Last year I was overjoyed to win the Most Inspirational Blog Award at the Annual Bloggers Bash. I don’t think I stopped grinning for six months! The Bash returns this June, and I’ve already booked my train ticket. Spending the day with fellow bloggers is the highlight of my year.
The Bash has grown in popularity, and as such, it’s going to be bigger and better. For example, this year there’s a Blogger Bash Comp, where we can submit a blog post on the theme of Connections. Never one to pass up on competitions, challenges, and blogging, I’m delighted to share my entry.
‘Connections’ What does that mean to you?
What does the word connections mean to you? For me, it’s that spark of interest among like-minded people, the butterflies in your tummy when you’re with the one, and the warm and fuzzy feeling you get when your kids tell you they love you.
Meaningful connections also exist in the virtual world. I’ve been active on social media for many years, and so my online connections continue to grow. I love the spider web effect of linking up with an interesting character only to find they know your great aunt Maud, or went to University with your brother, or even live next door to your cat sitter! We are all linked in one way or another, and that’s a beautiful thing.
Social media gets a bad rap at times, but once you strip away the trolls, the nutters, and the emotional vampires, you’re left with a ton of special people who delight and enrich your day.
The blogging community is the perfect platform to connect with people from all areas of the globe, with a host of interests. I’ve ‘met’ food bloggers, lifestyle, health, and happiness bloggers. I interact on a daily basis with book bloggers, writers’ and artists. My connections include photographers, witches, painters, and chefs. Travel bloggers fill my head with exciting plans, fashion bloggers teach me to avoid double denim and opt for ugly pants (it’s a thing!).
I learn something new every single day thanks to these connections. I’ve laughed along with them, cried at times, and even offered my advice where needed, but what do I get in return? I get the collective support of connectedness.
No matter how your day or week plays out, there will always be someone on the other end of that invisible current who can boost your confidence, make your day, support your business, or offer a kind word. That’s what connections means to me – the beauty of being able to call on friends, new and old, who live inside my laptop. The voices of reason I hear late at night, and the cheerful chatter I enjoy early in the morning.
Connections can be made far and wide, online, or in person. Each one is special, unique, and appreciated. So, as I prepare to travel down to London and once again participate in the Blogger Bash, I know that my day will be spent in the company of people I love and respect. I’ll mingle with folk who will know what I’m talking about when I mention plugins and understand when I tell them about my failing eyesight due to excessive screen time.
If you do one thing today, make sure it involves connecting with someone. Spend some time chatting with a friend over a choccie mochaccino or message a fellow blogger through Twitter or Facebook. Send a note to someone on the other side of the world wishing them a good morning as you climb into your pyjamas or pop round to an elderly neighbour with a bunch of flowers.
Connections are what we make of them. Nourish the relationships that come into your life and share the love, laughter, and happiness. After all, none of us are getting out alive!
I am delighted to have author, James Hartley on my blog today talking about his new book, The Invisible Hand due for release on Friday 24th February, wanting to be an astronaut, and the joy of writing for children.
The Fun Stuff:
What part of the world do you come from?
Not far from you, actually, Shelley. The Wirral peninsular, between Wales and Liverpool. I was born and brought up there but the whole family moved to Singapore when I was seven. I still remember all the neighbours standing in the street waving us off through the back window. That was a big change but it was a fantastic experience. We lived there for five years then moved to Aberdeen on the east coast of Scotland: quite a tough place to be if you´re English. After three years it was out to the middle east, to Muscat, in Oman. When I got to exam age I went to a boarding school which is the model for the one in the books I´m writing now. I continued moving about as I got older and now I´ve lived outside the UK longer than I ever lived there. I live in Spain these days, in Madrid.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A writer, an astronaut, an Everton football player or something to do with making music. I still love books, the universe, music and Everton.
List three words to describe yourself.
James, Jimbo, dad.
Who would play you in a film about your life?
Wow. No idea. Some unknown who walks in off the street to the casting session, hungover, and blows everyone away at the reading.
What’s your favourite snack food when writing?
Don´t eat anything. Don´t drink anything either. I tend to go into a trance. Just write. Get it done, come out of the trance and then eat and drink what I want.
If you had a super power, what would it be?
To find out what type of alien life is out there – just to have a sneak peek. That or X-ray vision so I could see everyone with nothing on.
The Sensible Side:
Tell us a little about yourself. (How did you get started writing? What do you do when you’re not writing?)
I´ve always written. For a long time I thought publishing a book and working as a writer was going to come to me easily; that it was just what I was supposed to do. Since I was young, people have liked what I´ve written: friends, teachers, even judges in competitions. Maybe I took things for granted a bit. I drifted at university, studied journalism, as it seemed the closest thing to writing I could think of, and then spent most of my twenties and thirties writing and sending things off and almost being published.
It has been a strange journey. I´ve always had crumbs thrown to me, though, by the Writing Gods. There have been droughts, dry patches, deserts, and then suddenly something would happen – a crumb – something to keep me going. A prize, a meeting, interest, a way of getting what I was writing out into the world. Through it all I´ve always written but I´ve missed having readers.
Outside writing, I´m an English teacher. I really drifted into that. After university, I didn´t like the way my life was going and I ran away. I caught a ferry to Ireland one night, bus from Liverpool to Holyhead at midnight, alone with a backpack, and washed up in Galway. I worked in a bakery there and drifted on through France (waiter, cook and childminder) and finally decided to get the cert to become a TEFL teacher in Prague. The teachers I met on my travels were better paid than I was and had flats. In France I slept in a tent for eight months, although it did have a great view of Mont St Victoire.
I´ve taught English in Germany, Thailand and now Spain, and I like it. It gives you access to people from all areas of society. I suppose, looking back, it makes sense I´ve ended up doing this. I like our language and I´m lucky that right now it´s so popular. There´s actually more people speaking English as a second language on the planet these days than native speakers.
Where did the inspiration for The Invisible Hand come from?
From being taught Macbeth well at school in GCSE English Lit. I had a great teacher and the play captured my imagination. I got it. I loved the prophecies, the questions about fate and destiny, and the darkness. I always wanted to revisit it and one day it just rolled around. I sat down and it wrote itself, which is always nice.
What do you like the most about writing for a younger audience?
I don´t know. I don´t really think of it as writing for a younger audience. If anything I think of writing for myself back at the age when I read the play: for someone who loves books and worlds and imagination and wants to go somewhere else and have some fun. I don´t really change anything: the characters and situations mean the book will hopefully appeal to younger readers, readers the same age as the characters, but most of the adults who´ve read it have enjoyed it too.
Can you give us a brief excerpt of The Invisible Hand?
Sam climbed out carefully and tried one toe first. The ledge took.
Slowly he lowered both feet onto it, his full weight, and perceived the long drop down to the icy moat between his legs and felt dizzy. The ledge was so narrow he had to have his forehead and chin pressed against the stone while his fingers remained curled around the window sill.
Don´t look down.
Very carefully and slowly, Sam began to edge his way across the bare wall. The masonry was freezing cold to the touch but jagged and imprecise. There were handholds and nooks and crannies and – as he neared the window he hoped was Leana´s – he placed his fingers in one such a hole and disturbed an owl, which screeched as it flew out past his head, almost knocking him off the wall.
Stay calm! Stay calm!
Sam drew himself alongside the window and heard voices: the metal jamb was slightly ajar. People were whispering: a man and a woman. Sam´s grew jealous thinking he was overhearing Leana with another man but as he listened closer he realised what he could hear were the voices of the Master and Mistress of the castle.
Thinking of turning back, Sam became aware of Lady Macbeth´s voice directly above him and closed his eyes, sure she would look down and catch him. “Ah, infirm of purpose!” she was hissing. “Give me the daggers!” A moment later Sam felt what he thought was rain but looked up to see two glinting knives against the face of the moon: some kind of liquid from the knives had dripped onto his face.
Sam became dizzy again. The conversation he´d overheard, the goo he was examining on his hand – blood! blood! – the height and the coldness and the hour and the ordeal became too much for him.
His fingers simply left their holds and he tumbled down through the air with his eyes wide open, not saying a word.
Which is more important to you – plot or characters, and why?
I don´t know. I´ve been asked this before and I don´t have an answer. I take and write books as a whole. I think I have a strange relationship with all that stuff. I like the weirdest people, the baddies or the horrible people. I´m not impressed by complicated plots but I like surprises. One line can turn a book for me. I like the noise of the words, the rhythm. For me it´s all intertwined. I guess, romantically speaking, I believe stories are already written and it´s my job to just get them down on the page as honestly as I can. Squeezing characters into a plot doesn´t do this and nor does aimlessly following characters around watching them do whatever they do. For me it´s the story; the whole, a synthesis of the two.
The Invisible Hand is the first book in your series. Each book is set in the same boarding school but focuses on a different Shakespeare play. Was there a reason you started with Macbeth?
Honestly, because it´s my favourite of Shakespeare´s plays. I´ve always had a copy with me, wherever I´ve been in the world. It´s a story I´ve gone back to from time to time. I tried to learn some speeches once, at home, alone. Just some weird obsession. As I was writing it I also enjoyed meeting Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. I didn´t know what they were going to be like until I started typing the scenes. That was exciting.
What is the best thing about being a writer?
What can we expect from you in the future?
Hopefully lots more books. Certainly, one or two more in the Shakespeare´s Moon series if people like The Invisible Hand. The next book will be based on Romeo and Juliet. After that, I don´t know. I´m not short of ideas. I love history and most of the books I have either written or which are working themselves out in my mind are based, in some way, on historical events. No fixed plans. These things tend to take care of themselves!
How can we contact you or find out more about your books?
There is a prequel to The Invisible Hand now available on Smashwords and Amazon. Called Heart of Winter, it tells the story of a little girl who goes on to become the Headmistress of the school in The Invisible Hand.
My website is www.jameshartleybooks.com Subscribers to the website get a free story set at St Francis´ School, the school in the books.
The Invisible Hand is about a boy, Sam, who has just started life at a boarding school and finds himself able to travel back in time to medieval Scotland. There he meets a girl, Leana, who can travel to the future, and the two of them become wrapped up in events in /Macbeth/, the Shakespeare play, and in the daily life of the school. The book is the first part of a series called Shakespeare´s Moon. Each book is set in the same boarding school but focuses on a different Shakespeare play.
Huge thanks to @TraciYorkWriter for tagging me in on this fun feature, you can read Traci’s post HERE. I’ve enjoyed reading a few of these posts and learning more about my favourite bloggers, so I was delighted to be handed the opportunity to join in.
Get to Know Me Tag:
Share Your Profile Picture
Who are you named after?
My dad knew he was going to call me Shelley (if I was a girl) as soon as mum found out she was pregnant. He didn’t tell anyone (even mum) just in case someone pinched his idea! He also chose the extra ‘e’ variety of Shelley (not Shelly!) just like Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Do you like your handwriting?
Oh god, no! Years ago I had lovely handwriting, but then I discovered the beauty of typing my manuscripts directly onto the screen. This time-saving tactic was responsible for the demise of my curly script. If I write anything now, it looks like a two-year-old wrote it!
What’s your favorite lunch meat?
That would be chicken, preferably with crisp salad and lashings of mayonnaise.
I’m assuming this means romantic relationship rather than the forty-five years I’ve known my parents! Okay, that would be eight years (seven married), and there was nothing romantic about it!!
Do you still have your tonsils?
Would you bungee jump?
The extrovert me would say ‘hell yeah!’ to this question as I think it would be great fun (done over water in case the bungee snapped). However, the introvert me would run and hide.
Do you untie your shoes when you take them off?
The only shoes I wear with laces are my trainers, and the only time I wear my trainers is when I visit the gym. Therefore, no, I don’t untie them as I’m never in a fit state to bend over far enough to reach my feet after a gym session.
Ooh, controversial answer alert – I don’t like ice-cream.
What’s the first thing you notice about people?
Randomly it’s their height. Only because I’m just under five foot eleven inches tall and it’s a constant challenge to stoop so I can hear what people are saying.
Football or baseball?
I’m a Brit, so it’s got to be footy – Leeds United FC to be exact #MOT
What color pants are you wearing?
When I first read this question I was a bit shocked (how rude!), but then I remembered that these questions are American and ‘pants’ aren’t the same here as they are over the pond. So, in response, my ‘trousers’ are navy blue, and it’s none of your business what colour my ‘knickers’ are ha ha 😉
Last thing you ate?
Tea-cake (The biscuit base, marshmallow top, covered in chocolate kind that looks like a mini boob).
If you were a crayon what color would you be?
My favourite smell is from when my children were little. It’s that clean baby smell when you’ve just bathed them. After that, it’s cut grass.
Who was the last person you spoke to on the phone?
The hospital receptionist – she was very lovely.
Original colour is Brown (now with a smattering of grey. Oh, who am I kidding! If I didn’t dye it I’d look like Helen Mirren!) Dyed – Browny/red
Brown, or in my writer world, mocha!
Favorite food to eat?
Pizza! Pepperoni with stuffed crust is preferable but I’ll easily demolish any variety so long as there isn’t any pineapple on it – yuk.
Scary movies or happy endings?
I’m a bit of a horror fan, so a good scare is always welcome. However, I have a secret life as a chick flick fan where happy endings are mandatory, but shh, don’t tell anybody.
Last movie you watched?
Snow White and the Huntsman (can’t resist Chris Hemsworth).
Summer. If there is a beach, sunshine, blue sea and a cloudless sky then it’s a favourite holiday. I’m also partial to the odd historical ruin.
Beer or wine?
Tee-total for three years so neither. I can make a mean mocktail mojito though 🙂
Night owl or early bird?
When I was younger, I was a night owl, but once I hit the big 4-0 my bedtime crept towards nine o’clock! I’m up just after six in the morning these days when once upon a time I would have been just getting in.
Favorite day of the week?
I’m a bit of a freak about this, but I do love Monday! It’s a ‘new beginning’ kind of day. The start of a fresh week full of possibilities – told you I was a freak.
Three or (four) favorite bloggers you want to learn more about?
Having brought my own life back from the brink on several occasions, I felt that Kate Spencer’s book, Twelve Lessons would be a perfect read for me.
It’s very cleverly written as it fits into the personal development genre and yet it’s disguised as a contemporary romance. Stephanie Slater’s life falls apart at the seams, with one disaster after another landing at her feet. She attends a party where there is a Tarot reader who tells her that certain hardships are coming her way, but she refuses to believe such a charlatan. Stephanie is fine. Life is fine. Nothing could ever burst her bubble – could it? Continue reading “#TuesdayBookBlog Twelve Lessons by Kate Spencer #NewAge #Romance #BookReview”→
I’m unfamiliar with the original fairy tale that this novel is based on, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, so I can’t comment on the uniqueness of this re-telling. However, I can say that it is a thoroughly enjoyable book in its own right. I did keep expecting the sisters to disappear into a magical land but I think this was down to the book being placed under the myths and fairy tale category. I think it would be better suited in young adult romance.
Over on my motivational blog I decided it would be fun to post a few thought provoking questions at the end of each month. I’m delighted that fellow blogger, Shaun from Clockworkclouds has taken this a step further and blogged his answers. Check it out…
Q1. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What small steps can you take between now and December 31st to achieve it?
In 5 years I see myself as a writer/photographer. I’m out of the daily 9 – 5 grind, I’m out of the sterile, stressful, impersonal office, and I’m in a studio of my own. Level Up Photography is bringing in frequent customers, Dark Background is publishing my work and the works of others, and in the down time I’m writing my novels or working on the Clouds.
The small steps to get there are the usual: Do more!Write more! Greg and I over…
I’m a bit late posting my review for The Reading Group: December. However, if you haven’t already grabbed yourself a copy of this lovely little book, I suggest you hit the link below because it’s FREE.
The Reading Group: December, is a delightful, heart-warming story of true friendship. The Reading Group is a series of novellas, December being the first in the series, and it’s here we are introduced to the friends’ who make up the reading group.
Every story is written about a different character, weaving the account of their lives into the book choice of the month.