Tuesday, 26 September 2023

Spring Paths ...

... the third in the series of multi-genre anthologies is almost here.  The first two books, Autumn Paths and Winter Paths, are still available to purchase.  Read on for more details about Spring Paths ...

I and my colleagues on the other side of the pond have finally completed the next set of stories for you to read.  The theme for this collection is spring, and, as in the other books, we have all got a very different take on what that might mean.

In my last post, I mentioned that we had some new faces this time around, so here is our new photo montage.  Eden Monroe - top left corner - provided the introductory words to Winter Paths.  For this book, she is joining us as a writer in place of Monique Thébeau.  Monique has other priorities, and I have particularly missed her input on this book.  In the bottom right corner, we have Gianetta Murray in place of Jeremy Thomas Gilmour.  Gianetta is an American from California who lives here in the UK.  Yay!  I'm no longer alone on this side of the sea!  She also writes cosy mysteries and is working to get her first book published.  Meanwhile, Jeremy is busy working on a new book.

My story in this collection involves a mystery, of course.  Although it's not quite what it seems at the outset.  But my characters, Alice Tomlinson and her dad, Peter, from the first collection of stories, are back.  And it's Alice who is joining all the dots and making all the discoveries to lead you to the resolution of the puzzle.  But, there is a secret that even Alice knows nothing about.  My story will take you back to Beauregard in central France, along with some old and some new faces in the sleepy little village.  And keep watching this space, the release date for the new book is coming very soon.

about the book ...
Sometimes, a compelling short story is all you need.

Let our tales of gods, ghosts, alien worlds, mystery, secrecy, love, loss, and horror get under your skin for a while.

Nine North Atlantic writers have collaborated to create this anthology, the third in a series of multi-genre fables that will entertain, possibly unsettle, and cause you to think about the present in which we live.

Curl up on the sofa and allow yourself to be lost in the pages of this fascinating book.

If you haven't read the first two anthologies yet, you can get each one here https://viewbook.at/AutumnPaths and here https://mybook.to/WinterPaths

Tuesday, 19 September 2023

Come and join me...

 ... at the Craft Fair in the beautiful North Yorkshire village of Kirk Smeaton (WF8 3LB) on October 14th...

This super event will run from 11.00 a.m. until 3.00 p.m. and is being held in Saint Peter's church.  It may be a small building, but it dates from the 12th century and has an interesting history.

There will be all sorts of stalls. Come and explore the stunning bags and scarves that have been created, or take a look at the table with various knitted goods.  There will be racks of vintage clothing for you to browse, too.

Perhaps you are looking for some early Christmas presents or decorations for the house, in which case check out the stall selling candles.  The local florist will also be there with arrangements and wreaths, and you can stock up on jams and chutneys, too.

I will also be there with my books, and perhaps something to read might be the answer to that nagging question about what to get Aunty So-and-so for Christmas this year.

In addition, there will be refreshments available throughout the day, and you can try your luck in the raffle.

I can guarantee you a lovely day out in stunning, historic surroundings.  So please drop by and say hello.  Entry to the fair is absolutely free.

October 14th, St Peter's Church, Main Street, Kirk Smeaton, WF8 3LB

Entry to the Fair is FREE 

Tuesday, 12 September 2023

Friend and author, Jessica Thompson ...

 ... returns to my blog today.  Hello Jessica, thanks for being here, and I believe the last
time you visited, I asked you loads of questions.  You can find Jessica's interview Here  
But first, here's Jessica's writing bio, which is followed by an extract from her book...

about the author …
 Jessica Thompson is the author of the Amazon best-selling mystery novels A Caterer’s Guide to Love and Murder and A Caterer’s Guide to Holidays and Homicide. Her second book was a Whitney Award nominee in the mystery category, and her first book was a finalist in the Wishing Shelf Awards. She also curated an anthology called Beyond the Woods: A Supernatural Anthology. She is active in her local writing community and volunteers as the Assistant Communications Chair for the Storymakers Guild.
Jessica lives in the suburbs of Austin, Texas, with her husband and two children. When not writing, she’s getting her boots dirty at her parents' nearby Longhorn cattle ranch.
Whether she’s revving up chainsaws or wrangling charging bulls, she sees it all as plot-inspiring material for her next mystery.


Bria’s shoulders relaxed to finally be alone, despite being crowded and poked by clinging hollow branches. She crept through the brush, crackling and snapping with each step. She gripped her open pump 12 gauge at her hip with both hands. Gunshot blasts tapped the distant air all around her with an emptiness. Unlike yesterday, the wide-open field offered no echoes and the dogs barked freely as they ran back and forth. With her eyes on the sky, watching for her prey, her mind was free to daydream.
She grunted as she broke free of one of the more persistent branches and let her gun wave around in one hand as she struggled to push her sunglasses up the bridge of her nose and push Kenneth out of her mind.
Now her thoughts wandered to the things she could be stepping on. Pictures of the tiny biting mites called chiggers and the deadly rattlesnakes that lived here made her brain itch as the barking of the dogs grew closer and closer. Five doves sprang into the air and appeared in the window of sky available to Bria’s view. She pumped the shotgun’s action forward and raised it to barely hook the top of her shoulder. Nestling her cheekbone on the stock, Bria was about to take her shot when a strange cry and a nearby blast split the air.
Bria froze. Was that a dove? Or a dog? Doves around here gave the oddest gurgling crows, but it had not sounded like that.
When the sound came again, she took off running toward it. The same sound cracked in a desperate, gagging wail. It was nearby and somewhere in the direction of the fence that Bria knew was to the right of her. Luckily her father and brothers kept the fence lines mowed because when Bria reached the long, abrupt clearing and set her gun down, she was able to see the fence stile that she had used to cross this fence many times as a teenager and the crumpled body that lay on the other side of it.
Red. Two flowing red pools. The more orange of the two was a perfectly splayed wave of hair, and the other was a thick and exquisitely crimson fluid that looked like a red scarf draped on the ground.
Bria had no time to react before being struck from behind.

about the book … After a fight over the family ranch, Dad's young fiancée is found dead. Bria risks her family's disapproval to sneak around and investigate as the tragedies pile up. Luckily, she has help from her childhood crush and from the handsome new deputy. 
When new love blooms in two directions and her suspect dies, she must face her grief and discover the family's secrets before she loses everyone she loves.

You can get the book  Here

You can follow Jessica on her Amazon Author Page  or on her Website and on  Facebook  Instagram  Goodreads and

Tuesday, 5 September 2023

Please welcome friend and author...

...AK Adams to my blog this week.  AK and I bumped into each other at a Promoting Yorkshire Authors event in Harrogate Library a couple of months ago.  He very kindly agreed to answer all my questions.  Come and meet him...

AW Thanks so much for being here today, AK.  What first got you into writing and why?
AKA When I retired in 2010, I needed to occupy myself.  I had started to read crime thrillers and began by writing short stories in this genre.  That progressed to my first novel, published in April 2013.
AW You write true crime, and your book In the Dead of Night was released a couple of years ago and is set in France.  Why this particular story?
AKA Not all my novels are true crime, but I’d read about this unsolved crime and decided it could make the basis of a good story.  I liked the sound of the characters and the basic plot.  I have friends in Saint Plantaire in central France, so that was an influencing feature, too.
AW The research required for writing true crime must be quite onerous.  How do you cope with that?  How do you know when enough is enough?
AKA I like to make sure that actual facts are correct.  I use Google and Wikipedia for most of my research, although I do speak with ‘experts,’ too.  I tend to add the information at the end of a day’s writing, going back to the manuscript and inserting where necessary.  It isn’t too onerous.
AW And what about other types of writing?  Have you dabbled with fiction or short stories?
AK with friends in France
Yes, I’ve done both.  A newspaper article or a comment from someone can be the catalyst for a novel or a short story.  To date, I have written about 75 short stories, from flash fiction to much longer ones.  Some of my novels are set in places I’ve visited, which adds to the credibility of the plot.
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?
AKA Not as such.  I always write in one room of our bungalow using my laptop.  It’s comfortable and quiet.
AW And 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 discuss?
AKA I’d choose Charles Dickens.  I haven’t read all of his work, but from books, film and TV programmes I’ve watched, his travelling around the country that gave him inspiration would be wonderful to talk about!  He used a now-closed school a few miles from where I live as the inspiration for Dotheboy’s Hall in ‘Nicholas Nickleby.’

about the author… I began writing short stories in 2010 following retirement.  After a university degree, I had started a teaching career in 1969 before going into the medical equipment industry.
Having written about twenty short stories, I decided it was time to begin my first novel.  It was titled An Unknown Paradise and published in April 2013.
One novel did not seem enough, and I had really enjoyed the writing process.  So began the second one.  Searching for Juliette came along a year later.  Retirement meant that my time was my own, and I got into a routine of writing in the afternoons.
I had tried to get published through the normal channels but then found a London-based publisher with whom I formed a relationship.  Several books followed before I then ventured into self-publishing through the Amazon website.
Now, here I am, nine published crime thrillers later!

about the book… The Johnson family are looking forward to their motoring holiday to the south of France.  Gordon is planning to meet up with an old friend, and Anna, his wife, is hoping for fine weather on the journey down.  Elizabeth, their teenage daughter, plans to test her knowledge of French whenever she can.
But Anna doesn’t like the man who introduces himself to her at the Dover ferry.  He has an odd manner, but Elizabeth seems to like him.
Three men who live in central France are hoping to visit an art exhibition in a French town not too far from where the Johnsons will be staying.  One of the men is being hunted by the police in connection with a murder.
At the campsite one night, there are noises outside of their tent, and Gordon takes a look. When he doesn’t return, Anna goes looking for him.  In the quiet of the darkness, Elizabeth decided to search for her parents.
But nothing was ever the same again.

You can get In the Dead of Night and any of AK's other books from Amazon and you can follow him on his Facebook page and on World of Books

You can hear AK talking about his book at the recent Books and Beverages event at Harrogate Library Here

Tuesday, 29 August 2023

Come stroll with me …

… through the gardens and château of Joinville in the département of Haute-Marne …

The town of Joinville is situated on the river Marne in northeastern France.  With a population of around 3,000, it is a small and relatively quiet town that sits in some of the most verdant and rolling countryside in this area of France.  Despite its unassuming nature, the town has a fascinating history, and some of that is why I’m here.  Come with me as I explore the local château which is sited just a little up, and across the road, from the local supermarket.  Very convenient, I say, as it means I can get a slice of history and some shopping as well!
The building that can be seen from the street was built by Claude de Lorraine, duc de Guise, between 1533 and 1546.  Claude (1496 – 1550) was a French aristocrat, military tactician and general.  He was born in Condé-sur-Moselle, the second son – therefore, the spare! – of René 2 of Lorraine.  Despite his place in the family, he clearly had his sights set on high achievement.  He was educated at the court of Francis 1, and at the age of 16, he married Antoinette de Bourbon.  He and his wife are recorded as having 12 children, the eldest of whom, Mary of Guise, married James 5 of Scotland, and their surviving daughter was Mary Queen of Scots.  So, Claude not only distinguished himself on the battlefield, but he could seriously name-drop, too!
What has all this got to do with the sleepy little town of Joinville?  Claude was made duc de Guise by Francis 1 in 1528 and was ceded the estate at Joinville, which included a medieval fort.  The original grounds were extended, and Claude and his family moved in.  But not to the building you can visit today.
I’m standing here on the forecourt of the château d’en bas – the lower house - as it was originally called.  The old medieval fort had been in place and overlooking the town for quite some time before the arrival of the Guise family.  The building in front of me was built as a maison de plaisance.  It was designed in the style of a grand pavillion, and its intended use was for entertainment, fêtes and to enjoy the gardens of the recently extended estate.
Surrounded by a moat – a typical feature at the time - the interior is dominated by a grand reception chamber where guests would be entertained and lavish banquets would be held.  Off to the sides are some smaller ante-chambers for the Duc and Duchesse to retire to with their favoured guests along with a garde-robe.  There are no bedrooms as the main house was so near.
Although the structure appears to be on one floor only, there are rooms for the kitchens and cellars beneath.  At each side of the building is a spiral staircase up to the roof space.  There is also a tiny chapel in the southern corner that was added in 1546.
Come outside into the sunshine, and there are some fabulous walks through the gardens.  The layout today is not the original.  This estate had one of the most highly valued gardens and parterre in the whole of 16th-century France.  Regrettably, the site was privately purchased in the 19th century, and the original gardens were replaced with a parc a l’anglaise which was later left untended.  The département acquired the site in the 1980s, and the building was restored, and gardens replanted using the plans from the 19th century. The whole site is now used for concerts and exhibitions but is still available for tourists to visit.
I guess you could say that the château and gardens have kind of come full circle.  Not a bad ending for what is, essentially, a posh 16th-century garden shed!  And if you’re wondering about the old medieval fort… sorry to disappoint, but the revolutionaries took exception to it and destroyed it in 1789.

If you enjoyed this post you might also like to read about my visits to the châteaux in Chenonceau Blois  Ancy-le-Franc or Tanlay  

Tuesday, 22 August 2023

I’m reviewing The Vanished Collection by…

… Pauline Baer de Perignon.  A tale of lost art and the search for justice and restitution.  Read on...

Set in contemporary Paris, this story moves between the present and the past throughout as the author tries to resolve an old family tragedy that has become shrouded in mistruths and secrecy.
Jules Strauss, born in Germany in 1861, became a wealthy banker and art collector.  He moved to Paris and took up residence in a substantial apartment in Avenue Foch in the old heart of the city.  Jules was the author’s great-grandfather and was living in France during the time of the occupation and the division of the country between the southern Free Zone and the occupied north and west.  In June 1940, when the Wehrmacht marched into Paris, Jules refused to leave.  Although the family was of Jewish origin, they continued to live openly within the city.  In the years leading up to the war, Jules amassed an outstanding collection of art ranging from Monet, Pissarro and Degas to Rubens and Titian.  It was a chance remark made by an old acquaintance of the author that set her wondering about her ancestry, the artworks and what had become of them.
The book is part family history and part a search for justice and the return of the artworks to the descendants of Jules Strauss.  The author centres her book on a particular canvas by Nicolas de Largillière - Portrait of a Lady as Pomona, the sitter being Madame de Parabère - and a drawing by Tiepolo.  The narrative follows Madame de Perignon’s searches through archives, museum records, auction house catalogues and various books and repositories of information about art.  The book opens in 2014, and the journey of research and discovery lasts until 2021.  It is also most interesting to note that, despite the international agreements made in the early fifties, little progress had been made in the intervening decades.  Add to that the reluctance of museums and galleries across Europe and the world to give up their treasured works of art, and you will have some idea of the extent of the work involved for Madame de Perignon and the constant frustrations and obstacles she faced throughout her search.
I found the book a fascinating example of family history research, and the legal wrangling and hoops that had to be jumped through to get restitution of the lost items were monumental.  But the narrative presents these difficulties succinctly and without judgement.  The story flows as though it were a novel, the various hurdles presented as though they are twists and turns in the plot of a mystery story.  This book was originally written in French, and the translation has carefully preserved the Frenchness of the original narrative voice.  An enlightening and enjoyable read that I can thoroughly recommend.
As for the artworks?  Are they traced and restored to the family?  That would be telling, and you should read the book to find out.  What I will tell you is that Jules died in 1943 at the age of 81, and the family survived the war.

If you enjoyed this review you might also enjoy my thoughts on Cursed Bread, Clouds Over Paris, The Light of Days or Paris Echo

Tuesday, 15 August 2023

I'm Off My Beaten Track ...

 ... in Abydos today.  This part of my Egypt Journal picks up from where I left off in September and a more recent post from May.  You can read those earlier posts Here and Here if you want to remind yourself ...


With barely three hours of sleep for the crew, we were already moored at Abydos when I come down to breakfast.  We are still not a full complement, but numbers are on the way up, and the boat has recovered from its temporary 'illness'.  The temple of Seti I and a ride in a taxi are today's treats.
The ship was tied up at the side of the lock and a short walk on gangplanks to where our transport was waiting.  It was five of us in each taxi.  All the drivers had been asked not to drive like demons, we were told.  Despite the warning, the journey was an experience never to be forgotten.  If the windows were left open to let in the air they also let in all the dust and dirt.  If they were closed, each one of us steadily cooked.  The driver may have been told not to drive like a demon, but no one had given him the OED definition of the word.  He was driving here, there and everywhere.  He had no regard for white lines, what few of them there were, other road users, or pedestrians.  He had developed to a fine art the process of changing gear with as little use of the clutch as possible and was a master at finding and hitting every single pothole and bump.  The highlight of the journey was when our driver threw caution to the wind and proceeded down the wrong side of the road for a good mile or so.  I concluded that if you were not on the ship's sick list before getting in the car, you certainly would be when, and if, you ever got back!
 We were 'checked in' to the village of Kerba by the local police, and we parked up in front of the temple.  It was not quite what I had expected.  The desert stretched out behind, and the monument was flanked by a disarray of mud houses with a high rocky ridge in the distance.  To the right was a newly built concrete and brick mosque still awaiting completion, painting and final decoration.  And there in front of us, amidst all this paraphernalia of modernity, was a magnificent edifice predating our own calendar.  The tops of the external pillars were restored, and it was quite obvious how this had been done.  No attempt had been made to recreate the splendour of the originals.  Each column was highly decorated, although the colour had faded with time and the sun.
Abydos was one of the most sacred sites to the ancients and was a place of pilgrimage.  The temple was built during the existence of the new kingdom, between 1500 and 1100 BC approximately.  The Pharoah Seti I had the temple built, and there are scenes inside depicting him laying out the foundations.  Seti caused a change in the style of art, and in this temple, the gods are seen to display human expressions and emotions.
The artwork inside the temple was stunning.  Once my eyes had adjusted to the meagre light, it was as though I had stepped into a kaleidoscope.  Vast walls were completely covered in plasterwork of red, blue and green, brown, white and rose, black for effect, light blue and yellow.  Each of the rooms in the temple told a part of the legend of the god and goddess, Osiris and Isis.
The story goes that Osiris was a good and just king, but his brother Seti was jealous of his success and popularity and conspired against him.  At a banquet, Seti tricked his brother into entering a large chest, and then the chest was closed and cast into the Nile.  Isis was brokenhearted, and she set out to search for her husband.  With the help of the goddess of protection, Nepthys, she found the body of her husband in the Nile Delta.  Isis carefully hid the body, but this was not enough.  Jealous Seti discovered it and cut it into fourteen pieces, and scattered them far and wide.  Isis again set out to search for the remains of Osiris.  Having found the pieces of his body, she enlisted the help of the jackal god, Anubis.  Whilst Anubis prepared the remains for burial, Osiris was revived sufficiently to give Isis his seed, and she subsequently bore a son, Horus.  Isis raised her son in the marshes of the delta until he was old enough to avenge his father's death.  Horus found his uncle Seti and killed him, and then raised his father from the dead.  However, Osiris could no longer reign on earth and became the king of the underworld.  Horus then reigned over Egypt in the name of his father.  The legend is beautifully retold in the reliefs of the temple.
Restored reliefs at the entrance to the temple
On one wall, Osiris is pictured, standing tall and proud, wearing the double crown of Egypt.  I noticed a shaft of sunlight playing on the scene in front of me.  As visitors to the temple moved about so they disturbed the dust and the air.  In turn, the shaft of light flickered, and Osiris appeared to stride across the temple wall.  I stood there for some minutes, mesmerised.
All four rooms were almost completely intact.  The paintwork looked as fresh and as clean as it would have done 3000 years ago.  I found myself looking around for the artist - it seemed to me he must have just finished his work.
The wonder was that the eyes of a dead civilisation had read and understood the story on these walls. 
There are times when I think that we modern humans have lost the ability to see.  We have microchips, computers and photoelectric cells, and we seem to live from one tangible reminder to another rather than enjoying what we see and carrying the memory with us. 
My fellow travellers were solely concerned with their shots and their videos.  I was in awe of the talents of ancient people and the illusion of Osiris striding across the wall.  There are some things you can only witness, and having done so, the memory is all that is needed...

There will be more from my Egypt Journal next month.  So, keep watching this space!