#Throwback Thursday. Second Tries, or How to make the right decisions the first time?

 

imagesxxxddd

My brain must be like Emmental cheese these days, soft, spongy and full of holes. I am getting really fed up with trying to think and decide what to do, or even knowing if the final decision is the right one. As they say, if I had half a brain, I would be dangerous!
I can’t decide (or remember) if I have always been like this, or if this state of affairs is yet another symptom of my advancing years.

Time is becoming problematic, far too much of it is spent second-guessing. Wouldn’t life be more efficient if all deliberation could be removed? Easier to pick a winkle out of its shell with a pin, I hear you say. But I am heartily sick of wondering which item to buy, which programme to watch, whether to cut my hair, the list is endless.

Added to my inability to choose anything, is the sure and certain knowledge that whichever one I pick, it will be the wrong one. Always is. I never get anything right on the first try.

Could life be more like plotting a book?

Now, I know that many writers don’t believe in plotting. They believe their characters will do most of the hard work for them, and I have experienced this first hand too. But other writers firmly believe in careful plotting, even using a story board.
All my life, I have been a ‘winger’, hurtling from one idea to the next. Sometimes getting it right, but more often not. Advancing age has changed all that. I no longer have the time for hit and miss. Decisions I make now, have to be right, although how this will happen, remains to be seen.

Now, I am still virtually new to this writing business, and with the idea of getting it right first time (could be a novelty in itself!) I tried plotting. With a lot of practice, I’m getting better. So much so, that the sequel to my fourth book has been thoroughly plotted, storyboard and everything. But this is not something you could really do with your life. Too many decisions, and so many ways of dealing with them.
In addition, other people tend to make your life awkward, sometimes it seems, just to be bloody minded.

Could it be as simple as throwing a dice?

Then I remembered something. (It does still happen sometimes!) I once read about a man who always made every decision with the turn of a dice, and apparently, his life was glorious. Maybe it was worth a try, as my way was getting me nowhere.
On second thoughts though, that sounds worse than ‘winging it’.
But if I were younger…

They say there are ‘two sides to every story’ and ‘everything happens for a reason’, but what if neither of these things is true? What if it is as simple as right or wrong?
Could it be that when life gets too difficult, we are simply trying to force wrong into being right?

Should we blindly follow our instincts?instincts,

Recently, I have been thinking back through my life and all the different choices that I had to make. To that small, persistent voice that nags you, insisting you do this or that. How many times had I ignored it, thinking my own choice was better, usually for all manner of reasons? Would my life have been better if I had obeyed that still, small voice? If I had not always chosen the path of least resistance, the path that always looked inevitable. Maybe the choice that looked the hardest, the most impossible, would have turned out better than what actually happened?

Maybe then, I wouldn’t have so many things to be sorry for, so many people I should apologise to.
If there is such a thing as reincarnation and I get another chance to live a better life, I hope I remember some of the things I have done wrong, all of the people I have hurt, and do it better next time…

God Bless and see you all next week…

Advertisements

Our Review of Tallis Steelyard and the Sedan Chair Caper by Jim Webster @JimWebster6

Today, we are hosting Jim Webster’s Book Tour, to spread the word about his newest story, Tallis Steelyard and the Sedan Chair Caper.

All of Jim’s stories are excellent reads, and this one is is absolutely hilarious and we urge everyone to read it. Not enough laughter in the world lately!

Tallis Steelyard and the Sedan chair caper.jpg

Amazon Book Link:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tallis-Steelyard-sedan-chair-caper-ebook/dp/B079K4LDBT/

Rather than his usual collection of anecdotes, this time Tallis presents us with one gripping adventure. A tale of adventure, duplicity and gentility. Why does an otherwise respectable lady have a pair of sedan chair bearers hidden in her spare bedroom? Why was the middle-aged usurer brandishing an axe? Can a gangster’s moll be accepted into polite society? Answer these questions and more as Tallis Steelyard ventures unwillingly into the seedy world of respectable ladies who love of sedan chair racing.

Our Review

I discovered that the sedan chair was named after the town of Sedan in France where it was first used. It came to London in 1634 and became a popular means of transport, as they were so much faster than carriages. It was literally a chair in a box, supported on two long poles and carried by two men.

Although I knew what they were, I had never heard of Sedan chair racing, so was eager to read more about it. What I discovered in this book was hilarious although extremely dangerous and was once considered to be illegal, which was just enough notoriety to encourage the sport.

Tallis Steelyard, a poet in residence, is employed to oversee the fun and games at the grand party thrown by the mastermind behind these races. A complicated plot has been developed to fix the race, guaranteeing a win, so Tallis will have his work cut out.

Tallis is to ensure the evening a success by keeping an eye on the drinking and behaviour of the staff and guests alike. As is the way with the best-laid plans and all that, this old-fashioned story with its quaint words and customs will not only take you back in time to another way of life, it will have you holding your sides with laughter. The scenes involving the frogs still had me in stitches…

 

Lady Edan%E2%80%99s Fan..jpg

Lady Edan’s Fan

Crisanto was the member of Madam Jeen Snellflort’s gentlemen adventurers who drew as his task the acquisition of Lady Edan’s Fan. The lady had inherited the fan from an estimated twelve generations of her foremothers. The fan itself was made from ornately carved wooden ribs, set with semi-precious stones, joined by a web of finely woven cloth of silk interwoven with gold thread. It had been an antique when it fell into the rapacious hands of Lady Edan’s family; indeed it was one of the few surviving pieces produced for the court of the Kings of Partann. They then handed them out as ‘gifts’ to the barbarous warlords on the periphery of their kingdom.

The lady always had the fan with her at formal balls, the rest of the time it was kept securely in the family vault. At formal affairs, when the fan was, as we might say, deployed, the lady was always accompanied by two of the family men-at-arms who stood behind her and kept their hands firmly on their sword hilts. Still Crisanto, our intrepid hero fixed on the next Harvest Ball as his best opportunity.

Crisanto was a slightly built young man, habitually neat about his person and the son of an apothecary. His family had given him a good basic education and from a child he’d helped his parents in their small Ropewalk shop. Although perfectly aware of where he had come from, he aimed to achieve more. He normally adopted an air of casual insouciance; even somebody commenting peevishly on the frayed state of his shirt cuffs was not allowed worry him. He would merely sigh and comment that, “Janners has obviously been picking my shirts from the pile to be given to the gardener. His eyesight is failing.”

Faced with the challenge he turned his back on his affected persona and decided instead to play to his advantages. After some thought he decided on his plan of action. A week before the ball, this gentleman adventurer, closely shaved and dressed in some of his sister’s cast off clothing, applied for a job serving in the Grand Sinecurists Dining Room. The interviewers were impressed by his (or her) courtesy, his knowledge of etiquette, and his natural grace and modesty. He was given the job and for the next seven days he, or should it be she, was considered to be a useful member of the staff. He was a quiet girl, kept himself to himself but went out of his way to be helpful. Because of his personable manner it was decided that on the night of the harvest ball his job would be to circulate through the guests with a tray of nibbles.

At home that evening he made some delicate little tart cases out of pastry. Instead of placing jam in the cases before cooking, he substituted syrup of his own devising. His syrup was produced by slowly boiling the fruit of the kilin tree. He kept skimming off the fruit and reduced the liquid considerably. Finally he disguised the flavour by dissolving sugar into the syrup and caramelising it. Kilin berries have been regarded for years as one of our more useful stimulant laxatives, and the dose in each tart was enough to loosen the bowls of an Urlan destrier.

On the evening of the harvest ball, he carried two small trays, one covered with a napkin. The first tray contained little bowls of salted, honey roasted, woodlice for people to nibble on. The second tray, covered with the napkin, held the little tarts he had made himself. He passed through the crowd, proffering the bowls of woodlice to guests. As Crisanto came upon Lady Edan and her guards, he smoothly swapped the napkin across to cover the woodlice and with a sweet smile she, or he, offered her tarts first to Lady Edan, who politely took one. The great lady, fanning herself, nibbled graciously on the tart and enjoyed it. Not merely that, she recommended them to her bodyguards. Each took one, and then our hero, [or at this point was he our heroine? I confess to a degree of confusion.] with a roguish wink, tempted them all into taking a second.

This done she faded away, once more covered the tarts with the napkin and continued circulating with the woodlice, watching her prey carefully and waiting for the stomach cramps to hit. The timing was critical, if it took too long for the laxative to act the Lady would be sitting at table and Crisanto could be too far away from her to put the second part of his plan into operation. But if he had made the laxative too strong, the impact could be explosive and his victim might not make it across the room, never mind to a suitable privy.
His woodlice all taken, Crisanto had to dash to the kitchen to get more. He surreptitiously lost his remaining tarts amongst several trays of similar nibbles and returned to the fray with new trays and continued to keep an increasingly nervous eye on his victims.

Twenty minutes later one of the body guards grasped his guts with both hands and precipitously fled. Seconds later the other followed him. Crisanto placed her trays down on a side table and moved quietly to join Lady Edan. This worthy, almost bent double, was most thankful when a charming young maid led her swiftly to a suitable facility. Lady Edan, her mind on other things, thrust into the maid’s waiting hands anything that would encumber her; fan, handbag, pince nez, wire framed ball gown, before collapsing through the door and kicking it shut after her.

The maid left the lady’s effects carefully folded on a chair, the ball gown she stood up in a corner, and then calmly made her way downstairs and out into the street with the fan concealed down the front of her blouse.

Later that night an ecstatic collector was clutching the fan to his bosom, and Madam Jeen Snellflort (plus a discreet escort) made her way home carrying enough cash to buy a small farm. That small farm, donated to the sanatorium by an anonymous giver, provided the institution with a modest but steady income.

Biography

Jim Webster is probably fifty-something, his tastes in music are eclectic, and his dress sense is rarely discussed in polite society. In spite of this, he has a wife and three daughters.
He has managed to make a living from a mixture of agriculture, consultancy, and freelance writing. Previously he has restricted himself to writing about agricultural and rural issues but including enough Ancient Military history to maintain his own sanity. But seemingly he has felt it necessary to branch out into writing SF and fantasy novels.
He lives in South Cumbria.

He has even been cozened into writing a blog, available for perusal by the discerning (or indeed by the less than discerning) at http://jandbvwebster.wordpress.com/

 

Brainstorming Sisters!

 

book-2803664_1920

Have you ever noticed that when something stalls in one area of your life, it affects everything else?

This was what had been happening in our house for over a week, so my sister, Anita decided that we should have one of our brainstorming sessions this morning. Something we do now and then which usually benefits either my book or hers.

Only this time, it was me, the writer, that was being brainstormed because I was on the verge of a major meltdown over my current WIP.

Somehow, the conversation became all about how I write. The genre, the characters and the way I think about everything. She knew I had been having trouble and had some definite ideas about improving it.

Now, although I usually hate my work being criticised, I have to bow to her greater ability as a writer. She never struggles with plots or character problems, just gets on with it. Her characters don’t argue with her either, and I have always considered that a good sign! She can write more in one day than I can in a week.

So I allow her to say what’s on her mind, not that I have ever been able to stop her! But, all joking aside, she has been a great help to me over the years. The reason I can call myself a writer has a lot to do with the example she sets.

I think she is a natural writer. She doesn’t have to think about it or worry constantly about the plot. Whereas I do. I don’t find the writing process easy at all and this morning I may have discovered why.

I hadn’t really thought about my protagonist at all, thinking the antagonist, or serial killer was all important. That somehow everything would simply revolve around him, which I now realise is not the way to go about it.

I had been digging myself into a dark hole, trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, so I needed to sort the problem out, and fast!

Brainstorming with Anita can be a dangerous venture, as neither of us accepts criticism well. But when you are wedged between the proverbial rock and a hard place, you have to do something about it…

Sometime later, after harsh words, temper, tears and finally realisation, (all from me, BTW ) it was agreed that I hadn’t lost the magic, it was a temporary lapse, something that could be fixed. Finding another way of approaching the problem may be the way to go, and maybe a rewrite. Or another story all together…

 

If you don’t hear from me again, it means I have walked into the sea…

 

Creating Lives

writing-first-blog-paragraph

Looking back at the books I have written, it suddenly struck me just how powerful being a writer really is. Not only do we create complex characters and their lives, we control everything that happens to them. And we seem to do all of this without compulsion or regard for their feelings.

This is what I understood when I started out. The first time I had a stand up fight with one of my characters, it literally blew me away. She had a valid argument too, and I was forced to listen and then to change my plans for her. This character continued to be demanding through two more books. Even now, she fully expects to be in my next book.

It is tempting too, but I think I have used up all her potential and have declined. It is quite special, I think, when a character does this, proof positive if you like, that you have successfully created a living, breathing and believable person.

The reverse of this coin is more complex. Antagonists, or the less than savoury characters, are harder to make real, mainly because you want them to be larger than life, worse than anyone you ever met. Keeping them believable isn’t easy at all. I always imagined they could cause me trouble, if I made them too bad.

But so far they have behaved themselves, so maybe I didn’t make them bad enough.

Right now, I am in the process of creating a new bunch of people, and I love every minute of it. The genre is yet undecided. I like to find my people first, and then we learn what their story could be.

The people I create tend to be composites’ of people I know, and that goes for the bad as well as the good. It helps, I think, to know how a person behaved in certain circumstances, especially when you have personally witnessed all the mistake they made!

Our Review of Password (Nightforce Book 1) by Staci Troilo #Mystery Thriller

51IUdJimgjL._UY250_.jpg

Some passwords protect more than just secrets.

Danny Caruso was glad to be back in the United States, back to his regular job. Back to his comfortable routine of all work and no play. But when his friend Mac asks a favor of him, he can’t refuse. He owes the guy everything. So he accepts the job, even though it means a twenty-four/seven protection detail guarding a particularly exacerbating—and beautiful—woman.

Braelyn Edwards is careful to stay out of the spotlight, preferring to hide in the background and skip the trappings of a vibrant social life. But her privacy is threatened when there’s an attempt on her life and a bodyguard is foisted on her. Compounding problems? He doesn’t just want to protect her. He wants to investigate every detail of her life, starting with her top-secret job.

Danny casts his sights on Charlie Park, her co-worker, her partner… the one man who knows all Braelyn’s secrets. She’s frustrated by the distrust until she realizes jealousy fuels Danny’s suspicions as much as instinct and proof. One of them is right about Charlie—but by the time they figure it out, it may be too late to save their relationship. And Braelyn’s life.


Our Review

Password is my first Staci Troilo book, so wasn’t sure what I would think of it.

I needn’t have worried.

There was brilliant scene-setting throughout, with interesting and vibrant characters, all wrapped up in a totally realistic and believable scenario.

Braelyn Edwards first struck me as an ordinary working girl, hardly someone who would need a bodyguard. But someone had attacked her, so she could be hiding a secret.  Danny Caruso has trouble believing she is innocent too, although she seems so ordinary. He is convinced she had to be mistaken for somebody else.

She mysteriously denies knowing of any reason for the attack, and this is when their incredibly fast-paced banter begins. The chemistry between them fizzles with electricity, and I ended up enamoured by the two of them to such an extent that I forgot all about the plot. I just wanted to watch and listen to the two of them together. I suspect we are seeing the birth of a relationship that will sell a lot of books!

The ending was unexpected, with a very clever twist I didn’t see coming.

Staci Troilo has created two masterful characters for this first book in the series, roll on the next one!

Excerpt from Password

Danny blew out the candles then wrapped a towel around his waist. He surveyed the room by the light coming in from the bedroom. Half the water had splashed out of the tub and pooled on the tile floor.

 “Seems we made a mess.”

“It’ll clean easily enough.” Braelyn yanked the towel off him and dropped it on the floor, then she used her foot to sop up some of the soapy puddles.

“And why is it I’m standing here naked but you still have your towel?”

“I have more to cover.”

 “That’s not a logical argument.”

 She shrugged. “Okay. I’d rather look at you than me.”

He grinned and reached for her towel. “But I’d rather look at you.”

Braelyn danced out of the way. “Sorry. Besides, if someone out there is going to play Peeping Tom, I’d prefer they peep you.”

He stooped down and gathered the discarded clothes. Both his and hers were wet from the water that had sloshed out of the tub, so he didn’t bother suggesting either of them dress. Things were more fun when they were naked, anyway.

“Speaking of, we need to get away from the windows and back to the closet.”

 “Race you!” She dashed out of the room. Danny smiled and gave chase. They spent the rest of the night on the air mattress in the closet, exploring each other’s bodies until they fell into restful sleep, their arms and legs entwined in a sensual embrace. He woke naked and warm with a smile on his face. First time that had happened in… longer than he could count. The smile part, anyway. His phone beeped, signaling a text, and he rolled away to retrieve it from the floor. He glanced at the message and swore under his breath.

Braelyn stirred when he pulled away. Sat when he cursed under his breath. “What’s going on?” Her hair was mussed, her eyes only half-opened. She yawned, stretched, and wrapped the sheet around her while she waited for his answer. She’d never looked better to him. All the more reason to enjoy the moment while it lasted, which would only be a few more seconds. When he told her what he’d just learned, the serene expression on her face would be gone.

Amazon Link:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Password-Nightforce-Book-Staci-Troilo-ebook/dp/B0792NPVBZ

 

 

 

#ThrowbackThursday The Power of Books 1…

Reposted by Jaye Marie…

Bad Moon meme

I was a lonely child, and London was a lonely place to be when I was growing up there after the war. All around me, people were busily trying to put their lives and homes back into some kind of order.
I remember walking around the streets, confused by all the chaos that still had to be dealt with, all the piles of dusty bricks and rubble that was all that remained of so many people’s lives.
This is probably what made me such a melancholic child, and the reason I retreated into the world of books.

My favourite book was a copy of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and I would love to have that particular copy back in my possession. I remember it as being illustrated, full of hauntingly beautiful but tortured imagery that managed to scare the living daylights out of me. (I was only eight years old)

I often wonder if my memory is at fault. Was this book really illustrated, or did the words simply conjure up what I thought I saw?
I do love a good book and I must have read thousands of them in my lifetime. This brings me rather neatly to my favourite author of all time, Stephen King. He wrote about everything from a crazy car to a tormented child and just about every scary subject in between. I have spent so much time in his company.

BM promo x2

Which brings me to another of my favourite authors. Anita Dawes. You meet her here quite regularly, as she is the other half of this writing partnership. Not quite getting the recognition I think she deserves, but I can see a similarity with King in everything she writes. Horrible things happen to her characters too, but you cannot help but love them anyway.
What follows is an excerpt from Bad Moon, my all-time favourite…

 

“Watching the truck coming towards us seemed to take forever, like Pa was going deliberately slow. We waited for Pa to get out of the truck and I could see from his dirt-streaked face that it weren’t good. Nathan’s face looked worse.
Ma tried to stop me from running to the truck, but couldn’t hold me. I climbed on the back and didn’t see Nathan getting out. Suddenly he was there beside me. I remember kneeling and touching the blue check shirt that covered Josh’s face. I remember the touch of Nathan’s hand on mine and the gentle way he said, ‘Don’t look, Annie please. Just let Pa bury him.’
But I had to see for myself, had to know if it was the tree falling on him that had killed him. My eyes were wet, but the tears wouldn’t fall. I pulled the shirt back and a scream tore at my throat, trying to find a way out.
No sound came as I looked at what was left of his face, dark gaping holes looked back at me. Gone were his blue grey eyes, the very thing I had liked most about him had been gouged away.
His face was torn and bloody. Dried blood matted his hair and dead leaves were sticking to him.
Nathan tried to take me away, saying I had seen enough. I felt myself being lifted slowly from my knees and as Nathan carried me away, that’s when my mind registered what it had seen.
The torn flesh on his face hadn’t been caused by the fall. The skin standing away from the bone and all the dried blood made it hard to read, that was why my mind didn’t see it right off.
They had cut Pa’s name down one side of his face, as if taking his eyes weren’t enough.
The scream that wouldn’t come before, finally broke through and shut down my brain like an axe blow…”

See what I mean?

If you want to read more of this incredible book, simply subscribe to our blog, leave a comment and win a free copy.

Or you can find it here on Amazon… myBook.to/badmoon

See you next week…