Welcome to my blog. I am not a very regular blogger, but I try to keep this site updated with news and information. If there's none of the above I may just share my random ruminations.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

CAWNPORE. A fictionalised - but warts-and-all - account of the real characters and real events of the Indian Mutiny

 Plus "love and excitement and battles and bravery"! 




Over to you Tom. Tell us why you think the time is right to republish this book..........?

 
"Friday, September 10 will see the republication of my novel of the Indian Mutiny, Cawnpore

Cawnpore was first written ten years ago and published by a tiny US imprint, JMS Books and then later in the UK by Accent Press. Why publish it again now?

Well, ten years is a long time. The world has moved on and we hear much more about the British Empire these days, with people saying that we should look more critically at what the British were doing when so much of the world was coloured pink on the map. Perhaps it’s the right time for my trilogy about the fictional John Williamson and the very non-fictional people he met on his travels.

Cawnpore is the second of the John Williamson books and it takes place in 1857 as revolution exploded across India in the horror that we know now as the Indian Mutiny. The causes of the Mutiny were complex. It was not all down to evil exploitative Englishmen, but neither was it an uprising by ungrateful natives against Englishmen who wished them nothing but good. There were good and bad people on both sides and both sides committed terrible atrocities. The massacre
at Cawnpore
was one of the worst by Indian forces and was used by the English to justify horrendous reprisals, often against men who had not been involved in the fighting at all. In Cawnpore we see the conflict through the eyes of Williamson: the ultimate outsider. Working class and homosexual, he doesn’t fit in the European world of gentlemen’s clubs and polite dinner parties. Yet his race means he does not fit either into the native world where he finds true friendship. He is caught between the two cultures, able to see good and bad in both and unable to stop the catastrophic conflict that will destroy the lives of almost everybody he cares about. 


Cawnpore is not a cheerful book, though it has its lighter moments. As we watch what is happening in Kabul, I’m not sure that what the world needs is a cheerful book about the region. I think that Cawnpore has a lesson for today. It is that, regardless of whether or not the colonising power has good intentions, the clash of cultures between the natives and the invaders (for whether they come to conquer militarily or exploit commercially or just to spread their ideology, invaders is what they are) inevitably leads to tragedy. 


I doubt that many novels change anything. I certainly doubt that mine will. What fiction is mainly about is entertaining the reader. Cawnpore has love and excitement and battles and bravery. It also gives some idea of what life was like in 1857 India – a country of vivid contrasts where spectacular wealth and beauty sat alongside grinding poverty. (Not that different to today, come to think about it.) If it makes the reader stop and think next time their government announces that an army is to be sent to a distant country to ‘nation build’ or ‘protect Western values’, then maybe it’s done something worthwhile.


While I was writing Cawnpore my son was serving in Afghanistan. For over two hundred years we have had troops in that part of the world. It led to tragedy in 1857 when we stayed in and in 2021 when we pulled out. Perhaps the best thing to do would have been not to have sent them in the first place."



Thank you so much for dropping by and giving us an overview of the history and setting of Cawnpore, Tom. It sounds like a book that will make us think as well as entertain us. 




If you want to buy a copy of Cawnpore, or get in touch with Tom, here are his links -

Purchase : mybook.to/Cawnpore
Twitter: @TomCW99


Wednesday, June 9, 2021

FINDING TETTA

 When I begin a story all I know about my characters is their back-stories. 

In BURIED TREASURE my hero’s mother, Marietta (known as Tetta,) was the privileged only child of a titled family. She rebelled as teenager and, defying parental expectations, became involved with the punk-rock scene. Her marriage to a notorious singer-songwriter, Vernon Tyler, drove a final wedge between her and her family. 

Now a widow, and an alcoholic, Tetta craves recognition for the status she turned her back on when she was young.  If it proves impossible for her, then she wants her son to be acknowledged as the grandson of a baronet. 

Quite far into the writing of BURIED TREASURE, I began to question why I had created this woman with such a complicated past?  And why would such a rebel do a complete about-turn in her middle-age and want to reclaim her status as part of the establishment? Then it came to me.  She is just like my grandmother!  The knowledge was a gift.  I could go back, accentuate elements of Tetta’s personality and flesh her out.  



My father’s mother, Dorothy, was not from “high-society”, but she was born into an affluent and respected Victorian family. Her father, William Henry Ashton Smith, was a pearl broker, but he regarded work as an interruption from the real purpose of his life - sport.  I won’t detail his various sporting accomplishments, but he eventually became president of Harlequins (rugby) football club. 











His second wife, Margaret Kitchin, Dorothy’s mother, was a professional singer of coloratura. 











Dorothy grew up during the hay-day of the Gaiety Girl and music hall. When she was a stage-struck sixteen-year-old, having apparently inherited her mother’s voice, she dyed her hair blonde and appeared on the boards for the first time. By the time she was 21 she was married to William Pettit (described in the wedding certificate as a professor of music, but in fact an actor and banjoist!). Only after Dorothy gave birth to my Aunt Joy was the marriage annulled. We don’t know on what grounds, but suspect William was a bigamist. 


 


My grandfather, John Jamie Allan, was another theatrical - a ‘song and dance man’, known as Jamie Dallas - sadly injured in WW1. The appetite for music hall had begun to diminish after the war, and anyway, opportunities for someone who was now no longer acrobatic and able to do the prat-falls and dancing for which he was renowned, were fewer and farther between.  



This is how my grandmother, the rebel from the rather grand family, fell on hard times.  Now with three boys, as well as her daughter from her previous marriage, Dorothy was no longer able to perform much herself – much as she would have loved to.  Living from hand-to-mouth, did not diminish her need to be noticed, to be the centre of attention. Once, after an altercation with her husband, she famously spent a whole afternoon having “fainted” on the back lawn until a neighbour enquired if she was all right. 

My gran outlived her husband by seventeen years.  And the more she aged, the more the rebel was forgotten in the face of authority’s failure to treat her with sufficient respect. Snubs and slights offended her dignity. Her need to prove that she was being under-estimated, that she was better than this, would frequently erupt in the toe-curling demand: “Do you know who I am?” 

Her retort, to the inevitable “No!”, was, “The niece of the late Dean of Durham!”  This became a running family joke. It was only in 2009, when we inherited my grandmother’s archive, that we discovered why she expected this announcement to humble her adversary. 


Amongst the unsorted jumble was a sepia photograph of G W Kitchin, the Dean of Durham Cathedral. Only a small amount of research revealed him to be a very eminent Victorian. A notable scholar, and a friend of Ruskin and Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson), he was Professor of Classics and History at Christchurch Oxford and he became its chancellor. Prior to his appointment to Durham Cathedral, he had been the Dean of Winchester, as well as being an author, a composer and the tutor to the crown prince of Denmark. The list goes on and on.  But he wasn’t my grandmother’s uncle, he was her great uncle. 



Now, if I’m disrespected, I can say, “Do you know who I am?  I’m the great great great niece of the late Dean of Durham!”  More importantly, if anyone argues about the believability of Tetta, I can say: “But she’s based on my own grandmother!” 



Sunday, May 9, 2021

Things I Should Have Said and Done?

....And don't we all have a list of regrets?


Intrigued by the title I am delighted to welcome author Colette McCormick to tell us a little about the premise of her new book and the process of self-publishing it. 
And I am particularly pleased that she has accepted my lazy approach and agreed to interview herself!  

After all, she knows the right questions to ask!



Colette was born and raised in Sheffield but now lives in North East England. She has had a wide range of jobs from ledger clerk to school dinner lady and lots of things in between but in 2001 she found her calling in the world of charity retail. After working for CR UK for 10 years she now works for Barnardo’s and while it’s a job that she loves, writing is her real passion. When she is not working or writing there is a good chance you will find Colette, baking, gardening or walking the dog in the beautiful countryside that Co Durham has to offer. She has been married almost forty years and has two grown up sons. 


Colette: What made you decide to self publish Things I Should Have Said and Done?  Hasn't it already had its chance?

CMc: Personally, I love this story and not just because I wrote it but I don’t feel like it was given a real chance to reach its full potential the first time around. I’m not blaming anyone for that, it’s just the way it was. I think that I was quite na├»ve about the way that publishing worked and I assumed that there would be someone doing the promotion for me. As it turned out there wasn’t and it was pretty much left up to me but I had no experience of that sort of thing and so the book didn’t get the exposure it should have. I hope this time around I can do it better. If nothing else, it’s getting a blog tour.

Colette: Can you give us a feel for the book in three sentences?

CMc: No-one wanted Ellen to die, least of all herself. The book is about what happens to her and her family in the months following her death. It is a story of love and life after death.

Colette: Have you changed anything from the original edition?

CMc: Only the cover. I almost changed a few things but, in the end felt like I would be changing things for the sake of it. I was happy with the book as it was and it has received some really good reviews so in the end, I decided to keep it the same. I received an email from someone thanking me and saying that the book had helped them after their mother had died so that seemed reason enough to leave it well alone. However, about the one change that I did make, I think that the cover is much better this time around.

Colette: How did you find the process of self-publishing?

CMc: A lot easier than I feared. Getting it formatted correctly was a bit of a chore and the first half a dozen times it wasn’t right but when it finally looked the way that I wanted it to I was so happy – and relieved. Once the book is uploaded it’s a case of setting a price and choosing when to publish. I’m under no illusion though and I think that the real work starts now with promotion.

Colette: Do you intend to publish the rest of your books?

CMc: That’s the plan but there’s no schedule for it yet.


THINGS I SHOULD HAVE SAID OR DONE 


‘It is only after death that life can be fully understood.’

 Ellen’s life is over in an instant when a drunk driver comes out of nowhere and hits the car that she is driving.

She never knew what hit her.

But Ellen in only young, she isn’t ready to die and there are loose ends to tie up before she can move ‘beyond the light.’ Luckily she isn’t alone, she has George to look after her. He’s new to the job and his methods aren’t exactly orthodox but together they set about dealing with Ellen’s issues.

There is Marc, the man that Ellen still loves. She watches him struggle with life as a single parent as she herself struggles with the realisation that Marc needs to move on without her. There is Naomi, the child that Ellen left behind, the child that becomes Ellen’s link to those that still live. And there is her mother whose life is falling apart.

Ellen looks for ways to help and with George constantly at her side she learns that even though she is dead, she is not helpless. There are things that she can so from beyond the grave to influence what happened in the world that she left behind.

No-one ever said that being dead was easy.

Thank you Colette, that has really whetted my appetite.  I wish you all the luck in the world and hope that this time your book has the chance to reach a wider public. 

To contact Colette: 

Blog

Facebook Author Page

Twitter

 

 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

SOMETHING WICKED



I have something of an aversion to fantasy, or to anything with a ‘horror’ element. Consequently, it was with some misgiving I opened the latest book by Tom Williams, SOMETHING WICKED.

It was not always thus. In my youth I avidly consumed tales of the supernatural, which ran the gamut from ghosts - of varying degrees of malevolence - through to monsters and vampires.  I can’t pinpoint when, exactly, I emerged from this phase, but it was a long time ago. But until relatively recently, I still had a shelf-full of the luridly jacketed paperbacks, mostly published in series form by Pan. I now rather regret their ejection from the house in a bout of decluttering, not because I was ever likely to reread any of them - I have long regarded myself as “all horrored-out!” - but because I now suspect they were collectors’ items! Still, my loss was Oxfam’s gain.



SOMETHING WICKED, published on the 19th of February,  managed to confound my expectations. Though there is a murder or two in his London set book, Tom Williams’ has not written a gothic ‘horror-fest’ implanted uncomfortably into a contemporary setting. He conjures into life a coherently updated world of vampires, whose existence is below the radar of normal everyday life, but whose society mirrors the variety of our own with its revolutionaries and its reactionaries and all points in between.  And there is a clue on the cover about what some vampires choose to do for fun. 

With wit and ingenuity, Tom Williams examines the unsettling and bizarre world he has created through the lens of the police procedural. And the crossover between Galbraith (the slightly plodding London Detective Inspector trying to solve the murders) and Mr Pole (the enigmatic vampire from the mysterious Department S), is frequently funny and clever.  

The finale is cataclysmic and I fear Brompton Cemetery will never be the same again.








Saturday, November 28, 2020

"THIS IS A LTTLE TREASURE OF A BOOK AND WELL WORTH READING"

 The title of the post is the concluding sentence of my wonderful, new 5 star review on Amazon. My grateful thanks to 'fiction reader' whoever you are.



"This is an unusual book that crosses genres but is all the more satisfying because of it. The two main characters are quirky and don’t immediately strike the reader as likely romantic partners.
Jane is a rather nervous events organiser and when she has to organise a conference at a university she crosses paths with the rather offhand and frosty academic Theo. Theo is an archaeology nut intent on investigating a site that is due for development, and uncovering any finds from the site.
Meanwhile Jane can remember her family treasure from her farm back home, and the fact some of it went to a museum. There is a puzzle about it though (I can’t say more – spoilers!).
Both of these characters have buried pasts (Theo’s gold-digging ex is particularly vile) and this is why they take some time to trust each other. This is a well-written book written in short chunks from different points of view. This keeps the story moving and enables us to see both perspectives as the story unfolds. The parents of both protagonists are extremely realistically depicted and the author writes particularly authentic dialogue.
This is a little buried treasure of a book and well-worth reading."

Saturday, October 31, 2020

FROM TODAY ~ BARGAIN OFFER ~ 99p ONLY TILL 8 NOVEMBER.


 

BURIED TREASURE may have nothing to do with Halloween, but I've chosen to offer it for the BARGAIN price of 99p from today until my birthday, on November 8th.


Just in case In case you don't know, Buried Treasure is a love story across what seems like an unbridgeable chasm of class, education and background.

From an ordinary family, Jane Smith grew up in the shadow of her brainy sister. She left school early and has self-esteem issues. Initially empowered by an affair with her boss, she is ultimately humiliated by his coercive controlling behaviour.





Theo Tyler has spent his life in academia. Now a lecturer and desk archaeologist, he distances himself from his background, a complicated mix of high and low class. An early love affair, while still a student, becomes abusive. Unable to respond in kind, he feels helpless and un-manned in the face of his partner's abuse.




Apart from the damage they have both survived, the only other common connection between Theo and Jane is archaeology. Her interest is personal, a family connection to a historic find. His is intellectual. His professional expertise is being ignored and he needs proof to back up his theories.

Their separate stories intertwine, reaching a surprising conclusion. They both discover that treasure is not always what it seems.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

CECIL B DEMILLE EAT YOUR HEART OUT

Gilli Allan is coming....



Using my tried and tested method of ... ignore the instructions, because you won't understand them, but use good old trial and error ... I have just taught myself how to make a trailer.  This is the thirteenth version!

I am inordinately proud of myself, but for the moment cannot work out how to put it in a tweet.  I think it's too long, but I am sharing it here if I may.  

 






 If it's muted do make sure you turn on the volume - the music track is supplied by Driftway, one of the folk rock bands which my son, Tom Williams, is a member of.