Tag: Joni Scott Author

Stepping into History

Stepping into History

Stepping into history.

Getting immersed in the culture and times of a historical period can involve a lot of exhausting research but also immense fun. The trick is to choose a time that really interests you. Where would you go if you could time travel? Then stepping into history is fun. Otherwise, it’s just plain hard work. For me, I don’t really fancy the history before the Twentieth Century, so I am not really a long-ago history person but a modern history person. Even modern history has a huge scope.

The time period 1900 onwards is my time. Stepping into history and writing historical fiction started with my sister embracing Ancestry.com and finding some stuff about our grandparents. Reluctantly I read this stuff when bored on a rainy week at a seaside holiday resort and found there were gaps and silences about my granny. Why did she do this or that? Like hop on a boat alone to go to Australia from London just a few months after the sinking of the Titanic? I mean there are icebergs in the Indian Ocean too. Why too are there no photos of her?

A dalliance with ideas

This along with the ever-fascinating topic of the Titanic were enough to get me going. But I never planned a book, just a dalliance with ideas about my granny’s motivations on a rainy afternoon. Then the long sinuous arm of history grabbed me and sucked me down along the cob-webbed tunnels into the past, not so distant, but still a century ago. Off I went back to 1905 and my grandmother’s youth. She worked in a bakery in Hampstead Heath, London with an Elsie and a Johnny. This explained my mother’s name, Elsie and my uncle Johnny. Tick, Tick. Clever me.

The family were musical. Great grandfather was a piano journeyman. This term is interesting. I thought it meant travelling men but the journey bit comes from the French word journee meaning a day’s work. But I think my great grandfather still went about the London tuning pianos. At home his musically gifted older children gave lessons in the front parlour. Did they enjoy this, I wondered or was this child abuse? Then once I read more of my sister’s stuff, I discovered that the oldest brother just disappeared and never turned up later anywhere in any of the possible searches. And my sister is thorough. Before the days of digital searches, she used to write to the registries etc. Fifteen years of research and still going.

Lots of kids back then

Stepping into history, I set about creating personalities and motivations for this family. There were ten children, three boys and seven girls! Whoa! in a three-bedroom house. How does that work? Lots of bed sharing, that’s how. Children slept three to a bed.

No privileges back then like your own room or ensuite. No, a chamber pot under the bed was the best you’d get. Long cotton night dresses for boys and girls and twisted rags in your hair for the girls to keep their curls. A lot has changed in a hundred years and not all for the good. Big families were often happy families, sharing what they had not wanting more.

Anyway, the rainy week passed, as Time so quickly does. By then I had quite a few jottings in my notebook. These exploded over five months of secretive feverish writing into 60,000 words. The family blossomed into a family of characters with real personalities and reasons for doing or not doing stuff. I imagined Granny and Grandpa meeting on the ship to Australia in 1912 and falling in love. That seemed possible as they arrived on the same ship and married later that year. Then voila, I had a story based on true events and people. It’s called historical fiction. lol.

Whispering through time

Publishing? never occurred to me. I am a math and science teacher, not an arty type. But my sister once presented with my story, thought otherwise. She sent my story off to four publishers. She was secretive about it. All four liked it and so we chose one in London. Austin Macauley. Maybe not the best choice in retrospect but we knew nothing about publishing back then in 2018. Whatever, they made me a lovely book and called it a debut novel. Sounds posh, heh. It had a title too. Whispers through Time.

The publisher saw potential whereas I thought been there done that. Why not keep writing? Do a sequel? Really? You want more of my crazy imaginings? You’re a natural, they said. Without such encouragement from them and my sister, Granny and Grandpa would have been left on the Sydney pier on arrival. But now they have marched through history to this present day almost.

Covid was history in the making

The story continued through World War One and up to The Spanish Flu. I was researching this when ominously Covid 19 erupted. This event delayed the sequel Time Heal my Heart as I became seriously sick. Not with Covid or The Spanish Flu but with CRPS. This is a weird unfortunate disease that attacks your nervous system in a debilitating and super painful way. I lost the use of the right side of my body, moving my arm was excruciating. The prognosis was poor. Dire in fact.

There was no writing happening. I couldn’t even brush my hair or get dressed. Only hope (after much left-hand googling) was a clinic in Italy. Off I go, a week before Covid hits Europe. Bad timing but at least I get there. I have the two-week treatment of infusions and emerge from the hospital in Genova into lockdown. The suggested rehab and physio is not going to happen. Arm in a splint, I move from one hotel to another as they close in response to Covid restrictions. Fortunately, I have my husband to help. Italy asks all tourists to leave. We get to France. It goes into lockdown. The rest is history. We were part of history in the making. Stepping into history.

Shit is meant to happen

In lockdown in France in a hotel, I write another book. The Last Hotel. How, did you write it if you had no useful right hand? Good question. Answer is; with my left. Tippy tapping around my old battered IPad keyboard, I somehow wrote this contemporary romance set on The French Riviera. Think it was some type of weird channeling. Just poured out of me, figuratively speaking. It is my best seller at every book signing.  See shit is meant to happen. Good things come from bad. Just have faith. All bad things pass in time. Rainbows follow the rain.

So the historical sequel to Whispers through Time had a two-year setback. The Last Hotel took its place as my second novel and another novel, Colour Comes to Tangles took third place. Eventually, Time heal my Heart hit the bookshops in August this year. It’s a heart-rending story of love and loss during World War One era. Stepping into history once more it is a true story set in true and troubling times. It can be read as a stand-alone or sequel novel.

Last Time Forever

The last instalment of this family saga is also complete but yet unpublished. Last Time Forever will emerge at some future time and transport my family through the interwar and World War Two years up to 1950. What a turbulent life they had. Two world wars and a Great Depression. They were tough. But this last one has a surprise ending which I won’t tell you about because it’s a surprise!

Enough chatter. Thanks for reading my rant if you got this far.

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. Read about her books on https://joniscottauthor.com.

 

 

The Letter from Italy

The Letter from Italy

 Here’s another one of my short stories, a sweet story to touch your heart. I always like to do that write stories and books that touch the heart and celebrate the best in humanity. Here we go, read on…. This is a story called ‘The Letter from Italy.’

‘ A twist of the cap, a tilt of the bottle and the little capsules filled my hand. Pink and glossy, they glistened in my palm. A small red stripe defined their middles. They were a work of art.

‘Swallow me, take me!’ they implored in Wonderland style.

One gulp and the pretty little pills would all be gone and so would I. Sweet release from the black dog of depression, sweet revenge for my unappreciative children, my cheating ex-wife. This would show them. This and the will that excluded them. Renewed anger rose, my jaw clenched.

I cupped the handful of tiny avengers to my mouth, the glass of water in my other hand. Seize the moment, this was it.

A Timely Interruption

‘Ding, Dong. Hello! Jim, are you there?’

‘God, damn it. What the ….!’

Mary, my neighbour, again. Why did she have to keep calling by?

I would ignore her, that’s what I’ll do. Go away busybody Mary. Leave me alone. I’m here with my black dog and my saviour pills.

‘Ding, Dong. Jim, it’s Mary. I brought you some muffins and your mail. There’s a registered letter for you, special delivery.’

What the …? Who could be sending me a registered letter?

I kicked my feet free of the tangle of blankets and heaved myself out of my ravaged bed. Every morning my bed resembles a war zone, reflecting my sleepless nights and tortured dreams. Pulling back the faded curtains, I flinch with the sudden onslaught of morning light. Well, maybe noonday light.

It was well past morning. The early joggers, the morning dog walkers passed by hours ago, followed by the school kids squealing and chattering. I hated mornings and I hate morning people. Why are they so happy and cheerful? Isn’t life shit for them too?

A Surprise Letter

Shuffling down the hallway, I wrench the front door open. There she is, old Mary, always cheerful too, always upbeat. If she wasn’t so kind and sweet, well, I would have told her where to go, years ago.

‘Blueberry and coconut, today, Jim. Fresh from the oven. They will be lovely with a coffee. And here’s your letter. I told the postman not to wake you. He came early. I signed for it. It’s from Italy, how exciting!’

‘Italy! I don’t know anyone from Italy. What the…!’

I bit my tongue. Mary was a lady. No swearing in front of Mary.

‘Well, open it, Jim. Do you want me to make coffee for us, while you read it? That will work.’

For such a tiny woman, such an old woman, Mary wielded power. She marched past me into the kitchen and put the kettle on.

The past returns

I sat at the table and tore the envelope. Inside lay a handwritten letter and as I opened it, a photo dropped to the table. Gazing down, I looked into the faces of two young people, happy and smiling. They were in love. I knew because the young man was me, forty years ago.

The villa overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean, purple bougainvillea, her smile, her laugh. Isabella. Genova. A holiday romance, so long ago now.

Confused, I turned to the letter’s envelope. Flicking it over, revealed the sender. Isabella.

Stunned, I raked my disheveled hair from my forehead. After all these years, why was Isabella writing to me? She must be sixty, like me.

Mary interrupted my thoughts. ‘Here we are now, a nice hot mug of coffee. It will do you the power of good, Jim, and have a muffin with it. I’ll join you for a minute, do you good to have some company. Locked away in that bedroom all the time, it’s no good for you, son.’

Paralysed by a letter

Normally, I would shoo Mary out on the pretense of not feeling well. But I let her stay today because I was in shock, paralysed by this letter.

‘What’s the letter about, Jim? Have you won a holiday in Italy?’

‘It’s from an old friend. This is Isabella and me, forty years ago. I haven’t read the letter yet.’

‘Well, go ahead. I’ll just sip my coffee.’

Mary sat surveying the photo as I eagerly read the letter.

‘You were a handsome lad, Jim, and this Isabella is so beautiful! Was she your girlfriend?”

Momentous news in the letter

I ignored Mary as I processed the momentous news in the letter. Isabella was here, in Sydney, on vacation. She had found me and wanted to catch up, tomorrow, if possible near the Opera House. My heart skipped a beat. My pulse raced. Isabella, after all these years. What would she be like? Still as beautiful? Was she still married to that loser, the fisherman? So many questions after so many years.

‘It’s exciting news, I can tell, Jim. You look all flushed. You’ve come alive. My muffins are restorative, but they can’t perform magic. It’s the letter, isn’t it?’ Mary was persistent.

‘Yes, it’s Isabella. She’s here in Sydney and wants to see me tomorrow. There’s a phone number. I need to ring her. But what will I say, Mary?’

‘Well, you’ll say, you’re coming, of course, won’t you? But you need a shave and a haircut, boy. You can’t meet a lovely lady, looking like that!’

 Mary was right. She straightened herself and rose from the chair.

‘I’ll be on my way now, Jim.’

Mary Saved my Life!

‘Thanks, Mary.’ I meant it, too. Mary had saved my life. If I’d swallowed those pills, I would not have this letter, this piece of joy, I wouldn’t be meeting Isabella tomorrow!’

                                                     *******

Butterflies in my stomach, sweaty hand clenching a bunch of daffodils, I waited near the Opera House steps. The white concrete sails of the symbol of Sydney, gleamed in the morning sun. Morning! I was out in the morning sun. A first for me, after a year of wallowing in a dark room with my black dog.

Isabella

How would we recognise each other? She had said something about a hat, a pink hat. I scanned the crowds of tourists for the colour pink. There in the distance was something pink bobbing along, only just visible but getting closer with each moment. Then the pink hat materialized through the crowd, then a slim figure wearing a floral dress, then finally, a face.. It was Isabella. I knew the walk, the sway of her hips, the skip in her step. My Isabella, after all these years.

I raised my hand and walked towards her.

‘Isabella!’

‘Jim!’

We hugged, then kissed on the cheek, twice, each side, as Europeans do.

‘You haven’t changed!’ she exclaimed.

I had but did not argue. She was as lovely as ever, her eyes as smiling and warm, her lips as inviting. Only Time’s brush of tiredness reflected the passing of the years.

‘Come, I booked a table by the harbour. Come and tell me about your life. I’m dying to hear all about you. It’s been forty years, Jim.’

Didn’t I know it, hadn’t I felt it, when I compared myself in the mirror to that young man in love in Genova, a lifetime ago.

The Years Fell Away

But over lunch and a bottle of wine, or was it two?, the years fell away, and we rushed back in defiance of Time’s relentless march forward.

The joy for life

returned and illuminated my dark soul. White light split into radiant colours like the sparkles of light on the glistening harbour. My heart warmed every time Isabella smiled at me across the table. We clasped hands. We remembered. This time, there was no impediment to our love. Pedro was dead, drowned at sea, years ago.

‘He’s dead, Jim. But my love for you never died. It’s still alive. I feel it, warming my soul, like before. Do you feel it, too?’

‘Yes, oh, yes, Isabella, I do! I still love you because I always loved you. I never stopped loving you, my darling girl.’

So, there by the beautiful harbour, under white sails, in the glorious sun, we pledged our love again.

Later at her hotel, we remembered more, laughed some more. Time spiralled us back, twisting and turning at the ‘what if’, the ‘only if’ moments that could have reunited our lives, earlier. And then she showed me another photo, taken a few years after we parted.

Angelo

‘It’s my boy, Angelo,’ she explained.

‘Ah! A handsome lad.’

‘Like you, handsome like you. He has your eyes.’

Stunned, I looked over at Isabella.

‘Yes, he’s yours, ours, our Angelo.’

‘He’s waiting to meet you. He’s in the room next door. He understands.’

Could there be anymore surprises, twists in my life that so nearly had ended just a day ago?

Yes, there were more. There was a return to Genova, to a different villa but on the same headland above the little cove where we had swum and made love forty years before. Angelo came and drank wine and laughed with us before returning to his young family. I was now an Italian grandfather and soon to be an Italian husband to my Isabella.

Photo from jack-ward-rknrvCrfS1k-unsplash

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.

Whispers through Time – The Hardy Tree

Whispers through Time – The Hardy Tree

This lovely shady tree has stood in the Old St Pancras churchyard for over a century. It whispers through time of the many comings and goings in this ancient graveyard in the once secluded corner of London. The Hardy Tree, an ash tree, is unique as it is literally encircled by gravestones piled one on another. Most interestingly, Thomas Hardy the famous British novelist placed them there in 1865. Years before he became known for his tragic literary masterpieces and poetry, Hardy worked as an apprentice for an architect who had the contract to clear the cemetery to allow extension of the London railways. Nothing stopped progress during the Industrial Revolution in Britain, not even centuries of graves! You don’t always get to rest in peace.
Despite his qualifications as an architect, the grisly task of upending and emptying graves fell to the young Thomas Hardy and possibly others. In an artistic moment, Hardy decided to pile the gravestones around the huge ash tree and that is where they have remained all these years. The disinterred bodies were disrespectfully hauled onto wagons and moved to a mass grave in a new cemetery outside London.
While researching my family history, I discovered these fascinating facts about the Old St. Pancras church where my maternal ancestors were baptized and married. As a book nerd and huge teenage fan of Thomas Hardy novels (I named my daughter Tess after the tragic heroine of Tess of the d’Urbervilles) I decided to use the setting for the opening chapters of my Edwardian historical romance novel, Whispers through Time.

International purchases https://www.austinmacauley.com/author/scott-joni

 

 

Source:atlasobscura.com