There are, of course, simple serendipities and coincidences – they happen all over the place and at any time. And then there are those extraordinary ones which defy belief. Like the time Mr and Mrs Smythe went, on a whim, to Brazil, and the couple from No. 34 were staying in the same hotel!! And they hadn’t seen them for months…
Naturally, occurrences can either bode well or not for the people involved. Stray from the path, and you could find your ‘blind date’ is actually your wife or husband, as the case may be. Whoops!
“What people call serendipity sometimes is just having your eyes open.”
— Jose Manuel Barroso
I came across the most serious ‘coincidence’ I had ever encountered, while collating facts for my only novel The Catalyst. The book is based on the actual terrorist bombings of several London trains and a bus in 2005, the aftermath and a few fictitious survivors’ stories and fate. Because of the actual dead and injured, the subject was too delicate to write about at the time, and it was several years before I actually wrote the story and had it published.
The Foreword to my tale reads as follows:
“It’s hard to believe in coincidence, but it’s even harder to believe in anything else.”
— John Green (Will Grayson, Will Grayson)
THAT FAR-REACHING ARM Coincidence, which seems to weave its disembodied way through all manner of innocent and drama-filled occurrences and ‘incidents,’ again came to the fore on the 7th day of July in 2005.
Press reports at the time claimed an anti-terror drill was organized and carried out that same day on behalf of the Metropolitan Police, by Peter Power, a former high-ranking policeman and Managing Director of Visor Consultants. Known to only a handful of people, a fictional ‘scenario’ of multiple bomb attacks on London’s underground was, incredibly, being played out just after the time the actual bomb attacks took place, stretching the meaning of coincidence to its utmost limit.
The coincidence of the innocent and the truly dreadful events carried out on that day, was said to be ‘Disconcerting’… but apart from information given to accredited journalists and academics, no further comments were forthcoming from Peter Power because of ‘The Extraordinary number of messages from ill-informed people.’ (Reported on 13th July.)
The news reports fanned the flames of conspiracy theories and high-level cover-ups, so familiar to us today in the aftermath of any major incident or attack.
The press also reported that the former Mayor of New York: Rudolph Giuliani was visiting London at the time of the attacks. He was staying at The Great Eastern Hotel (close to Liverpool Street station ) where TASE: The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, was hosting its Economic Conference. Israel’s Finance Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was the keynote speaker. Presumably this was intended as further fuel for the fire of mysterious and sinister goings-on. Newspaper editors and their owners are, for the most part, not usually shy of publishing rumours, gossip or outright falsehoods when it suits their needs.
But an investigation by journalists at UK’s Channel 4 newsfound the ‘anti-terror drill’, while certainly a coincidence, was in fact a purely theoretical exercise, and the terror attack scenario was one of 3 possible incidents being examined by a group of business executives. As Channel 4 and BreakForNews.com pointed out:
‘These types of private-sector “risk management” drills never use field staff. Neither do [such] low-level corporate drills have active involvement of police or other security forces.’
So, it seems the Press over-hyped the story, perhaps misled by initial statements. Or maybe they just decided to go with a more colourful interpretation of events. Peter Power himself dismissed it as ‘spooky coincidence’. And the chosen date? It was indeed coincidence — but an unbelievable one? ‘Every week across the UK there are probably about a hundred exercises, tests and simulations going on to get crisis teams familiar with their roles,’ Power insisted. ‘We certainly do this regularly for many clients, the vast majority of them paper-based.’
People love stories, and the idea of dark machinations and sinister plots involving spy agencies, government cover-ups and terrorists is the stuff of countless books, films and TV shows.
A good journalist will always try to dig a little deeper to uncover the facts. But not everyone wants to hear the truth, and many people will choose to believe whatever interpretation of events most closely fits with their existing world-view.
Shakespeare described man as: ‘noble in reason and infinite in faculties,’ but, sadly, we are often rather lacking when it comes to reasoning, and rarely in full possession of all those faculties.
The Catalyst is available from Amazon: Paperback $13.99 or Kindle 99 cents.
Today, I have great pleasure in interviewing someone very familiar with the writing craft. Not many of us can claim to have sold ONE MILLION BOOKS, but Beryl Kingston can. I can’t begin to imagine how that feels … Hugely proud and gratifying, I’m sure, and she must have worked so hard to have achieved that figure.
I’ll tell you more about Beryl later on, but first I’ve invited her to answer a few questions to give you some insight into what makes this amazing lady tick.
Hi Beryl, a warm welcome to the ‘writer’s hot seat.’ It’s great having you as my guest today. I promise it won’t be a bumpy ride!
Where were you born and what is your earliest memory?
To start at the beginning, I was born in Tooting in South London 88 years ago and my first memory is probably singing and dancing on a stage somewhere feeling completely happy with spotlights shining on my head and foot-lights warming my feet and people clapping and cheering in the darkness below me. I was probably about five.
Were your early years marked by an outstanding/unusual or particularly disturbing/amusing incident?
I’m afraid I can’t tell you amusing stories about my childhood because I was an abused child and spent most of my time in a state of twitchy anxiety and fear. The abuser was my mother who beat me with a cane from the time I was five, when my younger sister was born, until I was seventeen and finally took action to stop her. Not a pretty story. I wrote about it in some detail in ‘A Family at War’ so anyone who is interested can find it there. But there’s one fact that might interest other writers. In a roundabout way, being beaten made a writer of me. My mother enjoyed her brutality and was buoyed up by it, but she also had an image to protect, which meant that she had to take steps to ensure that her neighbours knew nothing about it. I had strict instructions to hide the marks she left on my legs and arms by wearing a thick cardigan and black stockings – she never hit my face, only my back, legs and arms. She used to say ‘Cover yourself up. You don’t want people to know what a wicked child you are.’ And I did as I was told because I agreed with her then and thought she was right. But I needed to talk about it and I needed it desperately. It didn’t seem right to me, that she could be so cruel and get away with it. And in the end I decided to keep a diary. I nicked and exercise book from school, kept it well hidden and wrote in it freely and honestly from the time I was seven and for the next twelve years until I married my darling. I never considered that anything I wrote or did could ever be any good or of any value. My mother made sure of that. She told me so often that I was a nasty wicked child, that I should never have been born, that I was useless and would never amount to a ‘row of beans’ and that my ‘dear little sister Pat’ would ‘make ten of me’. Naturally I believed her. So when I started to write poems and stories and plays I threw them away like the trash I thought they were.
Did evacuation in World War II have a lasting – good or bad – effect on you?
I don’t think being evacuated made a lot of difference to me. It was just something that happened. The London Blitz, on the other hand, was another matter altogether. That had a profound effect. My mother evacuated us all to Felpham on the day before war was declared, but having decided that we were going to make peace with Germany and that the Germans were going to fight the Russians, she brought us back to London in August 1940. We were just in time for me to watch the bombing of Croydon from the flat roof at the top of an apartment block, and, not long after that, the Blitz began. From then on we spent our nights in the cellar, listening to the ack-ack and the dreadful laboured droning of the German bombers, until November, when we were bombed out and she evacuated us again. But I was back in London in 1944 – on my own this time – so that I could attend the local Grammar School. And that meant I saw the terrible casualties and the widespread devastation that was caused by the doodle-bugs and Werner Braun’s obscene rockets. All of which I’ve written about in ‘London Pride’ and ‘Citizen Armies’ which is my latest book.
During your teaching years, did you nurture a growing desire to write?
It rather tickled me to be asked whether I ‘nurtured a growing desire to write during my teaching career’, because the question is so wonderfully inapplicable. I didn’t ‘nurture a desire’ to write, I just wrote and enjoyed it, even though I was still sure it wasn’t any good. It was as simple as that. Most of the time I wrote plays. I taught in a variety of schools and the bulk of my time was taken up with encouraging my pupils to enjoy learning, but whenever I found a drama club or a group of kids who wanted to act in a play, I wrote one for them. Very cumbersome things they were because anyone who wanted a part had to have one, so the casts were enormous – on several occasions over a hundred strong. It was great fun. The last five or six were musicals which I wrote in conjunction with a talented teacher from the music department. I learnt a lot from doing that.
What advice would I give to a young writer just starting out?
I don’t think I would give them any advice at all. We all have to discover our own writing methods and we are all different. I expect what a newbie would most like to know would be how to persuade one of the big publishers to take their manuscript and publish it and sell it in millions. But another writer can’t tell him/her that. What they need is a good agent. I can tell them how to set about looking for one but that’s the limit. I feel very sorry for newbies in these pushy times. There are thousands of wannabees out there all pushing their work as hard as they can and the competition must be soul destroying. I feel very fortunate to have had a Fairy Godmother around at the two big turning points of my life. One saw to it that the man I was going to marry should turn up on my doorstep at just the right time. The other arranged for an agent to be at the Frankfurt Book Fair and to pick up a rather esoteric book on the next stall on how to cope with period pain that had been published by Ebury and to be interested enough to read it. With his help and support – offered out of the blue and doggedly – I ended up having my first novel published by Century/Futura – no less – and became a best seller. But that’s the stuff of fairy tales. When I tell people the story I also tell them that when I’ve finished they’re at perfect liberty to chant, ‘Liar, liar, pants on fire’ because I don’t believe it either.
Separate from your writing, how would you like to be remembered?
I’m going to answer that with a – suitable when slightly adapted – quotation from Hilaire Belloc.
‘‘When I am dead,’’ he wrote, ‘‘I hope it may be said
His sins were scarlet, but his books were read.’’
More about Beryl and her books:
She was evacuated to a place called Felpham, during World War II, igniting an interest in poet William Blake, and went on to become a teacher until 1985 when she became a full-time writer.
Her debut novel “Gates of Paradise” was her 20th novel on Google Books. She admits to writing VERY BAD poems, aged seven but, hey, give a little girl a break! She redeemed herself when her first novel became an instant best seller years later. Beryl is an eclectic writer, publishing family sagas, modern stories and historical novels, including books about the first and second world wars. She reached the pinnacle of one million books with No. 12, and has also written plays for children, stories for magazines and a novella about a conceited cat!
Our celebrated author won The Blake Society Tithe Grant Award, and has been married for 54 years, has three children, five grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren – all apples of her eye… Another distinction, is for receiving the top level for public library lending with her 4th book.
Beryl’s books, include:
“Hearts and Farthings”
And the sequel “Kisses and Ha’pennies”
Modern: “Laura’s Way” and “Maggie’s Boy”
Historical: 18th/19th/20th centuries, WWI & II – “A Time to Love” and “Avalanche of Daisies.”
Beryl’s 30th book, ‘Citizen Armies’, will be published this year on 2nd September.
Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing a writer who you may, or may not, be familiar with; but one, I’m sure you will return to, once you have enjoyed a taste of his excellent, entertaining books and writing style.
Hi Richard, it’s a pleasure to have you here today as my guest. Get comfy and take a deep breath as you’re now under the microscope so to speak! We’re all keen to learn more about you, so fire away.
What’s your earliest memory and your favourite one?
I remember living in Brixham when I was very young. Our house was at the base of what seemed to be a huge cliff, trains ran over the back. The station has long gone, the house was for sale when we were on holiday one year, we almost looked around; in the end, I couldn’t face it. My favourite memory is harder to pin down, I’ve had so many memorable experiences in my life, as most people have, there are all the usual ones, marriage, the birth and achievements of my wife and children., it’s hard to say which one was the best. I think that my favourite one must be when I was twenty, after passing my Second Mates Certificate of Competency and completing my apprenticeship. Standing on the bridge of a ship and realising that I was in charge of it for the next four hours. Exciting and terrifying all at the same time.
Where do you live? And have you travelled much?
I live in Brixham, after retiring here a few years ago. As you might have spotted, I was at sea, in a forty-year career I went to a lot of places. As well as the familiar ones like New York and Cape Town, I went around Cape Horn, travelled 600 miles up the Amazon, spent a lot of time in the South China and around the Indonesian Islands. I was on a ship that was flooded and somehow didn’t sink, survived a collision, a fire in an engine room, and was on a jumbo jet that crash-landed in Johannesburg after a bird flew into an engine. The smell of Sandalwood on the breeze at 3 am, moving across a flat calm sea; shot with phosphorescence, under a sky filled with stars, is another fond memory. I ended my career as a ship’s pilot on the River Thames, taking ships of all sizes through the Thames Barrier, Tower Bridge and up Barking Creek!
Did you have a creative background which guided you towards writing, or was it something you gradually drifted into?
I failed English at school, in fact, I failed all my O levels first time around, largely because I couldn’t be bothered. I had to retake them while working in a supermarket and scraped into the apprenticeship by the skin of my teeth. I never intended to be a writer, I had ideas but never wrote them down. I had trouble writing letters home. My mind must have been storing up all the experiences because one day after I had retired, I had a dream, which I kept having until I wrote it down. I thought, or at least hoped, that writing it down would be the end of it. Then I had another dream, which I realised was connected to the first. After that, I was away and the more I wrote, the more ideas I had. It was like watching a film in my head, I just wrote what I saw. I could slow the film down and rewind, but I could never fast-forward. Even now, after nine novels, I never see the end of a story until I get to it.
Have you a secret desire/dream or ambition you’d care to share with everyone?
Apart from Fortune, Glory and World Domination? Seriously, I’ve had a full life, I’ve been lucky, and I appreciate it. I’m not desperate for huge success, because I think that doesn’t necessarily solve problems, merely adds new and different ones. I’d like people to like what I write, and to be known as someone whose books were enjoyable. When I was just starting out, with one badly edited novel and no clue what I was doing, I received so much help and advice from other authors, for which I’m very grateful. I try to give back as much as I can by encouraging and supporting people who are at the same stage now as I was then, by promoting them and their work on my website. If I can leave my work as a legacy for my children and grandchildren to enjoy and perhaps benefit from in some small way, I think I will have achieved enough.
Which two people would you like to be shipwrecked with? And one you wouldn’t? (You can change the name… )
If I couldn’t take any of my family, they would have to be authors, so that we could swap ideas and develop new plots and characters to while away the time. My heroes include Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury and Arthur C Clarke, so if one of them were available, that would be fantastic. As I’m also writing crime fiction, Agatha Christie is a candidate, to help me learn the craft of dropping clues and leading readers astray. I’d also love to know the REAL story of her disappearance in 1926, there have been so many theories, the truth might be more exciting than anything she ever wrote. As for one person I wouldn’t, maybe the ship’s Captain who sacked me on my 21st birthday. Although it eventually got me the job of my dreams, it felt like the end of the world at the time. Other than that, there is nobody that springs to mind.
If someone gave you one million pounds tomorrow, what would you do with it?
That’s far more money than I would ever need. I’m not attracted by fast cars or fancy holidays. I know it sounds cheesy, but after I made sure that my family shared in my good fortune, I’d like to set up a way of using some of it to help people. I don’t know how but I’m sure I could think of a way to make it useful. Money is only energy after all: if you can, you should pass it around, keep it flowing.
You are now well-known as a writer. Have you another talent you keep hidden (like singing)?
I bake bread. When I first retired, as something to do, I started baking bread for a local shop. It was all Organic Sourdough, using Spelt and Rye flour, I also made various rolls, cakes and biscuits. It developed into too much work in the end, especially complying with all the regulations and keeping up with the paperwork. I was supposed to be retired and spending more time with the family. I was starting at 4 a.m. seven days a week and something had to give, I couldn’t stay at the level I was. I was faced with the choice of either expanding the business it had become or stopping, after a lot of deliberation, I stopped. I still bake every week for my family though, occasionally I’ll do something more for a special event. I put baking posts up on my website and I’m always happy to talk about techniques with anyone who’s interested.
Would you rather sit under a tree and read or go for a run?
I’d rather read or write at any time, but I do enjoy walking. Torbay has some beautiful walks, which I used to do with my dogs, before the inevitable happened. Now I still walk the familiar paths on my own, thinking up plots and having conversations between characters, as long as nobody else is in earshot. You get funny looks if you’re not careful.
What’s the funniest thing that has ever happened to you/or the most serious?
At college in 1982, which I was attending to study for my Mates Certificate, I was in the pub and saw a man I hadn’t seen for ages, he had a dark-haired girl with him. I remembered his previous girlfriend, who nobody liked, so after saying hello, I said, “what had happened to the awful blonde you used to hang around with?” It all went quiet as she replied, “I dyed my hair.” Five years later, I was their best man, so I think I got away with that one.
The most serious was probably when my wife was choking, I had to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre on her. There’s a lot that can go wrong, the potential for all sorts of disaster. Once again, I got away with it, as she’s still here.
If you could pass another law, what would it be?
I’d like to make it illegal to be too busy to stop and enjoy yourself. Whether it because of pressure from work, your peers or any other reason, you have to take time to appreciate that you’re alive and take enjoyment from the wonders of the world around you, There’s no need to travel to exotic lands, or spend a fortune on the latest whatever, beauty is around you, it’s free and all you need it to take the time to see it. I learned that on a ship, you might be under pressure to get to the next port or pick up the next cargo, but in the end, you only went at a certain speed, the wind and currents could disrupt your progress and you got there when you did. It’s a valuable lesson, I know we all have things that need doing but there is always five minutes somewhere that you can take for relaxation. You’ll feel better for it.
What, if anything, really tests your patience?
People or organisations who come across as friendly, promise mutual things until you have done what they want, at which point, they don’t reciprocate and dump you. Or people who seem to have missed out on common sense. Fortunately, they seem to be dying out, you still get the odd one though. And traffic lights that turn red as you approach, on an otherwise empty road.
What makes you the happiest and what would you like to be remembered for?
A smile, or a compliment from someone who you’ve never met. I’d like to be remembered as a person who always did their best.
Thank you so much for the interview, Richard. Most revealing! I’m sure your many fans will have enjoyed reading your answers. Wishing you a mountain of good luck and mega sales of your books.
You can find out more about Richard on his website at richarddeescifi.co.uk. Head over there to see what he gets up to, click the FREE STUFF tab or the PORTFOLIO tab to get all the details about his work and pick up a free short story!
Thank you very much Joy for inviting me over for an interview… it is a great pleasure.
Where you born and what was your first memory?
I was born in Wickham, a village in Hampshire, not far from Portsmouth. My parents lived in a house that my mother grew up in from about the age of 8 years old. Her step-father was the village butcher, with a shop in the main square. We went to Ceylon, as it was called in those days, when I was 18 months old for two years, and my first memories were of noisy monkeys. Small macaques lived all around us in the forest, and they would come into the house at any opportunity to thieve food, my father’s cigarettes and my mother’s jewellry. I also have vivid memories of the scents and sunshine, and I remember swimming at a very early age in my rubber ring, following my sisters everywhere including into the water.
Most poignant memory?
Probably my most poignant memory is visiting my grandfather’s grave for the first time in 1998. He died on November 2nd, 1918 and was buried in a small military cemetery in the village of Poid-du-Nord , close to the Belgium border. My sister had done the research to locate his grave and taken my mother there for her first visit in 1996. David and I were living in Brussels and we took my mother back to lay a wreath on the 80th Anniversary of his death. She was only 12 months old when he died, and therefore never knew him. But it was still very emotional for us all. He was 31 years old and left a legacy behind that he could never have imagined. I am sure he would have been proud of his daughter, who lived to 95 years old; travelled the world, and his four grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.
What place you’ve lived or visited has remained special to you?
We have moved around so much as a family, and David and I have lived in six countries since we married in 1980. If I had to pick one place it would be our home in the mountains to the north of Madrid where we lived for 17 years. We had panoramic views from where we lived at 900 metres, across a valley to another mountain range and also over a plain for 50 miles. The weather was alpine with long hot summers, very dry so a lovely heat, and very old, crisp winters with snow. The sun was usually shining for about 250 days a year which was wonderful and I swam every day for two hours from May to October. The friends we made were amazing and we loved the lifestyle, spending most of our time outside. Great people, wonderful food, fabulous weather and memories.
Did anyone inspire you to write or was it something you naturally turned to?
My sisters read me bedtime stories and as soon as I could read I was off like a rocket. I was like a sponge reading books way above my pay grade. Every author I have read inspired me to write; as a child I would make up stories at the drop of a hat… especially when I decided at seven that I would take the odd day off school to enjoy other activities! I began writing short stories and song lyrics as a teenager, really getting serious when I had time on my hands during our two years in Texas in 1985. I used to write a lot of business reports and budgets during my career, and there was probably a hint of fiction in those too.
If you were invisible, what three things would you like to do?
I would love to have the additional superpower of being scent free so that I could get up close and personal with wildlife. I am a huge fan of Jane Goodall and would love to have worked with primates. What an amazing thing to be invisible and be able to observe these wonderful creatures unnoticed.
There are certain people who might benefit from having a poltergeist in their lives for a day or so. For example, world leaders who need to be knocked down a peg or two, and given a scare that makes them stop and remember their own mortality. They seem to feel that they are omnipotent, and some flying crockery, levitating tables and chairs, and home truths uttered in a deep and profound tone, might just do the trick.
I wouldn’t want to waste this invisibility; there are plenty of small but helpful things you could do, to bring some happiness, fun, surprises and gifts into the lives of friends and family and strangers you come across who need help, without them feeling obligated to you.
If you could pass two new laws, what would they be?
Although it is law that dogs should be micro-chipped in Wales and the UK since 2016, it is not being enforced, and thousands of dogs are still making their way into the rescue centres unchipped. Clearly that is not working. I think it is time to bring back dog licences which was abolished in 1987. This time however, I suggest that they make the dog licence free. It might encourage more to register their dogs and the benefit would be a card that gives you 15% off your annual pet check and vaccinations at the vet. Which are horrendously expensive. I would also like the government to set up free mobile vet clinics which will do the rounds in high risk areas offering free treatment as long as pets are registered. The cost of taking care of strays and rehoming is far more expensive in the long run.
I would also like much longer jail sentences for drunk or texting drivers who kill or maim others. A car is a lethal weapon, and if you get behind the wheel when you have had too much to drink, or you are in the act of texting, it is in my view, as bad as premeditated murder.
What two people would you like to invite for lunch (famous, dead or alive).
I would love to have Wilbur Smith to lunch. I have read his books since the age of 11 and bought every one he has written. I am just about to start his new autobiography with great excitement. He is one of the authors that inspired me to write and would love to ply him with wine and pick his brains.
The second person would be my grandmother who I was named after. Georgina was left devastated after losing my grandfather so near to the end of the war. He had been wounded three times and was back at the front for the final push. I can only imagine how desperate she must have felt each time he left for the front wondering if she would see him again. She struggled to bring up my mother for seven years before remarrying, and she suffered badly from asthma, long before there was medication to help. She died several years before I was born, at only 52, and my mother felt that her heart was broken. I would like to tell her that she is not forgotten, share stories about us all, and remind her that both of them live on in the younger generation and all those to come.
Name two of your favourite writers.
Well, I let the cat out of the bag with Wilbur Smith, but I do read everything that Bernard Cornwell writes, and love the way he brings history to life. I am looking forward to the next in The Last Kingdom series.
And I read and enjoy so many authors that I have come into contact with in our community and I would be hard pushed to name favourites.
What would you wish for if you could have ANYTHING?
Another 38 years with the love of my life….. Although he might look upon that as a penance!
What makes you crosser than anything else?
Oh wow, how much time have you got? More than anything I cannot abide bad manners. Courtesy at all levels of society, is one of the few cultural concepts, that prevent us from tearing at each other’s throats. It is part of the socialisation process of young children into responsible adults. It is clear, when you read the papers and see the stories of moped muggers, acid throwers and stabbings, that there is definitely a lack of socialisation in far too many homes and at school.
I get really miffed when I am watching a drama on television or a movie and people do not say please or thank you when given some form of service. It sends completely the wrong message and it will only get worse. The teachers say it is the responsibility of the parents and the parents say that it is down to the teachers. Someone needs to take control and sort it out.
Apart from reading and writing, what other ways do you like to relax?
I love music and movies. My husband and I have different taste in music, but both love fast action thrillers, epic adventures and films adapted from good books… Such as Dr. Zhivago and The Last of the Mohicans.
In the past we have enjoy travelling to various places but the glamour of flying has definitely lapsed. There is so much to see here in Ireland that we will be sticking close to home.
24 hours left on the planet!. How would you spend them?
I presume that this is for all of us…..I would probably leave a quick message of love and hope for all my friends on social media, wishing them luck in the next life. Then switch off everything and if possible sit outside with my husband and family, have a great meal, lots of good wine and make sure that we leave nothing unsaid. Then a last glass of Cava and a handful of pills and drift off to sleep holding my husband close. (I have read On the Beach by Nevil Shute, so have this all prepped should it become necessary).
Many thanks Joy for allowing me to speak my mind and share some of my experiences. It has been great fun.
About Sally Cronin
I have lived a fairly nomadic existence living in eight countries including the Sri Lanka, South Africa and USA before settling back here in Ireland. My work, and a desire to see some of the most beautiful parts of the world in the last forty years, has taken me to many more incredible destinations around Europe and Canada, and across the oceans to New Zealand and Hawaii. All those experiences and the people that I have met, provide a rich source of inspiration for my stories.
I have been a storyteller most of my life (my mother called them fibs!). Poetry, song lyrics and short stories were left behind when work and life intruded, but that all changed in 1996. My first book Size Matters was a health and weight loss book based on my own experiences of losing 70kilo. I have written another ten books since then on health and also fiction including three collections of short stories. I am an indie author and proud to be one. My greatest pleasure comes from those readers who enjoy my take on health, characters and twisted endings… and of course come back for more.
As a writer I know how important it is to have help in marketing books… as important as my own promotion is, I believe it is important to support others. I offer a number of FREE promotional opportunities on my blog and linked to my social media. If you are an author who would like to be promoted to a new audience of dedicated readers, please contact me via my blog. All it will cost you is a few minutes of your time. Look forward to hearing from you.
Our legacy is not always about money or fame, but rather in the way that people remember our name after we have gone. In these sixteen short stories we discover the reasons why special men and women will stay in the hearts and minds of those who have met them. Romance, revenge and sacrifice all play their part in the lives of these characters.
Commonly known in writing circles as a ‘hook,’ a lot has been said over the years about the opening sentence, or two, of a tale. It’s common sense to try and grab a reader asap, be it with something dramatic, curious, unusual or quirky. Not all writers do, of course. I’ve read some bland opening sentences over the years and yet – reading deeper – some books have ‘delivered’ more than promised. It is, nevertheless, a good idea to give careful thought to those first words which confront you when you open the cover. As I always have piles of read and unread books everywhere…I picked five at random and checked them out.
The first one: Kate Granville’s The Lieutenant began: ‘Daniel Rooke was quiet, moody, a man of few words.’ Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8) by Sandy Balfour, simply said: ‘Let me take you back to December, 1983.’ Both openings were an invitation: to know more about the ‘quiet, moody, man’ in the first instance, and a direct request to return to December, 1983 in the second. So, both subtle hooks… The third book, called The Seed Collectors by Scarlet Thomas starts: ‘Imagine a tree that can walk. Yes, actually walk. Think it’s impossible? You’re wrong.’ The fourth book titled Amsterdam, written by Ian McEwan, begins: ‘Two former lovers of Molly Lane stood waiting outside the crematorium chapel with their backs to the February chill.’ Both openings intrigue. A tree that can walk? And who was Molly Lane? None of the authors are amateurs. They knew what they were writing.
The fifth and final book, a favourite by Carlos Ruiz Zafon The Shadow of the Wind states: ‘I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time.’ Another interesting, mind-winding opening.
Fast-forwarding to Writers’ Ink member, Nigel Grundey’s, latest novel, The Vienna Connection, let’s see what his hook is…Take his first paragraph; ‘Can we trust the messenger?’ asked Harry Ward slowly as the tall Warrant Officer scratched at a scar on his cheek, then returned the hand-written note to his commanding officer. ‘What it says is believable, because the Nazis broadcast their plans for Rome and Paris before liberation. But why wait until now to reveal the details?’ Again, intriguing.
When author C. T. Mitchell and I last emailed each other, he didn’t have the slightest idea that he’d be a TWIG before the month was out! (He’s much more of a BRANCH really, but, like trees, our group’s starting out small… ).
The idea is to write a post, as usual, each month – but give a worthy author an airing, as publicity to a writer is as valuable as air!
C.T. Mitchell, a well-known Australian author of a dazzling array of murder stories – from ‘cozy’ to ‘dastardly’ – has written a plethora of Short Reads and full-length novels, which are listed below.
The above is, you will agree, quite an impressive list of accomplishments. C.T. Mitchell and I hope you will enjoy choosing one or two, or maybe even more of his books to read at your leisure. It would be a crime not to.
As this post is a slight departure from the norm… I’d like to put strangers to my occasional ramblings in the picture, lest they send ‘the men in white coats’ to my door. Eldest son, Jason, is a blogger (among other things) and I have written the following in reply to his recent out-pouring of nonsense.
Who would have believed it, after all the years of shady shenanigans; coded glances and messages secreted in ancient lavatory cisterns, the truth was revealed by our eldest son to the unwitting world.
It is true, we ran a modest hotel in Bournemouth, before being pursued and approached by the Cirque du Soleil (not the Circus con Leche as stated by Jason). Seduced by our reputation – for ‘‘im indoors and yours truly were renowned for our prowess on the trapeze (despite the gathering years, and not known by many people) – the troupe were planning to ‘star’ us in a dazzling Spectacular, which would astound the public. While middle-aged, what we couldn’t do with our amazingly virile, versatile and talented forms, wasn’t worth talking about. Our stage names were Kermit and Dolly Rodriquez. Tragically, the spectacle was cancelled after Kermit developed a large corn on his big, right toe, and ‘delayed acne’ at the same time as my varicose veins became too prominent.
It was more than our lives were worth to comment further about the man with the withered hand. Then Jason suggested plastic surgery would be ‘rejuvenating,’ (and otherwise advantageous) and our planned retirement to sunny Spain fitted neatly in with the circumstances. It also meant that our other two sons wouldn’t be able to find us, thereby paving the way for our eldest son to inherit our vast estates and the oil-fields in Texas when we popped our clogs. We were astounded by his dastardly plan.
Quite a few Menu del dias and Café con leches later…
It is with huge relief that we have learned of a few, pertinent, arrests in the UK by MI5. This is most fortunate in that we were looking over our shoulders so frequently, we kept bumping into lamp-posts. We are also delighted to discover the truth about our eldest son. He arranged the plastic surgery to save our lives, which were in imminent danger at the time, and due to his magnanimous nature and a windfall from a grateful, former client (Jason was a ‘Professional Carer’ at one time, and not as he claims a Ninja assassin), he’s totally disinterested in our alleged fortune. Another massive bonus, we have been reunited with our other two sons, and so folks, as the sun sets in the Western, technicoloured sky, we are able to paddle in the Med. again with carefree hearts and be a united family..
And now for something completely different..
Three of us flying Lennicks are planning to publish a book of humorous poems, anecdotes, jokes and fifty word stories in the near future. So, do look out for The Moon is Wearing a Tutu. By Joy, Eric and Jason Lennick.
Available now for your reading pleasure – Food Glorious Food – a ten-story anthology, penned by various writers: members of WordPlay Forum. Published by Quirky Girl Publishing. A must for any occasion: beach or curled up in an armchair.
Keep an eye open (or two) for our up and coming anthology: Des Res. Another treat from WordPlay writers and the able Quirky Girl Publishing stable. (Both available from Amazon,
Kindle and CreateSpace..)
Coming soon: a brand, spanking new version of My Gentle War, a memoir written by yours truly. (No. 1 on Kindle in Memoir/Social History category.)
Scene: a sun-drenched patio in Playa Flamenca, Spain..
Hi Dale, Welcome to Spain and Chez Lennick. May I ask you a few questions?
Dale: Fire away!
Me: First off, would you like a cold beer?
Dale: It would be rude not to…Thanks.
Me: Would you tell us a few relevant facts about yourself: where you were born, lived and work/worked, and have you travelled much?
Dale: I was born in Summit, New Jersey in August of 1948. We moved around a bit when I was young. Actually I moved very five or six years until I landed in London, England where I lived for sixteen years. We lived in New Jersey, Washington D.C., and Ohio when I was young. I went to college in Ohio and then moved to Montana followed by California. They were both great places to live. In 1987 I moved to Great Britain where I stayed for almost thirty years. Now I’m in Seattle, Washington. I’ve been here a year and a few days and am doing my best adjusting to life back in the United States. I must confess, it’s not easy.
You asked if I have traveled much. The last time I counted I have been to 67 countries. For about ten years I was putting in about 100,000 miles a year in the air. I’ve been fortunate in this regard. I loved it, but it was tiring and now I’m settled here in Seattle.
Me: Wow! You’ve certainly burnt up some shoe leather…and clocked up some air miles! How interesting. Now, about the kernel in the shell: your writing… What inspired you to write in the first place?
Dale: A desire to write began when was in high school. I actually started writing a sci fi book then – it was crap! I never had the discipline to write and work full time, that is to write fiction. Much of my work demanded some writing of various kinds. But I retired early – around 62 – in part to begin writing in earnest and to create a website to post my writing and to provide a place for other people to publish their writing. I’m happy to say that I’m doing both of those things and enjoying it.
Me: I know everyone asks this question, but have you a specific routine or are you a more spontaneous writer?
Dale: I have a kind of routine. I’m a real night person so most of my creative time is late at night and early in the morning. I usually spend a couple of hours in the afternoon on whatever project I’m working on. That doesn’t mean I necessarily write, though I might. But more than not I reread what I wrote the day before, work on my flow charts – I keep flow charts of the narrative so I can quickly find scenes I want to look back on. I also may do some research. That sort of thing. At about 10:30 pm I go up to my study and begin writing. I’ll work until about 2:30 am, run the spell check, and then go off to bed. I love working like that. The world is quiet and it seems peaceful. And if it’s raining, I crack the window open a bit. The sound of the rain is great.
Me: Do you edit as you write or map out a rough draft/s first? And are you meticulous as regards to research?
Dale: I edit some when I write, but I’m a lousy editor of my own work – not unusual for writers. When I’ve completed a book, I print out that first draft for editing. When I’m done it goes to my wife who will go through it twice. Then it goes to a professional editor I use through the publisher. That edit is great and necessary, as far as I’m concerned. The professional editor not only makes sure the book is in the proper grammatical style demanded by the publishers, she (mine is a she) also finds plot holes, etc.
I don’t create a detailed outline or synopsis of the book before I begin. I do have a general outline, mostly in my head, but some on paper. That outline will change as I write. Those flow charts I mentioned allow me to keep a hold of the narrative structure as I write so I can see what is happening. They allow me to keep some control of the story. If I were made to write a detailed outline first, I’d never begin the writing.
I do a lot of research for both my fiction and nonfiction writing. A lot of that research is done before I begin writing, but not all. I often click on Google when I’m writing, look something up, do the research, and then return to the writing. It works for me. If you were to look at my word count each night, those nights with less words are also the nights I did a lot of research. I don’t lose the flow of my writing when I do that. And I enjoy the research as well.
Me: I have just finished your recently published book ‘The Woman in White Marble’ and I must say I was very impressed at the way the story-line just zipped along. Your writing flows really well. Do you have a clear idea of the way the complete story should go or do you let your characters lead you?
Dale: Well, as I said, I start with a general outline, but when I sit down to write, while I know in general what I will write about each evening, I often have no idea what the details will be or what the characters will do and say. Sometimes, however, a future scene will come to me in detail, so I pause and write that down in its detail so I don’t lose it. For example, I always discover the ending of my books at the beginning only a few days into the writing. I stop and write it down, either in my notebook or in a computer file. When I actually get to the end, it will change some, but I’m surprised how accurate that first imagining was.
Me: What inspired ‘The Woman in White Marble’?
Dale: You’ll notice that the book is dedicated to Peter Crook. Peter was a dear friend of mine. He died suddenly and I participated in his memorial service. A couple days after that service I was lying on the couch supposedly watching TV. What I was actually doing was remembering my times with Peter. Something happened on the TV that sparked with my thoughts and a general outline for the story just appeared in my mind’s eye. I laid there for a few minutes thinking about it, then got up, went upstairs to my study, and started writing. The book is interesting and fun because Peter was interesting and fun. It was really written for his wife and two daughters, my good friends.
Me: At roughly what age did you start writing seriously?
Dale: Depends what kind of writing we are talking about. Nonfiction probably in my early thirties. Fiction when I was 62.
Me: Now for the three W’s – Where do you write? What do you have a preference for: fact or fiction? And When is your favorite time to write?
Dale: I write in my upstairs study. Where ever we live, one of the bedrooms becomes my study. It’s filled with books, photos from around the world, and items I brought back from my travels.
I now prefer fiction, though I do nonfiction writing for my website almost every week.
My best time for writing is between 10:30 pm and 3:00 am.
Me: Have you a favourite writing tip you can share with us?
Dale: Not sure I do, except to find what works for you. I’ve read a few “how to write” book by successful authors. I enjoyed them and got some tips. But those book are really “how I write” books which have authority because they are written by successful authors. But how they write may not be how you write. I think Stephen King said you should first create a detailed outline. On the other hand, Ian Rankin doesn’t even know “who done it” when he begins writing his mysteries. They are both very successful authors, but you can’t take advice from them both.
I did read in one “how to write” books that if you never actually get down to writing something, and not just thinking about writing something, then you are probably not a writer and should go on to something else. Seemed like good advice.
Me: Who is your favorite writer/s?
Dale: To name a few: Philip Roth, Toni Morrison, Chuck Palahniuk, Zadie Smith, Dave Eggers, Kurt Vonnegut, Barbara Kingsolver, Roberto Bolaňo, Haruki Murakami, Margaret Atwood, Julian Barnes, and Joyce Carol Oates.
Me: What’s next, Dale? Do you plan writing anything specific, or does your Muse surprise you?
Dale: I’m currently writing a second Drake Ramsey mystery – Drake is the protagonist in The Woman in White Marble. This one takes place in New Orleans so the city is a character in the book as well. I’m enjoying it very much.
Ideas are never a problem for me. I have another novel sitting in my computer – well, 4000 words of it – which I will return to when I’m done with good old Drake Ramsey.
Me: I feel I have taken up enough of your time! It’s been fascinating talking to you. Thank you for the interview. I’m looking forward to your next book!
My first faction novel ‘THE CATALYST’ is now available on Kindle and paperback on Amazon and CreateSpace. It is about two people caught up in one of the horrendous terrorist London train bombings in 2005; the aftermath and how the support and love of family and friends – and humour – helped the protagonists recover. But that’s not all! There is a family secret and we get an insight into some of the characters’ lives too. Very few of us are islands.
For non-writers of books, can I give away a little secret here? Putting your words ‘out there’ is a little like walking down the street naked. It really is! Will someone point and snigger, or merely smile, being polite – having read the book – hopefully silently congratulate you and wish you well?! Of course a good review would be even better!
Someone recently asked me why I wrote a book about such a terrible disaster as the Aldgate train bombing. The fact is, I was affected – like so many other people – by the terrorist bombings in July, 2005 on three trains and a bus in our capital city. After all, I had, in the past, worked and regularly travelled by train to the City and West End of London, so could identify with being trapped in a train; the fear and pain caused on that dreadful day. The details of the actual explosion and aftermath are as accurate as my research via newspaper and TV reports revealed at the time and afterwards.
My story, however, covers much more than the explosion and terrible happenings and suffering on that indelible day itself, for I was very aware of the aftermath and repercussions which occurred and altered many people’s lives forever. The outpouring of grief for those killed, and sympathy for the injured, was felt, not only in London, but across the whole of the UK and further afield, for those involved and affected were of all ages; sexes, religions, cultures and from all walks of life.
Aware of the camaraderie which existed in World War 11 and the compassion and caring which many people shared, I was drawn to showing just how vital was the sympathy, love and interest of family and friends in the recovery of the protagonists.
As is the case with most fictitious ‘characters,’ I let my varied collection take me on, hopefully, entertaining/interesting journeys…but must emphasize that my main male protagonist Ian is a composite of a dear friend who sadly died prematurely in 2012. I have also used factual places where possible; and relayed the value and importance of humour.
We all have differing opinions on life and hurray for that; but I plump for ‘chance.’ I believe in optimism, hope, love and ‘humanity,’ which I have tried to convey in my story. Life is full of coincidences, ‘ifs’ and ‘buts,’ which you don’t need to read my book to appreciate, but it does reinforce those facts, as you will clearly see if you do! Enjoy.
‘The Thread’ tells us of the violent periods in Greek history which were, by their nature, a catalyst for dramatic change. After the Greco-Turkish war of 1919-22, the Greeks had to later contend with warring Italians and Germans; and even after World War II ended, they suffered the torment of Civil War from 1946-49. Unrest continued with the establishment of the Greek Military Junta – a legacy of political polarization that lasted until the 1980s. But this is no dry history lesson on Victoria’a part – far from it- rather the backcloth to the riveting, enduring love story of Katerina and Dimitri, which triumphed against mounting odds. Set in Thessaloniki, it also tells of the pitiful plight of most of the Jews and Muslims, which saw only Christians remaining.
The author proves herself to be a painstakingly diligent researcher, giving meticulous attention to detail.
I likened the story to the Bayeaux tapestry, for Katerina, the heroine, literally stitches part of the thread of the title through the story with her talented hands. Embroidering exquisite dresses and other delicate items, proves a joy and balm to her which sees her through many difficult, low periods in her long life. Other characters who proved memorable, are the frail, troubled Olga, and her husband, the obsessed, cold Konstantinos Komninos. This third, skilfully written novel by the author often pulls at the heart strings – and is as equally enjoyable as her first two.