Sunday, 30 March 2014

Moving forward, looking back, by Linda Mitchelmore

Back in the day, before ever I put pen to paper to write, I used to go to a Keep Fit class. The teacher was an ex ballet dancer called Beryl. Her accent was hard to define….a bit Scottish, a hint of London, a soupcon of English northern regional, a tad Queen Mother, with a thread of American in there for good measure. She’d danced all over the world and seaside Devon wasn’t going to keep her there for long. ‘I never go back,’ she said at her leaving ‘do’. ‘Only forward.’ She never kept in touch with anyone from her travels either. She was a woman happy in her own skin.

But we can’t all be like that, although it doesn’t mean we have to stay in our little ruts either. And especially so when it comes to writing. It’s good to try new things although I know I am never, ever, going to attempt writing paranormal!

I have always said I wouldn’t write about war….there was a part of me that was uncomfortable about making money out of something that was so tragic and devastating to so many, and if I am honest, there still is. So, what have I started writing? Only just that. It was a photo of my father in his Army uniform that did. He was an old romantic, my dad, although not in the hearts and flowers department. He was in Italy during the war and bought the material for my mother’s wedding dress there. My mother – a gifted dressmaker – made the dress and I still have it. She also did her best to teach me how to sew but I hated it. My heroine in the third book of my ‘Emma’ trilogy (currently on my publisher’s desk and awaiting edits) is running an haute couture dressmaking business, so my mother must have drilled something into me as I drag out memories of watching her cutting a pattern from old newspapers and waxing thread to make it stronger. My heroine, Emma, has a French father. Now where did that come from? Ah well, I have the answer to that. When I was thirteen I went on a school exchange to Rouen and during my time there I came to love the French language and Emma speaks French in my trilogy. My past – and my parents’ pasts – is forming my writing future so it seems, even if I don’t always realise it. I don’t know where this new venture will lead me – and at the moment I am writing it for my own satisfaction, using multi-viewpoint which I haven’t used before – but I know I am going to enjoy the journey. As I write it I am seeing again my home as it was in the late 1940s and early 1950s. I can almost smell the blackcurrant jam my mother made every July. And I swear my fingers can feel those flimsy tissue paper garlands we hung up at Christmas, and which I carefully folded back again for re-use.

I have to say here that I am not the sort of person who wallows in the past – I couldn’t tell you the dates, or even the years, that my parents and my much loved aunt and uncle, and various cousins, died but that isn’t to say they are forgotten. And I can see now that they will always be with me in the memories I drag out to put into future works.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Welcome to my stop on the March Book Frenzy by Mary Smith

I hope once you have read about one of the characters in my novel No More Mulberries, you will visit the other 7 blogs belonging to my writing colleagues at eNovel Authors at Work.

Your time and assistance in helping share our work is greatly appreciated.

This March Book Frenzy is brought to you by:

$35, $25 and $20 Cash PLUS 2 eBooks from each author.
Giveaway Link: March Book Frenzy
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Increase your chances to win by visiting as many of the blogs on the linky as possible.
(Find Linky list at the end of this post or via this link:

I hope you will enjoy your time with me as I take you through:
A Day In the Life Of Usma

Usma is a friend of Miriam who is the main character in my novel No More Mulberries. She lives in a small village in a remote part of central Afghanistan. When Miriam, a midwife from Scotland first came to work in Afghanistan with her Afghan husband, Usma very soon became her closest friend. The two women have not seen each other for many years but are about to be re-united.

It was still dark when Usma stumbled, yawning, into the kitchen. She set to work lighting the fire, putting water on to boil for tea. She went through her routine tasks – stirring the tandoor into life, making the nan – but today she approached her work with excitement for today was the day Ismail would arrive with her good friend Miriam. How many years had passed since they said goodbye, never dreaming of the tragic events which would lead to them being separated for so long?

Usma called her children for breakfast. Little Habib toddled in, closely followed by the older boys, Sultan and Hassan with Shahnaz trailing in behind. By the time breakfast was over the sky was lightening and the boys were soon letting out the sheep and goats from the rooms below. She sent Shahnaz off to the well for water. ‘And don’t be there all day. There’s plenty to do and I’ll need your help.’ Her daughter looked as though she was going to argue, thought better of it and headed down towards the village well, where a group of women and girls were already gathered.

Usma let out the chickens who were distracted from the grain she threw them by the grasshoppers leaping around them. As always, their antics made her smile. Today that smile was tinged with nostalgia as she remembered Miriam’s laughter the first time she saw the chickens try to catch grasshoppers. She had missed her so much, but would the spark of friendship still be as strong after so many years?

Throwing a last handful of food to the chickens, Usma continued her routine tasks, this time milking the cow before leading her down to the patch of pasture where she tethered her. When Shahnaz arrived back with the water, Usma left her daughter to wash up the breakfast dishes while she cleaned and prepared the room for Miriam and her daughter, whom Usma had never seen. Would her son, Farid be with her? He wouldn’t remember anything of his life in Zardgul. He’d only been a baby when they left for Scotland to see Miriam’s father before he died.

Usma folded bedding at the foot of the mattress and gave the room a last check. It was neat and clean – two mattresses on the floor, bedding, a brightly embroidered curtain, which Shahnaz had finished only last week, over the alcove. This was the room in which Miriam and Jawad had begun their life here in Zardgul. Was it a mistake to put her friend in this room with all its memories? With a heavy sigh, she left the room. She had to wash some clothes, prepare the dough for the ash for the meal. Miriam had always loved the strips of dough – said they were like spaghetti. Miriam rolled the word doubtfully in her mouth not sure she was saying it correctly. Later, she would meet her neighbours on the flat roof where the women sat most afternoons enjoying a gossip.

Shahnaz was trying to do some studying while entertaining Habib and Usma took the child from her telling her she was free for an hour. She noted the speed with which her daughter leapt to her feet and wondered. Before she could issue any warnings, her daughter had vanished down the mountainside.

Usma brought some warm nan to the rooftop picnic and her next door neighbour Jemila brought tea in a large thermos. Usma relished this time of day when most of her work was done and she could relax in the sun for an hour with her friends. From their vantage point they could see the rest of the village and the surrounding fields. She was telling them of the preparations for Miriam’s arrival when she spotted the deep blue of Shahnaz’s chaddar in amongst Malim Ashraf’s rows of peas – and next to her, the slim figure of Abbas whose father owned the land next to them. From this distance she couldn’t be sure what he was doing but it looked like he was opening peapods and tipping the peas into her daughter’s hand. Jemila giggled beside her. ‘At least he’s not popping them in her mouth.’

‘Mmh,’ Usma gave a non-committal grunt. Shahnaz was a strikingly pretty girl with dark dancing eyes and she was growing up. She hoped she’d be sensible. Abbas was a nice enough boy but Usma hoped for better for her only daughter.

Jemila and the other women were leaving when Shahnaz returned. She lowered her eyes demurely to greet the older women but not before Usma had seen the sparkle in them. Before she could say anything to her daughter, Jemila spoke to Shahnaz. ‘I believe Malim Ashraf grows the finest peas in Zardgul: so sweet and juicy. Is that not so, Shahnaz?’

Usma turned away to hide her smile as she saw her daughter flush a deep rosy red.

Remember to visit and follow my writing colleagues
at eNovel Authors at Work here:
Donna Fasano
Jackie Weger
Joanne Hill
Dianne Greenlay
Abby L. Vandiver
Lorrie Farrelly
Carmen Desousa

Monday, 24 March 2014


What language shall we write in?  By this I don’t mean, in English or French or Russian.  I mean, within English, how shall we write?  Using literary terms, slang terms, basic every day terms?

To some extent this depends on what you are writing.  A historical novel will of course draw on historical patterns of speech, a YA novel will probably include more slang.  But the novels that I write most often  – women’s contemporary romances – can cover the whole range from literary to light.   
Does it matter what language we use?

It is sometimes claimed that English is the richest language in the world, as it has the most synonyms.  This is because it draws from three distinct linguistic threads – Old English, a Germanic language brought to Britain by the Anglo-Saxons; Norman French, a Romance language brought by the Norman conquerors in 1066; and Latin which comes to us both via Norman French and directly via it’s widespread use in the church and legal systems.  Very loosely, we can generalise to say that words derived from Old English tend to be popular, those from French literary and those from Latin learned.  So we have the following groups of words (source shown at head of column):
Old English
You don’t have to know precisely how these words were derived (their etymology,  from the Greek etymologia – the study of the true sense) to know that they have different, although related, meanings.  Looking at these examples, I would say I use those in the first column most, the 2nd column occasionally and the 3rd rarely.  So clearly I don’t write in a literary or learned style!

Probably we end up using the tone and language we are comfortable with, and which seems to fit our writing and our characters.  But it’s actually quite fun to think what words we might have been writing with, had our language developed a little differently.  In the sixteenth century there was great debate about the importing of ‘inkhorn’ or new, consciously literary terms.  Attempts were made to exclude the following:
We can see that they were not completely successful!  If people want to adopt a term they find useful, they will do so no matter what ‘experts’ tell them to do.

Two words I particularly regret the loss of are:
                Uncounsellable (one not able to take advice?) – common in the sixteenth century
                Disquantify (lessen in quantity) – used by Shakespeare.

Whatever words we use, we have to use the ones that work for us.  And if you can’t find the words you want, you can always trawl the lost words of the past – or invent a new one of your own (invent only came into the English language in the fifteenth century, taken from the Latin invenire – to find).  Do you have any favourite words of your own – still in use, once used, or purely invented?