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.
Well, despite the lack of electricity and having to try to write the next adventure via a generator, it's a beautiful day, I have more "likes" for my page and another five star review. This one is special.
Traditionally, historical romance, as far as I am aware, falls solely into the domain of a female readership. Which means one is missing out on 50% of the population.
So it's especially gratifying to get not only a review from one of the other 50% but also a five star one to boot! Thanks Mike!That makes 3 five star and 2 four star reviews on Amazon! And 2 five stars and 3 four stars on Goodreads. So, yeah! Whoohoo!
There is a decided spring in my step. It’s been getting warmer with each day, but today I declare that Spring has officially arrived. It’s about 25 Celsius here in the largest man-made forest in the world and it’s wonderful. I have flung open the windows and the doors and am about to go for a brisk meander around the block.
It could be the weather. I have no doubt it’s playing a large part in my sense of the delicious at the moment, but it could also be the fact that Harcourt’s Mountain is selling and I have, so far, three wonderful reviews on Amazon.
Here’s the final paragraph of the latest one:
Harcourt’s Mountain by Elaine Dodge is a brilliant love story set in extreme circumstances. Luke Harcourt is one of the most honorable heroes I have ever read. So honorable in fact that I would have liked to have smacked him upside the head a few times for not sharing his feelings with Hope. These star-crossed not quite lovers keep their distance while the reader bites their fingernails in anticipation. Hope evolves like a budding flower and watching her adapt to her new surroundings with such finesse is part of the draw to this adventure. I truly enjoyed Harcourt’s Mountain by the very talented Elaine Dodge, and I give kudos to this South African native for writing about a land so far off and doing it so well. I recommend this tale to all and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
One has to admit to a bit of preening and self-congratulation happening. Still, after all the hard work to write the book and then get it published, I think I deserve it. Either that or a congratulatory chocolate cake. All to myself. Both taste delicious, but one has a rather drastic effect on the hips! Hence the walk around the block—just in case.
I wonder if well-known, multi-book selling authors have as much delight in each review and each book sold? Or do they become blasé about it? I hope I never do, it’s like a shot of pure delight and joy. You know those scenes in movies where they have to inject adrenaline straight into the heart? That’s what it feels like.
Which is good because I now need to hunt down “real” work. The happy-go-lucky recovery period of retrenchment has come to a close and the rent needs urgent attention. But if I feel down, I rush to Amazon, Goodreads, Tirgearr Publishing or Book Obsessed Chicks and re-read my reviews, bounce around for a bit, like a demented bunny and then head out once more, dear friends, into the fray.
“Harcourt’s Mountain” was launched five days ago. And I’m reveling in being a published author. Watching my ranking veer wildly up and down the Amazon Kindle ranks is a both exciting and disconcerting. It’s out there now and all I can hope is that people buy the book and leave favourable reviews. And of course, repost the links in their Facebook pages. Doing the marketing is so time-consuming. I guess what every author prays for is that the book will develop a life of its own and start racing up the ranks by itself. After all, what I’d rather be doing is writing. Since the launch of “Harcourt’s Mountain”, “The Device Hunter” has been playing nicely and I have churned out a good six thousand words since last Thursday.
It’s been great getting emails and Facebook messages about “Harcourt’s Mountain” and the celebration lunch on Sunday was a hoot. Now comes the wait for public opinion. Nail-biting, that’s what it is. Never realized how slowly people read! But then, maybe it’s just new parent anxiety. Come on people; let me know what you think of the book! I feel like my life is filled with exclamation marks since last Thursday as well.
For those of you who haven’t got your copy of “Harcourt’s Mountain” yet – it’s waiting on Amazon Kindle begging to be read. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00EK0V2Y4/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00EK0V2Y4&linkCode=as2&tag=tirgeapubli09-20
Today is a perfect day for writing (and reading) - chilly with a slight brisk breeze. “The Device Hunter” is calling. So, a pot of coffee and off I go! And I’ll try very hard not to check the Amazon Kindle rankings more than once an hour.
Three days, including today, until my book, “Harcourt’s Mountain” is launched! It’s come so fast. There’s so much still to organize that “The Device Hunter” is on hold for this week. Although it does feel as if it’s been on hold, or at least moving extremely slowly, for a while now. Here I was hoping that for three months I would be burning up the keyboard with words, imagination and chapters leaping from one to the next with the abandon of ADHD gazelles! It hasn’t quite worked out that way. Retrenchment, a.k.a. freedom, has been wonderful! Not even the fact that my car has chosen this time to fall apart has managed to ripple the surface of peace and joy I have discovered in the last few weeks.
While the car was at the fix-its though I found myself pacing the cottage, muttering about plot and heroes who refused to play nicely, trying to decide whether the story should be smaller and more contained or to let my imagination run riot. Should it be a bridled and saddled horse that I can ride with precision and comfort or should it be more of a ride with a herd of wild horses and just see where we end up? Even if it is the edge of a cliff?
That’s when I realized I had a bad dose of cabin fever, induced by writing B.T.S.O.M.P. (by the seat of my pants) and a lack of transport and not being within walking distance of, well, anywhere really. Cabin fever isn’t pleasant. It’s not as bad as dengue fever, but it is a tad annoying. There I was, trapped in the cottage, unable even to go for a coffee and tearing my hair out. Thankfully, I do have amazing friends who came to the rescue when I needed it. Sometimes it was when they needed it. So instead of worrying about what my ever so reluctant hero should be doing I was sewing capes for a school performance for eight year olds!
All creativity is connected, even day dreaming. Those golden threads that we pull out of the imagination, out of the sky all speak the same language, it’s how we interpret them that differs. I was chatting to an artist friend about the difference between writing “Harcourt’s Mountain” and “The Device Hunter” and how I was battling the rigours of writing the new book. She’s just finished an eight meter canvas and she mentioned how she had worked in one section at a time rather than seeing the canvas as a whole. But when it was finished she had an interwoven narrative that worked as a fabulous whole.
Helen Keller once said, “Life is either a great adventure, or nothing.” So wild horses it is then, and I’m not going to worry about where it all fits together. I’m going to write anything and everything that comes to me. Get it down on paper. Tell each section as well as I can and then when there are no more sections to write, I’ll stitch it all together afterwards. Now that seems more like an adventure! And something a hero would prefer! I can’t wait to get started! Until then, keep your eyes peeled for the launch of “Harcourt’s Mountain”. From 15 August it’ll be available from Tirgearr Publishing, Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, Nook, Sony, All Romance Books and Omnilit. I'd love to hear from you once you've read it. And if you enjoy it, please let all your friends know so they can download a copy as well!
It's Day Four of my freedom. Last Friday was my last day at work. I was surprised at how emotional I was saying goodbye to everyone. Well, everyone who was left after retrenchment had decimated the ranks. It’s like a morgue there now. And in the next month or so half of those who remain will be leaving as well.
Retrenchment has a good side and a diabolical. The dark side involves having to join the unemployment benefit queue at 7.30 in the morning to register. One full day and 2 very early mornings later and I am finally registered. To give the Department its due, the two extra mornings were the Bank’s fault! But it’s done and I don’t need to enter its unhallowed doors again until 1 August.
The good side of retrenchment is that it comes chock-a-block with advantages. Distinct advantages. Like only getting up at 10, going for walks whenever you feel like it, meeting friends for coffee or lunch without having to watch the time, going to late night movies in the middle of the week, curling up on the couch with a good book—it’s like being on holiday, without the dread of going back to work lingering in the back of your mind. The issue of paying the rent in the next few months hasn’t quite sunk in yet, as you may have guessed.
But the best advantage is having more time to write! In fact, while some were dreading the retrenchment I couldn’t wait! The sunny side of the street, the silver lining, the Pollyanna syndrome, whatever you want to call it, all I know is it’s better than stress, worry and ulcers. Writing ensures my life makes sense; everything works, as I’ve said before. Following your passion makes dreams come true. In the immortal words from South Pacific, “If you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?” But you can’t just have the dream, you have to own it and work it as well.
And I now have all this free, unfettered time to WRITE! Oh, glorious day.
As I may have mentioned before, The Device Hunter only lets me plot a few chapters ahead at a time rather than the whole book. Yet, in the one full day I’ve had to sit down and tackle the beast, I’ve covered a lot of ground. I'm now on Chapter 22 and I am finally getting to grips with the intricacies and nuances of the plot so far and have the next set of broad outlines eager to come out and play. So that's good. I asked a friend (and yes, I know writers should never ask friends or family to read their unpublished stuff, but my friend and I have worked together on TV projects and are used to telling each other the hard truth about a project), anyway, I asked this friend to read the first, very rough, draft of the initial twenty chapters and his comment was—it was badass! Which is excellent news.
Harcourt's Mountain is going well, the cover's done, the editor has sent the text to the publisher and I am counting down the days to the 15th of August when it gets launched. I stilll can't believe I've got this far. I can’t wait to hear what the reviewers say about the book! Waiting with baited breath and some trepidation, to be honest.
So, TA-DA! Trumpets, confetti and champagne for everyone, because...here's the cover of my book! It's amazing to have gotten this far. To see my name on the cover of a book that I wrote! It almost feels like I've been given permission to live my life with passion, with purpose and with joy. Following your dream should be all of that.
The difference between having a dream and living your dream can be summed up, I think, in two words: hard work. It's what you do about your dream that makes it a reality. Some people are more than happy just to have the dream. They settle for that because...well, they'll have more than one excuse. And these excuses may even sound plausible; not enough time, not enough money, no idea how to start, it'll never happen even if I do start, there are others who do it better, etc.
And then there are those who pursue their dreams no matter what. If your dream doesn't compel you to act, it's not a dream. It's a daydream. A pleasant meandering of thought without substance. If you want to be a writer, you'll write. You fill every available moment with plotting, character development, story line. You'll read every book you can get your hands on about the craft of writing and you'll do the exercises they suggest. You'll go on any and every course you can and you do the homework. You'll join writing groups. You'll put in the long hours it takes to get your story on paper - by hand if you have no computer. You'll ignore those who say you can't, that have no belief in you, or are jealous of your dream and determination. You'll get up at the crack of dawn or stay up late at night - and you'll write. Once the story is down on paper, you'll beggar yourself if necessary to find an editor to refine it with you. After that you'll chase down agent after agent, publisher after publisher until something happens. You won't stop. And then, one day it'll pay off and, with baited breath, you'll watch as your creation steps out in front of the world. And in that moment your dream becomes reality.
What is your dream, your passion? Find out, because life is too short not to be living to the utmost. I encourage you, no, I urge you to chase your dreams. Don't live a life of despair, shrouded in tattered fragments and figments of your imagination. Push through the stuff that feels like a grind, it will all pay off in the end. Push, until you're standing on top of the mountain. Nelson Mandela once said that there is no passion to be found in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. And I agree.
Whatever your dream is, it will take work. Often damn hard work, but you'll do it because it's more than a hobby - it's your passion. It's what makes you feel alive. And believe me, it's worth it. It still feels very unreal that I'll be a published author in just over a month and a half. Even having the book's cover finalized and "out there" is amazing. The hard work has paid off. The passion has been translated into a living, breathing reality.
If you have a dream, don't just dream, DO IT!
The website is now up and running and developing nicely. I can't wait until I have the cover of "Harcourt's Mountain" in there. And then "The Device Hunter"! I will be posting my blogs on my Facebook page as well as here. So no-one will miss out.
Isn't it odd how we discover that spark that explodes our dreams from hope into reality? Sometimes we know what we want to do as kids and when we grow up it happens. Hurrah! Bells, whistles, dancing girls, annoying paparazzi.
But that seldom happens.
The rest of us chase these dreams from job to job, pushing as hard as we can to make those dreams reality. Until something happens. We either snap and give up in despair, or we realize that it wasn't external forces but rather internal ones keeping us earth bound.
"Making movies" was always my dream. Until I started writing my first novel. It was then I realized that it wasn't so much making movies as telling stories that I always wanted to do.
Outside of my full time job, when I'm writing, my life makes sense. I get up and go to bed at reasonable and regular hours, I get exercise, and lose weight, I eat better - even managing those elusive three meals a day and eight glasses of water that escape me at other times. My happiness level soars. I feel most alive when I'm writing, my stress levels disappear. I find myself smiling a lot more. Of course, there's also the complete obsession with the book. Very little exists beyond the universe and the characters on the page. But who cares! HERE'S TO WRITING!
I am constantly amazed at how inanimate objects have a life of their own. Glasses will leap out your hand to commit suicide on the kitchen floor. Metal door handles develop an evil side in winter and will zap you as you try to open them - for no discernible reason, except that they can. Experts will tell you that computers will only do what you tell them. This is patently untrue, certainly as far as mine is concerned. It has a life of it's own, and it's not one always filled with good intentions.
Books have an even stronger life force. "Harcourt's Mountain" was a pleasant working partner. It allowed me to plot it before I started writing. I had ever chapter, every scene neatly pasted into a spread sheet and could pick and choose whichever scene I felt like writing that day.
Book 2 - "The Device Hunter" is an entirely different beast. It won't play nicely. It stands there glaring at me like one of those children in the playground who have their arms firmly folded over their chests, bottom lips sticking out, muttering, "I won't and you can't make me," whenever you approach! Bizarre as this might seem to non-writers, it's true nevertheless. I have the overall story in my head, but the book will simply not let me plot more than 2 chapters in advance.
This has consequences. One of which is, as hard as I try, I'm not getting very far, very quickly. Terribly frustrating. The other is my timings in "The Device Hunter" have become a tad screwy. And THAT means I have to stop writing and get it sorted out. I can see another spreadsheet in my immediate future.
It certainly is an adventure. And despite the frustration, one I am thoroughly enjoying. I love writing.
Stand back! I have an imagination and I'm not afraid to use it!