Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Interview with Miss Moonshine…

…I'm here in Miss Moonshine's Wonderful Emporium on Market Street, Haven Bridge.  Napoleon is asleep in his basket under the table, and Miss M and I have a pot of camomile tea to share…


AW    Thank you for inviting me here today and for taking some time out to chat.  The third book, Midsummer Magic, about you and your good deeds, is out.  Did you have any inkling at all that the first anthology would become a series?
MissM It wasn't my decision, dear.  The authors themselves decided there was a need for a second book and have gone on to produce the latest one because of its success.  I can only provide a nudge here and there or a whisper of inspiration as required.
AW      Hmm, as enigmatic as ever!  The stories in the latest collection include a ghost, guerilla gardening, antiques, to mention just a few. Do you have a favourite?
MissM Now that would be telling!  Each of the authors has their own style and  ideas.  I just help where I can as I did when Kate Field stopped to look at a portrait and thought how vivid and alive it was.  She devised her story around whether the lady in the painting may have smiled or not.  Mary Jayne Baker's story, inspired by a personal loss, enabled her to say goodbye to her childhood home.  I just watched over her as she wrote.  That's all that was needed.  The inspiration for Melinda Hammond was some pretty Clarice Cliff pottery and the family story behind it.  Who can resist a tale about meeting a childhood sweetheart again?  For Sophie Claire, who didn't plan her story, as usual, wondering how I would react to a shoplifter in the emporium was her catalyst.  Did I direct the way her story would go?  Perhaps.  Just a little.  Marie Laval's story was very interesting and required quite a lot of research.  Did you know that there are only 120 professional perfumiers in France (also called 'nez') and not more than 500 in the whole world?  It was fascinating to learn that the perfumier in her story could visualise scents as colours.
AW     I notice that vintage cars are mentioned in three stories this time around - a Lanchester Ten in Jacqui Cooper's story.  Is this a great interest of yours, and do you have a favourite?
MissM I suppose you could say that cars are an interest.  I've driven many different vehicles over the years, including all the cars mentioned in the book. Do I have a favourite?  Well, I suppose it depends on where I'm going and what I'm doing.  You see, my dear, there are some cars to drive, and there are some cars to be driven in.  I certainly enjoyed the jaunt in the vehicle in Helena Fairfax's story.  It belongs to the hero's mother, you know.  A writer of romance novels.  Rather neat to include that, don't you think?
AW     Mmm.  One of the stories includes a ghost.  Where do you stand on ghosts, Miss M?  A believer or not?
  Ah, yes. There's so much in this world we don't understand; so much that can't be seen by others.  In Helen Pollard's story, Ginny certainly doesn't believe in ghosts.  But the story does enable differing points of view to be aired, and that's always a good thing, I think. And if it can be done with a bit of humour, too, so much the better. 
AW      And finally, Miss Moonshine, what does the future hold for you, do you think?
MissM  I really couldn't say.  My work here in the shop will go on, of course.  I always aim to provide whatever is needed.  And, if my writers need me at any time, I will be there for them.

You can get the book and the first two in the series Here  

You can read more about Miss M and the books Here and I will be telling the story behind my story in the anthology on the blog next month.  Watch this space!

Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Come stroll with me...

...through the town of Bar-sur-Seine. You might be surprised by what we can find...

If you look at a map of the département of Aude (region of Le Grand Est), you will find a number of places that use the word 'bar', or a derivative, in their names. Bar-sur-Seine, which is where I am today, is one of them. The word 'bar' may come from the latin 'barra' meaning barrier or it could have it's root in Old French 'barre' meaning rod to secure a door or some form of gate. Either way, the intention appears that it is something to do with getting in the way! Which makes sense when you consider that back in Medieval times, the County of Bar and Bar-sur-Seine were territory to be fought over - and the remains of the original château are on the edge of town. Sitting close to the border with Champagne, the town was strategically placed to repell potential usurpers from Bourgogne and Champagne.
The original Gallish settlement was ransacked by the English in the 14th century and suffered again during the Religious Wars of the 16th century. By the time we get to the late 18th century the town was prospering and subsequently became a sub-prefecture.
I'm stood at the end of Grand Rue de la Résistance and the importance of the town can be seen in the length of the street and the many handsome timbered buildings. The street is cobbled which adds to the charm. Take away Monsieur's white delivery van, shut out the noise of the 21st century and I can imagine myself strolling along here in the latest outfit that 18th century fashion had to offer. But there's more to come.
I make my way back to the junction with Place de le Republique and take a left. Note the timbered house on the corner. A few steps along this street on the left is a small shrine. The flowers have seen better days, but it was early October when I was last here. The plaque on the wall is in remembrance of a much more recent piece of history. Towards the end of August 1944, Bar-sur-Seine was on the frontline between the hastily retreating forces of Hitler and the rapidly advancing forces of the Allies.
As we continue along we come to an intersection with rue Victor-Hugo. Just stand for a moment and examine the the stunning carving of the 16th century timbered house on your right. I had to wait for the sun to move out from behind a cloud - but I didn't mind. And there's plenty of detail to see, too.  But I will let you make that little discovery for yourselves when you are next in the area.
Continuing towards the river there is one other thing that I want to show you. The Moulin Charrier was built in the mid-19th century and was a working flour mill right up to 1925. The remains of the building that we can see represent the latest mill on this spot. According to the archives there was an earlier mill here in the 11th century. As I wait for the sun to be kind to me again I wonder what will happen to such a large chunk of this town's history. Will it be preserved? I certainly hope so. It may be derelict now, but even in that, with the right light, it has an empty magnificence about it that is hard to deny…

I will be back with more little discoveries from my travels in France next month - watch this space!

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Friend and author, Sophie Claire...

Photo courtesy of Jodie Thackray
... visits my blog today.  Hi, Sophie and thanks for being here.  So tell me, what is your current release...

SC It’s called Summer at the French Olive Grove and it’s about adventurous filmmaker, Lily Martin, who breaks her arm and must return home to France while she recuperates.  She hasn’t seen her childhood crush, Olivier Lacoste, since the devastating fire that changed her life and they have unfinished business.
AW   What first got you into writing and why?
SC  I first began writing twenty years ago when my son was a baby.  I had an outbreak of very painful eczema and writing was a form of pain relief that took me away for a couple of hours while my son napped.  Then I saw a leaflet in my local library for a women’s writing group and went along feeling very nervous and convinced they’d turn me away.  In fact, they were wonderfully encouraging and I learned so much there.  I’ll always be grateful to that group for setting me off on this journey.
AW  You write Romance.  Is it all imagination or do you also undertake research?
  I think it’s imperative to research because I know it’s off-putting as a reader when an author gets something wrong (having said that we can all make mistakes despite our best efforts).  So I do a lot of reading around a subject if it’s unfamiliar (eg burns survivors for Summer at the French Olive Grove) and I interview knowledgeable people where I can. A lot of research can be done on the internet too, of course.  If anyone saw my Google searches it might make them chuckle because they can seem quite random.  In the same day, I might look up the symbolism of olive groves, how long a broken arm takes to heal, and how to make choux pastry.  Writing leads me to learn all sorts of quirky facts.
AW  And what about other types of writing?  I know you write short stories for the Miss Moonshine anthologies, but have you ever dabbled with other genres?
SC  My most recent ‘dabbling’ was a piece of flash fiction (250 words).  It was such fun to write and satisfyingly quick.  I try to keep an open mind about trying new projects and never say never.  It takes me a year minimum to write a novel, so shorter pieces are especially rewarding and keep the magic of writing alive.
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?
SC  I wish!  A shed would have been perfect during lockdown or when we had workmen in.
But I can’t complain because I’m very fortunate to have an office of my own.  It overlooks the garden so there are no distractions except squirrels, cats and foxes trotting through.  My office is also very messy, so don’t be deceived by this picture.
AW  Finally, what would your eight-year-old self think of, and say about, you today?
SC   Great question!  My eight-year-old self adored making up stories and she used to fill exercise books.  She’d tell me I worry too much, and I should relax and have fun.  Children are so good at being spontaneously creative, and I strongly believe that we adults could learn a lot from them.  When I’m writing a scene and it’s going well, it does feel as if I’m plugging into my inner child.  Nothing beats that feeling.

about the book...
Filmmaker Lily's life is all about work and adventure.
  So when she suffers an accident on her travels and finds herself recuperating in the quiet French seaside village where she spent her childhood, she can't wait to escape.  Not least because Olivier - Lily's childhood friend and former crush, who she has spent the last thirteen years avoiding - is staying next door.
Strong-minded master baker Olivier is happily settled in St Pierre, preparing to marry and put down roots.  But Lily's return to the village risks turning his carefully-laid plans upside down, and as the pair rediscover their familiar rivalry and fun, sparks fly.
Is Lily really as fearless and independent as she seems on the surface - or is she just running from the past?  And what if Olivier is the only one who can teach her what it really means to be brave?

about the author… Sophie Claire writes uplifting emotional stories with their heart in Provence, where she spent her childhood summers.  She is half French, half Scottish, was born in Africa and growing up in England she felt she didn’t belong anywhere – except in the pages of a book.  Perhaps this is why she likes to help her characters find their home; a place in the world where they can be loved for themselves.
Previously, she worked in marketing and proofreading academic papers, but writing is what she always considered her ‘real job’ and now she’s delighted to spend her days dreaming up heartwarming contemporary romance stories set in beautiful places.

You can follow Sophie on her Website on Facebook Twitter Instagram and on Pinterest

You can find Sophie's books on Amazon 

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

I'm reviewing The Nazi King of Paris...

... by Christopher Othen.  This book tells the story of Henri Lafont and his criminal associates during an especially dark period of French history...

Set in Paris during the occupation in the 1940's, this book details the insidious rise to power of one man and his criminal counterparts.

Henri Lafont was born in Paris, April 1902.  He spent most of his life in the city and died there on December 26th, 1944 following a trial.  His execution took place at Fort de Montrouge on the outskirts of the city.

When the city was occupied in 1940, life for everyone changed.  The government removed itself to Vichy, which was in the Free Zone, and the decision to collaborate or not with the occupiers was one that all French people had to take on a daily basis.  The decision for Henri was an unequivocal and constantly enduring yes.  Through his contacts and the workings of the occupying forces, at a time of great distress for the whole of the country, this man sort only his own gain and personal advancement. As an exposé of an amoral sector of society, this book is it.  The depths to which Henri and his associates sank during les années noires are unfathomable for a law-abiding citizen such as myself.  It was a very difficult book to read, at times, but compelling all the same.

Meticulously researched, with a very detailed set of notes and bibliography at the back, this was yet another story that needed to be told.

I found the narrative voice flowed well without judgement, leaving the reader to make up their own mind.  When you consider some aspects of the subject matter, that must have been an incredibly difficult line to tread for the author.  A fascinating read.

Saturday, 26 June 2021

Newark Book Festival...


Come and join me on Sunday, July 11th in the Market Place, Newark.  I will be signing and selling books from 10.00am.  No booking or tickets required, just turn up.  It would be great to see you there.

Tickets and more detailed information for other festival events are available Here

Monday, 21 June 2021

Published today…

 ...Midsummer Magic at Miss Moonshine's Emporium…

My blog post is a little earlier than usual this week. But then I have something wonderful to tell you - the third anthology in the Miss Moonshine series of feel-good, heart-warming stories is published today!
Way back in 2017, when I was asked if I would like to contribute to a collection of short stories, I never for one moment thought about whether the book would have longevity or not. I was just so bowled over at the thought of being included, considered even, that I just didn't think where it might lead.
Here we are, four years later, and the third collection of stories is available for everyone to read.
Set in our imaginary town of Haven Bridge, Miss Moonshine is still doing her good works in her fabulous, but eclectic, emporium on Market street - a guiding word or two of advice for some customers, an object that exactly meets a need for others, distributing small doses of her magic to help as needed.

about the book… Are you ready to meet Miss Moonshine? Life may never be the same again…
It’s summer in Haven Bridge and Miss Moonshine is getting ready for a busy season. From the window of her Wonderful Emporium, at the heart of the pretty Yorkshire town, she watches and waits, weaving plans to bring happiness to all who step through her door. For Miss Moonshine is no ordinary shopkeeper. She may not have what you want, but she will always have what you need…

Nine romantic novelists from Yorkshire and Lancashire, including best-selling and award-winning authors, have joined together to create this anthology of uplifting stories guaranteed to warm your heart. This magical collection of contemporary romances will make you laugh, cry and wish for a Miss Moonshine in your own life.

Follow the book as it tours blogs and websites, details above

Not met Miss Moonshine yet?  You can find out more about her Here

Want to know how the anthologies are put together?  Read more Here

You can get all three books Here

Miss Moonshine will be making a personal appearance here on the blog next month.  Watch this space!

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Friend and author Mary Kendall joins me...

... on the blog today.  Hi, Mary, thanks for being here.  You have a new book out that is somehow connected to your family tree.  I love that kind of story so, tell me more...

Inspiration is a funny thing…it can sprinkle down from anywhere and usually when least expected.  In the case of my recent release, The Spinster’s Fortune, inspiration came while I was researching old newspaper articles about my long deceased paternal grandfather, a man who died nine years before I was born.  He was an attorney in Washington, D.C., and had worked on some significant cases.  Because of this, there were opportunities to “find” him in the internet newspaper archives.
I was so excited to come upon a photograph of him in his early 30s as there are not too many photographs of him around.  But the story that came with that photograph stopped me in my tracks.  It was a stunner.  Headlines such as “Spinster, 90, in Poorhouse, Found Owner of Fortune”, “Old House Yields Additional $1,100 Hidden in Rubbish” and “Rag-Stuffed Old Box Reveals Rich Treasure” pulled me right down into the rabbit hole and thus a new writing adventure began.  A tale eventually spun out from the real life facts of this case that my grandfather had been involved in and became an historical mystery that I titled, The Spinster’s Fortune.  So it is a fictional tale inspired by the real life events, setting and time period with one of the two main protagonists, Blanche, based on a real person.
A spooky house from Mary's past, perhaps?
In my fictional rendition, Blanche Magruder, for unknown reasons, has hidden her family’s fortune in strange places throughout her decaying house in the neighborhood, Georgetown, Washington, D.C. in 1929.  When authorities notify her niece, Margaret O’Keefe (identified as next of kin), that treasure hunters are looting her estranged aunt’s house, Margaret becomes immersed in the life of this supposed penniless spinster.  It actually provides her a much needed distraction from her own life’s problems.  For starters, her husband’s gambling habits have put the family horse business in dire jeopardy.  And Aunt Blanche’s hidden treasure secreted throughout the house in Georgetown could be Margaret’s way out.  While Margaret struggles to sort through Blanche’s affairs, Blanche stages breakouts from her care homes using tunnels underneath the city causing chaos and crises.  As Margaret chips away at finding the hiding spots of the monies, she starts to unravel mysteries about this aunt’s life.  Along the way, she also begins to make discoveries about her own life and changes that need to happen.
The story draws deeply from mystery genre traditions with gothic roots.  It is heavily influenced by my background as a historian and as a reader with a heavily saturated diet of mystery/suspense/thriller fiction.  After approximately six years of many rounds of drafts, many rounds of editing and many rejections, The Spinster’s Fortune, was recently published in April 2021 by darkstroke books.

about the author… Mary Kendall lived in old (and haunted) houses growing up which sparked a life-long interest in history and story-telling.  She earned degrees in history related fields and worked as an historian for many years.  Her fiction writing is heavily influenced by the past which she believes is never really dead and buried.  Fuelled by black coffee and a possible sprinkling of Celtic fairy dust, she tends to find inspiration in odd places and sometimes while kneading bread dough.  The author resides in Maryland with her family (husband, three kids, barn cat and the occasional backyard hen) who put up with her mad scribbling at inconvenient hours.  The Spinster’s Fortune, her debut novel, is twisty tale of family deception murky with gothic undertones recently released on 6 April 2021.

about the book… Summer of 1929.
Of supposed unsound mind without a penny to her name, Blanche Magruder lies alone in a home for the aged and infirm.
Meanwhile, her house, a crumbled ruin in the heart of Georgetown, Washington, D.C., is pillaged nightly by thieves looking for treasure rumored to be hidden there.
A distant niece, Margaret O’Keefe, is tapped as executor and soon becomes embroiled in the hunt for recovering monies, taking it on as a welcome escape from her financial and marital woes.
As Margaret discovers caches in unlikely spots throughout the house, family mysteries begin to unravel.  She questions whether Aunt Blanche is an insane fool or a daring genius, yet Margaret must also wrangle with her own hidden truths.
Pressed towards a convergence of their pasts and presents, the two women must ultimately face down a fateful discovery in order to rectify their lives.
Shrouded in gothic undertones and dark artifice, The Spinter's Fortune is a tale that takes the reader on a strange journey through tangled webs of family deceit.  But where does it end?

You can follow Mary on her  Website on Facebook Instagram and on Twitter

You can get the book on Amazon