The Road is Forested

drivin

In June Phil and I set off in our latest van (RIP the Bus-with-a-woodstove!) For our first-ever trip abroad. We’ve spent years exploring all the corners of the British Isles but this was the first time we’d taken the van on the ferry to Europe. As we now live in Hull, we had only a short drive down the Clive Sullivan way to the ferry. It was exciting to have a cabin of our own, and entertainment laid on for the night. (Yeah, I know: little things please little minds, etc.) We stood on the top deck as we sailed out of the Humber, while Phil helped me plot a future novel, which would involve this very estuary. There was a rainbow to cheer us on our way.

estuary

I can’t say I slept that well – I don’t like total darkness and so I had to keep putting the light on. No worries for Phil though, it takes a lot to wake him up! The next morning, we obtained a free breakfast because the card machine wasn’t working. Then we drove off the ferry and into Holland. We also passed through a corner of Belgium before entering Germany.

bridge, rotterdam

We were headed for Stuttgart and planned to arrive there the following afternoon. (The extra special purpose of the trip was to attend my youngest son’s wedding!) Phil drove and drove and after a while I kept falling asleep and waking up with a snort. It was hot, too. I was pleased when we stopped for the night in the beautiful Mosel Valley, surrounded by vineyards.

 

Fortunately, a wine-tasting session was just about to begin as we arrived. We bought six bottles. Later we went for an evening walk.

river mosel

I had no idea  Holland, Belgium and Germany were covered in so much forest. No wonder there are so many European fairy tales set in the deepest, darkest woods. I was blown away by the Baden Württemberg landscape. I fell in love with Germany.

forest mountain

Forests, forests as far as the eye can see. this is the view from the road and it goes on and on. After another long day of Phil driving, and me falling asleep and waking up to make tea and serve lunch in some of the beautifully-landscaped and well-provisioned laybys (no height barriers or ‘No Overnight Camping’ signs such as we’re accustomed to in the UK, here) We arrived at the final, busy stretch of road into Stuttgart. My son and his wife are both world foot-travellers. They met in Iceland, and I was privileged to be present at the time so I’m so happy he’s married Jacky. They’re planning to live and work in Stuttgart for a few years and they’ve just moved into an apartment. This is the view from their balcony: (as you can see, it’s only a short walk into the forest.)

street to the forest

Phil and I slept in a parking lot by a running track, a short walk from their apartment. The next morning, Jacky took us to the Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart, a library that looks as though it ought to feature in a Sci-Fi film. We climbed up to the roof for an amazing view of Stuttgart. It was humbling to hear of the city being flattened during the Second World War.

 

Phil and I went on into Stuttgart for lunch and a look around.

schloss platz

Schloss Platz

fountain schloss platz

phil stuttgart

That evening, Phil and I met the rest of the family at Jacky’s parents’ house. We were treated to an amazing meal and lots, and lots of wine. The following morning we put on our glad rags and set off from the hotel with some of our new relatives-to-be for the train into Ditzingen where the wedding was to take place at the Rathaus (town hall). There was time to take tea in the market square beforehand.

pre wedding tea with the in laws

I can’t even describe the joy of what followed…

wedding

Leaving the Rathaus, Jacky’s colleagues at the market stall presented the couple with balloons and a vegetable-bouquet. Caat, the dog Zak and Jacky rescued in Catalonia, was present throughout the whole day. Jacky wore a traditional dress that had belonged to her great-grandmother. Luckily, Zak’s outfit matched perfectly.

wedding couple

The three men at the feast are Zak’s father, stepfather and father-in-law 🙂

three men at the feast

Photographs in the park between wedding cake and dinner… (Zak’s dad on the right and stepdad on the left)

fam at the wedding

An outdoor living-room…

garden chair

Ulrika, one of Jacky’s grandmas, made the couple a personalised quilt as a wedding present.

wedding quilt

I’ll finish up with some photos from the second week of Phil’s and my journey…

 

wing mirror view

 

eb town centre

 

campsite

rhine

My Dogs in my Books

Our beautiful, black Labrador, Riley, travelled all over the UK with Phil and I in our former van, the bus-with-a-woodstove. Similarly to ‘Jack’ in my novel The Eliza Doll. Jack lives in a van with his companion, Ellie, who travels the country selling her handmade dolls at craft fairs. Jack is modelled entirely on Riley.

blue streaked sky at Arran

riley me van

It nearly broke our hearts when Riley had to be put down in 2016. He had poisoned himself by eating what we think may have been a death cap mushroom.

Beloved boy

We now have two rescued dogs who were both found on the streets of Romania. Luna, my birthday present two years ago, came to live with us when Riley was still alive. They were a perfect visual contrast and shared a brief love. Luna had been found in a cardboard box…

dogs in box

…on the street in Budapest with her two sisters at the age of about five months. Riley helped her acclimatise to family

black and white

(and beach) life.

Luna Riley beach

In my sixth novel, Luna ‘plays’ Alicia, a white stray dog that adopts my character Maya, while she’s living in a Catalonian mountain community. The Vagabond Mother, as yet unpublished, is the story of a middle-aged woman who takes off with a backpack, in search of her missing son. In the book, Alicia follows Maya as she leaves the community she’s been staying at to hitch hike to Barcelona, and Maya ends up taking her back to the UK with her. Alicia is as loyal, nervous and loving as my own lovely Luna.

Luna

Pixie is the second dog we adopted from Seven Strays Dog Rescue. It was too sad that Riley had to be put down and that Luna was left alone, so we chose a smaller dog to keep her company. Allow me to present introduce Miss Pixie:

Pixie

Pixie was also abandoned in Romania. She had a puppy, who has now also been rehomed in the UK.

pix n pup

Pixie ‘stars’ in my fifth novel (currently out on submission) Sea Babies. Pixie plays a similarly-small, brown dog call Titania (Tatty) who’s dumped on my main character, Lauren. Lauren quickly grows to love Tatty and they explore the wild countryside of Uig on the Isle of Lewis together (see second-to-top picture in this post) and Tatty comforts Lauren while she comes to terms with a recent, drastic change in circumstances

Luna and Pixie love each other, and they love me and Phil and our cat, Pheoby. The Girls (including the cat) are happy whether we’re off on one adventure or another in our van, but also when we cuddle up on the sofa at home.

P and LL and P

both

Oh, and here’s a picture of Pheoby, the camping cat. I really must add a strong, female cat character in my next book…

pheobs

Another Rebecca News!

AR eBookPaper

I’m excited to announce that Another Rebecca (originally published by @InspiredQuill in 2015, will be re-released with a brand-new cover by @wildpressed in September this year.

AR meme

Here’s the blurb:

Rebecca Grey can’t shake off the hallucination she had while in hospital, but her alcoholic mother Bex is too wrapped up in the ‘Great Grief’ of her youth to notice her daughter’s struggle to define dream from reality.
The two of them lurch from one poverty-stricken situation to another. But why does an old woman she has never met believe she is Rebecca’s grandmother, and why did Bex swear to stop living when she was only nineteen?
Another Rebecca is a family story of secrets, interdependency and obsessive love.
Another Rebecca was inspired by the painting ‘There is no Night’ by Jack B. Yeats.

INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR
Tracey Scott-Townsend on ANOTHER REBECCA

 

1) Comparing the writing of my second novel, Another Rebecca with my first, The Last Time We Saw Marion?

The seeds of both novels were sewn in 1989 when I lived alone in a flat in Hull. I was between two long-term relationships and in the third year of my art degree. I did a lot of writing as well as painting. The Last Time We Saw Marion was a novel from its inception, but Another Rebecca began as a short story, inspired by the painting There is No Night by Jack B. Yeats.
I began my full-time writing career in 2010 when my job as a teacher ended. By this time I had married for a second time, after being a single parent to my four children for ten years. I resurrected the 1989 draft of The Last Time We Saw Marion and completely re-wrote it. While the completed book was doing the rounds of agents and small presses, I started to develop my short story There is No Night into a second novel which became Another Rebecca.
Writing, rewriting and several rounds of edits of my first book had taught me that for me the production of a novel to the standard that I want it to be is a long process

I learned along the way by experimentation and whatever feedback I could glean from multiple rejections of The Last Time We Saw Marion. In writing Another Rebecca I had more experience and also some highly professional input, such as a workshop with one of my most-admired writers, Audrey Niffenegger.

2) Family is an important theme in my writing.

I am a product of the things that have happened to me, the decisions I’ve made and the actions I’ve taken. Childhood is a deeply buried influence in anyone.
I believe I’m susceptible to some degree of synaesthesia: a name would always conjure a colour in my mind’s eye and a picture, a snippet of music, a smell or a touch evokes memories in the same way that a film is brought on screen at the touch of a button.
I resurrect memories from my childhood onwards and dissipate them into plot lines. New characters are born from the cells of the disappeared versions of me and my past.
I am a daughter, a sister and a mother. I’ve experienced losses and gains in all of these roles. Because my novels are essentially about the human condition; family, in whatever form it occurs, cannot help but be an important theme to me.

3) Narrative voices.

I tend to use more than one narrative voice in my novels. Initially Another Rebecca was told exclusively from the close first-person perspectives of Rebecca and Bex. But the reader could only see and know what these two claustrophobically intertwined characters were telling us and there was too much story to be told effectively in this way. So I brought in Jack, Rebecca’s father, as the third first-person narrator. He also steps back and gives us a wider view of the character of Bex in the past which helps to give us the full story.

4) The settings in Another Rebecca.

The book is set in England and Ireland. Skegness, where Rebecca lives at the beginning of the story, was my local seaside town when I lived in Lincoln. Rebecca then moves to a caravan in a Lincolnshire village which is based on the real village of North Scarle where I lived in a caravan when I was Rebecca’s age. My father built a house on the site.
Rebecca visits her aunt in County Leitrim, Ireland, where my sister lived for a long time. Then Rebecca goes to live in a fictional house in the village of Newtown Linford in Leicestershire. I have been camping with my children in this district for more than 20 years, so I know the area well. It’s on the edge of Bradgate Park. This is the home of Lady Jane Grey, the nine-day queen of England, who appears to Rebecca in the park and gives her some salient advice. I’m familiar with the location because I go to a camp in some adjacent woodland every year, and we always take a walk through the village to the park.

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On accepting the inevitable…

The good, the bad (and the ugly) of ageing: Terry Tyler’s thoughts

I constantly remind myself to maintain a positive attitude on getting older because my older sister’s life finished when she was six years younger than I am now.  Something that never fails to shock me. Maybe there’s a new blog post in that. But for now, I’m focussing on women’s views on their own ageing process. I recently wrote a post for A Daydreamer’s thoughts blog. You can read it here: My thoughts

Ocean_woman_

 

The Eliza Doll by Tracey Scott-Townsend

Thank you to Sharon Booth for this wonderful review of The Eliza Doll!

Sharon Booth

Ellie can’t work out whether she’s running away from the past or towards a future she always felt she should have had. She left university and had baby after baby without even meaning to. But it was her third child she blamed for ruining her life.

Now her children have grown and Ellie is on her own. She shocks everybody by selling her home and moving into a converted van to travel the country selling handmade dolls at craft fairs.

It can be lonely on the road. Ellie has two companions: her dog, Jack, and the mysterious
Eliza who turns up in the most unexpected places. At every encounter with Eliza, Ellie feels as if she’s standing again in the aching cold of a waterfall in Iceland, the sound of crashing water filling her with dread.

Ellie can’t change the past. But is it really too late to rectify the…

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A day in the life of author…Tracey Scott-Townsend

Thank you to Louise Jensen for giving me the opportunity to rave about my beloved shed, which I have now left behind in Lincoln *weeps a little*. But at least I have my lovely pseudo-shed at my new home in Hull…

fabricating fiction

Hmm writing in a ‘shed’ with no wi-fi distractions may be the key to being more productive. Tracey, do share more about your day.

For a good deal of my writing life (which began full-time in 2010) my office has been a shed in the garden. As it happens I’m currently packing up my shed in preparation for a house move so I’m having to work in the house. I find this distracting, due to my two captivating rescue dogs wanting my attention so much of the time. I also have other intrusive business going on at the moment, mostly stemming from the house sale.

At our new home in Hull I’ve created a cosy ‘shed’ by dividing an alcove off from the main part of the spare room. I hope I feel secure and isolated (in a good way) in there in the same way as I do going…

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Not Invisible 

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
In my young-adult days I was frivolous and needy
As a young mother I tried too hard to please.                  Now I’m adventurous,                                                 Successful and cheeky

And I have been for a while.

My motorcycle helmet has taught me                                That I don’t always have to smile.
She replaces the helmet on her steel-grey hair                 And sits confidently back in her chair.                        Beneath the visor you can tell her                                     Mind is on her next adventure.

Friday afternoons in my art college days                                I chose fabric from the market,                                             The next woman says.

I made a complete Saturday night outfit                          Right down to my hat and bag,                                     Without a pattern, Just my imagination.                                 I designed myself the way I wanted to be.

Like me, says another. I still have some of my curtain-fabric skirts, I loved the big, bold prints.

I travelled to different cities to see my favourite bands        I danced all night                                                                     And slept at railway stations                                         Because there were no trains home.

My younger self was restless and spontaneous.               Now that I’m older I don’t feel much different               Apart from the Arthritis!

I piloted an aircraft, solo when I was seventeen, the fourth woman tells.                                                                Now I’m seen as the village wise-woman,           Resourceful, reliable, helpful and calm.                              She smiles                                                                                   But that achievement was what made me feel I could do anything.                                                                                    She sits down.

I was a punk, says one.
I trekked up the Lost World Mountain, says another.      The rest of the women join in –

I took the magic bus to India,

I lived in a commune by the sea,

I abseiled down the Humber Bridge,

I was the one who climbed the highest tree.

Then they spent years known as Mother, known as Wife, As the woman at the supermarket till, As the one who organised the bills.

They were the accountant, the doctor, the solicitor, the receptionist. The bra-fitter at Marks & Spencer’s, The teacher, The nurse at the hospital, The door-factory manager.

They were the one who made sure your belly was full And you went to bed on time. You thought they’d be lonely when you all left home                                              And their retirement party at work was done

But now they’ve stepped out of their roles                  They’re on a roll.

They’ve started all over again                                               And it’s just like when they were young.

It doesn’t matter that their backpack’s now on wheels   And they have to remember to take their pills                 And they wear comfy trainers instead of heels               And they don’t drink as much as they did                  Because it goes straight to their head.

When their busy day is done                                                The best treat they can think of is to go to bed

With a book.

Yeah,

I said a book.

Tracey Scott-Townsend 2017