Well, it’s been a strange time starting on the 19th June 2022. When, out of the blue, a haemorrhage stroke landed at my door. The next I knew, my brain has scrambled. Not great.
It’s taken many months, but I am on the mend.
However, now physically I’m brilliant. I am stronger and fitter (and beautifully thinner too). I am still improving my reading, writing and speaking, but still more time is required. It is so strange but it will be all right again.
Thank you very much, my friends from WordPress – so many who giving me support. Most of all, Cliff, my wonderful man, keeping me safe and sound. He is my soulmate.
And now you’ve seen me around and eventually I’ll be back properly.
‘Look at this!’ Connor brandishes the bright and colourful cover of the new Six Sentence Stories magazine. ‘You’re on the cover, Ms Hall. A first for you.’
Cynthia stretches out an elegantly manicured hand and takes the proffered copy from him. She looks at me over her new reading glasses. ‘Such a nice photo of you, too.’
‘I’m surprised it’s not in sepia, it’s that old,’ interjects Gary with a grin, immediately receiving an elbow in the ribs from Gina.
‘Don’t upset her Gary,’ Gina mutters. ‘Don’t you want to be in a story again?’ Gina flashes a smile at me.
Cynthia brushes her hand over the glossy cover. ‘Oh look, there’s a voucher for that little deli shop, Sam’s. It was very pleasant. Apart from that rather brassy woman coming on to you, Connor.’
‘You mean, Beryl?’ Connor’s eyes twinkle.
Gina prods Gary’s leg. ‘You see, they’ve both had an outing, and it wasn’t even in one of Ms Hall’s stories.’
‘What a charming man Tom is,’ Cynthia purrs. ‘So creative! We met him briefly at Ms Hall’s book launch.’ She runs a thoughtful finger over Tom’s picture on the magazine cover. ‘Nice eyes. I don’t suppose I should blame him for Beryl’s behaviour.’
‘I met another excellent chap there too,’ Connor takes a long pull from the glass of whisky which has mysteriously appeared in his hand. ‘Chris Nelson, short story author and a fellow poet. No wonder we hit it off.’ He looks around the room. ‘And you know what, he’s written a really good review of Our Book!’ Connor beams and raises his glass to me.
I’ve really enjoyed my first quarter’s reading this year. As I’m sure I’ve told you before, I love to read almost as much as I love to write, and I strongly believe that the more good writing I read, the more my own writing improves.
I generally choose to read books that have been recommended by other people, mostly my WP reviewer friends. Once again they’ve picked real winners. I’ve also read a couple of well-known authors whose books I’ll always turn to (Jasper Fford and Isabel Allende) and a couple of instructive books to hone my ‘word-smithery’ (Kathy Steinemann’s Writer’s Lexicon) and to improve my poetry-crafting (Colleen Chesebro’s Wordcraft).
It has long been one of my missions to read more authors from South Africa and the African continent, since I feel we are frequently under-represented in the wider world. You’ll see that my first four reads were all SA authors, after which I spread my reading wings and flew north to find Jude Italkali in Uganda.
I hadn’t read a collection of short stories for ages, but Chris Nelson’s excellent collection, The Beautiful Silence, has re-kindled my appetite. As soon as I’d finished reading Chris’s book, a reading recommendation made to me by Liz Gauffreau* on the thread of a post about Magical Realism on Jacqui Murray’s excellent site, led me to seek out a short story by Gabriel García Márquez, The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World – a delightful read! Encouraged by the fact that I found a copy via Mrs Google, I also sought out Ernest Hemingway’s The Snows of Kilimanjaro, which I’ve been keen to read ever since I began dipping into Hemingway’s Boat by Paul Hendrickson. My obsession with Hemingway’s prose continues.
Here are the books I read as the scorching South African summer mellowed into a glorious golden autumn. My next round up will find me shivering as we head into the depths of winter!
As a writer, I know how exciting it is to receive a review from a reader, and I offer a big, big thank you to my readers (and listeners, now I’ve three books published as audiobooks) who’ve taken the time and trouble to rate/review my books. That aside, to know someone has read one of my books is enough.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ *A quick heads up for poetry lovers: Liz Gauffreau is hosting a live poetry event Poets in the Blogosphere, on 23 April 2022 from 4-5:30 PM ET. This is a perfect opportunity to enjoy poetry being read out loud. Just as it should be. You can find out more here.
It’s exactly 10 years ago today that I took the plunge and published my first novel. April 1st 2012 saw me press that big ‘submit’ button and launch The Silver Locketinto the world. A momentous moment about which I basically told no-one. So lacking in confidence was I back then that I published it under a pen-name.
I’d started bits and pieces of the book during the mid-noughties, but I hadn’t come up with anything very substantial. Then in April 2010, the ash cloud from the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull delayed my flight back to the UK from a holiday in South Africa and resulted in me being AWOL from my job for a week. Rules around unauthorised absence in the council where I worked dictated that I must make up the time, leaving me a chained to my desk for 2 hours every day after everyone else had gone home for (I can’t remember how many) weeks.
It was not even as if I had sufficient work to fill the time. My risk management role had been scaled down due to governmental policy changes, and the work that I took over from other members of my team hardly filled the the normal working day.
So what to do? Twiddle my thumbs? Bring in some knitting? Nobody much seemed to mind as long as I made up that oh-so-important missing time.
And so I began to work on the novel which I’d been composing in my head during my daily commute. Apart from the time I happily spent chatting to our cleaner, there was only one occasion that I remember being disturbed. One of the field staff phoned and I was so wrapped up in my writing – see that quote at the top of the page – that it took me a minute or two to come ‘back to earth’.
Six months later, we’d emigrated to South Africa. It took us a little while to settle in, but soon I was back to writing a couple of afternoons a week between the various voluntary activities I’d signed up for. Fast forward a further eighteen months and my finger was hovering over that submit button.
I sometimes wonder whether I would ever have got down to serious writing had it not been for that volcano, but now I’ve been well and truly bitten by the writing bug and I’ve never looked back.
Five novels, three published as audiobooks, and one tiny short story collection later, what’s next? Well, here’s the nearest I get to an outline for a new novel:
Revenge of the Rain Bull, third in my Weskus Series, is about to begin…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Image credit for the unpronounceable volcano: National Geographic
I’m super-excited to say that the audiobook version of my latest novel, Spirit of the Shell Man, is out. Currently available on Amazon, Audible and Kobo, you’re likely to find it in most online audiobook retailers within the next week or two.
Just like its prequel, Song of the Sea Goddess, the story is beautifully narrated by talented voice artist, Terry Lloyd-Roberts, and recorded and produced by Devon Martindale, founder of audiobook producers and distributors, Audioshelf, in his studio in Cape Town.
I shared my first experience of publishingan audiobook last year. Once again, the recording process went really smoothly and just as before, I loved the way Terry’s interpretation of the characters really made them come alive.
Creating audiobooks is still quite new for indie authors and for authors in Africa in general. I’ve by no means made my money back (so far) on the three audiobooks I’ve released, but it has given access to my books to another set of readers, including language learners.
Perfect for language enthusiasts “…If you’re looking to hone your language skills, buy the book along with the audio and use it to practice like me. Wonderful experience. I am very grateful to the author! Loved it.” ~ Audible Customer
If you’re interested in the full process from production through to distribution, you can listen to this interview with Devon who now has clients around the world, and because he’s based in Cape Town, overseas authors can take advantage of the relative weakness of the SA Rand.
Read yourself into the venueviamy second Six Sentence Story this week. The Prompt Word (helpfully) was BOOK.
A neon sign lights up the narrow side street which leads to the Six Sentence Café and Bistro where a bearded man waits, watching as a minivan draws up. The driver leans out of her window and waves, and a leather-jacket-clad man wearing dark glasses, despite the lateness of the hour, emerges from the vehicle carrying a box marked ‘books’.
Low-lit ambience and laid back vibes wash over the now-iconic interior, where sunflowers grace every table, and the author, fidgeting with her special book-signing pen, observes the figures who drift into the room, each familiar from their glowing presence in cyberspace.
The scene is set, D has done a marvellous job; passing the author’s table, now loaded with shiny new books, she places a calming hand on her shoulder, winking at a recent arrival, who slides into a side booth with an enigmatic smile, indicating the bottle of apricot liqueur that’s partly concealed within her capacious handbag.
Returning to the bar, backlit by the reflections in the long mirror, D gives a nod to the MC. The tall, slender man strides onto the stage and offers a lavish introduction to the now inwardly-quaking author, who lays her pen aside and advances.
Now on stage, I turn and survey the room, shading my eyes against the spotlight, I can’t see you properly, but I know you’re all here. Thanks so much for coming to the launch of my new novel, Spirit of the Shell Man.
I have to admit, I’m a little overwhelmed.
My heart-felt thanks goes to my fellow Proprietors of the SSC&B who’ve done so much to set up our little soirée, and to my ARC readers, Chris Nelson, Paula Light and Gretchen Bernet-Ward who have offered such encouragement in their feedback and reviews. Chris recently posted his review on his blog – I’m thrilled with it – you can read it here.
Okay, that’s enough from me, I’m no good at this self-promotion stuff, but since the audiobook version is being recorded at the moment, here’s a foretaste from Chapter 7, beautifully narrated as always by the wonderful Terry Lloyd Roberts.
A frosty atmosphere pervades Cynthia’s normally welcoming sitting room which has nothing to do with the February cold. Gina regards me steadily from across the room and Gary, who’s perching on the arm of her chair, wears the expression he normally reserves for the rare occasions when Liverpool FC fail to win. Even Asmar, Cynthia’s cat, has turned his back on me.
Connor addresses me from a commanding position by the fireplace. ‘It’s not that we don’t understand your need to follow your authorial instincts, Ms Hall, and we’re delighted about the upcoming release of your new book, but this latest little series you’ve embarked upon doesn’t seem to be turning out as we’d hoped.’
‘As soon as we saw the title we thought we’d be in it,’ says Gina, ‘but no, you gave the starring role to Joey, and his character only gets a tiny mention in the final paragraph of our novel*.’
‘Then Ceridwen appears and she’s from a completely different book**,’ adds Gary. ‘She must be getting on a bit now.’
‘I would rather like to meet her,’ says Cynthia thoughtfully. ‘Not only is she a woman in her prime,’ she casts a meaningful glance at Gary, ‘but I think we’d have a lot in common.’ She draws her purple pashmina around her shoulders and looks at me earnestly. ‘I hope you’re not going to saddle her with the jade camel.’
‘Saddle the camel.’ Connor chuckles. ‘Good one, old thing!’
Cynthia gives him a withering look.
My gaze travels from one face to another. ‘I honestly thought that you’d all come forward once I’d started the story. That’s the way it usually works.’
‘Oh, so I suppose it’s also our fault that you’re still not starting our sequel.’ Gina’s eyes narrow. ‘We know you’ve already begun thinking about a sequel to the sequel you’ve just finished.’ She nudges Gary. ‘Did you see? She’s already covered that whiteboard of hers with ideas.’
Connor raises his hands towards her in a calming gesture then turns to me. ‘Sorry, Ms Hall, it’s just that we feel we’re not getting the exposure we deserve.’
I have an idea.
‘Listen. Why don’t you all come to the launch of the Spirit of Shell Man next Friday? It’s being held at the Six Sentence Café and Bistro. My back catalogue books will be there, so you’ll be able to engage with readers.’
‘Is that a real place?’ says Gina in sceptical tone.
I smile back at her. ‘It is if you want it to be.’
Connor’s eyes light up. ‘Might I bring along some of my slim volumes of poetry?’
Grab your seat at the launch here at lunasonline next Friday!
* You’ll Never Walk Alone (2019) ** The Silver Locket (2012)
I am indebted to my beta readers for their careful consideration of my work. Our discussions come in many forms. This was part of a whatsapp conversation between me and my loyal and gifted friend, Laurette as she burned the midnight oil reading the draft MS of Spirit of the Shell Man, the sequel to Song of the Sea Goddess, a few weeks ago.
Laurette: I just wanted to mention that it is unsafe to feed a dog grapes or raisins. I know that Toti is a monkey and wouldn’t know that.😔
Me: Oh, I didn’t know that either. I don’t want to poison the dog or lead anyone else to. I’ll have to think of something else.
a little later
Me: Are bananas okay for dogs? (asking for a monkey friend) 🐒🍌
Laurette: Bananas are safe for dogs to eat in small amounts and could help with gastrointestinal issues. However, too much banana can lead your dog to having an upset stomach and diarrhea due to the amount of extra fiber and sugar.
Me: So Toti sharing a couple of slices is fine then. Great!
Andreas serves up the two breakfasts and puts a dish containing a small bunch of grapes by the stool where Toti’s sitting. She gives him a long blink then grabs the grapes from the dish. A moment later she drops to the floor and scurries out of the back door, the bunch held delicately between her teeth. The Professor spins in his seat, the fork speared with a piece of sausage half way to his mouth. ‘Where are you going, Toti?’ he calls anxiously after her.
Andreas, who can see through the open door from where he’s standing, is quick to reassure him. ‘Don’t worry, Professor, she’s sharing her breakfast with my little skeelo friend. The Professor cranes around the edge of the counter to see Toti plucking a grape from the bunch and offering it to the scruffy little dog that Andreas has been feeding each morning for a year or more. Grinning, the Professor raises his eyebrows and returns to his breakfast.
Andreas serves up the two breakfasts and places a banana on the counter. ‘Shall I peel and slice it for you?’ he says, grinning down at Toti. She gives him a long blink then carefully picks up the banana. A moment later she drops to the floor and scurries out of the back door with it. The Professor spins on his seat, the piece of sausage speared on his fork half way to his mouth. ‘Where are you going, Toti?’ he calls anxiously after her.
Andreas, who can see through the open door from where he’s standing, is quick to reassure him. ‘Don’t worry, Professor, she’s sharing her breakfast with my little skeelo friend. The Professor cranes around the edge of the counter to see Toti breaking a piece from the now-peeled banana and offering it to the scruffy little dog that Andreas has been feeding each morning for a year or more. Grinning, the Professor raises his eyebrows and returns to his breakfast.
This time last week I was hauling a bag of my novels into Bookworms bookstore in preparation for last Saturday’s book launch event. We’d certainly had a big build up, with Bookworm’s owner, Waldo, inviting folk to come along and ‘rub shoulders with literary geniuses’. Ahem.
Here we are on the big day, posing happily for the paparazzi!
Paul, as some of you know, is my writing buddy. We meet up over coffee and cake and have ‘writerly conversations’ from time to time, email each other when stuck and generally exchange ideas about our current projects. You’ll find Paul over at Backroom Bulletin where he chats about his writing progress each week. Here’s Paul’s take on the event.
I hadn’t come across Jill or her books before, but after chatting on the phone a week or so before the event, I went down to Bookworms to snag a copy of her new book, thus ensuring a sale of one of mine! I’d almost finished reading Noah and his Solar-Powered Ark by the day of the launch, and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. You can read my review on Goodreads here and meet Jill herself at her website here.
Also at the launch were a couple of beginner writers and it was great to offer them encouragement on how to progress their craft. All in all, it was a fun morning, and although sales were quite modest, it was lovely to meet both readers and writers and talk about books.
We also got a super write up in the local newspaper, the Bolander, which is widely distributed in the local area and also online, making it so much easier to share with you: Book launch at Bookworms.
As Waldo says, when quoted in the article: “Our very first book launch went down famously… and I’m looking forward to many more to come.” – I couldn’t agree more!
Now, I must dash. I’m off to meet my beta reader friend Laurette for her feedback on the manuscript of my soonish-to-be-released latest novel. The cover is almost ready and I’ve even finished agonizing over the ‘dreaded blurb’. More about ‘Spirit of the Shell Man’ soon!
Wonderful writer, reader and reviewer, Diana of Myths of the Mirror blog has thrown down her velvet gauntlet for a fun writing challenge. Here’s what she says: “I don’t know anyone who owns a Kindle (or other ebook reader) and isn’t buried in books. We groan as we add more to the stack… then laugh about it and buy more! That’s my situation anyway.”
That’s my situation too!
Here are the details of Diana’s challenge – The Teetering TBR Pile – the challenge is open until 23 January if you’d like to join in too.
This is my response:
Ode to My Kindle
Kindle, my Kindle, how do you compare to those wretched stacks of curling pages whose covers dim in daylight’s brightness spines rendered unreadable by old age?
Shelves piled high with neither rhyme nor reason unruly stacks wobbling and tottering set to tumble in thunderous cascades engulfing unwary readers in words.
Kindle, my Kindle, how long has it been since first we browsed those virtual bookshelves hovering o’er Amazon’s icons bright daring downloads at the click of a key?
Far have we travelled by land, air and sea since I first loaded a heap of beach reads oh, my Kindle, faithful companion never rejecting yet another book.
While you’re here, fellow overstuffed e-readers, can I just tempt you to just one more teensy-weensy book? The book birthday freebie offer I was running has finished, but you can download Song of the Sea Goddess for a snip: USA ~ UK ~ IND ~ AUS ~ CAN ~ ESP ~ South Africa and the Rest of the World