Friday, 29 November 2013

Old age ain't for sissies!

So said the late Bette Davis, one of the truly great movie stars. Just to make sure she did say that, I checked her still active website and  discovered a whole bunch of her marvellous quotations. Check out Bette Davis quotes Another age related on was 'If you want a thing well done, get a couple of old broads to do it.' One which has a particular relevance to me as I struggle with my rewrite is 'Attempt the impossible if you want to improve yourself.' Must remember that one! Preferably, pin it up next to my computer.

Remember the song, 'She's Got Bette Davis Eyes'? In case you've forgotten, here's the link Bette Davis eyes  My reason for posting this Youtube clip? Well, when I was younger people said that about me. Just to prove it, here's a pic of me from 1962.

 But this isn't a rant about old age or even a eulogy to Bette Davis. It's a celebration of a life well lived, mine. Because much of my childhood was spent with my parents in domestic service, I got to live in some pretty impressive houses, which gave me a glimpse of how the other half lived.  (I always said I should have been born a rich man's daughter and my father agreed with me.) We moved around a lot with jobs and once, I went to four different schools in on term. At the age of 15, I was working as a towel weaver in a cotton mill and feel proud that I was, for a time, a part of the once great cotton industry. In the early 1960s, I went to live and work in the United States, something young women just didn't do, which changed my life forever. There's a lot more I could tell you but I won't bore you.

Now in my mid-70s (how did that happen?), I have dodgy eyes, teeth and knees and something called an 'essential tremor' (aka the shakes) though what's essential about it, I have yet to discover! Yet I believe in living the best life I can under less than ideal circumstances. When researching the subject of old age, I came across a wonderful prayer by Peter Marshall, an American preacher who died far too young in 1949. He said, 'When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grown strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.' Wise words indeed.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Fifty Years On - A Momentous Year

As we are all aware, today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John Kennedy. Oh, we all know now of his sexual exploits but back then, he was truly the Golden Boy and his death devastated more than just a nation. He was the hero of the Civil Rights Movement, especially in his speech to the American people on 11th June 1963, just a few months before his death. He said, 'One hundred years ... have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves yet their heirs ... are not yet freed from the bonds of injustive ...' Largely as a result of his support, on 2nd July, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law.

Me holding baby Lisa, summer 1964

But what of my own memories? How do I remember that event? I had spent the latter part of the 1962 and the early part of 1963 working as a Mother's Helper in the United States.
As the girlfriend of an African-American, I experienced racial abuse first hand. In November 1963, I was in a Mother and Baby Home awaiting the birth of an illegitimate child, very much a disgrace then. The baby was the end result of my relationship with said African-American. I remember sitting silently with the other residents of the Home, glued to the black and white television in the lounge, more than one of us crying. At that time, it was the most tragic thing we had seen or heard. So young, so handsome, he was. And those poor fatherless children, together with the beautiful young widow. None of us knew of the Kennedy family secrets then. We continued to watch the drama unfold as the alleged killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, was himself shot by a small-time gangster, Jack Ruby. The controversy and conspiring theories abound still.

In December, 1963, I gave birth to my darling daughter, Lisa, and, of course, she celebrates her 50th birthday this coming December. I can honestly say that I've never regretted the decision I made to keep her. I later learned that, as a child of mixed race, she would probably have had to go into a children's home. There, she would, in all probability, have been bullied because of her colour, something she did experience as a schoolgirl. She hasn't had an easy life but I'm so proud of the way she's turned out despite all her problems.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Discovering Audiobooks - and novel progress report

With my eyesight deteriorating rapidly, I've been struggling to read. And I do read a lot! I can manage still with my Kindle because I can increase the font size but I've had to give up on normal print books. There's always large print books at the library although I've found the choice a bit limited. But audiobooks are wonderful for people like me! I can listen for hours without straining my eyes! 

I really admire how the narrators manage the different accents of the various characters. It seems to add to my enjoyment and make the characters come alive for me. But have you seen the price of audiobooks to buy? Between £20 and £25 on average! Thank God for public libraries.

Last time I posted I mentioned about tackling yet another rewrite of A Suitable Young Man (I've more or less decided that will be its title). Unfortunately, the rewriting and the cataract problems have come into conflict. I'm find it hard to concentrate on writing for more than an hour. This means that it will be slow progress but I'm hoping the cataract operation will be scheduled early in the New Year. In the meantime, I shall just have to learn patience - not one of my strong points!

Friday, 11 October 2013

Good News for a change!

Yes, at last, some good news. A couple of weeks ago I pitched a two articles to a couple of editors, one to a magazine I have written for in the past, the other to Discover Your History, a magazine I hadn't heard of before but was mentioned in Writing Magazine.  I'm pleased to report that the editor of that magazine has accepted my article! I haven't heard from the other one yet but he may be up against deadlines or on holiday.

The other good news is that I have made a slow start on my latest rewrite of A Suitable Young Man/Save The Last Dance For me (I still can't decide!). I suspect that once I really get down to it, the process will speed up. At least, that's what I'm hoping!

Unfortunately, some bad news to counteract the good, I knew my eyesight was deteriorating but now that I have been to see my optician, I have learned that I now have two cataracts not just one. She has referred me to the hospital but goodness knows when anything will come through about that. In the meantime, I'm struggling to read (oh, horror!) and typing this through a fog.

Friday, 27 September 2013


Breaking News! Medley, my selection of short stories, is on offer for free this Saturday and Sunday only. Not sure of the times due to time zones. If you go for it, please be so kind as to leave a review, hopefully a favourable  one.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Medley: A new collection of short stories

After a hiatus of a couple of months (see my previous blog Time to 'Fess up' for the reason why), I've finally got around to pulling together some of my short stories and publishing them with Kindle Direct Publishing. This is it:

MEDLEY consists of eight stories, six of which were written to a theme suggested by Writing Magazine/Writers' News competitions. Several of them were shortlisted to final judging stage. Apart from one, an adult fairy story, all are about real people coping with real life.

For further details, go to  Enjoy!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Time to 'fess up!

Yes, it's confession time. I've had my reader's critique on A Suitable Young Man/Save The Last Dance For Me from the Romantic Novelists' Association New Writers' Scheme for a few weeks now and said nothing about it. The reason I haven't mentioned it before is because the reader had written quite a harsh report, leaving me devastated and demoralised, especially after such a good report last year. 

However, while at the RNA Conference, I had a lovely chat with the New Writers' Scheme, Melanie Hilton (who writes Regency romances as Louise Allen.) She agreed that the report was harsh but said that, had the reader not believed it was worthwhile, she wouldn't have written such a comprenhensive report. Melanie also confessed that even after having numerous books published, she still gets reports like that from her editor!

She advised starting with the easier edits; that way the rewrite wouldn't be as daunting. In fact, when I finally looked at the manuscript, I discovered that the reader had comprehensively annotated pages in much the sam way I would imagine an editor would do. These suggestions are extremely helpful and it's those I will be making a start with. Once I've done those, I'll look again at the report to see how much of her other suggestions I can take on board.

Although my heart quails at the thought of yet another rewrite, I know that it has to be done if ever I am to be published.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

A steamy experience!

Ha! That got your attention, didn't it? Actually, I was talking about last weekend (12th-14th July) when I was a delegate at this year's Romantic Novelists' Association Conference. The steamy experience stems from the fact that the air conditioning in The 
Edge Conference Centre had broken down. Although portable air con units and fans had been hired, we still steamed in the extremely warm temperatures. Here are some random thoughts of the weekend.

Who designs a building with windows that don't open especially when, predictably, the air con breaks down during the hottest weekend of the year - meeting up with old friends and making new contacts - established authors are some of the nicest people around and so generous with their time - the abundant greenery of Endcliffe Student Village - interesting and informative workshops - pity I had to come out of a couple before I flaked out - spendid Gala dinner on Saturday night with everyone dressed in their finest, fancy shoes, plenty of wine - hard-working organisers and committee members - sitting out in the blissfully cool night air - regret that I hadn't taken my comfy old sandals and paying the price with swollen feet and blisters - saying goodbye to everyone - regret that it was over with for another year - roll on next year!

Yours truly at the Gala Dinner.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Eulogy for my home town

After much thought, I decided to set my novel Save The Last Dance For Me (or it could well be called A Suitable Young Man - I haven't made up my mind yet), in my home town of Horwich in Lancashire. My logic was that I knew it well. When I lived there in the 1950s/1960s, it was a vibrant thriving town with a couple of mills and the Locomotive Works and many traditional independent shops. I found that using it as the location for my novel, it became as much a character of the book as any of the other characters.

Sadly, the Locomotive Works, then the main source of work for Horwich men, closed about 1968 followed soon after by the mills. 

I haven't lived there since 1967 but have returned there many times, especially with my mother before she died. Now that I live in Derbyshire, hubby and I try to go back at least once a year to tend the family grave and spend some time with a friend I've known for 60 years. 

Last weekend, we took a short break holiday to the area and on Saturday morning, as usual, took a walk around Horwich. It seemed as if every other shop was shuttered and the rest of the town looked shabby and careworn. One of my abiding memories had been the independent ironmongers', Buchanan's, with its pervading smell of firewood and paraffin. We were so sad, on Saturday, to see that, too, was closed and shuttered. It seemed to me then that the heart and soul of Horwich has gone. There's no doubt it my mind that the town has been killed off by the nearby retail park of Middlebrook.

At least, Horwich lives on in my memory and in my book!

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Progress Report on Save The Last Dance For Me

After months of a fairly radical rewrite of certain parts of Save The Last Dance For Me, I have finally printed off all 323 pages (91,000+ words) and sent them to the New Writers Scheme of the Romantic Novelists' Association. This is the third time I have had it critiqued and, as such, will be the last. I wait with baited breath the ensuing report.

One of the changes I made was to the title. It is now called A Suitable Young Man. Which of course my hero is definitely not! This is because he has a rival who is definitely A Suitable Young Man.  As the novel is set in the mid 1950s when mothers were definitely keen on their daughters finding and settling down with A Suitable Young Man. Back then, if you weren't courting seriously or engaged to be married, you were considered to be 'On The Shelf'. Sounds archaic now, but that was how it was then. 

I'm now looking forward to getting back to my follow-on novel, Bittersweet Fellowship. It will be good getting to know my characters again.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Update on Save The Last Dance For Me

Phew! Good news, I have finally finished the latest rewrite/edit on Save The Last Dance For Me. It has been quite an effort mainly because, as I reported last year, I needed to rewrite the time line and add quite a few new scenes. My next step is to rewrite the synopsis to fit in with the new timeline. Synopses are not the easiest things to write. One has to write in the present tense and somehow encapsulate the essence of the plot without giving too much away. 

Once I have done that, I will be sending it off (for the last time) to the New Writers' Scheme of the Romantic Novelists' Association in order for this latest version to be assessed by one of their readers. It will be an interesting wait to see if this latest rewrite works. Watch this space ...

Other news on the RNA front is that I have once again booked for the Conference to take place in July at the University of Sheffield. I'm looking forward to that, especially as it's practically on my doorstep this year, Sheffield only being about 15 miles away from where I live.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Good News - 'Uncertainty' now reduced!

I'm pleased to announce that my trio of short stories, Uncertainty has been reduced in price to make it available to more people. I had thought that it was overpriced to begin with but I did state that it was a learning experience. After several attempts, it is now a more marketable price. Many apologies to those people who bought it at the higher price.

One thing I would ask is that if you buy it at this new price, could you please be so kind as to post a review telling me what you think. A line or two will suffice.

I'm looking forward now to publishing some more of my short stories on Amazon. 

Friday, 22 March 2013

Bolsover Castle - Return of Cavendish's Horses

I'm lucky enough to live in the historic Derbyshire town of Bolsover, dominated by Bolsover Castle. Built on a limestone escarpment overlooking the Scarsdale Valley, it is hard to miss on the approach to the town.

The present castle was built on the site of an ealier Norman castle as a 'Pleasure Palace' , a 17th century holiday home, by Sir Charles Cavendish, younger son of Bess of Hardwick. His son, William Cavendish, was passionate about horses and it was he who built the stables and riding school. Here he championed advanced dressage techniques, known as 'Haute Ecole'.

Now, Cavendish's Horses are returning to English Heritage-owned Bolsover Castle. From Easter weekend, a spectacular display of these techniques will be demonstrated in the historic riding school twice a day on Saturdays and Sundays.

On Thursday, 21st March, I was privileged to see a full dress rehearsal and it was wonderful. With the riders in 17th century attire, the horses enjoying all the attention, accompanied by atmospheric music and authentic-sounding commentary, it was an experience not to be missed. I can thoroughly recommend this experience.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Published on Amazon Kindle!

Haven't posted any blogs for a while due to one problem or another. But I now have something positive to report!

On Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, I have now published 'Uncertainty', a trio of short stories where not everything is as it seems. I'm excited about this as it's a new venture for me and it's another learning experience. For one thing, at £1.53, I think it's overpriced for what it is but there didn't seem to be a facility for pricing it any less. But if you're a member of their Prime lending scheme, you can obtain it FREE for the next couple of days.

So remember the name, Anne L Harvey, and the title, 'Uncertainty'. It's important to me, as a writer, to receive feedback so I would welcome a review. Many thanks.