29 September 2014

My new blog

This blog has finally come to the end of the road. Please come with me to my new blog, simply called Sally Zigmond by clicking on this link and we can carry on as before.

21 September 2014

Moving On.

This is the last post from The Elephant. I am starting a brand-new blog and the old elephant is retiring to a pachyderm rest-home. But fret ye not. Nothing much will change. It will be the same mix of my life in fabulous Rosedale, my own writing progress (successes and failures), book reviews and plenty of observations and opinions on writing and publishing. I will not be taking down this blog at all so all the old stuff can be found. My new blog is simply called Sally Zigmond and can be found here. So please bookmark it  but don't go there yet- you will not find anything much at all - it's still, as is my life, a work in progress.

So, briefly before I go on my very last, but very short, summer break- including a long-awaited visit to Bowes Museum - before autumn finally caches me up and I can then concentrate on the final throes of my novel, here's a summary of what has been happening recently.

We've been to the Isle of Man...where we had a good day walking around Peel Castle's impressive ramparts that overlook the Irish Sea.

Peel Castle facing the harbour

And on the ocean side where I'm actually gazing out to sea, hence the sunglasses!

But before that, we stayed near Bridlington where we visited the newly refurbished Sewerby Hall, again overlooking the sea  - this time the North Sea.

Then it was off to Weymouth, Dorset (and the English Channel ) for a long week when the weather was gloriously warm for September with stunning blue skies (except the day when Jon took this  photo from near the Sea-Life Tower.)

I can't leave this mention of Weymouth without praising the fabulous camp-site where pitched our van. We have been members for over 30 years of the Caravan Club and usually prefer their sites because they are well-maintained with clean, superior facilities. But then we found Higher Moor Farma splendid independent site with its state-of-the-art showers and loos, well-stocked farm shop and the wonderful Daniel, not to mention Laura who welcomed us on out arrival. Nothing was too much trouble for Daniel. He is a star. You can find Higher Moor Farm on Facebook and Twitter. Please stay with them when you're ever in the area.  You will not be disappointed.

And so, until later when I see you at my new blog entitled Sally Zigmond. (There's nothing like a bit of PR.)

30 August 2014

More on The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Not long ago while back when I read a review-copy (as a participant of the Amazon Vine Programme) and was completely bowled over. I posted my thoughts here.

Not only have my opinions not changed, I am delighted to hear that, since its publication, it has stormed to the top of the fiction best-sellers list. And that's just the hardback (which I actually bought to replace my well-thumbed review copy.  I love the cover illustration, by the way.) Some other Amazon reviewers have objected to the so-called "fantasy" element but, to me, these are picky, over-factual people who like everything explained to make total logical sense. Well, as a woman with a little bit of experience under her belt,life ain't like that. Small illogical inexplicable things happen all the time. OK. Physicists,  psychologists or neuroscientists such as Oliver Sacks could tell you why but often it's best left alone. And what's more, fiction can be whatever you want it to be. Think of Steampunk which for the life of me I can't get my head round although I'm perfectly happy it exists as a genre of fiction.

Where was I? Oh yes. The Miniaturist. It has remained my favourite novel this year - and yes, I loved and admired Sarah Water's The Paying Guests, for which I am currently writing an article, rather than a review, for the Historical Novel Society. If you think that this best-selling author (especially a d├ębutante), takes success in her stride, I hope you'll enjoy reading this. One day in the future  I'll find myself lucky enough to be where she might so happen to be signing copies of this novel or her next or her next...

28 August 2014

This blog is like your bus route...

...you wait for ages, grew bored and impatient...not to mention downright annoyed and then...two blighter arrive together. But I just had to link to the Daily Telegraph article by Rowan Pelling about Writer's Block. It rang so many bells with me. You may recall I have suffered on and off with WB and even blogged about it here. And I have also written about my bouts of depression - thankfully I'm clear for the moment although I am acutely aware that depression might descend with its hopelessness and misery at any moment which is why I count my blessings every time I wake up smiling and eager to to up and doing. To me, the two are closely linked which is why I despise writers who scoff at the very idea and call people like me lazy and self-indulgent.

I have recently discovered Mindfulness or Living in the Moment, as it is often called. I don't meditate or anything like that but I now take time to study a tiny wild flower on the roadside verge or see our village as through the eyes of the many visitors and day-trippers who might  walk along the lane on the other side of our hedge exclaiming at the view or enjoying a drink in the pub garden next door or remarking on the flocks bleating sheep that are so familiar to us residents but special to them.

Okay. So I am not actually writing at moments like these. But I am enriched and, I hope, more in tune with the world and not chasing success or money or applause.

27 August 2014

In case you thought...

...I'd disappeared off the planet, I thought I'd remind you that I'm still here and doing fine and particularity happy that Jon is, too, after his major heart surgery. But what with an eventful summer so far - including a brief trips to Ayr and then Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games, catching up with good friends and family, not to mention Rosedale's annual show (always a great crowd puller!), plus various trips in our camper van around triathlon events  in which Jon was working rather than competing..(If you watched the TV programme last week featuring this year's Outlaw triathlon in Nottingham, you'll have spotted Jon in a rather fine safari hat relieving the leading woman of her bike in transition) so I've hardly had time to draw breath. Next week we're off to the Isle of Man to see old friends (alas,  it'll be too early to enjoy the great Manx Litfest  One year the dates will coincide.

So what did that mean for my writing? Well, I've been keeping a low profile on social media lately because every spare moment I've been frantically catching up with both reading some fine books but, most of all, my novel in progress. It's been moving on more slowly than I had hoped. But in case you're interested, I can report I can finally see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Now is not the time to rush. Why should I? After all I do not have any deadlines, no publisher champing at the bit but have a very patient agent.

So I'll leave you with a few snaps of my summer so far. When the dust has settled, I will have time to elaborate on  the books I've enjoyed and the knowledge I've gained this summer about revising a novel and whether I turned the mediocre first draft I stupidly submitted to my agent into something better. We shall see. But I wouldn't hold your breath. But I don't care because although I was despondent when I began the revision I thoroughly enjoyed it - and my action-packed summer. (Well action-packed for me.)
With Paula and Readman and Ivy Lord at The Milburn Arms before a fine lunch. 

My two sons and grandson and friend!

Face to Face with Clyde, the Commonwealth Games mascot (A thistle, I believe)

Isaac with Mummy Clare

Peace before they all arrived at Whitewater Caravan Club site, Stockton

Finally, I shall be at Harrogate's Old Swan Hotel attending my second Harrogate History Festival - 23rd - 26th October 2014. I so enjoyed the  inaugural  event, I've already booked for this year! If you're going too, please come and say hello. I shall be around, maybe in the Swan's famous bar! It's not as frenetic at the Swan as the celebrated Crime Festival but far more civilised and friendly. It's early days yet and also sponsored by Theakston's Ale and it's slowly gaining ground. I'm delighted that, for once. it's not so far away from my home to make it impossible now I am becoming less able to stay up all hours. To me, it's a must for all historical novelists.

19 July 2014

When Yorkshire wore Yellow

Time goes quickly in Blog-World. I was almost ready to post my report on the recent triumphant visit of The Tour de France to Yorkshire, when one humdinger of a thunderstorm fried the router and also my trusty PC. Why do these things happen at the weekend? Anyway, by the time it was all fixed, Le Tour de Yorkshire had become a distant memory for most people who don't follow it avidly. (Keep on pedalling all the way to Paris, Nibali!)

Well, briefly, what a party it was! But not for us - well not exactly, although I am so pleased it went so well for Yorkshire. You see, we have a camper van and nothing is better designed for watching the Tour in France, Belgium, Italy or any other European country it passes through - except, not in the UK. What we had planned to do to park by the side of the road at least a day or so beforehand, finding the perfect spot on an uphill section where the riders are not whizzing past in a huge peleton at 40 mph.


You can sit in comfort if you want to, enjoy a cup of tea  or even champagne and strawberries and be sheltered if the weather does its worst. (Fortunately, it behaved impeccably and only rained when it got to London - so please excuse my little northern snigger.)

So we planned several suitable places by using maps, Street View and the detailed route plan of the first day's stage. In France etc, it seems you can park more or less anywhere in the countryside as long as you don't block the road. And certainly lay-bys are fine and picnic areas. You can see them in droves on TV's TdeF coverage. But not, here. All lay-bys had been  roped off and signs everywhere warned you not to park except at designated 'pop-up' camp-sites with big screens or in town squares. Otherwise you would be towed away. Of course, you could catch a designated bus from approved stops and then walk 2 or 3 miles or more to a place where you could stand in huge crowds, if you were lucky - and many were. Plus if you so happened to live in a town or village on the route, well bingo!. Now, walking to a suitable vantage point would be absolutely fine, if you're able to climb up steep hills either on foot or on your your bike  with a rucksack containing enough food and drink to last several hours and you could find a handy portaloo. (Have you ever used one of those when it's been used for more than an hour?) Since my stroke, I'm still a little wobbly on my legs. A non-starter for me.

But with a trusty camper-van, everything would have been hunky-dory. As we have a tank of fresh water, our own loo, a shower etc. And although there is no mains electricity away from a camp-site, we can use our gas-heater, cooker and kettle. Perfect.

We were sunk. We have roughed it in our youth - at pop festivals etc, but now we prefer  some comfort - not to mention independence. Why watch the tour on a big screen in a crowd when you can watch in comfort at home?

Okay, moan over. At least we were able to enjoy the Tour de France atmosphere and be proud to be (adopted) Yorkshire folk. And didn't we do well?

Now time and the tour have moved on and we are now making plans to return to our beloved French Pyrenees in 2015. We used to take our old caravan every August when our boys were small and we had a fabulous time. Next year we can travel in our van earlier in the year without having to worry about school and work holidays. The Tour always goes somewhere in that area (as well as the Alps) every year so we will plan our vantage point when we have information out the exact route.

Vive La France and their liberal approach to camper-van parking!

PS. For anyone who is still interested, I am still revising my novel in progress. It's amazing what you can do in  a camper-van. I can even see the light at the end of the tunnel. As long as it's not the Channel Tunnel and a TGF coming the other way.

01 July 2014

Out and About

I'm going away tomorrow for a week or so. In between, we shall spend one night and day in the other Yorkshire National Park (that is, The Yorkshire Dales and not the North York Moors although both contain both!) We are hoping to cheer on Chris Froome and his pals whizzing past where we will park our camper-van and give them all a cheer. If you don't know about whom or what I'm talking, you're not a cycling fan like me.

Here are 2 easy clues: (I hope the weather will be more like the first than the second. But you never know in Yorkshire!) See you all soon.