop of the tough living environment, where hard work was rewarded with poverty, dangerous working environments, injustice, sickness, and corruption. 

The main character, 12 year old Latchmin, is the daughter of indentured Indians, and is fortunate to have a better life than most in the village. She is a determined young girl with a plan to improve her future. But no one can escape the killer diseases they face. The novel opens in her bedroom where she is seriously ill, and dying from typhoid. 

This novel is one of a kind, but there are plans for more!

It is a sort of VS Naipaul come Khaled Hosseini.

It is Commercial Literary Fiction, -very readable, with plenty of depth for Book Groups to extract good discussion. The characters will intrigue you, show you something you really didn't know, but you will identify with all that happens because they are as human as you are, and their hopes and dreams are the same as you have for yourself and your children. They fear the same things you do, and they feel sad and lost when terrible things happen to the ones they love.

This novel will be published, whether it is by traditional means, or self published. I've been told over and over again, that it is a novel that needs to be published. I feel the market is ready for it! Fiction readers need more than what is already out there. There is nothing at the moment about this aspect of British-Caribbean History .

Brexit will bring the return of the Commonwealth in better ways than the past.

This novel is fresh and new. 

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

WHERE TO START WRITING A NOVEL

How to Start?

Where or how to start is a question a lot of people ask.

To those who have never written a whole novel, the answer is very simple. It's even easier than learning your ABC, where you need to start at the "very beginning" according to Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.

Start writing anywhere! If you didn't get that... here it is again -

Start ANYWHERE.

Start with a thought. Thoughts can be easily translated into words. Write down your thoughts, even if they are in just key words. Jot down words, phrases, sentences, ideas, that include. ANYTHING.

Write ANYTHING, ANYWHERE.

That's right. I mean ANYWHERE. In bed, in a cafe, in the middle of the night. But mostly, you don't have to write in straight lines. True! Take a sheet of paper or get a notebook and write anywhere on that page, as the thoughts come into your head. Keep that piece of paper. Later you can connect up those thoughts with arrows. lines, and colours.

Then you can take any of those words, phrases and sentences, and expand on the idea.

While you are doing this, some kind of form will take place. You might see a scenario in your mind, a setting, a country, a town, people saying and doing things.

What are they doing? A story will begin to form from those ideas. Often they will connect with your own experiences or information already in your head.

Give the characters names. Don't spend too much time choosing names, you can always change them if they don't suit you later. But often these names stick with you.

Using some of the words and sentences you've already written, write a paragraph.

Don't be shy. No one will see it besides you. Don't show it to anyone. Not yet. People are not always as encouraging as you'd like them to be.

Now try to write a short outline of the story you have in your head so far.

Don't worry if it is short, you just need something to launch your ideas off. Like a springboard.

After a couple of days, write a scene that is in your head. It doesn't have to be the first scene in Chapter one. Just any scene. This means that you can write any scene at any time. With a computer, you can always cut and paste it into the correct place later. All you need to do is concentrate on writing.

Here is a TIP -

DO NOT EDIT OR DELETE ANYTHING. IT MIGHT COME IN USEFUL LATER. IGNORE MISTAKES UNLESS THEY ARE TINY, LIKE ONE WRONG SPELLING OR GRAMMATICAL MISTAKE.

Start! Now!

Rome wasn't built in a day. Remember it takes time to create something worthwhile.

Good Luck.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Meat Loaf - a recipe (not the music band)

Meat Loaf - by request

This is a gluten free recipe, as it has no bread crumbs. If you wish to add breadcrumbs, just add a handful. This is also the same recipe for burgers, or meatballs.

You will need a small loaf tin
Oven at 200C

Ingredients

400g (approx.) mince beef/lamb
1 med/lg egg
1 small onion, grated or chopped very finely
1 clove garlic (optional)
1 tbl sp fresh herbs (parsley/thyme) or, half tsp if dried
a pinch salt and pepper (optional)


Method

Mix all ingredients thoroughly with your hand, or a wooden spoon.

Press into the loaf tin and place the tin in a heated 200C oven for 25-30 mins.

Remove meatloaf from oven, and allow to cool slightly before cutting across into 1" slices, or larger, whilst still in the tin.

Remove slices carefully, and serve with potatoes, green or other vegetables.

Make a quick gravy with your favourite gravy powder, or make to another recipe.


Sunday, 22 May 2016

New Writing

My new writing venture is a techno/science thriller, with a working title - The Eden Vision.

The plot begins in Gatwick Airport, London, but moves between New York, Barbados, and Tel Aviv.

I am about 2/3ds into the first draft, and joyfully struggling to put complicated plot pieces in place.

But there is much research to be done! Very interesting though.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

How we live

This week we buried my father. He was 91 years old, and achieved everything he wanted to do a few years ago. He came from being a poor boy who hardly went to school as a child, to becoming a teacher by 25 years old, a Headmaster by 45, an Inspector of Schools by 55, and a Senior Inspector of Schools by 60, when he retired. He loved God, studied the Bible every day, and never lost an opportunity to tell anyone about God's plan for mankind. He ate well, looked after his health, exercised, and travelled to the countries where he wanted to travel. When he retired he lived his last years between his two favourite countries -  the UK in the summer, and Trinidad in the winter.

How do we live? How do you live? Are you concerned at all about your mortality? Or are you too young and happy at the moment to bother? Do you know what tomorrow will bring?

Do we do what is important? Do we think about it? What really is important? Do we ask ourselves why we were put on earth? What are we achieving? And what are we giving back?

Do we love? Do we show love to everyone? I mean EVERYONE. And I am not talking about romantic and sexual love. Love comes in many forms. Love is showing kindness. Love is about showing mercy, compassion, helping others, looking out for those who are vulnerable, weak both physically and mentally. Forgiving others. Love is about standing up for the good of mankind. Love is about doing our part.

Love is not gossiping, ill speaking others, ganging up, thinking badly of people, feeling hate all the time, or anything that is negative.

God created us. He created love.

God demands us to love him.
To love each other - love your neighbour - AS YOURSELF.
To love our enemies.

None of this is easy. It is near impossible.

Have you asked yourself WHY does God ask this of us, knowing it is impossible to fully achieve? Is that him being unreasonable? Unfair?

This requires some thought. A lot of thought. It requires us to be close to God in order to make any sense of this. No real answers come from guesswork. What do we have to do?

We get close to God by reading the Bible every day. Just like we read and watch the news of the day. When we are very familiar with who God is, his nature, his desires, THEN we must start studying the Bible.

God has a plan. He had a plan right from the conception of the earth. The plan is for mankind to have been like Him. Like them - God and the angels. Adam and Eve changed that by their disobedience. God sent his Son to renew the promise to mankind. To make it possible for us ALL to have eternal life. But we are not just entitled to it. We must show we deserve it in order to get his grace. We must LOVE God first and foremost. Does that make no sense?

Think about your life, and see if you have any room for loving any more than you do.
Then ask yourself if you need love any more than you get.
If we need love, we must find it in ourselves to give love - to everyone.

More later!





Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Focus on The Birmingham RNA Chapter : Interview

FOCUS ON: The Birmingham Chapter


Next in our tour of the UK, Marilyn Rodwell answers my questions about the Birmingham Chapter

Thank you for inviting me to take part on the RNA Facebook blog. It's a pleasure to come on here and tell you about our Birmingham Chapter. We don't have a fancy name, because Birmingham speaks for itself! But you never know what will happen in the future.

How long has the Chapter been running and where do you meet?
I have no idea how long we've been running, but I started attending in 2003, and took over the organising of it almost 5 years ago. We meet for lunch in the Edwardian Tea Rooms of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Chamberlin Square, Birmingham, which has lovely new d├ęcor and fabulous ambience.

How many members usually attend your meetings and do they, as with so many of our groups, revolve around a meal?
When I started, we had about 8 members and sometimes it would be just 4 or 5 of us at meetings. In the last few years we have grown, and now have 30 members on our books. We also have visitors from the Leicester Belmont Belles pretty often. We usually have between 15-22 attend meetings. 

Meals are definitely included. We have lunch between 12 noon and 2.30pm. We mainly chat about our writing over lunch, tell of our successes, and share our woes.

It’s lovely to see such an increase in your membership. Is your Chapter open to non-members of the RNA?
Yes and no. We tend to welcome people whose membership has lapsed. Some of these were unable to get into the New Writers's Scheme. However, we do not actively seek out non-RNA members to join us. We have had a lot of new RNA members join us over the last couple of years.  

Can you tell us about any speakers or guests you've had in the past year?
We tend not to do much of this, as we meet in a very busy place that can be noisy. However, we have had the pleasure of having Jean Fullerton last year who visited us and sprinkled some of her pearls of writing wisdom over us, for which we are grateful.

We also had Sue Moorcroft the previous year, to run an all-day Writer's Workshop, which was fabulous, at the new Library of Birmingham. We used the RNA grant to help fund this event.

Previous to that, I had a Writer's Day at my home and one of our members, Emma Daley, presented to us the ins and outs on publishing on Amazon.


What do you have lined up for the rest of 2016?
We have just had our Writers Day on March 5th, at a lovely venue, The Radisson Blu Hotel, in the centre of Birmingham. The day went very well, and we had 25 attending from 3 Chapters. We used our RNA Grant left over from last year to subsidise our brilliant speakers - Alison May, Sally Jenkins, Bella Osborne, Helen Barrell, and Lizzie Lamb. The feedback I had from the attendees was excellent. Thank you to the RNA for facilitating this.
What in your opinion makes your RNA Chapter so special?
That is a hard question to answer without bragging! In fact, I may suggest that we can rename ourselves, The Brilliant Brummies. We have grown quite fast in a short space of time, and at times it seems overwhelming, particularly when we try to organise events. But we really appreciate our meetings because we meet only a few times a year. This is due mainly because some our members come from as far as Shropshire and Cheshire. 

A couple of years ago I started the (closed) Writers' Support Station Facebook Group. It isn't RNA affiliated but now has 167 members of writers of any genre. So any writer wanting to join can send a request.
The most exciting thing about our Chapter is that with our growth and our support to each other we have had a number of success of all sizes. This year, we have three people nominated for Romantic Novel of the Year Award in March - Alison May, Bella Osborne, and Janice Preston. All three started at the Birmingham Chapter in the New Writer's Scheme, and we have watched them become multiple published, and win various awards over the last few years. But the Chapter has also recently seen other successes, such as short story publications, long listed and short listed for various prizes and competitions, self-publications and traditional publications, prizes, articles published in magazines, and non-fiction publications.

What a thriving group you are - and I love idea of The Brilliant Brummies! Who is the contact for new members? 


Thank you for having me on your blog! Telling you about us has been a pleasure. Don't forget, we welcome all visitors.

Thank you for joining us, Marilyn. I have no doubt you will receive many applications to join your Facebook group.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

World Book Day

On World Book Day, March 5th, I was one of three writers from Bardstown Writers Group, who went along to Myton School to talk to Year 7 pupils about Creative Writing. We were asked to talk to these pupils, age 11-12, about our writing journey, and what made us start writing. All three of us were as nervous as if we were about to meet the Queen. And our fears grew when we learnt that instead of the initial number of about 12-20 pupils, for 20 mins, there was now going to be 60 pupils for one hour, along with the English teachers, the Librarians, and the Deputy Head. But we were brave. We accepted the challenge, even though none of us had ever done an author talk at a school before.

When we got there, the staff tried to put us at our ease, and offered us tea and a selection of home made cakes! But alas, we were too nervous even to eat cake! However, as soon as we got started, we realised that this very large group of pupils were keen to learn from us, and really listened to what we had to say to them about writing. I was amazed at their responsiveness and interaction. They had no fears about participating in the little imaginative exercises we gave them. They had no problem generating a plot from the one sentence. 

We did some readings of flash fiction, poetry, and from my novel, which they applauded. So I was pleased they weren't too bored. They seemed a bright lot, who are very interested in Creative Writing, and write their own stories in different genres - Fantasy, Young Adult, Science Fiction, and more serious topics, such as racism. I gave them a handout of my Top Tips for Writing, and some Writing Magazines.

The school later got in touch with positive feedback. The pupils enjoyed our visit, and the school hopes to invite us back next year. I say that hour spent there was well worth it, and I hope that our visit creates a positive memory for them. I would not be surprised if one of two of them turn out to take up writing seriously. Seriously! I was impressed.