A Family Affair

Birthday cake

Multi-Coloured Cake. Delicious!

Yesterday was my daughter Lucy’s birthday lunch. It was held at her brother’s house, because David and Tasha have lots of room and it’s easy for us all to meet there. Being with kids and grand-kids, ex-husband and his wife, plus Mike it was a real family affair.

Which led to me think about writer and their families.

Do writers expect their nearest and dearest to read their books? From dedications by best-selling authors you get the impression that their partners do just that, which when those books provide you with a great life style is what you should do. But what about the rest of us?

It’s always great to be told that someone has enjoyed your novel, but there was something very special about my sister telling me that “Picking up the Pieces” was so absorbing that it got her through a bad bout of illness, or my mum saying that that she stayed up until the early hours of the morning to finish it.

Being as I write primarily for women, I wouldn’t expect to get the same reaction from my son, or even from my husband. So, for me I suppose it depends on genre. What I do get from the men in my life is support for my writing, David on twitter, Mike on his blog and when he talks to other people.

And my wider family buys my books. So all in all, I’m lucky.

As for anything I write that I wouldn’t want them to read…that is where writing under another name comes in.

 

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Happy Bunnymass

Easter bunny
When my brother was little, the family joke was that he would only allow his hair to be washed on high days and holidays, and the feasts of the Church.

Christmas and Easter would produce a sparklingly clean toddler ready to be taken to church with me and my sister to sit through the seemingly endless services. Good Friday went on for hours, three to be exact, Maundy Thursday Mass was long too. The Easter Vigil on Saturday night, however, was quite a different thing.

In those days the Church did things properly and the Vigil began at 11am. In the darkness, the priest led the congregation into the church by the light of the Easter Candle. A symbol of the risen Christ coming into the world, but also one resonant of pagan rituals and atavistic beliefs of the power of light over dark, and the fear of night.

Small children, unless going to be baptised, were left at home so it was only Mum, Anuk and I who walked through the deserted streets of the estate in the early hours of the morning, gorging on the chocolate, which we had all given up for Lent.Easter Eggs

Those memories of Easter still permeate my view of the weekend and I find it sad that increasingly the religious side of the feast is being forgotten.

Not so in Europe where the processions take to the streets and sins are repented and resurrection celebrated in what has to be primal two fingers up to darkness and death. Here in the UK, however, we are swamped by a plethora of bunnies and eggs. The symbolism of which is a mystery to most people.

In fact very few people seem to know anything about Easter, which, whether you are a believer or not, is a great shame, for it is all part of our culture.

How can you access the art of the Renaissance if you do not know the Christian stories which so many paintings depict? How can you make sense of John Donne’s “Good Friday Riding Westward” or any of the other Metaphysical Poets? Or T.S. Elliot, or Stanley Spenser’s painting etc., etc.?The Resurrection, Cookham 1924-7 by Sir Stanley Spencer 1891-1959

Without this knowledge everyone misses out, so remember Easter is not all about eggs and bunnies and there is a meaning to the hot cross bun you had with your coffee.

 

 

The Missing Quote

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Finding a title is, for me, one of the most difficult things about writing a book. Most of my novels have a name that I know will not make it to publication. All my books, to date, started out as something completely different that, as the novel progressed, or my editor/beta-readers gave their feedback I realised simply didn’t work. Then it was back to searching for an appropriate phrase that hooked potential readers.

Mostly this involved hours of brainstorming and searching through the text for that magical combination of words that no one would be able to resist.

As you know, from pervious blogs, “Shadows on the Grass” started as a full scale historical novel which I called “Daughters of the Eagle,” which I thought worked well as four of the main characters, Maria, Mimi, Hannah and Marianna had all lived through the tumultuous history of Poland in the late 19th to mid-20th century and the eagle referred to the Polish coat of arms.

With a shorter novel, much of which is set in sixties Bristol this did not work as well, so once again I had to re-think my original concept.

The phrase “Shadows on the Grass” was used in the early version by Marianna but deleted in the new version so I felt that if I wanted to use it, I would have to find another source.

A quick Google and I found,

“What is life? …It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot, Blackfoot Warrior and Orator.

Since “Shadows on the Grass” does indeed deal with the impermanence of life, this was perfect.

Why then did it not find its way into the final version?

Well, this is where I have to admit to a total slip-up. When Peter Coleborn, who proof-read and formatted the book, asked for the prelims, I forgot to send the quote. When he asked me to check that everything was in order, I missed it.

So no one to blame but myself.

Lesson to self: be more careful next time. Though hopefully the lack of the quote has not taken away anyone’s enjoyment of the novel.

 

 

Showering

Natural-Setting-Waterfall-4K-Wallpaper-680x425

When someone asks me where my ideas come from, the question is so open-ended that I never know where to start. Do I talk about the sudden spark that comes from an overheard conversation, the image of a character that floats across my brain, the memory from childhood, or the “what if” that appears to arrive at random? What happens to these prompts is shaped by the conscious and the sub-conscious mind. Sometimes there is a deliberate choice to write to submit to an anthology, or to try out a genre I haven’t attempted before. On other occasions the arrival of a certain character demands that their story is told. Then again, a couple of lines of dialogue lead seamlessly into a longer piece.

It’s as if there is so much going on in my brain that I only have to reach out and snag something I want, or need to write about.

And the place where these stories come into my mind is often…the shower.

There is something about standing under a fall of water that sets the creative processes flowing.

Maybe, symbolically the brain is being washed clean and made ready. Or the shower is a place to relax, get the alpha waves working and unblock any impediments to the imagination.

Whatever the reasons, quite often I have to leap out of the shower and start writing.

Years ago an agent told me that many of her writers work in the same way. She was surprised by this finding, I am not.

All I wish is that someone would invent a waterproof notebook and pen, so that I could stand under a shower of blissfully hot water and write whatever comes into my head.

PS Why the waterfall? It’s much more beautiful that me in the shower.

 

 

Happy Mothering Sunday

Four Generations

Four generations of women in my family

It’s that day in the year when we are all supposed to think about our mothers, send cards and flowers and take them out to lunch.

In the beginning, however, this tradition was nothing to do with mothers but it was the day when people went back to their mother church, the church where they were baptised, or the local parish church, to celebrate Laetare Sunday.  Anyone who did this was said to have gone “a-mothering.”

In later times, Mothering Sunday became a day when domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother church, usually with their own mothers and other family members. It was often the only time that whole families could gather together, since on other days they were prevented by conflicting working hours, and servants were not given free days on other occasions.

The children would pick wild flowers along the way to place in the church or give to their mothers. Eventually, the religious tradition evolved into the Mothering Sunday secular tradition of giving gifts to mothers.

Lovely though it is to be given a special day the relationship between mothers and children is an on-going one that begins at birth and continues often beyond the end of life.  Whether our mothers are still alive of not their influence conscious and sub-conscious continues shaping our thoughts, emotions and behaviour.
It’s this link between mothers and daughters that is a constant theme in my writing. In “House of Shadows” Jo’s mother refuses to see herself in that role, preferring to be treated as an older sister and leaving the mothering to Jo’s Gran.

Picking Up The PiecesIn “Picking up the Pieces” independent, resourceful Liz encourages her daughter to go travelling, but misses Poppy dreadfully while she is away. While self-absorbed Elsa is enough of a mother not to want to trouble her son with her problems.

“Shadows on the Grass” follows the lives of a grandmother, mother, daughter and aunt showing how the care, or lack of it, can make a profound difference in the way a young woman sees herself and what she can expect of life.

Even in my latest work in progress, the children’s book “City of Secrets”, Letty Parker has an unconventional relationship both with her mamma and her step-mamma.

 

All about this months 6×6 writers and their books

This is always a great evening. I will enjoy reading from “Shadows on the Grass” and hopefully selling a few books too.

6x6 Writers Cafe

We are thrilled to have have no less than three books being promoted in the month’s 6×6! Bring your wallets because there will be books to buy!

In alphabetical order:

Misha Herwin: Shadows on the Grass. Publisher Penkhull Press

“Every family has its secrets. In the nineteen-sixties Bristol, seventeen-year-old Kate is torn between the new sexual freedom and her rigid Catholic upbringing. Mimi, her grandmother, is dying and in her final hours, her cousin, the Princess, keeps watch at her bedside and remembers their past, bound together by a terrible betrayal. And Mimi’s daughter Hannah struggles to keep the peace between her daughter and her husband whilst finding her own way through a post-war world in a foreign land where everything she once knew has been swept away.” (Available in Print and Kindle formats.)

Misha Herwin: is a writer of books and short stories for adults and children. Her latest…

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