Rosemary Smith

Here is my second blog in my series, ‘illness and disability. While we are all self-distancing and worried about the Coronavirus, it is worth still remembering those who suffer or have suffered from cancer. Here below is Rosy Smith’s story. A writer of Victorian novels and a member of the Romantic Novelists Association.

1) I have read from a very young age. My favourite book as a child was The Secret Island by Enid Blyton. It was pure escapism for me. An Aunt bought it for me in 1954, and I still have the book on my bookshelf.
The early influences for my writing were authors such as Victoria Holt, Dorothy Eden, Daphne Du Maurier, Winston Graham & Mary Stewart.
I always loved romantic suspense, and a story with a mystery & secrets.

2) My decision to write was taken at an early age. My sister & I were in a foster home during the 1950s, & although only about 10yrs old, I loved to write stories to read to the other girls in the foster home. As life progressed, I wrote a lot of poetry , some of which has been published in various anthologies. When my 2 daughters were young in the early 1970s, I wrote pantomimes and amusing plays, to be performed at our village hall.
Not once, at that time, did I think of writing a book.

3) My writing career began about 1971. I won a short story competition with the Woman magazine. That released me greatly as I realised that my writing was of some worth. It was quite surreal that so many people would be reading my story! Although only 2,000 words, it was a step in the right direction. Yet, I still I didn’t write anything else of any note. My 2 girls were young and kept me busy. I also did an apprenticeship in a hairdressers, and various housework for people, and cleaned for a bank. Writing was as far away from my mind as it ever could be!

4) After a wonderful holiday in Australia with my sister & her family, to see our brother I started to feel unwell. Awful headaches, a change of personality, and hearing & balance problems. And after an MRI scan in 1998 , I was told I had a large brain tumour at the back of my head, on the right side. Looking at the scans, it was indeed large. We live in Devon , and I was referred to the Frenchay Hospital in Bristol to a wonderful neurosurgeon there, who without doubt saved my life.
On the 23rd March 1998, 2 teams of surgeons performed a 13-hour operation to remove this tumour from my head. The operation was successful, but a small piece of the tumour had to be left on the brain stem. I was in hospital for 3 weeks, my face had dropped one side, and it looked as if I had suffered a bad stroke. People I had known for a long time hardly recognised me. I couldn’t close my right eye, and still can’t, nor do I have any sight in it.
For a long time I could barely walk. I didn’t want to go out because of the way I looked, and I hated depending on others. A friend eventually got me out in a wheelchair as I needed a birthday card for my husband. And she insisted I choose it myself. I shall always love her for this, and how she helped me, or I may never have gone out. My husband had to give up his small garage to look after me. We sold our house & our lives changed drastically.
It was a long, hard road to recovery. It is only in the past 2 years that my face has come back to some normality, although my smile is still crooked & I have no sight or hearing on my right side. But the good thing is, I am still here. I lived to see my grandchildren grow up and see my 6 great grandchildren.

5) It was during my recovery time, 2 years after the operation, when I was 54, that my neurosurgeon spoke the immortal words ‘you must try and keep your brain active’!
I don’t think it was what the Professor had in mind! But to amuse myself, I started to write my first book!! A friend typed it up for me, and one day she said, ‘You must send this somewhere, it is really good, and I can’t wait to see what happens ‘.
For a couple of months I took no notice of what my friend had said. But on finishing the novella, she urged me to submit it somewhere. So I borrowed the ‘Writers & Artists Year Book’ from the library, and eventually sent my story ‘The Amethyst Brooch’, to the publisher D C Thomson in Dundee, then sat back & waited, with little hope! The letter from the then Editor, Dorothy Hunter, arrived one Saturday morning, saying she had loved the story, and would I please forward page 81 for continuity!! And she would like to publish it as a My Weekly Pocket Novel!!I could never begin to tell you how I felt.
And my writing career, had begun in earnest!

6) My seven books are all set in Victorian times. They contain romance, mystery, secrets, handsome heroes, old mansions, keepsake & music boxes, weddings, beautiful gowns & feisty heroines. All seven were published as My Weekly Pocket Novels. Then Ulverscroft Large Print published them in their Linford  Romance Library. Followed by Endeavour Press (now Luma  Books) publishing them all as eBooks which are all available for kindles on Amazon. My large print titles are published under the name Rosemary A Smith.
My eBooks are published under the name Rosemary Smith.
I don’t have a website. But do have an author page on Amazon & Facebook.

7) My favourite genre of books, is mainly Historical & time slip.
Some of my favourite books are:
Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor
Katherine by Anya Seton
The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller
Mariana by Susanna Kearsley
The Secret of the Lighthouse by Santa Montefiore
Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt
Movies are also a passion of mine:
The Bridges of Madison County
Somersby
My Cousin Rachel
Wuthering Heights
to name but a few.
I love the theatre, and get to go all over the place with my sister. I have 3 favourites which I have been to see more than once:
The Woman in Black
Evita
Mamma Mia

8) I write at my computer in the small bedroom, which also serves as my writing space. But I get a lot of my inspiration sitting in the car overlooking the sea and visiting National Trust Properties.

9) After losing my eldest daughter, it has been a long while since I could get back to writing. But I am now writing another Pocket Novel for People’s Friend. Set in a Castle in Scotland overlooking Lake Jared. Which is nearly completed.
I also have the inspiration for a time slip. Which will be my first full length novel. The future beckons ….

10) Many thanks to Sheila for inviting me on her blog ….

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Writing with illness and disabilities 1

Contentment in the challenges? By Liz Carter

It’s such a delight for me to be engaging with Sheila’s questions today. Sheila asked me to share a little about some of the challenges I’ve faced with my long-term lung diseases, especially when it comes to writing, which is my passion.

Liz Carter

1. What were your early influences, and when did you decide you wanted to write?

As a young child I couldn’t get enough of reading, and regularly escaped into the worlds of the Magic Faraway Tree and Narnia. As I was a sickly child, often off school, reading was my refuge. I soon began to start writing my own stories – in fact, I wrote my first book when I was eight years old, about a girl called Jane who encountered a gang of goblins who lived under the River Dove. I loved to let my imagination fly. Later on, as a teenager, I became despondent about writing because I missed so much school and my teachers weren’t understanding or helpful. I felt that my writing was something I should hide away because I wasn’t good enough. So for many years I only wrote sporadically, but the passion never went away and I finally started blogging around ten years ago, and everything else has grown from that.

2. How has living with lung disease both impacted your writing and at the same time influenced and inspired it?

Living with a long-term health condition has been woven in with and impacted my writing greatly, in all areas – including my fiction writing. In many ways, my experience of disability in a world that values the strong has shaped my worldview, in terms of how I see myself and others, and so what I write has very much been born in that view. For instance, I’ve written a dystopian thriller about a world where productivity is all that counts, and where sick and disabled people are found wanting and hidden away because they are not able to contribute to the economy. My experience of living in a society where the ill are so often seen as scroungers and skivers has contributed to this narrative greatly. It’s as yet unpublished, but watch this space!

My experience of weakness and pain has also very much shaped my blogging and my first non-fiction book, Catching Contentment (more on that in a minute). I’ve been on a journey of discovery about how God understands the pain and is with us in the pain, and how treasures are to be found in the darkness – and also about how important it is to be honest about our struggles, and not to don masks of pretence that all is well. My writing gets raw and deep at times, especially in those times I am most in pain.

3. Talk about your latest book, Catching Contentment. What is the message and what do you hope to achieve by it?

I used to think that Christians should be happy people, never showing any kind of worry or anxiety or pain or shame, because of some of the teaching I’d heard. I struggled with the idea of contentment, thinking it could only be for those who were fixed, whose lives were wonderful, who were not in pain. Contentment did not seem to be a word that could apply to someone like me, so often housebound, in pain, in hospital. But as I delved deeper into Paul’s words about contentment in the book of Philippians, I caught a glimpse of something more profound. Paul said he’d learned the secret to being content in all circumstances – and I realised that he knew what he was talking about, because he was writing from prison amidst a life of great hardship. As I explored the subject I discovered a wealth of treasure, finding that contentment as Paul talked of it is not based on our wholeness, but purely on who God is and who we are in God – that only God can fill the great void in us, and satisfy our wildest places with a love so great it can lift us even in our agonies. I wanted to communicate something about this holy kind of contentment, and especially to hopefully offer some help and hope to those whose lives don’t look like the perfect Instagram feed.

4. What challenges face you in your writing, particularly when living with long term health issues?

Every writer has many challenges, and I experience the highs and lows in the same way as so many. There are the challenges of comparison, of feeling like I am not good enough, of time and energy, of a very difficult market in all areas, of marketing my work. But my illness does lead to some further challenges, too. One of the main difficulties for me, particularly with my writing for the Christian market, is that I am largely unable to go and share about it. Authors are encouraged all the time to develop a speaker platform, to visit churches and groups and conferences to speak about their books, and sell their books. But I am very limited in what I am actually able to do. I managed a few radio interviews and a couple of speaking events which wore me out too much. So my challenge is to market my work when I cannot market myself, when I cannot be out there very much, because I am too sick. Even when I am ‘well’ this kind of thing proves a huge challenge to me because my energy levels are too low.

This leads me to struggles with my own marketing – I spend far too much time worrying that I am not doing enough. On social media I share and I write articles and I promote my book, but in the end it is still difficult to get things beyond a certain audience, and it does prove frustrating. But people have been incredibly generous to me in their sharing of my work with others and I am very grateful.

I also struggle with the writing process itself due to my illness, because my battery gets worn down very easily, so I cannot work for hours at a stretch, and need at least one nap per day. When I am in an active exacerbation – which is often – I sometimes cannot write at all. Medication dulls my mind, and the pain dulls my senses and my capacity for work, so the writing stays unfinished. Again, this can be frustrating – and I have had to learn much about acceptance in these times, about reaching for the peace of God even when things do not go as I would wish. Contentment can be difficult when I am not achieving what I want to achieve in any given day – but I have learned that contentment is a choice, rather than something that just washes over me.

5. Where do you write?

This is an interesting question which feeds back into the previous one, because where I write varies depending on how I am. I have a lovely office upstairs in my house, painted in my favourite colour with all my favourite pictures on the wall, and my books around me, which is for good days. I love to sit at my desk when I am able. But on bad days my office is my sofa, wrapped up in a blanket, or in my bed – where writing rarely gets done. Sometimes my office is my hospital bed.

6. What are your future aims and goals for your writing?

I am working on another book for the non-fiction Christian market, on identity and use, in terms of how we see ourselves – useful or useless – and how these terms are not particularly… ahem…. useful, in themselves. It’s an exciting project but I have a load of work to do! I’m also working on the fiction book I mentioned which is part of a trilogy, so I have a whole load of writing to do there too. I’ve recently written an accompanying bible study course for Catching Contentment, and would love to write more in this vein too. I have a million ideas but an unwilling body and not enough time…

Liz Carter is an author and blogger who likes to write about life in all its messy, painful, joyous reality. She’s never known life without pain and sickness. She likes Cadbury’s and turquoise, in equal measure, and lives in Shropshire, UK with her husband, a church leader, and two teens.

Liz is the author of Catching Contentment: How to be Holy Satisfied, which was published by IVP in November 2018. This book digs into the lived experience of a life in pain, and what contentment could possibly mean in difficult circumstances. She’s also recently brought out a six week bible study course based around the book.

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Book Review: ‘Waireka’ by Sheila Donald, set in nineteenth century New Zealand – a story which makes you see your own life in a new perspective

Thanks for a great blog, Sheila and for wetting the interest of potential readers to my book.

SC Skillman Author

Before I start my series on New Zealand, which I visited in November 2019, I am delighted to review a book set in the very place I visited – New Zealand’s North Island.

Map of New Zealand

But the times are very different in ‘Waireka’ by Sheila Donald. The genre is historical fiction. We are in the nineteenth century, and the main protagonist Eliza finds herself among the pioneers, and having a very different experience of that beautiful, green and richly-forested country.

New Zealand – a richly forested, green and beautiful country

The landscape of New Zealand’s South Island

For Eliza, there is no chance of flying from the UK to New Zealand in twenty six hours, as we can do today. No, Eliza must travel by sea, in cramped conditions, on a voyage which is dangerous and will last at least three months. And the lifestyle which…

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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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