Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up – The Bahamas, Chocolate, Flash Dance, Guests and Laughter.


Welcome to the weekly round up of posts that you might have missed here on Smorgasbord.

There are a few things going on around this neck of the woods in the coming weeks, including a bit of break from routine for me as I head off to dog and house sit for my sister whilst she takes on the Bay of Biscay in November on a cruise!

I will make sure the regulars are posted and there is plenty to read on the days that I am traveling. I intend to do some work on writing projects when I am away, but the good news is that the current WIP is now moving into the formatting phase and I hope to have it available by early December. It is a bit of a departure from my usual short story collections as I also include verse and flash fiction. I will let you know more about it nearer the time.

This year’s Christmas promotion

I am also plotting this year’s Christmas book promotions and I will be sharing a post in the next week or so about the International Christmas Book Fair which will including some guest posts on writing from some of the authors in the Cafe and Bookstore, offering additional separate promotional opportunities.

In the bookstore there are authors from all around the world and I want to make sure that every author is promoted. You won’t need to do a thing.. although it would be great if you would share the posts. Look out for news of this promotional feature in the last week of October with a start date of mid-November.

My thanks as always to the wonderful regular contributors and guest writers who share their work with us here. And also to you for your constant support for the blog.

Time to get on with this week’s posts….

The Travel Column this month with D.G. Kaye, is in response to the tourist board of the Bahamas request for visitors to resume their holidays on the Islands, recently devastated by the recent hurricane. Tourism is the main source of income for the Islands and without it reconstruction will be severely hampered.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/10/07/smorgasbord-blog-magazine-the-travel-column-with-d-g-kaye-the-bahamas-up-and-running-and-waiting-for-tourists/

We are coming to the end of the re-run of Jessica Norrie’s Literary Column from last year, with one more to come at the end of November with some great gift recommendations.. In the meantime, Jessica who was reaching a milestone birthday at the end of last year, shared books that were released in the year of her birth.. It is an interesting exercise to check which bestsellers were released at the same time as you were! The link is in the post.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/10/10/smorgasbord-posts-from-my-archives-the-literary-column-with-jessica-norrie-what-bestsellers-were-released-in-the-year-of-your-birth/

Robbie Cheadle rounds off her popular series on the York Chocolate Story with the conversion of the factory to make munitions and the production of high energy sweets for life rafts.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/10/07/smorgasbord-blog-magazine-guest-writer-robbie-cheadle-the-york-chocolate-series-part-five-chocolate-in-wartime-second-world-war-1939-1945/

This week my guest is Deborah Jay, with an extract from The Prince’s Man – Book One of the the Five Kingdoms Series..

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/10/13/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-sunday-interview-deborah-jay-with-an-exract-from-the-princes-man-book-one-of-the-five-kingdoms-series/

If you are offered the opportunity to do a podcast or radio interview then grab it.. but also do your preparation to make sure you are getting the right message across to encourage readers to buy your book.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/10/12/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-book-marketing-radio-or-podcast-interviews-grab-the-opportunity-by-sally-cronin/

My book review for Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg. 

I recommend that if you are unfamiliar with why and how the young men and women of our armies are involved in this conflict, that you read Silent Heroes. It is a way to honour their service, that of their canine brothers-in-arms, and the bravery of the Afghanistan population, trying to exist in a country torn apart by devastating conflict.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/10/12/smorgasbord-book-reviews-afghanistan-servicedogs-silent-heroes-by-patricia-furstenberg/

Chapter Seventeen and the Opening Weekend of Killbilly Hotel has is moments…including a dead body in the lounge!

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/10/12/just-an-odd-job-girl-serialisation-chapter-seventeen-the-opening-weekend-party-by-sally-cronin/

Most guests are appreciative of old world charm.. but others not so much….drastic measures required..

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/10/13/just-an-odd-job-girl-serialisation-chapter-eighteen-some-guests-and-their-foibles-by-sally-cronin/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/10/08/smorgasbord-music-column-my-favourite-songs-from-the-movies-flashdance-what-a-feeling/

This week for Colleen’s Tuesday Poetry Challenge 148 Colleen Chesebro has given us the prompt words ‘Empty and Space and I have selected the synonyms ‘Hollow and Distance‘  A butterfly cinquain– Rejection.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/10/10/smorgasbord-poetry-colleen-chesebros-tuesday-tanka-challenge-rejection-by-sally-cronin/

In Linda Thompson’s third post, she explores the phenomenon that is the mystery of the missing sock.. it is rampant in our household too and I suspect from all the mentions online that it is now an epidemic…

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/10/07/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-new-bloggers-on-the-scene-the-case-of-the-missing-sock-humour-on-the-craft-of-writing-by-linda-thompson/

This is the final post of Melanie Stewart who blogs at Leaving the Door Open: A Daughter’s stories about an aging parent. This week When The Money Runs Out

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/10/09/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-new-bloggers-on-the-scene-melanie-m-stewart-when-the-money-runs-out/

This is the final  post from Peter Mohan who blogs at Cheers, Govanhill as his alter ego .. Boy David.  Why Govanhill is just like the south of France

a deckchair pictured below the M74 motorway extension in Govanhill

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/10/11/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-newbloggers-why-govanhill-is-just-like-the-south-of-france-cheers-govanhill/

Ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest forms of the reproductive system. Karen Ingalls is an ovarian cancer survivor and therefore supremely qualified to write this article.. The post carries an important message about understanding how our bodies work and how we should be on the alert for anything that seems out of the ordinary. 

OUTSHINING OVARIAN CANCER  by Karen Ingalls.

photo-on-2-14-16-at-139-pm-crop-u6133https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/10/08/smorgasbord-health-column-the-female-reproductive-system-outshining-ovarian-cancer-guest-post-author-karen-ingalls/

The Obesity epidemic – Part Four– Finding a point to intervene in the life cycle – 7 – 14 –  School Lunches This week I am going to cover, what I consider the best time to intervene in the obesity epidemic, to achieve the most effective results.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/10/09/smorgasbord-health-column-the-obesity-epidemic-part-four-finding-a-point-to-intervene-in-the-life-cycle-7-14-the-brain/

New Books on the Shelves

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/10/08/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-book-on-the-shelves-relic-seeker-the-priestess-chronicles-book-2-by-fiona-tarr/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/10/09/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-book-on-the-shelves-fiction-telling-sonny-by-elizabeth-gauffreau/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/10/10/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-book-on-the-shelves-state-of-denial-the-state-trilogy-book-2-by-iain-kelly/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/10/11/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-book-on-the-shelves-pre-order-romance-the-gambling-hearts-series-book-three-my-girl-by-jacquie-biggar/

Author Update #Reviews

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/10/07/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-author-update-reviews-d-g-kaye-shehanne-moore-darlene-foster-and-coraline-grace/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/10/11/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-author-update-reviews-vashti-quiroz-vega-karen-demers-dowdall-and-judith-barrow/

A chance to showcase some fantastic posts from fellow bloggers.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/10/08/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-tuesday-october-8th-the-story-reading-ape-alison-williams-and-shehanne-moore/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/10/09/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-wednesday-october-9th-sue-vincent-natalie-ducey-and-john-w-howell/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/10/10/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-thursday-10th-october-d-g-kaye-interviews-marian-beaman-jane-sturgeon-and-friendship-and-colleen-chesebro-gutenberg/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/10/08/smorgasbord-laughter-lines-comedian-in-residence-d-g-kaye-and-a-joke-from-sallys-archives-11/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/10/10/smorgasbord-laughter-lines-comedian-in-residence-d-g-kaye-and-a-joke-from-sallys-archives-12/

Thank you again for dropping in to visit and hope you will join me again next week for more of the same.  Sally

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Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – The Literary Column with Jessica Norrie – What Bestsellers were released in the year of your birth?


We are coming to the end of the re-run of Jessica Norrie’s Literary Column from last year, with one more to come at the end of November with some great gift recommendations.. In the meantime, Jessica who was reaching a milestone birthday at the end of last year, shared books that were released in the year of her birth.. It is an interesting exercise to check which bestsellers were released at the same time as you were!  I was fascinated to discover that some of my favourite reads were in the list for 1953, including Seven Years in Tibet, The Go-Between and The Bridges at Toko-Ri…

Goodreads has the bestsellers for every year and here is my link and you can find your own..https://www.goodreads.com/book/popular_by_date/1953

Time to enjoy Jessica’s post…..

What Bestsellers were released in the year of your birth?

Ahem! Shortly I’ll have a significant birthday present from Transport for London of free travel on bus, tubes and some trains. If you’ve never tried people watching from the top deck of a London bus, put it on your bucket list. But I’ll need a book for those long underground rides. Where better to start a stockpile than rereading bestsellers published in the year of my birth? When I googled them I was surprised and rather moved to find how many I’d read and how they still resonate. (Do this for your own year of birth and see if the same thing happens. Obviously, I read them at appropriate stages in my life, not when they first appeared!)

The covers shown here are from the editions I read. Cover design fashion over the years is fascinating. Most of these books now look different, but they’re all still available.

My birth year saw some fantastically high quality children’s fiction, but in schools some pupils were still stumbling at the first post. So “Dr Seuss” was commissioned to write a book using only words from the first reader.  The Cat in the Hat burst into life, and you can read the fuller, fascinating story here

Having mastered that, children could discover  The Treasures of Green Knowe, published in the UK as The Chimneys of Green Knowe. I’m amused by a current Amazon review that says “There isn’t much action”. If time travelling 200 years for a rescue mission that includes climbing the chimneys of a haunted house with a blind ancestor isn’t much action, what is? Incidentally, throughout this series, L M Boston wrote quirky, independent female characters, including elderly and disabled ones.

Another female character whose ill health leads to wider worlds was created by Catherine Storr in Marianne Dreams. Just the book for any budding psychoanalysts out there. I now discover it’s the start of a series, but this first one is complete, weird, and memorable in itself.

An audience that would now be called Young Adult could learn a lot, as I did, from The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Anyone still seeking to know why single, intelligent, lonely and/or “different” women are so easily categorised as witches by suspicious narrow minded societies, will find the saddest and most exciting of well researched signposts here.

Even with a diet as rich as this, the child reader moves on, and I was pleased to be reminded of Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe. It was a first introduction for this white middle class first worlder to the richness of African writing, a completely new perspective for me in my late teens. Achebe’s prose is poetic, his story moving, his world evocative. This is the clash of white arrival against black tradition; missionary against culture; city against tribe. It’s still required reading; things are still falling apart.

To my shame, I’ve never been a huge reader of poetry. But the late teens were a great time to discover E. E. Cummings, whose last collection, 95 Poems was born in book form the same year as me. Try him. If you’re in the right mood, his stars and wordplay, his individual punctuation and eroticism and wit and wonder and poignancy will play your head space with. If not, leave it for ‘anothertime soonever’.

Off I went to university, including a year in Paris where I wrote my dissertation on Simone de Beauvoir. So I probably knew then, and rediscover now, that the first volume of her autobiography was published in English on New Year’s Day of the year I was born, as Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter. Looking at recent reviews, people (women, mostly) are still finding it readable, funny, perceptive, and angry. It seems the #MeToo generation could still learn a lot from de Beauvoir.

I have fond memories of lying on the sofa, heavily pregnant with my first child, gobbling up films that my husband gloomily predicted we’d never be able to watch uninterrupted again. One was Breakfast at Tiffany’s, so good that I didn’t bother reading the book for years. When I did, I seem to remember wincing at some of the views. Stick with the film, I’d say.

Skip two decades when I must have been reading other things. The daughter who’d have heard “Moon River” as she shifted about waiting to be born, was living in Palermo, Sicily, as part of her Italian degree. I had the pleasure of visiting twice, and The Leopard was an entertaining fictional guide to the history, climate, politics, gastronomy, and characters I came across.

It was fun discovering this list. Goodreads has lists of world bestsellers for most years – do have a look for yours. The guidance you get from the books on it beats any star chart. Oh, and there’s another important birthday on the horizon – Happy Christmas all, when it comes around.

©Jessica Norrie 2018

The Magic Carpet – Jessica’s new release.

Outer London, September 2016, and neighbouring eight-year-olds have homework: prepare a traditional story to perform with their families at a school festival. But Nathan’s father thinks his son would be better off doing sums; Sky’s mother’s enthusiasm is as fleeting as her bank balance, and there’s a threatening shadow hanging over poor Alka’s family. Only Mandeep’s fragile grandmother and new girl Xoriyo really understand the magical powers of storytelling. As national events and individual challenges jostle for the adults’ attention, can these two bring everyone together to ensure the show will go on?

One of the recent reviews for The Magic Carpet

I must admit that I got an expected but completely welcome surprise when I read this book. The magic carpet is an intricate and beautifully told tale of a school project and several families involved. Each child in the class has been allocated a fairy story to take home and make their own any way they wish.

The narratives switches between each family and each chapter is dedicated to a different class member. Diverse, intriguing and almost voyeuristic, we are allowed to peep into the lives of each family as they tackle the homework project in very different ways. All the adults in the story are increasingly distracted by events in their own lives and it’s up to the children to bring everyone together.

I adore that Jessica Norrie has given each family a very unique identity through circumstances. culture and race. Each relationship and situation is delicately written and issues are tackled with sensitivity but bring he characters to life. I became invested in every single child in this novel.

This is a breathtaking and addictive story about stories, families and children.

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Magic-Carpet-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B07TXZP2S2

And on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Carpet-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B07TXZP2S2

Also by Jessica Norrie in English and German

Read the reviews buy the books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jessica-Norrie/e/B01CEUZF26

and on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Infinity-Pool-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B011RA8QZW

Find more reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3270629.Jessica_Norrie

About Jessica Norrie

Jessica Norrie studied French literature at Sussex University, and trained as a teacher at Sheffield. Then she wandered into parenthood, told her now grown up children stories, and heard theirs. A qualified translator, she worked on an eclectic mix of material, from health reports on racehorses to harrowing refugee tales. She taught adults and children, co-authored a textbook and ran teacher training. In 2008 came the idea for “The Infinity Pool”, which appeared in 2015 (and in German in 2018). Her second novel “The Magic Carpet”, inspired by teaching language and creativity in multicultural schools, was published on July 22nd 2019, and she is working on a third. She also spends time blogging, singing soprano, walking in the forest and trying to move out of London.

Connect to Jessica

Blog: https://jessicanorrie.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessica.norrie.12
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jessica_norrie

I know Jessica would love your feedback on the post and it would be great if you could share. thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Weekly Round Up – Children’s books, Crooners, Cravings and Cartoons.


Welcome to this week’s round up of posts you might have missed on Smorgasbord this week.

I hope that for those of you in North America are getting some respite from the searing heat of the last few days. The weather is certainly unpredictable at the moment although here in Ireland it is usually more so… in fact there is this which sums it up.

Before we get into the posts this week I just want to remind anyone who has a date for when their book is available either on pre-order or recently released, to let me know.  There is still room for more books on the shelves of the Cafe and Bookstore, either from existing authors or new to the promotions.

New Book Promotions in the Cafe and Bookstore

I began helping authors market their books back in 2001 when I was an agent (unpaid but loved the job) for a Canadian self-publisher with offices in Ireland. As I was in Spain at the time, and living between Madrid and Marbella, I was tasked to find new authors amongst the expat community in the south. We got to meet some fantastic writers and help them get their books published. That is when David, who had already formatted two of my books, began helping other authors who were unfamiliar with the software, and long before Amazon offered Kindle or there were other ebook formats available.

In those days with only print copies to market, it was very much more a localised affair, with a great deal of money being spent to put on a physical launch, get the press interested and present, to get follow up pieces published. As with Amazon, print copies could be bought from the self-publishing company at a discount, and they would also have on their website with commission paid to the author.

One author Lucy Wright, published a novel about criminal gang on the Costa del Sol, and we held a book launch in a night club in Puerto Banus. There were a number of ex-cons on the guest list who had offered insights! And with an Elvis impersonator to entertain the crowd, and spicy Indian tapas to eat, we had a riot of an evening. This is me on the left as you look at the photo and Lucy Wright author of Coke on the Rocks.

Here is Lucy with a happy book buyer and Elvis in the background…

We held another book launch in Madrid for a book that David had formatted and designed where the main character of the book was present, including at the dinner after the launch.. on a perch at the end of the table. Carefully watching every mouthful of lamb consumed!

Today things are very different, with print, ebooks and audio available, and there is no doubt that Amazon has now cornered the market in publishing and selling books….however, like most self-publishers they do not market the books for you. In fact some of their practices, such as the removal of perfectly legitimate reviews are anti-marketing.

As an Indie author It is down to you to do the marketing for your book, and I can tell you that there are many authors who are being mainstream published, who are also being told to do their own marketing!

There are a large number of companies and individuals online, who will offer to market your books to a wide audience, anything from a few thousand potential readers to 150,000 or more according to my research. The charges tend to be range from an average of $5 to $50 a day per book, with multiple mentions on social media, allegedly reaching their thousands of followers.

Only the majority of those that I checked had only a much small percentage of claimed followers. They are using accumulative numbers based on retweets or shares, to entice you to part with your money.

5000 followers – 10% retweeting – 500 to their 5000 followers etc, etc.

Buyer beware – double check their figures and only go with a recommended firm that others you know can verify. If in doubt ask them for a trial run of one day for one of your books and if successful you will buy another day!  If they won’t play ball then ask them to give you the names of happy customers that you can ask?

In the meantime…..It might not be as glitzy as a bar in Marbella…..but it will actually reach a great deal more people, around the world, more effectively.

You can be promoted FREE here on Smorgasbord in the Cafe and Bookstore – and all the details are in the post – I do ask that you have a few essential elements in place.. and that you participate.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-free-author-promotion/

In 2017 I did a series on media training and marketing for authors based on my experience over the last 18 years, and I will be repeating that throughout August as a reminder of how you can establish yourself online to market your books effectively.

Now time to get on with the round up of this week’s posts.

A rewind of the Literary Column with Jessica Norrie, and in the first post, a reminder of the wonderful books of childhood.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/18/smorgasbord-posts-from-my-archives-the-literary-column-with-jessica-norrie-reading-from-the-very-start/

Today Robbie Cheadle shares every mother’s nightmare, when your child is diagnosed with a life-threatening disease and you have to put your trust and their lives in the hands of someone else.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/21/smorgasbord-blog-magazine-human-in-every-sense-of-the-word-a-sense-of-pain-by-robbie-cheadle/

This week I review Broken Heart Attack – Braxton Campus Mysteries Book 2 by James J. Cudney.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/19/smorgasbord-book-reviews-broken-heart-attack-braxton-campus-mysteries-book-2-by-james-j-cudney/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/16/smorgasbord-summer-music-festival-the-crooners-part-two-nat-king-cole/

This week there is a change to the usual Colleen’s Tuesday Poetry Challenge 136 as instead of prompt words, we have a photo prompt… exciting.

#Haibun – Those we leave behind by Sally Cronin

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/18/smorgasbord-poetry-colleen-chesebros-poetry-challenge-photo-prompt-haibun-those-we-leave-behind-by-sally-cronin/

Chapter Fourteen – Summer: The Rescue Mission

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/20/tales-from-the-irish-garden-serialisation-chapter-fourteen-summer-the-rescue-mission-by-sally-cronin/

The Piglet Races

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/21/tales-from-the-irish-garden-serialisation-chapter-fifteen-summer-the-piglet-races-by-sally-cronin/

This is the third post from the archives of writer Sherrey Meyer whose blog is titled Life in the Slow Lane. This week I have chosen a post about the preservation of family history, much of which is divulged in conversations with elderly members of the family. It is so important to discover and save this living hisory. Nonfiction Essay with Bonus | 7 Tips for Preserving Family Memories 2014 by Sherrey Meyer

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/15/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-nonfiction-essay-with-bonus-7-tips-for-preserving-family-memories-2014-by-sherrey-meyer/

This is the third of the  posts that I have selected from the archives of author Janet Gogerty. This week I have chosen a short story by Janet, which will give you an idea of what you might expect from her collections that are available on Amazon.  Friday Flash Fiction 500 – Biodegradable by Janet Gogerty

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/15/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-flashfiction-friday-flash-fiction-500-biodegradable-by-janet-gogerty/

This is the third post from the archives of author Stevie Turner who has an extensive and eclectic archives and it is easy to get yourself lost in there for an hour or so. I chose this post because this is where our Brexit journey began. Elections – Casting a Vote 2016 by Stevie Turner

Vote

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/16/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-elections-casting-a-vote-2016-by-stevie-turner/

This is the third post from the archives of Laura M. Bailey .This story is a testament to Laura’s fortitude, warrior spirit and her faith… a long road back from this accident. Major Accident – The #Horse Came Back Alone… by Laura M. Bailey

IMG_0146-01

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/16/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-major-accident-the-horse-came-back-alone-by-laura-m-bailey/

This is the third post in this series from the archives of Dolly Aizenman, who not only shares amazing recipes from around the world, but also shares the history behind them. We recently had some amazingly sweet and juicy peaches… and so this dessert immediately caught my attention…Dessert – Kind of Purple Peach Upside Down Cake by Dolly Aizenman

Upsdwn peach cake 5.jpg

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/17/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-dessert-kind-of-purple-peach-upside-down-cake-by-dolly-aizenman/

This is the third post from the archives of children’s author Annabelle Franklin who lives in a lovely part of South Wales. In this post Annabelle pays tribute to the dogs who accompany soldiers into war and offer so much more than essential companionship. Mercy Dogs 2014 by Annabelle Franklin

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/17/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-servicedogs-mercy-dogs-2014-by-annabelle-franklin/

This is the final post from author Christa Polkinhorn who has been blogging since 2010.. This gave me access to her extensive archives. For this final post I am sharing Christa’s visit to Costa Rica in 2018 and if you explore her archives from May 2018 onwards you will find the other posts in the series on her blog Costa Rica, May 2018, Part 1 by Christa Polkinhorn

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/18/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-travel-pura-vida-and-coffee-in-paradise-costa-rica-may-2018-part-1-by-christa-polkinhorn/

This is the final post from the archives of poet Dorinda Duclos… and although there is a month or so to go… this is one of my favourite times of year.. celebrated with a poem, Her Signal.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/18/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-poetry-her-signal-by-dorinda-duclos/

This is the final post from author Marjorie Mallon (M.J Mallon) and this week a post from 2016 and a visit to Glasgow… Glasgow University, Hogwarts and Kelvingrove Park by M. J. Mallon

Image M.J. Mallon

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/19/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-travel-glasgow-university-hogwarts-and-kelvingrove-park-by-m-j-mallon/

This is the final post from the archives of Sue Vincent who wanders the land..in search of the ancient and modern to share with us. Sue always welcomes guest writers with open arms and here is one from 2018 from another popular blogger and author, Robbie Cheadle.  Living Lore: A nursery rhyme with an interesting history

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/19/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-sue-vincent-hosts-robbie-cheadle-living-lore-a-nursery-rhyme-with-an-interesting-history/

This is the final post by Bill Hayes who blogs at Matterings of Mind and there is definitely a treasure trove of posts to be found covering many subjects. This week a more recent post and a lovely look back at Miami Beach in 1988 Miami Beach Where Neon Goes to Die 2019 by Bill Hayes

MB-1-Opening

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/20/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-miami-beach-where-neon-goes-to-die-2019-by-bill-hayes/

This is the final post from Donna W. Hill who has let me loose in her archives and I am sharing Donna’s post from 2015 on the Equal Rights for Blind Americans, and I would be interested to find out how much progress has been made in the last four years. Equal Rights for Blind Americans? Author Says We’re not There Yet 2015 by Donna W. Hill

Blooming Amarilis with a print copy of The Heart of Applebutter Hill by Donna W. Hill, a fantasy adventure featuring some awesome flowers: photo by Rich Hill.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/20/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-equal-rights-for-blind-americans-author-says-were-not-there-yet-2015-by-donna-w-hill/

This is the final post from Amanda Reilly Sayer and there is plenty to share in poetry, prose and wonderful artwork. I am sure you are going to enjoy. This was Amanda’s first post on her blog, and I thought it a great reminder to everyone who is creative about the importance of sharing your work. Why Share Creative Work? by Amanda Reilly Sayer

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/21/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-potluck-why-share-creative-work-by-amanda-reilly-sayer/

 

New book on the shelves

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/15/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-book-on-the-shelves-brother-love-a-crossroad-by-teagan-riordain-geneviene/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/17/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-book-on-the-shelves-are-we-there-yet-an-andorra-pett-adventure-by-richard-dee/

Author update

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/15/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-author-update-reviews-d-g-kaye-toni-pike-sarah-brentyn-and-stevie-turner-19-writers/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/19/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-author-update-reviews-mary-adler-julia-benally-lizzie-chantree-and-audrey-driscoll/

Last week I looked at the impact on the heart of acute and chronic stress, and some strategies to combat the effects including a link to my breathing exercises.: Heart and Stress Connection

This week I am looking at how including certain nutrients in your diet can support the body and the brain during stressful events.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/16/smorgasbord-health-column-major-organs-of-the-body-part-three-the-heart-and-stress-foods-and-nutrients-needed-to-support-you-by-sally-cronin/

In this series on the reasons behind our cravings I take a look at Salt and a lack of  trace minerals.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/17/smorgasbord-health-column-what-causes-your-cravings-part-three-salt-and-trace-minerals-by-sally-cronin/

 

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/16/smorgasbord-laughter-lines-comedian-in-residence-d-g-kaye-and-a-joke-from-sallys-archives-drive-your-spell-checker-nuts/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/18/smorgasbord-laughter-lines-comedian-in-residence-d-g-kaye-and-a-joke-from-sallys-archives-3/

Thank you again for all your wonderful support…I hope you have enjoyed this week’s round up and look forward to seeing you again next week.. Thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – The Literary Column with Jessica Norrie – Reading from the very start


In celebration of the imminent release of Jessica Norrie’s new book on July 22nd, I will be sharing her literary column posts again every fortnight over the summer. More about The Magic Carpet later in the post.

Reading from the very start

What is the beginning?

Before I wrote fiction and blogged, I was a translator, teacher and teacher trainer, with students ranging from 3 – 80+. I learned if a child learns young enough to appreciate different points of view through reading stories, the habit ebbs and flows but is never quite lost, with huge repercussions for how their lives develop.

Non-fiction can be told as stories too. The beginnings are usually clear, the plotting goes all over the place, the ends may be murky, but there’s always a story in there somewhere. It may be obvious – Henry VIII and his six wives, Harriet Tubman, Mahatma Ghandhi. Sometimes the story has to be disinterred, for example if it concerns people who were illiterate themselves or whose words weren’t thought important enough to record. But it’s always there.

The only time kids understand the world is when they read.”  Katherine Rundell, quoted in the Guardian. I think only is arguable but I’d happily substitute best or clearest. Never underestimate the power of even the simplest text to enable the process.

So what’s the first book I remember reading? Stand by for nostalgia!

Ant and Bee, by Angela Banner, was first published 1950. Perhaps it was the 13cm x 10cm format, just right for little hands, or the key words printed in red, or the clear illustrations pointing out exactly what those strange curly symbols signified – anyway, I loved the Ant and Bee books and gave them to my own children. Such simple examples of making sense of the world. Sadly, in my 1991 Ant and Bee: an alphabetical story, “G” is for “gun”. But the illustration, a toy cannon, is unthreatening, and more recent editions may have changed, as many illustrated alphabets did post the Dunblane school massacre.

I had picture books in various formats. Huge flat Babar books with curly script only my father could decipher. A wonderful story, now lost, illustrated in pinks and oranges, introduced me to the world of sultans, domes, minarets, and travelling on a magic carpet. Please comment if you can identify what this was! The Giant Alexander lived more prosaically in Maldon, Essex. Alexander was created by Frank Herrmann, a publisher who also brought the Dick Bruna Miffy books to the UK. I discovered that at Seven Stories, website of the UK National Centre for Children’s Books.

It’s invaluable to begin young to meet “other” cultures. Research proves reading fiction improves empathy, starting with children’s fiction. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s pioneer childhood was completely unlike my urban, sophisticated home but with her I found common ground – and adventure!

On chilly nights when I hug the radiators, there’s nothing like re reading The Long Winter to put my shivers in perspective. (I’m aware of debate over Ingalls’ depiction of native Americans and will return to that another time. As a child, I got another viewpoint from Scott O’Dell’s Islands of the Blue Dolphins.)

First edition Wikipedia.

My children, in their 20s, are the Harry Potter generation. I tell our story of one HarryPotter publication day here.

The J K Rowling of my childhood was Joan Aiken, whose heroine Dido Twite opened my eyes to child neglect, poverty, danger on the London streets, and inequality. What a strong female role model! Malorie Blackman and Jacqueline Wilson deal with such themes more realistically, but Aiken’s treatment within raucously exciting stories set in an imaginary historical period is unbeatable. Her words from the Joan Aiken blog sum her up:

“From the beginning of the human race, stories have been used…as magic instruments… (for) helping people to come to terms with the fact that they continually have to face insoluble problems and unbearable realities.”

Anyone a decade or so older than me may feel similarly about Narnia (there are contemporary questions about Narnian values, and I was surprised to find how racist much Babar looks now. But they remain ripping good yarns which I’d like to see edited for modern audiences).

There are a surprising number of orphan stories – I, Juan de Pareja  taught me about art and had a black slave hero. Janet Hitchman described foster homes and Barnardo’s organisations in The King of the Barbareens. Children have the right to loving, comfortable homes. Such children become confident adults. But if we want them to be caring adults too, they should have books like these. Hitchman was born in 1919: a century later too many children are still homeless or orphaned. We still need stories relevant to them: to help them feel valued, to reflect their lives and record the injustice they suffer, and to point the way forward.

My childhood books sound grim and worthy! But they weren’t – that’s the point about good children’s and YA literature. It mixes lessons with magic (The Little White Horse) (The Little White Horse); craft and tradition (Miss Happiness and Miss Flower) history (The Witch of Blackbird Pond) ), science fiction (The Master) or crime with spare, menacing dialogue (a bleak Scottish story I can visualise but no longer find). Some haven’t stood the test of time – Pamela Brown’s The Swish of the Curtain, Noel Streatfield’s Gemma – but I remember them better than the adult fiction I’ve been reading for the intervening four decades.

For children to understand this world, we must show them others – historical, imaginary, allegorical, funny. It’s even more important, in these days of staying in for fear of traffic, pollution and paedophiles.

It’s humanly possible for your childhood reading to be adrift of mine by 45 years either way.

I’d love to hear which stories formed you. Thank you for reading!

© Jessica Norrie 2018

My thanks to Jessica for this wonderful post that enables us to travel back in time to enjoy her most treasured reads. Stories that have stood the test of time.

The Magic Carpet

Outer London, September 2016, and neighbouring eight-year-olds have homework: prepare a traditional story to perform with their families at a school festival. But Nathan’s father thinks his son would be better off doing sums; Sky’s mother’s enthusiasm is as fleeting as her bank balance, and there’s a threatening shadow hanging over poor Alka’s family. Only Mandeep’s fragile grandmother and new girl Xoriyo really understand the magical powers of storytelling. As national events and individual challenges jostle for the adults’ attention, can these two bring everyone together to ensure the show will go on?

Pre-order the book for July 22nd: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Magic-Carpet-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B07TXZP2S2

And on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Carpet-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B07TXZP2S2

Also by Jessica Norrie in English and German

One of the many reviews for the book

Roses are Amber VINE VOICE 4.0 out of 5 stars Literary Fiction 

The Infinity Pool is a piece of literary fiction set on an island where a camp exists called Serendipity, where men and women can go to relax, regenerate and find themselves in fairly basic and primitive surroundings. The camp offers holistic therapies, fresh food and the chance to meet like-minded individuals.

The story opens with an attack on a key member of Serendipity, it then turns back almost a year. Adrian is a known womaniser and searching for a fresh injection of life he befriends a young local girl. Island villagers already dislike visitors to the Serendipity camp, they find them intrusive and disrespectful of their local culture and customs. There is often an undercurrent of trouble waiting to erupt between the campers and the villagers.

When the camp re-opens the following year, the leader fails to turn up. Magda, the camp’s head housekeeper makes sure the camp continues to run as best she can, but some returning campers are disappointed by the absence and the camp’s atmosphere degenerates without their leader. Relationships with the villagers heat up and become violent.

You won’t find cosy characters here, many were selfish and awkward showing how they didn’t mix well with the locals. There are several storylines vying for attention, and the ending wasn’t what I expected at all. This book is quite different from lots of mainstream dramas, but will draw its own audience of readers.

Read the reviews buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jessica-Norrie/e/B01CEUZF26

and on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Infinity-Pool-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B011RA8QZW

Find more reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3270629.Jessica_Norrie

About Jessica Norrie

Jessica Norrie studied French literature at Sussex University, and trained as a teacher at Sheffield. Then she wandered into parenthood, told her now grown up children stories, and heard theirs. A qualified translator, she worked on an eclectic mix of material, from health reports on racehorses to harrowing refugee tales. She taught adults and children, co-authored a textbook and ran teacher training. In 2008 came the idea for “The Infinity Pool”, which appeared in 2015 (and in German in 2018). Her second novel “The Magic Carpet”, inspired by teaching language and creativity in multicultural schools, is published on July 22nd, and she is working on a third. She also spends time blogging, singing soprano, walking in the forest and trying to move out of London.

Connect to Jessica

Blog: https://jessicanorrie.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessica.norrie.12
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jessica_norrie

I know Jessica would love your feedback on the post and it would be great if you could share. thanks Sally

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – New book on the Shelves Pre-order July 22nd – The Magic Carpet by Jessica Norrie


Delighted to share the news of Jessica Norrie’s new book that is on pre-order for July 22nd. The Magic Carpet.

About The Magic Carpet

Outer London, September 2016, and neighbouring eight-year-olds have homework: prepare a traditional story to perform with their families at a school festival. But Nathan’s father thinks his son would be better off doing sums; Sky’s mother’s enthusiasm is as fleeting as her bank balance, and there’s a threatening shadow hanging over poor Alka’s family. Only Mandeep’s fragile grandmother and new girl Xoriyo really understand the magical powers of storytelling. As national events and individual challenges jostle for the adults’ attention, can these two bring everyone together to ensure the show will go on?

Pre-order the book for July 22nd: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Magic-Carpet-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B07TXZP2S2

And on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Carpet-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B07TXZP2S2

Also by Jessica Norrie in English and German

One of the many reviews for the book

Roses are Amber VINE VOICE 4.0 out of 5 stars Literary Fiction 

The Infinity Pool is a piece of literary fiction set on an island where a camp exists called Serendipity, where men and women can go to relax, regenerate and find themselves in fairly basic and primitive surroundings. The camp offers holistic therapies, fresh food and the chance to meet like-minded individuals.

The story opens with an attack on a key member of Serendipity, it then turns back almost a year. Adrian is a known womaniser and searching for a fresh injection of life he befriends a young local girl. Island villagers already dislike visitors to the Serendipity camp, they find them intrusive and disrespectful of their local culture and customs. There is often an undercurrent of trouble waiting to erupt between the campers and the villagers.

When the camp re-opens the following year, the leader fails to turn up. Magda, the camp’s head housekeeper makes sure the camp continues to run as best she can, but some returning campers are disappointed by the absence and the camp’s atmosphere degenerates without their leader. Relationships with the villagers heat up and become violent.

You won’t find cosy characters here, many were selfish and awkward showing how they didn’t mix well with the locals. There are several storylines vying for attention, and the ending wasn’t what I expected at all. This book is quite different from lots of mainstream dramas, but will draw its own audience of readers.

Read the reviews buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jessica-Norrie/e/B01CEUZF26

and on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Infinity-Pool-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B011RA8QZW

Find more reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3270629.Jessica_Norrie

About Jessica Norrie

Jessica Norrie studied French literature at Sussex University, and trained as a teacher at Sheffield. Then she wandered into parenthood, told her now grown up children stories, and heard theirs. A qualified translator, she worked on an eclectic mix of material, from health reports on racehorses to harrowing refugee tales. She taught adults and children, co-authored a textbook and ran teacher training. In 2008 came the idea for “The Infinity Pool”, which appeared in 2015 (and in German in 2018). Her second novel “The Magic Carpet”, inspired by teaching language and creativity in multicultural schools, is published on July 22nd, and she is working on a third. She also spends time blogging, singing soprano, walking in the forest and trying to move out of London.

Connect to Jessica

Blog: https://jessicanorrie.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessica.norrie.12
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jessica_norrie

Please help share the news of Jessica’s new book and give it a great send off.. Thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Literary Column with Jessica Norrie – What Bestsellers were released in the year of your birth?


Welcome to this month’s Literary Column with Jessica Norrie. This is the tenth post from Jessica and the final one for the time being as she is well into writing her next book and will be focusing on that in the New Year. I am hugely appreciative of her knowledge and the time she has spent on putting these posts together for us, and this month’s is no exception.

Ahem! Shortly I’ll have a significant birthday present from Transport for London of free travel on bus, tubes and some trains. If you’ve never tried people watching from the top deck of a London bus, put it on your bucket list. But I’ll need a book for those long underground rides. Where better to start a stockpile than rereading bestsellers published in the year of my birth? When I googled them I was surprised and rather moved to find how many I’d read and how they still resonate. (Do this for your own year of birth and see if the same thing happens. Obviously, I read them at appropriate stages in my life, not when they first appeared!)

The covers shown here are from the editions I read. Cover design fashion over the years is fascinating. Most of these books now look different, but they’re all still available.

My birth year saw some fantastically high quality children’s fiction, but in schools some pupils were still stumbling at the first post. So “Dr Seuss” was commissioned to write a book using only words from the first reader.  The Cat in the Hat burst into life, and you can read the fuller, fascinating story here

Having mastered that, children could discover  The Treasures of Green Knowe, published in the UK as The Chimneys of Green Knowe. I’m amused by a current Amazon review that says “There isn’t much action”. If time travelling 200 years for a rescue mission that includes climbing the chimneys of a haunted house with a blind ancestor isn’t much action, what is? Incidentally, throughout this series, L M Boston wrote quirky, independent female characters, including elderly and disabled ones.

Another female character whose ill health leads to wider worlds was created by Catherine Storr in Marianne Dreams. Just the book for any budding psychoanalysts out there. I now discover it’s the start of a series, but this first one is complete, weird, and memorable in itself.

An audience that would now be called Young Adult could learn a lot, as I did, from The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Anyone still seeking to know why single, intelligent, lonely and/or “different” women are so easily categorised as witches by suspicious narrow minded societies, will find the saddest and most exciting of well researched signposts here.

Even with a diet as rich as this, the child reader moves on, and I was pleased to be reminded of Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe. It was a first introduction for this white middle class first worlder to the richness of African writing, a completely new perspective for me in my late teens. Achebe’s prose is poetic, his story moving, his world evocative. This is the clash of white arrival against black tradition; missionary against culture; city against tribe. It’s still required reading; things are still falling apart.

To my shame, I’ve never been a huge reader of poetry. But the late teens were a great time to discover E. E. Cummings, whose last collection, 95 Poems was born in book form the same year as me. Try him. If you’re in the right mood, his stars and wordplay, his individual punctuation and eroticism and wit and wonder and poignancy will play your head space with. If not, leave it for ‘anothertime soonever’.

Off I went to university, including a year in Paris where I wrote my dissertation on Simone de Beauvoir. So I probably knew then, and rediscover now, that the first volume of her autobiography was published in English on New Year’s Day of the year I was born, as Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter. Looking at recent reviews, people (women, mostly) are still finding it readable, funny, perceptive, and angry. It seems the #MeToo generation could still learn a lot from de Beauvoir.

I have fond memories of lying on the sofa, heavily pregnant with my first child, gobbling up films that my husband gloomily predicted we’d never be able to watch uninterrupted again. One was Breakfast at Tiffany’s, so good that I didn’t bother reading the book for years. When I did, I seem to remember wincing at some of the views. Stick with the film, I’d say.

Skip two decades when I must have been reading other things. The daughter who’d have heard “Moon River” as she shifted about waiting to be born, was living in Palermo, Sicily, as part of her Italian degree. I had the pleasure of visiting twice, and The Leopard was an entertaining fictional guide to the history, climate, politics, gastronomy, and characters I came across.

It was fun discovering this list. Goodreads has lists of world bestsellers for most years – do have a look for yours. The guidance you get from the books on it beats any star chart. Oh, and there’s another important birthday on the horizon – Happy Christmas all, when it comes around.

©Jessica Norrie 2018

About Jessica Norrie

Jessica Norrie studied French literature at Sussex University, and trained as a teacher at Sheffield. Then she wandered into parenthood, told her now grown up children stories, and heard theirs. A qualified translator, she worked on an eclectic mix of material, from health reports on racehorses to harrowing refugee tales. She taught, full time, part time, adults, children, co-authored a text book and ran teacher training. In 2008 she was inspired with the idea for “The Infinity Pool” and it appeared as a fully fledged novel in 2015. Meanwhile she sings soprano and plays the piano, walks in the forest and enjoys living in and using London. She looks forward to writing more in the future.

Jessica Norrie

About the Book.

In this thoughtful novel set on a sun-baked island, Adrian Hartman, the charismatic director of the Serendipity holiday community, is responsible for ensuring the perfect mindful break, with personal growth and inner peace guaranteed. People return year after year to bare their souls. For some, Adrian IS Serendipity. But Adrian disappears, and with him goes the serenity of his staff and guests, who are bewildered without their leader. The hostility of the local villagers is beginning to boil over. Is their anger justified or are the visitors, each in a different way, just paranoid?

As romance turns sour and conflict threatens the stability of both communities, everyone has to find their own way to survive. This evocative story explores the decisions of adults who still need to come of age, the effect of well-intentioned tourism on a traditional community, and the real meaning of getting away from it all.

One of the recent reviews for the book

Nice holiday read  on 29 September 2018

I enjoyed reading this book during my summer holidays. It gets you thinking about the way we interact with local communities and the environment during our few weeks away in the sun. The book is a nice mix of crime, romance, philosophy, and social constructs.

Read some of the many excellent reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jessica-Norrie/e/B01CEUZF26

and on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Infinity-Pool-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B011RA8QZW

Find more reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3270629.Jessica_Norrie

Connect to Jessica

Blog: https://jessicanorrie.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessica.norrie.12
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jessica_norrie

My thanks to Jessica again for a wonderful post that introduces us to the books that entertained and engaged her during the various stages of her life so far.. Whatbestsellers were released in your year of birth… and how many have you read?

You can read all of Jessica’s previous posts in the directory, and I am sure that you join me in thanking her for all the stunning books that she has introduced us to: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/the-literary-column-by-jessica-norrie/

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Literary Column – #Books #Gifts To my daughter, with love by Jessica Norrie


At this time of year, as we start to think about gifts for Christmas, we turn to books. But picking the right book for the person you are buying for is an art. Jessica Norrie shares the books that she has gifted her daughter….

I was lucky enough as a child to be given books every birthday and Christmas. (Overheard in a bookshop last year: “I do love books. What a shame you can’t give them as presents!” I immediately took a couple extra to the till, for the next time I need a birthday present.)

Anyway, I always give my children books, too. My son isn’t necessarily a fan, apart from  Harry Potter, and, nowadays,  Akala. But my daughter, now 27, reads and reads. I choose what I think she’ll like, but with an eye too on what I’d like to borrow when she’s finished with it. These are some I picked out for her last year – not worthy mother to daughter life lessons, just entertainment and humorously expressed thought.

We both agreed  Yuki Chan in Brontë Country ticked lots of boxes. A bit quirky, quite sad, often funny. Mick Jackson, the author, is as far as I know a middle aged Lancastrian male, but he doesn’t make a bad job of the voice of a teenage Japanese girl, although I think he over estimates her capacity for alcohol and physical pain. Yuki Chan has a refreshing view of British eccentricities, a shoulder shrugging, eye rolling opinion of the elderly Japanese coach party she’s travelling with, and a reaction to Haworth and the Brontës like none other, as she follows her late mother’s footsteps on a journey through the UK. It’s a story of cultural difference, but Yuki’s grief for a parent would cut hearts in any culture, gender or age group. A book we’d recommend – especially if, like Yuki, you find men with enormous beards rather peculiar and sometimes hope on falling asleep that when you wake “all your little obsessions would’ve been smoothed away and your life would be solved, like a puzzle.”

“This one’s a bit grim!” Ros commented, avidly soaking up Sarah Schmidt’s debut See what I have done. Lizzie Borden, who “smiled too wide for her face” and as we know “ had an axe/ gave her mother 40 whacks/When she saw what she had done/She gave her father 41.” Ah, but did she? Schmidt retells the story as fiction, narrated by Lizzie herself, her older sister Emma, the maid Bridget, and a passing ne’er do well called Benjamin – between them, these four know what really happened but the reader is kept guessing to the end. Schmidt slept several nights in the Borden house, which you too can do if you’re in Fall River, Massachusetts, and comments: “It’s an odd thing to be in the bedroom of an accused murderer.”

This is another book in the vein of the excellent  The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale, perhaps slightly less awful, since Mr Whicher was investigating the death of a three year old child. But if you like a dose of true crime, both of these are readable, informative, and entertaining.

For untrue Victorian era crime written with relish, have I mentioned Philip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart series before? Good for Young Adults and anyone else in need of jolly good yarns with a strong woman at their heart.

Ros thought  Animal: The Autobiography of a Female Body by the comedian Sara Pascoe was “a bit obvious”. And Pascoe can be irritating, full of arch, self conscious comments. But she is also very funny and sometimes illuminating, when she decides to explore femaleness because “like other animals, we should have a programmed set of instinctual behaviours, but no-one seems to agree what they are.” She is deadly serious when it comes to discrimination, cruelty, and rape, among other issues that affect women worldwide. It’s an easy introduction to feminist arguments and if my son would only read it I’d give him a copy too. Here’s Pascoe objecting to the fashion for Brazilian hair removal: “…wasn’t it insensitive to name a near-total wax after a country suffering from widespread deforestation? SAVE THE RAINFOREST! Leave the Amazon alone.”

When Ros unwrapped The Dressmaker, by Rosalie Ham, she complained that I’d already given it to her the year before. It must have been the cover that appealed to me so much, Kate Winslet gazing shrewdly at her home village in the 2015 film. The book’s quite a good read, if a bit jerky. I could see why it appeals, if you like fashion, quirky characters, the Australian outback brought to life with a dash of sophistication battling all the prejudice. It didn’t quite add up for either of us but I include it because for many other readers it was very special, including a scout on the lookout for a hit movie, obviously.

Their Finest Hour and a half by Lissa Evans is a good book made into an equally good film in 2016. In wartime London, a young woman is employed to “write the slop” (the women’s angle) for propaganda films. Her associates are young men unfit for military service and a washed up actor (Bill Nighy in the film) only hired because the younger ones are at the front. She’s good at her job but of course not paid or treated equally with her male colleagues, and not treated well by her war artist husband either. It’s a novel about coming to terms with what’s possible, and we agreed it’s rather moving whether you’re in your twenties or your fifties.

That’s what we liked about all of these – easy, well paced reads, with humour and emotion making serious subjects approachable. I hope they work as well for you as they did for Ros and I.

©Jessica Norrie 2018

About Jessica Norrie

Jessica Norrie studied French literature at Sussex University, and trained as a teacher at Sheffield. Then she wandered into parenthood, told her now grown up children stories, and heard theirs. A qualified translator, she worked on an eclectic mix of material, from health reports on racehorses to harrowing refugee tales. She taught, full time, part time, adults, children, co-authored a text book and ran teacher training. In 2008 she was inspired with the idea for “The Infinity Pool” and it appeared as a fully fledged novel in 2015. Meanwhile she sings soprano and plays the piano, walks in the forest and enjoys living in and using London. She looks forward to writing more in the future.

Jessica Norrie

About the Book.

In this thoughtful novel set on a sun-baked island, Adrian Hartman, the charismatic director of the Serendipity holiday community, is responsible for ensuring the perfect mindful break, with personal growth and inner peace guaranteed. People return year after year to bare their souls. For some, Adrian IS Serendipity. But Adrian disappears, and with him goes the serenity of his staff and guests, who are bewildered without their leader. The hostility of the local villagers is beginning to boil over. Is their anger justified or are the visitors, each in a different way, just paranoid?

As romance turns sour and conflict threatens the stability of both communities, everyone has to find their own way to survive. This evocative story explores the decisions of adults who still need to come of age, the effect of well-intentioned tourism on a traditional community, and the real meaning of getting away from it all.

One of the recent reviews for the book

Nice holiday read  on 29 September 2018

I enjoyed reading this book during my summer holidays. It gets you thinking about the way we interact with local communities and the environment during our few weeks away in the sun. The book is a nice mix of crime, romance, philosophy, and social constructs.

Read some of the many excellent reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jessica-Norrie/e/B01CEUZF26

and on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Infinity-Pool-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B011RA8QZW

Find more reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3270629.Jessica_Norrie

Connect to Jessica

Blog: https://jessicanorrie.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessica.norrie.12
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jessica_norrie

My thanks to Jessica for sharing some excellent books to give as gifts at Christmas or at any time of year.. to daughters and friends alike and I know Jessica would love your feedback.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Literary Column with Jessica Norrie – Coasting with spies and criminals, 1903 – 2018


A welcome back to Jessica Norrie who by the sounds of it has had a productive summer. To kick off her new season of posts, Jessica is exploring books that are set on the coastline in various places around the world. I love the sea and hope that when we buy our final house it has a view of the ocean and all its changing moods.

There’s always a “new term” feeling about Autumn. You’d think less heat would make it easier to read. Yet it’s often a time when new projects take a lot of our energy, and we need to read plots that carry us forward in settings we can enjoy. What better than a thriller set by the sea? It’s a sub genre all its own and surprisingly hasn’t changed all that much between the first of these books appearing, and the most recent.

How to resist a hero called Carruthers, and frontispiece maps for reference during his journey? What remains with me from The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers (1903) are the shifting sandbars, mists and misleading tides of the Frisian coast, a place I’ve never visited but now have a strong picture of. This is yachting turned espionage, sunbather turned sailor as the yacht’s owner taught (him) the tactics for meeting squalls. You could indeed learn how to handle a boat from its pages, but the squalls aren’t just knotted ropes and bumpy seas. The Germans are stockpiling arms on one of the islands…This story was strong enough to influence government policy in the complacent early 20th century. The colonial attitudes and snobbery are of their time (fortunately), but it’s a ripping yarn and the author’s own life story is one you couldn’t make up.

Just before the next World War came Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock  (1938). I went to university in Brighton. My friend worked in the summer “on the deckchairs”. His pitch was next to the Palace Pier where takings were rumoured to be subject to protection rackets by the Brighton mafia. However elegant fashionable Brighton tries to be, the salt wind’s quick to rasp the stucco and rust the railings; Greene’s novel shows the same corruption right on the surface of his characters, including cynical, pathetic 17 year old anti-hero Pinkie. I haven’t seen the 2010 film, but Richard Attenborough in the 1947 version is on TV somewhere most weekday afternoons. Look out its classic entertainment next time you’re off work with a cold or getting over a hangover.

1938 was a vintage year for seaside thrillers. In Epitaph for a Spy Eric Ambler uses a setting that always works well – a French Riviera Hotel. (Quiz question: how many books/films can you name set in Riviera hotels?) Life’s always going to be tricky for Josef Vadassy, a stateless person in Europe on the brink of war. The last thing he needs is to become involved in espionage, cornered into spying on his fellow guests who in turn may be spying on him. Somewhere on the sunny beach or in the picturesque scenery, Vadassy manages to lose the one piece of evidence I had that proved my innocence. Plus he’s trapped in the hotel and unable to pay his bill. When the going gets tough, remember at least you’re not in his shoes.

You can’t argue with Agatha Christie’s plotting in  Dead Man’s Folly (1956). Clues, red herrings and dead ends abound; Poirot’s at his most poiresque. All the stock characters and set pieces are there, cocktail drinkers, peculiar locals, baffled police with lines like: “She was killed because she saw something. But until we know exactly what it was she saw – we don’t know who killed her.” Christie spends surprisingly little time describing her setting. Maybe I have such a strong sense of it because it was based on Christie’s own home, Greenways, just upriver from Dartmouth. After visiting two years ago. I paid homage in a murder mystery

Researching this article, I came across Helen Dunmore’s first novel from 1993, Zennor in Darkness. Helen Dunmore was a poet and novelist whose plotting and language both shone, the content and judgement always enough, never too much. This one’s about DH Lawrence and his German born wife arriving in a Cornish coastal village in 1917, to local suspicions and menace. So good to know there’s still a Dunmore I haven’t read; she died last year, too soon.

I hardly dare refer to myself in her company, but you get what you pay for, and my 2015 first novel The Infinity Pool is only 99p on Amazon UK throughout October. Even the German translation is on offer for 1.99€, until 10th October (Amazon.de). How does it fit this theme? Well, it’s set on a Greek island, and somebody’s disappeared…

For a course I’m doing, I had to read Ian McGuire’s The North Water. No wonder it was long listed for the Booker Prize 2016. This author is a rare wordsmith and the research is impressive – what doesn’t he know about 19th century whaling techniques in the Arctic? It’s a tense plot but the details of daily life and crime on and off board ship are repellent. I’m not sure all the violence is justified. However, if you have a strong enough stomach, you’ll learn a lot about writing. There’s also an interesting interview where he defends the language he uses.

Coming right up to date, this summer I read The Moment before Drowning by James Brydon (2018). Here’s a dark, sinister study. In 1959 Jacques le Garrec returns home to his Brittany village. He’s awaiting trial for crimes committed as a soldier in occupied Algeria. It’s all relative: for any French soldier to try another in this context is ironic and futile – they all behaved wrongly and Le Garrec is plagued by guilt. But his police experience means he’s asked to investigate the murder of a local girl, whose mother is deemed to have collaborated with the Nazis. Up and down the coastal road he drives, through wild winds to bleak dunes and fortified castles, as the local police inspector drinks the afternoons away… You may not fancy Brittany for a holiday after this, but the writing is high quality.

Finally, Gary Raymond’s The Golden Orphans caught my eye, also published this year. The writing is less elegant than Brydon’s, but Raymond certainly captures his setting. Cyprus is a troubled island full of ghosts and evil. The unsettled spirits of the people are stressed to breaking point among the frenetic chaos of Ayia Napa, and Raymond uses the division of the island to great effect in constructing his plot.

So there you go…enough watery crime to keep your reading afloat until I return. As always, please do comment, and maybe suggest themes to explore another time.

©Jessica Norrie 2018

About Jessica Norrie

Jessica Norrie studied French literature at Sussex University, and trained as a teacher at Sheffield. Then she wandered into parenthood, told her now grown up children stories, and heard theirs. A qualified translator, she worked on an eclectic mix of material, from health reports on racehorses to harrowing refugee tales. She taught, full time, part time, adults, children, co-authored a text book and ran teacher training. In 2008 she was inspired with the idea for “The Infinity Pool” and it appeared as a fully fledged novel in 2015. Meanwhile she sings soprano and plays the piano, walks in the forest and enjoys living in and using London. She looks forward to writing more in the future.

Jessica Norrie

About the Book.

In this thoughtful novel set on a sun-baked island, Adrian Hartman, the charismatic director of the Serendipity holiday community, is responsible for ensuring the perfect mindful break, with personal growth and inner peace guaranteed. People return year after year to bare their souls. For some, Adrian IS Serendipity. But Adrian disappears, and with him goes the serenity of his staff and guests, who are bewildered without their leader. The hostility of the local villagers is beginning to boil over. Is their anger justified or are the visitors, each in a different way, just paranoid?

As romance turns sour and conflict threatens the stability of both communities, everyone has to find their own way to survive. This evocative story explores the decisions of adults who still need to come of age, the effect of well-intentioned tourism on a traditional community, and the real meaning of getting away from it all.

One of the reviews for the book

Well-written and acutely observed on 14 December 2017

Jessica Norrie’s novel, set on a sun-drenched island somewhere in the Mediterranean, examines the personalities and pitfalls encountered on the sort of package holiday that offers holistic life-skills and self-improvement courses. While practising yoga and suchlike activities, guests at the Serendipity resort, together with staff and, from time to time, local villagers, confront social, personal and philosophical challenges.Norrie has a confident narrative voice and a shrewd and sympathetic view of human nature, which makes her account of the goings-on at Serendipity entertaining as well as thought-provoking.

The central character is absent for much of the book: this means that the reader builds up a picture of him through the thoughts and observations of other characters, like a photographic negative – he is defined by his impact on others. When he re-emerges in his own right, his condition is so altered that we learn about other people from their decidedly contrasting (and sometimes unattractive) reactions.

The prose is occasionally lyrical – as a swimmer emerges from a pool, “The water softly shifted to a forgiving stillness” – and consistently accessible. The author is very good on the strains inherent in a globalized culture. The gulf between Serendipity’s staff and guests on the one hand and the local community on the other sours into violence, which may not be entirely surprising since, as one of the resort’s denizens observes, “Our food and our water supply are better than theirs, so we don’t eat in their restaurants or buy their fruit, except in town where it’s so touristy; most of us don’t even try to speak their language; we don’t talk to them when they come to our bar; we expect them to put up with us sunbathing naked on the beach in front of their grandmothers – and then we go on about how beautiful the country is and how fascinating the local traditions are.”

The author also has a clear-eyed view of the reality beneath picturesque Mediterranean society. A young woman considers “meeting and marrying some local man and giving birth within the time honoured local conventions, kicking just a little against restrictions on her sex because that was what each new generation did, then in turn chivvying her own daughters and unconditionally adoring her sons.”

The Infinity Pool is a well-written and acutely observed examination of diverse lives.

Read some of the many excellent reviews and buy the book for 99p during October: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jessica-Norrie/e/B01CEUZF26

and on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Infinity-Pool-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B011RA8QZW

Find more reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3270629.Jessica_Norrie

Connect to Jessica

Blog: https://jessicanorrie.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessica.norrie.12
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jessica_norrie

My thanks to Jessica for a stunning post to start her new season…Great choice of classic and modern books to tempt us. I know she would love your feedback and questions. Thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Literary Column – Too Darn Hot! #Books for beach and garden by Jessica Norrie


Too Darn Hot! Books for beach and garden by Jessica Norrie

Calculating this post would be published on Bastille Day, I was going to celebrate French classics. But it would have meant rereading wonderful but worthy reads more suited to winter evenings. In the current UK heatwave, in the words of a favorite song, it’s too darn hot. So I looked through my shelves for easy reads, some recent, some less so, but all with great hooks, plucky plots and clear characters who don’t mind being dropped half open from a sleepy hand when the need to siesta overcomes you.

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Eligible (2016) by Curtis Sittenfeld is mid market chicklit, a fun take on Pride and Prejudice, updated to contemporary Cincinnati. Darcy is a brain surgeon, Liz an unreliable feminist magazine writer, Bingley a reality TV star and Jane a yoga instructor. It romps along tying everyone in knots of modern etiquette, but the premise (five unmarried daughters) remains recognisably Austen, as do all the characters except Liz whom I found hard to like. It’s funny, perceptive, and true, with the updated Mr and Mrs Bennet a tour de force.

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The same author published the more serious but equally readable American Wife, possibly based on Laura Bush, in 2008.

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Psychological thrillers are supposed to be a contemporary genre, but Patricia Highsmith set the page turning standard fifty years ago. Will you sympathise with Tom Ripley or not, as The Talented Mr Ripley (1955) cons his way into life with gilded American youths on a trip to Europe? It’s also an excellent film.

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Consider too The Cry of the Owl (1962) in which Highsmith keeps you guessing until the final line.

If you’ve read every crime novel published since Highsmith’s time and can recite the formulae in your sleep, join Anthony Horowitz. In The Word is Murder (2018), Horowitz plays with the genre: he himself is the hero, a world weary but successful writer who’s approached by a disgraced detective to create a bestseller by writing up his next case in spectacular fashion, with the aim of sharing royalties. It goes against every scrap of better judgement Horowitz has. He doesn’t like the detective’s company or approve of his methods. But somehow he’s trapped into it, and off they go together nosing round crime scenes trying to make sense of events ahead of the Met.

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There are cameo roles for real literary agents and film moguls, insight into writing for TV, for children and into updating James Bond (all on the real Horowitz CV) as well as chases, corpses and forensics yielding clues to misread while making pithy Chandleresque wisecracks. Anything that kept me entertained in the departure lounge waiting for a delayed flight and then in the cabin as the bloody plane still didn’t take off, has got to be worth a look. It’s so clever, I still don’t know which parts really happened and which are fiction.

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Margaret Atwood’s 1996 historically set, classic novel is Alias Grace. But is it as straightforward as it seems? It’s elegantly written, and Grace is a complex, attractive, multi dimensional character, who did or didn’t commit another crime to keep you guessing. Beautifully dramatized recently on Netflix, for me this is more approachable than the more celebrated Handmaid’s Tale.

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Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones (2007) took me to another world – in which the narrator is being taken to mine. She’s a 1990s schoolgirl on the tropical island of Bougainville, lush with exotic plants and undergoing the daily terror of civil war (real events, barely reported in the UK). Her school has only one book, Great Expectations, and what the pupils – who have never seen a frosty morning or met a white man other than their teacher – make of it is not what we might expect. Looking through Mister Pip for this post has reminded me what a tragic, funny, moving pleasure it was to read and it’s gone straight back to the bedside table for a reread.

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The best comparison I can make is Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, also set on a tropical island of rotting vegetation and over heated personalities and referencing a British classic, which, perhaps because it’s not contemporary, seems to arouse less controversy.

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You may think life is more delicate on the French Riviera or the Tuscan countryside, in the worlds of Scott Fitzgerald and Somerset Maugham. But as the characters drain their nightly cocktails the conflicts and complexes fester, and their gilded lives on beaches and balconies have the same vulnerability as Tom Ripley’s victims. Money, or the appearance of money, can’t buy happiness, but the glitterati of Maugham’s Up at the Villa and Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night present brave, increasingly desperate faces for as long as they can. Fitzgerald was a screenwriter and his prose from 1934 zips along; Maugham, in 1941, is more long winded but such a consummate storyteller that I gobbled up the pages.

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Characters who are feeling even hotter than you are the English Edwardians of L P Hartley’s 1953 novel The Go Between (also a cult 1971 film with Julie Christie and Alan Bates). At least innocent young Leo gets to exchange his tweed Norfolk suit for a cooler linen one, given to him by a parasol twirling young woman in high necked white muslin. But why is she so generous, also presenting him with a brand new bicycle? Is the brusque, handsome farmer neighbour a friend or not, and why is Leo still troubled by the events of that summer forty years on? Leo also has one of the best opening lines in literature.

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Finally, if you prefer to read of the past in racy modern prose that leaps straight off the page, anything by Sarah Waters is unputdownable.

I hope these ideas will see you through the summer. Sally and I are busy ladies so we’ve agreed I’ll return in October. Meanwhile may the sun shine on your reading and as ever, do add your own recommendations.

©Jessica Norrie 2018

About Jessica Norrie

Jessica Norrie studied French literature at Sussex University, and trained as a teacher at Sheffield. Then she wandered into parenthood, told her now grown up children stories, and heard theirs. A qualified translator, she worked on an eclectic mix of material, from health reports on racehorses to harrowing refugee tales. She taught, full time, part time, adults, children, co-authored a text book and ran teacher training. In 2008 she was inspired with the idea for “The Infinity Pool” and it appeared as a fully fledged novel in 2015. Meanwhile she sings soprano and plays the piano, walks in the forest and enjoys living in and using London. She looks forward to writing more in the future.

Jessica Norrie

About the Book.

In this thoughtful novel set on a sun-baked island, Adrian Hartman, the charismatic director of the Serendipity holiday community, is responsible for ensuring the perfect mindful break, with personal growth and inner peace guaranteed. People return year after year to bare their souls. For some, Adrian IS Serendipity. But Adrian disappears, and with him goes the serenity of his staff and guests, who are bewildered without their leader. The hostility of the local villagers is beginning to boil over. Is their anger justified or are the visitors, each in a different way, just paranoid?

As romance turns sour and conflict threatens the stability of both communities, everyone has to find their own way to survive. This evocative story explores the decisions of adults who still need to come of age, the effect of well-intentioned tourism on a traditional community, and the real meaning of getting away from it all.

One of the reviews for the book

Well-written and acutely observed on 14 December 2017

Jessica Norrie’s novel, set on a sun-drenched island somewhere in the Mediterranean, examines the personalities and pitfalls encountered on the sort of package holiday that offers holistic life-skills and self-improvement courses. While practising yoga and suchlike activities, guests at the Serendipity resort, together with staff and, from time to time, local villagers, confront social, personal and philosophical challenges.Norrie has a confident narrative voice and a shrewd and sympathetic view of human nature, which makes her account of the goings-on at Serendipity entertaining as well as thought-provoking.

The central character is absent for much of the book: this means that the reader builds up a picture of him through the thoughts and observations of other characters, like a photographic negative – he is defined by his impact on others. When he re-emerges in his own right, his condition is so altered that we learn about other people from their decidedly contrasting (and sometimes unattractive) reactions.

The prose is occasionally lyrical – as a swimmer emerges from a pool, “The water softly shifted to a forgiving stillness” – and consistently accessible. The author is very good on the strains inherent in a globalized culture. The gulf between Serendipity’s staff and guests on the one hand and the local community on the other sours into violence, which may not be entirely surprising since, as one of the resort’s denizens observes, “Our food and our water supply are better than theirs, so we don’t eat in their restaurants or buy their fruit, except in town where it’s so touristy; most of us don’t even try to speak their language; we don’t talk to them when they come to our bar; we expect them to put up with us sunbathing naked on the beach in front of their grandmothers – and then we go on about how beautiful the country is and how fascinating the local traditions are.”

The author also has a clear-eyed view of the reality beneath picturesque Mediterranean society. A young woman considers “meeting and marrying some local man and giving birth within the time honoured local conventions, kicking just a little against restrictions on her sex because that was what each new generation did, then in turn chivvying her own daughters and unconditionally adoring her sons.”

The Infinity Pool is a well-written and acutely observed examination of diverse lives.

Read some of the many excellent reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jessica-Norrie/e/B01CEUZF26

and on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Infinity-Pool-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B011RA8QZW

Find more reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3270629.Jessica_Norrie

Connect to Jessica

Blog: https://jessicanorrie.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessica.norrie.12
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jessica_norrie

My thanks again to Jessica Norrie for giving us something some wonderful books to carry us through the summer months.. and look forward to welcoming her back in October.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Literary Column – Blast Off! -Opening Lines by Jessica Norrie


Blast Off! – Opening Lines by Jessica Norrie.

At choir last week, rehearsing Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle, there was a massive crescendo and the pianist stopped accompanying to announce: “That’s known as a Rossini Rocket.” It really is, apparently. Respect.

It set me wondering about Rossini Rockets in literature. Huge, telling moments when everything catches fire and the reader can hardly hear herself think. Battle scenes in War and Peace. Anything involving Bill Sykes or Becky Sharpe. The fire in the picture gallery at Soames Forsyte’s house. Fires anywhere – think of Jane Eyre and Miss Havisham. The 19th century may have been better at this. Presumably, something sparks somewhere in Fifty Shades of Grey, although I only got to around page 53 when I found it in my cousin’s guest bedroom. Nothing much was even smouldering by then, so I went to sleep.

Rossini could write a telling overture too, but authors need a rocket, or at least a hook, right at the start. Dickens has the best opening line ever: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times” (A Tale of Two Cities). What scope he gives himself, with that, for anything at all to happen, in any possible way. The reader is agog. “It is a truth universally acknowledged…” is a Jane Austen opener we can all finish in our sleep, but fans of John Crace’s Digested Read  will note the whole plot is in that statement. With that sentence, Austen could have cut her words by 122,166 and still had the story (my thanks to My Particular Friend for the word count).

A weak opening line doesn’t have to be the end of sales and reputation though. Consider Marcel Proust’s “Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure.” It loses a comma without gaining interest in translation: “For a long time I used to go to bed early.” Don’t expect nightlife or shenanigans in these nine volumes (though if memory serves even Proust got somewhere, if only with his grandmother, before page 53). Yet over time, sales have held up.

 

Moving on a century or so, authors can still get away with an apparently humdrum first sentence, if it implies something’s about to change. Here’s Eleanor Oliphant: “When people ask me what I do—taxi drivers, hairdressers—I tell them I work in an office.” The thick paperback in your hand is festooned with award stickers. Clearly, the next 380 pages aren’t going to dwell only on the malfunctioning photocopier and the daily email avalanche. Similarly, to avoid boring you with data, from now on I’ll give only the author’s name with the quote. The works they come from are easy to look up, and whether you do will be the proof of how enticing these first lines are.

An author can be explicit: “Let us begin with two girls at a dance” (Maggie O’Farrell) or you can begin at the end and work backwards: “I am nothing but a corpse now, a body at the bottom of a well” (Orhan Pamuk).

I tried to emulate this in my first novel – “Adrian Hartman wasn’t expecting to die that day, so he hadn’t thought to make a will.” But Pamuk’s corpse makes a bigger splash. (A note: Der Infinity-Pool was published in German today! If German is your mother tongue and you’d like to review it, please get in touch. Adrian Hartman hatte nicht damit gerechnet…)

Authority with a sense of conflict is good: as Jean Rhys tells us: “They say when trouble comes close ranks, and so the white people did.” Or a statement with immediate denial, preferably containing an emotive word: “People think blood red, but blood don’t got no colour.” (Marlon James).

Fitting in both terror and desire is daring: “I am standing on a corner in Monterey, waiting for the bus to come in, and all the muscles of my will are holding my terror to face the moment I most desire.” (Elizabeth Smart). But Jeanette Winterson gets away with dull facts, the better to put a rocket up the following two sentences: “Like most people I lived for a long time with my mother and father.”

Most authors would be wise to use emotive words more sparingly than the genius Smart.

Here’s a selection: blood, as above, and war (here’s Robert Harris who knows how to grab an audience: “Major Picquard to see the Minister of War…”). Also love, heart, sick(ness), death/die, swell, ballroom, gusto, wedding, child, dreams, dawn, waves, not forgetting oddballs with overtones: my personal favourites include boulevard, wisteria/lilies, pitcher/striker, klaxon. Words can combine to kick the reader awake: “All at once the flat was full of noises” (Nicci French) or “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen”(George Orwell). If anyone wants to explore this more deeply, the author Kit Whitfield wrote a series on opening lines that leaves this article at the starting blocks.

I’m tempted to follow next time with a post on endings (as a child, I always used to turn to the back and read the last line first. I must have found it reassuring. ) The trouble with that is, it might involve spoilers for anyone who hasn’t yet had the pleasure/excitement/horror of reading my recommendations. Let me know in the comments below whether you’d like me to go ahead anyway, and meanwhile I’ll leave you with the last word, as used by Rossini. I think we’ll have to call it a Rossini Cop Out, but the music is sublime. “Breathe after men”, was the conductor’s instruction to the sopranos. Maybe it does have something in common with Fifty Shades after all. Start on page 77 and sing: Amen. Amen. A-a–amen. Amen. A-a-a-a-m-e-e-en, men. Amen (repeat and enjoy for 8 minutes 30 seconds, and you can see us in action on October 20th).

©Jessica Norrie 2018

About Jessica Norrie

Jessica Norrie studied French literature at Sussex University, and trained as a teacher at Sheffield. Then she wandered into parenthood, told her now grown up children stories, and heard theirs. A qualified translator, she worked on an eclectic mix of material, from health reports on racehorses to harrowing refugee tales. She taught, full time, part time, adults, children, co-authored a text book and ran teacher training. In 2008 she was inspired with the idea for “The Infinity Pool” and it appeared as a fully fledged novel in 2015. Meanwhile she sings soprano and plays the piano, walks in the forest and enjoys living in and using London. She looks forward to writing more in the future.

Jessica Norrie

About the Book.

In this thoughtful novel set on a sun-baked island, Adrian Hartman, the charismatic director of the Serendipity holiday community, is responsible for ensuring the perfect mindful break, with personal growth and inner peace guaranteed. People return year after year to bare their souls. For some, Adrian IS Serendipity. But Adrian disappears, and with him goes the serenity of his staff and guests, who are bewildered without their leader. The hostility of the local villagers is beginning to boil over. Is their anger justified or are the visitors, each in a different way, just paranoid?

As romance turns sour and conflict threatens the stability of both communities, everyone has to find their own way to survive. This evocative story explores the decisions of adults who still need to come of age, the effect of well-intentioned tourism on a traditional community, and the real meaning of getting away from it all.

One of the recent reviews for the book

Well-written and acutely observed on 14 December 2017

Jessica Norrie’s novel, set on a sun-drenched island somewhere in the Mediterranean, examines the personalities and pitfalls encountered on the sort of package holiday that offers holistic life-skills and self-improvement courses. While practising yoga and suchlike activities, guests at the Serendipity resort, together with staff and, from time to time, local villagers, confront social, personal and philosophical challenges.Norrie has a confident narrative voice and a shrewd and sympathetic view of human nature, which makes her account of the goings-on at Serendipity entertaining as well as thought-provoking.

The central character is absent for much of the book: this means that the reader builds up a picture of him through the thoughts and observations of other characters, like a photographic negative – he is defined by his impact on others. When he re-emerges in his own right, his condition is so altered that we learn about other people from their decidedly contrasting (and sometimes unattractive) reactions.

The prose is occasionally lyrical – as a swimmer emerges from a pool, “The water softly shifted to a forgiving stillness” – and consistently accessible. The author is very good on the strains inherent in a globalized culture. The gulf between Serendipity’s staff and guests on the one hand and the local community on the other sours into violence, which may not be entirely surprising since, as one of the resort’s denizens observes, “Our food and our water supply are better than theirs, so we don’t eat in their restaurants or buy their fruit, except in town where it’s so touristy; most of us don’t even try to speak their language; we don’t talk to them when they come to our bar; we expect them to put up with us sunbathing naked on the beach in front of their grandmothers – and then we go on about how beautiful the country is and how fascinating the local traditions are.”

The author also has a clear-eyed view of the reality beneath picturesque Mediterranean society. A young woman considers “meeting and marrying some local man and giving birth within the time honoured local conventions, kicking just a little against restrictions on her sex because that was what each new generation did, then in turn chivvying her own daughters and unconditionally adoring her sons.”

The Infinity Pool is a well-written and acutely observed examination of diverse lives.

Read some of the many excellent reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jessica-Norrie/e/B01CEUZF26

and on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Infinity-Pool-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B011RA8QZW

Find more reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3270629.Jessica_Norrie

Connect to Jessica

Blog: https://jessicanorrie.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessica.norrie.12
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jessica_norrie

My thanks again to Jessica Norrie for giving us something to think about. And congratulations on the release of her book in German.

As a writer that first line has always been the most difficult to get down on paper. Perhaps because we are all aware that it will be the first thing read by a reader we wish to engage as quickly as possible.

I vividly remember reading Moby Dick at about 13 years old and thinking how magical this book was going to be when I read the first line…

“Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.”

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

How about you let Jessica and I know what your favourite opening line is and from which book and if you would like to find out more about final lines of books. They too carry a great deal of weight.

Thanks for dropping in and look forward to hearing from you.  Sally