Introduce Yourself: Introducing Guest Author Sheila Williams

Did another author interview. Hope you’re not getting tired of them they are such fun to do. My thanks to Yecheilyah for giving me the space.

The PBS Blog

Today, I’d like to extend a warm welcome to Sheila Williams. Sheila, welcome to the PBS blog!


What is your name and where are you from?

My name is Sheila Williams. I am English, born in Yorkshire in the North of England (known as God’s own county to those who were born there!) Until five years ago my feet were firmly planted in English soil. Then, I had one of those ‘where did that idea come from’ moments and moved across the channel to the south-west of France – a region known as Occitanie (previously the Languedoc). I now live in a small village near the Pyrenees mountains with my dog Zouzou, otherwise known as the Ayatollah for his insistence on regularity – regular walkies, regular mealtimes, regular cuddles and regular snoozes on the sofa.

Awwue lol. I bet he’s adorable. Any siblings?

I am the youngest of three. My…

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Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Sunday Interview – Getting to Know author Sheila Williams

Here’s the result of an interview I did with the very generous Sally Cronin who is a marvel at supporting indie authors. Thank you Sally.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

My guest today is author Sheila Williams who lives in France, but in the past has enjoyed several careers, including that of sheep farmer (more about that later!). Sheila shares a mortifying experience in a restaurant, her fashion sense, the contents of her handbag and a tussle with a persistent romeo ram (of the sheep variety!)

First the official word from the author.

About Sheila Williams

Sheila Williams, author, slipped into this world on Guy Fawkes night, under cover of fireworks and bonfires. Outraged to find other nurslings in the nest, she attempted to return to her own world but found the portal closed.

Adopting a ‘make the best of it’ attitude she endured a period of indoctrination to equip her for her place in society. This included learning a language that no-one ever speaks and making complex calculations of no perceivable value.

Freeing herself as soon as possible from…

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The Dragon of Loschy Woods

Whilst fossicking around in Medieval history, myths and legend as part of research for my current work in progress I found this story of a brave knight and his dog to share with you.

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It happened long ago that a giant fire and brimstone belching dragon lived in a dark wood near Stonegrave, just outside York.  Said dragon had a nasty habit of dining on the local peasantry. Those who saw it and lived to tell the tale relate that its teeth were long and sharp ‘like the tines of a pitchfork’ and from it’s gaping jaws dripped a foul poison…hardly surprising with all that smoking.

 

Many knights, plumped up with derring-do, ventured forth to kill it but the monster chewed them up, bones and everything. Not yet satisfied it went onto to mash up their armour and gobble the poor horses ‘saddle and all’.

Enter a Brave Knight

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There came a knight, one Sir Peter Loschy, a warrior of renown who determined to battle with the beast and put an end to the fiery feasts the dragon made of innocent peasants and valiant knights alike. He vowed he would kill the dragon or die trying and given the dragon’s track record no-one was taking bets on the survival option.

However, Sir Peter seemed to have a bit more cunning than most. He had a suit of armour made that was covered with sharp blades. Donning the suit in preparation for the battle, his young squire asked him how he was feeling.

Sharp’ he quipped and winked at the young man.

He mounted his trusty steed weighed down by his armour, sword and shield and rode towards Loschy Wood where the dragon hung out. I expect comely maidens in pointy hats waved their handkerchiefs at him as he passed by but the bards only ever mention damsels in distress.

To the Dragon’s Den

Sir Peter rode into the wood; the further he penetrated the denser and darker it became. He had for a companion his trusty hound Leo. In the deepest part of the wood Sir Peter halted. There was a-crashing and a-bashing as trees fell and a hoarse smoky voice shouted to him.

don’t trouble yourself to come further, I’m coming to you’.

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And sure enough the dragon emerged through the flattened trees. Quick as a flash it coiled its long tail around the valiant knight and squeezed and crushed, crushed and squeezed intending to make mincemeat of Sir Peter.

However, the dragon reckoned not on the nasty spiky sharp blades that covered the knight’s armour. The blades cut into the dragon and the more it tightened its grip the more it was flayed by the blades and the greater its pain. The dragon gave a cry as only dragons can, a sort of ‘OOOOOOOOWWWAAAAAAAARGH’ as history records. 

The beast released our brave hero and really miffed, not to say enraged, it was determined to have steak haché, extra well-done for its supper.  

Yet brave Sir Peter, albeit a bit short of wind by now, swiftly drew his sword and landed a dozen fearsome cuts on his opponent. But our dragon had a secret weapon. He rolled on the earth and voila, by magic his wounds healed.

Fight to the Death

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For three hours knight and dragon fought and still the dragon survived the onslaught. However, one heavy cut lopped off the dragon’s tail and quick as a flash, his faithful hound Leo picked it up and running all the way to Nunnington Church dumped it there where it could not be joined to the dragon’s body again.

And that was the way of it. Our knight lopped of a limb and Leo ran off with it until finally only the dragon’s head was left and the dragon, unsurprisingly, was dead.

Sir Peter, patted and stroked his dog.

Well done, lad’ he said as Leo licked his face.

Oh No!

But wait! On Leo’s tongue was some of the poison from the dragon’s body. So venomous was it that Sir Peter dropped down, stone dead. Poor Leo was so sorry. He would not leave his master. He lay by the body and died of doggy grief.

Sir Peter was buried in Nunnington church and a stone effigy shows Leo at his feet. Whether Leo was buried with him is unclear.

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There are, as in all these Medieval tales a few snags that the analytical among you will no doubt spot but hey, let’s not spoil a good story.

P.S. the part of Leo was played by Zouzou

  

Happy Christmas/Bonne Fete

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My good intention to blog regularly has crashed down into the nether regions but I thought if I did a quick catch-up I might be saved from hellfire.

I published my first novel The Weave in November.

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The transition from writing to publishing has created a whole new ball game. In effect as an independently published author I am running a new business – promoting, marketing, creating copy, promotional offers and so on. It requires some business skills that I had folded away in a drawer and forgotten about and other skills, completely new to me.  It’s a new mind set – from introversion – spending the past eighteen months quietly researching and writing – to extraversion – active on social media, supporting other authors and so on. This is going to take some getting used to.

I am fortunate however. I have no-one to worry about other than myself. It really doesn’t matter that the washing pile reaches the height of an African anthill. House work? Bah, humbug. Not a priority. A quick swish and whish keeps the worst at bay.

Shopping – supermarket dash; cooking – there’s always cheese and biscuits.

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Seriously though I do wonder at and admire those with far more responsibilities who still manage to turn out book after book.

My only current commitment is Zouzou, a golden, hairy stray who seems to think I run a B&B exclusively for him. You do realise I’m talking about a dog don’t you? However he gets me out walking which gives me time to think, plan and plot.

Rashly I agreed to help with the Christmas decorations around the village which ate up the better part of a week but worth it for the effects.

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One of many!

However with icy winds and teeming rain for the most of the week…well let’s just say it was a challenge, not helped by Zou’s predilection for chewing the garlands I made.

Another week slipped by sorting out my health insurance, council tax payments and gather all the evidence for my application for citizenship. I will have lived in France for the requisite five years this coming February and in view of the Brexit “uncertainties” I want to safeguard my residency status.

Between all this I’m on the first draft of my second novel; set in the seventh century, in Northern England during a time of great change and conflict. It’s also a time when few contemporary accounts were written thus allowing me to let my imagination off the leash.

So perseverance is the watchword or sheer Yorkshire bloody-mindedness if you prefer, as I career towards the end of the year.

Thank you to those who have followed this somewhat erratic blog and to those who have helped me with tweets, retweets and other free publicity. An extra big thank you plus a hug to those who have parted with hard-won cash to buy a copy of The Weave (paperback out in the New Year).

I wish you all happy holidays and the very best for the New Year.

Keep reading!

 

Guest author: Sheila Williams ~ St Tropez, a story extract and a NEW book!

Thank you to Sue Vincent for letting me loose on her blog site.

You can learn more about Sue and her work here: https://scvincent.com/about/

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

When I was fifteen my parents considered me sensible enough to go on an exchange holiday to France. Little did they know. I was excited, nervous. I had never been on holiday alone; I had never been in a plane; my french was execrable which didn’t matter anyway because being shy, I always became tongue-tied with strangers.

I flew from what was then, in the sixties, Yeadon airport (Leeds/Bradford airport). It was just a big shed really in comparison to airports now.  I arrived at Nice airport in the afternoon. It was then that things started to go wrong. No-one came to meet me. I waited and waited, getting more and more anxious. I considered ‘phoning my parents but I knew they would only tell me to come home. The stubborn streak in me wasn’t going to let that happen!

The problem was that I didn’t have the full address…

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Promote Your Book Party!

A very generous offer which deserves sharing. Thank you Charles

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(https://pixabay.com)

Hello to everyone! I want once again to offer an opportunity for all writers who follow this blog to share information on their books. It can be very difficult to generate publicity for our writing, so I thought this little effort might help. All books may be mentioned, and there is no restriction on genre. This includes poetry and non-fiction.

To participate, simply give your name, your book, information about it, and where to purchase it in the comments section. Then please be willing to reblog and/or tweet this post. The more people that see it, the more publicity we can generate for everyone’s books.

Thank you for participating!

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(https://pixabay.com)

Celebrate and promote your writing! Shout it out to the world! Let everyone know about your work!

Feel free to promote a new or an older book!

I hope this idea is successful, and I…

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Charles Waterton 1782-1865

Charles Waterton, naturalist, explorer, environmentalist and true English eccentric. I mean how else would you describe a man who, expecting dinner guests, hid under the table, growled like a dog and bit his guests’ legs?

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Charles_Waterton_by_Charles_Wilson_Peale,_1824,_National_Gallery,_London

Born in 1782, into a devout Catholic family. He lived at Walton Hall in West Yorkshire, England – the house built by his father on the remains of an earlier one. He attended Stonyhurst College before completing his education abroad.  As a non-Conformist Waterton did not have the usual opportunities open to him that a man of his class would normally enjoy. He was unable to hold any public office, army commission or attend an English university.

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Walton Hall, Home of Charles Waterton

So, in 1804 he travelled to British Guiana to manage his uncle’s estates near Georgetown. In 1812 he began a series of what he called “Wanderings” in South America where he recorded the local flora and fauna and hunted animals to take back to Walton.  Over time, he amassed a large collection for which he developed new a method of taxidermy and some of this collection, remarkably lifelike, survives today. He also used his skills to poke fun at the Church of England and the State.

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One of Waterton’s taxidermy creations – John Bull carrying the national debt and surrounded by devils

In 1813, returning from his travels, Waterton appears to have experienced an epiphany in his relationship with wildlife.  He began to turn the park around Walton Hall into a wildlife reserve, permitting no hunting and excluding no animal except the fox and badger.  He nursed the old trees on his estate, keeping them standing when most would have felled them and planted holly hedges and ivy for nesting sites.  Wildfowl were enticed back to the lake surrounding the Hall.  He railed at his neighbours for killing dwindling species of birds.

In the 1820’s he started his most ambitious project – building a nine-foot high wall around three miles of his park to create a sanctuary not only for wildlife but also for himself.  He states in one of his essays:

“having suffered myself and learned mercy, I broke in pieces the penal laws which the knavery of the gamekeeper and the lamentable ignorance of other servants had hitherto put in force”.

In 1829 Waterton married 17-year-old Anne Edmonstone who was a granddaughter of an Arawak Indian. She died shortly after giving birth to their son Edmund when she was only 18. After her death he slept on the floor with a block of wood for a pillow,

“as self-inflicted penance for her soul!”

His two sisters-in-law came to live at Walton to look after the young Edmund. As the child grew up Waterton found it increasingly difficult to develop a father-son relationship. As a young man Edmund was lavish with money that he did not have, he had little or no interest in his father’s activities. It is quite possible that he was embarrassed by his father’s eccentricities – an embarrassment that developed perhaps into contempt as indicated by Edmund’s later actions.

Apart from family difficulties there was also the problem of the impact of growing industrialisation in the country but events brought it right to his doorstep.  Adjoining his estate was Walton Soap Works, owned by William Hodgson and Edward Simpson.  Soap manufacture, one of Victorian England’s growth industries, used particularly noxious chemicals that generated harmful pollutants and by-products.  Waterton had co-existed peacefully with his neighbours – a peace based on a gentleman’s agreement to refrain from manufacturing the actual chemicals required to make soap – a practice that made production cheaper.  However, growing consumer demand proved hard to resist.  Hodgson and Simpson reneged on the agreement.

When Hodgson died in 1840, Simpson took over entirely and the soap works flourished. He built a new chimney that belched out sulphuric acid fumes. This acid rain killed trees and hedgerows. Stinking toxic effluents accumulated in drains and oozed into nearby watercourses. Crops failed and livestock sickened.  Even the men at the works were affected.  Waterton writes in a local newspaper:

“Simpson’s operatives are the very personification of death alive.  There is not a single cherry-cheeked fresh or healthy looking man among them”.   

In 1847, Waterton declared war, starting the first of three legal campaigns against “soapy” Simpson.  This was to be no gentlemanly conflict.  Simpson was a formidable enemy.  The soap works made him a wealthy man.  He had gained respectability, becoming a local councillor, a partner in a bank and a property owner.

Simpson did not attempt to defend himself.  He was astute enough to know it was fruitless to deny, directly, the claims made against him. Instead, he used personal attacks and ridicule to undermine Waterton’s credibility. When the case came to court, it was referred to arbitration.  In the time leading up to the hearing Waterton suffered volleys of personal abuse together with random acts of violence to property and livestock.

At the eventual hearing in 1848, the verdict was double-edged.  Simpson was found guilty of negligence and given a warning.  Waterton received £1100 compensation but had to bear part of the legal costs.  Simpson carried on his business and the pollution continued unabated.

A few months later Waterton launched his second attack.  He presented a vast quantity of evidence and Simpson brought in a great squad of witnesses (who received suspiciously high expenses for their trouble) to deny the works were harmful or polluting.  This time, the arbitrator merely warned Simpson to maintain high safety standards.

In the final battle of 1850, Waterton took a more subtle approach.  Perhaps he learned a few tricks from his adversary. He discovered that Simpson wanted to expand his works and Waterton’s sister-in-law, “by chance” owned a house with land away from Walton.  How she came to do this is unclear.  Possibly Waterton bought it secretly, with a view to inducing Simpson to leave.  Waterton offered terms – the land and house in exchange for the complete closure of the Walton Soap Works.  Simpson accepted the terms and paid all legal costs.

It was a Pyrrhic victory for Waterton.  He lost trees, hedges, birds and other wildlife. Pollution fouled his lake and watercourses. He spent considerable time and money on the lawsuits. His health suffered.  Yet Simpson prospered, merely taking his work and pollution elsewhere.

Charles Waterton died in 1865 after a heavy fall. His coffin was taken across the lake to his chosen burial place. In a final ironic twist his estranged son, Edmund sold off all the valuable timber, mercilessly slaughtered the birds and game and did his best to obliterate all traces of his father’s conservation legacy.  Ultimately, he sold the estate to none other than the son of Waterton’s bitter enemy, “soapy” Simpson.

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Charles Waterton’s cortege

Today, Waterton’s home is a hotel and part of Waterton’s park is once more a wildlife sanctuary.  The nearby Walton Park Wildlife Discovery Centre promotes the values of the man who advises us:

“Look close with a quiet mind.  Learn from all that you see and so try not to assert your power…”