Author: jonis

What makes a great love story?

What makes a great love story?

Love in all its forms, we crave it, need it. But romantic love is the ultimate wish for most of us. Whether we have romance in our lives or not, women enjoy reading romance novels or watching romance unfold on screen. Men do too, apparently, though to a lesser extent and they prefer a bit of violence and or nudity thrown it to spice it up. Love Actually (2003), the movie, was an all-time block buster showcasing romantic love in its many forms. Something for everyone.

girls hands holding copy of wuthering heights
top love stories ever

In 2007, Richard Kingsbury, channel head of UKTV Drama, commissioned a study to nominate the twenty top love stories ever written. 2,000 readers participated from (I presume) Britain. The details on the actual polling are absent as with many polls. So, the age, gender and demographics are not easy to find. I tried.

The findings were interesting to me back then in 2007, even though I was not yet an author. I saved the article about Kingsley’s survey for future reference. You can read it by following this link.

The List

Below is Kingsley’s list;

The top 20 Love Stories ever.

1 Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë, 1847

2 Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, 1813

3 Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare, 1597

4 Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë, 1847

5 Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, 1936

6 The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje, 1992

7 Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier, 1938

8 Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak, 1957

9 Lady Chatterley’s Lover, DH Lawrence, 1928

10 Far from The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy, 1874

11 My Fair Lady, Alan Jay Lerner, 1956

12 The African Queen, CS Forester, 1935

13 The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald, 1925

14 Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen, 1811

15 The Way We Were, Arthur Laurents, 1972

16 War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy, 1865

17 Frenchman’s Creek, Daphne du Maurier, 1942

18 Persuasion, Jane Austen, 1818

19 Take a Girl Like You, Kingsley Amis, 1960

20 Daniel Deronda, George Eliot, 1876

This list honours the classic romance novelists of the past. As a teenage fan of the works of  Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy and the Bronte Sisters, I appreciate this list. I’ve read all the titles, watched the film versions and love them all. For a tragic romantic, like me, they all deliver the required fix. So, what is the magical combination that makes a romance memorable and captivating?

The Love Formula. What is It?

Do we need a happy ending, beauty, wealth, magnificent mansions for our heroes and heroines?

The answer is ‘no’. Scroll down the list and you will see why that is not necessary at all. In fact, the harder it is for the two lovers to be together, the better the rating. Catherine and Heathcliff, Romeo and Juliet, Darcy and Elizabeth, our top three couples all had barriers to their love. Family, class, wealth, and religion can all make love forbidden. And when something is forbidden, don’t we want it even more?

Great Passion

All the novels capture great passion that defies societal taboos and conventions. Love risks all to be with the other. True love is finding one’s soul mate and no two lovers define that ‘oneness’ as Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff in the winning title. The love story in Wuthering Heights emerges from the vast desolation of the moors. It is a brooding, dark novel, tragic but also stunning in its depth of passion. Heathcliff as our hero is both cruel and aloof, the Byronian hero, yet beneath the surface his passion for Catherine runs hot. These two share a love beyond the grave. Their love is more than a physical love. It is metaphysical, almost religious in nature. It is everlasting.

Romeo and Juliet Love

The same can be said of Romeo and Juliet. They die for each other. Another  young love, another tragic ending. But what beauty in the language of Shakespeare, as he writes of such love. “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the East and Juliet is the sun!” They worship each other as do Catherine and Heathcliff. Don’t we all wish that for ourselves? A love that defies all obstacles and transcends time.

True Loves Never Runs Smooth

As you can see by scrolling down the list, love stories, unlike fairytales, don’t have to end happily ever after. Some do. Elizabeth and Darcy eventually settle their misunderstandings and ride off into the sunset at the end of Pride and Prejudice. Jane Eyre marries her Mr. Rochester and Sense and Sensibility offers a happy resolution of matters as well. But not without complication, barriers, and torment.

Too easy, and love stories are boring. Boy meets girl followed by an easy path to marriage and happiness. No fun there. This love formula is not what we want in book and film. Shakespeare wrote, ‘the course of true love never did run smooth.’ (Midsummer Night’s Dream. ) The plot of this play is classically riddled with a myriad of misunderstandings, false identities and trickeries before the couples settle with their intended.

Gone With the Wind Love

In Gone with the Wind, we witness another love affair, beset by difficulty even after marriage. Rhett Butler declares to his wife, Scarlett, in the final lines, ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.’ How was that love story to end? We will never know. Margaret Mitchell did not write the sequel.

The English Patient, a poignant sweeping drama, a beautiful film, also features a tearjerker ending. Great love can be so great that it is destructive. I could go on down the list. But don’t worry, I won’t.

Not Always Happy Endings

Suffice it to say, that these novels, most transformed into films, capture our hearts not because of ‘happily ever afters’,  but because of the passionate love the characters have for each other. Basically, we all want that passion, we want to experience it again and again through film and reading maybe because our own lives have lost the passion. We want to experience the full gamut of emotions, relive it or know it if it never came our way.

Why Do We Love Love Stories?

As well as nominating their top romances Kingsley’s participants commented on why they read romantic novels.

Forty per cent of women read romantic novels to feel better, 15% for nostalgic reasons and 10% to compensate for their own less highly-coloured love lives. This makes total sense. Romance novels are escapism from our own lack-lustre lives. All books are of course, but crime novels and films do not have the same feel-good effect unless you are clever enough to solve the crime before the last chapter.

Historical Dramas Sell

Richard Kingsbury says, “We find that romantic drama is a very powerful kind of escapism for our viewers, and well-made costume dramas like Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre have an extra dimension to them. Viewers get caught up in the beauty and language of the period.” This interest in other people’s passions and history still resonates today with the popularity of the Bridgerton period dramas based on Julia Quinn’s novels.

I Wish You Love

Book, film, real life, I wish you love in your life in whatever form you take it.. It is the feel-good emotion that nurtures above all others. Women need nurture. Treat yourself to some love today!

Joni Scott has written three novels and award winning short stories. She co-hosts a women’s blog; Whisperingencouragement.com and has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com

 

 

Stringybark stories competition! You have won an award!

Stringybark stories competition! You have won an award!

From: Stringybark <thejudges@stringybarkstories.net>
Date: 27 April 2022 at 11:41:49 am AEST
To: joniscott@bigpond.com
Subject: HIGHLY COMMENDED – CONGRATULATIONS!  — “Fruitcake Frenzy” — Stringybark Stories

 

G’day Joni,

 

By now you will have read the good news on the Stringybark Stories website or on Facebook, so please accept my congratulations on receiving a Highly Commended in the Stringybark Short Story Award 2022.

 

With 287 entries submitted to the competition to be chosen as a highly commended and published author is an impressive achievement. Your story has been edited and published in our newest anthology Fruitcake Frenzy.

 

Printed anthology and pre-orders

The printed anthology is currently being prepared, and it is expected that it will be delivered by late May for all those who pre-order (probably earlier although it depends a little on Covid absences at our printer). Pre-ordering is done via the Bookshop.  Please click here to pre-order.

We are most grateful for receiving pre-orders as it assists us in setting the size of the print-run and avoids us having to do extra print runs (which incur bigger costs). In addition, you get your copy of the book faster. If you wish to pre-order a copy (or copies) of the paperback, please do so via the Bookshop (note we now offer direct deposit for book purchases if you don’t wish to use PayPal). If you or your buyer is not in Australia they should email for a postage quote before purchasing via the Bookshop. Australia Post charges through the nose to transport our books overseas.

 

Promotion

May I invite you to promote your success to your friends and colleagues via as many channels as possible — emails, facebook, twitter, carrier pigeon, ink on paper, blog, shouting from your bedroom window, instagram. tiktok vids etc.  The more sales of Fruitcake Frenzy we can achieve, the greater the impact of your writing and the more likely we can offer bigger prizes in future. Attached is a jpg of the cover image for your use.

 

Please also take a moment to review Fruitcake Frenzy on the Smashwords page (after you have had a chance to read it!). This is a very important part of promoting the book. We are not asking you to review your own story but the anthology as a whole. It doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes to write a review. Please consider doing so. We are always disappointed how few authors review the anthologies — writer’s block perhaps? [Our last anthology, The Lighthouse received just THREE reviews, despite it being a marvellous read and it had over 30 authors showcased! ]  Stringybark Stories relies on the generous support of writers to help promote their writing.  Writing a review is the simplest way to help.

 

To assist you in promoting your writing please feel free to pass to your friends and colleagues a 25% off discount coupon which allows them to purchase the e-book for about A$3.75. This coupon code is WX87Y and is good for as many uses as you wish but please note it expires on 11 July 2022. Printed copies are available to your friends and colleagues at the normal rate and can be ordered via the Bookshop. 

 

Feedback

If you were awaiting feedback on your story (see here for more details or to order feedback) then it will arrive in the next four to six weeks.

 

Next competition

Our next competition opens shortly.  Details will be announced in a few weeks on our website.

 

On behalf of all the judges may I thank you for entering the competition and we hope to read more of your wonderful writing in future.

 

I look forward to hearing from you shortly.

 

With very best wishes,

 

 

David

On behalf of Dr Mel Baker, Antoinette Merrillees and Dr Rick Williams the other hardworking and sadly unpaid judges.

 

  1.  If you are a Facebook user, do ‘like’ Stringybark Stories on Facebook so as to keep up with our latest news.

 

Development Of The English Novel In The Twentieth Century

Development Of The English Novel In The Twentieth Century

Writers embracing a bold new style

Moving on from the novels of Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters that characterized the previous century, let’s trace the development of the English novel in the twentieth century and meet writers embracing a bold and less convoluted style of writing. We, as modern authors should thank these writers for paving the way and granting us the freedom to write creatively.

All the authors I cover today are male but I did cover women authors last blog and will again feature writers of the sisterhood.

Joseph Conrad

My first featured author is Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) who was not really English, but Polish. He spoke no English at all in his first twenty years.  He left Poland for life at sea at 17 and became a sailor on British ships, sailing the oceans of the world. Such adventures inspired his brilliant and psychologically fascinating novels; Lord Jim, Heart of Darkness and many others. Heart of Darkness offers a strong discourse about colonial rule in Africa and racism. It provided the inspiration for Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 film, Apocalypse Now. Conrad explores the moral consciousness of his characters and writes often in the first person not as an omniscient narrator. This at the time was a bold change of direction for the novel.

Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald

I devoted a previous blog,  (Novels of the Jazz Age) to the novels of Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald.  Certainly, world events impacted on this generation of writers and musicians. The post-World War One years saw a burst of amazing energy funneled into creativity in the arts and set the scene for experimentation in art forms. These two high living Americans in Paris wrote from their own experiences and capture the disillusionment surrounding war and love in their novels, The Great Gatsby and Farewell to Arms.

H.G. Wells

Along with these two writers, H. G. Wells (1866-1946) made the first real break away from upper class love triangles dominating past English literature. Apart from the brilliant French writer, Jules Verne, Herbert George Wells seems to be the first writer of the English language to embrace Science Fiction. His novel, The Time Machine is still a good read today. Later novels include War of the Worlds, The First Men in the Moon and The Food of the Gods. Later, despite his mastery of the SF genre, Wells branched out to write tales of social realism, featuring the common man confronted by the industrialization and commercialization of the world. Sidetracked by his own strong views on the modern world, he lost his imaginative touch and returned to the didactic style of the previous century, preaching at his readers, with scant attention to character and plot, about the evils of progress and world government. But he will always be remembered for The Time Machine and is considered the father of Science Fiction.

Aldous Huxley

Aldous Huxley (1894-1968) also explores the possible future issues of a capitalist and technological society in his dystopian novel, Brave New World.

E.M. Forester

There seemed a bit of a trend amongst writers at that time to use just initials not full name! An even stronger divergence from the traditional way of writing is seen in the prose of E.M Forester and D. H Lawrence.

E.M, Forester (1879-1970) wrote the famous novels, Passage to India and Room with a View, both now excellent films. Both are personal favourites of mine. They feature confused young women who discover after near disaster that it is best to be truthful early on about how you feel. This new intimate treatment of characters opens the way for the raw humanity of D.H. Lawrence.

D.H. Lawrence

Lawrence (1885-1930) was unlike others before him, (despite again using only his initials.) David Herbert Lawrence burst onto the scene like a storm. His earthy, sexual novels shocked many in society. Lady Chatterley’s Lover, published in Italy, was banned in Britain until 1960. As the son of a miner, he had an insight into the humanity of the working class and perfectly captures this living force in his writing. His free form sentences and imagery are as liberating as the explicit content of his work. His love scenes are raw, sensual and incredibly daring for their time but pave the way forward for other writers.

Didactic prose to Subjective Creativity

Thanks to these amazing writers we see the development of the English novel in the twentieth century from  didactic stilted prose to a more personal subjective and creative style.

 

 

 

Development Of The English Novel in the 19th Century

Development Of The English Novel in the 19th Century

Definition and Origin of the Novel

The term novel is a contraction of the Italian word, ‘novella’ (meaning ‘new, innovative’), The novella was a short story of light and entertaining nature. It was perhaps invented as an antidote to the epic poems of earlier days. It is interesting that the novel is a larger serving of prose than the original novella. Early novels usually took a narrative form and proceeded to tell the tale in chronological order. Literary scholars date the novel in its earliest form to Samuel Johnson’s Pamela of 1740. Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory in 1485 is considered an experimental form. Such early work did not concentrate on the individual but employed stereotypical characters. The novel focused more on driving the narrative with accompanying moral lessons for the reader than entertaining the reader. These ‘novels’ were long winded, lacked humour and preached moral rectitude to their audience. They are hard for the modern reader to digest. But the novel shows development within the nineteenth century. We can follow its progress by reference to famous writers, both male and female.

Frankenstein, the First Science Fiction

In 1818, Mary Shelley, a young woman of amazing talent and possessing a vivid imagination, wrote the Gothic novel, Frankenstein. The tale started out as a short story prompted by a late-night dare by fireside companions to each write ghost stories. Her companions were her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron, both influential Romantic poets. But Mary’s story aced theirs and its character Frankenstein became legendary. Many do not realize that Frankenstein was the doctor who created the manufactured monster not the name of the monster himself. Apart from its unique character and plot, Frankenstein has a deep message about life, death and man versus Nature. The work is seen as the precursor to science fiction, an unknown genre at the time but one French author, Jules Verne would later embrace in his fantastical stories. This is a significant development of the novel namely the creation of a new genre.

Jane Austen and Real Characters

Jumping forward to a familiar name and a change in the style of the novel genre we come to the works of Jane Austen (1775-1817). Her six novels, many now adapted to film, are refreshing in their strong female characters and depiction of real life on the home front. Elizabeth Bennett and Darcy are well known characters even to non-Austen fans. Though the stories lack rollicking adventure and Gothic tragedy, really nothing more than elopements and love triangles, they excel in irony, humour and accurate observation of real people. Austen’s character driven novels paved the way for The Bronte sisters who emerged as a brilliant trio of writers some thirty years later. The break away from stereotypes towards real characters is a development in the novel as an art form.

The Bronte Sisters and Romantic Passion

These young women who all died young, Anne at 29, Emily at 30 and Charlotte at 39, never travelled beyond Yorkshire yet penned sweeping passionate novels that startled the reading public at the time. Even today, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Wuthering Heights by Emily, rate in the top romance novels of all time. These works challenge all the previous overly polite fiction populated by swooning virgins and swashbuckling heroes.

Dickens and Social Commentary

Enter Dickens in the 19th century who creates great characters but again tends towards long winded narration. I recall still the ordeal of reading Bleak House for my final year of school. Nevertheless Dickens works served as social commentary akin to the Romanticism writings of poets like William Blake and Wordsworth. Additionally no one had to read the whole Dickens book at one sitting as like many books of the time it emerged as a periodical.

Mary Ann Evans and Moral Conflict

Another notable female author, Mary Ann Evans (1819-1880) wrote under the pen name of George Eliot and created extraordinary moral conflicts for her characters in the novels, Mill on the Floss and Silas Marner. Her work shows great intellect and a mastery of the tragic element and represents another development in the novel.

Thomas Hardy and Tragedy

This paved the way for Thomas Hardy and his tragic novels of which he wrote many. He concentrated his stories in Wessex, a place term he invented. His tragedies are all set in the countryside and mostly focus on the poor and hard done by people of the working class. They present a strong discourse of man battling Fate and are almost reminiscent of the great tragedies of Shakespeare. The Return of the Native, The Mayor of Casterbridge and especially Tess of the D’Urbervilles leave a lasting impact. The latter affected me so much as a teenager that I named my daughter Tess! She is not overly impressed that her bookworm mother named her after a tragic heroine but concedes it is a lovely name.

Next week, Novels of the early 20th century. My blogs are now available as audible minipodcasts on Podbean in the History section under Whispers through Time, the same title as my historical fiction novel.

Support real bookshops,

Links:

Harry Hartog Bookseller,

Berkelouw Online Bookstore, and  https://authoracademybookstore.com.au

Whispers through Time-Tilbury Docks

Whispers through Time-Tilbury Docks

The world has always been on the move. The Romans, the Vikings and the Polynesians all set off for new lands across the seas. Humans throughout history travelled to explore new territory, wage war, colonize or establish trade routes for exotic goods. Only in recent times has sea travel been about pure pleasure.

In the 12th century, Christian soldiers set off on crusades to the Holy Land from Dartmouth in Devon. Did you realize that all the towns ending in ‘mouth’ have the river name as their prefix? So, Dartmouth is on the mouth (i.e. the opening to the sea) of the river Dart. Similarly, Plymouth is on mouth of the river Ply and Bournemouth on the mouth of the river Bourne. You get the drift. It’s fun discovering word origins.

Near ancient Dartmouth Castle on the west bank of the river Dart is a tidal inlet called Warfleet Creek. It makes for a peaceful site today for a Devon picnic but in 1147 and 1190 it was the spot for the gathering of hundreds of ships and thousands of keen crusaders eager to sail to and claim the Holy Land.

Similarly, centuries later, the Tilbury Docks became the launching point for many British and Europeans to emigrate to places as far away as Australia.

The Tilbury Docks replaced the original East and West India Docks that operated close to London. The coming of the railways and the increased size of ships prioritized deep water over closeness to the city because now the railway could bring people from inner London to the Thames estuary. Tilbury in Essex on the north shore of the Thames was an excellent site. Here, downstream from London Bridge, the river looped southwards through the river estuary marshlands. Here also there was land available and the convenient South end railway that linked the Tilbury Ferry.

At the dawn of the steam ship era in 1886, Tilbury was a progressive project to connect Britain to its Empire. But like any project, there were issues. The freemasons employed went on strike in 1889 citing hard work for little pay. Indeed, their pay seems incredible to a modern reader- just 6d or 5c an hour. Some concessions were made and work continued but workers again went on strike in 1912.

The year 1912 is an interesting year as in April that year the unsinkable Titanic set forth on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic to New York. But the world’s most splendid liner never reached American shores but sunk beneath the waves of the icy Atlantic near Newfoundland taking the bulk of the passengers with it.

Also in 1912, my grandparents, Winifred and Walter, set sail on the SS Rangatira steam ship, a far less splendid craft. Despite the sinking of the ill-fated Titanic and family concern, they still travelled all the way from Tilbury Docks to Sydney Harbour. I fictionalized their meeting and romance aboard the Rangatira in my historical fiction novel, Whispers through Time.

For many Australians Tilbury Docks were the point of embarkation to Australia for either themselves or their forebears. Before World War II,  Ten Pound Poms as they were called at the time, came in their thousands on this assisted passage scheme to start a new life. Later after the war, Europeans came too, escaping war ravaged Europe, to work as skilled migrants on the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme.

The traffic was not just one way. Tilbury not only farewelled but welcomed people. The current multi-cultural population of Britain is due to these arrivals. Caribbean migrants in the late 1940’s, travelled on the SS Empire Windrush to start a new life, lured by the offer of work and housing. Other nationalities also arrived from the outposts of the British Empire such as Africa and India.

Tilbury Docks may not be as exotic a location as the Taj Mahal or as steeped in history as The Tower of London but the docks have established their place in history.

Like other iconic sea ports, Tilbury Docks have also established their place in film. Wikipedia informs me that John Wayne’s smuggling operation in the movie Branigan took place at Tilbury. Also, the boat chase scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was filmed not in Venice as suggested in the plot but at Tilbury. The docks also feature in the Jude Law film, Alfie (2004), Batman Begins (2005) and as the arrival point for Paddington Bear in the 2014 film, Paddington.

Just another slice of history to add to my growing history blog. Thank you for reading.

Check out these bookstores;

Berkelouw Online Bookstore, https://authoracademybookstore.com.au

Harry Hartog Bookseller

A Cure for CRPS

A Cure for CRPS

What is CRPS?

CRPS. What the hell is that? How often do we see an acronym, a sequence of letters that does not register recognition? Well, the answer to what the hell is CRPS? Is just that ‘hell.’ The words may you ‘burn in hell’ may as well define CRPS.

Dubbed ‘the most painful disease known to humankind’ and ‘the suicide disease’, CRPS or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, is a neurological condition characterized by intense pain, burning, inflammation, swelling and loss of movement.

It is a disproportionate response by the sympathetic nervous system to an injury to an extremity, a foot or hand. Often the initial injury is minor, a sprained ankle, a broken toe or wrist. But for some reason in some unfortunate people, the body responds by establishing a pattern of self-harm that can spread through the body in time, rendering the individual a cripple incapacitated by pain 24/7.

It can happen out of the blue to young or old, healthy or not. Millions world-wide suffer this incurable disease. All doctors can offer is pain relief via CBD oil or ketamine infusions and ongoing physiotherapy. Why am I writing about this in my usual history blog? The answer is I write this not to elicit pity but to give hope to others. You may have CRPS or know someone with it.

Oh, no! I have CRPS.

CRPS chose to attack me in January 2020 after a routine surgery for a broken right wrist. Plunged into excruciating pain, I could not comprehend what was happening to me. I googled and googled trying to come to terms with my diagnosis. I cried for days as all sites confirmed the prognosis of ‘incurable’, ‘debilitating’.

Until I dared the universe by typing in ‘cure for CRPS’. Not expecting any response, just ‘n0 results’, I was cheered to see the words ‘CRPS Italy’ and another Complex Truths.org. detailing treatments at clinics in North Italy. I read on, thankful I am a biochemist and could understand the medical jargon.

It seemed despite the defeatism of all the other sites, that there was a chance, a good chance of recovery for this dreadful condition. 100% within a year of diagnosis and at best 70% for individuals who had suffered longer. Compared to the cost of long-term pain relief and physiotherapy, over many years, the treatment in a clinic over two weeks seemed reasonable. Plus, a trip to beautiful Italy alone would surely cheer the soul!

The crippling pain spread to my shoulder and neck, immobilizing my entire upper right side. I felt there was no time to lose. With the help of my son and an interpreter, I booked treatment for the infusions for March 3, 2020. This necessitated flights from Australia to Rome then a train trip to Genova.

OFF in search of a cure!

All seemed to be going well for me until Coronavirus erupted in North Italy just days before my flight. As the virus already threatened Asia through which I had to fly, I could not get a refund. I am so glad now because if I had not gone then in early 2020 during that small window of opportunity, then when would I have been able to? Australia and many countries closed their borders soon after and Covid 19 became a global pandemic.

Yes, I received my treatment, four Neridronate infusions over a fortnight in a beautiful clinic set high on the hill overlooking Genova harbour. Yes, I recovered 90% of my function so that today I am only limited by residual stiffness in my right side that could have been prevented if I had been able to access rehabilitation soon after the treatment.

LOCKDOWNS, 1, 2,3 and 4

But instead of a restorative holiday afterwards, my husband and I had to flee Italy. While I was in hospital, lockdowns 1, 2 3 and 4 closed Italy. There were no ristorantes or cafes open to enjoy the usual vibrancy of Italian life. Borders to the east and north had closed. Only the French Italian border was still open. We set off from Genova railway station escorted by local police. All tourists had to leave.

After reaching the border and finding San Remo deserted, we continued on to Nice, hoping to find a hotel and reschedule our flight home. Our pre-booked three-week holiday, post treatment, could no longer happen as all borders were closing making being a tourist untenable. Also, to our alarm, hotels were closing one by one, like a pack of dominoes. Unable to secure a flight on our visits to a barely-functioning Nice airport, we took refuge in hotel after hotel, unsure of our immediate future. We met similarly stranded people from all over the world. They all had interesting stories.

At that point, I knew I would write up my story about CRPS if I recovered so others would know of the ‘cure’. But one day at the airport we met a young ballet dancer, a mother with a teenage daughter and a very helpful young chef from Torquay, all trying to get flights home. Why not add the plight of these people into my book and write not a non-fictional true story but a blend of fiction and true life?

THE LAST HOTEL

That was the moment when The Last Hotel was born, my story of love and loss, of lockdown and family, my story of hope. While recovering at a snail’s pace, I tapped out my ideas onto my old battered iPad. I could only use my left hand so it was a one -handed slow process, particularly for capital letters and punctuation. Once we finally arrived home in Queensland, Australia, I continued the writing in lockdown finishing the book in five months.

As I could not edit the typing easily, I sent the book to Tellwell for a tidy up. The result is I believe the only novel with a CRPS affected character (Maggie). But there are many other more interesting characters to meet, stranded in my last hotel. An inspiring novel based on a true story. Be encouraged on my women’s blog site./https://whisperingencouragement.com/

 

 

WHISPERS through TIME-Down the Rabbit hole in search of Hampstead Heath

WHISPERS through TIME-Down the Rabbit hole in search of Hampstead Heath

Down the Rabbit hole in search of the Heath.

Historical research can be likened to falling down a rabbit hole-Alice in Wonderland style. What may seem a curious but straight forward exploration becomes before long a ‘curiouser and curiouser’ foray, to borrow from Alice’s words. You pop down for a moment in time but emerge hours later, whirling from your discoveries. Charged with fascinating facts, the trajectory of your novel takes an unexpected detour which ultimately, on reflection, was a good outcome. I am now a firm believer that detours are not a nuisance but actually where you were meant to go anyway. Straight lines are after all just boring paths from point A to B, aren’t they? Life is what happens when you have other plans.

So that is how The Hardy Tree (see my first blog) entered my Whispers through Time novel. Family research led to the Parish Church of St Pancras which led to The Hardy Tree then to Thomas Hardy himself etc. Similarly, as the Reeseg family featured in the novel lived nearby in Hampstead, I learnt about beautiful Hampstead Heath and its long history as a common space for London’s people.

The heath entered the pages of history way back in 986 A.D when the seemingly unprepared king, Ethelred the Unready, granted the people land at ‘Hemstede, ’then owned by Westminster Abbey. Even in the 19th century, Hampstead was on the outskirts of London, so back then it really would have been in the boondocks.

Hampstead Heath occupies 790 acres on a sandy ridge that connects Hampstead to Highgate. As the largest area of common space in London, it has through the centuries offered the freedom and beauty of nature to all and a venue for runners, walkers and kite flyers. The heath features over 25 ponds that fill as rain falls due to the clay underneath. These ponds originated from damming a tributary of the River Fleet way back in 1777 with the purpose of supplementing the city’s water supply. In time some of these larger ponds functioned as ‘segregated by gender’ swimming pools and model boat sailing ponds.

The geography of this area makes it one of the higher parts of London. From Parliament Hill, visitors can survey the changing London skyline. Golder’s Hill Park on the western end occupies the site of an original grand house destroyed in World War II. Unlike the rest of the free to range heath, this area is fenced and closed at night. It features a duck pond, a deer sanctuary, butterfly garden and small zoo.

In Whispers through Time, Gustave, my great uncle, runs and cycles through the greater heath with his younger sisters, Winifred and Francesca. Reuben, Francesca’s love interest also frequents the heath to bemoan his fate as a star-crossed lover, torn between love and duty to his family and religion.

I am certainly not the only writer to use this beautiful public park as a setting for parts of a novel. The Heath provides the opening backdrop for Wilkie Collins’ Victorian novel, Woman in White. Bram Stoker also partly set his gothic tale, Dracula (1897) on the Heath. The undead character, Lucy now a vampire abducts children from the Heath. This book is a must-read for not only its dark tale but its classic vampire characters and Gothic setting in a Transylvanian castle. Written as a series of letters and diary entries, it is a riveting read, despite the passing of time since its writing. Another more modern novel, John le Carre’s, Smiley’s People, also uses the heath as the murder scene of General Vladimir.

To experience more of Hampstead Heath immerse yourself in the historical novel, Whispers through Time based on the real life story of my maternal grandparents who emigrated from London to Sydney in 1912, just months after the Titanic sinking, (see previous blog on The Titanic)

yes, there are still some real bookstores in Australia;

https://authoracademybookstore.com.au,

Harry Hartog Bookseller ,

Berkelouw Online Bookstore

Whispers through Time-The Titanic

Whispers through Time-The Titanic

Even after its sinking on an icy cold April night long ago in 1912, the Titanic has proved to be an unsinkable story of human tragedy.

Indeed, The RMS Titanic lives on as a cautionary tale of what can go wrong when ego and greed overpower responsibility and safety concerns. This tragic tale is endlessly fascinating despite the ship’s loss to the icy depths of the Atlantic over a century ago. The ill-fated Titanic is the subject of many books such as the definitive A Night to Remember by Walter Lord (1956) and Titanic, An Illustrated History by Don Lynch (1992). The ship features in Stephen Weir’s book, History’s Worst Decisions and is even the inspiration for a children’s book called Polar, the Titanic Bear, about the actual teddy bear of a little boy who survived the sinking. Speaking of which, there is one last book I just have to mention that is also a fascinating read. Shadow of the Titanic follows the lives of the survivors of that terrible night. Interestingly, most of them had sad lives and many died young and even quite soon after the event. The little boy who owned the teddy bear died in a family car crash within a year and is just one example of the long shadow that the Titanic cast over people’s lives. Some folk never recovered from family losses while others bore survivor’s guilt that prevented their happiness.

Yes, the Titanic story is one that keeps on giving. There is so much to fascinate, so many lessons about human nature to appreciate.

As a long-time enthusiast of all things Victorian, the story interested me long before the blockbuster 1997 Titanic film produced by James Cameron. I had already watched the earlier film starring Barbara Stanwick and seen and read films and books where the Titanic had sailed in, including my own, creating a setting for many tragic storylines. I confess to Titanic jigsaws and scale models as well.

But all the tragedy could have been averted if someone like Bruce Ismay, Captain Smith or the ship builder, Thomas Andrew had read another book by a little-known author named Morgan Robertson. In 1898, he wrote a novel about a transatlantic liner loaded with the rich and famous that hit an iceberg near Newfoundland at similar co-ordinates to the 1912 liner. The ship, eerily called the Titan had very similar specifications to the actual Titanic.

If only someone had read this book, aptly titled Futility.

It is telling of human nature that we are drawn to details of tragedies. Perhaps it is because there is so much to take away and reflect on. The factors that caused the real life Titanic tragedy are themselves endlessly fascinating. In this instance there were a myriad of fateful errors both human and natural. Titanic was steaming ahead in a fateful race with Time itself. Captain Edward Smith confidently ordered her throttled into full steam so she could arrive in New York ahead of schedule. He along with Bruce Ismay, director of White Star Line wanted to showcase her capabilities as the biggest ship ever to sail the seas. It was Smith’s last commission at sea so this would be a fitting end to his career. A timely six day crossing of the Atlantic was important for both men. But thousands of others would have preferred to just arrive.

Neither man seemed concerned by reported ice warnings in the ocean ahead, nor overly mindful of his responsibility to the cargo of 2240passengers, despite the paucity of lifeboats. The Titanic had everything anyone could want on board a ship except lifeboats. Even at two thirds capacity of its possible number of passengers there were only enough for 1178 people, leaving 1023 others stranded. That is only too if the lifeboats were fully loaded which was definitely not the case. Many that could take 65 people, left with less than twenty aboard. Some of these fortunate were extremely wealthy and influential women along with children and even first-class men.  Most second and third-class passengers went down with the ship.

If it were not for the speed, the inattention to ice, the lowered bulkheads, the limited life-boats, the missing binoculars on the watch deck, the steel, the pop rivets, the last-minute attempt to swerve around the iceberg…. So may ‘ifs, so many factors that coalesced to cause tragedy.

Then apart from the ship’s construction, the speed and human factors there was the bad luck that the only nearby ship, the Californian turned off its telegram service and retired all staff to bed, even after sighting a flare rocket. ‘We thought it was a just a party,’ the captain claimed in defense.  Words that went down in history like those of Captain Smith. ‘I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.’

There is so much more I could write about this Titanic subject. Many have. Instead, I chose some human-interest snippets to include in two chapters of my historical fiction novel, Whispers through Time. This book is based on my grandparent’s journey from London to Australia on a steamer ship, the Rangatira in June 1912, just months after the sinking of the ill-fated liner. The tragedy was recent news. It is a wonder they still travelled into the ice infested waters of the southern oceans. But they did and even retraced the journey two years later through U boat infested waters to return to England as grandfather was called into military service. He was still part of the British Army, having served already in the Boer Wars when he was just sixteen. Their story continues on in the sequel released this year, Time, Heal my Heart.

Follow my history blogs on https://joniscottauthor.com

Australian readers check out Author Academy Bookstore, https://authoracademybookstore.com.au

 

 

Writers of the Jazz Age

Writers of the Jazz Age

Novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald

I love the imagery and depiction of the 1920’s idol rich in The Great Gatsby, so I read Tender is the Night, another of Fitzgerald’s novels written post WWI. The writing style is very different to that in The Great Gatsby and difficult initially to become immersed in. But I persisted and found this tragic love story very haunting and beautiful. This Jazz Age novel interested me for another reason. I set my novel, The Last Hotel (Tellwell) in Beaulieu-sur-Mer which is where the opening chapters of  Tender is the Night is also set but of course a century earlier. I was so surprised when I read the opening lines of the novel;

“On the pleasant shore of the French Riviera, almost halfway between Marseilles and the Italian border, stands a large, proud, rose-colored hotel.’

How’s that for coincidence! A hotel!

Except that my hotel is neither large nor pink. But it could be considered proud due the quality of its occupants, my lovely characters.

The French Riviera and Writers of the Jazz Age

The 1920’s Riviera was a magnet for writers like Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway to while away their summers mingling with other writers and artists. They would laze on the beaches glorying in the idyllic Mediterranean climate, and drink cocktails at sunset in their hotel bars. Somewhere in between they would pen a few words of their latest work in progress. To understand the frenetic jazz era, you must reflect on the horrors of WWI that wiped out a whole generation of young men. Then The Spanish Flu wiped out a heap more. The crazy pace and vanity of the 1920’s was a reaction to these tragedies. A sort of ’Live like you never have before’ mentality. We may see our own version of The Jazz Age once Covid-19 is over.

Who Was Francis Scott Fitzgerald?

Francis Scott Fitzgerald was born in 1896 in Minnesota. He was named after cousin Francis Scott Key who wrote the lyrics to the American national anthem. ‘Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light…’etc. Fitzgerald entered Princeton in 1913 and apart from study, he wrote musicals. He dropped out in 1917 to enlist in the US Army and before going off to fight in WWI he submitted his first hastily finished manuscript, A Romantic Egoist, lest he die in the fighting. None of us writers have that sort of deadline!

Of course, he survived to write the novels This Side of Paradise, The Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night. He and Hemingway stole all the best book titles! None of these masterpieces sold well in his time and he spiraled into alcoholism beside his mentally ill wife Zelda. He sadly died an untimely death at just 44, never achieving full recognition for his beautiful haunting prose.

 Ernest Hemingway

Fitzgerald’s life rather parallels that of Hemingway, another American who went to Paris after WWI. Both men with accompanying women and alcohol issues liked to travel around while they wrote, often spending long periods in The Riviera. Hemingway also frequented Spain and was fond of bull fights and hunting. I find his books rather shocking in their depiction of cruelty to animals especially bulls. Neither does he write with the beautiful flowing prose of Fitzgerald but instead in a blunt, terse way. Possibly a man’s writer. He too stole all the best book titles. The Sun Also Rises, To Have and Have not, For Whom the Bell Tolls and Farewell to Arms. They sound wonderful but sadly though they sound inviting, his writing is not for me. But it is interesting to see the different styles of these writers of The Jazz Age.

Australian readers check out and support Author Academy Bookstore; https://authoracademybookstore.com.au

Whispers Through Time- Full Steam Ahead

Whispers Through Time- Full Steam Ahead

Whispers through Time- Full Steam Ahead

Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches

Robert Louis Stevenson (1885), The Railway Carriage.

WHISPERS THROUGH TIME -FULL STEAM AHEAD

Before the age of railways most people stayed in their hometowns and could not envisage travelling faster than a horse could gallop. Even the humble bicycle was not an everyday travel luxury until the 1870’s. The world changed forever when in 1830, another unrelated Stevenson, (spelt differently), namely, George Stephenson engineered the first railroad line from Liverpool to Manchester. He used the steam powered Rocket engine developed by his son, Robert.

Railways not only revolutionized the transport of goods but people. As newly constructed rail lines connected town after town, the world opened up for pleasure and business travel. All classes of people could suddenly travel to the mountains, the seaside, to spas and resorts. Thomas Cook, a great enthusiast for changing horizons, offered trips and tours across England then later, The Continent and Egypt culminating in a round-the -world tour offer of 222days in 1872.

Travel for travel’s sake,’ became the fashion. Tourism was born. The elegant and well-off young completed the Grand Tour of Europe as a rite of passage. Along with their chaperones, they marveled at the beauties and art of Rome, Paris and Florence. Guide books such as Bradshaw’s (UK) and Baedeker’s (Germany) became essential companions, offering information on journeys, timetables and hotels.

However, for every invention, there is a flow on of good and bad. Railways, for all their benefits, tore up the countryside and polluted landscapes with soot and noise. Without trains, men and supplies could not have reached the more sinister destination of The Western Front of WWI. Railways were powerful agents for change, fueling the progress of the Industrial Revolution as computers have powered The Digital Revolution of today.

Many of you, like me may have watched Michael Portillo’s wonderful series on Railways of the world where he uses his Bradshaw to educate us on the delights of this form of travel, past and present, whilst wowing us with his colourful wardrobe.

I like Michael love to learn about the past. I feel I definitely was born in the wrong time in history. The digital age holds little fascination for me. A romantic dreamer, I would have liked to live in my mother or grandmother’s era. But then again, I could have been unlucky to be poor and spent my life at a washing board bearing child after child like my great grandmother did. She had ten children, eight lived, one being Winfred my grandmother.

My historical novel, Whispers Through Time, the first book of my Time Trilogy, follows the early years and romances of Winifred and her sister Francesca and their voyage to Australia just months after The Titanic sinking. Whilst researching their lives, I studied the development of the railways in London. I could not have them travelling from one place to the other if the line had not opened yet. The railways firstly extended above ground until The Underground was built in 1863. My grandmother would have witnessed the protest in her home town of Hampstead Heath when an underground under The Heath and an extensive residential estate were proposed in 1903. Fortunately, due to ‘green’ activism, developers halted construction of the estate and underground. The station tunnel already dug 60 metres below Hampstead Hill was never used. Instead, London authorities extended The Heath for public use.

History is so interesting! Read more each week in my history snippet blogs. Follow me on Insta.

Books available online via websites, https://joniscottauthor.com

Whispers Through Time | Book | Austin Macauley Publishers

Australian readers check out Author Academy Bookstore:https://authoracademybookstore.com.au