My parents were seriously researching our family history at the same time as I was researching for my first novel RIDUNA, inspired by the story Dad shared with me of my Great Grandmother Harriet. We were holidaying on the island of Alderney; a fitting place to tell us her story as he knew it:
Harriet sparked my imagination; an orphan living on the island of Alderney at eight years old, being brought up by her Grandmother and Step Grandfather until the age of fifteen years, when she became too much to handle. Sounds familiar? Anyway, she was shipped off to her aunt’s on the island of Guernsey.
Now we know more about the plight of Harriet’s parents, her actual story would make a good book too.
Over the next few weeks I will share how Mum and Dad carried out a painstaking search of our family history, which began its journey on the island of Alderney when Dad, Mum and I poured over acetate after acetate of records held at The Alderney Museum, guided by the later curator of the museum, Peter Arnold, the island potter back in about 2005.
As I wrote my first draft, my imaginary story of Harriet and her true story became intertwined; veering from truth to fiction and back again. You see, at the time of planning the novel, I did not know the end of the real story!
Next post ‘Harriet’ and her family history as we know it.
Can you leap back? I’m not sure. I’m certainly striding forward in my hopes, dreams and aims for 2023. (see last post)
Two weeks ago I searched for the unfinished manuscript for the third in my Mystery Inspired by History Series. (I finished writing it in October 2020, in lockdown, at the time I was told that both of my parents had been taken into hospital.) Since then I have been unable to write creatively until now, and I know my parents would be encouraging me to get on with it, if they were still alive. It’s time.
I was suitable surprised to find that I had already written well over 50, 000 words. Almost certainly over half way! After the joy this discovery gave me, I set to work:
I Converted the Manuscript for Kindle
I converted the unfinished manuscript to epub (you don’t need Mobi anymore) on Calibre e book management Library (click on the picture above), and then sent it to my kindle using my kindle email address. If you don’t know your kindle email address, you can find it under Your Account on your device.
Now, I could read it at my leisure without printing out all of the document. My contribution to saving the planet’s resources,
Located my story notes
If, like me, you have numerous notebooks, and a poor memory especially after Covid, this can take a while. I have tried to write clearly on the front of each notebook what it contains. Anyway, I eventually found the right one and the notes which were conveniently listed it:
Brief chapter outline
Side by side how the story within a story links with the main chapters
List and description of characters in both stories
Rough plan of chapters still to be written
Maps, which are the same as those in MISSING Past and Present
What to do and in what order?
Now I had all that I needed:
I read through my chapter notes carefully.
Next I read the last three chapters I’d written, on my kindle.
Then I acclimatized myself with the characters, trying to visualize each in my mind’s eye and even enjoyed pretend conversations with them, bringing each alive once more.
I took a deep breath, enjoying the quiet of the house,
… and then I started to write.
As easy as that.
It was fortunate that on Tuesday, when I knew my husband would be out of the house curling, (Yes, one of the lovely things about our life here in Scotland is the variety of activities we find ourselves participating in) the internet was down at home and so I had no distractions whatsoever.
At the end of the morning I was so surprised that I had written, 2,300 words.
I edited them on Wednesday and then this afternoon, when my husband was out with the Rotary judging the school children in their Burn’s Poetry Recital Competition, I managed to write another 1,000 words.
What has surprised me most is how easy it has been to absorb myself wholeheartedly in this imaginary world, which had laid dormant in the back of my mind for over 26 months. That’s remarkable isn’t it!
Two ferries from Sifnos, via Mykanos, and we arrived on Tinos; our second island in the Cyclades, chosen because it didn’t have an airport. Yet again we had no idea what to expect. We were self catering this time and our host suggested we pause our taxi to stock up in Tinos town; valuable advice because the next day was Sunday.
There was another good reason, which dawned on us as we zig-zagged from Isternia down to Ormos Bay and our delightful accommodation.
The nearest shop now, was a mile away, winding back up the cliff!
We were relieved that our fridge was now full and our host reassured us that there were three tavernas and also a sandy beach in the bay.
How the island helped me in mind, body and spirit
With no car this could have been a frustrating location, but we soon relaxed, with the certainty that we were meant to be here, to unwind, to heal from the trauma of the last two years and learn ‘to be’ once more.
Most days we wandered down to the beach, had a swim, sat and absorbed the view, enjoyed a light lunch before an afternoon siesta in the shade of the veranda. This gave us time to read, to talk and think of life. What a relief it was to be on holiday in the sunshine.
Most evenings we enjoyed supper at one of the three tavernas, where we were welcomed and treated to mouth watering Greek cuisine.
It was a press the pause button on life; refreshing, calming and just wonderful!
How was I inspired by our visit to Tinos?
We only had two trips out ~ one to be dropped off at the top of the hill to enjoy the breathtaking views, an ice-cream and to wander down the winding path back to the bay The path was an amazing feat of engineering from between the world wars. Although I am sometimes scared of heights (why do I live in Scotland you may ask?), the path was wide enough so that I could breath easily. The men who built it were truly inspiring and I’m sure there are stories to tell of those times.
The second trip out was to visit the lovely village of Pyrgos, where carving in marble, a treasure still mined on Tinos, could be observed in awe.
I spoke to one of the craftsman and asked him how much one of the small seahorses on the wall cost. 45 euros was his reply and then he showed me a block of rock he would carve another from, the template and one partially carved. ‘Do you know how many hours one of these takes to make?’ he asked.
I had no idea.
‘About 80 hours,’ he said.
Wow, I thought and then I compared it to my craft of writing a novel.
Loosely planning ideas, beginning, middle and end
Several months to write the first draft
A couple of months for edits, beta readers and revisions.
Working with an editor until the manuscript is ready for publication.
Typically that’s at least six months.
Does the reader appreciate this hard graft?
Would I have appreciated the carver if I hadn’t watched him at work? If I had bought that seahorse in a gift shop?
I gained much inspiration from Tinos; a beautiful island. I relaxed and felt ready to face the world again, but the greatest lesson I learnt was to value the work I do and to feel proud of it, as the master carver I met certainly does.