Sunday, 30 November 2014
I thought that I would share my inspiration for writing Birmingham Girls. I used to listen to Professor Carl Chinn's programme on Radio WM. He is a well known local historian. He always encouraged people to write their memories down through his radio show or newspaper columns before it was too late. I thought about it for a long, long time. I started it, shared what I'd written with my older sister Pauline, who lived in Scotland, she wrote back saying, 'get on with it'. Cutting a long story short, I didn't, life got in the way, and a few more years went by. In between whiles Pauline would write or phone asking me if I'd written anything else. She kept telling me to finish it. I asked her to write her memories down for me for (a car accident had unfortunately wiped many of my memories out), Pauline promised she would. Unfortunately she died suddenly. I was bereft for a long time, but after a while I started to write my memories down as a tribute to her, always hearing her voice urging me on, 'to get it done.' She remained at my elbow until I eventually finished it ten years down the line.
Without the encouragement of my beautiful sister I would never have written Birmingham Girls.
I've also published a booklet of the Kindle edition. If anyone is interested in buying a copy let me know. You can follow the link on my web page for my email address.
Friday, 21 November 2014
I'm a reluctant speaker. I've been asked a number of times to give talks to various groups of people. Not always about writing, some people have asked me to give talks about, ghosts, tarot cards, embroidery and a few other subjects.
Being a shy, retiring type I've always refused their kind offers.
I thought that I would have a virtual talk and see the type of questions that I might possibly receive after my talk.
Today's subject is about my book, Whatever Happened After Birmingham Girls. Here we get the best of both worlds because I am reading an extract from the book about the hauntings I've experienced since my dog died in July 2013.
Early in 2013 I could sense him failing, and some nights I would cry praying he would not begin to suffer or the inevitable would happen. He kept going, still enjoying his food, but I knew deep inside that he would not live the year out.
One night settling down to sleep the inevitable tears started, when suddenly I heard my best friend’s voice say, “Don’t worry, Cal, I will look after him for you.” My friend had died two years previously. My tears stopped, and she repeated what she had said. Although I was shocked, to say the least, it made sense to me that she would care for Boyden, she loved animals and when she was alive she had four dogs and a cat. Like me she had always been an animal lover. My sister who had died a few years ago never kept pets, so I understood why my friend had spoken to me.
Ever after that, whenever the tears came in the following months, I would hear her, “Don’t cry, Cal. I promise I will take care of him for you.”
Now, please do not think that I hear voices in my head. Whenever I say I hear someone who has died speak to me, what actually happens is that I have an impression of their voice in my head. This is the best way I know of explaining it. I have an instinctive thought of who it is communicating with me. Or maybe I am listening to my inner voice. I honestly don’t know. The main thing is it comforted me.
And I did stop crying. I knew he would be safe in her hands, wouldn’t he?
Time passed and I became more aware of how Boyden’s health was failing. It was hard to accept. In fact my husband wouldn’t accept it. He would deny anything was wrong with the little fellow. I felt terrible about this, I considered I was facing up to the inevitable, as heartbreaking as it was; I needed him to as well, for his own sake.
Some nights I found it increasingly difficult to sleep. I would keep telling myself to enjoy the time we had left together, to concentrate on the here and now, not afterwards. I would hear my friend’s voice telling me everything would eventually come right, but it would take time. It helped knowing that she was there, even when in the cold light of day I knew it was my imagination. I wouldn’t cry. Looking back perhaps I should have done, maybe afterwards I would not have been so ill. Who knows, it might still have been as terrible.I’m not going to pretend it’s been easy since losing Boyden on the 7th July 2013. It hasn’t. I think I cried non-stop for the first fortnight. Yes, I have his sister; she is and always has been a joy. I loved him so much and I always will. Life has been terribly sad. He was such an enormous part of my life that I find it difficult to accept that I will never see him again. I often wonder if the sightings, the sounds, the feeling that he is here still are simply because we want him to be. I’ve listed the happenings below. But if they are my imagination how is it that Sophie still stares at something which I can’t see and wags her tail, looking unbelievably happy? Maybe it’s not my imagination; perhaps he is here in spirit. Why shouldn’t he be here? After all, he was a much-loved family member. Why should death take him away forever?
I will always love him; he was one of the best friends I ever had. It’s so hard not to cry at his absence. It is a little easier now seven months on, but it only takes a sudden memory or a mention of him, and I still start crying.
I don’t visit our walks so often now; it hurts me far too much. Memories of him are everywhere. Each bend of a path brings the hope that he might just be there lying in wait waiting to run up to me wagging his tail, with a huge smile on his face, and saying “hello’ to me. If only.
Sundays became terrible days for me. After all, he left us forever on a Sunday. They were unbearable for a number of months. I would cry non-stop, grieving for him. It suddenly hit me one day – he didn’t just die on a Sunday, he had lived for thirteen years of Sundays, and he was still here with me. Next year, the day he died will not be a Sunday, nor the following year. He could have died on any day. True I still do not visit our favourite walks on a Sunday, but that’s more to do with the mountain bikers riding along the narrow lanes. I would hate for us to knock one of them off their bikes. Also, the place can get crowded. We now visit the shops.
I’ve reached the conclusion that there can be no goodbyes to our beloved relatives or pets, only a whispered “hello” every morning, and a fond “goodnight”. I have Boyden’s picture on my screensaver, also on my phone, and they will stay there forever. His photograph is in my locket and I had a hologram made from his photograph. He is always with me.
A few sightings of Boyden
On 6th August 2013 Sophie was lying by the open kitchen door. As I walked past her I called her to me, she was looking into the adjoining dining room wagging her tail. She ignored me! I asked her again to come to me; she kept wagging her tail and staring into the dining room.
I thought my husband had come home, so I walked into the dining room; there was no one there, but Sophie continued happily wagging her tail and ignoring me. I should say here that she is normally the most obedient of dogs, even if she does not want to do something that I ask her to, she will do it, albeit reluctantly. It was strange. I walked into the lounge, no husband. He normally arrives home about 4.15–4.30pm; the time of this occurrence was 2.45pm. Still she carried on looking into the dining room and thumping her tail with joy. I walked past her and again asked her to come to me. I turned and looked at her. Suddenly, she turned her head round; her eyes were clearly following something that I could not see. After a few minutes, she stopped wagging her tail, looked at me, got up and followed me into the back office. It was a strange experience.
For the last weeks of his life, Boyden lay on the chair in the dining room. I think he lay in there because it is the darkest room downstairs. I have not moved or used the chair since.
Three difficult months passed. He walked through my dreams; he was in my thoughts all day long. It was a terrible time emotionally for me. I found it so hard not to cry. Of course, now I realise it isn’t wrong to cry, it’s human. It would be strange indeed if I had not cried. After having my friend beside me for so long, what normal human being would not miss them?
I also found myself avoiding people who had normally stopped and fussed him when we were out and about, walking or shopping. I dreaded getting upset should they talk about him. It is difficult not to appear rude in these circumstances.
A remarkable bond sometimes develops between an owner and their dog and no one on earth can ever break it. It’s difficult for people who do not own a pet to understand the depth of understanding that can exist between an owner and their dog. Some dogs develop a high sensitivity to your every thought and mood. In fact, they almost seem to know what you are going to do or say before it happens.
I kept trying to accept that I will never see him again. It was also difficult for my husband. At times Sophie would run around the house and garden looking for her brother. She would even go to his favourite chair and stand in front of it wagging her tail. I wondered if she could see him. I don’t know and never will.
I always go to bed fairly early so that I can read for an hour or two; Boyden and Sophie would always come and lie beside me in the bedroom. When I was ready to go to sleep I would take them downstairs to their own beds. Since Boyden died we follow the same routine and Sophie still comes upstairs with me, except that as she misses him so much she sleeps upstairs now.
One night my husband took Sophie downstairs so she could visit the garden. I popped downstairs to collect a magazine. I was walking back upstairs when I suddenly heard doggy footsteps behind me. I thought, Sophie was quick, when I felt a rush of wind go past me. I knew immediately that it was Boyden because there was no sign of Sophie, just the silence. It was his way of saying, “I’m still here.” There could be no other reason for it to happen.
My husband has told me on more than one occasion that he has heard Boyden walking around downstairs. It’s strange he should say this, because he has always said he does not disbelieve in ghosts, but has never seen or heard one. Boyden developed a strange way of walking towards the end of his life. He dragged his feet. I was forever saying, “Pick your feet up, boy.”
One day at around mid-day I was cleaning the lounge window. Sophie was as far as I was aware in the kitchen waiting for her lunch. I suddenly heard Boyden groan, and a small shuffle. He always did this when he lay down in later years. I know it was him. I glanced round immediately. No Sophie, no Boyden. Just thousands of dust motes dancing on the air. It was strange.
I keep a small amount of his fur in my purse. It’s another comfort to me. As I mentioned walking the same walks without him is heartbreaking, at times I cannot face going, there are far too many memories. Slowly I began to realise that if he were here we would still go out and about every day, and as I firmly believe he will always be with me I must continue the daily walks with him (in spirit) and his sister. It’s only fair to her anyway. Every time I leave the house I say to myself, “Come on, Boyden.” I don’t say it aloud as I don’t want to upset my husband.
I say “goodnight” to him when I go to bed, and plump his cushion up on his chair for him. One morning there was an indentation in the cushion, it looked as if he had been lying on it.
Its 1st November 2013, yesterday was Halloween. Tradition says that at midnight, the veil between this world and the next is at its most fragile. I wondered whether any of my loved ones would be able to make contact.
Midnight came and went. I received not at a sign. At 12.15 I thought I saw a movement on Sophie’s dog blanket. She – Sophie – had gone to lie in another part of the bedroom at just gone midnight. On seeing the movement, I blinked, but could not see anything.
The next morning, when I looked at Sophie’s blanket I saw that there were two white feathers lying on it. To me these tiny white feathers are always a sign of contact from someone in spirit. As they were both on the dog’s blanket I can only assume they were a sign from my dog, Boyden.
I felt a warm glow knowing that he had visited me. Not that he has ever left me or ever will.
Often when I was out walking with Boyden, he would suddenly jump, and move away from me. It took me a long time to realise why he did this. I realised that it was more than likely because my dog Connie was pushing him out of the way. There is simply no other explanation.
One night about a month ago, December 2013, I was walking through the dining room when I glanced back; to my amazement I saw Boyden standing looking at me. I was so shocked. It was so unexpected that I gasped aloud. The sighting lasted a few seconds. Since then I have never been aware of him in the house or seen him. It could be that was his last visit.
Since I wrote the above paragraph, I have been aware of his presence again. How could I think that he would leave me forever? Earlier this month, February 2014, Sophie was lying beside me as I was writing my book when all of a sudden I heard Boyden cough. I jumped exactly at the same time as Sophie did. She leapt up and ran into the kitchen. I sat stunned, listening to her running up and down the kitchen and then in the dining room. I thought it was quite incredible. Needless to say, we were the only ones in the house at the time.
On the 8th February Sophie once again was following something with her eyes, and wagging her tail. I gazed around the room but could not see anyone in the room. Sophie undoubtedly saw someone or something. I can’t put that down to my imagination!
Maybe I imagined seeing and hearing him. I don’t know. Perhaps it is because we are in such emotional turmoil when our loved ones go that sheer longing actually brings them back to us? I don’t know. I do know that everything I have written about hearing and seeing him is true.
I find it difficult going out on my own without him. I worry about the panic attacks returning. Most times now I go out with my husband. Sophie is a difficult dog to walk on a lead as although she is not as big as Boyden, she is strong and pulls, causing me headaches. I do try to take her out on my own, but it is hard.
It’s helped writing about Boyden, and our walks, and in the end we have to accept that our pets are only given to us for a few short years. I was so lucky to have him.
Will I ever have another dog? Who knows what the future holds. No, not at this moment in time I don’t think so. I tried, it didn’t work out, and the pain of him not being here ten months on is still unbearable. My heart still aches for him and it always will.
As another small memorial to Boyden, I painted the slabs with his name on. I can see it through the window where I sit typing every day.
I also hung a wind chime by my window. It’s a real comfort to me. Every time I hear it I am reminded that he is nearby and thinking of us.
I had a bit of a blip when the thought passed through my mind that perhaps there is no heaven. I thought, if there is no heaven then we will never see our loved ones again. I soon closed my mind to that thought. I know that when the time comes I will meet him and the other loves of my life again. They will be there to greet me. In life as in death, there are no endings, only beginnings.
You’re Not There
I reach out to touch you, but you’re not there
I call your name; it hangs in the empty air
I touch your lead; I look at your empty chair
You’re not there
My days are long and sad
You’re not there
My fingers ache to stroke your soft fur
You’re not there
My arms ache to cuddle you forever
You’re not there
Because you’ve gone to a place
Where I’m not there
Where I’m not there
RIP my wonderful, faithful friend
Until we meet again
Do you believe in ghosts?
I do. So many people, including myself have had sightings of them they are obviously are all around us.
How do you know you are actually seeing a ghost?
The image is ethereal, it's not solid, it is a person or an animal, but I know immediately that I am seeing a ghost.
Have you ever actually spoken to a ghost?
Only in my mind. I've never stood face to face with a ghost and had a conversation.
Do other members of your family believe in ghosts?
My husband never did until Boyden died. Since our dog died my husband has heard his footsteps in the house and been aware of his presence.
Do you ever doubt what you've seen?
Yes, I always question whether it is all simply my imagination at play. Maybe a trick of the eye or perhaps I'm dozing! But as mentioned there are so many different happenings around the world that to my mind ghosts do exist. If that's the correct way of expressing it!
Available from Amazon Kindle
Monday, 17 November 2014
Available from Amazon Kindle and also in paperback
The Other Place
Chrissie James is a troubled soul: with family problems, unexplained phobias and a stalker to contend with, she seeks help with a hypnotherapist. Whilst in therapy, Chrissie discovers she has led a past life.
Will living a previous life help Chrissie to discover the truth of what caused her fears and phobias, and will she find out who is stalking her?
The Other Place is a paranormal mystery. Its many twists and turns will keep you guessing to the very end.
Friday, 14 November 2014
Discerning readers will always be put off buying a book with a cover that doesn't do the job. They will also see errors in a poorly written blurb that hasn't been professionally proofread and edited.
In my opinion, a book cover is the most important feature of a book because hopefully it will immediately grab the reader’s attention. The cover picture should represent what the book is about but should not distract from the title. The title and the cover should tell the reader what the book is about.
When planning my book covers I always remember the old saying, every picture tells a story, and that's what the cover and title should tell the reader.
First off, an inspiring cover will always draw me in and make me curious as to what the rest of the book is about, the title that should be placed so as not to obscure the picture otherwise a reader will not be drawn to it.
One mistake a few publishers traditional and self-publishers make is to put their names in large print at the top of the page. This can work for well-known authors, but if you are a new unknown author readers will drift away. When a reader visits Amazon and clicks on the book pages, their eyes should instantly be drawn to the book cover and title not the author's name. They will move on to the next book where the title is showing.
If you are in a bookshop and books are placed on a higher shelf, all you see is the author's name not the book title, this tells you nothing, especially if the author is unknown. I walk away, as I should imagine others do. After all there are millions of other books with the titles showing just waiting to be bought.
Now, for the all-important blurb, this is the final decider as to whether a potential buyer has been convinced. The publisher has to get it right so that the reader will want to read book more than any other book they have ever read. If the blurb overlong, a reader will lose interest, fast! The blurb needs to draw them in with the first line, and continue to make them keep on reading and most importantly want to know more. A poorly written blurb will turn readers away, fast.
To buy a copy of The Other Place visit http://tinyurl.com/ktwmwlu for a copy on Kindle, the book is also available in paperback.
Tuesday, 11 November 2014
Another great review for Birmingham Girls!
Available from Amazon Kindle
Birmingham Girls is the story of two sisters growing up in post-war Birmingham
This book tells the story of our early lives in Balsall Heath, Birmingham, where we lived in a back-to-back house with our mother. Our father deserted Mom before I was born. She had a desperate struggle bringing us up during and after the war until she remarried.
Thanks to the reviewer, Shirley for giving Birmingham Girls a five star review. She wrote that she loved it.