Meeting Jane Austen

Today, I attended the Bennet household. Alas, Elizabeth was not at home. I was rather shocked to be greeted by her father, Mr Bennet. I did not see a servant.

Apparently, Mr Bennet had taken refuge from the house as there was a quarrel afoot. He was a pleasant enough fellow but a little shabby.

Finally, he asked the parlour maid to show me into the library. Strangely, every book on the shelves has been penned by a Jane Austen. I was most impressed with a book entitled, ‘Pride and Prejudice’.

I made a note of some words:

‘I declare there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than a book!…When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if it does not have an excellent library.’

Lost in Austen’s books, I read until the clock struck four and my stomach rumbled. Venturing into the corridor, surprised that the house was silent, I decided to depart.  A Miss Austen opened the door and insisted on my company. She informed me that Mr Bennet lives in her imagination, but he had been seen loitering on the doorstop on many occasions.

Amused by my breeches, Miss Austen invited me to take tea with her. She smiled when I explained they are cropped trousers. We sat in a very modest parlour.  The maid served tea and a buttered apple tart.  Delighted that her books had made me forget time, Miss Austen commented that. ‘…for my own part, if a book is written well, I always find it too short.’

This year marks the 200th anniversary of Jane’s death and her books remain popular.  It is a delight to own a beautiful copy of the books.  However, it never fails to amaze me that it is now possible to download the timeless stories for free.

 

Please see all my adventures at Handbag Adventures and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

Originally posted 2017-09-19 07:00:23.

Body in the library and thriller in handbag

Karl Holton

 

 

 

 

From a darkened corner of the room a figure appeared. ‘The Weight of Shadows’ is all he said, before collapsing at my feet; an ornate handled knife buried in his back. What could the victim’s last words possibly mean? 

Greenway House

I met with author, Karl Holton, at Greenway House, and he had staged a dramatic introduction to his new book.  He is an Agatha Christie fan and it seemed fitting to visit her holiday home.  The house is deemed ‘the loveliest place in the world’, on the website, and it certainly lived up to expectation. I marvelled at the glorious view of the River Dart. Appropriately, Karl wanted to conduct the interview in the library. I inspected the library for a body, again, but it was safe.  The light and airy library seemed a fitting place to inspire the great Agatha Christie.  Karl waxed lyrical about the house and gave me some interesting facts about the great author. 

Karl:  Did you know that this house inspired Dead Man’s Folly? It’s one of the Poirot novels and it was the last ever ‘Poirot’ made by David Suchet playing the role of the great detective. They made it right here in the house and this was what she did so well; she adapted what she knew directly into the narrative.

Jessie:  No, I wasn’t aware of that. I love the Poirot novels – they are great fun.  My husband can watch Poirot programmes all day. Who is your favourite TV Poirot? I like Albert Finney. I’m not sure if that was TV or film.

Karl: For me, David Suchet is the quintessential ‘Poirot’.

Jessie:  Of course, yes he was brilliant – he was Poirot.  We digress, can you tell me about ‘The Weight of the Shadows’?

Karl delved into his rucksack.  Strangely enough, his rucksack was full of his favourite Agatha Christie novels, and he proceeded to display some of the novel on the table.  Finally, the actor, who had performed earlier, reappeared with a copy of Karl’s novel. The cover of ‘The Weight of the Shadows’ is modern and suggests a fast-paced plot set in London. 

Karl: At one level ‘The Weight of the Shadows’ is an entertaining crime thriller mystery with plot twists and turns. At another level it is the first six days at the beginning of a series that introduces some interesting characters and a narrative that has subtle and, I hope, thought provoking subjects.

Jessie:  Crime thrillers are always popular.  It’s a great genre to establish a fanbase. What have the reviewers said about your new book?

Smiling, Karl started to recall some of the reviews. 

Karl: “an intriguing plot, thoughtful, profound themes, complex troubling characters, and language that make us shudder for its honesty, clarity, and confidence” – Piaras O Cionnaoith

“irresistible book, impossible to put down” – Bookgirl Sulagna

“a story that is intense and heart-pounding!” – Elaine Emmerick

Jessie:  I’m impressed that you have already commenced your second book. We are in an ideal place to read.  Can you read an extract from the book to tempt the reader?

Karl:  It’s a real privilege to read here in Agatha Christie’s library.

Benedict was motionless with one thought. Never give up.

She pushed the tip of the blade in and under the skin on his chest, near his heart.

Karl: This extract is only a few words, but the importance of these at the start of the narrative is significant.

Jessie: A great choice – you certainly hook the reader into the narrative.  I can tell that you enjoyed constructing the narrative and the characters.  How did you feel when you had finished writing your book, and did you miss any of the characters?

Karl: The euphoria of finishing was quickly met by the realisation that as an indie author the work had just started. Apart from the marketing, reviews, social media etc. I remembered that I needed to start working on the second book in the series.

Given the second book in the series starts the day after the end of this first book I’ve not really had the opportunity to miss the characters.

Jessie: Who would you like to read your book and why?  This could be another author, someone famous, a friend or a member of your family.  

Karl: If I were choosing an author it would be Agatha Christie. We could discuss the pace of the plot and sub-plots.

If it were someone famous (and alive) I’d ask Stephen Fry to review the book. Within the series I’m going to try to examine and compare some cognitive and emotive subjects through the plot, characters and narrative. I’d really like to discuss these with him.

Karl Holton

Jessie: Why should I keep your book in my handbag?

Karl: Well I hope it has a plot that keeps you guessing and is enjoyable as it begins to reveal itself. If you read some of the reviews you will notice that it’s not clear what the connections are at the start and then the plot arcs entwine; that’s very deliberate.

Jessie: What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?

Karl: ‘Nice nails’ – you’ll have to read the book to see why I might have written that down.

Jessie: What is the biggest challenge for an author?

Karl: This is a really interesting question because it will very much depend upon what type of author you want to be. A full-time author who wants a publisher to do everything for them will have a very different set of challenges compared to an indie with a job who is happy selling a few books a month. I’m going to give you my answer based upon what I am, which is an indie who is trying to make this my full-time job.

My single biggest challenge is becoming known enough so that people take a chance and buy, read and review the book. As an indie author, you have no one to help this happen so you need to do it and this takes a significant amount of both time and commitment. In a world where we have over 200k books published in the UK per year and possibly 1 million in the US, just being seen is a challenge that any aspiring author should not understate.

I have discussed this issue with other authors, both published and indie. Personally, I think many really talented authors will either give up or just never be seen because they get lost in this ‘jungle’.

Jessie: What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?

Karl: Get an editor.

About Karl

Karl is a chartered accountant who previously worked in financial markets for over thirty years. He has collected books his whole life with a focus on London and crime fiction. He is married with two children and lives in Surrey.

Karl is very animated when talking about his book. It is clear he is dedicated to his writing and is very industrious.  Many reviews say that the book is ‘spine tingling’ and ‘irresistible’   I do hope that Karl’s debut novel is successful and wish him the best of luck with his novel.

Contacts:

Blog = http://karlholton.com

Twitter = @KarlHolton

Facebook = @KarlHoltonAuthor

Email = info@thuja.co

 

Please see all my interviews at My Guests and my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Kindness of tweeters

Kindness of Tweeters

Twitter is such a polite form of communication that seems to promote that good old fashioned courtesy.  It is wonderful that good people can ‘like’ your comments and always thank you for a re-tweet; perfect strangers wish me ‘Happy Monday’, or tell me to have a good weekend.

Recently the lovely Diane Need wished me ’Happy Friday’ on Thursday and this prompted a string of humorous comments from others – all very courteous.  My phone beep, beeped for two days with various comments until it was indeed Friday and Diane’s birthday.  Here are some snatches of the conversation:

Sue Moorcroft‏ @SueMoorcroft

And the same to you! 🙂 (But isn’t it Thursday?)

 

Erin Green Author‏ @ErinGreenAuthor

If you want Friday… we will give you Friday – official

 

Diane Need Author‏ @dianeneed

Trust me, LOL. I think I’ll carry on with the Friday illusion! 🙂

 

Books in my Handbag‏ @BooksInHandbag

Always poised and ready for Friday with a cocktail in your hand – love the positivity! It made us all think of Friday!

 

John Jackson‏ @jjackson42

In the same vein, the sun is ALWAYS over the yardarm, SOMEWHERE!! Cheers!

 

Sue Johnson‏ @SueJohnson9

It’s your birthday – it can be whatever day you want it to be. x

 

Such interactions punctuate your day with positivity and make you laugh out loud in public places.  How, I wish that we could apply the same etiquette to everyday situations and people would walk past and share a positive greeting, rather than looking at their feet. Wouldn’t it be great if we could hand out cards with emojis on them, just to confirm our feelings?   They wouldn’t have to say anything just hold up a smiley face.  The only down side could be that one wouldn’t stop saying thank you.  In Twitterland, everyone keeps on acknowledging your comments and it is difficult to know when to stop: I haven’t yet learnt this etiquette as I like to have the last word.

I had a great dilemma when Angela Petch sent me a picture of an orchid from Italy and presented ‘an orchid in Tuscany for favourite Blogger.’  What could I do?  I couldn’t go on pressing the ‘like’ button forever and working my way through all of the emojis? I had to be courteous and creative so I sent her a picture of a cup with an appropriate message on it.  Does anyone know if that was sufficient or if I have missed something?

I adore the way in which Twitterland guides you down the path of courteousness, reinstates good old fashioned values and inspires creativity.  I want to share this love and hand out emojis as I walk the streets.  Of course, it would be even better if more strangers would just smile occasionally and pass the time of day – just as the lovely people do on Twitter.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone on Twitter for future re-tweets and any ‘likes’ that they want to share.  I like you all, with big hearts, and thank you!  I am happy, excited and winking simultaneously.

Please see my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Originally posted 2017-05-17 07:00:39.

Saving Private Tiggy-Winkle

Once upon a time…

As I collected my washing from the washing line, a hedgehog paused at my feet and rested next to a peg on the ground.  Mrs Tiggy-Winkle had come to help me with the washing.  I rushed to collect my camera, hoping that she would wait for me to return.

Hurray!  Mrs Tiggy-Winkle waited for me to capture the moment.  I couldn’t wait to send out the image via Twitter and Facebook.  My husband downloaded the image whilst I searched for an extract from one of Beatrix Potter’s books. The photo was saved in a folder labelled ‘Home Hedgehog’, because she was our hedgehog. Having constructed the post, I pressed send and we raised a glass to our hedgehog.

As expected the notifications and re-tweets followed.  Jenn Bregman said, ‘Sooooo cute!!’.  Angela Petch remarked, ‘Eat those slugs Mrs Tiggy-Winkle…’  The hedgehog charmed everyone.  Author, Jacqueline Kirk, asked, ‘Was the hedgehog out in daylight?’ Pondering this, I knew something was wrong.  Jacqueline tweeted more information. ‘#WildlifeOrphan1 says they are in trouble if out in daylight. The little fella looks small.’

Reality started to kick in, I realised that this wasn’t Mrs Tiggy-Winkle: it was either Ms or Mr Tiggy-Winkle.  Returning to my prized photo, I noticed that he/she was indeed a tiny, fluffy creature.  As my grandmother would have said, he/she is ‘nowt but a bairn’. Should he/she have been out at that time of day?

Jacqueline Kirk sent out a Code Red asking for advice.  I worried all night about the little hedgehog.  The Hedgehog Helpline didn’t answer my call. The following morning, I had a brainwave and contacted John Jackson, author of, ‘Heart of Stone, and hedgehog whisperer. Thankfully, the lovely man messaged me instantly.

‘That’s early, but not exceptional. We’ve had the hedgehogs out before sunset many times.’

Phew! Feeling better, I made myself a cup of tea and then called the Hedgehog Helpline again.  The wonderful woman was so calm and grateful for the call.  Her words echoed those of The Hedgehog Whisperer.  However, I can call the helpline again if the hog appears and they will assess his/her behaviour.  I may have to take my little hog to Hedgehog Hospital.  I didn’t know that these wonderful people existed.  Thank you, Hedgehog Helpline SEW, John Jackson and Jacqueline Kirk!

I will end with Jacqueline Kirk’s tweet:

That’s the beauty of twitter. I only found this out last week and now a little hog on the other side of the country has a kind person looking out for them.

And I hope that the hedgehog lives happily ever after!

 

Please see all of my adventures at Handbag Adventures and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

Originally posted 2017-08-15 07:00:17.

Fish Shack, ‘bay-bee’, Fish Shack

Books in my Handbag Tour

Fifteen miles from nowhere, we saw a faded sign for ‘Fish Shack’.  We followed a road to the middle of the beach desert until we reached a decaying old boat that was almost as big as a whale. Yes, and the B52’s track was playing in my head…

Parking the car on the uneven tarmac, we hobbled over the pebbles to the shack.  Luckily, I found a table overlooking abandoned boats and Dungeness Power Station.  Optimistic that my husband had reserved a love shack to celebrate two decades of marriage, I congratulated him on this romantic setting.  Alas, always thinking of his stomach, the Fish Shack was the destination.

Expecting greasy fish and chips, I was handed plaice and salad with a large cup of builder’s tea.  The food was absolutely delicious!  The plaice, caught only hours earlier, was cooked in olive oil on a hot plate. The fresh salad had an olive oil and lemon dressing. It was served in a small cardboard box, but they will probably steal this idea on the Great British Menu. And builder’s tea could be the new Pinot Noir.  I must confess that I declined the bread roll, but understood that it was a nod to the fishermen who eat this food.

Seizing the moment, we decided to go for a walk on the beach.  We were told it was fine to walk on the beach if we didn’t touch the ‘fishing tackle’!!  Forget visiting a maritime museum, there were artefacts on the beach such as rusty anchors and abandoned nets.  These savvy people are obviously protecting the objects d’art to prevent art galleries and Michelin starred restaurants from displaying them in their gaffs.  The food and the setting were perfect: The Fish Shack is indeed a funky little shack. Get yourselves off to the food getaway!

Who knows? Maybe this place will become either the Dungeness Modern Art Gallery or even the Derek Jarman Modern.  An art gallery and restaurant without walls could be the new concept of the 21st century.  Visit now as in the future you may need a credit card without a limit.

Funky Fact

Derek Jarman, the artist and filmmaker, lived in Prospect Cottage, Dungeness.

 

Please see all my travels and adventures at Handbag Adventures.

Celebrating authors in Handbag Gallery and Chat Room

Last week, the Handbag Gallery was launched to celebrate authors and their work.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank the authors for their overwhelming support.  It has been great to meet such a variety of wonderful authors.

The gallery displays authors’ books in their handbags/bags, and each photograph is linked to details about the author’s book.  It is an opportunity to celebrate all authors and to introduce them to readers and other authors.  Angela Petch also pointed out that ‘it was an excuse to buy a new handbag’.

I am delighted that twenty seven authors have sent me photographs of their books in their bags/handbags.  It is gratifying to receive comments from the authors. The amazing Ian Wilfred commented that ‘it was great fun to be part of BookInHandbag gallery’ and he supported the initiative throughout the launch week.  Many authors and readers said that they ‘loved the idea’ and it was ‘original’. For instance, Caz Greenham tweeted that ‘it was a great idea by Jessie’. Juliet Greenwood shouted ‘hurrah’ when her handbag was displayed.  Imogen Matthews declared that it was an ‘honour to be in such company.’

Viewing the gallery, it is clear to see the creativity informing the composition.  Some compositions suggest drama whereas others are more relaxed.  Rosanna Ley described her composition as ‘exotic’. Many authors take care to co-ordinate their handbag/bag with the front cover of their books.  Every single composition sets the scene and tells a story.  There are themes such as mystery, escapism, adventure and romance.  The images demonstrate the fact that authors are fun story-tellers who absolutely adore a creative challenge! To find out more, step inside the gallery.  You never know who you might meet in the Handbag Gallery

It would be an honour to showcase the novels of more authors.  I invite authors to email a photo of their book in their handbag/bag to jessiecahin@aol.co.uk if they want to be included in the Handbag Gallery.

What next for the jessiecahalin.com blog?

I have been building another room but no builders were required – great savings on the cost of tea and biscuits.

This week, I have been adding the final touches to the Author Chat Room with a picture gallery of My Guests.  I have already interviewed Elaine Jeremiah and am preparing for more authors.  My guest list includes: Angela Petch, Sue Moorcroft, Imogen Matthews, Emily Williams, Jan Ellis, Rosanna Ley, Diane Need, Helene Leuchel and Rosemary Dun.

I was delighted when Imogen Matthews tweeted that, ‘The Author Chat Room is such a great idea! @BooksInHandbag is going from strength to strength.’

This week, I chatted with Angela Petch in Italy as the Chat Room is still under construction.  It was warm out there but a cool glass of Prosecco helped, and we talked for a long time.  Angela is charming and the inspiration behind her story-telling is moving.

Originally posted 2017-06-14 07:00:54.

A celebrity author in my handbag

Carol Cooper

 

 

 

 

Carol Cooper is a doctor, journalist, and author who turned to fiction after writing a string of popular health books. Her second novel, Hampstead Fever, was chosen for a prestigious promotion in WH Smith travel bookshops. She lives in Hampstead and Cambridge, and has three grownup sons.

As Dr Cooper, Carol is a frequent face on Five News, Sky News and other TV channels, as well as on radio, where she often comments on a range of topical health matters. I was excited about meeting this celebrity author with such a wealth of experience.

Carol had been invited to speak at Cardiff University, and we managed to grab some time in Cardiff Bay to chat about her second novel.

I waited for her in my favourite coffee shop, Cadawaladers, in Cardiff Bay. Cadawaladers sits above the water, on a jetty, and is accessed via a small bridge. Carol hurried over the bridge and was wearing a red dress. She joined me at a table, located on the balcony, overlooking the water.  We ordered coffee and some muffins.  It was Graduation Day, in Cardiff, and a constant stream of chattering graduates walked past. We took our time to absorb the vibrant atmosphere before beginning the chat about Carol’s new book.

Jessie:  Can you capture the essence of your new novel, Hampstead Fever, in a couple of sentences?

Instantly, she retrieved a copy of her novel from her large blue handbag. 

Carol:  Hampstead Fever is about six Londoners grappling with life’s problems in the sweltering summer of 2013. Emotions are already at boiling point when a mysterious actress arrives on the scene, upsetting those around her and forcing decisions they may later regret.

Jessie:  It sound like another great read.  Read me an extract that will tempt the reader.

Carol flicked through the book and winked as she restrained a mischievous grin.

Carol: “What are you going to do about this?” complained Geoff.

“Do about what?” said Daisy, even though it must have been blindingly obvious.

He threw the sheet back dramatically, hoping to amuse her. “This.”

Carol’s fun manner is infectious.  It was clear that the women on the neighbouring table were straining to catch a glance of the new novel. Carol left the book peeking out of her blue bag, and it was impossible to miss the tempting front cover.  One of the ladies searched for the book on her phone.  

Jessie:  Your first novel, One Night at the Jacaranda received high praise.  What have the reviewers said about Hampstead Fever?

Mischief lit up Carol’s face again as she read out a review so that the ladies could hear.

Carol:  I’ve had some great reviews for Hampstead Fever, but these three are my favourites so far:

“Wow! With its racy storylines, dovetailing plots, fascinating characters and a well-known but equally interesting setting, Hampstead Fever is one of those books you just can’t put down.”

“Fast-paced and sharply observed. I whipped through this in one sitting!”

“Cooper just makes these characters come alive. Why can’t all love stories be like this?”

Jessie: How did you feel when you had finished writing your book, and did you miss any of the characters?

Carol: My characters have become very special to me, even the less likeable ones, so I did miss them when I stopped writing. There are six main characters in Hampstead Fever, and I’d like to spend more time with some of them, so I’ll be taking them into another book to have new adventures.

Jessie: Who would you like to read your book and why?  This could be another author, someone famous, a friend or a member of your family.  

Carol: As I’m sure most authors say, it would just be nice if lots of people read and enjoyed my novel. Having said that, I’d quite like my English teacher from school to see it as I think she’d be proud of me (and hopefully not too shocked by the racier passages).

Jessie: Why should I keep your book in my handbag?

Carol: While Hampstead Fever has some important themes like parental anxiety, ageing relatives, and sick children, it’s also an easy and entertaining read with fairly short chapters. That makes it a good book to pick up while you’re waiting, or whenever you find you have a moment to read.

Jessie: What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?

Carol: It’s for the novel I’m currently writing. The story is set in Egypt, where I grew up, and many scenes are from a child’s viewpoint.

‘Tante Zahra was famed throughout Alexandria for her burping, a habit she blamed on swallowing air with her meals. She wore a towelling turban to hide the fact that she was too old to have any hair left.’

Jessie: What is the biggest challenge for an author?

Carol: I think it’s making your work visible. You could write the most wonderful book ever, but nobody will buy it if they don’t know it exists. There are over two million new books published every year, nearly 200,000 of them in the UK. So, even with the backing of a big publisher, most authors have to work very hard (and need a bit of luck) to get their book noticed.

Jessie: What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?

The best advice I ever had is to keep my writing simple. When writers start out, they often use flowery words, and far more of them than they need. As Somerset Maugham put it, “The best style is the style you don’t notice.”

Carol’s links

Blog Pills & Pillow-Talk

Twitter @DrCarolCooper

Facebook author page Carol Cooper’s London Novels

Website drcarolcooper.com

Instagram drcarolcooper

Pinterest drcarolcooper

 

Please see all my interviews at My Guests and my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Originally posted 2017-09-12 07:00:48.