Reading Starts Early

My favorite Enid Blyton series, the Adventure Series.
My favorite Enid Blyton series, the adventure series.

Reading is perhaps my absolute favorite pastime and whether or not I consciously choose readers as friends, I’m not sure, but almost all of my friends have an interest in literature.

One thing I have observed is that reading starts early in life, often with parents or grandparents and bedtime stories. I remember, as I grew old enough to read by myself I found escape in suspenseful adventure stories.  Born and raised in England,  Enid Blyton’s stories of adventure and the famous five series’ were my absolute favorites. They featured children of my age or a little older, doing things I was either to scarred to even thing about or wouldn’t dare do, whatever it was, it kept me turning the pages of a magical, imaginary world. Visit the Enid Blyton Society for a trip down memory lane. http://enidblytonsociety.co.uk

Children Reading 1900s Courtesy of http://theolddesignshop.com
Children Reading 1900s
Courtesy of http://theolddesignshop.com

The picture to the right, a delightful image of children reading, possibly late Victoria era, could be Anna as a toddler and her brother Charlie. Anna the protagonist in my novel The Blue Pendant, makes several references to children’s literature; Lewis Carroll’s, Alice in Wonderland and Beatrix Potter’s, Benjamin Bunny and Jemima Puddle Duck. Anna yearned for adventure, gleaned from stories her Uncle Bertie told her of British India and  he introduced her to Rudyard Kipling, who, early in the story was her favourite author.  Anna’s thirst for adventure was at first quenched by books and without a doubt, together with Uncle Bertie’s encouragement, lead her to seek her own adventures and a strong desire for independence. The Blue Pedant is the story of Anna’s journey that is a far greater struggle in person than in books.

I have yet to see how an electronic device can take the place of a paper book. Don’t get me wrong I have an e-reader and I download ebooks as well as buying paper books. But I am not sure a plastic device can replace the magic of flipping the pages of a bedtime story.


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A Beautiful Complexion in Victorian Times?

Toilet Mask or Face Glove was a genuine Victorian solution for obtaining a perfect complexion.

Victorian beauty aid Courtesy of Olddesignshop.com
Victorian beauty aid
Courtesy of Olddesignshop.com

One of the fun things about writing historical fiction is the research, copious amounts of research and fact checking. The Blue Pendant is fiction from my overzealous imagination but historical facts, dates and places must be accurate, that part is easy. Understanding the daily living regime of an era is a little more difficult. But, I have to say, it is a lot of fun researching and uncovering all kinds of trivia, and then determining what is appropriate and what is not for the characters and story. I doubt that my protagonist Anna Neale would have used such a device as the toilet mask but it is an interesting discovery even if it was before  Anna’s time. Can you imagine sleeping in this toilet mask/face glove three times a week. I wonder what kind of reaction you met get from your spouse. I don’t know if Anna tried anything like this but young women try lots of things. Could it be any worse than sleeping in rollers, which I did most nights during my youth.

Victorian fashion prescribed that ladies should have pure white skin; not only did they cover themselves with big hats and parasols but they used creams to make their skin white, some with poisonous ingredients like mercury and arsenic.Perhaps the toilet mask or face glove was a safer solution. And, of course today we expose our skin to harmful sun rays for what the 21st century considers a healthy glow. Vanity knows no boundaries of time or place.


SIGN UP FOR SUSAN’S E-NEWSLETTER. A brief summary of June’s blogs, plus trivia for readers, interviews, reviews, book and author news. Next issue July 4, 2015.


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Please feel free to share this blog with friends, or on social media but please remember the content belongs to me. Copyright © Susan A. Jennings

Pictures that Inspire Stories

Pond Black Lake
A bright November Day by the Pond at Black Lake

Many of you are familiar with Hannah Wilton, a retired teacher come photographer, turned amateur sleuth who has a habit of ruffling the feathers of Detective Brindle. The latest story Murder in the Painting is due for release, I had hoped this month, but there has been a delay due to illness but it is coming soon.

Murder in the Painting is the eighth story of the Hannah and Tom Wilton series. The mysteries are always set at Blue Heron Cottage on the shores of  Black Lake and around Perth Ontario. Coming up with ideas can be a challenge. During a late season visit to Black Lake I took some photographs of the dreary November scenery only to discover that November was not as dreary as I thought.

Look closely at the photo. The rich blue sky is reflected on the thin ice of the pond.  The surrounding vegetation is displaying various tones of brown. It was this photo that inspired  the story. The protagonist Hannah, an amateur photographer, shot the photograph for  her friend and neighbour, artist Maggie who transforms it into a painting. Ultimately the photo inspires a story of intrigue, mayhem and murder with some very unsavory characters woven into the suspense of a mystery.

Blue Heron Mysteries – Book 2 – Four mystery stories including Murder in the Painting will be available in eBook format shortly. Blue Heron Mysteries – Book 1 is now available at Kobo and Kindle for details see Books eBooks and Stories.


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How is Rudyard Kipling connected to The Blue Pendant?

Rudyard_Kipling,_by_Elliott_&_Fry
Rudyard Kipling

The Blue Pendant, historical fiction, connected Anna, the protagonist, to India through her uncle. Author, Rudyard Kipling, connected to India through birth. His Parents, Alice and John Lockwood Kipling spent their courtship at Rudyard Lake in Staffordshire, England, which explains Rudyard’s unusual name. After they married they moved to British India, where his father was Principal and Professor of Architectural Sculpture at Sir Jamseetjee Jeejebhoy School of Art in Bombay. Kipling was born in Bombay in 1865.

At five years old, Kipling was taken to England to board with a couple in Portsmouth, while he attended primary school, until old enough for boarding school. Reflecting on his childhood, Kipling wondered if his early interest in writing, which later developed into a literary life, might have been his way of coping with the abuse and neglect he suffered in Portsmouth.

The mid to late 19th century was the height of the the Victorian British Empire and it was normal for parents, working overseas in the British Empire, to send young children home to be educated.  I can’t imagine sending my children away, at any age, let alone at five years old.

In his adult years, Kipling travelled and lived in India and England. After marrying Carrie Balestier, an American, they lived in Vermont until political concerns prompted the family to move. After much traveling, they settled down in 1902 at a place called Burwash Sussex. Here they raised two of three children; Josephine their oldest daughter had died in1899 at the age of six. Kipling stayed in that house until his death in 1936.

I know this is a slim connection and perhaps a mere coincidence, but the first part of the The Blue Pendant is also set in Sussex, albeit a few miles away at Bexhill-on-Sea.

No matter where they lived, Kipling was a prolific writer and subsequently became one of the most famous authors of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  He wrote for children and adults alike. The Jungle Book is a household name, even today, but he also wrote poems, short stories that were very popular in Victorian times, as well as novellas and novels. Many of his stories were of India, which is perhaps why he was Anna’s favorite author. Several of his titles are mentioned in The Blue Pendant.

The connection goes a little deeper when Anna sympathizes with Kipling’s struggle and early denial, of his son’s death in the Great War.

Rudyard Kipling was a fascinating man and author, for more details go to Wikipedia or read his biography. The original biography called, Rudyard Kipling written by John Palmer in 1923 has been restored and is available from Chapters/Indigo or select from the many other versions available in paperback or eBooks, at any on line book retailer.


NEW – Sign up for Susan’s monthly e-newsletter All in One Place – A brief summary of May’s blogs, plus interesting book and author news. Next issue June 5, 2015 

The Sackville Hotel, Bexhill

The Sackville Hotel 1910
The Sackville Hotel 1910

The Sackville Hotel, Background and History.   Even before I write the first word of a novel, there is one important task I have to accomplish. Research, which enlightens the author, to interesting facts and the history of places, buildings and people related to the novel. Some of which will be blended into the story but most of it will be discarded.

Today I would like to share some of The Sackville’s history.  (Full story)

The Sackville Hotel opened in 1890 and was the first luxury hotel, (155 guest rooms with palatial common areas), to take its place along Bexhill-on-Sea’s sea front. In the twelve years that followed, Bexhill developed into a resort for the titled and wealthy. The name Sackville came from the De La Warr family name. The hotel was developed by the 7th Earl from a row of small houses, the corner house was, for a time, home to the Earl’s son Viscount Cantelupe.

In 1897 the hotel was sold and renovated by Frederick Hotels Ltd. who would own it for the next sixty years. Requisitioned during the second world war for use by the Royal Air Force and Army, it was hit by several bombs, which almost destroyed the hotel.  It was eventually sold in 1956  to be reopened as a hotel in 1957, only to be closed for the last time in 1959. In 1963 it was bought and converted into luxury apartments. Fifty-two years later The Sackville, now stands as a complex of luxury, retirement apartments with a variety of amenities.  Discover Bexhill for full details.


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NEXT BLOG: Friday April 3rd 2015. ‘An interview with petulant Annie.’ and drum roll please…I will announce ‘Annie’s’ title.  Thank you everyone who offered their suggestions. If you haven’t claimed your short story please send me an email susanajennings@gmail.com  and I will send you a copy- Stories offered A Grave Secret and/or The Angel Card. For a synopsis go to Books on my website

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Well, that’s all for today, please add your comments, I love to hear from you.

Happy reading. Susan

Reading My Manuscript

PictureIt is a good day to write or read…Yep! Spring is two days old, but I cannot see across the Ottawa River for it is snowing hard today.
Annie Neale the wonderful main character in my novel has been tucked away for a while, and I have missed her. I have one more read through to do, and today is a perfect day.
Then, with some trepidation, I hand over the manuscript to selected readers for their opinion of the novel. Nail biting time!  

The True Struggle of Writing Begins….

Writing StrugglesI know that even constructive criticism is hard to take and I was prepared for my writing to be critiqued, after all that is the whole idea of having willing people read your work. I already know my sentence structure leaves something to be desired, I need grammarians to set me straight; there are times when I get carried away with wordy descriptions, I need fresh eyes to tell me whether the passage needs shortening, rewording or taken out all together. That I have learnt to handle, knowing it is essential.
Naively it had not occurred to me that the actual characters themselves might be criticized; not the writing but the person I wrote them to be.
Photo of Coralee, my writing buddy, and me, the day we got together to celebrate reaching our goal of finishing our manuscripts. Now that has to be the most amazing feeling for a writer.