Category: The Last Hotel

Philoxenia and the kindness of strangers.

Philoxenia and the kindness of strangers.

Whilst at a book signing recently a customer browsing books nearby approached me with a book in hand. Unexpectedly, he asked what the title Philoxenia, a seat at my table. meant. Maybe he thought seeing as I was an author, I would know the meaning of the obviously foreign word in the title.

I eyed the attractive cover which featured a bowl of olives and a plate of rustic bread.”It looks like it is a Greek cookbook,” I commented. This was confirmed by the nature of the author’s names, Kon and Sia Karapanagiotidis. Delightfully long Greek names. The man smiled but still hovered. I had not answered his question. What does the word Philoxenia mean?

What does philoxenia mean?

I looked at the word again and recognised within it two smaller Greek words. They are ‘philos’ meaning friend and ‘xenos’ meaning stranger. “I think it means ‘the love of strangers'” I said, “but as it is obviously a cookbook, not sure if I am right.”

“I will google it,” he offered. Why he didn’t do this in the first place, I did wonder. Maybe he just wanted company or a chat with a ‘xenos’, a stranger like me. Or was I starting to look like a Miss Marple in my autumn years? No, that can’t be it, surely not, he is too young to be an Agatha Christie fan like me.

“It means hospitality or kindness to strangers,” he announced, flashing his phone towards me. “Ah!” I replied, “That makes sense. What a lovely word with a special meaning. We have both learnt something today. Thank you!” The stranger now a little less of a stranger, smiled. he had a lovely smile that further brightened my morning. Smiles are like that, aren’t they. So much better than frowns or blank stares! You feel less invisible.

Becoming more visible thanks to philoxenia

At book events, even though you are meant to be increasing your visibility as an author, you can feel very invisible. Folk wander by immersed in their own world, fair enough, I guess. But I always smile and say ‘good morning’ but many just give me a blank stare or grunt in return. Not practising philoxenia obviously. My new word.

The stranger stayed. His name was Brad. We chatted about food which made me a tad hungry as I had rushed to get here and not had breakfast. Then we chatted about travels another wonderful engaging topic. He like me had travelled widely and now we had our word, we extolled on the hospitality or philoxenia we had both experienced abroad. We had both been adopted for meals by Greek and Italian families we had randomly met. Yes, these lovely Europeans like to share their wonderful earthy cuisines with strangers. Meals made from the most basic of ingredients, fresh from the market and transformed into luscious comforting and delicious dishes for all to share. I remembered that I had included a chapter about this phenomenon in my latest book, Time Heal my Heart. 

Philoxenia and the English man

In Chapter 27, I think it is, the characters Oscar and Luigi retire from the exhausting Giro d’Italia bike race of 1914 (the most difficult race ever) They visit Luigi’s uncle and aunt in nearby Florence. There in the courtyard garden, they are plied with plates of steaming spaghetti to reinvigorate their stiff aching limbs. There in the garden, Oscar the Englishman marvels at the ‘philoxenia’ of Luigi’s family. Estranged from his own family in London, he has been a runaway for years and not even informed his parents where he is. How different is this happy, loving family sharing a splendid meal under a splendid tree in beautiful Florence.

Oscar will remember his sojourn in Florence for years to come. His time there with this family and their philoxenia prefaces the horror of the years to come. Even though Oscar and Luigi have no idea at this time, the world is about to erupt into war. In a few weeks’ time as they travel to Sarajevo, they will coincide with its outbreak, the opening shots fired by Gavrilo Princip that will echo around the world.

How a sandwich led to the outbreak of WWI

And this is another foodie story because Gavrilo would not have shot Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie if he hadn’t stopped for a sandwich at Moritz Schiller’s delicatessen! Now that’s a story in itself. See above link to Gavrilo Princip to read about this amazing coincidence that changed the lives of millions. I could not resist having my boys Oscar and Luigi also eating a salami sandwich nearby. A sort of Forest Gump moment. They become firsthand witnesses of the shot that lights the powder keg and boom! we have a world war. The first one ever. They called it The Great War. But it was not so great if you became embroiled in it as millions worldwide did. Oscar escapes the rising tensions by taking off to Argentina, but Luigi stays and takes the confusing consequences of his country changes sides during the war.

Philoxenia rules the day!

Now I have come a long way off topic and away from my chance meeting in the bookshop. What happened, you might ask if you made it this far? (having survived my digressions and rants) Well done you. My stranger now not a stranger stayed to chat as I said and this led, I believe to other people thinking I was worth talking to and maybe not so invisible, so a few people hovered. They picked up and turned over my books to read the blurb on the back cover. Two wondered off to the counter with copies of The Last Hotel, my bestseller. Not everyone wants a signature and mine is not flash since I have CRPS in my right hand.

Thanks to the kindness of a stranger and later a few more strangers who stopped by, I had a lovely afternoon in Rosetta’s Bookshop, Maleny in the lovely hinterland of Queensland, Australia where I live. If you are ever here in our great southern land make sure to visit the Sunshine Coast Hinterland where you can view from a distance The (stunning) Glasshouse Mountains to the south. In Maleny and nearby Montville you can experience the hospitality or philoxenia of Queenslanders! There are many cafes, cheeseries and wineries where you can share a bowl of olives and some rustic bread just like the Greeks do.

Joni Scott is an Australian writer. See website joniscottauthor.com to read her history blog and find her books.

The Origins of Easter

The Origins of Easter

While researching for my second novel, I learnt about the origin of the word Easter and the different tradition in France where this novel, The Last Hotel is set.

The English word Easter is derived from ‘Eostre’, the name of a pre-Christian goddess associated with spring and fertility. Easter occurs at the spring equinox when the day is divided into equal periods of night and day. Spring in the northern hemisphere is a season of new life for plants and animals. Hence the bunnies, chicks and eggs of Easter celebrations in the Western world. Easter occurs at the spring equinox when the day is divided into equal periods of night and day. Spring in the northern hemisphere is a season of new life for plants and animals.

Easter and the natural world

Religious festivals are often connected to the natural world and its seasons. Before all the modern gadgets, electricity and devices, man was more in tune with the natural world. When the sun set the only light was from the moon until the sun rose again. Imagine that. Today you have to take a camping trip to a remote area to experience that. Even then some fellow campers could bring along televisions etc. Don’t you hate that. Why go camping??!

In the non-English speaking world, Easter is called by derivatives of the word Passover which is the festival in Hebrew Culture celebrating the liberation of the Jews from Egypt. (Book of Exodus). The word Pascha comes from the Hebrew Pesah. Unleavened or unrisen bread is eaten in the form of matzo. Jewish people and others enjoy matzo ball soup which is quite delicious.

The trial and crucifixion of Jesus occurred at Passover, so his death and resurrection coincide with Passover. His death is honored on Good Friday and his rebirth on the Easter Sunday. These same days became associated with the pagan festivities of the time celebrating renewal and rebirth. This explains the origins of Easter.

Easter is both a happy and sad time

In the Christian calendar, Ash Wednesday precedes Good Friday by about six weeks and is the start of Lent. This traditionally is a time of fasting and prayer leading up to Easter.

Not all Christians observe the Lent ritual. Ashes were used in ancient times to express grief and sorrow and placed on the head.

In the Christian tradition, Easter is both a sad and joyous date on the calendar. It marks the death but also the resurrection of Jesus. As Easter is determined by the moon and seasons, the actual calendar date varies from year to year.

What is the Holy Week?

Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem triumphant and feted on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before the day that would become known as Easter Sunday.

This is the beginning of Holy Week. The Last Supper took place on the Thursday, Maundy Thursday when Jesus ate with his disciples. That night he prayed long into the night in the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas, one of his disciples, betrayed him. He fell out of favor with authorities, and they crucified and buried him on Good Friday.

According to the Bible, Jesus rose from the dead three days later, on Easter Sunday, signaling the victory of life over death and the promise of eternal salvation for believers. Believing in his deity as the son of God, and trusting in his guidance, guarantees you forgiveness of your sins and life everlasting in heaven.

Christians attend church services at Easter. The Good Friday service is a solemn service that usually follows the 14 stations of the cross as Jesus made his way carrying the heavy cross to his place of crucifixion.

On Easter Sunday, the service is by contrast joyful celebrating his rising or resurrection. Both services involve participation in special liturgies and hymns. Some churches also hold Easter processions and pageants, reenacting the events of the resurrection. This is particularly so in the Philippines where the Holy Week is celebrated.

Easter, a time of hope and renewal

Easter is a holiday rich in history and tradition. It is intercultural around the world. Whether you celebrate it for its religious significance or its cultural significance, it is a time of renewal and hope, a time to celebrate the arrival of spring or hope and the promise of new life.

Later as children became a distinct entity not just little adults, mythical bunnies were added from German folklore to deliver sweet nougat or chocolate eggs to ‘good’ children just as Santa Claus rewarded them at Christmas. In Europe, it is also traditional to paint eggshells and hang the pretty eggs as a display.

In France chocolate bells also feature as a tradition to connect with the joyful ringing of church bells on Easter Sunday.

From Christian sorrow and joy, church services to family gatherings or Easter eggs brought by the Easter bunny, Easter is a time to come together with loved ones and rejoice in the blessings of life and be grateful.

Happy Easter!

photo source

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels: Whispers through Time, The Last Hotel, Colour Comes to Tangles and Time, Heal my Heart. Joni has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.

Why do we run away from trauma?

Why do we run away from trauma?

Characters that run away from trauma

As I write this, I realize that all of my five novels have characters, mostly women that run away from their current lives. They run away from trauma. Maybe it is a coincidence I choose this theme or is it because I myself am a runaway? Mind you, history is full of examples of women running away. I never realized until I started researching the matter. The correct term for this response to trauma is called ‘dissociative fugue.’

In my first novel, Whispers through Time, set in early 1900s, two sisters, Francesca and Winifred run away from London to Australia to escape their unhappiness. The characters were inspired by me reflecting why my grandmother ran off from her large family of siblings in London. Then later in life she runs away again from her new family and that is why I barely knew her. Why do we run away from trauma?  She shut herself off from her loved ones.

Why does a woman run away? It is the subject of today’s blog, The runaway response to trauma.

Then in my best seller, The Last Hotel, my character Jenny escapes her abusive marriage for a holiday in France with her ballet dancer son. Unwittingly, I’m at it again, in Colour Comes to Tangles, my next book. One of the characters is missing in action somewhere and her friends mount a search. In Time Heal my Heart, another historical, it is a minor character but a mysterious one who leaves her native France to come to Australia. To tell you more would contain spoilers. Find more plot details on my website or Amazon books.

Agatha Christie, the runaway

So let me start exploring this runaway phenomenon as it is a recurring theme and true to life, not just the stuff of fiction. Did you know that Agatha Christie, the famous mystery writer ran away? In 1926, she disappeared for ten days and the police from two counties were looking for her. It was as sensational as her best seller of a few years previous, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, the book that made her famous.  After a quarrel with her cheating husband, Archie, Agatha drives off and parks her car precariously overlooking a Surrey quarry and plain disappears. She leaves behind her fur coat and driver’s license and also leaves the car headlights on.

What are the police to presume from this? Yes, of course, it looks suspicious, and Archie is the prime suspect. Agatha is missing presumed the victim of foul play. But in reality, she just wandered off and caught public transport to Harrogate where she booked into a hotel under the name of her husband’s mistress. Curious and curiouser as Alice would say. Finally, after an exhaustive police hunt and public newspaper appeals someone at the hotel recognizes Agatha and she is found.

Public opinion is mixed. Was it a staged disappearance to gain publicity or a desperate appeal to her husband to rethink his request for a divorce. Or was it neither of these and just amnesia? This seems more likely as Agatha was a shy woman not one to invite attention. Indeed, although today the answer to her strange disappearance is not any of these for sure, it makes sense that she was so distressed by the recent death of her mother and infidelity of Archie, that she just ran away. It was all too much.

Fugue or running away from trauma

I can relate to this myself as I did just that twenty odd years ago. Like Agatha it was out of character and surprised everyone even me. This condition is called ‘dissociative fugue’ and is a way of avoiding a situation because the trauma is too much to process at the time. This all makes sense but was not a known condition at the time. Nor is it today. I had never heard of it until I was researching Agatha Christie for my blog and a U3A talk.

This fugue state is one of four reactions to trauma that all start with the letter ‘f’. They are freeze, fight, fawn or flee. Fugue is the equivalent of the flee version. The others involve doing nothing, fighting, submitting in that order. These are common responses seen in domestic violence situations. Often the woman abused is too afraid to do anything and so ultimately submits and tries to please or appease her abuser. Fighting is not often a viable method especially if the other person is much bigger or stronger. Fleeing can work if you have somewhere safe to go. Agatha had a car and money to stay at a hotel, but many women cannot just run away especially if children are involved.

Historical cases of women running away from trauma

Decades ago, many women had unwanted pregnancies and had nowhere to turn. The shame of their situation led them to be dismissed from their domestic service and shunned by the father. This terrible situation is the plot for many a historical novel ie beautiful young servant impregnated by rogue son of the manor. Thomas Hardy was the master of such tales. Tess of the d’Urbervilles is a tragedy due to the Victorian morals that set one rule for men and another for women. Tess is seduced and shamed by a bad man and suffers the damnation of society.

Women who cannot run away from trauma

Fortunately, in Western countries this is not such an issue. Governments now support unwed mothers to be. But in many African and Arabic cultures the shame is still there, and fathers or brothers still murder female family members that dishonor the family name. It is very difficult for these women to run away and start again. Women instead often stay and submit to the penalty. Most times it is not even their fault that they shame the family. Many are victims of rape or incest. It is a sad world where this still happens.

Despite progress, it is still a patriarchal world where women and girls suffer. The suffragettes fought for women’s rights, women gained the right to vote but they are still often the victims of men’s aggression.

If you like to read books about real women, then try one of my novels. I have three historical and two contemporary and all are based on real lives and situations.

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels: Whispers through Time, The Last Hotel Colour Comes to Tangles and her latest historical WWI drama, Time Heal my Heart. Joni has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.

 

How to start writing your book

How to start writing your book

Want to start writing your book? Are you itching to write that memoir, that sweeping romance but are stumped for a place to start? How do you start your book? Starting something is often the hardest part of any project. Concede this and that is a start in itself. Get organised. Write down some ideas. Do phrases or images come to mind when you envision your book? Well, jot them down to.  They could be memories, scenes, snatches of dialogue or you may even have some plot sorted. This is your inspiration that will kick start you into writing mode. You need to use some, but maybe not all of this for the start to your book.

In school they teach that there are three main parts of a story. First, (surprise!) there is a beginning that leads into the conflict which is the longest part. In this part the plot develops so characters interact in a way that should captivate the reader and want them to read on.  Then follows the resolution or ending that usually tidies things up.

Making a start

The beginning of any book must act as an introduction. If it is a non-fiction or fact-based book, then the beginning introduces the topic and aspects of it that will be covered in the book. Sometimes there are chapter headings at the start or an index at the end to make this clear. For fiction, we don’t have these. Sometimes authors include a prologue to introduce a historical period or give some background. Publishers have told me that this is not so popular now. Everyone is in a rush to get into the book as everyone is always in a rush these days. That is why we need to chill out with the slower pace of a book! Reading books is good for you.

The start of a fiction book establishes the setting, time and characters.  It sets the story in motion and if done well should carry the reader along with it into the following chapters. Think of it as the start of a movie. If the first ten minutes of the film don’t grab you, then you are inclined to switch channels. For me, I love a film set in exotic places. The scenery can suck me in. But if the characters are not exciting as well, if they just talk and don’t engage me, I will flick channels.

Start with some action

For men, the beginning of a film and probably a book often needs to be action packed or they get bored. But action takes different forms. There is physical action and there is action dialogue wherein two characters are interacting. They may be arguing which could include some physical action too. Or they just be talking about someone or something that is interesting. They could be plotting a murder or robbery or talking about how they can get away from one they already have committed. Either way, the viewer wants to know more. So, we keep watching.

A film can start with the actual murder and proceed into a ‘who dunnit’. Click the link to read the interesting history of this genre. That is pretty addictive too and this works in books as well. Agatha Christie is the queen of mysteries or ‘whodunnits.’ Whatever the beginning it has to hook you. That is why the beginning is often referred to as ‘the hook.’ They use this term in advertising too. You will watch an ad if it hooks you early on. Cute animals always do this for me. But others like sexy women or hot men or cars.

The start is the appetiser.

A good start of a book as in film makes you anticipate more. Like an appetiser for the main course. It must tantalise with a little but not overwhelm the reader with names and details. It’s tough but worth taking the time to get it as right as you can. Now, one mistake many writers make, me included, is starting too early and trying to explain everything. This is the undoing of a good beginning. For the start of a novel, you do not have to start at the beginning of the character’s story. It is better to just hop in at some interesting point in his/her journey than ramble along for pages telling us about him/her. Just like a film. Start with some action not just a long shot of the scenery.  Overly descriptive starts to novels are not so in anymore.

Descriptions can set the scene. They tell us where we are in place and time. However, overly long descriptions of the setting can bog us down. Novelists of previous eras did use description a lot more. If you read any Jane Austen, Conrad or Dickens you sure notice the slow pace of the action compared to today’s novels. They lived in a slower paced world, so their writing reflected this. Now we live in an instantaneously gratifying world that is fast paced so we aren’t into that anymore. So, with that point, I should move along myself.

Introduce the characters

Start with the character’s dilemma. It could be a letter or parcel they receive, an unexpected visitor or event that plunges them into a dilemma or situation. In my novel The Last Hotel, my beginning includes the unexpected events in the lives of a few of my characters that leads to their eventual meeting at the last hotel open on the French Riviera. So the book starts there in the beautiful French Riviera village of Beaulieu-sur-Mer and presents Lotte and her father who will later host these characters at their hotel. It is a short chapter about the dreams of Lotte and her father. The second chapter skips across the world to Australia. Sasha has just won a ballet scholarship for The Nice Opera. Chapter after chapter introduces the rest of the characters. Readers have reported this worked for them. They wanted to keep reading as they had become interested in the characters and their situations.

Tangling the characters

You may have watched films presented this way. Snapshots of people’s lives that will soon cross and tangle. I used this tangling method in another book. Colour comes to Tangles. In this one, ‘Tangles’ refers to the tangling of the characters but also it is the actual name of the hairdressing salon, Tangles, where the characters meet. A dilemma soon arrives wherein Tanya, the hairdresser’s friend goes missing. Also, to confound matters more, a new interesting tenant arrives to set up practice upstairs from the salon. Tanya at first only catches glimpses of this colourful new tenant but she knows from the business plaque and brochures that she is a colour therapist. How interesting, she muses. She anticipates meeting her as does the reader. The arrival of Vidisha this exotic Indian woman and the disappearance of Josie are more than enough to keep Tanya and the reader occupied and continue reading.

Note that I didn’t have to tell the whole story of Tanya’s divorce or how or why Vidisha came to Australia. That will emerge later. It is better to emerge later as by then we want to know these things. Telling us all this too soon will be more like reading a newspaper article or biography. Novels must enthrall and entertain not just inform. If you are asking questions as you read then that means the book is working its magic. And books should be magic. They should transport you to another exciting world of places and people where anything can happen.

starting your book

Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash

Please be kind, review our books!

Please be kind, review our books!

Authors need encouragement, please review our books.

Reviews are the bread and butter for authors. Please be kind, review our books. As an avid reader I make a habit of reviewing every book I read whether I was impressed with it or not. Usually, I do this on Goodreads as it is so easy. This click takes you to my soon to be released fourth book. You just find the book you want to review, click on it, and under the book details is a place to leave a rating (one to five yellow stars) or below a blank box to write something about the book. This written comment is far more encouraging for the author and more informative for a potential reader. But I post a comment politely and make it more about my preferences not their bad writing.

On Goodreads as on many book platforms you can join up as a reader and list your finished reads like you are part of a club. Reading (and writing) are lonely pursuits, so it is nice to sometimes share with others. This feedback from readers allows other readers to decide if the book is for them before they buy it. Few readers actually bother to write a review. It’s less than 10%. So, authors need all the reviews we can get and preferably positive ones. After all, we make no money from books. Too many middlemen take that. It’s a mug’s game. Please be kind and review our books.

Too difficult to be nice? How about a star rating instead.

But if you feel you can’t possibly say anything good then just pop a one or two star. This is kinder than a brutal slaying. Consider how you would feel if someone roasted your book baby alive. Books take about a year to write and almost twice as long to get published. So please review our books.

Unless you are an author who opts to be an Amazon uploader in which case it’s instant. I tried this for my contemporary romance, Colour comes to Tangles, just to experience the spontaneous buzz. But I do prefer the wait and the box of books that come all the way from London. My fourth book, Time Heal my Heart just arrived this week that way. Twenty-five copies hot off the press.

Someone left a two-star review for me last week. Fortunately, my first ever. This one was long and ranting as well. The reader did not like my ‘overuse’ of commas, and she found a typo that I was aware of but powerless to fix post publication. So let me know if you too feel I am guilty of comma overuse. As the review was for my debut novel and I’m now up to book 5, I won’t lose sleep over this one.

It is far outweighed by good ones like this lovely one from another author and besides I’ve learnt a lot since book one and become a better writer and certainly know editors miss a lot of unintentional errors. Once a book is published traditionally it is very expensive to request a typo correction. With uploaded to Amazon self-published books, it is as easy as it was to publish. Just a click away.

We all need praise and encouragement, please review our books

I am now a little conscious of it lest it is true. It is possibly Prowriting aid‘s fault as they keep flagging my lack of comma, so I let them override my text and add one. They just did it. I’ve given you the link to a comparison of the most common writing, spelling and grammar aid . Are there too many commas for your liking too?

Encouragement is not just needed for authors but for everybody. Praise is lovely. We bask in it, like the morning sun. Try to find the good in people not the bad. The same goes for books.

Kindness matters especially for authors

So please hold or bite your tongue and let the emotions calm. Not easy but counting to ten helps. Or walk away, make a coffee. Whatever. It deflects the moment and helps compose a kinder or more instructive rebuke.

The one thing the whole world needs is more kindness, more saying sorry, more good listening to other’s concerns. oh, no, more commas! It would be lovely if everyone respected each other’s opinions, rights and values. I know, a pipe dream. But it’s good to dream, good to be positive. Oops, more commas. Sorry.

But, seriously, let’s use our voices for good not to tear down others. One day someone might tear you down and then you will know how it feels. Have a nice day and please be kind when you review for our books.

Photo Source

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels: Whispers through TimeThe Last HotelColour Comes to Tangles and the latest World War One romance, Time Heal my Heart. Joni also has many posts on a women’s blog; https://whisperingencouragement.com/ and has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.

The Crazy Writing Process for ‘The Last Hotel’!

The Crazy Writing Process for ‘The Last Hotel’!

OnlineBook.org offers reviews of member’s books by other members. Recently, an author reviewed my second novel, The Last Hotel. This came as a pleasant surprise as I never solicited a review. So, I posted it here as these reviews are not posted on Amazon or Goodreads where most readers look to read opinions on books. Here it is, below and this is the link to it; An author’s review of The Last Hotel. If only this reviewing author knew the crazy writing process involved in writing this book.

However, the review does offer a unique insight into this novel that had to write itself because the author only had one hand! As my husband kept telling me, ‘Writing a book, what a dumb idea!’ I added in a few headings/comments to break up this review, so easier to read and please read on if you are interested in the crazy writing process for The Last Hotel.

An Author’s Review of The Last Hotel

“The Last Hotel by Joni Scott is a thought-provoking and immersive novel that explores the depths of human nature, the pursuit of purpose, and the complexities of relationships. Scott’s eloquent writing style and meticulous attention to detail bring the story to life, enveloping readers in a world that is both familiar and unsettling.

The novel follows the lives of five strangers who find themselves mysteriously trapped in a desolate hotel. As they navigate their way through the eerie corridors and interact with one another, their individual stories gradually unfold. Scott skillfully weaves together their narratives, delving into themes of regret, forgiveness, redemption, and the universal search for meaning.

Based on real events and people

The characterization in “The Last Hotel” is one of its greatest strengths. Each character is distinct, flawed, and burdened by their past. Scott takes the time to delve into their inner struggles, fears, and desires, allowing readers to form a deep connection with them. The evolution of these characters throughout the story is both realistic# and compelling, as they confront their demons and discover hidden strengths within themselves.

The setting of the hotel itself is masterfully crafted. Scott’s vivid descriptions create an atmosphere of tension, with its dilapidated walls, flickering lights, and a lingering sense of unease. The hotel serves as a metaphorical backdrop, representing the characters’ emotional and psychological states, adding an additional layer of depth to the narrative.

Scott’s exploration of existential themes is thought-provoking and raises profound questions about the human condition. Through the characters’ introspection and interactions, the novel prompts readers to reflect on their own lives, purpose, and the choices they have made. It encourages a deeper examination of personal growth, self-reflection, and the impact of our actions on others.

Literary fiction!

However, while “The Last Hotel” is a captivating read, there are moments when the pacing feels sluggish. Some sections could benefit from tighter editing and more concise storytelling. Nonetheless, the compelling characters and intriguing premise keep readers engaged, even during these slower moments.

In conclusion, “The Last Hotel” by Joni Scott is a richly crafted novel that offers a profound exploration of human nature and the search for meaning. With its engaging characters, atmospheric setting, and thought-provoking themes, it is a must-read for fans of literary fiction. Despite some pacing issues, Scott’s storytelling prowess shines through, making this an enjoyable and worthwhile read for anyone seeking a thought-provoking and immersive literary experience.”

Strangers meeting

As a newbie writer, I am pleased by this appraisal, especially the inclusion of my style as literary fiction. It sounds much better than chic lit or women’s fiction! It is interesting what other people find in your writing. I realised The Last Hotel is character driven rather than plot driven. After all, it was the gathering of desparate and disparate individuals at the Nice Airport in 2020 that inspired the book.

There was no crime ever intended, I was just fascinated watching these airport strangers interact (me being one of those strangers) and decided to write down some ideas for a second book, also unplanned. At the time, in March 2020, I was crippled by CRPS so could barely write let alone brush my teeth or hair. It was my medical condition of CRPS that had brought me to Italy. I had come for a cure in a clinic in Genova.

Writing a book, what a dumb idea!

This cure did eventuate, but it took a while over the next two years to fully recover as I underwent rehabilitation. I can type today, brush my teeth and hair but back then at the airport as we tried to find a flight home, I was a one-handed, one-armed ‘cripple’ of sorts, still in immense pain from the CRPS. So, writing another book was a dumb idea, my husband’s words exactly. As he struggled along with both our cases from hotel to hotel as there were few flights available, he kept muttering these words. ‘Writing a book, what a dumb idea!’

But as we waited, day after day in budget airport hotels, the idea of this book was persistent in my mind. There was nothing else to do. We had to stay in isolation. Written permits allowed one trip out a day for food or medical purposes. There was only a small grocery store a block away. Even the vending machine had run out of food. Pressing the button for tomato soup only yielded a mug of hot water. Our tiny hotel room was equally disappointing. It had two bunks, a cubicle bathroom and a limited view of the Nice airport. If you climbed on the top bunk, you could see a scattering of planes going nowhere. They were as grounded as we were.

Writing filled the hours.

With an uncertain future, a cancelled holiday and no physiotherapy available, there was nothing to do but write this ‘dumb’ book. This was only possible by tapping away with my good left hand on the old iPad I had brought along. If only the people at the airport knew I had borrowed them for my novel. There was the young ballet dancer with a dream of dancing in the Nice Opera. He had only just arrived form Melbourne the week before and now had his contract on hold. I named him Sasha.

Then there was the mother and daughter planning a year in Provence. I called them Deborah and Andrea. The two young Brits who had just lost their dream jobs in St Tropez, they became my Kaz and Lou. The very helpful young Brit who carried people’s bags up and down the stairs because the elevators and escalators were turned off, well, he became Will. As I never took their details, these people may never know they are in a book. The hotel in lovely Beaulieu-sur-Mer is fictional but there is one like it in Beaulieu and there is even a bookshop next door, just near the market square too, where my hotel/pensione is based. I checked it out on Google Earth.

Getting it all together, The crazy writing process.

I had my characters, the reason for their meeting was the real reason they assembled at the airport ie Virus Alert 2020. Now I just had to get them interacting at The Last Hotel. This happened over a period of five months, after we finally scored a flight home to Australia. With my swollen right arm and hand on a pillow, that busy left hand of mine tapped out the story.

Finally, by September it was as finished as I could manage. It needed editing but my previously good left hand was worn out. It developed strange callouses that developed into dePuytren’s nodules so then I had no good hands. In despair, I sent the whole thing off to Tellwell Publishers, hoping they could sort it into a book. This they did and gave it a lovely cover. Maybe they should have accelerated parts of the book and edited more. But it was during global lockdown when things slowed down to a snail’s pace, even at the publishers.

My fourth book has only just been released due to this Covid effect. Two years at the publishers for this baby has been another long wait. But hopefully, there will be more good reviews and happy readers. Let me know.

Joni Scott is an Australian author with three published novels: Whispers through Time and The Last Hotel and Colour Comes to Tangles. Joni has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.

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/

Joni Scott is an Australian author with two published novels: Whispers through Time and The Last Hotel. Joni also co-hosts a women’s blog; https://whisperingencouragement.com/ and has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.

 

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 chapter 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 F. 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 Ernest 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.

Joni Scott is an Australian author with two published novels: Whispers through Time and The Last Hotel. Joni also co-hosts a women’s blog; https://whisperingencouragement.com/ and has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.

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The Last Hotel-Interview with Author

The Last Hotel-Interview with Author

An Interview with Joni Scott, Author of The Last Hotel

First of all, congratulations on publishing your book. How long did it take to write it?

Thank you, Maureen and thank you for taking a chance on me and my book. The Last Hotel was very keen to be written, occupying my mind day and night so it took five months then a few months back and forth with publisher about edits, quotes, possible inclusion of song lyrics etc

Given that the story is inspired by real events, are there details that you chose to omit from this book?

I changed names, businesses and did not mention the airline company that we flew with as I gave them negative press. I didn’t want to get sued by an airline! Only the first half of the book is based on real events, up to the meeting of strangers at the airport.

After that fiction took over. I have never been to Beaulieu-sur-Mer, only passed it on the train that night we fled Italy for France. The name caught my fancy as it translates as ‘beautiful place by the sea’ When I met the interesting people at Nice airport the next day, I had the idea for the book, like a light bulb moment.

My husband and I shuffled around hotels for another week and kept bumping into Kaz and Lou the two young women who lost their jobs in St Tropez, but we never saw the others again. I don’t know if they went home soon after or stayed put in France. I so wished I had taken names and addresses so I could tell these lovely people that I put them in a book!
The second half of the story is a “what if’” version of life. Personally, I would have loved to have stayed and met Lotte and Rene and darling Henri and Juliette. But they are fictional characters I imagined just like the bakery and bookshop.

Sitting on my couch back in Australia, I walked through the places in Beaulieu on Google Earth and discovered that in the street there really is a bakery and bookshop! How cool is that! Maybe someone will ask them, “are you the bakery in The Last Hotel?” I hope a reader will go there to check out the town. I intend to when we can travel overseas again.
In reality, we managed a flight home early May. I started writing the book the day I returned home. It was so vivid, I had to get going with it despite only having one functional hand, my left one.
I did not get the use of right one back until November 2020 and it is still very stiff. 

Have you ever considered writing a personal memoir?

I think every book I have written (now 3) contains aspects of oneself ie memories of childhood, relationships. Who would want to read my memoir anyhow? haha

What was the hardest scene to write?

The chapter where I introduce Jenny’s family. I rewrote the part about Pieter quite a few times as I didn’t want to offend any lesbian readers and having no experience of them, I wasn’t sure how Pieter should think .In the end I chose confusion for her as she is still young and discovering herself.

In your opinion, is it prudent for people to start travelling again?

We can travel much yet . However, I understand people have been cooped up so long in Europe and Britain that if the governments don’t allow it, there could be mass anarchy. We have had it so easy in Australia, particularly Queensland compared to the rest of the world. We only had to wear masks for a short time yet people still complained. Time will tell if it is prudent to allow travel again. Once it is the European summer, there could be another wave.

If you could go back in time before the pandemic, what would you do differently?

I would still risk the trip to Italy. If I had not gone in the slim time frame of those few days, before we couldn’t go overseas and before Italy shut borders, I would still be in agony with my arm, shoulder and hand. Literally it was like being on fire 24/7.

I am on a Facebook group for CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome), and people suffer terribly. Many have experienced it spreading from limb to limb or over the whole body. It is called the suicide disease. So, I feel so fortunate to have been able to have treatment and get 80-90% better.

The treatment is most effective in the first year. If I had not gone when we did, who knows when I could have gone to Italy for the infusions? The Last Hotel would not have happened and that would be sad. The book will always be so special to me as I wrote it tapping with my left hand in such adverse conditions ie right arm propped up on pillows, ergonomic keyboards, mice, apple pencils, dictate devices etc. Everyone said I was crazy!

What do you miss most about pre-covid life?

In Australia, it has not been bad but overseas, people have been separated from loved ones and how the very demonstrative Italians, French and Spanish have managed without all those hugs and kisses, I cannot imagine. I suppose social distancing has led to people being wary of each other which is rather sad .If it goes on too long, I will miss travelling overseas.

Is there something we can cherish about this new way of life?

Appreciating home life more? I have enjoyed being home more, writing, doing jig-saws etc. while I recuperated my right side. I am grateful to be healthy and home in Australia. So many Australians are still stranded overseas. If we had stayed on the Riviera, would we still be there, unable to get home?

Is there another book in the making?

Yes, a few. I have finished the sequel to Whispers through Time, my first historical novel based on the family research of my sister. This ‘sequel book’, Time, Heal my Heart, is both a stand alone romantic chronicle of life during world war 1 and a sequel to the story of Winifred, my grandmother. The book is at the publisher now and will be released this year. Again, very interesting characters invited themselves into my book and set up their own sub plot! I had to put up a sign, No Vacancies! lol
Also I am part way through another book, ‘Tangles’, inspired by my hair dresser. I realised hair dressers are part psychologists, meeting and advising so many people, so I have a full complement of characters in this modern day drama of life in the suburbs. A real woman’s book, this one, with an interesting Indian sub-plot.

Where can your fans and well wishers connect with you?

I have a few websites, one on Austen Macauley Publishing, then my official one is joniscottauthor.com then an author site on Goodreads. Reviews are welcome!

The Last Hotel is available in paperback and kindle format and now audiobook.

The Last Hotel review

The Last Hotel review

Post by Laura Bach » 26 Jul 2021, 06:43
[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of “The Last Hotel” by Joni Scott.]

We all went through this pandemic together and gathered all sorts of stories about it. Authors are the ones who decide to share their experiences, thus giving us precious books like The Last Hotel by Joni Scott. Set on the beautiful French Riviera in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, the novel tells of the first wave of the covid-19 pandemic and how a group of people found peace during such a chaotic time.

The Last Hotel brings together people from all over the world. Whether it’s a ballet dancer who comes for a new job in Nice, an ill woman who seeks a cure in northern Italy, or just people who need to get away from their lives, they will all find themselves both in danger and in absolute peace together.

I was especially touched by Maggie’s story, an Australian woman who flies to Italy with her husband in search of a miraculous cure for her rare pain disease, CRPS. Maggie was well until her wrist pain turned into “the most painful disease known to humankind,” making her feel ill and old. The promise of a cure gives her hope, but that changes when Italy is hit by the virus. Every hotel starts to close on her and her husband like they will be forced to go home, spending lots of money and not solving anything. But due to some very kind bakery owners, miracles do happen. The way Joni Scott described Maggie’s fear of the pain made everything so real and helped me empathize with her character. This vivid depicture of life makes a powerful impression on the reader. The way the author paints the warm colors of the French Riviera inspires me to want to visit it immediately, as the pandemic could never take away the beauty of this piece of heaven.

The beginnings of the chapters are sprinkled with concerning news about the pandemic. The events accurately match the restrictions and lockdowns that were in place at that time, making everything feel real. Even though the subject is heavy, the author delivers it in a light manner, emphasizing the great things that were born out of this unique experience, like some life-long friendships and romances. Actually, after reading the whole book, it seems that the characters needed the virus in order to rediscover themselves.

Since this book will have the characters stuck in lockdown for some time, it’s only natural to be focused on their development. The Last Hotel has a large cast of characters, all with different stories that lead them to the same place at the same time. What’s heart-warming is how they all end up as a ‘pandemic family.’ Small romances are bound to happen, teaching us that it’s never too late to find love. The characters are full of life and personality. I loved that the author paid close attention to how characters speak, like adding accents to French people speaking English. Other characters have speaking impairments, like stuttering. Also, all characters have a backstory and are constantly growing, culminating in a beautiful artistic moment.

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