Review of Charlotte Rogan’s ‘The Lifeboat’ by Lesley Atherton

Claustrophobic Situations

When writing of any claustrophobic situation, three factors are key.

  1. The characters must be multi-dimensional.
  2. The writing must be deep and psychologically detailed.
  3. The lack of various settings must be countered by an unputdownable plot.

The lifeboat drifts

Other reviewers of ‘The Lifeboat’ have indicated that it offers personal insights and rich characterisation, and that it is ‘unputdownable’. I desperately wanted to love this book as the setting is fascinating. The book is mainly set in a lifeboat following the disastrous failing of a ship on its way to New York.  The lifeboat drifts, at first one of many, then later, apparently alone.

A retrospective perspective

The vast majority of the book is written retrospectively by the main character, Grace. Following her rescue, Grace and another two lifeboat survivors (both women) are put into prison awaiting trial for their role in the murder of Mr Hardie, an experienced seaman. Initially he’d kept the 30-strong lifeboat going, but his instability predicated his eventual downfall. Not enough was made of his drifting into the realms of the unreliably insane – and the rebellion of his fellow lifeboaters came too quickly and as somewhat of a shock.

Worse, in terms of the story itself, Grace relates events in a journal and does so solely for the purposes of justifying her actions. Inevitably, the reader then experiences nothing beyond the ‘facts’.

The journal was as cold as a court transcript, and as dry as a ship’s log

I’d been excited to read ‘the Lifeboat’ but Grace’s journal seemed to just plod along relating largely pointless details of lifeboat life, never once getting properly inside the survivors’ heads. The journal was as cold as a court transcript, and as dry as a ship’s log. Was this done intentionally as a stylistic choice?

The book enlivened a little only after the scantily described rescue had taken place and when three women were incarcerated awaiting trial. Such trials did take please in the nineteenth century, yet this fictional account seems unbelievable. Contrived, even. As did manipulative Grace’s final resolution.

Had this book been less about the day to day and more about the mental grief, it would have succeeded. But, for me, it failed as the characters weren’t up to the challenge. Had ‘The Lifeboat’ done this, I would have been unable to put it down. Sadly, it sunk.

#lesleyfridayreads #charlotterogan #thelifeboat

Who Are The Witches in Helios Sphere?

Author Ella Duvivier in exceptional witchy form 
Photo credit: Anna
Author Ella Duvivier in exceptional witchy form
Photo credit: Anna Anderton Art

We’re no strangers to witches in deepest, darkest Lancashire so we asked author Ella Duvivier to shine some light on the witches in her new book Helios Sphere…

The Gods and the Witches are the prominent supernatural forces in my book. There are two known witch families in the narrative: 

1 Heliotrope: 

The Heliotrope family are the last standing from the diluted bloodline that runs from the original Priests and Priestesses of Helios.  These Priests and Priestesses formed the Cult of Helios.  This cult’s main objective is to track remnants of Helios mythology throughout the world for use at the Temple.  

They are skilled thieves and brilliant at the social politics required to gain traction in situations which would be advantageous in the world of antiques acquisition.  They have good standing in the world and a business name Apollo Helios Acquisition with London based headquarters.   Sarah Jayne is CEO of this organisation and the Head or High Priestess.  Her daughter is Amber – a thief working within the cult.   

They are known to the Poinsettias, and know of the Poinsettias.  It is not known how their powers manifest but they’re believed to share the same strengths and weaknesses as any watered down Sun magic.  

2 Poinsettia:  

The Poinsettias are another witch family.  They have an odd-looking house in a crescent in Bristol.  Their powers are an amplified version of their own actual human talents.  They are descendants of Medea.   

Fran, the previous head of the family, is a deceased famous author on all things pagan.  She is also Ben’s mum; he is the hero of our story.  Fran leaves Ben an inheritance so large no one even knows what it the amount is.  This legacy is sought after by all remaining Poinsettia’s desperate to get a piece of it and her history.  It is looked after by the family lawyer known only as Oz.  It is not known where Fran has passed on to in the after-life.  

The Helios Sphere on display in the Acropolis Museum, Athens, Greece.
The Helios Sphere on display in the Acropolis Museum, Athens, Greece.

To provide any more information on the Witches of Helios Sphere would be difficult as it would involve spoilers.  Just know that they are descendants of Gods and Goddesses.  They’re powerful in their own right. Not to be trifled with.  And they are starting to re-write the balance of the old ways.  Will the Gods cope with their meddling? 

Meet the author Ella Duvivier at her Helios Sphere Book Launch, at The Gryphon, Bristol 7pm on Monday 24th June 2019.

Find out more in Helios Sphere published by Scott Martin Productions

Helios Sphere - Where the Runner is the Hero!
Helios Sphere – Where the Runner is the Hero!

#helios sphere #elladuvivier #witches #scottmartinproductions #communitypublisher #authors

What’s the Cringiest Poem You’ve Ever Written?

“orator fits, poeta nascitor”
An orator is made, a poet is born.

Mine is less of a poem and more of a song. I am in my early 50s now, and wrote it back in those idealistic days when I was all of sixteen, thought I knew everything there was to know about the world, and when new age travellers were constantly in the news.

If you want to read something that will make you cringe even more than David Brent from ‘The Office’, you just need to take a look inside the songbook that’s been with me since the age of fifteen.

For those of you who can’t look in person, I’ve typed it up this particular corker here:

Just scroll down to ‘Peace Convoy Partisans’. You won’t regret it, if only that you view your own writing more favourably.

And with that in mind, I challenge each and every one of you to fight back with an even more cringey contribution. Don’t be afraid. We’re all friends here!

Eleanor Duvivier, author of ‘Helios Sphere’ – interview

Eleanor Duvivier is publishing ‘Helios Sphere’ with Scott Martin Productions – due out in mid-2019. She was also a contributor to ‘Survival’ – and the winning competition entrant.

Eleanor Duvivier, author of ‘Helios Sphere’

‘Survival’ is available for purchase here. Special offer £4.49!

Keep an eye on for updates on the publication of ‘Helios Sphere’.

Read a pre-publication interview with Eleanor below

Q1: Hi Eleanor, it is so good to have this opportunity to speak to you… First of all, I was wondering where the idea for ‘Helios Sphere’ came from. I know you’ve an interest in running and the classics, but it’s such an unusual story and has been told in such an engaging manner… Perhaps you could let us know the background to the story and how it came to you.

Hi Lesley, thank you for asking! The story of Helios Sphere manifested itself due to a couple of reasons.  Firstly, in 2014 I went to Athens to run the marathon and genuinely stumbled across the artefact itself in the museum that Ben visits.  I love the idea of giving ancient artefacts and mythologies a new spin.  The character of Ben was created during my degree in Classical History and Creative Writing.  Ben and The Sphere seemed to fit so well together, both sons with long lost or unspoken powers trying to make their way in the world. 

Q2: Did you write any of the manuscript while in Greece, or did you perhaps make notes during a holiday, with this story in mind? Did you always know the conclusion to the tale or did the story emerge organically?

I did a bit of both.  I was the first of my group to arrive at Athens, my two friends due to arrive a day late.  I spent the first day prowling the museums and then I sat in the Café of the New Acropolis Museum in which I wrote my thoughts on The Sphere of Helios.  I started writing on the plane home.  A year later I revisited Athens to gather more information for correct scene setting for the Cape. 
I didn’t always know the conclusion and the conclusion changed as the characters grew. 

Q3: Five words that describe you. Five words that describe your writing…

Quirky, creative, aspiring, active, learner.
Evolving write what you know.

Q4: Do you find Greek architecture, statuary and art particularly inspiring?  

I absolutely do!  My mum used to read me stories like the Iliad and the Odyssey as bedtime stories when I was younger.  I grew up loving Greek and Roman history.  I remember being terribly bored in history at secondary school as it all focused modern history.

Q5: I’d love for you to tell me more about what the bombweed means to you. Also heliotrope and poinsettia – why did you choose those plant names for your character families? Does heliotrope have connections with the helios sphere?

Bombweed is a wartime novel by my Great Grandma Margaret Smith which was published by my Great Aunt Gillian Fernandez Morton and Grandmother Maureen Armstrong.  The novel was written in 1947 and published in 2018.  It seems that writing was passed on to the generations of this family and it is an honour to have a book that I’ll be able to put on a shelf next to hers.  Bombweed grew rapidly on bombsites in World War Two.
Poinsettia and Heliotrope are witch family surnames.  Poinsettia was a surname assigned to Ben as I created his signature look.  He enters the book with a Poinsettia flower adorning his waistcoat and the family links itself to the bright colours.  The flower is a star-shape which seemed appropriate to link to a pagan family and I started to write properly during the Christmas period of 2014.  The Poinsettia is a favourite Christmas flower.
Heliotrope is the name given to the Priestess of Helios.  It means ‘Sun’ and ‘to turn’ due to the direction of the flowers growth.  The flower is named after Clytie, an Oceanid scorned by Helios.  It seemed in keeping with her power and ultimate fortunes.

Q5: So, what’s next for you and your writing? Have you got any further works in progress? 

At the moment I’m doing a Masters in Creative Writing with The Open University.  This means there is little time for ‘pleasure’ writing.  There is the beginnings of a second book: Ben finds out his biological history and the true legacy.  But that will have to wait until the Masters allows me the time.  I also discovered another little written about ancient artefact in a museum when I last went away which I would love to write about one day.
Thank you for reading.

Thanks so much for answering our questions. Look forward to seeing what happens to Ben in the next book!

Interview between ‘Bound’ author Hannah Pike and Scott Martin Productions 29/03/2019

Q1: Hi Hannah, good to have this opportunity to speak to you… First of all, I was wondering where the idea for ‘Bound’ came from. Perhaps you could give us a brief precis of the story and why you felt it was a tale that needed telling…

The idea for where ‘Bound’ came from was a bit of a strange one! I was working on the first draft of this novel when I was sixteen and was introduced to the concept from many different TV shows and some films,  but never really knew what it was called.  However,  after a bit of research everything was a lot clearer for me to proceed with writing.
The story follows Emma Winters,  a seventeen-year-old that has had quite a traumatic childhood and always felt like a bit of an outsider.   However,  her life begins to fall apart once again when she is abducted and faces new challenges that she shouldn’t have to face at her age.
I think it’s an important tale to tell mainly because situations like this do happen in real life.  I’ve seen all sorts of things in the news lately about students going missing who were in their early 20s and it is something that’s quite scary to think about!

Q2: How long did it take you to achieve the first draft manuscript? Was it difficult to fit in with all your other commitments?

It took me roughly around one year and three months to complete the first draft.  At the time,  I was attending college studying IT, so it was quite hard to fit in writing and college assignments.  But I did manage to finish all of my work early most of the time,  so I spent the rest of the lessons writing!

Q3: Are any of your fellow students also published authors?!

Not that I’m aware of! Although I do have some budding writers in my friendship group that are absolutely brilliant at writing,  even if they don’t hold that opinion themselves!

Q4: Which other authors do you find inspiring? Other art forms? I, for example, love Pre-Raphaelite paintings, Art Nouveau, true crime programmes, and British comedies from the 50s-80s. Perhaps not a mix that anyone would expect, but all these things make us the people we are.

Tabitha Suzuma is one of my biggest inspirations! She writes some really intriguing novels on controversial themes and mental health.   I remember being introduced to her writing in secondary school by my librarian,  falling in love with it and discovering my writing style along with what type of genre I wanted to be mainly associated with.
Another art form that’s especially important to me are films and media.  I am especially influenced by European and international films,  in particular their uses of colour pallets,  cinematography and some of the storylines! One of my favourite European films is Suspiria by Dario Argento,  mainly because of the gorgeous and vivid colours!

Q5: Five words that describe you. Five words that describe your writing…

Five words that describe me would be:   Optimistic,  Perseverant,  Ambitious,  Driven and Eccentric!
Five words that describe my writing:  Unconventional,  Thrilling,  Gripping,  Descriptive and Emotional

Q5: So, what’s next for Hannah Pike and her writing? Have you got any further works in progress?

I am working on something new at the moment,  another tale of forbidden love but with a fusion of genres….

Thanks so much for your time, Hannah. Let’s talk again soon…

Rainhill Nursing Hospital Student Magazine from Spring 1968!!

This is amazing, and a true blast from the past. Take a look at magazine number 1 of a Rainhill Hospital nursing students’ magazine dated from spring 1968. Our featured author, Peter McGeehan was heavily involved in putting together this little piece of history. Click on the front cover to be taken to Peter’s featured page, and you’ll find a gallery of the entire magazine at the bottom of the page!

Click on the link to open on the Scott Martin Productions website – in a new tab. Scroll to the bottom of Peter’s page for the whole magazine. I LOVE IT!