Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Please welcome, friend and author, Rosie Travers...

...to my blog today.  Thanks for visiting and Rosie is here to tell us about her latest book...
My debut novel, Theatre of Dreams tells the story of an unlikely trio of characters united in their desire to save a historic local theatre from demolition.  Kitty Keaton, owner of Hookes Bay pavilion and former all-round entertainer, recruits a hapless young actress to play a part in her elaborate scheme to defy local property developers, while a dedicated conservationist works behind the scenes on a more legitimate plan to save the building.
Choosing a theatrical setting for my novel was like opening up a box of delights, providing the opportunity to create a wonderful cast of characters.  I am not a theatrical person, in fact, any form of public performance would have me running a mile, but that’s not the case for other members of my family.
My daughter Ellen is a natural born performer.  She started ballet lessons at the age of four and eventually studied at the Royal Academy of Dance.  Ellen took to the stage without any qualms at all and I suspect she inherited her love of performing from my grandmother.  Grandma Mary hailed from Yorkshire and passed away when I was just 18.  She was a big fan of the music hall.  Without a doubt, she modelled herself on Gracie Fields, and although she didn’t follow her idol into a professional career on the stage, as an amateur, she performed well into her seventies.
Old photo of the Lee Tower
When it comes to writing, I’m a pantser, not a plotter and I always start with a character.  I’d been toying with the idea of a story about a gritty, gutsy veteran performer loosely based on Grandma Mary for some time, but I didn’t quite know what to do with her until I discovered the existence of The Lee Tower entertainment complex in the quiet Hampshire seaside town of Lee-on-the-Solent.
After reading about the building – a vast art deco pavilion constructed in 1935 and demolished by the local council less than 40 years later, I wondered why it hadn’t been saved for prosperity, which led to further research into building conservation campaigns. I realised I had found a cause for my elderly ex-performer.  She was going to save her family’s historic seaside theatre.
I’ve seen from my own daughter’s experience how tough you have to be to make a career on the stage – Ellen eventually opted for teaching over performing.  During her training, I encountered numerous dance tutors and professional performers.  These people were dedicated, disciplined and quite ruthless.  I knew Kitty would have to be a tenacious, resilient old bird so I gave her a colourful past, beset with personal tragedy.  But like a real trouper, the show always had to go on. 
I threw in a young actress to provide some cross-generation banter which then developed into a whole new plot twist, and introduced a handsome conservationist-cum-architect as my leading man.  With a quirky supporting cast and the addition of a traditional villain or two, The Theatre of Dreams was born.

...about the book  Musical Theatre actress Tara is down on her luck and in desperate need of a job.  When terminally-ill octogenarian Kitty invites her to take over the running of her former dance academy in the old-fashioned resort of Hookes Bay, Tara thinks she’s found her guardian angel.  But it soon becomes very clear Kitty is being far from benevolent.  Too late, Tara realises helping Kitty will signal the end of an already tarnished career unless she can pull off the performance of a lifetime.

...about the author  I grew up on the south coast of England and after initially training as a secretary I juggled a career in local government with raising my family.  I moved to Southern California with my husband in 2009 and began a blog about life as an ex-pat wife which re-kindled a teenage desire to become a writer.  On my return to the UK I took a part-time course in creative writing and following some success in short story competitions, I joined the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers’ Scheme.  My debut novel, The Theatre of Dreams, was published by Crooked Cat Books in August 2018.  My second book, Your Secret’s Safe With Me, will follow next year.

You can follow Rosie on her  Website on  Amazon Twitter. Facebook and Instagram

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Friend and author, Stephanie Cage returns...

... to my blog this week.  Hi, Stephanie, thanks for taking some time out of your busy schedule to be here again and I believe you have a surprise for us...

SC   Yes I do. Today we meet Holly, the heroine of Paris Proposal.
HG  Hi Stephanie.  I’m Holly Gardiner.  I know, don’t laugh.  I don’t know what my parents were thinking.  Well, I do – they weren’t thinking.  They’d expected a boy so when I came along they plucked a name out of the air – there was a holly bush outside the hospital window and my Mum thought it was pretty, so that’s what I got.  Sometimes I tell people my name’s Helen instead so I don’t have to listen to them snigger about the whole plant thing.  None of my friends want to change their names when they get married, but I can’t wait!
SC   Married?  Is there a wedding coming up?
HG  Well, now, that’d be telling!  There might have been a few hints, but I’m not going to count my chickens – that didn’t work out too well last time.  
SC   How do you mean?
HG  Last year, my ex-boyfriend Ryan bought tickets to Paris for my birthday.  Well, obviously he wasn’t my ex when he bought them.  We’d been together at uni, and then I went to work for his Dad’s law firm.  Mistake.  He booked us a weekend in Paris at New Year, and like an idiot, I thought he was going to propose, but by the time it came around he’d turned his attention to the new receptionist at work.  I don’t suppose he actually meant to dump me in Paris, but that’s how it turned out.
SC  Wait what?  He took you to Paris and then dumped you?
HG  Yup.  It was a pretty weird relationship all around, looking back.  Can’t say I miss him.  But it was pretty heartbreaking being in Paris on my own on New Year’s Eve.  Not that I stayed on my own.  I figured I might as well at least see Paris, so I went out clubbing and ended up getting a bit tipsier than I intended.  I met a group of guys and told them the story and then one of them, a gorgeous guy who said his name was Jean-Luc, pulled a ring out of his pocket and asked me to marry him, so I did get my proposal, in a manner of speaking. 
SC   Okaaay, this is getting even weirder.  A guy you’d just met that day proposed to you?
HG  Well, yes.  I don’t think he was completely serious.  But he said I was beautiful, and he wasn’t lying about that.  He was lying about pretty much everything else, but that’s another story…
SC  So Jean-Luc had some secrets?  Tell me more!
HG  Nope.  You’ll just have to read the story. 
SC   How about a sneak preview?

"Do you believe in destiny?" Luc asked.
Then he frowned.  That question wasn't the kind you asked strangers in nightclubs. At least not in his usual world, but then, this was a long way from his usual world.
"Destiny?" Holly's eyes crinkled as if she was peering hard at a distant object, trying to discern his meaning.
"Yes." Luc hoped she wouldn't ask him to explain. He didn't think he could.
"I don't know. I suppose some things are meant to happen. Is that what you mean?"
"Something like that."
"Maybe I do. I'd like to think my life is more than just random."
"Me, too. I would like to think perhaps Ryan was meant to be, so you would be here tonight, because otherwise, how could I have met you? And how could I have done this?"
If she'd said she didn't believe in destiny, he would have finished his wine and gone home. But
now she'd given her answer, however cautiously, the words kept on flowing. Before he could rethink, he pulled the ring box from his pocket and dropped to one knee.
"Beautiful Holly, Holly Gardiner, will you marry me?"

SC  You can’t stop there!
HG  Sure, I can!  I have a business studies degree.  I know about marketing and I know when to end with a good hook.  If you want to know what happened next, go and read the book.
SC   If you insist.  Where do I find it?
HG  The ebook is at all good online booksellers.  The Amazon UK link is: Paris Proposal
SC  Thanks, Holly.  And good luck with whatever’s next.  Don’t forget to invite me to the wedding!

You can follow Stephanie on Facebook  Twitter on her  Blog and on Amazon

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Jottings from the Journals…Châtillon-sur-Indre

I've been going through my journals again, not least because I have hundreds of photographs on my hard drive that are just files in a folder with a date.  So, identifying the pics and getting them all properly organised has been one of those tasks I keep meaning to get on with...

Wednesday, 7th

I've passed through and around this little town on numerous occasions as I've been heading somewhere else.  This time around I'm staying in the area for a short while so that I can explore.
Sitting at about 200m above sea level, Châtillon is a small town with a population of around 3,000 inhabitants.  And if you check the old census records you'll find that the level of the population has hardly changed since the late 18th century.  Quite an achievement for a small town in central France. 
The town gets its first official mention in documents dating from the 9th century, but there are signs of habitation here before that.  The town I see grew up around the 12th century feudal tower and dungeon.  Beginning at the ruined tower that still remains, I'm able to walk within the confines of the ancient streets that circle it.  All around are vestiges of a by-gone era.  As small as the town is, it was somewhere of great importance in the past.  The King's representative for justice was based here and the Presidential Court was inaugurated here. It's a bit of a climb to the 13th century chateau but well worth the effort.  
The town also sits on the river Indre and as I cross the bridge I stop and gaze at the view…
Back at my camping spot in nearby Preuilly-sur-Claise, I check my map.  The river Indre rises just west of Montluçon and then flows more or less northwest until it joins the Loire.  It's long enough to have two départements named after it.  Looking at my map and counting the squares I would guess the river is some 200 miles long or thereabouts.  In Châtillon, the Indre flows in clear ripples across a rocky bed…

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

I'm reviewing The House in Paris...

... by Elizabeth Bowen

First published in 1935, this book is considered to be her best novel.  I have to disagree with that.  Along with her novels Bowen was a great short story writer and some of her anthologies are fascinating reads.  I particularly like her ghost stories, which can rival the best that M R James and his ilk can offer.
Born in Dublin in 1899, she spent a happy childhood in Ireland until her father became seriously ill and her mother moved the family to London when Elizabeth was only 8.  Subsequently becoming an orphan at the age of 13, Bowen was adopted and brought up by her aunts.  I believe that her upbringing shows through a number of the characters in her novels.  As an adult she was close to the Bloomsbury set and knew the novelist John Buchan and his wife well.  With such literary connections it is easy to understand why she fell into writing.
The House in Paris has been sitting on my bookshelf for a number years - mine is the first American edition.  You need to own a bank to afford a copy of the first English edition!  Whilst I was in France recently I thought it was time for me to re-acquaint myself with the story.  I am so glad that I did.  As with all of her novels and stories, the various scenes played out in my mind’s eye as though I was watching a play.
The story begins in 1935 in a house in Paris where Henrietta meets Miss Fisher and then meets Leopold, a little boy also in the care of Miss Fisher whilst in Paris.  Leopold is waiting to meet his mother for the first time.  The two children strike up a nominal friendship whilst waiting until Miss Fisher brings Leopold the devastating news that his mother is not coming.
The story then shifts in time and point of view and it is only then that the significance of 'The House' and Miss Fisher's residence there becomes apparent.  And Bowen does what she does best!  She peels back the surface personas to reveal the lies and self-delusions beneath.  She expertly examines the dynamics between her characters and the choices they make.  Each choice affecting their respective futures, their understanding of passion, love, marriage and trust.
The final section of the book moves back to 1935 and that same afternoon in the house in Paris.  We find out why Leopold is left waiting for his mother and the relationship between him, the other characters and Miss Fisher becomes abundantly clear. 
This is a sad story that is beautifully told with flowing and lyrical prose but with an unexpected ending.  Bowen achieves her objective of looking at what lies beneath the norm, as she always does and this is a book that I will return to again and again.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Taking a bit of a rest...

... but not for long... 

All the excitement and work building up to publication day suddenly comes to an end and it is not unusual to feel kind of bereft.  As an actor, I encounter this every time I complete a role.  The curtain on the last performance is down, the audience has left, the make-up has been removed for the last time and the costume hung up for the wardrobe team to clean and return to the costume store.
When I'm working on stage I become something of a night owl.  I eat when I get home, which can be as late as 11 or midnight and then I have to let the adrenaline needed to get me through the performance abate.  So I often read and have a glass of wine... or maybe two!
Strangely, after publication day yesterday, I found myself doing exactly the same thing.  I had dinner - a light snack really as I had been grazing for most of the day - at about 9.30pm and then I settled down to read for a couple of hours with a glass of bubbly.  Not my usual choice of wine following a final performance, that's normally a fruity red, a Julienas or a Morgan.   It was bubbly last night because it was left over and it was publication day.  My book was Little Mexican and Other Stories by Aldous Huxley.  A gentle read and I chose which stories and the order.  
Today I thought I would calm things down a little by giving you a short and gentle excerpt from Montbel...

thursday, june 9th
The village of Montbel was some eight kilometres from Messandrierre. Sitting at the centre of an expanse of high pasture, it was surrounded by a series of fenced off areas. From some, the large ancient boulders that had been deposited across the landscape as the ancient ice sheets had retreated had been removed and casually left in out-of-the-way corners of the enclosures. These open spaces were cultivated with crops growing tall and pear-green in the early summer sunshine. Other spaces were occupied by small groups of Aubrac cattle whose sole purpose for their days seemed to be to graze, to sit for hours, and to graze again.
The D6, which stretched eastwards from the main interchange between Mende and Le Puy-en-Velay, sliced the village of Montbel in two as it meandered its way across the high valley to a final junction in La Bastide-Puylaurent. The sign on the wall of the first house on the right announced that the numbered, but nameless, road became Grande Rue at that point. Jacques slowed down and looked to his left and, as described, a long stone barn stood end on to the street. In front of it was a large enclosed area with black- and gold-painted metal fencing set into a low stone wall.
Jacques pulled up, removed his helmet and wheeled his motorbike across the road, down the short track in front of the converted barn, and into the beautifully planted front garden. He rested his bike on the steady just inside the main gate and placed his helmet on the seat.
“Monsieur Forêt, I presume?” Étienne Vauclain rose from his patio chair and walked towards Jacques.
“Call me Jacques,” he said as he shook Vauclain’s outstretched hand.
The man was much shorter than Jacques had imagined, his hair, thick and grey, was swept back and expensive dark glasses hid his eyes. Jacques followed him to the patio area and took a seat at the table in the shade.
“Coffee?” Vauclain steadily pushed the plunger of the cafetière to the bottom of the large pot.
“Yes, please.” Jacques glanced past his interviewee and through the open French windows into the house. The windows on the far side of the building were shuttered against the sun, but despite the interior gloom, Jacques could make out a gallery that he assumed ran the full length of the building. Above, he could see the edges of the beams of the roof and within the body of the visible space, comfortable and very fashionable furnishings.
“On the phone yesterday, you said I may be able to help you with some enquiries,” said Vauclain as he pushed a cup and saucer across the table to Jacques.

Montbel, the third in the Jacques Forêt mystery series and available in print and e-format.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Published today...

... Montbel, the third Jacques Forêt mystery story is officially here!

Messandrierre (Book #1) and Merle (Book #2) are still on offer at 99p/c each, for today only on Amazon

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

A very special offer...

...there's only one more week to go before Montbel, (Book #3) in the Jacques Forêt mystery series, is published.  To celebrate, Messandrierre (Book #1) and Merle (Book #2), are reduced to 99p/c from today right through until November 13th.

Don't miss out... grab a bargain today on Amazon