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Welcome to . . . Author Suzy Henderson

🦉Pizzazz Book Promotions

profile pic small.jpgSuzy Henderson is the author of The Beauty Shop

Suzy, it is so good to meet you!  Tell us a little about the path you have traveled to arrive at the destination we call ‘successful author’!  Don’t hold back!

Well, I was born and raised in Sunderland, a north-east town in England that’s now a bustling city. I always loved to read and found that books could take you to new places and give you great adventures. I suppose being an only child I was lonely at times, and so books became my passion, but I never once dreamed of being a writer. Fast forward a number of years, and I found myself working in a hospital – how did that happen? I became a qualified nurse and then moved south and trained to be a midwife. I got married, had two children and decided to take a career break…

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Author Spotlight: Nicky Clifford

Today I’m delighted to welcome author Nicky Clifford into the spotlight. Welcome, Nicky! Tell us a little about yourself.

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Hello and thanks for inviting me. I’m married with two children and I work part-time for a local charity. Writing has always been my passion, but I never felt confident enough to pursue my dream so I entered the corporate world of HR & Training. Now my sons are teenagers, and with the amazing support of my husband, Mark, I finally feel able to focus on my writing.

What genres do you write and why?

Never Again is a romance, as are my three other completed and three half-finished novels hidden away in my ‘to be revamped at some stage’ folder! I have always been intrigued by the numerous and bumpy paths to romance, combined with the complex ‘will they, won’t they’ couples’ dance as they journey towards their ‘happy ever after’.

When did you first become aware of wanting to be a writer?

At primary school, I loved writing poems and making up stories. I was always told that I had a “lively imagination”; I’m not sure that was thought to be a good thing! Everywhere I went I had to have a pad with me (and still do!) in case some line for a poem or some other idea popped into my head. My mum used to keep all my letters; by the time they spilled out of the biggest box you can imagine, I had to do some much-needed culling!

Which authors do you feel have influenced you the most?

When I was a teenager, I went through Mills & Boon at the same speed as most other teenagers go through tubes of sweets, although I did go through sweets as well, but maybe not at quite the same pace . . .  Enid Blyton was one of my favourite authors; the suspense and magic that she weaved through her words gave me hours and hours of wonderful escape, which ignited my imagination.

Please tell us about your latest published book or your current WIP. 

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Never Again is a contemporary romance: Mountains, Mystery, Romance: Can you run from your past? Harriet Anderson’s life is spiralling out of control. Unused to such mayhem, she ditches her high-powered job to take refuge in the Swiss Alps where she meets Philippe Smith, a crime writer with a dark and shadowy past. Thrown together by chance, is their fate intertwined? Will the karma and romance of the mountains and the quaintness of the Alps soothe their troubled souls? Or will their rocky paths create avalanches that cannot be avoided…

What do you love the most about writing and what do you dislike?

I love it when my writing flows, and when I look back at what I’ve written, I’m often astounded that this is something I created. What I dislike are certain aspects of life that interrupt my writerly flow, particularly the boring admin and house-cleaning, gardening-type things, but excluding, of course, friends, family and my husband and sons! Seriously though, I do have to execute more discipline when I am in the midst of editing my book, particularly if it is for the 5th, 6th or 7th plus time!

What do you love most about being an author and what do you dislike?

Holding my book in my hand is the most indescribably amazing feeling – that is what I love the most, oh and of course when someone loves reading my book – that is pure gold! I’m not so fond of the complicated process of self-publishing and the times when self-doubt whispers persistently in my ear.

Can you share with us the next book on your reading list?

I have started reading The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes. I haven’t got that far in but am already engaged in the story. The other book I am starting this week is The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory – for me, she brings history alive with plenty of drama and a lot of swishing of underskirts and the regular partaking of gigantic feasts! I now have a compelling incentive to ensure I fit in more reading as, following my interview this week with Bill Buckley at BBC Radio Berkshire, Bill has invited me back to join their Book Club next month!

Do you have a favourite time of day to write?

I am much better at everything in the morning, as my energy starts to flag later in the day. I also particularly like it when I am alone in the house, and I can completely lose myself in my world of words without a breath of interruption, that is until the phone rings!

A little extra about Nicky

Having completed a writing course at Reading University, she is a member of her local writing group who have been instrumental in Nicky reaching ‘The End’ of her debut novel, Never Again. Nicky was a keen ice skater, managing to perfect backward crossovers and one-foot turns but has recently hung up her boots to spend more time cycling by the canal and practising ballroom dancing with her husband, as well as relaxing with her friends and family at home in Berkshire.She has decided to make a donation from the book royalties to the charities, Auticulate and Childhood Tumour Trust.

Never Again launched on 21st October and is available in Kindle and Paperback from Amazon:

https://myBook.to/NeverAgain

https://@NickyNovelist

https://www.facebook.com/NickyCliffordWriter/

https://NickyClifford

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Hilary Custance Green & Surviving The Death Railway

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Today I’m so thrilled to welcome author Hilary Custance Green, who recently released her latest book, Surviving the Death Railway.

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Welcome, Hilary and please tell us a little about you…

I’m a Jack of all Trades. I spent twenty years as a sculptor, then went back to university and became a Research Psychologist. To balance the academic life I started writing and publishing fiction. I found it enormously satisfying, so since retiring from the Medical Research Council, I have continued to write.  What I write is fiction, but I try and look honestly and realistically at the way individuals cope with what life throws at them.

What genres do you write and why?

This is always a difficult question to answer. I guess it is literary, but at the lighter end of the genre or maybe you would say it is the literary end of general fiction. I explore some serious themes, but I like to write about love and adventure.

When did you first become aware of wanting to be a writer?

I was a reader first ­– the original bookworm. I dreamt of becoming a poet, but found my own efforts embarrassingly bad. I scribbled endlessly through my teens, but was frustrated by my inept writing skills. The real breakthrough came with the typewriter and then – utter bliss – the computer. Writing became three dimensional, like a sculpture. I could shape ideas, move words, paragraphs, and whole pages. I could clothe a skeleton outline in any order I liked, without losing track of it.

Which authors do you feel have influenced you the most?

My biggest influence during childhood was Kipling – the most mesmerising storyteller, who climbed into the skin of different peoples and animals with ease and made a feast of language. Then there is Mary Renault who combines history, love and the mental life of her protagonists, so satisfyingly. I think she nails that meeting point of erotic and enduring love. Nevil Shute remains a favourite because of the way he is interested in low profile characters – ordinary people who become heroes and heroines in spite of themselves. I admire Sebastian Faulks’s writing, both fiction and non-fiction, and his research is exemplary.

How has your own family history shaped your writing?

In terms of subject matter, not at all. Yet my mother’s social conscience travels with me. My father’s attitude that it is possible to make absolutely anything is certainly built in. Both of them were Cambridge graduates and though neither were academic high achievers, they gave me a respect for reading and thinking and an assumption that there is no fundamental difference between a man and a woman or between nation and nation – except cultural ones.

What do you love the most about writing and what do you dislike?

I think I remain at heart a builder (as I was as a sculptor), someone who loves to take a skeletal idea and clothe and shape it until it comes as near to the original vision as possible.  There is a moment in every novel where it tries to fall apart. It is three-quarters written, the major turning points and climaxes are in place, but the glue between them starts to dry out too soon, parts fall off, the balance shifts too far from the centre. Belief is hard to hold onto at this stage.

Like most other writers, I also dislike the aftermath – the promoting and marketing.

Can you share with us the next book on your reading list?

The truth? The book that has just risen to the top of the pile by my bed is Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers! A non-fiction book, by journalist Mary Roach, looking at what happens to bodies after death. The opening line is: The way I see it, being dead is not far off from being on a cruise ship.

Although I read a great deal of fiction, I have a long list of non-fiction waiting, I am also about to read Midge Gillies Army Wives From Crimea to Afghanistan: the Real Lives of the Women Behind the Men in Uniform.  This subject is dear to my heart and my mother’s story appears in it briefly.

 

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Some of Hilary’s father’s men (Royal Signals 27 Line Section) in Malaya in November 1941, before capture.

 

Please tell us about your latest published book.

During my childhood my father, Barry, talked about my mother’s role in WWII. while Barry and his men were prisoners of the Japanese in the Far East, my mother, Phyllis, had kept in touch with the wives, mothers and other relatives of the men in his Signals Unit (69 men).

 

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Picture of Phyllis which Barry preserved for 4 years & carried through the jungle

 

Phyllis died in 1984, but it was only after Barry’s death in 2009 that I began to search for her papers. I found them, at last, hidden in the archives of a military museum. They included newspaper cuttings, notebooks, address books, a dossier and some 250 letters written to Phyllis from the tenements of Glasgow and the East End of London. I used these letters, along with Barry’s memoirs and Phyllis and Barry’s personal correspondence, to piece together the experiences of the men and women separated by 6000 miles over four long years. These years lasted from the day when the men danced eight Eightsome Reels simultaneously on the platform of Liverpool docks in July 1941, to the autumn of 1945, when forty-one men limped home in ones and twos. What emerges from this and from the post-war letters to Barry and Phyllis is the amazing, unceasing support these men and women gave each other.Surviving the Death Railway: A Far East POW’s Memoir and Letters from Home is my first non-fiction book, and was published this summer by Pen and Sword.

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One of the rare ‘letters’ (they were only permitted to write 25 words in capitals) from Phyllis to Barry that arrived in Thailand. It took over a year to reach him. 

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In the larger, more settled camps, the men put on shows, which Japanese guards enjoyed too. Barry was a chorus girl (Custance Baker) in this one. 

 

 

Discover more about Hilary and where to find her books here:

www.hilarycustancegreen.com

www.greenwritingroom.com

http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Surviving-the-Death-Railway-Hardback/p/12126

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Hilary+Custance+Green

 

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WELSH WEDNESDAYS REVIEW: THE BEAUFORT BRIDE by Judith Arnopp

Via Author Christoph Fischer

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It’s taken me far too lfullres the beaufort bridecoverfinalong to get round to this amazing piece of historical fiction. Why am I publishing this on Welsh Wednesdays?
Not only is the book partly set in Wales, in Caldecot Castle, I’ve actually met Judith in Wales in the run up to the Llandeilo Book Fair in April and have secured myself a signed copy of her book.
At last I got time to read this and must say I am very impressed.
From the first page onwards the prose hooked me into the story of young Margaret, only 12 years old when she is married to someone twice her age. Although the brother of the king, her husband, like his mad brother, is not a great catch.

Told from the young woman’s perspective we gain a great insight into the life of the 1440s court, the life of women and nobility, politics and…

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How To Work Twitter

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Just lately a few people have asked me how I managed to grow my Twitter followers from around the 2000 mark to 8000, over the last six months. I’m quite sure that others can do so much better, but I thought there might be some people interested to know what I do, so here goes.

Twitter, like any social media platform, requires input. I decided to start using Twitter earlier this year, I mean really use it. That means reading tweets, acknowledging retweets, thanking new followers for actually thinking you might be worth engaging with. Remember when you were a child, how you were taught ‘manners’? Well, it’s a lesson in manners. You need to be polite, say please and thank you and you’ll find it goes a long way all around the globe.

Now, I hear what you’re thinking – this takes up so much time. You’re right, it does, so you have to prioritise, and do whatever you can to manage it in the best way. When you’re starting out, you probably won’t have a large following so it won’t be as much work. However, now that I’ve reached 8000, I don’t mind sharing that I’m struggling. There are some management tools such as commun.it which are perfect for keeping track of new followers and formulating tweets for you to send out so you keep up with followers and retweets, but you have to pay, and that’s simply not an option for many people, including me.

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So, how do you grow? I can only speak for myself, and the key is to engage each day or most days. If you need a break, put a pinned tweet on your page letting everyone know you’ll be back and thank them for their support in the meantime. It’s not rocket science – it’s about thinking of how you relate & engage with people face to face and taking that over to Twitter.

Engagement also requires you sharing content. I share many tweets about writing, history and books for sale. I also share blog posts -mine and others – and anything I come across online such as news and history articles. Twitter is fast and furious and once you hit the send button, your tweet is swallowed up in the belly of the whale, but it’s not gone – it’s around and people are going to see it.And while most will ignore it, some will engage. Another good tip is to share yourself with your followers/friends. This means sending out a tweet about your day – how it’s going, what you’re doing, a picture of where you are, a sunrise, sunset, whatever you like. It allows people to see the real you and often that’s far more interesting.

A note on retweets. If someone retweets you, you have options – you can either retweet one of their posts – and a pinned tweet is better -that’s why we pin, to get retweets. Or, you can retweet them and say thanks. All good. Finally, you can say thanks, but I believe most would love you to reciprocate by retweeting them – especially if they have a business or a product to sell – it’s all word of mouth and marketing.

If you do have something to sell, then the general advice is to tweet perhaps 60-70% other content and the remainder your own, whether it’s a product or a service. People don’t want your products dominating the feed.

If you read a tweet that captures your interest, retweet it with a comment -for example, if it’s a beautiful picture, say so. Often I thank people for sharing links to books and articles – it’s a rich resource for all sorts, including history and music. What’s not to love?

Another nice acknowledgement is to do a weekly or twice-weekly round up of tweets to thank your followers for their support. Now here, what you’ll find is that you’ll establish a regular group of retweeters with a few fresh faces every day, so for me, I don’t have all 8000 followers retweeting me, but I have a small group of around 50-100 who retweet daily. This enables me to keep up and retweet them. In a single tweet, you can add five people usually with a message of thanks.

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A final word on reciprocation. If people retweet you, it’s great. But if you never retweet them, or rarely do so, they’ll lose interest. Similarly, if they retweet you but you only like their post, that’s barely meeting them half-way. Retweet for a retweet. A like is better than nothing, but it doesn’t have much influence.

Reciprocation is key, and I can’t stress enough how vital this is. You have to play the game and abide by the rules. If you do, you’ll go from strength to strength. I can’t keep up with 8000 followers. It’s just impossible, and I lose a steady stream daily, of between 20-50, but my new followers are greater in number daily so my following is still increasing. However, many people stick with me for which I’m so grateful because here and there we do engage.

One thing I will say about being a follower – I NEVER unfollow someone merely because they are termed inactive. If you use certain management tools such as Tweepi or Crowdfire, you can see who followed you, unfollowed you and who you’re not following back. That’s great, but they also suggest inactive followers who you can unfollow. I don’t bother. I’m happy to follow them even if they remain silent forever. What does it matter? Often it comes down to the fact that they are like me, struggling in a sea of followers, thrashing around in a desperate attempt to stay afloat, either that or they left the building.

I also keep lists for writing, authors, history, social media etc, which is great for filtering tweets from individuals and allows you to stay in touch, assisting you with engagement.

What I love about Twitter is that it is immediate – you don’t get that with Facebook so much and also Twitter enables you to connect and meet people far more fluidly and it’s exciting, especially when you connect with like-minded people.

As a writer, I love connecting with other writers and readers, which I do on a daily basis, but as a lover of history, I can reach out to others who are equally passionate about history. What else is there to say? I work Twitter because it’s in my interest to do so. Having just placed my novel on pre-order I have also secured some orders through Twitter in the last 2 weeks. For me, that’s fantastic. What I’ve explained here really covers the basics. You learn more as you go, such as the benefit of using hashtags to gain wider attention. I’m still learning myself.

And for those who feel it’s a waste of time, well, all I can say is that it’s like anything – you only get what you put in. Give, and you shall receive. And for me, even if it does nothing to help me sell books, I gain far more such as friendships, daily chats, new discoveries in history, aviation, events, music, writing, literature, editors, proofreaders and so much more. I have to tell you that for me, it’s my favourite platform and I can’t see that changing anytime soon.

I’ve probably left out many useful tips, but this is all I can think of for now. And remember:

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A Plain Russet-Coated Author

Via Author M.J. Logue

A Sweet Disorder

For reasons which are not mine to speculate on, the Historical Novel Society is no longer undertaking indie book reviews at the current time

And a very dear friend of mine has suddenly become a Kindle bestseller.

It’s rather given me food for thought – because, you know, I’ve never achieved more than mid-list success (albeit consistently – that’s not a complaint!), the reviewers are not beating a path to my door, there’s no possibility of a Rosie film.

-There’s the distant possibility of A Cloak of Zeal making it to the silver screen, but that’s different.

The most successful, most widely-shared blog post I’ve ever written, even more so about the one about being mental, was about a bloody Royalist.

My publisher says I’m a good writer, but he’s not keen on the historical definition.

And yet…

That’s what I am. That’s what I do.

My thing is the…

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The Unpredictable Writing Journey

I read a book several years ago, an autobiographical account written by an American B-17 pilot. He was some writer and poet, and he would have gone on to write great stories had he not been killed in the Second World War. My heart ached when I read that. I didn’t want that for him. You see, he’d completed his USAAF tour, but he yearned to fly fighters and so instead of accepting the usual honour of being shipped home, he requested a transfer. Tragically, he was killed in action on November 26th, 1944. His name? Bert Stiles, from Colorado.

So, as I was saying, I read a book once and later, while writing, the going got a little tricky and I decided to re-plan. That’s when I heard it for the first time, as clear as day, a whisper in my ear. And it said, “Come with me, honey. Let’s take a walk.”

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Bert Stiles

And so I took that walk, and I saw an ocean for sky, and learned how luck was a lady and so too was death. I learned something about flying those big birds, those mighty Flying Fortresses the guys called “ships” and how difficult and rough it was to fly in formation, to sail through flak and dodge fighters, or sit tight while they zipped by and rolled beneath your wings, all the while feeling the cannon fire hit the aluminium skin that surrounded you, sometimes tearing it open, sometimes ripping through your flesh and bone.

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Bert Stiles 2nd from right (front) with crew

I heard yells and shouts over the onboard interphone system while pilots formed up, taking their place within those mighty formations in the sky, while group and wing leaders yelled and bitched at everyone for being in too close, or not close enough, and not in the right place at all. All this at ten-fifteen thousand feet above the tranquil English countryside which had never looked so green and would look even greener when Bert returned.

One particular mission to Leipzig, was rough, with Forts blown up, endless fighter attacks and Bert watching the mass destruction of the low squadron as they’re shot up, blown up and shot down. Only one guy came through it. As they flew home, he notes stoically the secret to survival is to maintain a tight formation, and the journey back to base on that occasion was easy because so many ships weren’t coming home at all. It’s incredibly poignant.

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Bert Stiles Fighter Pilot

He mentioned some of the guys who went down on that mission. He stated the colour of Maurie’s eyes, and how he was ‘the walking symbol of sex’ and he hoped Maurie managed to bail out. After landing, he thanked Lady Luck for sticking with him.

That walk was an emotional rollercoaster because no one tells it like Bert Stiles. And the magic shines in his eloquent words because he spoke them so simply. There’s nothing fancy and yet it shimmers like sunlight splintering across the Atlantic.

That voice sits with me today and I’m thankful for I have a friend, as writers are allowed to have such friends. We see and we hear what no one else does and that’s a blessing, most of the time. But this voice changed the course of my story, and my main character went from being an English pilot with Bomber  Command to an American B-17 pilot. There is no reason for this other than the voice in my ear that day was present, filling what had been a constant silence for so long. It was compelling, vying to be heard, to get a message across and I was merely the vessel to do so.

And so it is that writing is unpredictable, regardless of meticulous planning, you have to listen to stillness and be willing to respond and shape your writing according to the music – as long as it feels right to do so.

Thank you for your service, Bert Stiles, and for your beautiful prose (August 30, 1920 – November 26th, 1944). Lest we forget.

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See my books page for more details and updates.

 

 

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August Book Reviews 2016

August 2016 is: Write an Amazon review month! 

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This post is courtesy of the author, Terry Tyler.

On Monday 25th July, book blogger Rosie Amber wrote this post encouraging readers and writers alike to post a short review on Amazon for any book they’ve read and enjoyed ~ following this up, Terry Tyler is starting this initiative along with other writer-bloggers including Rosie, Cathy from Between The Lines, Barb Taub, Shelley Wilson and Alison Williams.

The idea is that, from August 1st, everyone who reads this uses their Amazon account to post just one review on one book that they’ve read (but feel free to carry on if you get in the swing!).  You don’t even have to have read it recently, it can be any book you’ve read, at any time.  The book does not have to have been purchased from Amazon, though if it is you get the ‘Verified Purchase’ tag on it; however, if you download all your books via Kindle Unlimited, as many do these days, they don’t show the VP tag, anyway.

Remember, this isn’t the Times Literary Supplement, it’s Amazon, where ordinary people go to choose their next £1.99 Kindle book.  No one expects you to write a thousand word, in-depth critique; I don’t know about you, but I’m more likely to read one short paragraph or a couple of lines saying what an average reader thought of a book than a long-winded essay about the pros and cons of the various literary techniques used.  Yes, those are welcome too (!), but no more so than a few words saying “I loved this book, I was up reading it until 3am”, or “I loved Jim and Vivien and the dialogue was so realistic”, or whatever!

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Why should you write a review?

They help book buyers make decisions.  Don’t you read the reviews on Trip Advisor before deciding on a hotel, or any site from which you might buy an item for practical use?  Book reviews are no different.

If the book is written by a self-published author or published by an independent press, the writers have to do all their promotion and marketing themselves ~ reviews from the reading public is their one free helping hand.

The number of reviews on Amazon helps a book’s visibility (allegedly).  If you love a writer’s work and want others to do so, too, this is the best possible way of making this happen.

It’s your good deed for the day, and will only take five minutes!

Off we go, then!  A few more pointers:

If you need any help with writing your review, do click on Rosie’s post, above.

A review can be as short as one word.  The shortest one I have is just two 🙂

You don’t have to put your name to the review, as your Amazon ‘handle’ can be anything you like.

No writer expects all their reviews to be 5* and say the book is the best thing ever written; there is a star rating guide on Rosie’s post.

Would you like to tell the Twittersphere about your review?  If so, tweet the link to it with the hashtag #AugustReviews ~ and thank you!  I will do one blog post a week featuring these links: The #AugustReviews Hall of Fame (thank you, Barb!).

If you have a blog and would like to spread the word about #AugustReviews, please feel free to copy and paste this blog post, provide the link to it, re-blog it, or whatever ~ many thanks, and I hope you will join in to make this idea a success 🙂

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Terry Tyler: http://terrytyler59.blogspot.co.uk/

Catch up with Terry on twitter here: https://twitter.com/TerryTyler4

 

 

 

 

 

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The Man Behind The Writer: Ernest Hemingway

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The Old Man and the Sea, For Whom the Bell Tolls, A Farewell to Arms – these are but a small selection of novels written by Ernest Hemingway during his lifetime. They drew much acclaim and helped to establish his position as one of the twentieth-century literary greats. But have you read any of his books? While many applauded him, he equally had to fend off his critics. Love him or hate him, his novels are here to stay, and while some have likened Hemingway’s prose to that of an adolescent, it is his style of prose upon which the light brightly shines.

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The Young, Ernest Hemingway.

In understanding how Hemingway became one of the greatest writers of literature in the twentieth century, it is important to look at Hemingway the man to gain an appreciation of his life and experiences and then you will see how they informed and shaped his writing. His life story reads like a novel and is bestowed with richness and all the usual trimmings such as love and loss.

The young Ernest was tall, lean and athletic and enjoyed outdoor pursuits such as fishing and sailing. War, fighting, and death played a prominent role in his life, and the man was voracious, energetic and passionate, embracing experiences and absorbing them body and soul with an insatiable appetite. He enjoyed the company of his male friends and this brought out his competitive streak.
Ernest Hemingway was born in Illinois in 1899. His father was a doctor, and his mother had been a promising opera singer. When he left school at the age of seventeen, he joined the Kansas City Star for several months as a reporter. These early days gave him experience as a writer while war raged overseas in Europe.

At the age of eighteen, Ernest answered the call for ambulance drivers for the American Red Cross and found himself posted to Italy. He went because, as he once said, “I wanted to go . . . My country needed me, and I went and did whatever I was told.”

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Hospital, Italy WW1.

The world was in the grip of war and, like many young men of his generation, he was eager to make a difference, to do his duty and above all to witness this major event. Working close to the front, it was only a matter of time before he was injured or worse and that day came after one month.

While he recovered in hospital, he fell in love with a nurse, but the relationship was not to last, something which devastated him and it was from his entire experience in Italy that his novel, A Farewell to Arms was born. Within the story, a love affair blossoms, a precious jewel amidst the horror and total despair of war. Often dubbed the best American novel to have come out of World War One, it cemented Ernest Hemingway’s reputation as a leading writer of his time.

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Hemingway in France WW2

Afterwards, Ernest returned home to America and a hero’s welcome and became a reporter for American and Canadian newspapers. He spent time in Europe covering the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922) and later, the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). It was from this that Ernest drew on his experiences in his novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940).

Between 1944 and 1945 he travelled to London and Europe, as a war correspondent and he witnessed the first Allied landings on D-Day from a landing craft at sea. From his view of Omaha Beach, he saw the first, second, third, fourth and fifth wave of troops who had fallen in their struggle to reach cover. He witnessed battles and was present at the liberation of Paris – a city he knew well having lived there years earlier.

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Omaha Beach, D-Day

In 1950, his novel Across the River and Into the Trees was published and garnered much criticism. A year later, when he had completed The Old Man and the Sea (1952) partially spurred on by a swell of fury, he said that it was “the best I can write ever for all of my life,” (E. Hemingway, 1952). The Nobel Foundation awarded Hemingway the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954 “for his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea, and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style,” (The Nobel Foundation).

While Ernest was beginning life as a reporter, he never lost sight of the rules impressed upon him. Write short sentences and keep them simple. Use short first paragraphs and vigorous English. Over the years, he shaped modern literature with his pared-down prose. He became the masterful pruner of words and his lean prose harnesses a strength that shapes and informs and therein lies the brilliance.

And so it was that a young Ernest Hemingway transcended his journey as a reporter, drawing upon his experiences to become one of the greatest and most cherished writers of the twentieth century, forever immortalised in the works he left behind; his legacy of a lifetime of war, love and loss amongst other things. War undoubtedly left its mark on Hemingway.

War undoubtedly left its mark on Hemingway and he was renowned for writing about it and his first-hand accounts from his front line coverage served as fuel for his own writing. Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr has been quoted as saying, “The way we write about war or even think about war was affected fundamentally by Hemingway.”

After the Great War, Hemingway had to deal with returning to civilian life just as any soldier at that time and in his own town, nothing had changed. But war had changed the men who returned. In his book, “Soldiers Home”, a soldier, Howard Krebs, returns home from war and struggles to reconnect with his life and his family. Krebs cannot love anymore, or pray and feels as if his soul was taken from him by the war. Within this short story, the aftermath is dealt with in such a poignant way, as if Ernest was therapeutically working his own way through the mist as he wrote.

Hemingway’s prose, renowned for its sparseness, its pared-down style, is magical. It was a new twist on literature, and a different way of writing. He used unpretentious words that spoke volumes. And yet, as simple as the prose may seem upon first sight, you soon discover the genius behind the pen, the master crafter, and the beauty conveyed from each page. His novels scream to be read over and over and each time you do so you will discover something new. Hemingway’s prose makes the reader think, assimilate and perceive for there is much to uncover, and it is his style, his unique approach to writing that has propelled him into the literary canon and identified him as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.

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Sense of Place

When you’re writing, how do you know if you’ve successfully created a sense of place? Crafting a story involves a multitude of ingredients and once you’ve settled on the period and the place where your story takes place, how do you create this world?

 

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Lake Ullswater, Cumbria, England.

 

The first obvious solution is to visit the place in person. Grab your notebook and walk around the streets of the village or town, soak up the atmosphere. Take a seat in a cafe, drink a cup of coffee and while away the time as you watch life all around you; be observant. As you sit, conjure up all the senses and make notes. What do you hear, smell?

Are you writing historical fiction? You could visit the local museum and check out the tourist information office for places of interest. After that, there will undoubtedly be local historians and other experts who will be more than happy to assist.

Research is essential. If you are writing in the present, then there is not much research to be done, although ‘field trips’ are still useful if you can make them. If not, use the internet. There is a wealth of information at your fingertips and Google Earth is rather useful for places that are just out of your reach. It’s amazing how much more informed you can become by gazing at an online map.

 

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Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle

 

Finally, after the research, it’s time to write. Your characters will need to be dressed appropriately for the period unless of course it’s the present day. But if it’s in the past, then everything needs to be right, including the interior of homes, lighting, cooking, cars and other means of transportation, hair styles, make-up, perfume, music, essentially every detail.

Speech is another consideration, in my opinion (which is subjective so you can disagree). We’ve all heard the ‘period speech’ of the Georgian period, for instance, having watched many dramas over the years. However, when it comes to reading about such times, I have no wish to be bogged down in such archaic language. Using the odd phrase here and there is fine, but I believe that speech ought to feel natural and flow. Clearly the language will always be different to the present day, just not riddled with archaic language. And many great authors have decided against replicating the language of the period, simply because they had no wish to alienate their readers. So it’s worth considering.

Another issue with dialogue is flow. Being grammatically correct is all well and good, but do we all speak like this?

“I will go to the shop later, as I am planning to visit Jane.”

No, we don’t. I for one favour contractions and so would say:

“I’ll go to the shop later, as I’m off to see Jane.”

Now, you can see from the example above how stilted that first line is. It simply doesn’t flow, and it’s not music to my ears. So, it’s up to the individual writer, but I’m for the most natural sounding speech. I read a book recently, by a very well known author who had used this type of speech pattern throughout for one particular character, and I decided it must have been her way of differentiating the voice. I loved the story but the dialogue was frustrating and so out of place and I found myself grumbling each time I read that particular character’s speech.

So, to sum up, natural dialogue will not kill your historical story, and it’s still possible to use certain words or phrases to give it a little authenticity without overdoing things, and as long as your world is depicted in all its original glory, then the reader will gain a sense of place.

And one last tip – get a great book for some good advice, such as, “Get Started In Writing Historical Fiction” by Emma Darwin. I can highly recommend it and I’ve found it very helpful. Happy writing.

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Writing Forged from War

Writing is a serious affair and, like an affair, it is intense, fraught with frustration along the way and at times, a battle. Equally, it is bursting with passion and all manner of life experiences. Where and how are our best-loved stories born? Arguably experience is an essential element for many writers. The imagination is only part of the mix.

 

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A young Ernest circa WW1

 

Ernest Hemingway is one writer who lived and witnessed the fighting of three major wars during his lifetime. Born in 1899 in Illinois, United States, he was working for the Kansas City Star when war broke out in 1914. He volunteered for the Red Cross before the Americans had entered the war and became an ambulance driver in Italy.

 

Seriously wounded by a mortar shell in 1918, he was rendered unconscious by the blast. When he came too, he picked up an injured Italian soldier lying next to him and carried him on his back to the first aid dugout. For his bravery, Hemingway was awarded the Italian Medal of Military Valour and the Croce DI Guerra.

The blast that injured Hemingway was ferocious; shards of mortar shell fragments ripped into his legs, chest, and head. He was also partially buried by earth in a dugout. In later years, his fiction would portray his war wounding and more besides. It left an indelible mark on Hemingway, the man, and the writer. He once said how he feared the dark and for years could not sleep without a light.

 

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Agnes von Kurowsky

 

While recovering in a Red Cross hospital in Milan, he met the American nurse, Agnes von Kurowsky. Hemingway was nineteen and Agnes was twenty-six and engaged to a doctor. Over a period of a month or two, they grew closer, holding hands openly and writing notes to one another. Agnes reportedly carried a picture of Ernest with her wherever she went. Late in August, Hemingway wrote a letter to his mother informing her that he was in love. But just as summer gave way to autumn, their relationship also suffered change. Agnes was posted away, and although they maintained contact by writing letters, it seems that the distance apart gave Agnes time for reflection. By March 1919, Agnes wrote a letter to Hemingway breaking off the engagement. He was devastated, having been so in love. However, rather than lose himself in sorrow, it seems he chose to fight back and immersed himself in work and went on to achieve something great.

So, for Ernest Hemingway, going to war brought almost the equivalent of a lifetime’s experience. Not only was he physically scarred and injured, but psychologically scarred too. Putting his experiences to great use, he went on to forge one of his best-loved novels, A Farewell to Arms (1929), which portrays the love affair of a young ambulance driver and a nurse on the Italian front during the First World War. Working as a journalist covering the Spanish Civil War, he would later go on to write For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940). This novel captures the essence of the Civil War, illustrating it in all its brutality.

 

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Ernest Hemingway and Colonel Charles T. “Buck” Lanham with captured artillery in Schweiler, Germany, 18 September 1944. Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

 

During the inter-war years, he became acquainted with many of the modernist writers of the era, such as Ezra Pound, James Joyce, and Gertrude Stein. Working as a war correspondent in World War Two, he was present at the Normandy landings and the liberation of Paris. Hemingway went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1952 for his novel, The Old Man, and the Sea, while in 1954, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature.

His style as a writer bears a similarity to modernist writers in that his prose is very minimalist, tight and direct. Often things are unsaid and left for the reader to concur, but his prose is equally moving, beautiful and eloquent. According to James Nagel, Hemingway’s prose “changed the nature of American writing.”

In considering whether Hemingway’s war experiences informed his writing, Henry Louis Gates believed it was fundamental. After World War One, many of the modernist writers “lost faith in the central institutions of Western civilisation” and created a new style of writing through which meaning is established through dialogue, action, and prose permeated with silences.

He truly was one of the greatest writers, and it was a tragic day in July 1961 when Ernest Hemingway took his life. Having suffered from a form of depression, like his father before him, he committed suicide.

Arguably, without his experience, we would today be devoid of at least three of his greatest works. Like many writers and poets over the years, he has taken periods of political unrest and war and used them to illustrate the brutality and futility of such conflicts. His writing is no polemic but has the power to bring the reader to ponder and question while lost in the beauty of his prose.images (1)images

 

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My Journey to Publication

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Well, it has been a long time coming but this year there is an anniversary that is specific to my story and as such I have decided to take the plunge and self-publish. It may sound rather mad to anyone else, but to me, I saw it as a sign to get a move on.

I find myself in the process of revisions once more. However, things are moving on and I have a book cover – professionally designed – and I have been wrestling with writing my own book blurb for weeks. The thing is, everyone I speak to about this says the same. We might be writers, but writing blurbs is a whole new territory. It’s essentially copywriting and it’s a sales pitch. Perhaps writers are the worst choice for this job because we are too close to the story. But there are people out there who write fantastic blurbs and I now have someone on recommendation, so hopefully my problem is solved.

 

What else? Oh yes, websites. Your author platform is not complete without one. A blog is great but having a professional looking website is even better. Having secured a domain name I now have a website, not that it’s fully functional as yet, but it soon will be. There’s so much to do including marketing and I’m spending hours googling everything I can think of in a bid to learn and be prepared. I need to decide who to use for printing my paperbacks but my book is being released first as an E-book, and so I have a little extra time for this.

For the time being I need to complete my revisions and send off to my editor. I’m hopeful that I will be ready to release my debut in August/September 2016, but if not then it will be a case of “Coming soon” as it has to be as perfect as I can possibly make it before I will allow it to breathe. And, in the spirit of WW2 I shall do this:

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91-year-old WWII veteran breaks his silence about the Dachau massacre

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Most news articles, about the American soldiers who liberated the Dachau concentration camp on April 29, 1945, mention that these veterans have never talked to their families about the horror of Dachau.  Now one of the Dachau liberators, Don Ritzenthaler, has broken his silence and has told his grandson about what really happened at Dachau when the camp was liberated.

Gatehouse at Dachau concentration camp, 1945

This quote is from an article written by John Deem on May 25, 2012 in the Lake Norman Citizen newspaper:

Grandpa Ritz has never been able to talk about Dachau, other than to say he was there, and that what he saw was horrible. After reading about the place and what the Germans did to their mostly Jewish prisoners, I wasn’t surprised that the mention of Dachau rendered my typically effusive grandfather mute.

But there always was something in Grandpa’s reaction that made me…

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