The thoughts of some reviewers show why you might enjoy Ribbons In Her Hair.
“I loved this novel. Set in the eighties with throw backs to the nineteen fifties it ‘s subject is resilience and motherhood. I loved Susan, the main protagonist and how she against all odds manages an unwanted pregnancy and determined to keep her baby survives and finds happiness. This book is wise and penetrating reminiscent of lovely feminist novels of that era. It’s a story about a woman’s struggle and contains much positivity and optimism. I don’t want to give away the plot. Simply I enjoyed it so much I could not put it down. Highly recommended as excellently sensitively written woman’s fiction.”
“This is a story that I could go on reading forever it proves that love has no equal it is everything.”
“A good book in a feel good way The struggles of Susan both financial and emotional make it a book that’s hard to put down,”
“I started reading this thinking it would be a nice pick up, read a bit and dip in and out book. But I couldn’t put it down and I read it in one sitting late into the night. Very enjoyable and engrossing.”
“A very enjoyable book with a believable story, I liked the way it was written each family member telling there own story good read 100% recommend.”
“Didn’t want to put this one down. A story about family dynamics and the changing times between generations. Explores the story mainly using the different perspective of a mother and her daughter, with other family member views too. A good story line, very well written.”
Jean is without a doubt the product of the hand that life dealt her.
Her life took a turn that she wished it hadn’t but in the 1950’s you made your bed and you lay in it and laying in a bed that she didn’t want was what makes Jean the person that she is.
And what sort of person is Jean? I would describe her as a cold fish. She is unable to show her emotions and she can’t give Susan the love that she craves. To an outsider she is the perfect mother, her children are always well turned and presentable but behind closed doors it is a different story. There we find control and emotional neglect.
Jean wasn’t born like that. The hardships of the path her life took made her the way that she is so can we describe her as a bad person? I don’t think that we can because she is trying to do her best in her own way. Let’s just say though that I’m glad she wasn’t my mother.
When I started writing this I hated Jean as a character. I thought that she was evil. But once I got to know her and her back story the hate turned to pity.
I think that this comment taken from a review of the book sums it up rather nicely.
“Each mother’s actions is shaped by the generation they were born in and the culture of that time.”
At the soul of it, Ribbons In Her Hair is a story about humanity. It is a tale of people playing the hand that life deals them as best they can and one of those people is Susan who is the daughter in this mother/daughter relationship.
I confess to having a soft spot for Susan and of the characters that have been born in my brain, she is probably my favourite. She certainly makes the top three.
There’s nothing special about her. She isn’t blessed with stunning good looks or super intelligence but she is a heroine in all the ways that really matter. One reviewer said of her, “With her mousy brown hair and chubby cheeks, Susan is the runt of the litter,” which though harsh is true. She is just an ordinary girl and that is probably why I like her so much. She could be anyone.
What she lacks in looks, Susan makes up for with gumption. She may seem down trodden but when the chips are down, she is a girl to have in your corner. She has a moral compass and she is willing to follow it despite the personal cost.
Susan thinks that she knows her mother but does she? Do any of us really know those that are closest to us? She thinks her mother is hard hearted and uncaring but is she? And if she is, what made her that way?
“Ribbons in Her Hair is a powerful read. It raises lots of crucial issues, such as mother-daughter relationships, respect and morality, motherhood, or the oppressive effect of our societal rules of conduct.”
When I read the above in a review of Ribbons in Her Hair I wondered if they were taking about my book. Had they got the wrong one? Had they mixed it up with another of the same title? Turns out that they hadn’t.
I hadn’t meant to write anything quite so deep. I was just writing about Susan, a girl who had never had ribbons in her hair.
The youngest of three sisters, Susan has absolutely nothing in common with her siblings. She is a loner who just wants her mother to love her. But that doesn’t happen and as a teenager, Susan seeks love elsewhere. Like millions of girls before her she finds herself pregnant.
That was the situation that I created for Susan.
How would her mother react? Naturally, the mother that I had created was appalled. In her eyes Susan had brought the ultimate shame on the family.
And that was the point that I asked myself why Susan’s mother had reacted the way that she did and more to the point, why had she treated Susan the way that she had when she was growing up? What was Jean’s back story?
I was no longer just writing about Susan, I was writing about her mother too.
I started off despising Jean for the way that she treated Susan but the more that I got to know her, the more I sympathised with her and on reflection the book is about all of the things mentioned in the review.
Ribbon In Her Hair was originally published by Accent Press and this edition published by The Pink Pen is available on Kindle from 30th September 2021
I don’t mind telling you that I hadn’t heard about the Cawnpore massacre before hearing about Tom’s new book which is published on Kindle on 10th September, but what I have heard had certainly piqued my interest to find out more.
Over to Tom to tell us why the Empire Project might have been an inevitable failure.
There is a lot written these days about ‘the Empire Project’: the period (defined differently by almost everyone) when a small island off the north-west of Europe somehow found itself ruling a significant proportion of the whole world. I keep listening to people on the BBC explaining that we should spend more time learning about what Britain did during the Empire – the good and the bad (though on the programmes I hear the suggestion seems to be that the emphasis should perhaps swing towards the bad). It’s frustrating, then, that when Cawnpore was first published, ten years ago, it seems to have been ahead of its time.
Britain only officially became an Empire in 1877, when Victoria was declared Empress of India, but the British had been throwing their weight around for significantly longer. Notably, Lord Clive had won the battle of Plessey, regarded as marking the beginning of British rule in India in 1757. India was always “the jewel in the crown” of Empire and if you want to understand the Empire Project, you could do worse than look at India.
A hundred years after Plessey, the Indians (who attached a lot of importance to anniversaries) were beginning to feel that a hundred years of Empire Project was enough. The result was a widespread insurrection that started with a rebellion within Indian regiments in the British army in the country and which we therefore came to call the Indian Mutiny, though it was far more than a mutiny.
Cawnpore is set in a town in the North West frontier province, which became the site of a famous atrocity by the rebels which triggered, in turn, terrible reprisals by the British. The story is told through the eyes of a man who fits in with neither the European establishment nor the court of the local ruler, but who has a foot in both camps. He watches helplessly as the simmering tensions of what is essentially a British military occupation come to the boil in 1857.
It’s a story full of love and excitement and battles and bravery, but ultimately it is about a man trying to do the right thing in an impossible situation. For in the end there are no clear rights and wrongs in the Empire Project – just people – some good, some bad, most somewhere in between – muddling through until everything goes terribly wrong.
Was the massacre at Cawnpore (and all the other atrocities committed in centuries of British rule) inevitable? I think, perhaps, the Empire Project was always doomed to end in tears. Whether colonisers have good intentions or whether they just seek to exploit and rob, the clash of cultures between the natives and the invaders (for that is what they are) inevitably leads to tragedy.
There is a lot being said these days about how Britain should apologise for things it did in the 19th century and before. Perhaps apologising for the distant past is not that helpful. Perhaps we should be looking at the future rather than back to Empire. As Kabul falls and the citizens face the misery of so many who suffered in the wars of the past, we should stop and think before we again send an army to a distant country to ‘nation build’ or ‘protect Western values’. If Cawnpore raises these questions in anybody’s mind, then maybe it’s done something worthwhile as well as entertain.
While I was writing Cawnpore my son was serving in Afghanistan. For over two hundred years we have had troops in that part of the world. It led to tragedy in 1857 when we stayed in and in 2021 when we pulled out. Perhaps the best thing to do would have been not to have sent them in the first place.
If you would like to buy the book or keep up with Tom’s news, here’s how you do it.
When RIBBONS IN HER HAIR was originally published in 2018 there were ‘allegedly’ big plans for it. The publicist at my then publishers called me one day and was all ‘articles in the book section of The Guardian’ (as if) and ‘interviews in this newspaper or that one’ but said publicist left shortly after that conversation and that was the end of that.
However, it will soon be getting another chance when The Pink Pen (aka me) re-publishes it. I’m pretty sure it won’t be in the reading section of the Guardian this time either or that I’ll be interviewed by the nationals but that won’t deter me.
When the publicist (mentioned above) asked me where I got the idea for the story from I told her but she said that we weren’t going to concentrate on that because it wasn’t exciting enough, she wanted to go with a different angle. Why let the truth get in the way of a good story? However, boring or not the thought that started it is the thought that started it and that’s what I’ll be going with when The Pink Pen publishes it later this year.
Watch this space for more information but in the meantime you can buy the kindle version of THINGS I SHOULD HAVE SAID AND DONE also published by The Pink Pen. Headline are still selling the paperback.
THINGS I SHOULD HAVE SAID AND DONE wasn’t started as a result of a death but the fact that I got my backside in gear and actually made it into a book that someone (Accent Press) would want to publish came about after a brush with the Grim Reaper. My brush.
Twice in the space of 14 days he almost came for me and one day after the first near miss, I can clearly remember laying in a hospital bed looking out of the window and thinking, ‘If I get out of this, I’m going to get that book published.’ I didn’t want to die knowing that I didn’t give what I had dreamed of since I was a teenager my best shot.
I never wanted a high flying career, in fact I was saying to someone the other day that all I wanted to do was to get married, have children and have someone other than me read a book that I had written. What can I say? I don’t ask much from life. I’d got married at 19 and become a mum at 20 so what had I been doing for the next 30 years? I’d been living my simple life that’s what. Always assuming that there would be a tomorrow.
But what my brushes with death (there have been five in total so far) have taught me it’s that life can’t be taken for granted. There will be a day when there is no tomorrow. Well, to be fair it was the third time that taught me that, the first two just sort of passed me by. As one of the catch lines for my book says – one minute life’s good and the next it’s over.
I try not to put things off now. If there’s something I should do I try to do it and if there’s something that needs to be said I say it. In fact I find that these days my mouth has a life of it’s own. I’ve given up biting my tongue and that can make for interesting debate I don’t mind telling you.
There are still things that I wish I had or wish I hadn’t said or done. Right this second I wish that I hadn’t overindulged on the roast beef and Yorkshire puddings.
Things I Should Have Said and Done is now available on kindle published by The Pink Pen.
Please feel free to tell me what you might wish that you had said or done.
Colette, thanks so much for allowing Ms. Birdsong to grace your wonderful blog telling us about her life and work within MI5 – the British Security Services.
Ms. Birdsong Investigates Murder in Ampney Parva: Operation Matryoshka, is with publishers now and is the first in a series featuring the former MI5 Intelligence Officer.
I hope your readers enjoy her interview with an Oxford Newspaper.
Interviewer: Tell us about yourself.
Ms. Birdsong: As a member of MI5, I’ve held a variety of posts since joining 20 years ago from University. I speak five languages and am proficient in martial arts and use of a variety of firearms and weapons. I’ve worked my way up through the service until I was forced into ‘voluntary’ retirement; we won’t go there! I had my eye on the post of Director General — only two women have been DG in the past — and I shall get back into the service, make no mistake.
Interviewer: Can you tell us about some of your operations as an Intelligence Officer?
Ms. B: Not really, I’m subject to the Official Secrets Act.
Interviewer: But the Security Service has been incredibly open in recent years — we know more about their work now, surely you can tell us something…
Ms. B: Our work is varied, protecting the UK from threats from terrorism, espionage, and outside forces who would do our country harm. My roles were within this remit.
Interviewer: You have had several roles? Care to elaborate?
Ms. B: That would be difficult, but I can answer generally. I’ve had wide experience within MI5. I’ve worked on counter-espionage, counter-terrorism, organised crime — before 2006 when we handed that over to the National Crime Agency — I was seconded to the Metropolitan Police. I’ve been an Agent Runner in Northern Ireland and Moscow, and most recently I’d been seconded to MI6 before my ‘retirement.’
Interviewer: An amazing career you’ve enjoyed, I’m sure you miss it. Can you tell us why you were ‘retired?’
M.B: No, but I can tell you this, I’m working on getting back into MI5, and nothing will stop me.
Interviewer: How do you intend doing that? Does the missing woman from Ampney Parva hold any clues? I gather you are helping her son to find her.
Ms. B: I have my ways. And yes, I’m helping her son. I have skills I’m able to use to investigate her disappearance. Of course, I’m not interfering with the police investigation, they have their own methods.
Interviewer: Does the missing woman, Ali Yelling, have MI5 connections? Is that why you are involved? Is she a suspected terrorist?
Ms. B: Absolutely not! She’s an ordinary young mother who has disappeared, and her son needed my help. Nothing more. I’ve time on my hands, it’s the least I can do.
Interviewer: Why come to rural Oxfordshire? Is there another reason for you being here? Something we don’t know about, yet? Are there terrorism connections? Are there spies here?
Ms. B: You ask a lot of questions and my answer is the same, no. I like the area, it’s quiet, it suits me. I want to write a novel at some stage, it gives me space. Nothing more. I shall try to get back into MI5, of course, it has been my life, but I assure you Ali Yelling has nothing to do with spies or terrorists — that is ridiculous.
Interviewer: They trained you well at MI5, you avoid answering by muddying the water with talk of helping find a missing woman and writing a book. It strikes me that is a great cover story for someone who has lived her life in the shadows. I’ve been told you usually have an alias – is that true? Who are you really? Ms. Birdsong, or someone else?
Ms. B: This interview is over; it’s been a pleasure talking with you but now you are becoming ridiculous. I’m who I say I am, and I’m here for the reasons given. Now I must go and help find Ali Yelling. Thanks, so much.
Jane Risdon is the co-author of ‘Only One Woman,’ with Christina Jones (Headline Accent) and ‘Undercover: Crime Shorts,’ (Plaisted Publishing), as well as having many short stories published in numerous anthologies and writing for several online and print magazines such as Writing Magazine and The Writers’ and Readers’ Magazine.
Undercover: Crime Shorts was the February 2020 Free Book of the Month on the virtual library and festival site, MYVLF.com, and her live video interview features in their theatre. She is a regular guest on international internet radio shows such as theauthorsshow.com, chatandspinradio.com and The Brian Hammer Jackson Radio Show.
Before turning her hand to writing Jane worked in the International Music Business alongside her musician husband, working with musicians, singer/songwriters, and record producers. They also facilitated the placement of music in movies and television series.
Huge congratulations to Jane because in 2020 she signed with Langton’s International Literary Agency in New York and here’s the moment that she signed the contract.
Good luck placing the book Jane and thanks to Ms Birdsong for stopping by.
The traditional publishing route didn’t work out for me and it made me question why.
Did I write a terrible book?
I have to say no and not just because I wrote it. It scores a solid 4.9 stars on Amazon and while I know that there are only 11 ratings, that’s at least a dozen of us that think it’s good.
And that’s why I decided to try and get my rights back (thank you very much Headline) and give it another go. I could have left it with them and told the world that I was published by Headline/Accent (and at least one part of that duo is a top publisher so there has to be some kudos with that) but if they aren’t promoting it or backing you as a writer what’s the point? I was at a fork in my road (just so happens to be the working title of my current WIP btw) and I had to choose a road to take and make the first step.
Make the request. That was quite a big step because once you get those rights back you are no longer under their mantle and like I said the ‘Headline’ name is a biggie in the publishing world. Clearly they thought so too because four times I was asked if I was sure. I won’t lie, the day that I actually received the reversion letter I was sad because it was like I had tried but I had failed and I allowed myself half a day to wallow in self pity. The following day though I had to throw that aside and decide what to do next. I’d requested them back, I’d put myself in this position so what was I going to do about it?
Work out if you are going to try the traditional route again or go it alone. I was already disillusioned by my experience of the first option and I was daunted by the idea of the second.
Finding another publisher or agent is a time consuming business and most of the time soul destroying. I don’t think there’s a writer out there that doesn’t have a stack of rejection letters to their name. I couldn’t face that, not so much the rejection because I have a thick skin when it comes to that sort of thing but more the limbo state that you are left in while you wait for at least one of the many people that you have submitted to to get back to you.
I chose the self-publishing road. How bad could it be? Thanks to Amazon it’s much easier than it used to be when you had to fork out a wedge of cash up front to a vanity publisher.
Going it alone v traditional publisher also has one huge advantage. You are in charge of everything from the way the book looks to how much it costs and everything in between.
Get to grips with kdp (Kindle Direct Publishing) which is easier said than done. It actually isn’t too bad once you get the hang of it but until you do it’s a horror show. The biggest problem I had was uploading the actual content. I know. Why? I can hear you asking the question. The answer is I have no idea. I loaded what I thought was a ‘clean copy’ only to find that when I previewed it, the chapters didn’t start where they should or the editors marks were still showing even thought everything looked fine on the document I was working on. That was really frustrating and I swear I almost started to think that it wasn’t worth the effort. However we got there in the end and I’ll be honest I did a little ‘happy dance’ when it was right.
Find a cover. You can make your own but I’m not that way inclined and I wasn’t happy with anything that I came up with. Luckily for me I have a friend who is much more talented than me and they created this beautiful cover.
Upload the cover and thank goodness that is a very straight forward process.
Choose the price. My last book which was published by Headline/Accent was £5.99 on Kindle when it came out. Yes it’s not a typo £5.99. When I pointed out that made it more expensive than Dan Brown’s latest it was reduced but it took a couple of months and the book never really took off. I wonder if price was part of the reason. Obviously you have to not undervalue your work but you also need to be realistic and not price yourself out of the market.
THINGS I SHOULD HAVE SAID AND DONE is out on 20/5/2021
All in all I am happy with the road that I have chosen because I feel more in control this time. Before I had input on things like covers but not the final say and I had no say (apart from the time that I complained) about price. As for promotion, I had to do that anyway so the fact that I have to do it myself now is no worse.
I don’t know what step nine is but I’m looking forward to finding out.