War Diary October 1915 – Edith Cavell

It is almost one hundred years since the execution of Edith Cavell, a brave nurse from Norfolk who served in Belgium during World War One, and I am reblogging a War Diary in her honour. Scant information is given here, and the matter of fact statement about her death does nothing to give us a picture of how she must have suffered – no matter how brave she appeared – as she wrote letters to her colleagues giving instructions about domestic matters as she waited in her cell for her final moments to arrive. During her trial, Edith revealed that she had helped 200 allied soldiers to escape capture by the Germans, in the full knowledge that in doing so she ran the risk of being court-martialed and executed by firing squad which, indeed, she was at 7.00am on 12th October 1915. It is her bravery, together with that of all the other nurses and medical personnel who served in The Great War which inspired my novel A Nightingale in Winter, and I am proud to live in the same county she was born in. I shall be attending the displays and memorial activities that are to take place here in Norwich this month with great interest and a sense of pride.

ANiW Final Cover

Norfolk in World War One

War Norfolk
German aircraft deployed on the Western Front

The German Fokker comes into service on the Western Front, able to fire forward through the propeller German air superiority is achieved.

Music Hall in Norwich

High Class Vaudeville entertainment comes to the Theatre Royal in Norwich as it changes name to ‘The Empire Music Hall’.

Execution of Edith Cavell

Norfolk-born nurse Edith Cavell is executed by the Germans in Brussels as a spy and for aiding escaped Allied prisoners.

New Social Housing

The master of the rolls declared open for occupation a block of residential flats in Recorder Road, Norwich. Built by Miss Ethel M. Colman and Miss Helen C. Colman, in memory of the Right Honourable James Stuart, they were built as social housing with low rents.

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Singing Her Way to Success

As you may know, many of my novels are about women being courageous as they face change in their lives – women who overcome their fears in order to achieve their dreams. Naomi Alexander, the new lead singer of the Norfolk band Parkhouse, has done exactly that in her life, and I’m delighted to welcome her to my blog today to tell us all about it.

MJ: Welcome, Naomi! Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed! 

NA: Thanks for the invitation; it’s nice to be asked!

Naomi Alexander Lead singer of Parkhouse

 

MJ: So, jumping straight in, did you always enjoy singing?

NA: Yes, from about the age of 7, I would spend hours in my room trying to sing like the big powerhouses like Mariah Carey and Celine Dion (cringe!)

MJ: Were your family supportive of your singing?

NA: I never felt very encouraged – in fact, one of my family members said I sounded like a drowning cat!

MJ: that’s a shame. What effect did that have on you?

NA: It made me feel too shy to sing in front of other people, and it wasn’t until my late teens/early twenties that I decided to try going to singing lessons. I didn’t feel very confident about it though, so I only went to one lesson. The lesson took place in a corridor of a junior school (the tutor hired it out for her lessons) and there was a dance class going on in the main room next door.  She asked me what I would like to sing and I chose Lovefool by the Cardigans. At the time I didn’t feel comfortable projecting my voice and, as the song is sung in a high key, when I started to sing, it sounded so weak. I was also very aware that someone could come out of the dance class at any time and hear me! The tutor asked me if I’d like to stop singing that song to which I said ‘yes please’! She then asked me to sing along with Whitney Houston’s ‘I will always love you’ – I’m not quite sure why she chose that, and again, it didn’t sound great because I was too scared to project my voice. Also, Whitney Houston had, in my opinion, one of the most powerful voices in the world!  There was no way on earth I would have felt comfortable ‘trying’ to sing one of her massive hit songs!

MJ: How many years went by until you decided to try again?

NA: In November of 2013 (so about 10 years later) I was looking at singing schools online, inspired by a friend who has also had lessons and now created their own music. I saw a free half an hour session was being held at a local school, so I went along. The tutor was amazing and really helped me with my confidence, so I booked more lessons. When she asked whether I’d thought of joining a band, I thought yes, but I’d never be able to do it; the thought terrifies me too much! But my tutor kept on bringing the subject up, so I decided to take the plunge and joined a website called www.joinmyband.co.uk.  My ad read something along the lines of ‘I’m here because of my singing tutor! Looking to join a band, either as a backing or lead singer’ so you can see why I never expected to hear anything.  When I applied, I was half-thinking, God, I hope no-one wants me as I don’t think I’m anywhere near good enough!

MJ: What happened next?

NA: Well, amazingly, I heard back within a few hours from a band looking for a lead singer! I couldn’t believe it – I really hadn’t expected to hear from anyone. I sent them a recording of me singing which I’d made on the singing course, and honestly, I was wincing as I pressed send  – I thought they’d think I was awful. But the drummer got in touch and said mine was the best recording they’d heard to date, and they’d heard a few!

Myself and another lady auditioned a couple of weeks later, and they chose me (even though she had years & years of experience in performing)! I couldn’t believe it!

MJ: Brilliant! So how long was it until your first performance with them?

NA: Only a few weeks. I practiced with them a lot to learn the songs and listened to them over an over in my car.  Parkhouse play covers like Valerie by Amy Winehouse, Mark Cohn, Walking in Memphis, Adele, Rolling in the Deep. Finally, I was ready. Or as ready as I was ever going to be! On the night of my first gig, I was so nervous. I arrived before the guys, and deep down I hoped the gig had been cancelled. I was tempted to turn around and go home! But I didn’t, and all my friends came along to support me – and even though I had a dry mouth almost all the time, I only messed up a little (nobody even noticed I messed up). It was incredible! I was absolutely buzzing & felt an overwhelming sense of achievement. I couldn’t believe how quickly the night went!

naomi-profile

MJ: So, how do those family members who knocked your confidence when you were a child feel about your achievement? 

NA: They are very proud of me and so pleased that I went for it. They certainly don’t say those horrible things anymore!

MJ: I should hope not! So, what’s next for you, singing wise?

NA:  I’d really like to have a go at something bluesy or jazzy too; maybe for a band who produce their own songs.  My friends keep saying I should go on The Voice.  I’m not so sure I want the fame though!

MJ: Thanks so much for sharing your inspirational story with us, Naomi. It just goes to show, you should never give up on your dream!!

You can find out more about Naomi and Parkhouse here. The link to Parkhouse on Facebook is here.

Getting in the Mood

I’ve recently started using Pinterest and I’m really enjoying it. Having been to Art College, I’m a visual person, and definitely always learn better if I can see something. Just lately I’ve been setting some important scenes in Havana, which I visited a while ago, and looking at images has almost been like going on holiday. AlmostHa ha.

So now that my story has returned to Norfolk, I put together a Pinterest board of the images that have inspired me while I write. Here’s the link. http://gb.pinterest.com/margaretkaj/cuba-inspirations/

I also tried making a Mood Board to reflect the feel of my novel The Dare Club – I think I succeeded to a certain extent, although it was quite difficult to find images that reflected what the characters look like inside my head after the event.

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Aleysha from The Dare Club

I suppose the best way to do it would be to start with image before I write! Though I have to admit, when I’m reading, I don’t need to be told much about what a character looks like in order to form an idea myself. Maybe that comes back to me being a visual person, I don’t know. Anyway, when I’m writing, I have to try and bear in mind that some people do like to be given physical information about characters.

How about you? Are you happy to mostly make up your own mind what characters look like? Or do you prefer a guiding hand?

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Available from Amazon.

 

“Two beta readers and a pint of bear, please.”

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I’m a very lucky woman – I have 2 amazing beta readers – Ann and Juli. Neither of them looks like the bear in this picture – to find out why he’s here, read on.

As you may know, a beta reader is someone who reviews a draft of an author’s manuscript, providing honest, objective feedback about what is and is not working, and makes suggestions for improvement. My beta readers are on my wavelength, and understand what I’m trying to achieve. It isn’t a painful process to receive feedback from either of them – it’s inspiring.

A month ago Ann read the first draft of my upcoming novel The Dare Club, and gave me some extremely helpful – and encouraging – feedback. I made the changes she suggested, and now draft 2 has just winged its way to Australia, for Juli’s attention. Poor Juli – she’s just relocated half way across the world from Scotland, has been house-hunting, house-sitting, unpacking etc, etc. And now she has my manuscript to look at…

Beta readers are worth their weight in gold, and I can’t wait to reply the favour to Ann and Juli, who are both very talented writers. Ann is the author of several novels, and has just released the grippingly exciting Doubtful. Juli is currently working on The Mother In Me, a follow up to her poignant and heart-warming novel Absent Children.

One of the issues I’ve been grappling with in The Dare Club is that of accents. Not only is one of my main characters French, but also the novel is set in Norfolk. I moved to Norfolk 13 years ago, and now it’s my home. I’ve become accustomed to the way they speak here. For example, people say they “are now going” instead of “I’m going now.”

But, since I’m an incomer from the Southeast of England, I don’t know if I’m qualified to include much of the local accent and manner of speaking in my writing. I’d be bound to get it wrong. And in my opinion, when you’re including dialect in a novel, you only want a flavour of it. Otherwise it becomes difficult to read, and can pull you out of the book. After a bit of a struggle, I think I’ve got the balance about right in The Dare Club. I’ll have to wait to see what Juli thinks!

While doing some research about Norfolk speak and the Norfolk accent, I came across a priceless comedy clip on YouTube called: Communicating with a Norfolk Accent. Through listening to it, I realized why I often have to repeat the title of my new book when I’m asked what it’s called. In Norfolk, if someone’s thirsty, they might go into a bar and appear to ask for “a pint of bear.” If they do this, they’re actually hoping for a beer. Or they might say that they’re “over hair,” when they mean they’re over here. So, when I say I’m writing a book called The Dare Club, Norfolk people are unsure whether I’m talking about a challenge, or…well, something with antlers.

Oh dare. I mean, oh dear.

Perhaps I could find a way to combine the two?

A deer challenges itself

A deer sets itself a challenge in The Deer Club?