I can't believe that it has been so long since I posted a blog! What was I thinking?
Hunting for a new job took some time, as well as tackling the second book - The Device Hunter. Although there were times when the combination left me feeling as if I was the one being rugby tackled.
I have just finished a stint on The Oscar Pistorius Trial - A Carte Blanche Channel, and that was dramatic and intense, leaving me with little energy to write fiction. Now, however, that time has come to an end ( the trouble with freelancing) and I am job hunting once again. One thing that the trial did do for me was make me desperate to write. So I have once more picked up my metaphorical quill and am back in the edits of my second book, which are going well. It was good to get away from it for a while and focus on something utterly different. I am now brimming over with good intentions, new plot lines and the desire to polish up the text. I have met one or two writers who loathe editing. I can't relate to them at all! I love it. All that tweaking and adjusting and challenging oneself to make it better, deciding to keep or lose things and finding the courage to "kill my darlings". Actually I don't find the massacre of the innocents all that hard. I simply ask myself if it sounds pretentious or not. If it does, out it goes and I try to find a better way of saying it or I discard the idea all together. I admit to a rather self-righteous glow after I've banished something I thought was rather clever to the bitter ends of the outer darkness. I feel like I should be getting a Noddy badge or something.
Speaking of different, if you have been following my author Face Book page you'll remember that Harcourt's Mountain has been nominated for the 2014 RONE awards! Which is excellent, thrilling in fact and I wish I didn't have to wait so long for the results. The book has continued to receive great reviews. My "likes" on Face Book continue to climb slowly but steadily and I hope (for hope read pray) that it is translating into book sales.
The prospect of finding a new job and altering The Device Hunter plot is both daunting and exciting. There are endless possibilities. And it's an adventure climbing the mountain to find them. I just hope I discover one before I run out of reserves! I feel a little like one of those Victorian women explorers standing on some remote peak, one hand on hip, the other shielding my eyes, as I try to find a way through the jungle below!
Here's to adventure, wherever we can find it!
Christmas morning arrived and I opened my pressies. Nothing unusual in that - except that this time I found, to my delight, a present that was exactly what I wanted! A great review accompanied by five stars!!!! Thanks Lorraine.
Here's what she had to say:
I loved reading Harcourt's Mountain. From the start Elaine Dodge grips the reader with her beautiful use of language. You are drawn into the story and empathise with Hope as she makes her way on the unexpected path her life has taken. I enjoyed the historical aspect and how the characters come alive and how they are not so different to us with their feelings, dreams and desires, despite living in another time. You'll not regret reading this captivating novel!
I also checked the Amazon UK site and there was another review - also five stars!!! This one was from Janette Chapman and she said:
I loved this book because it was so different from my usual reading and the people seemed so real you felt like you would like to know them. A sequel would be great. I could not put it down and was sad when I finished it only because I was enjoying it so much.
Thanks ladies, I'm so glad you'd enjoyed the book.
Last night, at about 8 pm, I wrote what I assumed was the last word in the new novel, The Device Hunter, only to wake up in the middle of the night and realize I'd left out one section. And small though it was, it made a lie of the boast that I had finished the book. Well, I can now categorically state that I have finished the book. Until, of course, I start the edits! I'm putting that on hold for at least two weeks. I should in fact take a month off so I can come to it completely fresh, but I don't know if I will be able to wait that long. I want to send it to my dear editor in the States in early January. So we'll see.
I'm now feeling a bit at a loose end and having had cheese, wine and chocolate to celebrate with the landlords, brushed the dog and washed the dishes am rattling around a little. There's not much point in attacking the job hunting - it's 4 pm on Friday afternoon after all. So I decided to footle around a little with book 3 - The Raging of Christopher Sly. I have to do a fair amount of research for this book, which I'm looking forward to, but I have at least written the first paragraph. So huzzah and raise a glass to having finished, for now, The Device Hunter, and huzzah and raise a glass to the start of The Raging of Christopher Sly!
I was very nervous when I was interviewed by Ginger for Book Talk, but it didn't go too badly. She was a great interviewer! It was certainly a novel (excuse the pun!) experience.
GINGER DAWN, BOOK TALK
"Today on Book Talk with Ginger Dawn, I interview author Elaine Dodge and talk about her novel Harcourt's Mountain. With music guest Admiral Bob and Elaine Dodge will reading the first chapter of Harcourt's Mountain."
Click this link! to hear the radio interview and the reading of Chapter 1 of Harcourt's Mountain by me!
Life is good. Despite still being unemployed and with no work on the horizon I can truly say life is good!
I've just received another great review and been voted as a reader's best book of the year in the comments of the O Magazine list. The new four star review comes from Ginger Dawn. Ginger, internet permitting - which in Africa is pretty much hit or miss sometimes, is also going to do a radio interview with me about Harcourt's Mountain later this afternoon.
Here's what she had to say about Harcourt's Mountain:
Elaine Dodge combines the elements of strong character development, authentic dialog, an optimistic message, and a plot which includes gripping suspense in her novel, Harcourt’s Mountain.
Set on the western frontier of British Columbia in spring of 1867, Elaine Dodge weaves a pleasurable and tender tale that will engage the reader. Young, innocent, and inexperienced Hope Booker has been attacked and given to a ‘bride’ ship as compensation for a debt. As Hope arrives in Silver Birch Landing, where nights are described as “rowdy, loud, and liquored up. Many a man who came into town rich after back breaking months on the gold claims woke the next day broke, with no memory of losing their fortunes to men who’d had the sense, or the cunning, to remain sober. Either that or the whores had stolen it.” Hope’s fate is questioned as the life of a new bride or slavery enforced labor in a brothel. The tension of Hope’s future will be further exposed through a cast of well-developed characters, dynamic interpersonal conflict, and anticipation of the novel's resolution.
The author’s use of language is not stilted but very well researched for the time frame of the novel. Word choice such as “abattoir” and “hoyden” are historically accurate and add much zest to the text. Furthermore the author provides the reader with beautiful imagery, for example, “The moon was a sliver of silver hanging like an upturned bowl out of which the stars had spilled, thick across the dark indigo sky.”
Elaine Dodge’s plot is driven by her characters. She is skilled at bringing them to life on the page as they grow in character throughout the novel. However, some of the characters have a mystery surround their past for instance a mysterious death of a spouse when one of the protagonists stated that they killed them and why family relationships have been filled with displeasure leaves the reader with a gap that can be further explored in a possible sequel. The relationship between Hope and her cruel mother do offer elements of conflict, and the reader is able to have sympathy and relate to Hope. Luke Harcourt is portrayed as the perfect gentleman, but I like how the author incorporates his temper and moderate drinking to establish a plausibility to the story.
Harcourt’s Mountain is a story of redemption and second chances in the midst of the old Wild West, of a forgotten past, and uncertain future. This book is a quick read and should provide satisfying inspiration to those who are looking for a romantic historical novel. I recommend not only this book but encourage the reader to visit the author’s websitehttp://elainedodge.weebly.com/
Two more five star reviews for Harcourt's Mountain! Huzzah!
Cynbot over on Amazon Kindle UK said," A compelling read - action packed and suspense filled, each chapter carries you along on a journey into the relationship of Hope and Luke - what will become of them in their now shared life on the frontier? From the very beginning I was drawn into the story.
A page turner that I could not put it down - one hopes there will be a sequel."
And on the USA site Sally said, "This was a great story, I just had to know what would come next. A fantastic hero complete with flaws and a huge sense of determination (a huge help when it takes days to go a few miles and months to cross a continent)."
Why the two sites; the UK and USA Amazon Kindle, don't have all the same reviews is very bizarre. About as bizarre as why my cat's fur smells of curry today. Weird.
Today - perfect writing weather! My cottage is marooned in a sea of white mist. I can barely see the valley below and my neighbours keep disappearing as the cloud moves and thickens between us. I have recently joined the Professional Editors Group and am hopefully that there will be work from this. Anything is possible when the world gives you a blank canvas to work on! I am always amazed at how many different stories there are in the world. Even if each writer only wrote one book, there would still be a need for more bookcases, more libraries and more couches to curl upon to read them.
I am delighted to introduce my second guest blogger, fellow Tirgearran and author Annette Drake. As we are coming up to Halloween, her debut novel, Celebration House seems highly appropriate. It premiered on August 1, 2013 with Tirgearr Publishing. Her work is character-driven and celebrates the law of unintended consequences.
So let’s take a look at Celebration House by Annette Drake. What’s the book about?
Carrie Hansen spent her life caring for cardiac patients. Little did she know she would become a patient herself. After recovering from her own heart surgery, she realizes she has a special gift: the ability to see and talk with the dead.
Now, with her new heart failing, she leaves the bustle of Seattle behind and returns to Lexington, Missouri, the small town where she spent her childhood. Here, she sets out to restore an abandoned antebellum mansion and open it as a venue for celebrations.
Carrie’s work is cut out for her. The 150-year-old Greek revival house is in need of serious repair. Her sister, Melanie, tries to bully Carrie into returning to Seattle, predicting “her little project” is doomed to fail. Finally, Carrie’s health gives out on her, requiring emergency surgery.
But she will not give up. Carrie’s unique gift allows her to build relationships with the mansion’s original occupants, especially Maj. Tom Stewart, the handsome Civil War soldier who died a hundred years before Carrie was born. He encourages and comforts her, though not in the physical way they both desire.
Then there’s the builder of the house, Col. Bartholomew Stratton. If there’s one thing this 19th century horse trader cannot abide, it’s the living trespassing on his estate. He delights in scaring these intruders away, even if they are paying guests.
Will Carrie finish restoring Celebration House or will it finish her? And how can she plan a future with a man who has only a past?
And here to whet your appetite is an excerpt from the book:CELEBRATION HOUSE by Annette Drake
But there was something else. The house itself seemed strange to townsfolk. There were whispers of lights coming on and off and tales of unexplained accidents. A real-estate entrepreneur from Kansas City bought the house on the courthouse steps for delinquent taxes. When he inspected the property in person, he fell down the stairs and broke his leg. He told anyone who would listen that he’d been pushed. He put the house back on the market.
Teenagers gathered for drinking parties at the house. Or they did until the night when two boys dared each other to go sit on the front porch and drink there. With a few 12-ounce cans of courage already behind them, the two pimply-faced youths strode up the brick walk, jumped over the waist-high picket fence and made themselves at home on the front porch. Their friends shouted cheers of encouragement from outside the gate. The two boys sat there, grins on their faces, and clinked their cans together to toast one another. After a minute, they heard a loud whisper.
“Leave this place,” the voice said, like a mother scolding a naughty child in a church pew.
They looked at one another.
The wind whipped up, and the branches of the willow tree in the front yard beat against the wooden fence. One boy reached down for his beer can and felt something. He turned and saw an old man standing next to him. The man planted his leather boot on top of the teenager’s hand.
“Get off my porch!” he bellowed.
The two boys ran, stopping to unlatch the front gate, but it wouldn’t open. The wind whipped the willow branches through the air, striking the boys on their faces and shoulders. Finally one of the boys kicked the gate open, and they bolted for their pickups. They drove off as fast as Chevrolet could take them.
Annette is the mother of four children. The oldest just graduated from the University of Washington; the youngest just graduated from kindergarten. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Inland Northwest Writers Guild. She loves libraries, basset hounds and bakeries. She does not camp.
You can follow her writing at www.Annettedrake.com. She welcomes correspondence at: Write2me@annettedrake.com.
The rains have started.
There's a thick, heavy, grey cloud lying from one end of the sky to the other. It feels like a an eiderdown up here on the mountain. Every now and then lightning sparks across the valley and thunder follows laughing behind it. The smell of wet dust is strong in my nostrils. It's darkened inside and I've put on the lights. The soft, gold glow illuminates the bunches of roses, baby's breath and Inca lilies that stand in milk jugs around the cottage. Huge, devastatingly beautiful bunches that I received for my birthday two days ago. The sound track to "Braveheart" is playing softly. An African thunderstorm to the lilting pipes, melting heartbreakingly in the afternoon dimness, creating an opening to the imagination and I could be anywhere in the world, in any era. Henry, the cat is curled up on the top of the sofa on his favourite blanket, the landlord's old, crusty retriever, Chandler, has strolled in to visit. He's lying near my feet watching the rain trickle down the stairs through the open door. Coffee is brewing and the aroma warms my heart.
And I write.
The words flow with an ease they haven't had for a few days. It doesn't take much for me to stand on that fictional wooden deck of the narrow-boat, Resin guns out and loaded, while we search for any sign of the assassin that's been hunting us for days. The trees curve over us, keeping the sun at bay. The horses in the hold are restless. The silence is deep. Birdsong has stopped. There are no small rustlings in the undergrowth along the tow -path. Something is out there. Something dark.
It was only a six hour drive, but it felt like we travelled off the edge of the world. When we left Johannesburg early that morning it was cold and rainy. But still very much the city. The long highways that pulled us away from the big smoke gave no indication of the realm into which we were heading. The realization that things were different happened gradually. It came with the mist. That cold white, that thickened as we drove into it, muffled all sounds from outside. Approaching cars arose so quietly, their lights dim, all but extinguished by the cloud, they appeared to be no more than faded ghosts passing on their way to the valley below. All that existed was the sound of the windscreen wipers, the quiet breathing of the passengers and the music. Even that seemed to fade in and out as we wound our way higher into the Mountains of the Dragon.
The Drakensberg, the spine of our land, that rugged haunt of leopard and lammergeyer, baboons and black eagles, otters and porcupines. None of it could be seen in the veil that hung all around us.
We turned off the highway and headed deeper into the wilderness. The road lost its edges, narrowed, twisted and turned. It was slow going; the potholes, the sudden disappearances of the verge kept us vigilant and alert. We could see no more than five or ten yards in front of us and we kept climbing higher.
Then, a gate with the sign “Injisuthi” appeared and we crept through into the small valley. With the rain dripping around us we found our cabins and quickly unpacked the vehicle. We could hear the river rushing along below and could make out the foothills of the mountains that surrounded us. It was beautiful. It wasn’t Jo’burg. The campsite was quiet. Mist hung like memories in the thorn trees scattered across the flat, rough lawn and the smell of woodsmoke drifted past, promising warmth and tea.
The next day began early for some of us, while the rest drifted in and out of sleep, only to rise drowsily at ten. I confess it was only the promise of scrambled egg that finally got me out of bed. Breakfast was a lingering affair as we crunched our way through rusks, copious amounts of coffee and conversation. It was the kind of day one expects in the mountains. Perhaps it’s just me, but I feel cheated if I don’t have mist, rain, cold and log fires when I’m there. Each, left to their own devices, followed their own inclinations and hiked, fished, read or flitted in and out of each other’s cabins for more tea and conversation. There was no itinerary, no agenda, no programs planned and for that I was grateful.
Very quickly the slough of the city fell away and it became hard to remember that days actually had names. The second day there dawned with the sun melting away the mist. As each layer departed, more and more of the mountains could be seen. They rose, ridge after ridge, soaring higher and higher into the clean, blue sky. We were surrounded by soaring buttresses, dramatic cutbacks and rampart after rampart. A fire had raged across the mountain some time before and now the regrowth was pushing its way through the blackened remains of vegetation. The ferns, curling and brilliant had turned the mountain into a vast green carpet lying lushly, softly over the ragged foothills and crags. On the other side of the firebreak was Africa; the grass harsh, dry and almost white with desperation for water, and on our side it was the imagined Ireland. Startlingly green, and soft.
A short hike out of the campsite brought us to the yellowwood forest. It was a welcome relief from the heat of the day. The yellowwoods rose high above us, the soil, dark and damp beneath our feet. We followed the river, crossed at a narrow bridge and found ourselves at a small waterfall. It was pleasant to sit on the rock, our feet in the icy water rushing past over golden rocks, enjoying the shade.
We climbed higher on to the grasslands and made our way past the old kraal and dipping tank, the rocks blackened with age and fire. The mountains were too irresistible for some and they turned off and made their way towards loftier areas, while the others headed back down towards the camp.
That afternoon we went to the gorges. Here, children and adults alike frolicked in the freezing water of the pools, clambering from one rock to another, slipping and sliding as they made their way to the low hanging, but thunderous waterfall where they stood gasping with cold and delight as it pounded down on their shoulders. The climb out of the gorge was, for those of us who are unfit, breath-taking, literally.
That night, lying on picnic blankets, lanterns turned off, soft singing weaving through us and blessings being passed from one to another, it was easy to feel God around us. Especially as we could see a vast cloud of stars and planets hanging in the dark night sky above us. That wonder, often hidden by the city as it melts into the night, staining it with its dirty orange smog was magnificent. The night sky framed by the mountains was back, clean, and displayed across it was the reassurance of glory.
The way back was completely different to our arrival. The sun blazed and small African homesteads, villages and roads lay across the grasslands. Cattle, goats and skinny dogs ambled with blissful unconcern as we drove carefully around them. Some of the children saw the car and took up the typical beggars’ stance. But not all of them. The villages baked in the sun waiting, like Brigadoon, for the night and white mist to descend and cover them, completely hiding them once more in the icy, cold cloud.
Welcome to Charlene Raddon, the lady who designed the cover for "Harcourt's Mountain". She is also an author with Tirgearr Publishing and her latest novel is "The Scent of Roses".
Thanks so much, Charlene for sharing your fascinating insight into why the good old days were so good.
"Food in the nineteenth century wasn’t as wholesome as many of us think. Contamination was rife, even among foods prepared at home, on the farm or ranch. Few understood about germs, bacteria and E. coli. Even then, food was tainted by foreign substances, chemicals, even fesses. By the 1840s, home-baked bread had died out among the rural poor and those living in small urban tenements, which were not equipped with ovens.
In 1872 Dr. Hassall, the main health reformer and a pioneer investigator into food adulteration, demonstrated that half of the bread he examined had considerable quantities of alum. While not poisonous itself, Alum could lower the nutritional value of foods by inhibiting the digestion. The list of poisonous additives from that time reads like the stock list of a wicked chemist: strychnine, cocculus inculus (both hallucinogens), and copperas in rum and beer; sulphate of copper in pickles, bottled fruit, wine, and preserves; lead chromate in mustard and snuff; sulphate of iron in tea and beer; ferric ferrocynanide, lime sulphate, and turmeric in Chinese tea; copper carbonate, lead sulphate, bisulphate of mercury, and Venetian lead in sugar confectionery and chocolate; lead in wine and cider; all were extensively used and were accumulative in effect, resulting, over a long period, in chronic gastritis, and, indeed, often fatal food poisoning.
Dairies watered down their milk then added chalk to put back the color. Butter, bread and gin often had copper added to heighten the color. In London, where ice cream was called “hokey-pockey,” tested examples proved to contain cocci, bacilli, torulae, cotton fiber, lice, bed bugs, bug's legs, fleas, straw, human hair, cat and dog hair. Such befouled ice cream caused diphtheria, scarlet fever, diarrhea, and enteric fever. Meat purchased from butchers often came from diseased animals.
One of the major causes of infant mortality was the widespread practice of giving children narcotics, especially opium, to keep them quiet. Laudanum was cheap—about the price of a pint of beer—and its sale was totally unregulated until late in the century. In fact, the use of opium was widespread both in town and country. In Manchester, England, it was reported that five out of six working-class families used opium habitually. One druggist admitted to selling a half gallon of a very popular cordial, which contained opium, treacle, water, and spices, as well as five to six gallons of what was euphemistically called "quietness" every week. Another druggist admitted to selling four hundred gallons of laudanum annually. At mid-century at least ten proprietary brands, with Godfrey's Cordial, Steedman's Powder, and the grandly named Atkinson's Royal Infants Preservative among the most popular, were available in pharmacies everywhere. Opium in pills and penny sticks was widely sold and opium-taking in some areas was described as a way of life. Doctors reported that infants were wasted from it—'shrunk up into little old men,' 'wizened like little monkeys'.
Kept in a drugged state much of the time, infants generally refused to eat and therefore starved. Rather than record a baby’s death as being from severe malnutrition, coroners often listed 'debility from birth,' or 'lack of breast milk,' as the cause. Addicts were diagnosed as having "alcoholic inebriety," "morphine inebriety," along with an endless list of manias: "opiomania," "morphinomania," "chloralomania," "etheromania," "chlorodynomania," and even "chloroformomania"; and - isms such as "cocainism" and "morphinism." It wasn’t until WWI that the term “addiction” came into favor.
Opium was at first believed to be a medical miracle and became the essential ingredient in innumerable remedies dispensed in Europe and America for the treatment of diarrhea, dysentery, asthma, rheumatism, diabetes, malaria, cholera, fevers, bronchitis, insomnia, and pains of any sort. One must remember that at this time the physician's cabinet was almost bare of alternative drugs, and a doctor could hardly practice medicine without it. A great many respectable people imbibed narcotics and alcohol in the form of patent medicines and even soft drinks. The reason Coca Cola got its name is because it originally contained a minute amount of cocaine, thought to be a healthy stimulant, and a shocking number of “teetotaling” women relied on daily doses of tonics that, unknown to them, contained as much alcohol as whiskey or gin. Of course it was no secret that men imbibed alcohol at alarming rates and alcoholism was rampant. The result was a happy but less than healthy population.
So, is it any wonder the nineteenth century became known as “the good old days”?"
Charlene Raddon is the award-winning author of five historical romance novels set in the American West. Four of these are now available as e-books. A fifth, Taming Jenna, will be released in November. Charlene’s paperbacks can be found through used book stores. Her e-books are available at Amazon, B&N, Smashwords and other e-book stores.
Stand back! I have an imagination and I'm not afraid to use it!