JESSICA NORRIE: What I Did at 50

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Jessica Norrie

I’m happy to welcome Jessica Norrie onto my blog today, as part of my ‘What I did at 50’ series – or, as Jessica puts it: What I did at 50 plus a bit, minus a bit. Jessica is the author of The Infinity Pool and The Magic Carpet. Welcome, Jessica, and tell us your story…

Thank you. First, I was born, at University College Hospital, London. I don’t claim any special credit for that, but it wasn’t long before Christmas. My father talked about watching processions of nurses in their red capes marching briskly through the snow below the ward window – I think the NHS was more glamorous then.

At school I loved writing stories, but that’s hardly surprising because both my parents were journalists, my mother on Glamour and Mirabelle magazines before she was married (glamour again) and my father for local papers until he got fed up with being sent to report weddings and found work as a bookseller, publishing novels in his spare time. So I thought writing was as normal as eating which gave me a lucky boost most children never get.

~

I studied French, lived in France teaching English, came back and trained to do it properly and somehow writing took a back seat. But when I married and had children, I earned a few pounds writing columns for mother and baby magazines (think inept mother makes silly mistakes, not helpful tips or advice. Fortunately my children were quite easy going and survived.) On maternity leave from teaching, I studied translation, and earned enough for our family holidays for a few years. Translating is great – a bit like editing/writing rolled into one without having to think up the plot yourself. Again, I’d never have got the diploma if the children hadn’t been predictable babies who kindly slept while I did the assignments.

~

There’s a lot of fast forwarding to do now. Career highpoints of the next few decades? I enjoyed visiting different schools to assess (with interpreters) bilingual children who were struggling for one reason or another – saw lots of age groups, situations, individuals – all human life was there! Refugee children, children with disabilities that had never been diagnosed, perfectly ok children who were just taking the developmental time they needed to start using another language but it didn’t fit with the exam schedules. Then the funding for that was withdrawn.

Later, it was hard work but fascinating entering the school advisory service to set up language teaching in primary schools. I made some great new friends and rediscovered my own love of learning languages. Then that funding was withdrawn. Back into school teaching I went, armed with lots of new methods and expertise and proud co-author of a textbook.

~

My own children were now adults and I found I wasn’t so well in tune with what makes young children tick. The primary curriculum too had become as dull for the teachers as the government seemed to be trying to make it for the pupils. My heart wasn’t in it any more. I had become more interested in what made adults tick, especially slightly odd ones, which inspired my first novel, The Infinity Pool. It did surprisingly well for self-published literary fiction. I had a number one in Australia, overtaking The Girl on a Train in the charts for over a week. I was amazed how long it took to market it and spread the word, though. No time for teaching, so I took early retirement, and following an amazing holiday of a lifetime in Japan, got down to novel number two, The Magic Carpet, which has just been published. This is not for children, but it is about them, and without my teaching career would never have been written. As a teacher, I think I learned at least as much as I ever taught.

~

All the while, I’ve been singing, in choirs, bring-and-sing days, workshops, holidays and with anyone who’ll accept my thin high soprano and slightly slow learning. There’s always someone with a richer, better voice, which stops me getting prima donna airs. I cannot recommend singing highly enough, whatever standard you are (or think you are), Rock Choir to Oratorio. It’s about breathing, muscle work, discipline, mindfulness, teamwork, concentration, self-expression and release. Though sheer good luck, I’ve sung at the Festival Hall, on Radio 3 and at the opening ceremony for the 2012 London Paralympics. Singing has made me lifelong friends and it’s how I met my partner. When we’re feeling flush, we also love to watch others at the opera – do go, it’s neither as expensive nor as elitist as you may think.

At La Scala

Jessica at La Scala Opera House

~

I’ve finished the first draft of novel number three, which is – why not? – about adults and children. Surprising how few novels are, when you stop and think about it. So many stories for adults ignore anyone under eighteen completely, as if we all sprang into the world at voting age.

Study view

The view from Jessica’s study in Malvern, Worcestershire

So that’s my 50s – three novels started, two finished. Two children sent out into the world. I’ve just stepped over the hump into 60 (no snow this birthday) which has started well – my partner has moved to Malvern, Worcs where this is the view from my study! And started badly – I won’t be seeing the view much longer without a trabeculectomy at Moorfields eye hospital this August. So it looks like I’m back where I started, with the NHS in considerably straitened circumstances but still doing its best. From the cradle – well let’s hope not to the grave, just yet. There’s still that third novel to finish!

Thank you for having me on your blog, Tracey, it’s been interesting to find the shape in my life through doing this piece of writing. Hope it’s of some interest to your readers too.

Tracey: I’ve enjoyed reading your story, Jessica. Thank you for telling it to us. Find out more about Jessica from the links below, and take a look at her books…

The Magic Carpet

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The Magic Carpet

BUY HERE

Blurb:
Outer London, September 2016, and neighbouring eight-year-olds have homework: prepare a traditional story to perform with their families at a school festival. But Nathan’s father thinks his son would be better off doing sums; Sky’s mother’s enthusiasm is as fleeting as her bank balance, and there’s a threatening shadow hanging over poor Alka’s family. Only Mandeep’s fragile grandmother and new girl Xoriyo really understand the magical powers of storytelling. As national events and individual challenges jostle for the adults’ attention, can these two bring everyone together to ensure the show will go on?

BUY The Magic Carpet

Other links:

 

Jessica’s blog

Jessica’s Facebook page

Jessica on Twitter

 

IP paperback

The Infinity Pool

BUY The Infinity Pool

Blurb: In this thoughtful novel set on a sun-baked island, Adrian Hartman, the charismatic director of the Serendipity holiday community, is responsible for ensuring the perfect mindful break, with personal growth and inner peace guaranteed. People return year after year to bare their souls. For some, Adrian IS Serendipity. 

But Adrian disappears, and with him goes the serenity of his staff and guests, who are bewildered without their leader. The hostility of the local villagers is beginning to boil over. Is their anger justified or are the visitors, each in a different way, just paranoid?

As romance turns sour and conflict threatens the stability of both communities, everyone has to find their own way to survive. This evocative story explores the decisions of adults who still need to come of age, the effect of well-intentioned tourism on a traditional community, and the real meaning of getting away from it all.

ANNA SHENTON: What I Did at 50

Anna Shenton

Anna Shenton

I’m really pleased to be welcoming Anna Shenton onto my blog today, as part of my What I did at 50 series. Anna is the lovely lady who set up a friendly Writers, Authors and Readers group and is always happy to promote and encourage the efforts of others. Read her story below…

I’m delighted to be here Tracey, (I think). I’m quite a private person, believe it or not, hope I don’t spill too many beans! Thank you for inviting me to your wonderful blog. I will focus shortly on the – say it quick – Fifty’s decade. Something I thought I would never divulge, so you are one special kind of lady.

Tracey: Thank you, Anna! Now over to you.

~

Born in Staffordshire, I experienced an interesting upbringing by my English father, and German mother. My two elder siblings and a surprise half-brother from Germany (twenty-six years later) completed the family.

Ingo, four years old, wasn’t allowed to leave Germany, his father cut off all ties with my distraught mother. Twenty-six years later came a letter.

Dear Martha, I hope this isn’t too much a shock for you, but I am Ingo, your son!!!  My father died and now I have found your address. Please can I telephone you?

Later, we gathered round the telephone, my mother’s German language rolled off her tongue. Excitement, tears, and laughter followed. A date was arranged for the great reunion. Ten days before it, Martha, our mother, suffered a life-taking heart attack.

Their meeting wasn’t to be.

Eventually, I met my brother. The likeness to his mother was uncanny. It was a wonderful moment in my life.

~

My first marriage lasted thirteen years. My two wonderful sons were there for me.

I took a year out from men – until I was blue-lighted by a patrol car!

“You were speeding, madam!” said the tall, handsome copper peering down at me.

“Sorry Officer, I’m late for work.” He looked into my brown eyes and smiled.

“I’ll let you off, on one condition!”

        “Uuum,” I tutted.

“You’ll come out for a drink!!”

Two years later, we married. Secretly. No kids, no guests, just two friends, shocked when we asked them to be witnesses in an hours’ time.

Sixteen happy years followed, but believe me, step-parenting isn’t easy.

~

When I turned fifty, we had a big bash. My Sister, Ilona, my two sons, four stepsons and all their partners joined in the celebrations. I could still get my little black number on!  

I wrote a poem, mentioning each family member, cringing in their seats as I read out their name. Starting with Ilona, lady lorry driver. The sister who said it how it was when we were kids. (“Your hair looks messy, that dress is too short, makes you look fat!”) We would laugh about it now.

Tonight, it’s my party. Revenge was hanging on the tip of my tongue as I read. “Now to my sister, Ilona,” all heads turned to face her, cropped red hair and smiling face.

 “You are the most… kindest sister I could wish for, You gave me love and so much more, No money, no man, no car to drive, But you were the one to help me survive.”  I blew out the fifty candles and held my head up high.  

~

And so, for the delight of being in my fifties.

 

Anna aged 55, with her granddaughter, who is now 10!

My husband, now on the crime squad, worked long hours, flying around on an unmarked police bike in his hot leathers. It gave me time to plough into a home study course with the Writing School of London. Getting published on Star Letter Pages and writing fillers for Women’s Commercial Magazines was encouraging. Articles were soon published too, in various magazines.

Poems didn’t go amiss either. Growin Owd – my pet poem – won World Book Day prize 2015 with Vind & Vag Publishing House, and, I loved writing short stories for writing group anthologies, where I used to be fund organiser.

Inspiration from life experiences, and reading other authors, helped me write Seduced by Mind Tricks, my debut novel, and create short stories.

~

I wanted to share my love for writing, with wanna-be-writer friends. My eBook/paperback Writing Spelled Out is devised and rewritten from my articles, to help budding authors. I then took on the challenge to write a Historical Mystery Romance and am currently working on book 2 for this two-part series.

During this time, I felt I needed to connect with other writer friends, it was a bit lonely slogging away on my own, so I created a group with a handful of people. Writers Authors and Readers – an online closed group – was now my passion. A layman in Facebook skills landed me with the group growing accidentally, but hey, it has turned out to be awesome with over 1k members.

~

Writing a novella appealed to me, as I sometimes like to read shorter stories that are fast-paced and straight into the story.

76 Silver Street

76 Silver Street by Anna Shelton

BUY HERE

76 Silver Street – Book Blurb
Although she had a roof over her head, Rosa Brown couldn’t abide Dan’s drunken coercive behaviour as his house-keeper anymore. Aunt Mildred’s call from her hospital-bed sends Rosa sneaking out of town, to take over her aunt’s rundown boarding house.
Met by Jack Howard on arrival, in Pemberton 1905, Rosa’s heart plummets when her eyes meet with the dingy filthy place and Jack’s dark devilish impudent manner, who thinks she’s mad and has no intention of helping to get the place up and running before it goes bust.
Rosa is shocked when faced with all the ruffians and commoners knocking on the door and struggles to keep Jack’s hands off her. Sprucing the place up and filling it with respectful paying guests, proves harder than expected. Now, filled with fear for her aunt and her own wellbeing, will Rosa ever find true love and be free from trouble?

You can find more details for 76 Silver Street on this link: 76 Silver Street

Also please visit my writing page to keep up to date. I would love to see you there: Anna’s writing page

It’s been a great pleasure to be a guest on your blog Tracey. Thank you so much! I also look forward to reading fellow authors’ posts too. It’s a funny old time of life to talk about. And a great refreshing idea!  But beware – don’t get done for speeding – you never know what might happen X

Sharon Booth: What I Did at 50

Tracey: I’m thrilled to welcome Sharon Booth onto my blog today, in a continuation of my ‘What I did at 50’ series. I’m enjoying these stories so much, and Sharon’s story is particularly moving and hopeful. Welcome, Sharon!

Me

Sharon Booth

 

Sharon: Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Tracey.

CHILDHOOD.

Well, I was the typical bookworm. I spent every spare moment I had reading. My favourite Christmas presents were always the Enid Blyton books that my parents bought for me without fail (usually a bundle of three – exciting times!) and I practically lived in the local library. My pocket money went on books, too. If I wasn’t buying novels, I was buying notebooks, because it had already occurred to me that it might be a good idea to start writing my own stories. I can’t tell you how many “Chapter Ones” I wrote, but I do know that I wasted a lot of paper!

I did reasonably well at school – but only excelled in English. I could have done much, much better in other subjects, but I was too busy daydreaming and only English held my attention. I was in a world of my own most of the time, but I came alive when I had to write a story or read a book.

I remember for one essay I had to state what I’d like to be when I left school. Among the rather strange choices of showjumper (I’d never even had a riding lesson!) and vicar’s wife (I mean, why?) I put author. Honestly, though, I had no expectations of any of those things happening. I may have got top marks for my English assignments, but becoming an author seemed to me about as realistic as my chances of becoming an Olympic showjumper. Nil. Authors were otherworldly creatures like Enid Blyton, who floated around big, country houses like Green Hedges. It was a different world.

me aged from around 10 to 18

Sharon aged between 10 and 18

 

MY TWENTIES AND THIRTIES

My passion for writing deserted me when I got married. We had five children and I suffered from post-natal depression. For several years I was self-harming. When I finally confessed to a GP, he told me angrily that I didn’t deserve children then gave me a tetanus injection with alarming ferocity. Funnily enough, that attitude didn’t help.  

On antidepressants, I suffered from social anxiety and rarely left the house. At one point I couldn’t even go into my own garden. My mental health was spiralling downwards, and I was a mass of insecurities and anxieties. My dad died, which just about broke me. He was only fifty-five. Meanwhile, my husband was acting as if he didn’t have a wife or children at all. I suppose he was living the life a man of that age should have been living, but it felt like I was shouldering all the responsibilities and growing old before my time. 

We got divorced, but our estrangement was no more successful than our marriage and we married for a second time. Nothing had changed, and we grew further and further apart. Another divorce followed and I sought refuge – as I had when a shy and “overly-sensitive” child – in books. Tentatively, I took a short course for women who had, like me, been at home with children for many years. It was designed to give us confidence to look for work. We were taught how to use a computer and given careers advice. I confessed that I’d quite like to be a primary school teacher. I was told I was being unrealistic and maybe should look for something less ambitious. My tutor was furious when she heard and, when I left the course, she sent me a message saying, “I think you will go far. Aim high!”   

MY FORTIES

Reunited with my husband and remarried – yes, for the THIRD time! – I knew I had to do something to change my life and break this self-destructive pattern. I wanted to “aim high” but how? I needed something that made me believe I had something to offer, that I wasn’t a complete waste of space.

wedding

Third wedding – to the same man!

 

I enrolled for a degree in literature with the Open University and it honestly changed my life. I loved learning and being introduced to so many works that I probably wouldn’t have read in other circumstances – Shakespeare and Flaubert and George Eliot, for example.

One of the modules I did for my degree was in creative writing. My tutor suggested I submit one of my short stories to a magazine, so I sent it off to The People’s Friend. It was returned with a polite rejection slip. I was crushed and, convinced I had no writing ability, I threw the story away and decided to concentrate on finishing my degree instead. After six years of hard work, I graduated with Upper Second-class Honours. I was forty-six.

While doing my degree, I’d also enrolled at a local college and studied for an AMSPAR diploma in medical reception – something I’d never have been able to do if my OU work hadn’t boosted my confidence – and got a job as a receptionist at a local GP practice. That job altered me beyond all recognition. Meeting new people, learning new skills, being part of a team, making friends, it was a whole new world and I loved it. My colleagues and I shared confidences, moaned together, and laughed together. For the first time in years I felt “normal” again.

Three years after starting the job, and two years after finishing my degree, I was on my way to Somerset for a holiday, when three characters popped into my head out of nowhere. I hadn’t done any creative writing since the OU module, so it was a bit of a surprise. Arriving in Somerset, I grabbed a notebook and pen and began to scribble down details about the characters. They would eventually become Joe, Lexi and Will in my Kearton Bay series.

I knew little about writing a novel, so I bought loads of “How-To” books and started to study them. Determined that this story wouldn’t go the way of the endless “Chapter Ones” of my childhood, I enrolled for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) to ensure that I persevered. Throughout October 2011 I plotted the outline of the story and on November 1st I began writing. By December 1st I’d written 120,000 words and the first draft was finished.

Over the next two-and-a-half years I rewrote the book, endlessly redrafting as I learned more about writing. I did a fiction writing course with Writing Magazine and joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. I submitted what was then called Angel in the Marble for a critique and, thankfully, got hugely positive and constructive feedback.

MY FIFTIES

The Write Romantics

The Write Romantics

Through the NWS I met Alys West and Jessica Redland, and was introduced to their blogging group, The Write Romantics. I was invited to contribute a short story to a charity anthology they were putting together, called Winter Tales. By November 2014 I was a published author at last – my short story was in print! I was then invited to join The Write Romantics and I’m so glad because, quite honestly, they’ve been my lifeline. After feeling so isolated and alone for so many years, to have nine new friends to share this writing adventure with was just incredible. I love those women!

The following March, at the age of fifty-one, I indie published what was had become There Must Be an Angel.

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Sharon’s first novel, There Must Be an Angel

 

Since then, I’ve published a further thirteen novels. I’ve written two pocket novels for The People’s Friend and – drumroll please – had a short story appear in their magazine! What a sweet moment that was after my early rejection. I’ve had four large-print novels published by Ulverscroft, and a fifth one is due for publication in December. I’ve also had two audio books produced by WF Howes.  

people's friend

At last, a story published in The People’s Friend!

 

Last year, I was able to leave my day job at the medical centre and become a full-time writer – a whole new chapter in my life.

I write contemporary romance, with plenty of humour sprinkled in. It was only finding the funny side of life that kept me going sometimes, and I’ve had enough darkness to last a lifetime. I like to write humorous, positive stories. Yes, my characters deal with all sorts of issues and problems, but I always pepper their lives with laughter, and reward them with a happy ending. I find writing quite therapeutic, as I resolve problems for my heroines that I perhaps couldn’t resolve in my own life. It’s rather satisfying!

Now my children are all grown-up, some with children of their own, and my third marriage is about to enter its sixteenth year. After all the rough seas, it seems we’re now sailing on calmer waters. This month, I celebrated my fifty-sixth birthday and I can’t help thinking I have so much still to learn, so much to explore, and so much still to enjoy. Bring it on!

My latest book is My Favourite Witch. BUY My Favourite Witch HERE

MY FAVOURITE WITCH_FRONT_RGB150dpi

Sharon’s latest book, My Favourite Witch

BUY HERE

MY FAVOURITE WITCH

The world is full of magic, if you know where to look.

Blurb: It hasn’t been an easy time for Star St Clair. Her father has heaped disgrace on the family, and the man she loves rejected her when he discovered the truth about her powers. But the St Clair family’s magical heritage goes back centuries, and no one could be prouder of that than Star. Neither her father, nor Benedict Greenwood, will be forgiven.

Fate, however, has a shock in store for her. Not only is her errant father back in town, along with his new fiancée, but her ex has arrived home with a new girlfriend in tow. Maths teacher Elsie is everything Benedict seems to want – bright, steady, normal. How can Star possibly compete with her? Not that she intends to, of course. She is a St Clair, after all, and Benedict won’t get a second chance.

Benedict is an anxious man. Bad enough to discover your girlfriend is, in fact, a witch, but running out on her was probably a big mistake. Who knows what she’s plotting in revenge? Taking Elsie home to meet his grandmother is a test of nerve, and Star’s behaviour doesn’t exactly bring him peace of mind. Just what is she up to?

Star couldn’t be sweeter to Elsie, and even presents her with a bouquet of flowers to welcome her to Castle Clair, but Benedict isn’t fooled. Star is plotting something, and when Elsie suffers from a mysterious ailment, he is convinced that it’s all down to his ex-girlfriend. After all, everyone knows witches can’t be trusted.

But events are about to unfold that will challenge both Star and Benedict, and everything they believe to be true. In an attic room in North Yorkshire and a village hall in Ireland, unpalatable truths must be told, secrets must unfold, and life-changing decisions must be made.

Is forgiveness truly impossible? Are witches really that scary? And can a solution be reached before time, patience, and all the bourbon biscuits run out?

A story of pride, prejudice, and a whole lot of magic …

 

Buy My Favourite Witch HERE

Connect with Sharon on her website at: www.sharonboothwriter.com

Find her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/sharonbooth.writer

And on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Sharon_Booth1

 

TRACEY SCOTT-TOWNSEND: What I did at 50

I’m delighted to welcome Myself onto my blog today, as part of my ‘What I did at 50’ series. This is the final post in the first blitz, but there are plenty more posts to come after the 24th of June, so stay tuned! 

birthday 54 Tracey

Tracey Scott-Townsend

I was a late-starter. From the age of ten I wanted to be a writer, but I think my ‘voice’ started to emerge in my late teens. I was drawn to otherness, and in retrospect I suspect my own, lifetime-experienced otherness has its roots in Autism. It’s probably too late (and too expensive) to have that confirmed now. Aged fifteen, I remember being asked by some school visitors (inspectors or governors, maybe) why it was that I sat on my own in my form room (facing a window, with my back to the rest of the class).
I wrote characters who didn’t fit in, who struggled out of oppression in some form. George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty-Four affected me deeply at O’ Level.

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Me at 16

I left home the summer before I was eighteen, lodging briefly on my older sister’s floor. We both worked in a nightclub, although I still had a further year of my A’ Levels. I stayed no more than a few months in any flat or bedsit, soon moving on to another. But I remember each location, and can picture myself in the different surroundings during the nights I sat up reading and writing: poems and attempted-novels. As in the way I never stayed in any accommodation long, I quickly moved on to the next novel that I wanted to write. However, there was one character I wrote who endured through my every attempt at a novel. She was anorexic Marianne Fairchild, who eventually took full form in my first published book. Her name was inspired by that of the character Marianne in Sense and Sensibility, which I remember sitting reading in my wooden armchair throughout one night at a flat I lived in when I was eighteen.

~

Aged twenty, I dropped out of my Sociology and Social Anthropology degree at Hull University. I told my personal tutor it was because I wanted to write a book. But that book never progressed any further than the ones before it. My boyfriend dropped out of university too, to try and pursue his music career. But we were both lethargic. Before long, and in a doomed relationship, I had become pregnant. I knew she would be a girl.

By the summer of 1984 we had moved into a communal house in Kilnsea, on the banks of the Humber Estuary. The location of mudflats and seascape imprinted itself in me deeply, and it’s the setting for three of my novels: The Last Time We Saw Marion, Of His Bones and The Eliza Doll.

My three novels set in Kilnsea, East Yorkshire

 

I lost my baby at six months, another experience that has permeated my writing. During the time I lived at Kilnsea, I completed my first novel, handwritten over two thick notebooks. I think it was something that just needed to be written and I never took it any further. After we moved back into Hull, I began studying for a degree in Visual studies. My relationship broke down and, living alone again, I stayed up late into the nights writing, after I had finished my artwork for the day. Aged twenty-six, I completed the first draft of what eventually became my first novel, The Last Time We Saw Marion, as well as a short story that eventually became my second published novel, Another Rebecca. But the two stories were to lay dormant for more than twenty years.

~

I graduated from my art degree while pregnant with my first son. I got married the same summer, and went on to have two more sons and a daughter. I worked as an artist, exhibiting and teaching workshops, but I continued to think of myself as a writer. When my daughter was one and I was thirty-seven, my marriage broke down. I moved back to Lincolnshire with my children.

merged highdyke play

My Children

 

I continued teaching art workshops, and went on to do a fine art MA. But I still thought of myself as a writer. Every now and then, over the years, I brought out the draft of the full-length novel I had written, and did some re-writing. But my time was filled with single-parenthood, making art for exhibitions, and the temporary teaching job I was offered at a secondary school in the wake of my MA, (initially supposed to be six weeks!) The job lasted two and a half years, by which time I had met up with a former school-friend who had also become a single parent. Phil and I married when we were both almost forty-seven and we lived in a tall house overlooking the South Common in Lincoln, where we tackled becoming a step-family.

~

When my school teaching job finally came to an end, I was able to write full-time. I used the lesson-planning discipline I had learned as a teacher to fully apply myself to writing this time around.

I was offered a publishing contract for The Last Time We Saw Marion when I was fifty years old. The book was published by Inspired Quill the following year, when I was fifty-one.

~

In the almost-decade since I married Phil, I’ve developed a close relationship with mortality. I’ve lost two sisters, my father, and several friends. It makes me achingly aware of how brief a touchdown we have on this earth. Phil and I are making the most of our life together. He took early retirement from his long-term job when we were fifty-five, and we started our own publishing company, Wild Pressed Books. We regained the rights to my second novel Another Rebecca.

another rebecca

Another Rebecca (second edition)

 

We have also published my books The Eliza Doll and Sea Babies, as well as several novels and poetry collections by other writers. We’ve just signed up our ninth author!

Northern Publishers2

Wild Pressed Books at the Northern Publishers’ Fair

 

The other massive lifestyle change we’ve undertaken is to do as much travelling as we can in our camper van. It started when we were a family of eight. We decided to buy a second-hand minibus – a huge, old LDV Pageant — and it immediately suggested itself to me as a home on wheels! It was at the age of fifty that Phil and I began venturing further afield than the outreaches of Yorkshire. We’ve explored most of Scotland, returning to the Outer Hebrides several times, and it’s where my fifth novel, Sea Babies is set.

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Ardroil, Uig, Isle of Lewis – setting for Sea Babies

 

We’ve also been to Ireland and to Germany, via Holland and Belgium (for my son’s wedding). Later this year we’ll be driving to Portugal.

Driving in Germany

 

At the age of fifty-six, Phil and I, together with my son and daughter-in-law, have bought our very own property in Portugal – a rustic two-roomed house with two-and-a-half acres of land on which grow olive trees, sweet chestnut trees and cork-oak. We’re currently in the process of buying a second building and extra land to accommodate the four of us.

our house in Portugal

Our future home in Portugal

 

The future feels vivid, and you can expect novels set in Portugal from me from now on!

My latest novel is Sea Babies…

SEA BABIES buy link

Sea Babies front Cover with quotes

Blurb:

Lauren Wilson is travelling by ferry to the Outer Hebrides, about to begin a new job as a social worker with the Islands’ youth. She’s also struggling to come to terms with a catastrophic event. When somebody sits opposite her at the cafeteria table, she refuses to look up, annoyed at having her privacy disturbed. But a hand is pushing a mug of tea towards her, and a livid scar on the back of the hand releases a flood of memories…                     

Some people believe in the existence of a parallel universe. Does Lauren have a retrospective choice about the outcome of her terrible recent accident, or is it the bearer of that much older scar who has the power to decide what happens to her life now? 

Set mainly in the Outer Hebrides and Edinburgh from the 1980s to the present, Sea Babies is a potent, emotional psychological drama that explores the harder aspects of relationships, as well as the idea of choice, responsibility and the refugee in all of us.

Sea Babies: BUY HERE

My Author page on Facebook

Connect with me on Twitter

This is the end of the first blitz of ‘What I Did at 50’ posts. Service will resume in late June, with a new series from writers, bloggers and others.

RICHARD SAVIN: What I did at 50…

Tracey: It’s my pleasure to introduce Richard Savin today, with his take on how to surf the decades with panache — post two in my series about making life-changes at the age of 50 (as well as before and after!) Read all about Richard’s adventurous and ever-fluctuating lifestyle and enjoy. Welcome, Richard.

The author - Book launch party

Richard: Thank you. I know a lot of people see 50 as some kind of watershed and make a change in their lives.

Mine has been a little different because I have changed direction and pursuits about once every decade; which I strongly recommend as a life style. I started out working in the City of London, training to be an actuary – and I hated it. I decided then to give myself 10 years out, just doing what took my attention. In that time I travelled a lot, doing all sorts of things: window cleaning, gardening, hearse driver (in Australia) freelance journalist, , motorcycle courier, tyre fitter working on earth movers in a quarry just outside of Perth in West Australia; then there was my passion for motor sport. I had been driving in club competition with a little formula junior I owned and occasionally an outing with a friend’s 1936 Ulster TT Aston Martin – my home circuit was Brands Hatch in Kent. Then in 1963 I had the chance to drive for Ford on a record run publicity stunt for the launch of their new Cortina model. London to Istanbul, non-stop with two co-drivers. We made it in 52 hours 23 minutes and a few odd seconds. The record still stands unbroken to this day.

Cortina 1200 - on loan from Ford

Cortina 1200 – on loan from Ford

 

Formula junior - Brands HatchFormula Junior – Brands Hatch

My second ten years was in journalism. I started out writing for motoring magazines then joined a press agency, operating in Asia: Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Most of my ten years was spent between Islamabad and Calcutta. At the end of my time I wrote my first book (non-fiction) about my experiences in Iran during the run up to the revolution. This was commissioned and published by Canongate in 1980. I am about to launch a non-fiction book about the journey I made overland by car to take up my new job in Calcutta.

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For my third ten years I built and ran three London restaurants under the name of La Petite Auberge de Saint-Savin (chefing my lead one). My lead restaurant was a popular haunt for politicians and journalists in the late 80s and received applause from the press including the late greats, Jonathon Meades and Fay Maschler. My clients included Terry Jones of Monty Python, Peter Mandelson, Roy Hattersley, television’s John Snow, Lord King, then CEO of British Airways, the Governor of the Bank of England, Robin Lee Pemberton and numerous TV personalities. Cooking has always been a passion throughout my life. My wife is not allowed in the kitchen.

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For my fourth ten years I became an artist: painting, sculpture and ceramics and a spot of radio journalism for BBC South. I had four satisfactory exhibitions, and several critiques in the national press (including a double page spread in the Independent).

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For my fifth ten years I invested in and became CEO for a group of construction and engineering companies based in London and the south east. In that time I led the team that facilitated and project managed the joint millennium funding for the Portsmouth Spinnaker Tower. This was a period when I felt the need to money as I was then in my seventies and was indulging my passion for classic cars.

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  A passion for Classic cars

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For my sixth ten year change I have returned to writing. This time it is fiction and I have become a novelist. I have three books in the market, a fourth due out at the end of June (though this is autobiographical) and a fifth due to launch in September; with two more on the blocks as WIP.

My most popular novel is The Girl in the Baker’s Van which sold well from the day of its launch in August 2018. The Girl in the Baker’s Van: BUY HERE

I am not sure what my next change will be. I enjoy monstrously good health, love to drive long distances (often do the 1600 kilometre drive from our house in France to our apartment in England in a one day hit), love walking, swimming, motorcycling – and sometimes climbing trees. I enjoy cooking (I do all the meals in our household and also love to cook for a crowd), good wine and jawing.

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The Girl in the Baker’s Van

Book Blurb: Evangeline Pfeiffer has a stolen secret. There are those who will kill her to get it back.

Ever since the German occupation, Evangeline Pfeiffer has worked at the bakery in the small French town of Turckheim. Each morning, with Alain her brother, she helps make the bread and pastries for Joseph, the baker. It is a life of routine and order.
But when Alain is arrested by the Gestapo, her life is turned upside down. Unwittingly, she becomes an accomplice in the murder of Nazi agent Ludwig Kraus. Thrown together with the killer, a Polish spy, Kasha, her only hope is to escape to Spain. Taking the baker’s van she and Kasha drive south. She has burnt her bridges – there is no going back. She is on the run – but the spy running with her is not all he seems.

Behind them as they twist and turn across Occupied France, their pursuers are closing in: the Gestapo, the German spy catchers (Sicherheitsdienst) and, most terrifying of all, the ruthless French secret police, La Carlingue. If they catch her she knows she will be violated then executed.

In the city of Dijon Kasha is captured. On her own, her chances of escape fading she flees south, the net tightening around her. Then in Lyon she meets Grainger, a British SOE agent – he could be the game changer. If she can persuade him to help her, this could be her ticket out. Grainger is reluctant, he has his own mission, he can’t afford passengers – but she’s sticking to him. She’s not about to let go…

 

You can connect with Richard on Twitter: @rsavin_author

 

Why I Love Yorkshire: Guest post by Sharon Booth

I’m happy to welcome author Sharon Booth onto my website today. She tells us all about why Yorkshire is so important in her life, and why it inevitably found its way into all of her novels. Make yourself a cup of Yorkshire tea and sit back and enjoy a taste of Yorkshire, with Sharon.

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Sharon Booth

All my novels are set in Yorkshire. It wasn’t meant to be that way. When I was writing my first full-length novel, There Must Be an Angel, I had originally intended to set it in Glastonbury. It was on a journey to Somerset, after all, that the first three characters popped into my head, and it was while wandering the streets of the mystical town that I began to plot out their stories.

Somehow, though, as the months went on, I began to feel that my characters just weren’t settled in the location I had placed them. I could hear their voices so clearly, and there was no doubting it. They were speaking to me with Yorkshire accents.

It seems unthinkable to me now that Eliza, Rose, Lexi and Rhiannon could live anywhere but Kearton Bay – a former fishing and smuggling village on the North Yorkshire coast that strongly resembles Robin Hood’s Bay. Kearton Bay’s streets are peopled with men and women I know, and voices I recognise.

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Whitby

I suppose the truth is, having lived in Yorkshire all my life, the county is in my blood and bones, as well as my heart. I love its varied landscape, from the picturesque Dales to the wild North York Moors, from the flat plains of Holderness with its crumbling cliffs and huge skies, to the pretty, and much underrated, Wolds.

But it’s the people, too. There is something about Yorkshire folk that intrigues and delights me. They can be “mardy” and annoying, not to mention stubborn as mules, but there’s a warmth and familiarity about them. I love to travel to different parts of the UK, and I’m making it my mission to see as much of this beautiful country as I can, but there’s no place like home for me. I remember once, on our way home from Scotland, we travelled back on a hot, sunny day and pulled over to check the map, unsure we were going in the right direction. Almost immediately, we were approached by a young woman with a couple of small children beside her. “You all right, love?” she asked. “Need any help?” We looked at each other and had the broadest smiles on our faces. We were back in Yorkshire, and all was well with the world.

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Knaresbrorough

When I was a child, my parents didn’t have a car and they didn’t have much money either. Holidays, therefore, were spent locally on the Yorkshire coast. We usually stayed in caravans or chalets. Sometimes, if money was particularly tight, we’d travel no more than twenty miles to stay on the Holderness coast. Mostly, though, we headed to Primrose Valley near Filey, staying in beautiful caravans. My nanna and grandad and auntie and uncle would be in a bungalow across the road, and various other great aunts and uncles, cousins and half cousins would be dotted around the village. We’d meet up every day to have picnics on the beach, paddle in the sea, go roller-skating or on the swing boats. Evenings would be spent walking along the sands to Filey, where we’d buy fish and chips for tea, then head back to a little pub, where the adults would disappear into the grownups’ bar for an hour, and us kids would sit in a little room, eating peanuts and crisps and drinking cola.

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Scarborough

They were very simple, basic holidays, but the memory of those days on the Yorkshire coast stayed with me. As an adult, whenever things got too much for me, when “real life” overwhelmed me and I needed to recharge my batteries, I would jump on a bus or train and head up to Filey or Scarborough for the day, to breathe in the sea air, watch the waves lapping on the sands, gaze up at those huge skies, and realise that, whatever was bringing me down, this too would pass. There’s nothing like being by the sea to put things in perspective. One memorable year, we spent our holiday in Whitby. I had my fifteenth birthday there, and I decided I had never been to a more beautiful area in my life. We visited Robin Hood’s Bay for the first time, and I never forgot that experience. I had no idea how important that little place would become to me.

I’d always wanted to visit the Yorkshire Dales, but – unbelievably – I was in my thirties before I finally went there. I fell in love with the area immediately, and these days we visit frequently, sometimes just for the day, other times for a week. Researching my family tree, I was delighted to discover a whole branch of my family came from Swaledale, and it made me feel even more connected to the area. I had to set one of my books there, and although I changed Swaledale to Skimmerdale, This Other Eden is a love letter to the home of my ancestors. It’s been a real pleasure, recently, to work on the follow-up, which I’m hoping will be published in September.

When I was at school, we went on a trip one day to Helmsley Castle and Rievaulx Abbey. I was captivated by these historic sites, and by the beauty of the surrounding area.  Years later, Helmsley would become Helmston, a market town featured in most of my books, and Rievaulx Abbey would be the inspiration for the ruined abbey at Kirkby Skimmer in This Other Eden.

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Whitby Abbey

We are so fortunate to have so many ancient buildings in Yorkshire. Scarborough Castle has also featured in one of my books, as has Burton Agnes Hall in East Yorkshire, which became Kearton Hall in Once Upon a Long Ago.  I’ve already tucked Knaresborough, with its glorious castle, into my file for a future series. The pretty villages dotted around the North York Moors inspired me when I created my Bramblewick series, and I have plans to write another series set in the Yorkshire Wolds. How could I not? They may not get as much attention as the Dales or Moors, but they are stunning, with some of the prettiest villages you’re ever likely to see.

When I was writing my Moorland Heroes series, I headed to an unfamiliar part of Yorkshire – the West Riding. I was writing about a modern-day Mr Rochester, so obviously I wanted to visit the Brontë Parsonage in Haworth! The Brontës are probably the most famous of Yorkshire’s writers, and like millions of other people, I love their work – particularly Jane Eyre. It’s not difficult, in the area surrounding Haworth, to imagine the brooding Mr Rochester riding his horse across the moors, or see Cathy and Heathcliff in each other’s arms beneath a glowering sky.

Wherever you go in Yorkshire, you can find inspiration, and many writers have done just that. From the gothic horror of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, washing up on the shores of Whitby, to the cobbled streets of Victorian Hull in Valerie Wood’s fabulous historical novels; from the wide open spaces of Holderness in Winifred Holtby’s South Riding, to The Secret Garden of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s North Yorkshire; from the dramatic moors of Brontë country, to the rolling hills and glorious dales of James Herriot country, Yorkshire’s varied landscape has lent itself to a massively diverse range of literary works.

Will I ever set a novel outside of Yorkshire? Never say never, of course, but for now I still have so much of God’s own county to explore, so much inspiration to draw upon, that I don’t feel the need to look elsewhere. I’m Yorkshire born and bred, and I wear my white rose with pride!

Heartwarming love stories set in beautiful Yorkshire

You can find out more about Sharon by visiting her website at www.sharonboothwriter.com

Follow her on Amazon: bit.ly/sharonboothpageUK or bit.ly/sharonboothpageUS.

You can find Sharon on Facebook: www.facebook.com/sharonboothwriter, or Twitter as @Sharon_Booth1.

Sharon Booth writes heartwarming love stories set in beautiful Yorkshire locations.

She wrote her first book when she was ten. It was about a boarding school that specialised in ballet and, given that she’d never been to boarding school and hadn’t a clue about ballet, it’s probably a good thing that no copy of this masterpiece survives.

She is the author of ten novels with Fabrian Books and has also written for DC Thomson and Ulverscroft. Her short story, The Other Side of Christmas, was included in the Winter Tales anthology – a collection of seasonal stories by popular writers, in aid of The Cystic Fibrosis Trust and The Teenage Cancer Trust.

Sharon lives in East Yorkshire, with her husband and their dog. She is one tenth of The Write Romantics, and a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. 

She has a love/hate relationship with chocolate, is a devoted Whovian, and prone to all-consuming crushes on fictional heroes. If forced to choose her favourite fictional hero, however, she would probably say Paddington Bear.

 

Another Rebecca News!

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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.

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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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