All writing and images are © Anne Stormont unless otherwise stated.
All writing and images are © Anne Stormont unless otherwise stated.
Just wanted to let you know that I was a guest today on the above website, at the kind invitation of writer, Lorraine Mace.
‘Getting to know … Anne Stormont’ can be found on The ABC Writer’s Checklist here
The ABC Writer’s Checklist is a handbook for writers as well as a website. Both are full of interesting and useful stuff. You can also find out more about Lorraine’s writing on the website.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions, as the saying goes. And for Jack Redman, the main protagonist in this book, that is certainly the case. As in the first book in this series, we are confronted by messy lives, terrible binds, bad decisions and their repercussions. Only this time Jan Ruth has certainly upped the ante and her characters have even more at stake. However, the pitfalls and perils are all mixed up with love––the sexual, parental, familial and platonic kinds.
Dark Water is the sequel to Wild Water. It takes up the story of Cheshire estate agent, Jack Redman, his ex-wife Patsy and Jack’s new partner, Anna. What I especially like about these main characters is that they’re over forty–– Jack is fifty––but they’re in no way ‘past-it’. And their age and experience in no way grants them wisdom. These are flawed, disillusioned people with lots of baggage, but for all of them there is hope.
For those of you who haven’t read the first book or who need a reminder of what happened there, here’s a short summary. Wild Water tells of the dramatic ending of Jack and Patsy’s marriage, a break-up brought on by Patsy’s affair with a fraudster – an affair which has repercussions beyond just emotional ones for the whole Redman family, the children included. But after the loss and grief of the marital breakdown, Jack moves on. He begins a relationship with his former sweetheart, from their teenage years, Anna, who is now living and working on a farm in Wales. He also rebuilds and reinforces his relationships with his children – grown-up Chelsey, teenage Oliver and young Lottie. He overcomes the fact that Chelsey isn’t his but was actually fathered by Simon Banks, someone else he, Patsy and Anna knew in their youth, and with whom Patsy had an affair. He employs his rather feckless son in the estate agency and he shares custody of the quirky but engaging Lottie. He even begins to come to terms with Patsy’s revelation that she’s pregnant again and that he may or may not be the father. By the end of the book it seems Jack and Anna may just have found lasting happiness together.
But, right from the start of Dark Water, it’s clear that things are not going to flow on smoothly to happy-ever-after for Jack or any of the people close to him. Jack is torn between wanting to be with Anna, and wanting to do right by his children. His decision, under pressure from his ex-wife, to move her and their younger daughter, Lottie, along with her toddler son, James, to be nearer to Lottie’s new school in Wales and hence very near to Anna’s home puts an intolerable strain on Jack and Anna’s relationship. The question of James’s parentage––he could be Jack’s son after all––the reappearance of Chelsey’s father, Simon Banks–– now a dangerously disturbed individual who also bears a grudge towards Anna and who wants to reveal his identity to an unsuspecting Chelsey at any cost––the proximity of Patsy to Anna, and the commute to and from his two offices in Cheshire and Wales all lead to Jack’s life being increasingly complicated and stressful. And, in the end, complicated and stressful becomes dangerous and life-threatening.
The setting is almost another character in its own right, especially when the action takes place in Wales. It certainly adds to the atmosphere. But the description isn’t overdone. There’s just enough to let the reader form their own picture of the dramatic landscape but it doesn’t get in the way. Having said that though, the novel is very visual and the characters and settings are vivid enough that it’s not hard to visualise them as part of a television drama. Dark Water has a Sally Wainwright – Last Tango in Halifax, Scott & Bailey vibe to it. Jack’s poky flat that he shares with his son, the farmhouse, Patsy’s cottage, the quarry, the mountains and the art gallery where Anna exhibits her work––all were, in my head at least, easily translated into sets.
The tele-visual appeal is also reinforced by the narrative’s questions and twists along the way which go from intriguing to scary. The author is skilled in pacing their resolutions and reveals, and in peppering the narrative with just enough relatively minor details of the character’s daily lives to make the whole seem credible and true to life. And the climax and its denouement are utterly gripping. There’s also a feeling there’s more to come ––something the epilogue sets up nicely. All very fitting for dramatisation.
The themes of love, disappointment, loss and hope run through this book. The author lets us see them developing through the eyes of both Jack and Anna. She lets us inside their heads and lets us feel their emotions. In this way they become real, flawed and familiar to the reader.
Jan Ruth makes the reader care about her characters’ fates. She portrays all the characters––heroes and villains––as credible individuals, so we can even feel sorry for and understand the less likeable ones. And how utterly refreshing to have some older lead characters. Hurrah for this fine example of those of us who’ve matured beyond the ‘chick’ stage and are now older, wiser birds.
This is excellent contemporary fiction. If I had to shelve it in my virtual book shop, I’d put it in the contemporary women’s fiction section. It’s not chick-lit; it’s not Mills and Boon romance. It’s thinking, mature woman-lit and, like its intended readership, it’s got depth, grit, realism and warmth.
It’s a five-star read.
Great Place to Work – for technicians and bloggers:
No wonder WordPress bloggers are so loyal and that it’s such a great community to belong too. I’ve come a long way as a blogger – zero to not hero exactly but certainly to reasonably confident – and that’s due in no small part to the great team of Automaticians that make it all possible.
How wonderful that they love their work so much. It certainly shows. Thanks to them all.
Originally posted on WordPress.com News:
Automattic is a distributed company — we all work from wherever we are. Right now, “where we are” is 197 cities around the world: New Orleans, USA. Montevideo, Uruguay. Tokyo, Japan. Vilnius, Lithuania.
Once a year, we get together somewhere in the world to meet, work alongside, learn from, and laugh with one another in an exhilarating, exhausting week called the Grand Meetup. This year, 277 Automatticians descended on Park City, Utah, for seven days in mid-September.
We introduced ourselves to new colleagues, reconnected with coworkers we haven’t seen since last year, and worked on ways to make WordPress.com even better. And of course, lots of us blogged about the experience, in words and images.
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I have a new novel out. It’s called Displacement.
The story line could be summed up as: The search for resolution after the upheaval of loss. A journey full of insight, forgiveness and love.
And the back cover blurb goes like this:
From the Scottish Hebrides to the Middle-East, ‘Displacement’ is a soul-searching journey from grief to reclamation of self, and a love-story where romance and realism meet head-on.
Divorce, the death of her soldier son and estrangement from her daughter, leave Hebridean crofter, Rachel Campbell, grief-stricken, lonely and lost.
Forced retirement leaves former Edinburgh policeman Jack Baxter needing to find a new direction for his life.
When Rachel meets Jack in dramatic circumstances on a wild winter’s night on the island of Skye, a friendship develops, despite very different personalities. Gradually their feelings for each other go beyond friendship. Something neither of them feels able to admit. And it seems unlikely they’ll get the chance to because Rachel is due to leave for several months to visit family in Israel – where she aims to re-root and reroute her life.
Set against the contrasting and dramatic backdrops of the Scottish island of Skye and the contested country of Israel-Palestine, ‘Displacement’ is a story of life-affirming courage and love.
This is the second novel I’ve published and I’m very proud and happy to have done so. I’m especially pleased because I wrote it whilst still teaching full time. All my evenings and a lot of my weekends and holidays were taken up with writing it. But it wasn’t a chore. When it comes to writing, I’m very motivated simply because I love it so much.
I set up my own imprint Rowan Russell Books and published this one myself. I also re-published my first novel, Change of Life, under the new imprint.
I employed the services of wonderful editor John Hudspith, talented book and cover designer Jane Dixon-Smith and forensic proof reader Perry Iles. So my books are professionally produced as well as, I hope, good reads.
Displacement is set both on the Isle of Skye and in Israel-Palestine. I know these aren’t two places you’d necessarily put together, but it works. One of the main characters, Rachel, has connections in both places, as do I. And the book is dedicated to my very dear Israeli friend, Revital, who works tirelessly for peace and a fair settlement for all in her country.
It’s available on Amazon as a paperback and as an e-book and there’s a link to it at the side of this post or by clicking the cover image at the top. AND it’s about to go on special offer as a Kindle Countdown Deal. From 8.00am (GMT) tomorrow, September 30th until 4pm on October 3rd it will cost you only 99p and then from 4pm on October 3rd until midnight on October 7th it will be £1.99 before reverting to its full price of £2.99.
As a side offer Change of Life will be free for Kindle from September 30th until October 4th.
Thanks for your interest in reading this bit of self-promotion and thanks especially if you’ve already bought either of my books or are intending to do so.
(with apologies to poet Hugh MacDiarmid for the misquote above)
I prefer emblems to flags and patriotism to nationalism…
Thistles grow in the wild and in gardens. And like her emblem, Scotland is strong and adaptable. Life persists in the economic wastelands as well as the richer business districts. Last week Scotland’s people, rich and poor, young and old, voted. Regardless of how they voted, theirs was a vote for change.
It has now been a week since the declaration of the result of the referendum on Scottish independence. It has been a week of celebration for some, but of grief for others. The question asked was ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ Those who voted no, 55% of those who voted, were the ones reaching for the champagne, delighted that Scotland would be remaining part of the United Kingdom. Those who voted yes, who wanted Scotland to be independent of the UK and to have complete self-determination were gutted.
But is it now business as usual for Scotland? Will the status quo of the pre-referendum campaign era return?
I would answer no to both questions. It must be no, has to be no, regardless of the outcome of the vote. Why? Because the very act of having the referendum, of the unprecedented level of engagement with the questions raised, of the inclusion of 16 and 17 year olds in the voting process, of having a record 85% turnout of people placing their cross on the ballot paper–– has changed us, has changed Scotland. And I believe it has changed Scotland for the better. I even dare to hope it will change the whole of the UK for the better too. I hope people power, the grassroots, bottom-up approach to policy making and to politics that was reignited by the referendum, catches on throughout the UK . I hope all of us get a fairer, less centralised deal.
And besides that there’s the matter of the last minute promises made by the Better Together campaign. The major devolutionary measures (or Devo Max) promised to Scotland, including full tax-raising and spending powers have to be delivered if the three UK political parties who made the promises are to maintain any credibility. And I suspect it’s not just in Scotland that their credibility will be questioned if they fail to deliver. Who could ever trust them again?
Lots has been written and spoken about the above by wiser more qualified people than me. I’ve been particularly impressed by two of Scotland’s newspapers in their coverage pre and post referendum. The no-supporting Scotsman and the yes-supporting Herald offered fair, insightful and informative journalism throughout.
All I can offer is a personal reflection on the process. Like her emblem the thistle, Scotland now stands straight and tall. The well- documented Scottish cringe is nowhere in sight. My overwhelming emotion when I consider the referendum is pride. But it’s pride mixed with humility and gratitude.
I’m proud that the debate prior to the vote was largely carried out in a civilised and respectful manner. I’m proud and grateful that not only such a large proportion of voters turned up to vote, but that we live in a country where it’s possible to do so. And that’s the most humbling thing. Scotland (and the rest of the UK) gave a great show of democracy in action just by having the referendum. Not only were the Tories, Labour and Liberal Democratic politicians of the UK given a sharp, panic-inducing reminder of what people power means and what it can do, but other countries such as China could only watch open-mouthed at our demonstration of what it is to be free.
Yes, it’s all relative and Scotland seeks even more freedom from within the UK setting. Yes, there seems to be a feeling throughout the UK that federalisation and decentralisation of power from Westminster to the regions is the way forward. And yes, UK politics needs to be less about the vested, maybe even sinister and hidden interests of those who fund the main parties, and more about the interests of the people. Bottom up has to be the way to go.
But looking out at the rest of the world, how can we not be proud, grateful and humble.
Looking out at the Ukraine, Gaza, Syria, Iraq or South Sudan–– to name only a few–– is to gaze on a chilling prospect.
That’s why I believe the Scottish and the British have a lot to be grateful for and have something very precious that we must never take for granted. I think the main legacy of the referendum for all Scottish voters is the reminder it has given us about those very things. So let’s hold onto that, let’s keep working to make things better whatever side we were on, better for us and better for the rest of the world. Let’s not allow our politicians off the hook. Let’s not be cowed and return to the status quo. We have ability, power and freedom. Let’s cherish them, extend them and use them for the good of all.
And so here are the final five days ‘stones’…
26. Wild, wet Sunday. Gusting to gale force makes the roof flex. Safe and warm indoors. Elemental versus fundamental – eternal battle.
27. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out – awareness.
28. Decision made; a good decision just for having been made; a right decision. The time has come. The momentous in a moment.
29. Thoughts: fleeting, rippling, tangenting; serious, speculative, fearful, frivolous, uncharitable, affectionate. CONSTANT. But they are welcome to float by…
30. The new moon and Venus hang, ice-bright in a navy-blue sky. Cosmic signposts. Eternity fleetingly viewed.
31. Another day, another week, another month. The ups and downs of life keep it flowing, depositing good and bad, giving it flavour.
Thanks again to Satya at Writing Our Way Home for setting the challenge. I’ve really enjoyed it.