Monday, November 10, 2014

In Memory of Edwin Timms -Who Died near Ypres in 1916

I didn't know Edwin Timms, but I think about him often.

He was the favorite brother of Flora Thompson, who wrote the trilogy of books that were consolidated in the 1940s as Lark Rise to Candleford.  This has been rejiggered into a TV series and the books seem to have been put in the shade by this, which rankles because the book is really wonderful (much better than the show if you ask me, but you didn't, did you?)

Edwin appears in the book as "Edmund"  (Flora rewrote herself as "Laura").  Laura and Edmund were not children of privilege.  They grew up in a cottage in "Lark Rise," a fictionalized Oxfordshire farm hamlet, at the end of the 19th century.  There, the Timms family scraped by in a world that seems almost equal parts medieval and modern.  Their mother had aspirations for them: nanny for Laura, carpenter for Edmund.  Edmund thought he would like to be a farm worker: he loved the outdoors.  His mother was horrified.  Carpenter was about right.  Laboring could be left for those who could do no better.

Reading his sister's account of their childhood together, it's clear that Edmund was every bit as bright and talented as Laura - maybe moreso.  Laura was an autodidact.  She didn't become a nanny, but a postmistress. Before all was said and done, however, she was a famous and justifiably beloved author.      He died fighting in Belgium in 1916.

A central inspiration for me in writing Up, Back, and Away was Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard.  It was assigned reading back when I was in high school (is it still?).  It asks powerful questions about what might have been if those who never got much of a chance had drawn a different lot in life.  Thinking about the poem while I was out walking in the Vermont woods one day about seven years ago I thought - well, what if there were the occasional intervention?  What if talent, which had been misplaced, was shifted to a place where it could root and grow? I started diagraming the story right there on that walk.

With Veteran's Day I'm thinking of Edwin Timms again.  He comes alive in his sister's account.  I can practically see him.  I feel as though I know him.

The loss of one such seems too much to bear.  My imagination fails when I try to multiply it by hundreds of thousands.  This backdrop of death, dismay, and diminishment for England in the 1920s was also much on my mind as I wrote Up, Back, and Away.  It's on my mind again for Veteran's Day 2014.  Tonight I'm grateful to Flora Thomspon for her wonderful book, for her endurance, and for making her lost brother live in her pages so that one such as I could remember him too - at least in this small way.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Back to England

The back of my daughter's head as we prepare
to enter that oaken cavern of wonders, Liberty
Department Store in London
That's where I have been.  On a whirlwind four-day trip that concluded last Sunday.  The big draw for this trip was the Kate Bush show in Hammersmith.  (If you click the link you'll be taken to the review in The Guardian - all the big news outlets have run reviews of the same character).

I've been a fan of KB for as long as she has been singing for the public so, crazy/self indulgent as it may seem, I had to cross the Atlantic to see her perform.  She hasn't given a proper concert in 35 years so I reasoned it might be now or never.

I'll spare you my review - for now.  I'll just say that it was worth the trip.  Of course, an additional benefit was that I had four days in London with my daughter (who is 16 - I decided she couldn't miss this and she was all mine for a few days).  Also, of course, I had the chance to be in LONDON, ENGLAND. It doesn't take that much persuading to get me to go to London.

Back to the Book: A Whole New Look

Though I have been quiet here it's not because Up, Back, and Away has been out of my thoughts.  The opposite is true.  I've been working for months on a revamp.  I can't expect that the Great World will be quite as excited about the relaunch as I am, but I hope that some old friends will be curious to see the book's new face and that new ones will be lured in, snared, and held fast.

I plan to have the redesigned version available in October.  Stay tuned.  I will be splashing it out when it is splash-able.

All this has knocked me off the real job of writing work that I have set for myself: the sequel.  Note to self.  Write the next book.  OK.  That ought to do it.

By the way.  While you are waiting, I should mention that I also have made available a little sampler of my shorter works this summer.  It's called The Tiny Confinements Miscellany.  You can download the ebook on Amazon for 99 cents or, even better, get it for free on iBooks.  Amazon, as usual, provides lovely links.  There's one in the sidebar.  (I couldn't figure out how to post a link to iBooks but if you search in their store you should be able to find it).  Just to hold you over, mind.

For those of you with first editions of Up, Back, and Away, as we may say, since they will someday be valuable rarities, I hope you won't be sorry you got in early.  More later.  Cheerio.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Fresh From the Literary Aficianado

All I can say is, if you don't want to read the book after reading this review (by Amazon Vine Top 50 reviewer Grady Harp) you also probably don't like ice cream or Audrey Hepburn.  Thanks for stopping by.  More book news coming soon (I hope).

Thursday, May 15, 2014

One Hundred Years Since...

The outbreak of World War One, or nearly so.  The official start was in August 1915.  The anniversary is being recognized in England by, among other things, a plan to fill the moat of the Tower of London with more than 800,000 ceramic poppies, to mark the 800,000 lives lost.

The Great War looms over Up, Back, and Away and my research for the book gave me a feeling for the disaster that might have been one of the real uses of having written it at all.

A bit of news...

I have started work on a sequel to Up, Back, and Away.  Don't tell anyone.  A work in progress is a delicate thing.  As I was working on it tonight, (forget I said that) my thoughts went back to Thomas Hardy's famous poem, In Time of Breaking of Nations, which he wrote in 1915.

Here it is, for your reading pleasure:

ONLY a man harrowing clods
  In a slow silent walk,
With an old horse that stumbles and nods
  Half asleep as they stalk.
Only thin smoke without flame         5
  From the heaps of couch grass:
Yet this will go onward the same
  Though Dynasties pass.
Yonder a maid and her wight
  Come whispering by;  10
War's annals will fade into night
  Ere their story die.

I read this poem when I was in high school or college.  (I can't quite remember when.  I went through quite a Hardy phase once upon a time).  What I remembered about the poem, and what brought it back to mind tonight was not really the War, per se, but its main point.  As the annotation on the  poem at Poetry Genius put it:

The underlying current of this poem is that the breaking of nations is not a sustainable undertaking, and when bombs, ammunition, and (more likely) soliders run out, what will be left is what has always been left, what endures through all periods of destruction and turmoil: genuine relationships, between humans and the earth and between pairs of humans.

I thought that was very nicely put.  It also, it occurred to me, might be said that the same essentials will survive underneath the surface of a prosperous, at-peace but distracted nation - like the one most of us in the US and UK know today.

My attention in the new book will be on Ada in the contemporary USA.  Her challenge will not be to make her way during war, or in the war-weakened society into which she was born and raised (England just before and after the Great War) but in ours.  Not too many "men harrowing clods" in Austin, Texas or Manhattan, (just a few hints...), but in finding and holding onto their equivalents in the chaos, speed, and glitter of our times.  Great successes await Ada and all the trouble that comes along with it.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!

👋 🐇🐥

I am away just now in what feels to me like my most unnatural habitat: Florida.   And yet Easter has come, all the same.

Here's a link showing the kind of place I would rather be.

I hope your Easter is happy, wherever you may be.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Oh to Be In England Now... And Thanks to New Friends

I subscribe to the National Trust Facebook feed and they regularly post pictures taken by visitors National Trust properties.  Here's a picture recently posted by Val Corbett, showing the cherry tree at Sizergh Castle, Cumbbria.

Sigh.  Here's a picture I took from my back porch here in Vermont, just now.  "Deep and crisp and even."  Argh.

One more, for good measure (note the snow on the roof).

It is also below zero - well below zero, which is why we have that pretty blue sky.  

I know the English climate is not generally regarded as its finest point but it looks very good to me just about now.

In Other News...

Thanks to all who may be stopping in here after picking up the e-version of Up, Back, and Away last week.  The Giveaway was fabulous with nearly 4,500 copies winging their way to e-readers worldwide.  Here's a screenshot my good Dad sent to me on the last night  of the promotion - note the position of Up, Back, and Away vis-a-vis that Hunger Games book, ahem.

I hope that every person who downloaded it will love it, though I know that's really too much to ask.  At least I hope you won't hate it.  I've been looking at new reviews on Amazon with half-closed eyes. Fortunately the few that have blipped in since the weekend have been very kind.

The Goodreads giveaway for a real paperback continues for another week.  There's a button up there you can press if you want to get in with a chance.  I hope that you are enjoying spring weather wherever you may be.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Work in Progress over on Wattpad

Hey friends -

I've been dropping the odd, tantalizing hint about a writing project that I've been dancing around with for awhile.  Remember the one, where I said this might be on the cover?

I just posted the first few chapters on Wattpad, which is a Canadian website for writing of all kinds, but especially for YA and teen stuff.  I'm hoping to pick up a few comments and maybe a little momentum.  If you have time and any interest I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.  Here's the link:

Saturday, February 8, 2014

I Love You Sturmey Archer...

February in my part of the world means that subtle hints of the season to come are arriving.  I made it home from work in the daylight, or pretty close to it, yesterday.

Every day, when I pull into our garage at home I have to be careful not to bump into the bicycles that mark the end of my parking spot.  I have three vintage English bikes here, a 1968 women's Raleigh, a 1973 women's BSA and an unnamed brand with a barely intact decal featuring Welsh feathers.  When my headlights shone on them last night I thought, well, soon...

I saw this fun product video on the Facebook feed of the Slow Bicycle Group that I follow there.  It hit me right in my antique-y sweet spot, so I'm sharing.

I wanted to order one for myself though I'll admit I was put off by the fact that it comes in a flat pack and has to be assembled.  "Assembly required" is not in my skill set.

While I was looking at the Trotify website, I came across another great little UK cycling video so here's that for you too.

I always give cyclists as much room as I can manage and I appreciate it when cars do the same for me when I am out on my slow bike rides.

Stay warm. Enjoy those February sunsets.  Get your bikes into the shop for that Spring tune up...