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Edna's Death Cafe

As in life, death is not without its agenda. This is something seventy-nine year old Edna Reid finds out when her partner, Ted, suddenly dies.

To cope with her loss, she sets up a Death Café to break down the taboo around death and to encourage other members of the community to discuss it openly. Over tea and cake, the participants hide their fears behind a veil of dark humour.

Religious fanaticism clashes with Victorian spiritualism as Edna’s meetings trigger lively conversations on the fragility of life, anxiety over dying, cost of funerals, and making sure long-lost greedy relatives don’t benefit from inheritances. 

Soon, a series of events begin to unfold which threaten to undermine Edna’s livelihood and the Death Café meetings. These events just happen to coincide with the arrival of a mysterious stranger into the village.

Who is she and why is she so hostile to Edna?

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Talking About Death, Celebrating Life

YODO! No, it’s not a new greeting. It’s shorthand for You Only Die Once, so why not make it a good death? There has never been a better time to get talking about those “face behind a cushion” topics we’d all rather pretend weren’t going to happen. At least, not to us.

The international Death Cafe movement has been encouraging us to share what’s on our mind about death, dying and bereavement since 2011 when Jon Underwood set up the first Death Cafe meeting in Hackney, washed down with tea and sweetened with a bit of cake. Over 6000 meetings in 56 countries have been held to date but you won’t find negativity on the menu.

It’s a safe space run with no agenda, no aim to convert to a belief or sign up to a philosophy of life (or death). No one is under pressure to do or say anything. No long lectures or guest speakers pontificating, no funeral services representatives trying to sell you a plan. Just you, others like you and the facilitator wanting to share what’s on their mind. To find out about a meeting in your area or to see what’s involved should you want to set one up, visit www.deathcafe.org Follow them on Twitter @DeathCafe

Let’s get back to YODO. Being near Birmingham, I shall be attending A Matter of Life and Death Festival (May 10th – 26th), an arts of cultural programme of events with death as a core theme. BrumYODO is a local collective set up with the aim of helping the people of Birmingham have more open and honest conversations about death and dying. The collective describes themselves as “a growing group of artists, undertakers, food artists, hospices, palliative care professionals and generally all-round interesting folk. http://brumyodo.org.uk/matter-life-death/

So why am I so passionate about the need to talk about all things mortal?

As someone who has suffered from death anxiety (thanatophobia) ever since my Grandad died when I was ten (fifty years ago), I discovered that I wasn’t alone. Part of any fear is driven by not owning it. Bringing it out into the open is one way of disempowering that fear and empowering ourselves. In doing so, we add more value and quality into our daily lives by making every moment count.

            I’ve attended a number of Death Cafe meetings which have provided the inspiration for my latest novel, EDNA’S DEATH CAFE, set in the Derbyshire Peak District, my childhood stomping ground. Fiction can often reach parts that other communication channels cannot. We can be alone with a book, argue with the characters, ponder on their words and reflect on their lives, hopefully to find resonance with ours.

            I’ll be writing more about the book, about bereavement and my work as a newly trained funeral celebrant. I’ll leave you with my favourite bit of philosophy. Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside is while we live. Norman Cousins.

Edna’s Death Cafe will be published by Matador in September 2018. Keep up to date with the news on Twitter. Follow @Angelena Boden @matadorbooks

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I Read A Book, Once.

  • Published in Writing

             ‘I read a book once, by … I can’t remember now. It was about this woman whose husband who was living a double life.’

            ‘What was it called?’

            ‘No idea. It was last year sometime. Made me think at the time.’

            Fiction, unlike its more robust counterpart, non-fiction, can easily fall into the twilight zone of fragmented recall, its authors vanishing into oblivion, once the hype and spin of the publicity machine is exhausted.  

The most fashionable authors of today need to consider, when they stand before adoring crowds at literary festivals and book signings, that they, like those who have gone before them, are not permanent features of our consciousness. Some gather accolades from the grave – those underrated writers who are rediscovered and rebirthed under a Classic imprint.

            Thousands of books are stillborn the moment they leave the publishing houses, despite the promises of radio shows, TV appearances and endless articles regurgitating the story, simply because they don’t resonate with current readership trends. Success today, is as much about the author’s personality and platform as the book itself.

Whatever the fate of your newly printed novel, you can be sure it’s in the hands of a capricious reading public.  It’s almost as if we are embarrassed to say we like an unknown author or out-of-fashion style of writing, especially if everyone is devouring the latest best-seller which you really must read, if you are to be considered someone of substance. It reminds me of the time I would read Penny Romances behind the cover of an O’ level Geography textbook.

            I’ve rediscovered the works of Barbara Pym, delighting in her dark, but highly amusing observations of the lives of ordinary people in “Quartet in Autumn,” (original publication 1977), which was once nominated for the Booker Prize. It was republished in 2015 as a Picador Classic.  I understand she fell out of favour with her publisher at one point and didn’t write anything for several years. Philip Larkin described her as one of the most underrated novelists of the twentieth century. I have to agree.

A society in her name, keeps her work alive and whilst many people today would consider her writing politically incorrect  ( a bit like the radio comedies of the 1970s) and lacking a plot, her powers of observation about the detail of daily life provides an ideal model for character study.

She wouldn’t fit in with today’s editorial thrust towards manuscripts with inciting incidents, conflict and tension to keep readers on the edge of their sofas. I turned all the pages of her book this weekend, savouring each one, rather than feeling a pressure to race through to the denouement. (I do love that word).

My personal view is this – books that speak to you and maybe only you are to be treasured. Publishers can’t be indulgent with their authors since they have to recoup their investment, but there may come a time, when one or two of your loyal aficionados, talk to someone of influence and say, ‘You really must read this book. It was quite a find, ( on Amazon, in the charity shop, in the bus- stop litter bin). Books, like people, provide legacies, linking fragments of the past to possibilities for the future. One tiny sentence or phrase can be enough to create impact.

You might be long gone when that novel you birthed some years before is reprinted as a classic and nobody is saying… ‘I can’t remember the title.’

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An interview with the author of Eyes of the Blind

It’s always a delight to meet writers who understand their craft in order to produce beautiful prose in addition to writing a compelling and unusual story. It’s my real pleasure to introduce you to Alex Tresillian, author of Eyes of the Blind, published by Urbane Publications. Alex lives in rural Worcestershire which I guess makes us neighbours.

Alex kindly agreed to talk about his writing life for my blog.

Alex, what would you like your readers to know about your writing background?

 Been writing creatively since I first knew how to hold a pen. Remember my father typing up two poems I wrote when very small. Have a lot of unfinished novels from my teens. Wrote mostly plays thereafter (my parents worked in the theatre), and was able to stage some myself when working as a teacher, which I did for more than twenty years. Working for an education company in Lebanon, I authored two series of text books, one on grammar (something I greatly enjoy!) and one on writing.

What inspired you to write Eyes of the Blind?

 I worked for eleven years in a school for visually impaired students. It was something that nothing could prepare you for. Having had that window into the blind world, it was something that I thought would be interesting to share, and a believable blind protagonist would be an unusual twist in the crowded thriller genre.

I understand you write in long hand. How long does it take to write a first draft?  Why do you choose this method over a computer/laptop? Is it a labour of love?

I don't see it as a labour of love: it is just how I work. I am anything but a technophobe, and actually type pretty fast. However, I find it very difficult to create when typing, whether it is because words are broken down into their individual letters as you type them (or, even worse, auto-suggested) I don't know. When I am writing I often write two or sometimes three options of verbs/prepositions one above the other and select when re-reading later.  I don't even know how I would begin to do it on a laptop. It is almost as though writing, for me, is a physical process, like sculpting. I literally 'work' on sentences even though the medium is just ink and paper. I was given my first typewriter (a cast-off of my father's) when I was about ten - a manual with the line spacer partially broken - and I have always loved the process of transferring my manuscript to typescript. For me it is a major part of the drafting/editing process. Mentally it would never suit me to write complete draft after complete draft. I would find that soul-destroying. The drafting and redrafting takes place on the pages of my notebook. I will still make changes after printing out a complete draft (in pen!), but would be unlikely to start again from scratch unless someone had given me a large advance!

 

What is your daily writing schedule? Do you have any quirky routines to keep you going?

 

I write in the morning. I have always been a morning person. If I can't get any done in the morning, then I don't do any that day. It doesn't matter what time I get up, whether it is six or nine, I will write for about an hour after breakfast. Sometimes, if it is really flowing, I might stretch to an hour and a half, although I am suspicious when it is flowing too easily. I reckon to write about 500 words of a book like Eyes of the Blind in that time. I might only manage 300 of something more 'literary'. However, for me the slow pace suits the creative process. If I write too much too quickly, the writing may be fine but the level of ideas goes down. Because I only have the most basic outline of where a book is going, I need plenty of time for the ideas to gel and grow while the writing is going on. So I will never write for more than that hour, although I may spend the rest of the day thinking about what might come next. I used to go for 'writing walks' in which I would think out the next phase of whatever I was writing, but parenthood and life in general taught me to do my thinking alongside regular daily activities.

I don't have any quirky activities to keep me going. I never mind missing a day or days because I know that it will all add to the creative melting pot when I do get back to work. The working session always begins with re-reading the previous day's or days' work, and changes often get made then.

 

You are traditionally published. What are your views on self-publishing? 

I have always taken the view that it was vanity. Yes, the publishing world is flooded with books and you almost certainly need luck to get your head above the parapet, but I am not convinced I would get much satisfaction from a self-published book.

 What advice would you give to writers working on their debut novel?

 Get to the end. It's a great feeling. Don't try to write like anyone else, write like you. Write it because you need/want to write it, not because you dream of being a best-seller. Whatever happens afterwards, don't give up. We are writers because that is what we do, not necessarily because the rest of the world recognises us as such.

 

Finally the moment those of us who have read Eyes of the Blind are waiting for; - The Sequel! What can you tell us about that without spoiling the anticipation?

Blind Justice takes us back into the world of the two main characters, Niall and Miranda, nearly a year after the events of Eyes of the Blind. Niall investigates a charity that is helping to empower disabled people through sport, and finds himself in the murky world of state-sponsored doping in athletics. Miranda returns to the British Association for the Blind, where much has changed but all is still not well. Before long, both find themselves at risk in more ways than one...

 

Eyes of the Blind is available on Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Eyes-Blind-truth-sometimes-plain-ebook/dp/B01NAAWBCR

This is a fantastic debut novel that will have you gripped from beginning to end. I read it in a few days and highly recommend it. I have some knowledge of children and young adults who are VI and Alex captures their struggles and strengths brilliantly. I do hope there is a second book coming soon.

 

Blind Justice is published by Urbane Publications and is published on July 5th 2018

 

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Why some books are getting on my nerves - literally

  I must be losing my sense of adventure. That, or I am simply getting old.  Books that would leave me unable to sleep or have me snatching a glance at yet another paragraph to see if murder most foul had been committed or some other heinous crime no longer suit my nervy temperament. My adrenaline glands are fatigued. So says my doctor. No more excitement for you!

   The term “gripping psychological thriller” used to be like a shot of the best red wine through my veins which, incidentally, I can’t tolerate any more. Now it’s becoming an overworked marketing strapline.  I should know, it’s partly the genre I work in. So many books buzz around on Amazon with dramatic headlines the books don’t deserve. Obviously I am not mentioning any here but I’m sure you’ve read stuff that neither lives up to the hype nor complies with some trades descriptions act.

  Keeping people in suspense for 80,000 words is no mean feat for the writer and I wonder how many books are abandoned because either the reader is disappointed after a few chapters or being of a  certain disposition can’t cope with the suspense provided by the unreliable narrator ( a new bit of jargon I’ve recently acquired). Can your nerves take another fictional garrotting or are you becoming so inured to blood and gore that it leaves you feeling cold? Are we being offered templates of similar storylines, defective characters and unrealistic interaction? In short, has the psychological thriller had its day? Probably not but I think it needs freshening up a bit.

  A lot has been written about this genre but here’s my tuppence ha’penny worth.

   One important ingredient for a psychological thriller is to get into the minds of those who are suffering and not necessarily the character responsible for inflicting the pain. It’s easier to do if you are weaving in some personal experiences as you can write from the inside out. This is what I’ve done in my two books to date. It’s more important to show how this suffering plays out – out of character behaviour, unexplainable mood swings and changes in perception – rather than forensics or police procedures. Even plot takes a bit of a back seat.

  The most ordinary and balanced of people can find themselves responding to a threat or a loss in the most extraordinary ways. I talk to many of these people through the counselling work I offer. When it comes to emotions, nothing is predictable yet I find myself wanting to shake some of the characters I read about because either they don’t come across as authentic or to use some recent vernacular like “snowflakes.”

As for me, I need a break from grubbing around in twisted psyches and have turned to something softer and less rooted in harsh reality, at least for the summer, to give my nerves a rest. 

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Why some books are getting on my nerves - literally

  • Published in Writing

  I must be losing my sense of adventure. That, or I am simply getting old.  Books that would leave me unable to sleep or have me snatching a glance at yet another paragraph to see if murder most foul had been committed or some other heinous crime no longer suit my nervy temperament. My adrenaline glands are fatigued. So says my doctor. No more excitement for me!

   The term “gripping psychological thriller” used to be like a shot of the best red wine through my veins which, incidentally, I can’t tolerate any more. Now it’s becoming an overworked marketing strapline.  I should know, it’s partly the genre I work in. So many books buzz around on Amazon with dramatic headlines the books don’t deserve. Obviously I am not mentioning any here but I’m sure you’ve read stuff that neither lives up to the hype nor complies with some trades descriptions act.

  Keeping people in suspense for 80,000 words is no mean feat for the writer and I wonder how many books are abandoned because either the reader is disappointed after a few chapters or being of a  certain disposition can’t cope with the suspense provided by the unreliable narrator ( a new bit of jargon I’ve recently acquired). Can your nerves take another fictional garrotting or are you becoming so inured to blood and gore that it leaves you feeling cold? Are we being offered templates of similar storylines, defective characters and unrealistic interaction? In short, has the psychological thriller had its day? Probably not but I think it needs freshening up a bit.

  A lot has been written about this genre but here’s my tuppence ha’penny worth.

   One important ingredient for a psychological thriller is to get into the minds of those who are suffering and not necessarily the character responsible for inflicting the pain. It’s easier to do if you are weaving in some personal experiences as you can write from the inside out. This is what I’ve done in my two books to date. It’s more important to show how this suffering plays out – out of character behaviour, unexplainable mood swings and changes in perception – rather than forensics or police procedures. Even plot takes a bit of a back seat.

  The most ordinary and balanced of people can find themselves responding to a threat or a loss in the most extraordinary ways. I talk to many of these people through the counselling work I offer. When it comes to emotions, nothing is predictable yet I find myself wanting to shake some of the characters I read about because either they don’t come across as authentic or to use some recent vernacular like “snowflakes.”

As for me, I need a break from grubbing around in twisted psyches and have turned to something softer and less rooted in harsh reality, at least for the summer, to give my nerves a rest.

Read more...

The Cruelty of Lambs video promo

  • Published in Writing

Here's my first attempt at making a video promo for my book at no cost. Apologies if there is a lip synch problem for some viewers. It was to do with the transfer of data.  Always room for improvements!

Thank you for watching, 

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