Short videos to promote “The Orchid Tree”.

I was introduced to Windows Movie Maker by a writer friend. It’s incredibly easy to use and I’ve already made three videos to promote “The Orchid Tree”.

A book trailer.

A video about the setting of part one.

and one showing the other locations in the novel.

Hope you enjoy my creative efforts!

Meet Kate, the main character of “The Orchid Tree”

For this blog tour I am delighed to introduce Kate, the main character of The Orchid Tree, which will be published on 15th February and is available to pre-oder from Amazon.

The Orchid Tree Cover MEDIUM WEB

1. What is the name of your main character? Is she fictional?

Kate Wolseley is a fictional character, although I’ve given her the physical characteristics of my mother at her age.

Ronnie in swimsuit2. When and where is the story set?

Colonial Hong Kong between 1941-1945 and from 1948-1949. My grandparents were interned by the Japanese during WWII. The idea for “The Orchid Tree” came to me when I was researching their life behind barbed wire in the Stanley Civilian Internment Camp. My father joined the Chinese Maritime Customs after his demob from the Royal Navy, and his experiences chasing smugglers up and down the South China Coast inspired the start of Part 2. I wanted to bring alive a time and place that no longer exist, and I hope my knowledge of the era lends an authenticity to my writing that readers will enjoy.

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4. What should we know about Kate?

I don’t want to give away the story, so I’ll keep this brief. Kate has lived a pampered existence, in a house full of servants, at the pinnacle of pre-war Hong Kong society. Spoiled by her father, but lacking the attention of her mother, she finds comfort in the love of her Chinese amah (nanny). Her background is typical “stiff upper lip” British, except Kate is more open than her parents. As a result of her over-protected upbringing, she’s young for her age, which is fifteen at the start of the novel.

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4. What is the main conflict?

Initially, WWII. Kate is interned with her parents in a squalid camp and has to endure cramped conditions, humiliation, disease, and starvation. She befriends 17 year-old Charles – who’s half Chinese – and they give their hearts to each other under the orchid tree. Kate’s father doesn’t approve of their relationship. Can their love survive war and bigotry?

Kate and Charles kissing5. What is Kate’s personal goal?

In December 1948, she returns to the colony after three years in Australia, determined to put the past behind her and come of age. Her goal is to create a new life for herself in a society on the brink of change. She wants to be independent, overcome prejudice, and make herself a part of the new Hong Kong, while holding onto her never-to-be-forgotten love for Charles. An Englishman, James, arrives in the territory and becomes the link between Kate and Sofia Rodrigues, the step-sister of a Macau gangster. The communist-nationalist struggle in China spills over into Hong Kong, catapulting the protagonists into the turmoil with disastrous consequences.

Disastrous consequences6. What can you tell us about the title?

A recurrent location in the novel, the orchid tree, Bauhinia Blakeana, has become the emblem of Hong Kong. I was privileged to have grown up there during the post-war era, and I still consider it home.

Now I would like to pass the baton on to Ann Bennett for her to introduce Laura in her wonderful novel, Bamboo Heart. Over to you, Ann!

Meet My Main Character Blog Tour

I love writing this blog, especially when visitors leave comments. A regular commentator is Teagan Geneviene and I really enjoy visiting her blog. When I read her post Meet My Main Character Blog Tour, and saw that she hadn’t found anyone to tag, I tagged myself. If you’ve visited her blog, you’ll know what fun it is – please drop by and read about the main character in her WIP, the sequel to Atonement, Tennessee. Teagan says, “You’ll meet many familiar characters in book 2, Atonement in Bloom. Once again, Ralda Lawton is the main character and primary narrator. Lilith the calico is back too, and the parts of the story Ralda can’t see are told through the cat’s eyes. The story is an urban fantasy, inspired by ancient Celtic mythology.” atonement_in_bloom_1_03-24-2014

Now it’s my turn in the “Meet My Main Character Blog Tour.”

For this virtual tour, we have to answer a series of questions about the main character in a work-in-progress (WIP). Here are my answers to the questions about the principal heroine of The Orchid Tree.

1. What is the name of your character? Is she fictional?

Kate Wolseley is a fictional character, although I’ve given her the physical characteristics of my mother at her age.

Ronnie in swimsuit

2. When and where is the story set?

Colonial Hong Kong between 1941-1945 and from 1948-1949. My grandparents were interned by the Japanese during WWII, and I’ve used their memoirs of life behind barbed wire in the Stanley Civilian Internment Camp. My father joined the Chinese Maritime Customs after his demob from the Royal Navy, and his experiences chasing smugglers up and down the South China Coast inspired the character of the Englishman, James, in my novel. I wanted to bring alive a time and place that no longer exist, and I hope my knowledge of the era lends an authenticity to my writing that readers will enjoy. You can see some of the locations of The Orchid Tree here.

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picturesque-hong-kong-fan-ho-photography10

4. What should we know about Kate?

I don’t want to give away the story, so I’ll keep this brief. Kate has lived a pampered existence, in a house full of servants, at the pinnacle of pre-war Hong Kong society. Spoiled by her father, but lacking the attention of her mother, she finds comfort in the love of her Chinese amah (nanny). Her background is typical “stiff upper lip” British, except Kate is more open than her parents. As a result of her over-protected upbringing, she’s young for her age, which is fifteen at the start of the novel.

img093

4. What is the main conflict?

Initially, WWII. Kate is interned with her parents in a squalid camp and has to endure cramped conditions, humiliation, disease, and starvation. She befriends 17 year-old Charles – who’s half Chinese – and they give their hearts to each other under the orchid tree. Kate’s father doesn’t approve of their relationship. At the end of the war, Kate and Charles are separated. She believes him to be dead when the ship he’s on is sunk, and her emotions have been frozen ever since.

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5. What is the personal goal of the character?

Kate’s goal is to make a new life for herself in a society on the brink of change. She wants to become independent, overcome prejudice, and become a part of the new Hong Kong. All the while, Kate clings to her memories of Charles. Will she ever be able to love again?

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6. Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

After several working titles, I’ve finally settled on The Orchid Tree, the Bauhinia Blakeana, and I would like one of these trees on my book cover. A recurrent location in the novel, the orchid tree flower has become the emblem of Hong Kong. You can read the first eight chapters of my novel here.

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7. When can we expect the book to be published?

I can’t make any promises or predictions at the stage. It’s in the lap of the gods, as they say. However, I would very much like to publish it before the calendar year is over. That’s my aim and I hope to achieve it.

And now, it’s my pleasure to pass the baton on to two wonderful authors. The first, Celia Micklefield, is a talented writer who I met through the YouWriteOn peer review site. The second, Tina Burton, is also an extremely gifted author, and I met her via Twitter. Please visit their websites and check them out! Both are highly creative. Tina loves quilling as well as writing, and Celia blogs about writing, reading and living in France. Thank you, dear friends, for agreeing to participate in the Meet My Main Character Blog Tour. I’m looking forward to reading about your main characters.

Celia Micklefield – Writer in Languedoc – Blogger, Trucklover, Trobairitz, Winelover. http://celiamicklefield.com/

Tina Burton’s Blog – A blog about writing and quilling – making designs and pictures from paper. http://tinakburtons.blogspot.co.uk/

Enjoy!

The Peninsula Hotel

When I was growing up in Hong Kong, one of my treats was to have an ice-cream soda in the lobby of the Peninsula after a visit to the dentist.

Then, on New Year’s Day, we would be invited to a fabulous party, also in the Lobby, with Bloody Marys or Black Velvet cocktails and music.

Known as the Grand Old Dame of Hong Kong hotels, the Peninsula epitomises the luxury of a bygone age. It was established in 1928, but expanded in 1994 to include a 30 storey tower topped off by a helipad, so the hotel combines colonial and modern elements. It even has a large fleet of Rolls-Royce cars painted the distinctive “Peninsula green”.

It was here that the Governor surrendered the colony to the Japanese on Christmas Day, 1941, and they renamed it the “Toa Hotel”. After the British regained control of the colony in 1945 the hotel became the Peninsula again, or “the Pen” as we used to call it.

The hotel is far too posh for the likes of me nowadays, but I have fond memories of great times there, including dining at Gaddi’s Restaurant when I was in my twenties. There is a charity ball in the Peninsula in my novel.

This is what the hotel looked like then:

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And here it is now:

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Link

Dragon boat

When I lived in Hong Kong in the late seventies, one of the highlights of my year was the Tuen Ng Festival, characterised by dragon-boat races.

It’s an ancient festival that celebrates the death of Qu Yuan, who drowned himself in the Mi Lo River over 2,000 years ago as a protest against corruption. According to legend, as people tried to rescue him, they beat drums to scare fish away and threw dumplings into the sea to stop them from eating his body.

This year, the festival is celebrated on 23rd June as it always coincides with the 5th day of the 5th month of the Chinese lunar calendar, and it is also the time of the summer solstice. Whereas the moon is considered to be Yin, both the sun and the dragon are Yang and at their most potent during this time. Tuen means directly overhead and ng refers to the sun at its highest position during the day.

I used to love going to Stanley to watch the races. Participants train for weeks for the competition. Sitting two abreast, with a coxswain at the back and a drummer at the front, the paddlers race to reach the finishing line, urged on by the pounding drums and the roar of the crowds.

The boats are incredibly fierce-looking. Before the festival, a Taoist priest dots the bulging eyes of the carved dragon head attached to the craft to wake it from slumber and reanimate its bold spirit before the race. I’ve included a dragon-boat race in my novel.

Opium and Hong Kong

When the British flooded China with opium in the nineteenth century to correct a trade imbalance due to their strong reliance on imported Chinese tea, it was legal to smoke the drug in the UK and it was grown in significant quantities there. Shocked by the number of addicts created, however, the Qing government imposed a ban and rightfully seized the drugs. The British government objected to this seizure and used its military power to seek redress. By January 1841, British forces had commanded the high ground around Canton and had defeated the Chinese at Ningbo. By the middle of 1842 they had occupied Shanghai. In August 1842, the Treaty of Nanking brought an end to the war and the Qing government agreed to allow Britain to make Hong Kong a crown colony, ceding it to the British “in perpetuity” to provide British traders with a harbour where they could unload their goods.

Opium war

At the time of the Treaty of Nanking, China’s population was over 400 million, of whom at least 2 million were opium users. By 1881, the country’s population was less than 370 million, of which as many as a third made regular use of the drug. Chinese domestic production had grown rapidly in response to the increasing demand.

The British parliament finally forbade the shipment of opium to China in 1911, the year the Manchu government fell, but opium smoking continued until the Communist regime took power. In Hong Kong itself, the practice was difficult to eradicate. At the time of my novel, it was common-place and an indulgence for rich and poor alike. Nowadays, opium-smoking in China is a tiny fraction of what it once was and in Hong Kong, it has been replaced by more modern drugs.

In the 1960s, my parents bought an antique opium bed, made for two people to lie side by side and smoke together, and it graces the family home even today. We don’t smoke opium on it, I hasten to add, but it’s a beautiful piece of furniture and makes a comfortable sofa, with plenty of cushions.

 Opium bed