Publication Day for Dear Tosh…

20th May 2021 is the publication date for my memoir, Dear Tosh. You can pre-order at any bookstore or online HERE

This is a very exciting time for me but also very stressful! The whole self-publishing journey is proving to be a long and steep learning curve. Next time it should all be a great deal easier…YES there will be a next time…I’ve started work on it already.

 

 

3D V3

 

WATCH THIS SPACE FOR NEWS OF THE ONLINE BOOK LAUNCH OF DEAR TOSH …

Cover Reveal…Here it is….

You have no idea how long I have waited to write and say those words. Today is the day.

I hope you all love this cover as much as I do. This photograph of Tosh was taken by his brother Will Hartley, in December 2010. You can see more of Will’s photography here

I think the photograph makes a wonderful cover. Simple, understated, and I love the way Tosh is running towards the viewer. I’m not going to say anymore just yet. I want to give everyone time to absorb the image. More information on publication date etc., to follow.

9781838421007

The Waiting Game…

The final stages leading up to the printing and publication of my book Dear Tosh seem to be taking forever.

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My little mock-up of the book cover. I like to place myself in good company! 

We went to France in October before lockdown and returned in the middle of March, before France locked down again. I don’t regret spending those five months in the Languedoc, we had warmish weather and not a lot of rain, although it was a tad windy for a great deal of the time. The Tramontane wind gusts through the region bringing with it a chill to the air.

 

le shuttle

Le Shuttle

Returning to England was a bit of a pain with all the documents, Covid tests, etc., that had to be completed, but it was worth it all in the end. 

 

Back in our cottage in Dorset. Jpeg was exhausted after her long journey from France — as were we. 

Although our time in France was spent mostly in confinement (lockdown) I am pleased that we went. I would not have been able to finish the book had we not gone. Dear Tosh is written as twenty-seven letters to him; one for each year that he lived. Being in France enabled me to write in the moment but remembering his life and looking back from the point of view of the tenth anniversary of his death, using the dates of 2020 and 2021 as starting points for each letter. I think it works really well.

I sent the word document through to the typesetters and they have now returned it twice with amendments. I didn’t realise that I would have to watch out for errors that occured when transferring my written word through their typesetting software programme. Apparently, it sometimes picks up underlying formatting from word that is not visible when you just look at the document. There were only a couple of errors, but I’m trying hard not to let anything slip by. I’m hopeful that by the end of next week I will have given it the thumbs up and it will be sitting on the desk of the printers by the middle of April. At which point I’ll be able to do a ‘cover reveal’ and begin to put the wheels in motion for everyone to buy it through local bookshops, online or directly from me.

book printing

Printing My Book

I’m trying hard to record an audio version of the book, and have set myself up at home with all the equipment I need. It’s not as easy as I thought. Getting my head around how to save each chapter as a file,  making sure my voice is the same for each recording session, recording volume, editing, mastering… and so it goes on. I think I’m getting there now — although I have started over about three times. I once got as far as chapter 15 but then realised it just wasn’t quite right. It’s a massive learning curve!

Me in my ‘home studio’ what you can’t see is the window is covered with a bedspread and a duvet and behind me there is usually a clothes airer with a double duvet hung over it. Anything to get some kind of soundproofing…not easy when a tractor thunders by or The Man decides to have a loud telephone conversation with someone downstairs! Check out the slippers…they say you should be comfortable…download

Note Number 87…”We are receiving a high volume of calls at the moment…”

Cue OHM (On Hold Music. . .)

This last week I have been frustrated by at least three companies/organisations when I needed to speak to customer services or even send a simple email to them.

giphy

We all know this feeling…

First Problem. I ordered a corkboard and pins, to be delivered from Leroy Merlin it looks like a reasonable shop, you can see for yourselves if you click on the link. Actually, I don’t think there’s too much wrong with them, it’s the delivery company GEODIS who are at fault. First the pins arrived, no problem there but look at the size of the box in which the 15 pins were packed!

The delivery company sent an email asking me to fix a time for delivery, which I did. I of course assumed that the corkboard would arrive at the same time but no sign of it. Oh, and they also sent a text message — it’s important to remember that.

I waited a WHOLE week before chasing the corkboard. Leroy Merlin were very nice and they said that the company had tried to deliver but there was a problem because they couldn’t accept my phone number. I politely told them that one parcel had already arrived and that the company had emailed and sent me a text on a number they were now saying they couldn’t use. Leroy gave me a phone number to call. Remember this is all in French. A little difficult to understand but the answerphone asked me to  go via their website. Which I tried, but I had no tracking number — hopeless. I went back to Leroy who apologised and said they would contact the courier again. More useless emails backwards and forwards then one that said my parcel would be delivered on the 20th November between the hours of 8 and 18.00. Hoorah! We made sure that someone was here every single second of the day. But…nothing. Having emailed again, I am now waiting to see what Leroy Merlin come back with this time. The delivery company only send no-reply emails.

customer services

Customer Services 

Next problem was I ordered a lead from Apple (France) for my computer. The picture on the front of the box did not match the lead which it contained, (same on the website) so I stupidly ordered the wrong one. I can’t fault apple for this, and the help/chat person gave me lots of information about the correct adapter needed. “Can I return the other lead?” I typed. No problem, call the number **** 046 or go to the website. Phonecalls are difficult in French so I opted for the website which guided me through many pages and eventually confirmed the purchase, and “click here” if you want to return the item. I did that very thing, was guided through pages again, only to end up back at the confirmation page. You are supposed to be able to download a returns label, but no…nothing! Then I saw, if you want to return it call this number ****046. I tried, honestly I did, many times and combinations of prefix, but all I received were three pips, meaning the number was unobtainable.  I’m still struggling with what to do with the unwanted lead, although it does say I have until January 2021 to return any item.

Confused-GIF

It’s all very confusing

Number 3. I have changed a subscription to The Week so that we only recieve a digital one. But we couldn’t access the digital version because I could find no way of logging on or even getting a login code. I emailed but they were tardy in their response so I phoned. Here’s where the “for digital, press 1, for subscriptions press 2 for renewels press 3, to speak to customer services please press 4,” and so it went on. I waited while the music played and then re-dialed. This time I pressed 5 for, “if you are thinking of leaving us” guess what? Yep, straight through to a person. Problem sorted in just a few moments. Incidentally when I did receive a reply to my email, it just told me to login with subscriber number…right. The problem was we didn’t have a number, at least all the numbers/codes we did have were not the correct ones,which was why I emailed in the first place…grrr…

The Week

Last Contact problem was the bank…oh my, oh my the bank. First of all the, “We are receiving…bla bla bla” . There is constant music streaming into your ear, which is appalling, and there are constant adverts for this that and the other facility, that you can sign up for at the bank. Then the usual press key number whatever, then when you DO get through, they want you to answer a million security questions. I must remember next time I have to call the bank (which I hope won’t be for a very long time) to have all the numbers, passwords etc., quickly to hand. You have to key them in, and I don’t know about you, but I panic when I have to do that, and my fingers become like over ripe bananas.

On the good side this week is that the weather is amazing, the correct lead from apple did arrive (even though I still have the old one) and on the whole I am a very lucky woman to be spending lockdown in the South of France.

 

Note Number 85… MA…”Confinement” Lockdown…Zooming (again)…

poppies

Sunday, 8th November 2020. It’s remembrance Sunday in the UK but not in France. Here, they remember on the 11th November each year, which is, of course, the correct date to be remembering. I took a moment or two just now to think about those lost in the two world wars and those who die everyday in some distant war and will pause again next Wednesday.

What a week it’s been! I now have my MA in Creative Writing…pat on the back for me. Ninette Hartley BA (Hons) MA. Sounds and looks good. My mum and dad would be really proud, and I know Geoff, and the rest of our family are delighted. Just wondering if I might be able to add any more letters after my name. . . hmm . . . perhaps not.

Celebrating my MA with a glass of Crémant and my Portfolio of Poems — of which I am very proud. 

COLLABORATION

Dance and Poetry

I learnt so much during the year, but the most impressive thing was the number of books I read, many of them I would not have chosen for myself from a bookshop. I have broadened my reading.  There was a lot to cover in just one year, and part of me wishes I had taken two years and given myself more time for each module. However, as it has turned out with the Coronavirus, after Easter it was taught mostly online anyway. I feel so sorry for my friends and colleagues who are missing out on the face to face teaching and mixing with others to discuss/argue various points brought up during the term. Coffee and lunch breaks in the Post Graduate Common Room were always the highlight of the week.

Last week I took part in an intense memoir writing course organised by Hamish and Rebecca from The Garsdale Retreat . They made sure our timetable was full, with workshops in the mornings, a chat room open in the afternoons and evening entertainment including readings and music recitals. At the end of the week the course participants read from their own work. Cathy Rentzenbrink was the tutor. A famous memoirist herself, with three books already published (which I can highly recommend) and a novel due out in 2021. You can read all about her here . Cathy gave us many useful prompts to help dig deep inside ourselves and to bring all those memories to life on the page, in a structured, interesting and engaging way. I have the tools now, but can I do it? We shall see.

my study

My writing room here in France. Jpeg loves to sit with me in here. Back in Dorset my writing area is on the landing, and she’s never allowed up the stairs. I might have to change that when we get back. Only while I’m writing though. Otherwise she can stay downstairs.

zoom meeting

Happy Zooming Faces

This week was also the second session leading my own Creative Writing Workshop for a cancer support group back in Dorset. They are a great bunch of people, and as we get to know each other, the creative writing juices are flowing (nice cliche for you!). I was nervous the first week, but now I can’t wait for the next session. I consider myself a facilitator rather than a teacher.

view today

View of the valley during our 1hour walk with the dog today (Sun 8th Nov)

The weather has held up this week and we’ve been on some wonderful walks with the dog. She loves it here and we are settling in well for the winter despite the Confinement France’s lockdown, which is pretty tough. We can only go out for one hour a day for exercise and for essential shopping and we must complete an Attestation de Déplacement Dérogatoire a certificate of travel. You must write down the time you leave your home, sign it and carry it with you. We also have to carry our passports with us to prove who we are. Today is the tenth day of lockdown and we have been careful to obey the rules, so far we have not been stopped – but then again we are on the edge of a small town and mostly walk in the seclusion of the vineyards.

Certificate

Attestation de Déplacement Dérogatoire,

Has anything else significant happened this week? I can’t remember. . .

american election

Note Number 83…And It’s All Over Now…

Station Kitchen

Celebrating at The Station Kitchen in West Bay

Well I submitted. Twenty-seven  poems in a portfolio with the title, “Collaboration – Dance & Poetry. Only The Man has read the final collection before submission.  It was hard work for four months, but I very much enjoyed it, and I learnt so much on the journey. I had to read and study many different styles of poetry and I think I have finally ended up with a “voice” of my own. I hope so, because finding your own voice, I have discovered, is an important part of writing poetry.

Firebird Kisses Final© Ninette Hartley Aug 2020

The poem above is from “the collection”. I gave it a last edit just before the final submission. I’ve included it here because a few people have “liked” it — I thought it would be a good one to share. It was inspired by the ballet The Firebird first performed in 1910 with The Ballet Russses.

I now want to finish my memoir about the loss of my son Tosh, and of course I want to write a lot more poetry. I’ve already entered a couple of competitions and looking around for more. I’m one of those people who needs a deadline! In the middle of September I’m going to do a Wild Writing weekend in Yorkshire. Watch this space….

I am now in Bristol to collect my two lovely granddaughters to take home with me to Dorset. It will be a break for their mum (my daugther) but now the pressure is off me, I can enjoy playing with them and spoiling them for a few days.

Girls on the Beach

The last time they visited we went the the beach at Charmouth — I don’t think the weather will be good enough this time.

 

 

Note Number 78…Last Leg of the Masters…

Everyone is writing and talking about Coronavirus and lockdown — I will leave that alone then.

MA Update:

I’ve spent the last few weeks working on two stories: one for my Realism submission and one for Prose Writing (I wrote a short memoir). The results came in yesterday, and I was pretty pleased. A high merit for the Realism and a low distinction for the Memoir. If I’m honest, which I like to be, I hoped to get a distinction for my Realism piece too, but it fell short on pace and plot. When I’m in the mood I’ll go back to it and tweak it so that I can either enter it for a competition or develop it into something else. That’s the thing about writing you can always edit, redraft, resubmit or find a home for most pieces of work other than the bin!

editing

A good bit of news is that I was long listed for the Fish Poetry Prize this year. I was indeed chuffed as they had nearly 2000 entries and the long list was 295. The Man pointed out that I was in the top 15% — I could never have worked that out! I’ve now entered the poem for the Bridport Prize…I’ll keep you posted.

Poetry is where I’m at right now. For my MA Dissertation, I must complete 600 lines of poetry. If you say it quickly it doesn’t sound too bad but it will probably be around forty poems. I’m trying to write a sequence of poems inspired by dance; specifically ballet, and even more specifically The Firebird, a ballet first performed by the Ballet Russes in the 1920s. The Ballet Russes were a touring company based in Paris. Their director Serge Diaghilev had left Russia during the turbulent revolutionary period. Read more about it here.

Firebird Costume Leon Bakst

The Original Design for The Firebird Costume by Léon Bakst

I’m enjoying the process of creating these poems but as with every project it seems to have morphed into something much more than The Firebird and Ballet Russes. I downloaded a master class by the poet Billy Collins and one thing he said was: “Let the poem take you somewhere. Choose a starting point and just go with it.” Or words to that effect. It was a good piece of advice. The journeys the poems take me on can be arduous and I get a bit lost before I reach the end, but sometimes, I just arrive without even noticing a bump.

Don’t let the restrictions tie you down — Whoops! I said I wouldn’t mention it — you can dance in your house, in your garden or even in your head. Here’s a little haiku from me:

 

Isadora

dancing is freedom

feel the music let it flow

be Isadora

 

Isadora Duncan 26 May 1877 – 14 Sept 1927

Note Number 72…36 Hours in Paris…27 kilometres walked…

This time last week (Thursday 5th September) I travelled to Paris on the Eurostar with my daughter Emily Rickard. She’s an Interior Stylist/Designer. For the last couple of years we’ve tried to get to MOM – Maison&Objet, a major French trade fair for interior design. At last we made it!

Neither of us had ever been on the Eurostar before and it had been over fifty years since I last visited Paris. Excited! Of course we had to start with champagne and nibbles.

euro star

Our seats weren’t the best, backward facing side by side but we soon moved to a table seat and were able to enjoy the journey with some space around us. A very smooth uneventful journey, except when I flushed the loo, the most terrible noise echoed around the whole train and I thought I’d pushed the emergency stop button by mistake. However the guard assured me it was just coincidence – the noise was something to do with going through a tunnel.

Apartment Building and our Entrance in the Courtyard

We found our Air B&B without a hitch although getting into it was a bit of a mission, the key box was hidden in a dark stairway. It was a loft apartment, on the ground floor, (aparently the description of ‘loft’ doesn’t mean it has to be in on a top floor or in the roof — news to me!). Modern and well laid out — I say that tongue in cheek as Emily had to climb a precarious ladder to her bed, as though in Nelson’s Navy and on top of that, the bathroom protruded into the living area, and had obscured glass walls except for the bottom couple of feet. Weird. If you didn’t know the person sharing your accommodation intimately at the begining of your stay, you sure did by the end. Anyway…enough let’s move on to Paris and the trade show.

Emily ‘feeling’ the floor mounted on the wall and Yes…my feet hurt too! 

It was enormous — several different halls at the Paris Nord Villepinte Exhibition Centre, with themes from furniture, household items, gifts, clothing, fancy goods, games etc., exhibitors from all over the world. I was completely out of my depth but followed my boss (I was the assistant) holding her bag and hanging back when she was networking or asking sensible questions. I didn’t go much on some of the stuff she raved about but that’s a generational thing I expect.

Some weird and some wonderful…rabbit chairs? You’re kidding…the little blue one was more my style…not at all sure about the furry bunnies though. 

I really did like these lamps though…but not quite enough room in the Dorset Cottage for any of them.

Couple of Duck/Geese lamps and weird ‘dog-leg’ table 

Getting around Paris on the metro was a challenge, but between us we managed. My foreign language skills revert to Italian when I open my mouth to speak any other language but English. We took one taxi while we were there and the rest of the time we walked. Twenty-seven kilometres to be precise— yes 27 in two days. Amazing!

We went to the department store MERCI — very interesting place. Incredibly expensive but all set out like a second hand shop and jumble sale. There was a recycling theme going on at the time.

MERCI — a glimpse of the merchandise – My arty shot of Emily inside – the recycling fiat 500 outside 

We saw a big chunk of Paris but never got as far as The Louvre or the Eiffel Tower…next time. Enjoy the photos, I thought it was the best way to show you.

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Next blog…Sicily

Note Number 68…Barcelona (or Barca as The Man calls it!)

The poor dog has been in and out of the kennels over the last few weeks because The Man and I have been busy, busy busy. He went off cycling in the Pyrenees (I think I told you that) and I went to meet him in Barcelona. I should, of course, have posted about this before now but, life got in the way, as it does.

Barcelona. . . I loved it and cannot wait to go back. Apart from all the beautiful architecture — Gaudi — and the fantastic food — tapas. I loved our hotel which had a roof terrace with a swimming pool — well more of a plunge pool really, but it was fandabulous!

Hotel Roof Terrace and View of Cathedral

We visited Gaudi’s house, and it was much smaller than I’d imagined and internally quite understated, which is surprising considering the decorative nature of most of his work. The furniture was ergonomic and modern. What a man! The gardens were beautiful but swarming with tourists — Yes, I know we were tourists too! We took a taxi to the house, which was just as well because it was all uphill and several kilometres. But, we walked back to the Sagrada Famiglia.

Click on Picture to see Caption

It was a hot, long walk and I needed a drink and something to eat. I ordered a Sangria as I thought I should try one but, I didn’t specify the size. Big mistake.

I assumed it would be a wine glass full. How wrong I was. I did my best but gave some away to the chap on the next table and left a quarter in the bottom. It cost 18euro as well!

Sangria

SANGRIA…ahh

I previously booked tickets, for the Sagrada Famiglia, which was a good idea — the place was packed with tourists, but that didn’t detract from the splendour of the building. I have visited many churches and cathedrals, and often it’s pretty much, same old, same old, but the Sagrada was a new experience. The light entering the nave through the stained glass windows was breathtaking. The shape of the roof, the sheer individuality of the architecture — unbelievable.

On one day, we took the tourist bus — what a good idea. Sitting on the top of a bus, with our earphones plugged in, able to relax and take in all the sights. By far the best way to see a city. Past La Pedrera Apartment block. World-famous, need I say more, except that apparently, it’s impossible to have bookshelves in them because of the ‘wobbly’ walls.

la pedera

La Pedrera (from the bus) 

The bus tour took a couple of hours and went out of the city to the Olympic Village from 1992. Around the Port and through the main city areas. I didn’t take many photos because I was too busy looking.

Bus Trip Views (I’ll try harder next time) 

We visited the Boqueria Market, which was impressive by size, the vast amount and the diversity of food, but we weren’t impressed with the restaurants and bars there. However, we discovered the Santa Caterina market quite close to the Cathedral. It wasn’t as big as Boqueria but on the side of it was a great tapas bar, Cuines. Can’t wait to go back!

Market Food 

More Market Food

Cuines at Santa Caterina Market 

We did visit the famous old Els Qatre Gats where Picasso, Gaudi, Hemmingway and probably many other artists, writers and musicians took their refreshment in their day. It is easy to imagine them all meeting and discussing various art fomrs, from the décor and arty atmosphere of the place. But the food? The service? Not impressed. Expensive and the meat was tough. The piano player was little better than Less Dawson and he wasn’t trying to be funny! We won’t go there again but we can tick the box.

Els Quatro Gats…sadly no photo of the piano player. 

Our favourite eating place was Alcoba Azul – we went twice. (I knew it was going to be good because my daugher recommended it and honestly she it very particular about restaurants. Thanks Emily.) A fantastic, crowded, buzzy atmosphere with locals and tourists together. Excellent service even though the place was busy. The tapas food delicious — we couldn’t decide what to eat so ordered far too much. The waitress from Italy couldn’t do enough for us…Sara. You could also eat out in the small square. It’s a tucked away place, not easy to find but worth it.

Alcoba Azul and Sara (We’ll be Back)

Next blog post — RNA Conference… watch this space.

Note Number 65. . . A Couple of Success Stories . . .

Looking at my blog I see I haven’t posted on here since February! This is not good enough.  I don’t think anything major has happened. . .or has it?

I am now published in a collection called Dorset Shorts along with some other County folk. We were all winning entries in the Dorset Writers’ Prize. It’s a great little hardback publication and I’m very pleased with it. I am going to be reading my story Perception and Reality and one other Ten Green Bottles by Karen Wright, during the Shaftesbury Fringe on Friday 5th July. Yeah!

My other sucess was coming third in a Bridport Story Slam with my Flash Fiction Hot Lips You can hear it over on my other blog www.shortstorypods.com

HotLips

On Thursday of this week I’m going on a short writing retreat to my favourite writing retreat place Retreats for You  By the end of it I hope to have finished the major edits on the first draft of my novel enough to send it off for an appraisal with the RNA (Romantic Novelists Association) of which I am a member under their New Writers Scheme.  I also need to finish some flash fiction stories for Retreat West (not to be confused with Retreats for You — which I often do!) There is much writing to be done over the next few weeks. The Man has just come back from a three week cycling extravaganza in Victoria, Australia. I meant to get LOADS done while he was away but what with the Bridport Film Festival , From Page to Screen, being on, babysitting and visitors etc., those three weeks went by very quickly and now he’s back. Thank goodness. I work better when he’s around.

GB Scratching Head

A lot of headscratching goin on here. . .Let’s hope nothing is broken and he can put it back together. . .