Children in Read 2021

Yes – it’s all kicking off again!! Pudsey is Back in Town!

Paddy Heron has just opened up the Auction for this year’s Children in Read charity auction. If you donated last year, then we would love you to express your generosity again!  If this is all new to you, then read on.

Children in Read is a charity auction of signed books by both Authors and Illustrators. This is the 7th year of the auction and last year we raised over £21,000.

Its open to both mainstream published authors and Indie authors! If you have a physical book to donate, that’s fine! ALL genres welcome!

A reminder:

  1. Follow Paddy on Twitter at @Childreninread
  2. Send him a Direct Message telling him you want to donate and give him:

a. The Title

b. The Amazon Link so he can use it for your Bio, the book blurb, the Cover and Headshot

c. Your Bio, Blurb and Headshot if not on your Amazon Page.

Include your website and social media links in your Bio.

Or:

Email him at childreninread@yahoo.com with the above info, although Paddy does seem to prefer Twitter.

So many author friends were very generous last year, and I’ll be doing regular Promo posts as last year by way of a thankyou..

Every author who donates will have their twitter added to https://twitter.com/i/lists/1417006707377643520/members so you can see everyone else who has committed to donate.

They will also be invited to join the Facebook Group I use for promoting the event at https://www.facebook.com/groups/565678247774587  Like last year I hope to advertise the event and your contribution through a series of collages.

Cheers and thanks!!

John

What a Year – Its Strange Effects, Also Reflections on the Generosity of Authors

First things first! Leah Fleming, old friend, RNA member and reader of this blog pointed out that The Oxford Concise Dictionary of Quotations is a brilliant source of titles! And, of course, she is right.

So back to it!

This has surely been a year like no other – apart from 2020. The more things change the more they stay the same.

For me, the worst part of lockdown has been the physical isolation from family and friends, especially from my writing friends. At the time of writing, we have just had Covid restrictions extended for another month. It will be almost two years before we can see our younger daughter. At least we can see her sister and our granddaughter and hug THEM. When you are a grandparent, it takes extraordinarily little to keep you happy, and there IS light at the end of the tunnel.

Hopefully, my brain fog will lift, too. It’s probably part of advancing age and decrepitude, but we also find ourselves anchored inside a small circle of activities, and for both of us, all our energy has disappeared. We are both remarkably keen on a nap in the afternoon nowadays!  Still a change will be as good as a rest (surely). It may help stop the feeling of life being sucked from our brains!

July 1st is the middle day of the year, and also Canada Day, and my birthday. Also last year it was the day that the 2020 version of “Children in Read” was announced.

For those who have no idea what this is, it’s now a major charity fundraiser for the BBCs Children in Need appeal. Last year, it attracted about 600 contributing authors and raised almost £22,000. It was founded by a Liverpool businessman, Paddy Heron, who continues to organise and drive the event forward from year to year. Now in its seventh year, it has raised increasingly larger amounts each year.

Paddy normally “opens the shop” to donations in early July. Most authors are only too happy to donate a book. Children in Need, and Children in Read are both excellent causes to be associated with and have the highest approval of almost any charity in the UK. Last year I got involved and approached Jo Rowling and Philip Pullman, among others. Jo Rowling donated a copy of The Ichabod, and that went for £800. Philip Pullman donated three signed bookplates, and they went for about £350. Members of the Romantic Novelists Association seem to have taken the event to heart – about 200 members donated one or more books.

Once they are open, to donate a book is so easy! Just email Paddy Heron at childreninread@yahoo.com or Tweet (DM) to him (and Follow him) at @ChildrenInRead and tell him you would like to donate a book. All genres and all age-groups are welcome,  BUT NOT YET! 

What does Paddy need? Your name, with a “head shot” photo, your book title and a “cover shot” photo, your bio, and the “book blurb”. He also needs your Author web page and Twitter address. BUT NOT YET!

After the Auction, on November 13th, Paddy and the team will contact you with the details of the winning bid.  You then sign a copy of your book and post it to the winner!

Could it be easier, or more worthwhile? I don’t think so! 

Apart from being a great charity (Children in Need is arguably the best-known charity in the UK) I also see this as an outstanding promotion for ALL participating authors. To be there, on display, on an equal footing with the great and the good from ALL levels and genre of authors in the UK, is fantastic for “putting yourself out there”.  The auction website also comes with “share buttons” for Facebook and Twitter, making it extremely easy indeed to publicise your own generosity, and both the Charity and the Auction.

The costs for this are derisory – for me that works out at around £10 for the cost of a book, an envelope and UK postage. You would be mad not to!!!

And for Readers? You see the widest choice of books in ALL genres, waiting for YOUR bid. From Kate Mosse to Lucinda Riley and Tom Kerridge, and of course, JK Rowling and Philip Pullman!

If your bid wins, you receive a signed and usually dedicated copy of the book – and ALL the money that you bid at auction goes straight to Children in Need!

On the hedgehog front we are having regular visits every night from what I think are two “boars”. No sign of any hedge-sows or hoglets yet, but we live in hope. Hedgies are very much solitary animals, and certainly “do not play well with others!” Their main reactions to each other are pushing and shoving matches, usually ending with the smaller hog assuming the “ball” position until the coast is clear.

And to close – remember, Carpe Diem!! Life sucks, but it’s still better than the alternative, and I will let you know as soon as Paddy opens the Auction.

Basic Instinct – friend or foe?

This weeks Novel Points of View Blog; this week from Vicky Cornwall.

Instinct: the way people or animals naturally react or behave, without having to think or learn about itCambridge Dictionary
I read somewhere once that instinct is a subconscious lesson learned which surface to keep you from making the same mistakes. I know, from experience, that instinct plays a large role in our day to day lives. It can be helpful, it can be protective, but it can also be crippling. Perhaps I should add a disclaimer here – I am not a mental health professional, just a writer musing on life in general and with a blog post to fill. I am also vaguely familiar that there are many categories of instinct such as herd instinct. I am going to concentrate on that internal gut voice that inwardly communicates with you when you didn’t ask it to. Now back go my blog post…
What has instinct got to do with creativity?  

There have been many times when I have been writing a scene and my instinct kicks in. I have a growing sensation that the scene is not going in the right direction. I know, instinctively, that I need a little more passion or a twist to add more energy to the plot. I did not plan the plot this way, but as I write my instinct tells me that this chapter just isn’t right. I have never taken a creative writing course in my life, so it is not a lesson I have learned, but I know where I subconsciously acquired this instinct and it began on the day that I picked up my first novel to read.

It developed gradually, but mainly during my negative reading experiences when I have grown to dislike the hero or heroine, the plot direction or how the book is written. I have wasted countless hours reading a book I dislike just so I can finish it (I can’t give up on a book, I have to finish it).  This is a good example of turning a bad experience to good use.

However, in my opinion, if negative experiences can develop an instinct that can be used in a positive way, negative experiences can also develop an instinct that, although trying to be protective, can have negative outcomes. For example, if you have received several rejections for your manuscript, your instinct might be to not submit the manuscript again. You have subconsciously learned rejection is painful and that you are not good enough to get published so why bother and be hurt again. This instinct is protecting you from future hurt and rejection… but I am not sure this instinct is always a good instinct to follow.  People say that every journey is made of small steps and that failure is a path to success. Sounds daunting and not much fun to tread.

It is not always easy to fight against our instincts. It is not always easy to know when to fight against them or when to follow them. I guess all we can do is consider the possible outcome and ask ourselves this question… will this situation put me in harm’s way? If it won’t, than perhaps we should question why our instinct is telling us to flee/reject/avoid/ignore and is there anything we can do to improve the outcome and be braver/more adventurous/more determined. 
Every event is a learning experience and can be positive and negative. Your instinct is there to help you and we must learn to let it help us… but we must also learn to not let it control us. After all, changing our thoughts and how we deal with our negative experiences could change our lives for the better.

Victoria Cornwall
What are your thoughts on instinct? Can you think of a circumstance when it has helped or hindered you? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Check the blog out every week! Its at https://novelpointsofview.blogspot.com/

Putting My Head Above the Parapet

This blog entry first appeared on the Novel Points of View Blog. A blog always worth reading, and subscribing to!

https://novelpointsofview.blogspot.com/2021/05/putting-my-head-above-parapet.html

Putting My Head Above the Parapet

A couple of months ago, I got the shock of my life (almost) when an invitation arrived from the lovely Rae Cowie asking if I’d like to join the Not-So-Secret Seven. This is the team that produce the consistently good Novel Points of View blog.

I must have hummed and hawed for ages – possibly as much as two milliseconds before deciding to accept! The phrase “with alacrity” comes to mind.

The Not-So-Secret-Six-plus-Me are all fellow romantic novelists and fellow members of the Romantic Novelists Association.

Being asked to join such a team carries its own responsibilities. Luckily, the group generates its own strength. To tell the truth, I was sincerely flattered to be asked to join.

So a bit about me. I’m male, large, old, a former sailor, and write historical novels based around a singularly colourful bunch of characters in my family tree. These include:

Robert Rochfort, Earl of Bellfield and of Belvedere. A complete and utter bastard.

Jane Rochfort, his daughter, Lady Lanesborough and who was one of the “Faro Ladies.”

John King, her second husband, who seems to have been a dodgy Jewish moneylender. He wasn’t.

Henry Dumaresq, my Great-great-grandfather, who joined Wellington’s army in 1808 as an ensign and finished up as Lt. Colonel at Waterloo and aide-de-camp to General Byng.

Stephen Harvey James and his son, also Stephen, opened up the Crown Mine at Botallack. Stephen, his son, was also the mine’s last Purser.

ALL of them and more have stories to be written about them, their lives and their loves. I’ve done the first, and I’m working on the second. All of them are worth Googling. All of them are usefully dead, so they can’t sue, too! Should I live long enough there are absolutely LOADS more, too. No one properly famous, but all interesting!

By the way, it’s worth remembering that about one-third of the UK population can claim descendancy from King Edward III. This includes Danny Dyer, so on that basis, at least 2 of the others in the Not-So-Secret-Seven must be related to me. I wonder which two?

Apart from writing, I also do a fair bit of back-office work for the RNA, including setting up the Author Profiles on the RNA Webpage. This has been and continues to be quite fascinating.

Some people take full advantage of their “profile space”. They write something about themselves and their writing that will be attractive to readers old and new, while others prefer a sparse listing. There are even some who don’t want a profile up at all! I find this a little odd, as this is free advertising for you and your books. It is also very much part of your “brand” and will say much the same as on your Amazon page or your website.

After doing over 1000 profiles, it’s still fun to put them up for people. Here are the profiles of three of my fellow bloggers.

And now, a word about hedgehogs!

We retired to a small village just north of York (Old York, in the UK) a few years ago. Access to our garden is relatively open plan. It backs on to what was an old orchard full of fruit trees, which now forms the large back garden for one of the original farmhouses in the village.

In our second year here, we were sat out one warm summer night when we saw our first hedgie, just bumbling around in one of the borders.

The following day I put a hole in the fence to the old orchard, and we started to put food out for them.

Then our daughters bought me a trail cam!

Ever since, and about 5 cameras later (they don’t last forever), we have both been finding hours of entertainment from them. Every year, they have come back to the garden, where they do great work eating garden pests.

We have had as many as 5 in the garden at once! This year they are back. Just two of them so far, but the hoglet season will be upon us next month.

It’s easy to see why they are Britain’s favourite animal, and as it happens, this week is Hedgehog Awareness Week!

Enjoy! And don’t forget to subscribe and share!

John 

A DAY FOR EVERYTHING

This week’s Novel Points of View Blog from Rae Cowie

Hello!

The rise in social media means now there’s a ‘day’ for everything, and when World Earth Day (focusing on how to preserve the earth’s resources) and World Book Night (celebrating reading for pleasure) fell during the same week, it got me thinking about my reading habits, how environmentally friendly (or not) they are, and how they’ve changed over the years.

World Earth Day and World Book Night

STORIES TO MAKE YOU SMILE

As an aside, World Book Night is offering a collection of Stories To Make You Smile for FREE, which includes pieces by Katie Fforde, Dorothy Koomson, Veronica Henry, Richard Madeley and more, which is available to download in e-book here… STORIES TO MAKE YOU SMILE

A free collection of uplifting stories for World Book Night…

Back to my bookaholic tendencies, and just how environmentally friendly are my reading habits?

E-READER

When thinking about e-books, I felt quite virtuous. I wasn’t amongst the first to adopt an e-reader but, once I had one, quickly converted to buying more e-books than paperbacks. A quick audit shows I currently have 523 on Kindle. Number read – 119. Given I read around 50 books per year, it will take me 8 years to complete my Kindle collection. I was shocked! I comforted myself that these numbers were less wasteful than if I’d bought paperbacks.

PAPERBACKS

Time to confront my paperback addiction… I always buy my monthly book club read in paperback form, as well as having a favourite list of authors I love to see on my bookshelf. Then there are the novels I know I’ll wish to share with family, with friends. Also, I prefer to read shorter fiction in paperback  – short stories, flash fiction, poetry. And non-fiction too.

Last week, I invested in yet another bookcase. The Rose Metal Press Field Guild to Writing Flash Fiction arrived whilst writing this post! I didn’t dare count the paperbacks dotted in stacks around the house, but a rough estimate of ones still to be read sits around 150. Again, using my 50 books per year reading rate, this will take me 3 years to complete.

So far, I have enough reading material to keep me occupied for the next 11 years!

AUDIOBOOKS

Over the past year, the most dramatic change in my reading habits has been the increased number of audiobooks completed. I use a variety of platforms, which made it difficult to work out how many I own. However, I can say with confidence that I have 36 still waiting to be read. Given it takes me a fortnight to finish an audiobook, this means I have enough listening to last well over a year.

TSUNDOKU

It would be fair to say I suffer from tsundoku, the Japanese word for purchasing more literature than I have time to read.

MY READING ECO FOOTPRINT

I suspected my book buying habit was hefty, but even I was surprised by the stats and know I can do better – particularly as far as my teetering paperback piles are concerned. That said, I wish to continue to support authors, but my book audit has highlighted that I need to be more thoughtful about the format I chose, and speed up my reading!

So, have your reading habits changed over the years? Do you suffer from tsundoku? How do you decide which format is best when purchasing a book?

Also, remember to bag your FREE e-copy of Stories To Make You Smile… 

Happy reading!

Rae xx

When Twisting the Truth is OK

The Historical Novelist’s Eternal Dilemma. Another cracking Blog post, this week from my friend and colleague, @VickieCornwall. A good blog to subscribe to and follow!

https://novelpointsofview.blogspot.com/

This week I am talking about when it’s okay to twist the truth. Is it ever okay to twist the truth… or lie? Well, in the creative industry it can be and we call the act as using our artistic licence. I sometimes struggle with using artistic licence in historical fiction, which is why I am talking about the subject this week.

Artistic licence is the way in which artists or writers change facts in order to make their work more interesting or beautiful.

An artist might use it in the following ways:-

Using language in a way that might break the rules of grammar, create new words or use them to represent something the words would not normally represent. Poetry and songs spring to mind and are perfect examples of when certain rules are set aside to create exciting new work.

Artistic License can be used when creating a new work of art. A painter or sculpture may creates what he perceives and feels rather than what is the reality in front of him. 

Today I am going to concentrate on the creative world of writing, both fiction and non-fiction , when artistic licence can also be used by ignoring, purposely omitting or tweaking the truth. A biographer, for example, may leave out certain life events to form a more cohesive, interesting or biased narrative of the subject. Call me a sceptic, but I suspect there are many autobiographies filled with tweaked truths… or in other words… ‘my truth’.

The last example of using artistic licence that springs to mind is changing facts, especially historical facts, so that they fit into the timeline or plot of a story. This use of artistic licence is where I struggle. As an historical fiction writer, I know it would make my life easier if I changed the dates of certain true historical facts. I could then slot them into my main character’s life where and when I want to enhance their abilities, their lives and what they are ultimately able to achieve. It would have been so much easier for my heroine to switch on a light… but I have to remember that electric lights were not invented then and she has to resort to candles. Then comes the research on how does she light them. Were matches invented by then? This is why I struggle with artistic licence. The temptation to add that electric switch and say her father invented it long before the public knew about electricity can be overwhelming at times!

My current work in progress has my heroine escaping from the gestapo during WW2. My chosen method of escape is an actual (historically accurate) route across the channel used by special agents between 1942 and 1943. However, I discovered (from my extensive research), that after 27th October 1943 that particular route was no longer used. How do I know this? I know this because on 27th October 1943 the ship’s last mission encountered winds estimated to be 70-80 knots and was abandoned. Shortly after, whilst clearing a minefield, the ship struck submerged wreckage and damaged its propeller. The sea route was never re-established after that. So I have a date which I have to work around. I have a choice, I can either fit the novel to fit the historical date, move the date of her escape to a more convenient time for me or get her home by another method.  I understand that in reality there will be very few people in the world who even know about this particular sea route and even fewer who know the details of why and when it stopped being used. However, there is always the fear that a reader will pick me up on it. You see… I told you that I struggle using artistic licence!  

After much angst I have decided to stick with the truth as the accuracy of historical details mean a lot to me, although this incident did make me wonder if I was going down a research rabbit hole that many authors would feel was quite unnecessary. After all, I would not be the first to use artistic license to bend the facts to make an interesting story. Here are just three examples:-

Disney’s Pocahontas. In Disney’s adaptation she was a fully grown woman who fell in love with Captain John Smith. In reality, Pocahontas was a child when Captain Smith arrived and she later married someone else.

One Million Years BC. This film resulted in a generation believing the impossible was true. However, today we know that humans did not live at the same time as dinosaurs.

and finally…

Bridgerton. In the TV series artistic license was used for casting, costume and hairstyles.  It was refreshing and popular but there were also some viewers who questioned why there was a need to change so many historical details and facts. 

By the time you read this I hope to have almost completed the first draft of my heroine’s escape. I have a feeling that by keeping to historically accurate dates, her escape will be even more adventurous and dramatic than it might have been. Fact is stranger than fiction and sometimes it is best not to dabble too much with what is already an amazing period in time. My heroine is determined and mentally strong and will cope with whatever lies ahead… at least I hope so!

What do you think about twisting the truth? Are there any books or films that you felt went too far? Let me know your thoughts, I would love to know.

Victoria Cornwall

The Novel Points of View Blog

As ever, a blog worth reading!

https://novelpointsofview.blogspot.com/2021/04/the-joy-of-research-or-not.html

The Joy of Research (or not)

Research.

Usually, my research starts after I’ve had an idea for a book. My work in progress happened the other way around. I was doing research for The Girls from the Beach (out this July), when I came across an unrelated article that has since culminated into an entire separate book!

This was unexpected and exciting for sure!

But let’s talk about what research is really like. Research is both inspiring and exhausting! It really is. If you don’t watch yourself, you can fall down that archive rabbit hole and never come out! Well, eventually you do, but whether or not you are now armed with the research you need to write your book, or bogged down with so much information and more ideas than you can handle, is another thing.

Though, it’s not all papercuts and mad-scientist hair. Research can also reveal some pretty awesome things and leave you laughing like Ray Liotta in Goodfellas, and that, my friends, is when I love it the most.

Because I don’t want to give spoilers about my July release, I’m going to talk about the research I did for my debut novel, The Girl I Left Behind. When doing research for this book, I found something so awesome, I obsessed about it for days until I figured out a way to put it in the novel.

The Girl I Left Behind is a story about a young woman swept into the youth German Resistance in Nuremberg, 1941. When I started this book in 2009, there was an average amount of information on the internet and at my library about the youth resistance, but I knew I needed to go to the source and ask questions—I needed to ask Germans in Germany. I knew that Germans were reluctant to talk about this dark period of their history, so I looked up businesses in an around the areas my characters found themselves.

I figured that if they had a section on their website about their shop’s history (which several did—mostly about the building’s history throughout the ages) they might reply to an email. Some got back to me; some did not. The Korn und Berg bookstore was one who wrote back. The email was written in English, and they apologized for their English and the time it took to get back to me, but they wanted to make sure they translated properly.

(Literally my face while reading the email)

They told me that during a Nazi Party rally in Nuremberg, Hitler noticed the windows of the Korn und Berg bookstore and he didn’t like the shape! He broke away from his entourage, walked right into the store and demanded the owner change them out. The owner wasn’t a supporter of the Party, and I could only imagine how that scene played out, with Hitler throwing open the front door amidst a clang of bells, stomping past all the books and throwing a fist on the counter, shocking a very nervous bookstore owner. Glass was very expensive during that time, and the owner was ordered to fund these changes himself, or risk punishment. Oh, you better believe I included this little gem in my story.

My writer friend, Marie O’Halloran, is always telling me about the crazy things she finds out during her research, so I asked if she’d share some of that with me today.

Hi Marie! Thank you for talking with me today. First, what do you write?

I write crime thrillers, psychological thrillers and police procedurals. I have also tackled a police comedy, think Fr Ted meets Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Once you have an idea, what is your first step towards research?

I usually let the idea roll around in my brain for a little while and let the scene unfold. Then start writing and research as I go. For my psychological thriller set on the Wild Atlantic Way in Dingle, Co, Kerry Ireland, I was able to visit and spend time there. This really adds to the authenticity of the writing once you can immerse all your sense in a place. If you’re not able to visit the location try to get an idea what other peoples’ sense of the place was. A librarian friend of mine suggested using a resource like TripAdvisor. For my gangland thrillers, I don’t have to look far. They are set in Ireland with everything within a few hours’ journey away. There are also ready resources available in news reports, documentaries and newspaper articles. Even though I’ve spent over two decades in the police force and while that aspect of writing procedurals means I have less to research, I still have to double-check some procedures to ensure I too am accurate in how I reflect the scenario. A lot is available through an internet search but I have the extra skill to interpret them and allow them to play out on the page.

Which book have you most enjoyed researching?

My psychological thriller, because I adore the West of Ireland, especially Dingle, and it gave me a really good excuse to spend more time there.

During your research, was there anything that blew your socks off, and couldn’t believe?

While researching for a police procedural about human trafficking between Dublin, Ireland and Haiti, I ended up seeking the advice from the Deputy State Pathologist. She was so generous with her information and time. It really did blow my socks off that I was on the phone chatting with her about neurotoxins and Haitian Vodou. It also struck me how generous professions are, in general, when talking about their jobs. It never hurts to ask. For my psychological thriller I got a behind-the-scenes tour of Dingle Distillery as their location, Whiskey and Gin are included in my book. I also had the pleasure of taking the main tour which included tasting. It was very difficult to read my notes taken after the consumption of their tasty product.

What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done in the name of research?

I could tell you but I’d have to kill you.😱 Marie writes as Casey King, and you can follow her on Twitter @letstalkcrime.

Research is the joy and splinter of my writing. I love it, but sometimes it feels so tedious. I once spent an hour verifying that Dorothea is a popular name for Italian women in New Jersey over 90 years old. That took a few K-cups of coffee to get through. But it’s the gems, those little nuggets of information you stumble upon that shine up and make it all worth it.

What interesting things have you found during your research? I’d love to know…

Andie

The Masque of the Red Death

by Edgar Allan Poe


The “Red Death” had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal—the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour.

But the Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious. When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys. This was an extensive and magnificent structure, the creation of the prince’s own eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts. They resolved to leave means neither of ingress nor egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from within. The abbey was amply provisioned. With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the “Red Death”.

It was towards the close of the fifth or sixth month of his seclusion, and while the pestilence raged most furiously abroad, that the Prince Prospero entertained his thousand friends at a masked ball of the most unusual magnificence.

It was a voluptuous scene, that masquerade. But first let me tell of the rooms in which it was held. These were seven—an imperial suite. In many palaces, however, such suites form a long and straight vista, while the folding doors slide back nearly to the walls on either hand, so that the view of the whole extent is scarcely impeded. Here the case was very different, as might have been expected from the duke’s love of the bizarre. The apartments were so irregularly disposed that the vision embraced but little more than one at a time. There was a sharp turn at every twenty or thirty yards, and at each turn a novel effect. To the right and left, in the middle of each wall, a tall and narrow Gothic window looked out upon a closed corridor which pursued the windings of the suite. These windows were of stained glass whose colour varied in accordance with the prevailing hue of the decorations of the chamber into which it opened. That at the eastern extremity was hung, for example in blue—and vividly blue were its windows. The second chamber was purple in its ornaments and tapestries, and here the panes were purple. The third was green throughout, and so were the casements. The fourth was furnished and lighted with orange—the fifth with white—the sixth with violet. The seventh apartment was closely shrouded in black velvet tapestries that hung all over the ceiling and down the walls, falling in heavy folds upon a carpet of the same material and hue. But in this chamber only, the colour of the windows failed to correspond with the decorations. The panes here were scarlet—a deep blood colour. Now in no one of the seven apartments was there any lamp or candelabrum, amid the profusion of golden ornaments that lay scattered to and fro or depended from the roof. There was no light of any kind emanating from lamp or candle within the suite of chambers. But in the corridors that followed the suite, there stood, opposite to each window, a heavy tripod, bearing a brazier of fire, that projected its rays through the tinted glass and so glaringly illumined the room. And thus were produced a multitude of gaudy and fantastic appearances. But in the western or black chamber the effect of the fire-light that streamed upon the dark hangings through the blood-tinted panes, was ghastly in the extreme, and produced so wild a look upon the countenances of those who entered, that there were few of the company bold enough to set foot within its precincts at all.

It was in this apartment, also, that there stood against the western wall, a gigantic clock of ebony. Its pendulum swung to and fro with a dull, heavy, monotonous clang; and when the minute-hand made the circuit of the face, and the hour was to be stricken, there came from the brazen lungs of the clock a sound which was clear and loud and deep and exceedingly musical, but of so peculiar a note and emphasis that, at each lapse of an hour, the musicians of the orchestra were constrained to pause, momentarily, in their performance, to harken to the sound; and thus the waltzers perforce ceased their evolutions; and there was a brief disconcert of the whole gay company; and, while the chimes of the clock yet rang, it was observed that the giddiest grew pale, and the more aged and sedate passed their hands over their brows as if in confused reverie or meditation. But when the echoes had fully ceased, a light laughter at once pervaded the assembly; the musicians looked at each other and smiled as if at their own nervousness and folly, and made whispering vows, each to the other, that the next chiming of the clock should produce in them no similar emotion; and then, after the lapse of sixty minutes, (which embrace three thousand and six hundred seconds of the Time that flies,) there came yet another chiming of the clock, and then were the same disconcert and tremulousness and meditation as before.

But, in spite of these things, it was a gay and magnificent revel. The tastes of the duke were peculiar. He had a fine eye for colours and effects. He disregarded the decora of mere fashion. His plans were bold and fiery, and his conceptions glowed with barbaric lustre. There are some who would have thought him mad. His followers felt that he was not. It was necessary to hear and see and touch him to be sure that he was not.

He had directed, in great part, the movable embellishments of the seven chambers, upon occasion of this great fête; and it was his own guiding taste which had given character to the masqueraders. Be sure they were grotesque. There were much glare and glitter and piquancy and phantasm—much of what has been since seen in “Hernani”. There were arabesque figures with unsuited limbs and appointments. There were delirious fancies such as the madman fashions. There were much of the beautiful, much of the wanton, much of the bizarre, something of the terrible, and not a little of that which might have excited disgust. To and fro in the seven chambers there stalked, in fact, a multitude of dreams. And these—the dreams—writhed in and about taking hue from the rooms, and causing the wild music of the orchestra to seem as the echo of their steps. And, anon, there strikes the ebony clock which stands in the hall of the velvet. And then, for a moment, all is still, and all is silent save the voice of the clock. The dreams are stiff-frozen as they stand. But the echoes of the chime die away—they have endured but an instant—and a light, half-subdued laughter floats after them as they depart. And now again the music swells, and the dreams live, and writhe to and fro more merrily than ever, taking hue from the many tinted windows through which stream the rays from the tripods. But to the chamber which lies most westwardly of the seven, there are now none of the maskers who venture; for the night is waning away; and there flows a ruddier light through the blood-coloured panes; and the blackness of the sable drapery appals; and to him whose foot falls upon the sable carpet, there comes from the near clock of ebony a muffled peal more solemnly emphatic than any which reaches their ears who indulged in the more remote gaieties of the other apartments.

But these other apartments were densely crowded, and in them beat feverishly the heart of life. And the revel went whirlingly on, until at length there commenced the sounding of midnight upon the clock. And then the music ceased, as I have told; and the evolutions of the waltzers were quieted; and there was an uneasy cessation of all things as before. But now there were twelve strokes to be sounded by the bell of the clock; and thus it happened, perhaps, that more of thought crept, with more of time, into the meditations of the thoughtful among those who revelled. And thus too, it happened, perhaps, that before the last echoes of the last chime had utterly sunk into silence, there were many individuals in the crowd who had found leisure to become aware of the presence of a masked figure which had arrested the attention of no single individual before. And the rumour of this new presence having spread itself whisperingly around, there arose at length from the whole company a buzz, or murmur, expressive of disapprobation and surprise—then, finally, of terror, of horror, and of disgust.

In an assembly of phantasms such as I have painted, it may well be supposed that no ordinary appearance could have excited such sensation. In truth the masquerade licence of the night was nearly unlimited; but the figure in question had out-Heroded Herod, and gone beyond the bounds of even the prince’s indefinite decorum. There are chords in the hearts of the most reckless which cannot be touched without emotion. Even with the utterly lost, to whom life and death are equally jests, there are matters of which no jest can be made. The whole company, indeed, seemed now deeply to feel that in the costume and bearing of the stranger neither wit nor propriety existed. The figure was tall and gaunt, and shrouded from head to foot in the habiliments of the grave. The mask which concealed the visage was made so nearly to resemble the countenance of a stiffened corpse that the closest scrutiny must have had difficulty in detecting the cheat. And yet all this might have been endured, if not approved, by the mad revellers around. But the mummer had gone so far as to assume the type of the Red Death. His vesture was dabbled in blood—and his broad brow, with all the features of the face, was besprinkled with the scarlet horror.

When the eyes of the Prince Prospero fell upon this spectral image (which, with a slow and solemn movement, as if more fully to sustain its role, stalked to and fro among the waltzers) he was seen to be convulsed, in the first moment with a strong shudder either of terror or distaste; but, in the next, his brow reddened with rage.

“Who dares,”—he demanded hoarsely of the courtiers who stood near him—“who dares insult us with this blasphemous mockery? Seize him and unmask him—that we may know whom we have to hang, at sunrise, from the battlements!”

It was in the eastern or blue chamber in which stood the Prince Prospero as he uttered these words. They rang throughout the seven rooms loudly and clearly, for the prince was a bold and robust man, and the music had become hushed at the waving of his hand.

It was in the blue room where stood the prince, with a group of pale courtiers by his side. At first, as he spoke, there was a slight rushing movement of this group in the direction of the intruder, who at the moment was also near at hand, and now, with deliberate and stately step, made closer approach to the speaker. But from a certain nameless awe with which the mad assumptions of the mummer had inspired the whole party, there were found none who put forth hand to seize him; so that, unimpeded, he passed within a yard of the prince’s person; and, while the vast assembly, as if with one impulse, shrank from the centres of the rooms to the walls, he made his way uninterruptedly, but with the same solemn and measured step which had distinguished him from the first, through the blue chamber to the purple—through the purple to the green—through the green to the orange—through this again to the white—and even thence to the violet, ere a decided movement had been made to arrest him. It was then, however, that the Prince Prospero, maddening with rage and the shame of his own momentary cowardice, rushed hurriedly through the six chambers, while none followed him on account of a deadly terror that had seized upon all. He bore aloft a drawn dagger, and had approached, in rapid impetuosity, to within three or four feet of the retreating figure, when the latter, having attained the extremity of the velvet apartment, turned suddenly and confronted his pursuer. There was a sharp cry—and the dagger dropped gleaming upon the sable carpet, upon which, instantly afterwards, fell prostrate in death the Prince Prospero. Then, summoning the wild courage of despair, a throng of the revellers at once threw themselves into the black apartment, and, seizing the mummer, whose tall figure stood erect and motionless within the shadow of the ebony clock, gasped in unutterable horror at finding the grave cerements and corpse-like mask, which they handled with so violent a rudeness, untenanted by any tangible form.

And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.

Making a Right Hash of it!

A rather nice look at another part of my world. Less so, nowadays – on account of being deficient in the working leg department!

Escapades of a wannabe adventurer who happens to be a bit of a hobo

A Quite Unusual New Running Experience

For many years I have noticed runners with ‘Hash House Harriers’ on their running vests prefixed with nationwide locations to their name. Bizarrely, despite having an occasional momentary wonder about the meaning of the name, I had never yet discovered it…….until……

The hashing ‘hounds’ hareing off “On On” the trail…

A spontaneous visit to Tamar Valley’s weekly ParkRun which was having a takeover week by the Tamar Valley Hash House Harriers resulted in, not only my premier ParkRun experience, but also an invite to join the ‘hashers’ for their next weekly ‘hash’ ….I had it on good authority that the ‘hares’ this week were particularly excellent – a bit worrying as I mostly follow a vegetarian diet!

Be sure to give the ‘Chalk Talk” your full attention!

To clarify my confusion a little the enthusiastic Harrier recruiters explained some background. The Hash House…

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