Someone Somewhere

Someone is somewhere, but are they where they should be? If everyone knew where everybody was there would be little for authors to write about. My new collection of stories ‘Someone Somewhere’ features the first appearance of an unusual young private detective who specialises in missing persons. He is still patiently waiting for me to finish writing his novel, but in the meantime he features in several stories.

Incredible numbers of people go missing every year and for some poor families this means their loved one has literally disappeared off the face of the earth. Other people are just out of contact with former friends and family, who, used to not hearing from them have never reported them missing. Ironically, with the internet and Facebook we may know exactly the whereabouts and activities of a Facebook friend we don’t even know in real life, but have no idea where half our family are.

Sadly some missing people are inevitably dead, perhaps their fate will never be revealed. Even in a world of closed circuit television and electronic trails it is still possible to intentionally disappear or be taken against one’s will.

Then there are the mysterious possibilities that can never be proved one way or another; people who claim to have been kidnapped by aliens are not usually believed, unless you subscribe to conspiracy theories of government cover ups. Either way, ordinary people and authors are never likely to find the truth. The same applies to people who have fallen through a time slip. Perhaps the most surreal scenario is that none of us are real, just characters in someone’s novel; we could be deleted at any moment….

If you dare to read Someone Somewhere you will find the boundaries hazy between lost and found, living and dead, human or personhood.

Only £2.49 at Amazon Kindle.

 

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Fantastic Families

In junior school days my friend and I bought two white mice from Aldershot Market and reassured our parents they were both male. We ended up with forty mice; my father had built himself a designer shed, but the only carpentry he ended up doing in it was making mice cages. In various homes there followed a succession of guinea pig cages and aviaries, but I yearned for larger creatures. By the time I was fourteen I realised I was never going to get a horse, but our parents relented and we got a dog; who became pregnant on her first heat. We begged to keep one of the puppies, this was considered by my mother to be greedy, as soon as you get what you want you want more. We kept a puppy.

If you give birth to a boy and girl people assume your family is complete, but two didn’t seem to be enough. The friend with whom I shared the white mice came from a family of six children; all beautifully brought up in a small house; my parents marvelled at the efficient running of the household. Large families have always fascinated me; I don’t know how many couples fantasize about having lots of children, but for most of us it is medical dramas and financial disasters that dictate family size. When you are expecting your third baby everyone assumes it was a terrible shock and cannot believe you did it on purpose. My mother could not accuse me of being greedy this time as they had produced three of us.

When I walked my children to school there was a local family I thought of as the Droopy Family; parents, son and daughter so pale and wan, I could not imagine how the parents ever had the energy to procreate. The opposite of droopy families would be the Fantastic Family. Many of us might privately think our families are amazing; we can never credit how we produced a head boy and a head girl and launched three totally different people into very successful lives.  But Fantastic Families are rare, they are large and amazing.

I was not one of Amanda Owen’s  Twitter followers; by chance I read in the newspaper about the Yorkshire Shepherdess. Despite a traumatic first birth by Caesarean she has given birth to nine children on one of the most exposed and remote farms in the Yorkshire Dales.

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/feb/04/amanda-owen-yorkshire-shepherdess-nine-children-childbirths

By any reckoning this makes her a Supermum and by necessity the family lead an environmentally friendly and healthy life.

I became aware of a very different  family after watching BBC Young Musician of the Year; I love the music, but as I am very nosey, the best part is where they visit contestants’ homes and families.

In my novel ‘Brief Encounters of the Third Kind’ Emma Dexter is a brilliant musician in a very ordinary family, who find it hard to support her financially and emotionally.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Brief-Encounters-Third-Janet-Gogerty-ebook/dp/B00AWVNH3E

By contrast her husband Paul Jones comes from a family of four children, all great musicians, with a famous conductor father and pianist mother. I thought the Jones family were larger than life, but when cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason won Young Musician of the Year 2016, we met a family more amazing than I had created. Seven children all musicians, with interesting names and mixed heritage good looks. I recently caught up with a documentary about the family who live in a rambling house conveniently detached from close neighbours; practising going on continually; pianos in the hall, violins in the bathroom, mother’s life devoted to organising them. The father’s job was not specified, but anyone who has had to feed teenagers and make sure homework gets done will wonder how this family operates financially and practically. On Saturday mornings the family are up before dawn to catch the train from Nottingham to London to attend the Royal Academy of Music.

http://www.kannehmasons.com/

I wonder at what stage families change from fending off disapproving  looks when yet another baby arrives, to buying a house that matches their status as a Fantastic Family. Writers rarely create families that match up to real life.

 

My Series of #FamilySaga Authors. Today with Janet Gogerty #MondayBlogs

Many thanks to Judith Barrow for inviting me to be interviewed.

Judith Barrow

Over the next few months I’ll be chatting with authors who, like me, write Family Sagas, (#familysaga) a genre that can cover many countries, years  and cultures.I am thrilled that so many excellent writers have agreed to meet here with me. I’m sure you’ll find them as fascinating as I do. All I can say is watch this space. Your TBR list of books will be toppling over!!

janetToday I’m chatting with Janet Gogerty. Janet has been writing for nearly 10 years and still enjoys being part of two writing groups. She’s inspired by anything and everything and enjoys writing about ordinary people; but usually they find themselves experiencing strange events!
When she was encouraged to tackle a novel her daughter suggested she used her short story ‘Brief Encounters of the Third Kind’ as she wanted to know what happened to Emma, whose fate had been left in the air…

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Reinventing The Printing Press

The printing press was invented nearly 600 years ago, Gutenberg credited with the birth of mass communication; but of course the written word goes back much further. Has the invention of the E-book been as important as the invention of the printing press? Not in terms of mass communication; radio, television and the internet surely qualify for that.

Have Kindle books revolutionised our reading habits? Real paper books have survived radio, television and the cinema so are unlikely to suffer a demise. But e-Books have brought new delights; reading in bed in the dark still gives me a wicked thrill when I recall my childhood self trying to read with a torch under the covers without being caught. Packing one slim item for holiday reading, or on the commuter train with nobody knowing which book you are reading… But people still love the feel and colour of real books and I never dare take my precious Kindle on the bus or to the beach hut, paperbacks still have their use.

But for the Indie writer Amazon Kindle provided a tempting doorway into self publishing with a worldwide audience, not necessarily translating into world record sales, but with the opportunity for your aunty on the other side of the world to download your wonderful novel onto her Kindle in seconds.

Self publishing is not new; famous writers in history have published their own novels or pamphlets of poetry. In the modern world unknown writers must first find an agent, who in turn must find a publisher who in turn may let months slip by and still reject the precious manuscript. No wonder lots of writers have turned to what used to be called vanity publishing. They have the advantage of real books to show friends and take to local bookshops for signing events. They may be very successful or could end up with boxes of books in the garage.

Print on Demand is another development which is an attractive proposition. When I first started reading writing magazines one editorial suggested we would soon be wandering into bookstores with a memory stick and downloading our novel, returning later in the day to collect a printed book. That hasn’t happened, but recently Kindle Direct Publishing announced that authors could now create paperbacks as well as e-Books for free. Of course the publishing costs come out of the book sales, but at Chez Gogerty Publishing House it seemed an opportunity too good to miss, as I was just editing a collection of short stories, Tides and Times. Even if we only produced one real book to give my 91 year old mother it was worth a try.

Cyberspouse is always willing to face a technical challenge if it involves no financial outlay. After several attempts at downloading his own  cover design, the book was accepted, then we had to wait for it to go ‘live’, then we ordered one copy…

We were not disappointed, it looked and felt good, we ordered five more. One of the reasons why Amazon is so successful, why we can’t help using them for everything under the sun, is that they always deliver in all senses of the word; they tell you it’s on it’s way, they tell you when it will arrive.

After four years of extolling the virtues of Kindle books to my writers’ group, mostly to no avail, the five copies were snapped up. So now to finish writing my next book with renewed vigour and to turn my back catalogue into paperbacks.

How does all this work? Obviously by magic. In a mountain cave somewhere are lots of little Amazon Elves beavering away at a printing press. I just hope there is not an international scandal involving zero hours contracts and mistreatment of Elves, so that we are all expected to boycott Amazon and sign petitions on Facebook…

 

TIMES AND TIDES

Do you like short stories, do you read them or write them? Do you listen to them at writing groups, story slams in the pub or on BBC Radio 4? Short stories are of a more useful size than novels to pop in or drop in, but perhaps you prefer the journey and involvement of a novel.

I have to confess that in between school and starting at a writing group, my short story activity was confined to listening on Radio 4 while feeding babies or doing the housework. But we have so much fun at writers’ group listening  to stories as good as any on the radio and as I have just published my third collection of short stories you will guess I love writing them.

But what should a short story do; answer a question, satisfy us with a neat ending or leave us completely in the lurch? A short story can produce an interesting or dramatic dilemma without having to worry what happens in the long run. In my latest collection of 25 stories you will find cosy endings, dire results or the fate of characters may be left to your imagination. Buy for £1.99 on Amazon Kindle and decide if you dare read them.

Llamas and Labradoodles

 

Help, I need a llama.

Most writers would rather not be seen or heard, but just read. Unfortunately readers are unlikely to read your books if they don’t know you exist. We Indie writers are unlikely to be seen talking to James Naughtie on Meet The Author, BBC News or heard talking to Mariella Frostrup on Open Book, BBC Radio 4. But we do occasionally get interviewed on other writers’ blogs and are advised to tell the world about ourselves on our websites. This is where the Llamas and Labradoodles come into it; we cannot let the readers imagine we just sit at a desk in a dreary little room, they want to picture what sort of household surrounds the holy spot where our lap top or desk top sits.

It is amazing how many writers have six chickens, three Labradoodles, four llamas in the field outside their writing shed and five cats which drape themselves over the keyboard or keep the author’s feet warm. I can see great advantage in owning creatures; writers need exercise and while walking your four great Danes you can think up your next chapter. Free range eggs would be excellent for breakfast after your 6a.m. start at the keyboard and rare breed sheep, whose wool you have spun, dyed and knitted into a warm and very individual jacket, would make you look the part of an other worldly author.

Alas it does not have the same kudos to say you live with twenty pot plants and have some grey squirrels in your little garden. I’m not sure how we come to have no pets; perhaps it’s their disadvantages. Everyone knows dogs are a greater commitment than children as they don’t go to school or become gradually independent and you have to walk around with plastic bags… well you know the rest. I have wanted a horse since I could talk, but they are too expensive. Little pets? I could only bear to have them if they would be happy, which means sufficient numbers to keep each other company and vast enclosures with adventure playgrounds.

I have had pets, as a child and for our own children, with varying degrees of survival and happiness; mice, gerbils, finches, fish, terrapins, cat, dogs… but for now the only rescue animal in our house is ‘Chocolate Moose’  who we acquired from a charity shop at Christmas. He is a very cuddly character, with a zany personality; but is no trouble and doesn’t run up vet’s bills.

A Topical Story

A deliciously topical story…

Anecdotage

           This week’s post is Part 1 of a story in which the principal character is one you will recognise from media coverage. Foisted into the public eye, perhaps more than she has been comfortable with I began to imagine how she feels and if, maybe, she has regrets about the life she has chosen for herself…

               Behind Him

                It is like the sea, she thinks, a tidal surge with flashes of light. In reality the flashes are cameras and the surge is people. She puts her hand to the high collar of her coat and swallows, composing her expression, breathing in long, steady breaths like she has been told. There is a roar, startling her and she realises she’s lost concentration for a moment then she remembers and raises her…

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Thirteen Tales – Cycles

Here is my favourite story from Scott Andrew Bailey’s collection ‘Thirteen Tales’.

thehouseofbailey

Cycles

(Originally published in Thirteen Tales)

www.scottandrewbailey.uk

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Orange light tried to sparkle off the wet tarmac. Otherwise all was still, even the three figures that lay in the road.

Two were face down by the kerb, the other was splayed out in the middle of the street. Their faces were hidden by motorcycle helmets. Leather jackets and jeans completed their ensemble.

Houses watched over them, silent witnesses. The life behind the pastel curtains was at rest and undisturbed.

A bedraggled wreath sagged at the foot of a lamppost, close by one of the figures. Notes were scattered around it, most of the writing now had run away into the gutter, the thoughts washed away.

The silence intensified, remained heavy over the scene even as the three figures stirred and slowly rose.

They pulled off their crash helmets and shook out the confusion in their heads. As they walked towards…

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Opting Out

 

When I was a teenager, among my fantasies of what a future husband might be like was a desire to be a vicar’s wife. This was partly religious sentiment, partly a crush on an older chap at youth group who wanted to become a vicar, but most of all the attraction of achieving an identity, a career and a home all in one package with little effort on my part. This imaginary young vicar would worship me almost as devoutly as God, preach in a wonderful baritone voice, look divine in a cassock …and in the bedroom, though details about the bedroom part were very hazy.

Other candidates for the perfect husbands were vets, explorers and policemen. I didn’t marry a vicar, but I was right about the desirability of securing a secure position in life; as it turned out I was not very good at doing careers. Armed with some brains and motherly encouragement; ‘you don’t want to end up working in a shop’ or ‘you don’t want to be one of those girls who just takes any job till she gets married’ I ventured to seek the interesting and the worthwhile.

I have never thought of myself as someone who suffers from depression, anxiety or has mental health issues. I always assumed any career failures were entirely my fault and even if I had heard of such a thing I would never have dreamed of suing my employers for letting me down when it was me that let them down. Armed with other words of wisdom from my mother ‘I don’t need a doctor to tell me when I’m depressed’ I developed a simple strategy, escape. Not literally, as in disappearing without a trace, though I could see the attraction and I did cross to the other side of the world. The nearest I got to a medical issue was my periods stopping for three months, a sure sign your body is telling you something and they returned after my escape. But how close do we all come to mental health problems?

In my newly enthusiastic reading of The Big Issue, an article about a homeless man who lived in his car touched a chord. He had been a teacher, had a nervous breakdown, couldn’t work, lost his home. If he had escaped sooner, taken a safe hum drum job perhaps he would not have dropped out.

My avoidance tactics have applied in other areas. I don’t drive. I did get a licence when I was seventeen, but even driving in a small city presented challenges such as going round roundabouts, turning right and parking in awkward spots. I don’t regret letting the driving lapse. My friend at work suffered immense stress adding to traffic problems by driving her children to the nearest grammar school miles away. I was not stressed as our children had no choice but to walk to the nearest school. The potential terrors of multi storey car parks, edging out onto busy roads, being obliged to offer lifts to unknown places negate the convenience and independence of driving.

So what did happen? I married a policeman, we got a police flat to start with and my grandfather was delighted I was marrying someone with a secure job. Then we had children, further delaying career pressures and resulting in me doing all sorts of ordinary jobs which turned out to be very enjoyable. Perhaps I should have been a writer from the start – writers can write about life without the stress of actually participating in it.

A Leap with a Leaf

As a child who suffered chronically from car sickness I have never liked motor vehicles and longed only for a pony. I’m sure we’ve all heard apocryphal stories of efforts to create reliable electric cars vanquished by the oil companies. Are plug in cars at last becoming viable?

Anecdotage

On the whole, vehicles are one of my non-interests, along with football and cricket, talent shows, fast food, misery memoirs and a few other tedious topics.

In a discussion on cars I’m interested in reliability first, followed by comfort and economy in equal measure. In a blatant betrayal of gender stereotyping I have opinions on colour, preferring black over any other but accepting of anything except pink, orange, red or lurid.

My first car, like many first cars, was a humble, ancient, faded turquoise Austin A40 with steering wheel so huge that steering around a corner was akin to half an hour’s workout on a rowing machine. Subsequent vehicles became newer, though never new. My least old car was also the worst, an indigo VW Polo that exhibited some kind of electrical fault and let me down with irritating frequency-most famously by giving up at traffic lights at a busy…

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