Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Friend and author, Allan Hudson returns to the blog this week...

...to tell the story behind his story in the Autumn Paths anthology.  Hi, Allan, and thanks for taking some time out to be here today...

When the idea for an anthology was first discussed with my co-authors, it was an exciting time for me.  Not having been involved in an anthology prior to Autumn Paths, I regarded it as a highlight to my writing projects.  To be able to rub shoulders with authors I admire and have read is a feeling which is difficult to describe.  To be involved in this collection is pure joy.
Once the theme was decided upon, I wondered how I could contribute.  Where would Autumn Paths take me?  Would my story be up to the caliber of my fellow authors?  Ideas drifted through my mind.  It kept getting stuck on the main character (MC) of my Drake Alexander Adventures.  How could I introduce Drake in a fun way to a different audience?  Anyone who may have read the novels would know Drake Alexander is a former NCO in the Canadian Armed Forces. Looking back over the stories, I never told the readers why he chose to become a soldier.  You’ve seen cartoons where the Light Bulb of an idea appears over their head, well, that is what happened to me.  I would contribute a story to the anthology of when my MC was a boy, when he had the magical moment of deciding he would become a soldier.
What fun it has been to create a cast of eleven years olds up to mischief.  The title of my story is Warriors and Trickery.  One of the eleven-year-olds falls naturally into the role of being the ‘leader’.  Imagine, if you will, hanging with a bunch of your friends on a Saturday in the fall.  The trees are full of color, the sun is shining and a path to adventure awaits you.  They are not all boys, one of their best friends is a girl who loves escapades.  You’re only eleven and full of curiosity.  Lots of time on your hands.  You have the toy gun one of your friends carved out of wood stuck in your waistband.  You’re not interested in boring stuff, but, when one of your buddies suggest soldiers and war games, all kinds of images will fill your head.  Your imagination runs wild.  Camo uniforms, walkie talkies, guns and other weapons, maybe tanks.  Knowing you shouldn’t be doing what the rest of your gang is considering, the temptation is too great and you tag along.
I hope Warriors and Trickery will take you back to when you were a pre-teen. Maybe share a few chuckles with their antics.  It is the most fun I’ve had writing any story.  I hope you’ll enjoy it.
about the book... Nine writers - Seasonal Collective - from both sides of the Atlantic, including best-selling and award-winning authors, have created this miscellany of stories.
These tales of family, mystery, intrigue, adventure, and suspense will take you across continents, through time and space in this world and others.  With a linking theme of autumn, discover new landscapes, encounter new and intriguing characters, uncover secrets and lies, and witness the resolution of old enmities.
Take the first step on this roller-coaster of an emotional journey, and you won't be disappointed.
You can get the book Here

You can read more about the anthology Here  and  Here  And you can follow Allan on his blog the South Branch Scribbler

In the New Year, there will be more visits from other writers who also have stories in the anthology.  
The next visitor will be Steve Eston on January 11th.  I hope you will join us then... 

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Please welcome friend and author Jeffrey Metzger...

... to the blog this week.  Hi, Jeffrey and thanks for making time in your very busy schedule to be here today.   Tell me all about your recent work of fiction...

Several years ago, before social media and in the age of blogs, there was a blog devoted to more or less gentle mockery of the wedding announcements in The New York Times.  The posts focused on the uniform lives of privilege led by almost all the subjects of those announcements, extended soft-focus profiles of the well-off and unruffled.  Since then, of course, economic and social equality has become a much more serious and often grim subject in American life.  The internet also seems to have become a much less happy and innocent place.  So what if those columns got the same attention, but instead of light-hearted jeering it was murder?
The Wedding Column Murders is about a series of murders that initially seem to point in this direction.  Is someone killing people profiled in the high society wedding announcements of a major newspaper, one new target each week?  This of course seems far-fetched, and there are other suspects and motives for each killing.  But as the bodies pile up a pattern seems unmistakeable.  Could this be someone with a socioeconomic axe to grind, someone trying to start a revolution, or just someone from the same world as the victims who has their own reasons for wanting them dead?
The story is told by Ethan Balfour, a younger member of one of New York’s elite old money families.  He finds himself in the midst of the investigation and various other complications, including the fact that his own sister’s announcement is supposed to run in the paper soon.  Along the way there is plenty of humor, sometimes from one of Ethan’s sharp-tongued acquaintances but more often from one of his oblivious peers.  
Of course a novel is not a sociological treatise (though I think all forms of writing tend to take on a life of their own once they’re started).  Characters need to be fleshed-out human beings, not mere symbols of a social class or a political problem.  Some of my favorite parts of the novel are dialogue from some of the more amusing characters.  In the end the novel is as much about despair and human psychology as it is a traditional mystery or thriller.
about the book…
Someone is stalking the members of New York’s wealthy elite.
A series of murders has targeted some of Manhattan’s most affluent families, and the connection appears to be the exclusive wedding announcements column in The New York Primrose.
Ethan Balfour, a young member of one such family, is thrust into the middle of the investigation when the police ask his help in navigating the world of his often preposterous – and oblivious – peers.  Now, he splits his time between the police and the world of old money and high society, trying to uncover what, if anything, links the murders.
Reluctantly, Ethan finds himself drawn ever deeper into the case – until its final shocking revelation.
Will the culprit be caught before another member of the illustrious circle falls victim?

You can get the book from Amazon 

You can follow Jeffrey on his Author Page and on Twitter

Tuesday, 9 November 2021

I'm reviewing The Passenger...

…by Ulrich A Boschwitz

Born in Berlin in 1915, Ulrich was the son of a Jewish businessman and factory owner who had converted to Christianity.  His father died, as a soldier in WW1, shortly before Ulrich was born.  Ulrich's mother, Martha, an amateur artist, took over the running of her husband's business interests and Ulrich was destined to take on his father's original role once he was old enough.  However, with rise of National Socialism in Germany in the 1930's, Ulrich's heritage would be brought into question.  Martha took her son first to Sweden in 1935 and then to Oslo to escape the growing constraints on their business and their personal lives. Ulrich's first novel - People Parallel to Life - was written whilst he was in Sweden.  The book was published in 1937 under the pseudonym of John Grane.
The immediate success of that first story meant that Ulrich could go to Paris to study at the Sorbonne.  Whilst in Paris he wrote The Passenger.  November 9th, 1938, became a date of note that year and has continued to overshadow history ever since.  It was the reporting of what happened on Kristallnacht along with other privations that the family had suffered whilst still in Germany that prompted Ulrich to write The Passenger, again under his assumed name.  The book took about four weeks to complete.  The first English version was published by Hamish Hamilton early in 1939 under the title, The Man Who Took Trains.
I mention all this history because it is so pertinent to the story.  Beginning with Kristallnacht, the novel follows the plight of Otto Silbermann, a businessman living through the November pogroms, who is helped to escape arrest by his protestant wife.  The novel follows Otto through his emotional shifts as he tries, desperately, to reconnect with his family, his friends and previous associates whilst hiding in plain sight of anyone who might report him to the authorities.  He spends days travelling by train in an effort to get out of the country and many of the scenes are based on actual personal or familial experiences.
Although a novel, there are many autobigraphical similarities - Otto tries to cross the border into Belgium but is caught.  Ulrich had a similar experience in Luxembourg.  The closeness of scenes in the book to real life give the text an edge of nervousness that I, in my blissful and peaceful 21st century existance, can only partially understand.  But the growing sense of desperation and menace that Otto experiences is there on every page.
As a character, I didn't particularly warm to Otto but then, when under such extreme duress, having lost everything, would any of us behave in a way that would encourage empathy?  Probably not.  Otto's shifts from absolute despair through to whimsical belief for a bright future in the Germany of 1938 were sometimes hard to read, but the inner workings of his mind were an insight into the daily terror that ordinary people had to face during that time.
I found the writing style a little difficult at the outset, but it soon became very clear that the narrative voice employed was the only one that could fit such a unique story - a unique story that had to be told.  I can thoroughly recommend this book as a fascinating view of a terrible time in our recent history.
As for Ulrich himself, he and his mother settled in England in 1939.  With the outbreak of war they found themsleves interned as enemy aliens on the Isle of Man.  In July, 1940, Ulrich along with over 2000 other internees, was put aboard the troop ship Dunera to be deported to Australia.  During the 2 month journey the internees were maltreated and any belongings they had were rifled through and stolen or thrown overboard.  The troops on board to guard the internees were mostly men who had recieved a pardon and been released from prison to help the war effort.  Luckily, Ulrich made it; arriving in Sidney in early September.
Two years later, in 1942, Ulrich was allowed to return to the UK.  His journey this time was aboard the MV Abosso.  On October 29th, the ship was torpedoed whilst in the Atlantic and sank.  T here were no survivors.  Ulrich was twenty-seven years old.
His short and contraversial writing life has meant that it is only possible now for his two books to be published in his native language, hence the latest English version of The Passenger, which is published by Pushkin Press.  Ulrich wasn't only a novelist, he also wrote poetry.  Regettably, very little of his verse is available to us to read.

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Please welcome, friend and author, Natalie Cammaratta...

...to my blog today.  Hi, Natalie, and thanks for bring here today.  You have two young boys, Natalie, so how do you manage to make time to write with children???

NC  Hello, people of very good taste who follow Angela.  And thank you, Angela, for having me.
AW  Thanks and you're very welcome.
NC  My debut novel was recently published by darkstroke.  I started writing it a month before COVID blew up, and I found myself locked into my house with my sons aged two and four.  As if being a stay-at-home-mom with one child always home and the other only in part-time preschool, wouldn’t have already been an overwhelming situation to add writing to, 2020 made it even more of an adventure.
People frequently ask me how I’ve completed two novels in a little over a year and a half with little ones underfoot, and to be honest, I don’t know how it happened.  Sometimes it takes on that dream-like blur, and I’m not entirely convinced elves didn’t do it while I slept, and I was handed a couple of complete manuscripts.  The reality is, I did it whenever I possibly could.
Nap time, quiet time, whenever: I’d open up my laptop, which until then was only used once a week or so to pay bills.  I wrote after my children went to bed, sometimes staying up until 2AM to get to a scene I was particularly excited for. The nights were fine, but my little human alarm clocks tended to start going off around 6AM, and they don’t have a ‘gentle wake up with soothing sounds’ mode, so days didn’t start in a very pleasant way.
Author and helper at work!
That’s when I made the shift to reset my internal clock and become a morning writer—setting my alarm for 5AM so I could have some quiet time to write before my children woke up.
  It’s also when I started my coffee addiction.  I’ve heard it said, and found it to be true, you can’t find time to do something for yourself. There is always plenty to stop you, but you can make time if it’s something important.  That’s what I did, and I’m glad for it.
Falling & Uprising was signed thirteen months after I started writing it and published four months later.  Now its sequel Scattered & Breaking will be released in December.  It’s been fun, and stressful, and rewarding.  I’d do it all again.  Or rather, I’ll keep doing it.  I don’t intend to stop writing books any time soon.

about the book... Serenity Ward is the golden girl of Kaycie.  She never questioned her city’s status as the last dry land on earth.  The Establishment takes care of its citizens…or so she thought.  But now she’s seen the map!

Why would they lie about other islands just beyond the horizon?  In a city built on falsehood, figuring out who to trust is its own challenge, but Serenity pulls together a feisty group who all want the same thing—an end to the government which has hidden a world from them.

Bram’s anger drives his own desire for revolution.  Being from another island, he was selected to be a brainwashed marshal in service to Kaycie, but he knows what’s going on all too well.  Hidden in plain sight, he is ready to draw blood to free the islands.  Only dealing with Serenity is the one thing he wasn’t prepared for. 

Can two people who were never supposed to meet stop fighting each other long enough to remember who the enemy is?
Falling & Uprising is a young adult dystopian series, available for kindle and free on kindle unlimited.
You can follow Natalie on her website Website  on Instagram and on Twitter  
You can get the books on Amazon 

Tuesday, 26 October 2021

I'm reviewing The Infiltrators...

...by Norman Ohler.  Read on...

Set in Germany in 1933 and the following decade, this book examines the lives of a group of people who sought to act against the rise of Nazism.  The story centres around Harro and Libertas Schulze-Boysen, both privileged in heir own way through their families and personal histories.  Although I've referred to it as a story, the author has undertaken his own, and used existing, meticulous research undertaken by others in order to piece together and chart the lives of Libertas and Harro from the thirties through to their deaths in December 1942.

As an example of the insidiousness of totalitarianism, this book could be viewed as a thesis on how and why such policies should never be allowed to exist.  As an exposé of a secret organisation it makes, at times, very difficult reading.  The misscommunication, the apparent missed opportunities and, to a certain extent in my view, the scant internal organisation of the group would suggest to me that failure was inevitable. 

However, the fact that Harro and Libertas and their helpers managed to survive and try to subvert for as long as they did is little short of a miracle when you consider the ever increasing grip of Nazism.

Based on witness accounts, diaries and a small amount of archive material, the author has had to make some assumptions.  It's the readers choice to agree with those assumptions or not and I found one or two a little questionable.  But I'm not an historian and I'm sure others who are far more knowledgeable about this period of history may take a different view.

Despite the sadness embodied in this book, I found it a fascinating read.  The narrative voice flowed well and the story is one that needed to be made public.  A very telling and interesting look at a troubled period of Europe's history. 

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Please welcome Jessica Thompson...

...to my blog this week.  Hi, Jessica, and thanks for making time in your busy schedule to be here today.  So, tell me, what is your current release?

JT   A Caterer’s Guide to Holidays and Homicide is a holiday-set sequel to my first book, A Caterer’s Guide to Love and Murder.  It is also a culinary cozy mystery with recipes.  But lots of the recipes in this book are Christmas-y and several are gluten-free because one of my characters has some sensitivity.  It was really because I noticed that many of the recipes were already naturally gluten-free.
AW   What first got you into writing and why?
JT    I always enjoyed writing little things and I already loved mysteries and recipes, but I never took it seriously until I decided to actually try to be published.  That happened when I read a terrible book.  It was formulaic, boring, the recipes were banal, and the mystery was obvious.  And that was a best-seller!  Right then I decided that if that could get published then so could I.  It just so happened that book was also my introduction to the genre of culinary cozy mystery.  So at the same time I knew that this was a subgenre in which I could carve out a place for myself.
AW  You write cosy crime stories – your first including recipes.  Is it all imagination or do you also undertake research?
JT   I do a lot of research.  I research and try the recipes, have independent recipe testers, and do all the conversions to metric measurements for my readers across the pond.  I also research a lot of mysteries.  I read and watch other mysteries, outline, and try to understand the psychology behind killers and other people that have justified their actions to radical degrees, and think about the psychology of my reader so they won’t guess who the killer is right away.  I also try to make the modes of death realistic.  So I research the poisons, the timelines, the injuries, anatomy, and all that.  I also ask my nurse-friends a lot of morbid questions.
AW  And what about other types of writing?  Have you ever dabbled with short stories, for instance, or other genres or perhaps a recipe book?
JT    I have tried a few short stories, including one plot that came fully-formed in a dream, but so far they have always turned into mysteries.  Right now I am writing a short story that is Frosty the Snowman crossed with the original Frankenstein by Mary Shelley for a Halloween anthology.  It may be my first piece that has not turned itself into a mystery.  I have also considered a recipe book many times, but maybe I’ll compile all the recipes from my books into their own book some day.
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?
JT    I just have a writing corner.  Not enough space for a shed.  I have taken a corner of the dining room that already had most of my houseplants, added a desk, piled it with writing paraphernalia, and I just put on headphones with strictly instrumental music in order to ignore what is going on behind me when it is time to write.
  Finally, what would your eight-year old self think of, and say about, you today?
JTI’ve thought about this a lot in recent years.  In some ways I have done everything young-Jessica had on her list of goals, but in other ways I am very far away from where I thought I would be.  I have met all the life goals that I had, but maybe I was maintaining too realistic of goals.  I’m happily-married, have two kids that I stay home with, have black belts in two different martial arts, went to my college of choice, worked in my dream job and gave it up to have kids as I had always planned to do, have a house, a dog, live near my parents, and regularly go out to foreign food restaurants without any complaints from the kids.  That’s when I tell them that I’m “livin’ the dream.”
But eight-year old Jessica would be shocked and horrified that I mow people's lawns, work on the car, do all the handyman jobs around the house, regularly work as a ranch hand, get covered in sweat and poop and blood, and just generally get dirty. When I was a kid I thought I would live in California forever.  Austin Texas only became the goal when I was in high school and visited with my parents.  And I think being handy and useful in most practical situations was only the goal in and after college.

about the book…While acting as personal chef for a friend’s mountain retreat, Violet and her husband, Jake, must set aside their stress over infertility and create a magical and delicious holiday – until tragedy crashes the party.
Being snowed in and unreachable from town, Violet and Jake end up hired for a different kind of job – finding out which of the guests committed murder and why they’re trying to frame their hostess.
Violet must find a balance between following her gut and keeping it all under control until the police can reach them, while still managing the kitchen.  But can she sniff out the killer before anyone else bites the big one?
about the author…When Jessica discovered mystery novels with recipes, she knew she had found her niche.
Now Jessica is the author of the Amazon best-selling culinary cozy mystery, "A Caterer's Guide to Love and Murder," and will be publishing her second book of the series, “A Caterer’s Guide to Holidays and Homicide,” on October 19, 2021.  She is active in her local writing community and is a member of the Writers’ League of Texas and the Storymakers Guild.  She received a bachelor's degree in Horticulture from Brigham Young University but has always enjoyed writing and reading mysteries.
As an avid home chef and food science geek, Jessica has won cooking competitions and been featured in the online Taste of Home recipe collection.  She also tends to be the go-to source for recipes, taste-testing, and food advice among her peers.
Jessica is originally from California, but now has adopted the Austin, Texas lifestyle. She enjoys living in the suburbs with her husband and young children, but also enjoys helping her parents with their nearby longhorn cattle ranch.

You can get Jessica's books on Amazon   

You can follow Jessica on Facebook  Twitter  and on  Instagram   

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

The story behind my story...

... in the new anthology, Autumn Paths...

Way back in June 2010, I was just an aspiring writer and a member of a local writing group, but I had big ideas about writing books. At that time, my strategy was to hone my skills with short fiction and then move onto longer tracts as my confidence grew.
My imagination was on a different tack.  Whilst camped in the tiny village of Cellettes, just south of Blois, I found myself in the shade, gazing at a large building on the opposite bank of the river Beuvron.  Then the building was empty but it was clear to see that it had had various uses in the past.  But it wasn't the history of the building that was drawing my attention.  It was a small attic window.
In keeping with the age of the property, which I guessed dated from the early 19th century, the window was round and set in an elegantly shaped wooden surround.  In addition, when the sunlight was in the right aspect I could just make out some pale green wall covering that I decided must be old wallpaper covered with small flowers.
That window set my imagination running.  What might have happened in that room?  Who had lived there?  What might they have seen if they had looked out?  A couple of hours later, not a single page turned in my library book, and I had a whole history and timeline for the succeeding occupants of the room.  I'd also decided what those imaginary people might have witnessed over the decades.  It wasn't a story, just a whole series of scenarios, each with its own possibilities.
Cut to the ferry in early July as I'm making my way back to the UK and my first musings had grown into a whole village of imaginary people - the baker, the butcher, the local priest and his not so holy brother, the gossip, the restaurateur and any number of others.  A community of people looking for a story.  A story I still didn't have.  These fragments remained just that for about two years.
A window of a similar design to mine
Stopping at Cellettes again, I discovered that my window had gone as part of renovation work.  It felt as though someone had ripped out a piece of my heart.  I had been so looking forward to re-acquainting myself with my imaginary people. With only my notebook and my memory I still managed to flesh out some details.  I added more characters, more scenarios and the name of Beauregard for my village.  I even came up with some possible titles for stories - I just didn't have a single cohesive narrative for a book.
Back home again and I started writing furiously.  I told myself it was a romance.  The problem was that all my scenarios involved some form of crime.  About 100 pages in, the project was abandoned and the notebook, the partially drafted novel and some pictures I'd collected were shoved in a drawer.  And there they stayed.
January 2021 comes around and, following some preliminary email chats, I was scrabbling through all my papers for my Beauregard notes.  A request for a story was all it took. Suddenly, all those disordered ideas and scenarios kind of marshalled themselves and my characters Alice, an auctioneer, and her dad Peter, a building contractor and property developer, were born.

The Bookseller's Secret Octavo, my story in the anthology, #AutumnPaths, has enabled me to work with some brilliant authors who write in other genres.  I've learned a great deal over the last few months and it's a great privilege to introduce Alice, Peter and the villagers of Beauregard to you.  Will there be more stories from Beauregard?  Perhaps.  Will there be more collaborative work with my fellow writers?  I really think there might be.

You can get the book in print or e-format on Amazon

There's more about the anthology Here  You can read about my fellow writers on the South Branch Scribbler and you can pick up your own signed copy of the book from the Craft Fair at Kirk Smeaton (WF8 3LB) on Saturday, October 16th.  Be great to see you there...

There will be more from another Autumn Paths author on November 23rd...