So excited to announce our first Indie Spotlight winner!! Check out the site (link in bio) to see our thoughts on “Fields of Grace” by Wendy Waters!! Congrats @wa_waters and thank you so much for sharing this amazing piece of work with us! We both really enjoyed reading it!! pic.twitter.com/Qf1laMphoZ— Bookish Besties (@bookishbesties_) September 1, 2021
Imagine a world in which all your basic needs are met.
Imagine a world in which you can choose to work. Or NOT.
Your survival no longer depends on you finding a job, ANY job, and spending the greater part of your precious life doing something uninspiring, exhausting, soul-destroying or just plain boring.
Your needs are met.
So, how do you occupy your time?
You are free to do nothing if you wish. Or something you love.
Imagine that. Should everyone be free to live their best life? Or is it only the privilege of the rich, the transient or the misfit?
Artists mostly live and work for love because we work willingly, without a time-clock, without bosses and without paychecks to carrot us into another week of slave labour making someone else rich.
There is a song…
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This is my first post in months.
Apologies. In the words of Winnie the Pooh I have been a Bisy-Backson aka “Busy Back Soon”.
I have been busy polishing the final draft of the sequel to my debut novel, Catch the Moon, Mary and finishing a project I started years ago — a two-hander super dark musical about a childless couple caged in a New York apartment, worn out by their dead-end jobs, going nowhere. He reads Eliot and reminisces about the day he met his wife. She flips through fashion magazines, her head roaring with unresolved past pain. He has become a romantic, replaying an embedded vision of his wife dancing in the waves wearing a red dress. She was the embodiment of freedom, a sea creature, a wraith, not quite of this world. In his mind, she permanently dances on the shore at the intersection of two worlds, spinning, dreaming, longing for a way to escape her past.
I have drawn on the Celtic myths of Selkies, seals who can turn into beautiful women and seduce sailors and the fantastic tails of mermaids, for inspiration. One has to wonder how many of the woman-to-fish fantasies were born in the minds of lonely sailors or lovelorn fishermen. No matter, they make compelling fodder for writers.
The other thing I have been doing in lockdown is landscaping the vacant block next door and it has become a stairway to heaven with twisting paths leading up the steep hillside, sentinelled by hardy succulents that can endure tough dry Australian summers, brittle, rainless winters and perfect springs and autumns.
With Climate Change a foreboding presence it is imperative that we all green up our immediate environment. Planting a garden is my small contribution. That and living simply and being diligent about refusing plastic wherever possible.
In addition to the new book and the new musical there are screenplays afoot for my two self-published books, Catch the Moon, Mary and Fields of Grace.
All in all lockdown is serving me well. At least I am keeping myself occupied.
The great thing about creating new works is the opportunity to partner with incredible others.
With the books I am blessed to have found Sarah Sansom, a brilliant marketer/blogger and reviewer based in the UK. She has been a tower of support since we met virtually last year. Full of energy, enthusiasm and ideas, Sarah is like a guardian angel. Please check out her site: https://thebookswhiskers.wordpress.com/author/sarahsansom76/
With the musical I am blessed thrice in having the opportunity to develop the work with Frank Loman, Lucy Aley-Parker and composer, Ricardo Nunes Fernandes in London.
Finishing the book of the musical to first draft required a truckload of discipline because I don’t usually write DARK! I love light and redemption but there was simply no way this particular couple could have a happy ending. The musical is decidedly dark and…damp! Throughout the play, rain splatters, lightning cracks, thunder rumbles and the sea moans, sirening the couple back to its dangerous embrace. I was really worried that such a disturbing book would not fly but when my London friends, Lucy, Frank and Ricardo read it they gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up and so, I bogged down and sketched out the lyrics, arguably the best lyrics I have ever written! Maybe because I have nothing else to do!!!
Lucy Aley-Parker has been a friend since 2015 when she directed the staged reading of the first chapter of my novel, Catch the Moon, Mary. Lucy is a gifted writer, director, performer and producer. I trust her judgement implicitly.
Lucy Aley-Parker, Actress: Swim. Originally training at Webber Douglas, she spent over ten years in the profession, gaining experience in Rep, TV, film, radio and panto. After a large gap in her acting career, working in the corporate world of publishing and exhibition management, she returned fully to professional acting in 2012.
Years ago a clairvoyant told me I would need to get my work to England because it would never gain traction in Australia. At the time I wondered how it would be possible, I was a single mother with a small child and no money for travel, let alone, the time to do so. But fate has an uncanny way of weaving her web and manipulating algorithms. In 2015 a tiny publishing house in Scotland published my debut novel (turned down by every publisher and agent in Australia) and I begged, borrowed and partially saved my fare and accommodation for a whirlwind trip to London to launch my book. On that trip I met Lucy Aley-Parker and Amanda Redman, two of the most supportive and talented people I have ever known. They opened my mind to possibilities I had never considered in Australia.
England has been amazing for me, doors have opened and people have been far more receptive to my work. Maybe it’s because I love whimsy and anything remotely fey. There is always a ghost at the table. I love exploring the intersection between our reality and Otherworld. Both my books have garnered praise in the UK.
And now a new musical is brewing and it has given me and my friends a marvellous challenge and as we bring it to life we will explore all sorts of options for music, staging, performance and pushing the boundaries.
As Lucy said in our most recent Zoom reading of the musical: “These are two people who simply never should have been together.” Amen.
Sarah’s review of Catch the Moon, Mary
An impossible passion.
This is a fabulous collection of poems dedicated to the glorious Audrey Hepburn.
Do you ever imagine yourself back in the past? I don’t mean hundreds of years ago. I mean ten or twenty years ago in your own lifetime. Sometimes when I want to remind myself that I’m actually on track and doing well I go back into my headspace and remember how I felt when…
When I didn’t have my first book written.
When I stared at a blank page/computer screen and had no idea how to begin writing.
When I sat on Avalon Beach gazing towards a distant shore…America…and wishing I was there where stars and fortunes were made.
When I didn’t have my daughter.
When I wished life would start.
I go back to my younger self and remember the hollow desperation and uncertainty that gnawed at me constantly. I used to imagine all manner of rescue scenarios involving perfect lovers and immaculate looks. I imagined that if I looked like Ava Gardner all of my problems would evaporate. I fantasised that a lover would arrive fully congniscent of my strengths and weaknesses and needs and aspirations and pave the way to happiness and success. I speculated that if I lived in America or England my talent would be celebrated and nurtured and supported.
I imagined that everybody else’s life was easier than mine and I fervently wished I was anybody else but me.
When I didn’t have my daughter.
I am twenty and newly arrived in London. My travelling companion, Jeanette, said I cried in my sleep the night we arrived. It didn’t surprise me. London was so beautiful, so shiny and so full of genius I doubted I would ever find my place in that metropolis. I didn’t have my daughter then and her spirit would have been watching and cheering me on but in those days I was deaf to angelic promptings. That came much later. Within a week of arriving in London, Jeanette got homesick and booked a flight back to Australia. So, I found a flat in Kilburn and set up house with my brother who had started to do extremely well in the world of time-share real estate. I got a job waitressing in a local Greek cafe and went for dozens of auditions. Over the next few months my brother and I seemed to run into Australian friends everywhere we went and many of them spent a night or two on our couch. My industry friends also started arriving, a succession of beautiful girls in the acting, singing and modelling world landed on our doorstep and couch surfed while they explored opportunities in London. My brother was in seventh heaven. I was riddled with even more self-doubt and rage at my inadequacies and the same old mantra looped in my head: If only I had spectacular looks, spectacular talent or a spectacular rescuer.
In the end London was too much for me and after a year I limped home to Australia and the balm of a mother and grandparents whose unflagging faith sustained me through another decade of not much happening.
This photo was taken a year after I got back from London.
I can still see the hopelessness in my eyes.
When I stared at a blank page/computer screen and had no idea how to begin writing.
Fast forward to my daughter.
Still failing at everything else I tried to do, acting, singing, writing, I none-the-less succeeded in giving birth to a beautiful child whose enthusiasm for life was infectious and soul-quenching. Throughout the empty years where every avenue terminated in a dead end, my daughter kept me grounded. Her observations – “Mummy, that spider is nervous” “That dog is sad” “Dolphins are clever” – kept me invested in the moment. For her sake I was determined to succeed, show her that a woman could beat the odds. For her sake, I hurdled my self-doubt and developed an attitude of nothing ventured, nothing gained, complete 180 degree turn from the girl who ran away from London. I began to take my writing seriously and as a consequence met that spectre called writers’ block. I spent many agonising hours staring at a blank page or computer screen hoping for inspiration. It took me moving to America to discover that inspiration flows from effort.
But before America…
Naming a demon comes at a cost. But eventually, I had to name the demon. Australia. Many an artist has come to the same conclusion – Australia is no friend to the artistically-inclined. It belittles, exhausts and overlooks its talented sons and daughters. The land of my birth suited me as long as I was filled with self-loathing but when I started to heal I came to loathe Australia and its insatiable appetite for mediocrity in the Arts.
When I sat on Avalon Beach gazing at a distant shore…America…and wishing I was there where stars and fortunes were made.
I remember the day I admitted to myself that I could not stay in Australia, that I had to go back and face the challenge of London or make the giant leap to America. I felt sick with the realisation that my own country would never give me a chance to shine. It was so difficult because I had a nice life with my daughter. We lived in Sydney’s northern beaches: minimal rent, lots of friends. I had work that paid enough for us to live well, go out with friends and go on holidays. But I had no future and I knew it. I sat on Avalon Beach craving a way to reach that distant shore – America. And then on holiday in Hawaii I met the American dream – tall, stunning, blonde, surfie-musician-builder wearing white jeans and an apple-green silk shirt that matched his eyes. He looked like a cross between Brad Pitt and James Dean. We fell in love and he followed me back to Australia and then promised me America. My daughter and I landed on that longed-for shore in 1993.
When I didn’t have my first book written.
However back on his own turf my knight in shining armour rusted dramatically. But America glittered and glowed and delivered everything I hoped it would. As my own star rose my marriage fell apart. But in spite of my ragged homelife, opportunities flowed in and my belief in myself grew apace. No longer riddled with self-doubt, America held up a mirror to a woman who was gifted, strong and beautiful and my headspace changed dramatically. But my home-life was deranged and becoming dangerous, the fights escalated to threatened violence and so my daughter and I limped back to Australia, once again to the balm and care of my patient mother. And I sank into another decade of despair in ancient, weather-beaten Australia which provided sanctuary in tandem with spiritual desolation. But in that arid space I wrote Catch the Moon, Mary and produced my first fully-fledged musical, Scheherazade.
When I wished life would start.
Having at last beaten writers’ block and achieved excellence I believed success would follow as night the day. And so I waited. And waited. And when nothing much happened despair gripped again like winter chill. The space in my head was an icy chamber but in one corner a tiny flame flickered hope.
And then slowly but surely little bursts of applause from people I never dreamed I would meet or get to know. People from all over the world got in touch via Twitter or Facebook and talked about the impact of my book. They told me Catch the Moon, Mary made them think and cry and ultimately restored their faith in themselves just as my leading lady, Mary Granger had. My headspace began to fill with joy that I was able to make a difference through my words. Give hope where there was none, build bridges. The look in my eyes changed from blank to light. Where there had been a reflection of hopelessness now hope shone.
When I go back to that mental space.
When I go back into that mental space I feel a cold wind, the familiar breath of hollow despair. I remember seeking a sign or a light or a way through to the promised land of success where I firmly believed happiness resided in fragrant drafts of confidence. The land of success would open up other shores, other opportunities. It always felt out of reach and slipping further away as if I had somehow coralled myself in a tiny boat with no oars, adrift and slave to the currents. I truly felt that powerless. Depression gripped like a vice.
But that flame…
That tiny flame warmed me enough to attempt my own rescue.
Naming the rescuer is as talismanic as naming the demon.
The rescuer’s name was excellence and excellence does not pursue. Excellence must be pursued and the more diligently you chase excellence the stronger your faith in yourself becomes. Your tiny boat suddenly sprouts oars and you can chart your course. I started charting my course when I gave up hoping for rescue and started focusing on my quest for excellence.
There are days…
But still there are days I fall back into the old ways. The light is dim and the rage is a pervasive gloaming. But I am a long way from the girl who cried in her sleep in London and I don’t ever want to go back to that lonely, faithless place in which I have no power and no oars.
Today I have four souls upon whom I can build my faith: my mother, my daughter, my granddaughter and…
Mum in London in 2017 when we flew over for the reading of Catch the Moon, Mary and my musical, FRED at Tristan Bates Theatre.
My beautiful daughter, Genevra with the greatest gift of all, my grandaughter, Lily.
And now finally I have me!
APRIL SHOWERS PRAISE ON FIELDS OF GRACE
What an extraordinary month April has been for me and more specifically for my book, Fields of Grace.
Fields of Grace was turned down by every publisher and agent I submitted it to over a period of ten years between 2010 and 2020 and now it has been voted best book of April by two independent reviewers.
The first acknowledgement came from London reviewer Rose Auburn who voted Fields of Grace one of two best reads in April.
Fields of Grace by Wendy Waters @wa_waters
Girl Tracy by Nerissa Martin @JustNerissa
Q1. What was your favourite and least favourite book of 2020?
Gaarrrrghh! Pulling out the biggest question first! I’ve read so many brilliant books this year (which is why it’s taking me a long time to pull together my ‘5* reads of 2020’ blog article). But I clearly have to give an answer so my favourite would be …
It is very emotionally involving, with a cast of characters so vivid and alive they felt like good friends within the first few chapters. I adore Wendy’s lyrical style of writing; she’s a musician and this delightful talent flows lusciously into her prose. If you’ve not read this book, I hugely recommend it … you’re in for a treat. If you want to find out more about Fields of Grace, this link will whizz you over to my review.
I am so grateful to Rose, Sarah and Peter for giving this story wings.
Thank you to my friend Dean Micheal Rochford for an achingly beautiful cover. RIP my friend, gone but not forgotten.
Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
Publisher: Independently Published
Release Date: 25 October 2019
From the author of Catch The Moon, Mary comes this epic drama spanning seven decades. Set against a backdrop of war in 1930s’ Europe, Grace Fieldergill, a starry-eyed young actress from Devon, moves to London to pursue her dream of becoming a star. The lovable boarders of Wyncote House, a ladies-only establishment, take her under their collective wing and share her triumph when she is accepted into the brilliant young John Gielgud’s Company as Peggy Ashcroft’s understudy. When Peggy misses a show one night, Grace gets her chance. Watching her performance that evening are two people who will change her life forever, London’s most famous actress, Mrs. Patrick Campbell, and a man whose love she never thought she could win.
Fields of Grace is an absorbing novel, epic in its ability to build a compelling story around a leading character, and transport her life through years of adventure, drama and relationships, and arrive at a point on the final day of her life with profound secrets to reveal. Wendy Waters writes with such glorious purpose, she builds a story born from her love of theatre, music and literature, and delivered through her beautifully lyrical writing. She reminds me of the Robert Frost quote, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” The passion in the story is told with such reverent love for the theatre, which prides itself on being a unique community keeping the outside world at the stage door. That’s not to say this is an obsequious account of theatre life that avows integrity and hugely talented actors, agents and producers. In fact, we are treated to the spectrum of machinations that we would expect from an environment where position feeds ego, popularity, envy and money, and also the creative, passionate and emotional side with an affinity towards colleagues.
In the world of the theatre, where everything has its moment and change is inevitable, as one play and cast gives way to the next, the precarious nature of love and relationships is explored with a wonderful quality of observational insight. The array of characters is used brilliantly to provide the depth and variation that relationships embrace, from deeply emotional to frivolous, from genuine love to fleeting infatuation, and from unrequited love to feu sacré (sacred fire – the fire that burns for one true mate).
Grace Fieldergill (pseudonym Grace Fielding) comes from a farm in Devon, she is a Cimbri – a person who believes in Druid lore and in certain lights she can see lost spirits. With a youthful exuberance of becoming a theatre star, she settles in Wyncote House, London, in Miss Dixon’s boarding home for young women, although the rule is already broken for the ageing Major. Georgina, Penelope, Julie and Grace become family, protective of each other, and supportive in times of need. Grace secures a position in John Gielgud’s theatre company as an understudy to Peggy Ashcroft. Grace’s moment comes when Peggy doesn’t make the show one evening and Grace grasps her understudy opportunity and is recognised for her natural talent by England’s leading agent, John Hopkins-Reimer. So beguiled was John that he offers her the chance to become the most popular and famous female actress around. The relationship between Grace and John is fascinating and speaks about love at so many levels.
With an opportunity for John to showcase Grace in more modern productions of plays, he plans a theatrical tour of France and Germany, being strategic with the World’s attention on Berlin for the 1936 Olympics. Although rumours about Germany’s treatment of Jews were starting to make the press and be discussed in many circles of power and influence. The artistic ambition mixed with personal threat finds a wonderful balance in Wendy’s writing and how the change of pace for Grace and Europe continues to grow in the tumultuous period leading up to the Second World War. The attention on them in Berlin was unfortunately not only for artistic reasons.
The narrative is told with an authentic tone that brings Grace’s world to life with the adventure facing her and the stark changes in Europe. Wendy Waters creates an outstanding story that touches on many levels of drama and intrigue. It is fascinating to meet household acting stars such as John Gielgud, Peggy Ashcroft, Alec Guinness, Laurence Olivier, Noel Coward etc. early in their careers, and an amusing moment where they say goodbye to David Niven as he takes the risk of heading to Hollywood to act in the movies. A decision they all think will backfire and have him back in London seeking work in the theatre again. I would highly recommend this book that crosses many genres including historical fiction, literary fiction, romance, and a touch of magical realism.
This is a #review on Amazon by author of Elephants Never Lie. Such an honour!
Reviewed in the United States on August 11, 2020
I could not put this book down! Mary’s story of grace that emerges through the cracks of trauma, is written in a unique, musical prose that bound me to the very end.
Mary is a traumatized and shy young woman who feeds the fairies in hopes that they will help her in return, to get through loneliness and the abuse from her father. Instead, she gets an archangel who is drawn to her, seemingly, because she is a musical genius, only to find out that the relationship goes much deeper and much farther back in history. It is a relationship between two souls that creates desperate longing when they are apart and also a rapturous draw toward each other when they are near.
Wendy Waters has done a superb job with this story and with its beautiful prose. Again, it’s a page-turner, and one I couldn’t put down. I highly recommend!
The extraordinary Sarah Sansom has created this superb Mother’s Day post on her site @TheBook’sWhiskers. Enjoy!!!