My talk on New Zealand and my book Waireka

I would like to share with you my slides of New Zealand which I have put together for my talks. I will also share some of the content with you too. I want you to feel that you were there!

I begin my talk by introducing myself writing under my maiden name. Then I introduce the name of my book, Waireka – Wai being Maori for water, Reka for sweet. I explain that my book is set on a dairy farm in New Zealand in the mid nineteenth century. This farm has a river that runs through the land and makes the grass sweet and the grazing good. It is based on the story of my great uncle who travelled out there at that time as the youngest son of a large family.

Like many others he faced a treachorous journey of 4-6 months. No fresh food after the start of the voyage and even worse, no fresh water after a while. Drinking water being sweetened with lime juice and sugar to make it more palatable! Disease was rife on these ships and many bodies were thrown over the side during the voyage. Storms and bad weather might also be encountered.

Fortunately, both Eliza and her suitor, Alister, arrive safely in New Zealand where the Reverend Reid, his family and Eliza take up a living in a church similar to the wooden one in my picture – wooden because of being an earthquake zone.

Eventually they travel over the Rimutuka hills to the Wairarapa – see the region in my image, North of Wellington – where Alister sets up the dairy farm. He is was a real entreprenuer, the first to introduce new machinery into the milk and butter making industry and one of the first to transport butter between the two islands of New Zealand. The images above show both the farm in the late nineteenth century and the hotel/wedding venue and restaurant that it has now become.

You will see in my pictures above, New Zealand’s famous flightless birds both of the past – Huia – and present – Kiwi. The Kiwi has been preserved and New Zealanders now take their identity from the species.

You will also see pictures of the Maoris who first came to New Zealand from the Eastern Polynesian Islands in the Medieval times on a canoe similar to the one in the picture. No wonder they often fought the settlers! The Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 gave them the right to become British citizens but at the expense of relinquishing their lands.

I wrote the book after a distant relative wrote the real story of my great-uncle. Now it gives me real pleasure to share the story with others either by them reading my book or by me sharing it with people in a talk.

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Alpha Male special offer

From the 2 January for four days, Alpha Male in kindle format is on special offer as a freebie. Please take this opportunity to log on and follow my website and receive this free offer at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Alpha-Male-Sheila-Donald-ebook/dp/B01FVBEZIU or if you live in the US at https://www.amazon.com/Alpha-Male-Sheila-Donald-ebook/dp/B01FVBEZIU/ .

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Pen to Print Article about Waireka

A very Happy Christmas to all the followers of this my new website. Please view my latest article about my book, Waireka, which is published just this month in the Arts Council magazine, Pen to print. The link is www.pentoprint.org/family-history-stories

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The Loss of a Loved one

The loss of a loved one is always hard to bear whether it be a beloved pet or a family member, although some would say that the two things are interchangeable. The image above shows Zak beside the cactus in our conservatory approaching Christmas 2017. Today, just two years later, a box containing his ashes sits beneath the same flowering cactus and he is gone.

‘Gone from our sight but never our memories

Gone from our touch but never our hearts’

Perhaps the loss of the person or animal is the hardest thing to bear. We can’t see or touch them anymore.

In my book, Waireka, ( https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=waireka+by+sheila+donald&crid=3ZNHWG32WOIC ) Eliza, my heroine faces the same physical loss, the loss of a beloved sister. Without giving too much away, I would like to include a passage from the book -:

“Murray told me what he had said to you. Of course, he had no idea of the impact such news would have on you or who Kitty was. He’s truly sorry for any distress he’s caused you’

‘That’s kind of him. But that won’t bring my beloved Kitty back, will it? Nothing will bring her back,’ and she burst into a fresh bout of sobbing” (Pg 181)

Whereas it is true that nothing can bring our beloved ones back to this earth, if we have a faith in God we can be assured that one day we will be reunited with them once again. Meantime, the comfort to us all can be that at Christmas we remember ‘Emmanuel’ or God with us. But an even greater comfort than this is to know that God can be with us not only today but everyday.

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Self-partnering

Self-partnering is the new term for singleness as coined by actress Emma Watson, famous for her role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films.

https://ruthclemence.com/2019/11/05/emma-watsons-anxiety-rings-true-in-churches-too/#like-8392

“If you have not built a home, if you do not have a husband, if you do not have a baby, and you are turning 30, and you’re not in some incredibly secure, stable place in your career, or you’re still figuring things out… There’s just this incredible amount of anxiety.” Source: The Independent 

 This is a real issue for Christians too, especially Christian women because there are many more women in the church than men. I explore this issue in my novella, Alpha Male, where the very beautiful Amy Castleton can’t find any attractive and interesting available males in the church. There is steady, reliable Bill, an assistant in the local library who is attracted to Amy but he is a little dull and not at all Amy’s type.

Enter tall, good looking, playboy journalist, Craig Wilson who is commissioned by his local paper to cover St James’ Alpha Course. But he appears to be a bit of an arrogant heart throb and certainly doesn’t share Amy’s faith. She has been here before with a previous boyfriend and so is very wary of being caught out again. He seems attracted to Amy though as he struggles to reconcile Amy’s faith with his lifestyle choices. Get ready to see the sparks fly…


Alpha Male is available on amazon at  https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=alpha+male+by+sheila+donald&crid=2VIQEN75RUX5C&sprefix=%2C

The Kindle edition is now available at only 99p. Great Christmas read.

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Song writing

There are many different kinds of writing but perhaps many of us think of short story or novel writing or poetry but what about writing lyrics?

Many of us get put off the idea of music lyric writing because we can’t write music, even like me, if you enjoy singing. Sam and Sara Hargreaves, who led our Christian Writers day last Saturday were keen to encourage us to just have a go. We think of song lyrics and music being composed together these days, but that wasn’t always the case explained Sam. Examples of popular hymns like William Blake’s Jerusalem, certainly belie this myth.

Hymns and songs in the past would often be composed separately. A musician might take a poem he admired and set it to music.

Jerusalem was one of Blake’s prophetic poems to preface his epic poems ‘Milton: a poem in two books’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/And_did_those_feet_in_ancient_time   So written as a poetry collection. Blake would probably be very surprised to hear it sung as a hymn all about being British, especially with those lines – “Dark Satanic Mills” More of a statement against the industrialisation of Britain rather than glorying in all that’s British!

Alternatively you can just use an old tune to set your words too but make sure the tune is out of copyright if you want to do this.

Song writing, like any writing has to be inspired. But like any writing, explained Sam, we isn’t just “spoken to us in a dream or sent directly from God’s email account.” (How to write worship songs by Joel Payne and Sam Hargreaves, Grove Books Ltd 2019). Although of course, from time to time it maybe!

I am very interested in writing music lyrics even though I haven’t managed yet but I do love singing and belong to a local weekly choir, so who knows? A website that can help you to compose songs can be found at www.jubilate.co.uk – songs and hymns for worship but there are other that aren’t spiritual too www.mysongcoach.com

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On the trail of the Durrells of Corfu

Visiting the island of Corfu would not be complete without following the trail of the famous writing family, the Durrells and we visited at an opportune moment with the TV series about them having just ended in the summer. Although the Durrell family lived in three different houses, the house used in the TV series wasn’t actually one of those and is occupied by a local resident. But on a boat trip around the island we were fortunate enough to be taken to view the TV house which still had the TV lighting sets behind it.

However, I’m afraid they can’t be viewed in this picture!
While in Corfu we read the books about the family. We began with reading Gerald Durrell’s popular book, ‘My family and other animals’, the first part of his Corfu trilogy, ‘Birds, Beasts and Relatives’ and ‘The Garden of the Gods’ following. He also went on to write, ‘A Zoo in my luggage’ and ‘The Whispering Land’. However, Gerald Durrell is better known as a zoologist and naturalist rather than a writer. It was in fact, Gerry’s older brother, Larry who was the main writer of the family with his Alexandria Quartet which won him recognition in his lifetime with the James Tait Black prize and the Booker prize. His book specifically written about life on Corfu is called ‘Prospero’s Cell’. I’m afraid we didn’t get round to reading this book and many find its style very difficult nowadays. Gerald Durrell’s book is well worth a read however,  for its beautiful passages of description of the island.

In order to learn the details of the real family, I warmly recommend Michael Haag’s book, ‘The Durrells of Corfu’. He was a friend of the family and from his book we learn that Gerry’s brother, Larry was actually married to Nancy when the family arrieved on the island and they lived together at the White House, rather than living with the family as the TV series and Gerry’s book suggest. Perhaps he had a writing room in the family home. It is at the White House however,  where the photos and memorabilia of the Durrell family are collected and visitors can view the house on a few days every week. However, it is still hired as a holiday let and there is only really one room where the Durrell collection is kept.

But what a magnificent view! This is me on the balcony on a wonderfully hot day. It must have been very inspiring for Lawrence living and writing here.

I would like to leave the description of Corfu to the words of Lawrence in his book, Prospero’s Cell.

this brilliant little speck of an island …with waters like the heartbeat of the world itself”.
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