Saturday, 20 July 2019

Come stroll with me...

...through the city of Marseille.  Last month I took you on a visit to the Vieux Port, today we're strolling through the first...

Canebière and the bourse
Canebière is a wide thoroughfare that leads from the Vieux Port straight into the heart of the city of Marseille.  Lined with beautiful and tall Napoleonic buildings, you find shops and hotels at street level and apartments on the floors above.  The street furniture - street lamps, etc. - are equally as striking as the buildings.
As we leave the port, on the left, you will find the bourse.  Built between 1852 and 1860, it is now the home of the naval museum and is the headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the city.  The building overlooks a large square on the opposite side of Canebière.  And do check out the boulangerie/pâtisserie in the square, you can get a rather lovely tarte-au-citron here.
Canebière runs straight and true for about a kilometre and if you want to shop then by all means continue.  But, I'm taking a left onto Cours Belsunce because I know, about halfway along, there's something I particularly want to see.
On the right is what now remains of the old music hall.  Built in 1857 and decorated in a Moorish style, the theatre thrived.  As I stand here looking at the portico, I can imagine the noise, the laughter, the music, the jostling of the 2000 strong audience and I can almost smell the wine and the beer.  Given the opportunity I would have taken to the stage and silently replayed a snippet of one my previous roles, glancing up at the galleries or across the stalls area as I run through the speech in my head.  I've always thought it a great privilege to be able to recreate a character and make that person live on the stage for the audience.  As an actor, I can be in two places, centuries, personalities at once.  Today, alas, that opportunity is not available.  On March 30th, 2004, following extensive remodelling, the theatre opened as one of 12 municipal libraries created by statute in cities across the whole country.
The remains of the Alcazar-Lyrique
Originally called Alcazar-Lyrique, the theatre first opened on October 10th, 1857.  In its early days, and under the direction of Etienne Demoulins, the Alcazar built its reputation with summer shows in the gardens, and by welcoming to its stage celebrities from the surrounding area and from Paris.  In the 1860s and 1870s, the theatre became renowned for pantomime.  And yes, I know we Brits think that pantomime is something that is very peculiarly English, but its early origins were European.  Here at the Alcazar, fabulous and world-renowned mime artists such as Charles Deburau, Louis Rouffe and Séverin, have trodden the boards of the stage that was once here.  So, perhaps you can understand my disappointment at not being able to follow in their footsteps just for a moment or two.
Between its heyday and conversion to a library, the theatre had an interesting history.  In 1873 a fire destroyed the interior, but only four months later the building re-opened.  In 1889 it was refurbished, and the portico that we are standing in front of was added.  In the 1930s the venue became a cinema, and during the 1939-45 conflict, it remained closed until the Free French forces liberated the city in 1944.  Post-war, the theatre continued to provide entertainment right up until the 1960s when it went dark for the very last time on August 9th, 1966.  As I remain standing here, I have to mourn the loss of such a magnificent edifice to architecture and stagecraft.

You can read more about Marseille here and further information about the next Jacques Forêt mystery is here

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

An offer you can't refuse from...

...the Authors on the Edge.  Read on...

Over the last few months, I have been hosting my fellow writers' posts here on the blog.  Each of the Authors on the Edge contributed to the anthology, Miss Moonshine's Emporium of Happy Endings.  A series of heartwarming-stories that was first published in May last year.  Having my writing colleagues visit the blog seemed, to me, to be a good way of introducing you to their books.  It also provided an opportunity for each of them to give a little bit of insight about their own particular story in the anthology.  You can revisit to each of those posts using the links below if you wish.

This month, I have something a little different.  The anthology is currently reduced in price and, up to and including Friday, July 19th, you can download the e-book for as little as 99p/c or international equivalent.  If you're still looking for that something special to read on the plane, the train, the beach or beside the pool, then check out Miss MoonshineYou won't be disappointed!

about the book... Sometimes what you need is right there waiting for you...
Miss Moonshine's Wonderful Emporium has stood in the pretty Yorkshire town of Haven Bridge for as long as anyone can remember.  With her ever-changing stock, Miss Moonshine has a rare gift for providing exactly what her customers need: a fire opal necklace that provides a glimpse of a different life; a novel whose phantom doodler casts a spell over the reader; a music box whose song links love affairs across the generations. One thing is for certain: after visiting Miss Moonshine's quirky shop, life is never the same again...
Nine romantic novelists from Yorkshire and Lancashire, including best-selling and award-winning authors, have joined together to create this collection of uplifting stories guaranteed to warm your heart. This intriguing mix of historical and contemporary romances will make you laugh, cry, and believe in the happy-ever-after.

Another fellow Author on the Edge will be visiting the blog next month, so watch this space...

Kate Field  Melinda Hammond  My Own Post  Helen Pollard  Jacqui Cooper   

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

I am very pleased to announce...

...that Marseille, Book 4 in my Jacques Forêt series of mystery stories will be published on October 15th...

I'm not running with my usual blog post today as I have something much more exciting to talk and write about.  The fourth Jacques Forêt story will be published on October 15th, this year.  And I cannot begin to tell you how pleased I am about this. Dancing on the ceiling might come close!
Way back in September 2007, when I woke up to snow and first conceived the idea of mystery stories set in the Cévennes, I knew there would be four and I knew what the crime would be in each one.  At that point, whilst I knew the title of the first and third books (Messandrierre and Montbel, respectively), I hadn't a clue about the title for Book 2 and I was convinced that the title for Marseille would be a completely different one!
Here we are, 12 years later, and the story has developed considerably from the original outline that I had set for myself all that time ago. Didier Duclos, a secondary character who is first introduced in Montbel, takes a much greater role in this story and he lets us into one or two secrets of his own.  Richard Laurent Delacroix also features in this story and he's not exactly working for the general good of the community, either.
Jacques, of course, is leading the investigation which takes him out of his home city of Mende and into the vast city of Marseille.  A city that is the second most populous in France and that has its own problems. As with all vast conurbations, there are the wonderful and interesting places that tourists like to visit, and then there are the areas where crime is prevalent, poverty is widespread and criminal gangs can control the streets.  All cities have a dark side, somewhere.
So, does Jacques achieve the conclusion to this investigation that he's hoping for?  Sorry not answering that question, yet!  But, what I will tell you is that as well as some new characters, there are familiar ones too and life in the tiny village of Messandrierre meanders along as it always has done.

Marseille will be available for pre-order soon

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

I'm reviewing The Strawberry Thief...

...Joanne Harris.

This is the fourth book in the series that begins with Chocolat and, I have to say, I awaited the publication of this story eagerly.  As soon as my copy arrived I was tempted to forget everything else I was required to do and sit down and read it.  But I waited until I was in France and then, in the shade of a large tree, began reading.
Vianne Rocher has returned to Lansquenet-sous-Tannes.  This is the fictional town in Chocolat that is apparently inspired by the real town of Nérac in the département of Lot-et-Garonne.  Despite her difficulties with the local priest, Reynaud, in the earlier story, Vianne has settled into village life.  She has her chocolate shop on one side of the central square, from where she supplies her friends and neighbours with exactly the right sweetmeat or blend of coffee or hot chocolate as they require it.
But time has moved on for everyone.  Vianne’s eldest daughter, Anouk, is now 21 and living in Paris.  Her second daughter, her special child, Rosette, is 16 and becoming independent in her own special way.  For Vianne, the passing of time and the changes within her family are something she knows she has to accept.
The story primarily unfolds through the eyes of Vianne, Rosette and Reynaud.  Each has their own distinctive voice and it was pleasure to get to know the character, Rosette and to re-acquaint myself with the characters of Vianne and Reynaud after such a long time - the last book, Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé was published in April 2012, so it has been a long wait for this one.
The story begins in March, it is the beginning of Lent and Vianne senses change.  Against the back-drop of the sleepy French town, Narcisse the florist dies. A new trader moves into the village, a will creates a stir and a lot of antagonism and a letter, a very important letter sets the local community one against the other.
I really, really enjoyed this book.  The various plot lines are intriguingly and carefully woven together.  The characters live on the page as you read and, from first picking it up, I could not put it down.  I most sincerely hope I will not have to wait quite so long for the next story about Lansquenet and Vianne.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Come stroll with me...

... around the Vieux Port (the old harbour) in Marseille...

Quai de la Fraternité & Saint-Ferréol

A vast sprawling conurbation, Marseille, is the second city of France.  With a population of just under 900,000, it outstrips Lyons, the 3rd most populous city, easily.  It also has a fascinating history, is renowned for its independence and can claim to be the oldest city in France.  So, people were living here long before the Romans arrived!
This city is also one of the most multi-cultural that I have ever come across in France.  As you meander through the streets, for every five people you pass speaking French there are another five following speaking an entirely different tongue.  You can eat in any one of a hundred different languages - from the parlances of Northern Europe to the Mexican and All-American English of the west, to the numerous tongues of Africa in the south, extending eastwards to Arabic, to Turkish and stretching all the way to Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Japan with just about everything in between.
Fort St-Jean & the marina entrance
The very first settlers here were the Phocaeans (ancient Greeks), arriving around 600BC and travelling from one of the most northern Ionian cities on the west coast of Asia Minor.  They settled on one side of what is now the Vieux Port, the sound being then little more than a creek.  But it was an essential supply of water and an opportunity for trade - something the ancient Greeks were very good at.  Of course, those first settlers weren't allowed to keep everything to themselves, and about 60 years later the Persians arrived.  The original settlement expanded as trade and ancient commerce grew, and the reach inland expanded to the sites of modern cities such as Arles, Nice, Avignon and elsewhere.  The Romans turned up around 125BC, and after years of war, established transalpine Gaul.  The port of Marseille (then referred to as Massalia) became an independent republic allied to Rome.  Maybe that's why it has a reputation for independence and a very distinctive local character, not to mention it's own very particular local dialect.
The first port has changed much over the centuries.  Now, it is mostly a marina for pleasure boats and excursions across to the Hyères islands.  The islands are the site for the Château d'If that Alexandre Dumas used as a location in his books, The Man in the Iron Mask and
Château d'If
The Count of Monte Cristo.  The château was quickly built to protect the port in the early 16th century and was further fortified some decades later by a bastioned wall.  As well as a location for fictional heroes the castle was used as a state prison for the Huguenots and various political prisoners.  Now it's just a tourist destination.
However, like Dumas, I'm using this fantastic city as a location, too although I'm not imprisoning any of my characters in the château!  But my investigator, Jacques Forêt, finds himself here in Marseille in search of answers and a resolution for his next case.  Book 4 will be out towards the end of the year, and I will keep you updated over the coming months.

I will be taking you to another area of the city next month... so watch this space!

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Please welcome, friend and author, Debbie Ioanna...

Debbie in the recording studio the blog today.  Hello Debbie and thanks for taking some time out to be here.

AW  What is your current release?
DI   My latest release was Blind Date, published in August 2018.  It is a comedy romance set in the wonderful Yorkshire town of Halifax.  It follows thirty-year-old Jenny who is single and not ready to mingle.  She is set up on some rather questionable blind dates and put in unimaginable and awkward situations whilst drooling over the hunky eye candy at work who she thinks is completely out of her league.
AW   What first got you into writing and why?
DI   Growing up, I loved reading.  Every Saturday, my mum would take me shopping and we’d end up in Waterstones or WHSmiths where I would always find a new book I wanted.  But the idea of writing my own book seemed like a pipe dream.  Only the Harry Potters and Frodo Baggins got published.  I had no idea about being an Indie author.  ‘What the heck is an indie author???’  Well, I found out in 2016 and a book I had held on to for 10 years was finally released and then two books followed after including radio interviews and book festival appearances.  It is a dream come true to type my name on Amazon and have three books that I wrote available to buy. Sometimes it seems bonkers but if I am ever feeling down I have to remind myself… I have written three books and that is quite an achievement!
AW  You write fiction of a variety of genres.  Is it all imagination or do you also undertake research?
DI   Its mostly imagination or based on personal events.  In particular, Blind Date contains a few (horror) stories of my own!  I research when needed but my imagination can take me anywhere at times.
AW  And what about other types of writing?  Have you ever dabbled with short stories, for instance, or other genres?
DI   Two of my novels actually started as short stories.  My imagination then took over and they advanced in to full on books.  All three of my books are different genres; ‘Abberton House’ is paranormal, ‘The Runaway Girl’ is contemporary fiction and ‘Blind Date’ is romantic comedy.  I also have two websites, one where I post short stories, poems and blogs, and my second one is very new.  I have decided to review all the books I read from now on so my second site is where I publish those.
Debbie's writing companion!
AW  Famous authors, such as Roald Dahl and Dylan Thomas, had a special space for writing.  Do you have a writing ‘shed’ of your own?
DI    I wish I had a writing shed!  Anywhere that I can sit in silence with no distractions would be a dream!  My current writing location is at my computer in my bedroom however I have an attention seeking cat that has claimed my desk chair… so there is always a mission of firstly evicting her and then keeping her off my lap.  Cats can be stubborn.  But my husband is great when I need to get some work done so the bedroom becomes my office.  Books and paperwork seem to take over every surface and all kinds of notes are stuck to the notice board.
AW  Finally, if you had a whole afternoon to yourself and could choose to spend it with any one individual, living or dead or a character from a book, who would it be, and what would you want to discuss?
DI   This is a tough question.  I feel like I should pick someone famous but a few years ago I did my family history.  I spent about a year and a lot of money researching and tracking down records.  There are so many unanswered questions from all sides of the family but I would love to meet my Great Great Grandmother, Mary Ellen Horsfield.  I would want to know what happened in the 1890s to make her suddenly end up in London (she was from Halifax), give birth out of wedlock to then marry someone a couple of months later.  Was she disowned by her family?  Did she run away?  Did she elope?  Who was the father of my Great Granddad?  So many questions, I would need more than an afternoon.

...about the book  Thirty year old Jenny has her own house, a good job, friends, a psycho cat and a Mother who is willing to sell her off to the highest bidder. What more could she want from life? Oh yes, a man. In particular, the handsome hunk she works with. The dangerously good looking eye candy makes regular appearances to her office and she must do all in her power not to combust in her seat when he says her name…
Some people were destined to have all the luck, whereas others, like Jenny, were destined to embarrass themselves at every awkward opportunity. After giving up hopes of landing her dream man, Jenny gives in to her best friend’s requests and agrees to go on some blind dates and signs up to a dating app. She discovers some interesting characters whilst having some no-strings fun with her reliable man friend. What’s the worst that could happen?
Follow Jenny’s journey through the Yorkshire town of Halifax filled with disastrous dates and embarrassing sexual encounters in this romantic comedy of modern dating. Will she ever get what she’s looking for? Or is she destined to remain in singledom forever with her crazed cat?

...about the author  I am a Bradford born girl with a huge passion for writing. I cover all genres, I don’t really write to a specific audience. I have written novels, short stories, blogs, poetry and book reviews. Basically, if something comes to mind then I have to write about it.
I have just turned 30 and life is beginning to get very exciting. I am starting a lot of different journeys which I am sure I will find time to write about in one of my very random blogs. As well as writing when I can, I manage to work part time and study part time towards a degree. Not forgetting my most important (and favourite) job of all… raising my beautiful baby daughter.

Warning: This book contains details of embarrassingly awkward sexual encounters and is not for the cringe-hearted.

You can buy Debbie's books on Amazon

You can follow Debbie on her Author Blog her Book Blog  on Facebook  Twitter and on Instagram

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Writer and friend, Jacqui Cooper... visiting my blog today.  Hello Jacquie and thanks for giving up some of your valuable time to be here today...

JC   Hi Angela.
AW  You're a writer of short stories and also a contributor to the anthology Miss Moonshine's Emporium of Happy Endings.  What sort of stories do you regularly write and where can we find you?
JC  I mainly write short stories for women’s magazines including Woman’s Weekly, The People’s Friend, My Weekly and Take A Break in the UK, plus a couple of overseas magazines.  The story subject matters are wide-ranging but cover universal issues that affect women e.g. relationships, motherhood, loss, temptation, etc.  Short ‘twist in the tale’ stories are always popular and humour goes down well too.  The stories have to be tailored to the readership of each of the magazines so if anyone fancies having a go, my number one piece of advice would be to read the magazines and get a feel for what they want.  Word counts and current submission requirements can be found on the excellent Womagwriter’s blog:
AW  Thanks for the tip.  So tell me, what's it really like being a professional short story writer?
JC   It’s The Best Job Ever.  I work in my pyjamas or in my garden.  Sometimes both.  I can spend hours watching TV, reading a book or staring into space and call it research.  I can legitimately eavesdrop on any conversation.  Some stories take ages to write but some I can’t type fast enough.  Unlike writing a tightly plotted novel, if a short story isn’t going well I can introduce a ghost, a dog, or a murder without worrying about repercussions further down the line.
AW   What first got you into writing and why?
JC  In my day job I often worked with people with mental health issues and I tried to encourage them to use journaling as a way of relieving stress and anxiety.  One day it occurred to me that I was stressed and anxious too!  Soon the stream of consciousness stuff fell by the wayside and I was plotting and planning longer pieces and novels.
AW   The word 'story' implies a fiction.  Is it all imagination or do you also undertake research for your stories?
JC   Considering how many people I have killed over the years, I would like to state categorically that imagination plays a huge part!  Like most writers I often wonder how much trouble I’d be in if someone were to check my browser history.  I’m thinking particularly of the various poisonings…
On a trip to Orkney I had the pleasure of visiting the chapel built by the Italian POW’s who were held there during the war.  Seeing the chapel and the beautiful setting got me thinking about how very different those men’s experience of a POW camp would be from, say, prisoners building the railway in Burma and an idea emerged for a story.  Last year I wrote a story about the suffragettes and I really enjoyed the research.  I love that I get to research a wide variety of subjects without having to know my subject inside out the way a novelist does.
AW  Have you never been tempted to write that novel that they say is in all of us?
JC   My first attempts at writing for publication were novels.  I even finished one or two but usually I got bored with the story long before the end and wanted to run with my next ‘brilliant idea’ instead.  I don’t have that problem with short stories.  I can be writing about evil dolls, a contemporary romance and a historical all at the same time.
AW  Famous authors, such as Roald Dahl and Dylan Thomas, had a special space for writing.  Do you have a writing ‘shed’ of your own?
JC   I write in a corner of my bedroom.  Now, with my kids grown up and gone, I suppose I
could claim a room as an office but I’m a creature of habit and find it very difficult to write
anywhere new.  Writing in my bedroom has a hidden advantage.  At any time I can retire to bed, snuggle under the duvet with my wireless keyboard and as I type, the words magically appear on the screen across the room.  More IT literate people may take that in their stride but to me it smacks of witchcraft.
AW  Finally, what would your eight-year old self think of, and say about, you today?
JC   My eight year old self always had her nose in a book so she would be delighted to learn that despite everything she was told, writing stories is actually a proper job. She has starred in many of my tales, including the first story I ever sold to Woman’s Weekly.  She would, however, be very disappointed by the lack of dragons in my stories.

You can find The Miss Moonshine anthology here 

Thank you Jacqui, and another fellow Author on the Edge will be visiting the blog next month, so watch this space...

Kate Field  Melinda Hammond  My Own Post  Helen Pollard