I had a great time writing ‘1962: A Nostalgic Tale of 1960s Lancashire’ which I published in 2017. I had an even better time revisiting the book and have relaunched it this week with a new cover. Later, there will also be a collection of four short stories I wrote at the time, all set in 1962. 😊 My dad provided inspiration for this novel. He was a cycling enthusiast, entered races (and won), and he was in his late 20s in 1962 – so the characters were not based on him, or his life story. He just gave me the idea. In 2012, we were watching a programme that marked 50 years since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Dad turned to me and said ‘You know, people were petrified that we would all be blown up, but I just wanted to get a good time in the time trial race I had entered on Sunday.’ This conversation sparked something in me, and the book was born! Dad helped me with a bit of research, including asking everyone he knew if they remembered how they felt about the looming threat of nuclear war in 1962 – as a person living in the north of England. Interestingly, Mum said she hardly remembered anything about it!
I have been lucky enough to join a book promotion called ‘Soulful Reads’which runs from June 19 to July 19. Well worth a nosy, I’ve had a preview of the titles – some will definitely end up on my reading list.
The Queen’s Speech (and other shorts from 1962) is a collection of four short stories I wrote in 2017 when I was researching the novel. I think this prequel will get readers in the mood for reading about 1962.
Unfortunately, there are no MINI’s in the short story collection, just one in the novel.
Happy reading everyone, have a great weekend, Samantha 🙂
Bleak House and Curmudgeon Avenue both written about houses.
Imagine my surprise when this years first book of my creative writing and English literature degree was announced as Bleak House by Charles Dickens.
I had never read this book before, and it rolled onto my Kindle with an estimated reading time of twenty seven hours (I think they guess these times on your personal reading speed). The first thing I did (not for academic purposes) was to have a quick nosy on Wikipedia… Then I read this sentence ‘The novel has many characters and several sub-plots,’
Let’s just have a look at that again The novel has many characters and several sub-plots,
Remind you of anything?
Yes, Curmudgeon Avenue – the six and a half part series also has many characters and several sub-plots but I promise… or as we say in Manchester I swear down I had not read Bleak House before I started writing Curmudgeon Avenue.
When the multi talented Lindsay McKinnon of Theatre of The Mind Productions narrated the audiobooks of Curmudgeon Avenue, she wrote a post on her website ’50 Shady Characters & More’ which you can read and see her contact details (if you are looking for a narrator) by clicking on the words in bold.
I didn’t realise I had written 50 characters, but with all the supporting extras they do add up! Especially if you include all six and a half books.
Bleak house has 52 characters.
Incomplete sentences, some reviewers (in the US) have picked up on this. Yes I write with British English grammar and spelling, this includes a creative turn of phrase. My character Wantha Rose likes to refer to herself in the third person – particularly if her boyfriend Ricky has upset her (as so often he does).
‘Nobody upsets Wantha Rose. NOBODY.‘
See what I mean?
Charles Dickens was also a fan of incomplete sentences. The opening to Bleak House starts with the one word sentence ‘London.’ Say what you like about Curmudgeon Avenue but even George Eliot’s fancy-piece George Henry Lewes (famous philosopher and literary critic) was unable to review Charles Dickens into submission – even though they were ‘dear friends’.
Charles Dickens, the Victorian literary genius and me (I can’t say and I – I’m from Manchester) both like incomplete sentences in our books.
That’s books about houses, Bleak House and Curmudgeon Avenue.
Bleak House is set in London and Lincolnshire – there is an actual Bleak House in Broadstairs, Kent
Curmudgeon Avenue, is of course, fictional. This street could be anywhere in Whitefield, which as you know is a real life town north of Manchester.
Bleak House and Curmudgeon Avenue both have unusual narration choices.
Dickens’s Bleak house was serialised and the finished novel version appeared in 1853. The serials published in three or four chapters. The novel is narrated by a third-person omniscient narrator and the first-person limited account of character Esther Summerson. Though these narrative voices greatly differed, Bleak House worked because the narrations were not mixed within the chapter, (so readers either got Esther or the omniscient narrator speaking to them). This meant that Victorian readers of Dickens’s Bleak House knew what was going to happen next before the narrator Esther Summerson.
I’m about to write a long explanation… wait for it…
The Curmudgeon Avenue Series is written from the point of view of the first house on the street. The house becomes an omniscient character and so, the name Number One Curmudgeon Avenue has capital letters. This means that the books are second person witness narrated.
Very unusual, most books are either first person ‘I’, third person ‘they’. Second person is hardly ever used, the reader is addressed ‘you’. I couldn’t help it… I wanted the house to tell the story, and this technique allowed me to satirise the people who lived in the street:
‘Edna’s costume jewellery jangled like tinnitus’ [Who said this? Number One Curmudgeon Avenue, of course]
There is a review on Goodreads that explains it all from a reader who ‘got’ the Curmudgeon Avenue Series. The reviewer said something like ‘I wondered at first how the house got to know everything. But then I remembered I was reading a book where the house told the story, so why wouldn’t the house know everything?’
As writers, we must trust our readers to make what they will of our books. Otherwise, we would write books that TELL rather than SHOW. And although I am not against telling a little, it is much more fun to show the reader what you mean, that there is a house with a personality with eyes and ears watching every move and making fun of it (for our benefit).
A bit like Charles Dickens having fun with his readers when Esther Summerson doesn’t know what we know because we’ve already read about it when the omniscient narrator was having a turn. (I was going to pop a spoiler in here because Bleak House is a famous book, and if you were to Google it, you can read a plot summary, but I decided not to because that is cheating!) All I will say is the book is about Esther Summerson’s parentage and the long running Jarndyce and Jarndyce legal case.
Charles Dickens used repetition to remind his readers which character or location they were reading about. (Ideal for those early readers who caught the serialised editions in Household Words). Fog is mentioned thirty times as a literary device, a curtain of fog… readers must wait for the fog to clear before they get to know the plot. Mud is mentioned thirteen times, ‘mud and mire’, all a bit grim around Chancery and Tom-all-Alone’s. Mrs Bagnet’s domestic dinner-times. Grandfather Smallweed who does not go out without his Grandaughter, Judy who he speaks to as though she is his servant. And Mr Krook’s bottle shop and lodgings are said to symbolise ‘rock bottom’.
Repetition in Curmudgeon Avenue is just for fun really, I suppose I could say that I was trying to reflect the house’s disdainful personality. Repeated phrases (that I slotted in wherever I could) are ‘For longer than reasonably necessary’ or ‘quite some time’. Both probably reflect that Curmudgeon Avenue has been hanging around since Victorian times.
Yes, both Bleak House and Curmudgeon Avenue are social satires.
Bleak House was written as a contemporary novel in 1853, Curmudgeon Avenue is a contemporary novel of current times.
Dickens wrote Bleak House is a social commentary. The upper middle class characters are very well spoken ‘Anything to vary this detestable monotony. Oh, go on, do!’ This is Lady Dedlock, she sounds very posh to me. Dickens’s poorer characters have a colloquial vernacular which Dickens wrote in non-standard English grammar. ‘I know wot she’s come for!’
Curmudgeon Avenue is a bit of fun… All the characters are Northern, working class and speak with a Manchester turn-of-phrase. Using this technique aims to bring character to the… characters. Nobody ever says ‘and I’ in North West England. When we greet each other, we say ‘Alright’ sometimes, the exuberance of a hello sounds like ‘Alrite’ . These are not typos – it is how things are round here. ‘I knows someone called Ricketts‘ (from The Terraced House Diaries)
I regularly watch a film or read a book and think ‘that reminds me of’ another film or book. Reminds doesn’t mean the same as. I love it.
Have you read a book/watched a film that reminded you of another story?
Well, here it is, the week between Christmas and New Year. This is the week where, traditionally we are all grumpily requesting the return of our routine, because we have all been doing one another’s heads in at home. To be fair, that is how we have been all year, but getting along nicely in the next breath.
You may have eaten too much turkey, you may have had too much fun, you may need to put down the chocolates, wine and sausage rolls.
Curmudgeon Avenue is a six part series set in the actual town of Whitefield, just north of Manchester UK – fictional street. The house grew weary of its nincompoop residents and started writing a diary about the gossip, romance and dramas on the street.
(Unusual second person witness narrated with British English grammar, spelling and turn of phrase)
This final instalment has been great fun to write. A contemporary story, I decided to tell it how it is and include the current global crisis. BUT with three weddings to arrange, a socially distanced hen do and an unexpected turn of events, it was tricky!
Chapter 29: The Day This All Ended
On the day this all ended, the sky was overwrought for the end of December. This year had been going on for quite some time, EVERYONE would say, for longer than reasonably necessary, and some would even say this is the end of an era.
Television programmes clung to the idea of Christmas while folk respectfully requested the return of their routine. Edna and Genevieve had searched high and low for the ghost of Edith, wishing to bid her farewell before their extended French holiday. Despite their sneaky suspicions about the under-the-stairs-door they could not open, they were unable to find her.
Small Paul had not left Number One Curmudgeon Avenue disappointed; of course, Gordon Bennett agreed to be his best man. Zandra Bennett was thrilled too (and even cast aside her dismay at no new wedding outfit. Not even new costume jewellery).
‘Tooooonaaaaan!’ Wantha shouted at the spare room door of number four Curmudgeon Avenue. ‘It’s your weddin’ day, innit!’
‘Alright, Wantha I’ve only just got to sleep, been awake most of the night,’ Toonan said.
‘Toonan! What are you playing at? You’re gonna have bags under your eyes!’
‘Well, I suppose I’ll match Small Paul then, aww his mum’s so sweet she said nowt about his black eye.’
‘Do you want me to go round there and put some concealer on him?’ said Wantha.
‘No, I don’t think so, no thanks Wantha.’
‘The black eye gives him a bit of an edge, I suppose.’
‘Are you alright, Wantha? You look a bit peaky…’ surely nothing else could go wrong with Toonan and Small Paul’s wedding?
Meanwhile, at Number One Curmudgeon Avenue…
‘I don’t know how much more of this I can take,’ said Edith. She had been trapped for days inside her prior sanctuary with a smell and two ex-husbands.
‘How much more of this? We were happy, Edith until Harold came along.’ Reg huffed.
Harold (ghost of) wobbled his head and then stared into nothingness ahead of him. This is how Harold always dealt with confrontation, don’t forget. Pretend it was not happening, yet Edith could hear him, she could hear sniffing and swallowing, sighing and wobbling.
Is it a happy ending? Bitter Sweet that’s how I’d describe it.
A Curmudgeonly Christmas opens with Zandra Bennett’s mother making Christmas plans in August, while Gordon Bennett is out on the street measuring potholes.
Ricky Ricketts and Tanya ‘Wantha’ Rose finally get married (it’s their third attempt). A Zoom wedding means that Wantha forgets all about being walked down the aisle – will she ever find out who her daddy is?
Francesca and Suzanne ‘Toonan’ Rose decide to have a double wedding but Francesca is acting and looking differently to her norm. She thinks her expanding waistline is due to lockdown love handles!
Gil Von Black has doubts about Patchouli, while Small Paul becomes everyone’s hero.
And the ghosts are immune to any and all pandemic restrictions.
A Curmudgeonly Christmas (Curmudgeon Avenue #6) is the final instalment of the Curmudgeon Avenue series and will be published on the 27th of December. Available to pre order from today!
Curmudgeon Avenue has been going on for quite some time. Some would say for longer than is reasonably necessary.
Feeling proper emosh! I have finished writing the Curmudgeon Avenue series with a Christmas special.
Gordon Bennett is obsessed with the size of potholes on the street, Wantha and Ricky may or may not seal the romantic deal. Christmas is coming, and Francesca is getting fat. Patchouli’s past comes back to haunt her – will Gil Von Black be able to cope?
Oh – and the ghosts are immune from any and all pandemic restrictions.
A Curmudgeonly Christmas is intended to provide a bit of light relief during the week between Christmas and New Year. You know the one, that week we are all fed up with eating, drinking and each other!
The book started with Harold Edith and Edna, and the story of how they ended up living together. The series evolved into a social satire about a group of neighbours and their intertwined lives. Gossip, romance, dramas and laughs follow all written with British English spelling and grammar and narrated with a voice typical of how folk say ‘stuff’ in the Northwest of England.
All lighthearted, all easy reads, all a bit of fun.
Audiobooks narrated by the hilarious and talented Lindsay McKinnon.
Samantha Henthorn talks about whether to write ‘Prosecco’ or ‘prosecco’ in her novels.
I want to talk about something that has been on my mind for a while.
If anyone follows me on Twitter or Facebook, you may have noticed that I have… noticed that fizzy wine has started giving me heartburn! Talk about #45yearoldproblems I am gutted! Literally.
That is not what this post is about – I just don’t know whether to capitalise or not when I am writing fiction (it crops up often in Curmudgeon Avenue) and I have been doing some serious research about Prosecco during the past few years.
Ha! I have even drank it by the sea according to the above photograph (although on closer inspection that is another brand of fizzy wine).
What I have done, when I say research is every time I am reading a book, and the word Prosecco or prosecco pops up, I make a note of it. by pressing some buttons on my Kindle.
Well, the results have come in (from traditionally published books) I have read on my Kindle, and four are spelt prosecco with a lower case p and eleven are spelt Prosecco.
Interestingly, comedy drama/light humour (the genre I write in) capitalised the P for Prosecco. And literary fiction/crime novels do not. (In the non scientific research I carried out).
Let’s do a google search (google is another one! Google/google)
Lots of things came up
People also ask
Do you capitalize wines?
Rule 3: When a wine is named after a grape, do not capitalize – unless the grape is named after a place and the wine comes from that place. … Cabernet Sauvignon originated in Bordeaux, and if the wine comes from there, capitalize; cabernet is the name of the grape, not a city, and deserves no capital.
There is a village called Prosecco in Italy, but the fizzy wine is produced (inside and) outside the village. In the past, the grape used to make Prosecco was called both prosecco and Glera. (I got this information by doing an internet search, an article came up by Wine Enthusiast which you can read here)
Did you see that above? ALSO WITHOUT CAPITAL – so both are right! Phew!
And let’s look at the Chambers Dictionary that I was advised to buy for my Creative writing degree, hold on, it’s upstairs.
Phew! Massive dictionary – I am shattered now!
Tiny writing! It just says ‘prosecco n an Italian sparkling white wine.’
I asked my friends. Most of them didn’t care, one said that he had been to Italy and they don’t capitalise the word prosecco. Then he said he was just joking and had made this little anecdote up. I could text my friend who is a school teacher but it’s a Tuesday afternoon and who has the time to answer my nonsense?
So, there you have it. Some say Prosecco, some say prosecco. And that’s OK! Apologies if I have made you thirsty on a school night.