Tuesday, 12 November 2019

I'm in conversation with Aria Ligi...

... author of the collection of poetry, The Hammer of God.

I was sent a copy of this collection of poetry for an honest and frank review.  All comments recorded here are solely my own.

I have always loved poetry and have spent many hours reading, learning and reciting the work of many and varied poets from Shakespeare and Spenser to more modern-day greats such as Sassoon, Owen, Auden, Plath, Hughes and many others.  It was a great pleasure to be asked to review this particular collection.
As with any author new to me, I go straight to the writing.  I want to read the words without any pre-conceived ideas and without any background knowledge that might colour my enjoyment or influence my assessment of their work.
I thoroughly enjoyed this particular body of work.  Each poem has its own rhythm which changes and flows as the words move through the exposition of the central subject to a conclusion.  For me, that is important.  A poem is an entity in itself in the same way that a novel moves from its beginning to a conclusion.  I was impressed by this author's use of language and her extensive vocabulary - there have been so many times I've picked up a poem that began well but quickly fell into doggerel, often purely for the sake of the rhyme.  There's none of that in this collection.
I found the subject matter of some of the poetry to be a little heavy.  I did get the opportunity to ask Aria about this and her explanation provided the clarity I needed.  Having started writing when she was eight, Aria became interested in anything that would allow her to express herself.  Like me, she grew up in a house full of books.  At 'a very young age', she said, she 'was reading Byron, Poe. Yeats, etc' and had her 'first poem published at the age of eight, which was a small work about birds.'
When prompted about The Hammer of God she said it 'was written following the deaths of several family members. These events along with the political and racial turmoil that was starting to seep into the social landscape were a catalyst' for the collection.  Through her poetry Aria admitted she had tried to find 'solace'.  And yes, I get that.  The poetic form can, and does support the presentation of difficult and harrowing subjects.  So many of the poems in this collection caused me to think and to go back and re-read them.
Having had a life-long association with poetry myself, it has just never occurred to me to write in that form, my preference being for stories and novels.  I was intrigued to find out if Aria had only ever written poetry.  'I have written five screenplays, many short stories and a novel,' she said.  But then admitted that she did 'find novels tough and prose more of a sticky wicket in terms of keeping the thread going.'  Hmmm and I know exactly what she means!
One last thing that I wanted to put to Aria was about the use of illustrations in her book.  As I was reading through it I noticed a Delarouche, a Cowper, an Edwin Davis illustration, and a mention of Dali (I assumed Salvador) in one of the poems.  Aria, like a lot of creative people, loves the arts, per se.  And she said she has 'been drawing since a very young age,' of about 'five or six.'  No wonder the collection is illlustrated so well.

about the book... The book begins with a chord of anger, with the titular work, Hammer of God, traveling through personal angst which then reaches outward to worldly considerations returning at the end, to a place of peace.  This is rather akin to therapy in which the individual who seeks help is often distraught, but through inner reflection, finds solace in the process, and through it comes out on the other side, wholly changed, and often to such an extent, they are no longer the same.

about the author... Aria Ligi is an award-winning poet who has been writing for over fifty years.  She has a great love of history, and in particular, the English Romantics. Her work has appeared in October Hill’s Winter’s, Fantasy Realm, Z Publication’s New York’s Best Emerging Poets anthology, Light Journal: the Australian Times, University of South Dakota’s Vermillion Literary Project, and New Poetry to name a few.  She has been a frequent guest on Progressive News Network’s Blog Talk Radio and is the Senior Poetry Editor at October Hill Magazine.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Remember, remember, the fifth of November…

Image from Pixabay
… the gunpowder, treason and plot…

I'm sure that, as children, those of you from the UK, will have chanted this little rhyme  on this day at some point in the past.  Just as I have.  But I have no intention of dwelling on the exploits of Mr Fawkes today!

Across the world, there are other things of note happening today.  In Australia, one of the most prestigious and most well-known horse races is being run today.  The Melbourne Cup was instituted in 1861, the field included 17 horses, and the prize was 700 gold sovereigns.  Now, the race always runs on the first Tuesday in November.  It is also a public holiday in the state of Victoria.  The event draws enormous crowds and attracts a healthy TV audience too.  Estimates are that more 100,000 people are likely to attend the race track this year and some 700 million people worldwide are expected to be tuning in.  So, if you fancy a change from burning effigies and costly fireworks, you could just hop onto Captain James T Kirk's transporter and get yourself a bit of Ozzy magic.

All that travel a bit too much?  Well, I can tell you that today is also dedicated to the Saints Elizabeth and Zachary, the parents of John the Baptist.  And don't worry, I'm not getting all religious all of a sudden.  It's just that having mentioned a 'baddie' at the top of this post, I feel obliged to bring Elizabeth and Zachary to your attention, to provide a balance.

In addition to the parents of John the Baptist, this day is shared with Elizabeth Ann Seton (previously Bayley, 1774 - 1821).  Her parents, Dr Richard and Mrs Catherine Bayley, were some of the earliest European settlers in the area of New York.  Despite many privations throughout her life, Elizabeth established the first Catholic Girls' School in Maryland and founded the first American congregation of the Sisters of Charity.  In recognition of her work, Elizabeth was canonised in 1975, making her the earliest born American to become a Saint.

Image from Pixabay by D Zitouniatis
But that's not all.  Are you aware that today is also National Doughnut Day (NDD)?  Well, it is, and this festival occurs twice a year.  Today, and there's the original NDD that is celebrated in June which was first established in the 1930s.

Of course, there are other celebrations happening across the world today, too.  But with a limit of 500 words, I can't cover them all.  What I can say is that later this afternoon I will be celebrating with a scrummy jam doughnut.  As I munch my way through it, I might possibly ponder whether Guy Fawkes, had he seen the headlines in the British papers of late, would think that perhaps he may have been born in the wrong century!

Saturday, 2 November 2019


... picks up some glowing reviews...

Authors need reviews like humans require air to breathe. They are essential to a book's existence and provide the author with feedback from a wider audience than just his/her editor, agent and beta readers. Reviews provide balance and the specific content can be used by an author when making choices about the path of future stories. As Dame Agatha Christie once said, 'criticism… is helpful' as 'you know how' the book 'has struck one reader'.

Today I'm delighted to say that Marseille, the fourth book in my Jacques Forêt series of cosy crime mysteries has picked up some fabulous reviews on Amazon already.

The first reviewer found the book to be an 'enjoyable French policier'. This particular individual went on to say that they were 'getting hooked on' the mystery series as a whole. And from my point of view as the author, that is really great to know, so thank you. The reviewer also said that they liked the 'characters and the descriptions of the countryside, villages and people.'

The second reviewer headlined his review with the comment that Marseille was 'a really great story.' He goes on to say that he started to read it and just kept 'on going' until he got to the end. I really hope he didn't lose too much sleep as a result! For me, that comment means the pace of the novel has hit the right level.

As an avid reader myself, I have often picked up crime or mystery stories and found myself so engrossed that it is the end of the day as well as the end of the book before I lift my head out of the book. And there's something, in my own humble opinion, that is very satisfying about that. I also think that only the crime and mystery genre really fit that kind of treatment. I have a sneaking suspicion that it may have been Agatha Christie who made some sort of comment about crime novels being readable in a day. When I was a youngster and gradually working my way through all the crime novels in my local library alphabetically, being able to get to the end of the puzzle at one sitting was always my preference as the agony of having to wait until the next day to get to the end was just too much.

A third reviewer has labelled the book as 'a good read'. The comment may be short and to the point, but it says all it needs to say. Thank you.

For the reviewers who asked for more stories - yes, there will be more, just not quite yet, as I need to take a break from Jacques. Lastly, I just want to record my very grateful thanks to these reviewers for their comments and for taking the time to read my book.

You can read the reviews Here and Here and the quote above and others are available on Literary Ladies Website

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Just because it's Halloween this week...

... I have a special little treat for you.  A favourite poem of mine that's a bit spooky!

Shadwell Stair

I am the ghost of Shadwell Stair.
Along the wharves by the water-house,
And through the cavernous slaughterhouse,
I am the shadow that walks there.

Yes I have flesh both firm and cool,
And eyes tumultuous as gems
Of moons and lamps in the full Thames
When dusk sails wavering down the pool.

Shuddering the purple street-arc burns
Where I watch always; from the banks
Dolorously the shipping clanks
And after me a strange tide turns.

I walk till the stars of London wane
And dawn creeps up the Shadwell Stair.
But when the crowing syrens blare
I, with another ghost, am lain.

Wifred Owen

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

I'm reviewing, Poirot and Me...

... written by the actor David Suchet and journalist, historian and bigrapher, Geoffrey Wansell...

This particular book has been sitting around on my bookshelves for a while, patiently waiting for me to get around to reading it.  Having finally done so, I can't work out what took me so long.

David Suchet has played Agatha Christie's sleuth for over 20 years and is now inextricably linked with the man with the 'little grey cells', the weird moustache and the exacting habits.  I've seen all the Poirot films and adaptations, and in my opinion, Mr Suchet is the only actor who has ever come close to the character  as described in the books.  And yes, I've read all the novels and the short stories.  A significant number of them more than once.  In fact, I think it would be correct to say that I grew up on Agatha Christie's books!

This book is very much an actor's view written for other actors, I think.  And, as an actor myself, it was fascinating to understand how Suchet prepared himself for the role and very refreshing to understand that he also read all the stories and novels in an effort to get into Poirot's mindset.  The book charts how each series of Poirot was developed, and where and why changes to stories were made to make them more appropriate for a viewing audience.  There were times when it felt as though I was on set with Suchet and the rest of the cast.

The narrative style is an easy and flowing read but, when talking about the TV companies and contracts, Suchet does become a little repetitive.  Clearly, how he was treated over the years, may have rankled.  Overall, it is a fascinating insight and well deserves the 5 stars I've given it.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Published today...

...Marseille, book 4 in the Jacques Forêt mystery series, is now available in both print and ebook format.

As a special treat, I am also offering the first three ebooks at the discounted price of 99p/c or international equivalent for the whole of this week.

Just to tempt you and to get your mind working on Jacques' latest case, an extract is below.  We're catching up with Jacques on his second day back in his office in Mende following a month's leave...

tuesday, september 18th, 2012

...When Jacques looked up, his younger colleague was concentrating on something in the paper on his desk. Folding the broadsheet in half and then in half again, Maxim got up.
“This might interest you,” he said as he pointed out the relevant article hidden in the bottom right-hand quarter of the page. “It’s an update on one of the woodland killings that we’ve been following for a while.” Maxim handed over the journal. “It’s the weapon that is of most interest in this case.”
Jacques read the first couple of paragraphs under the heading ‘No Progress on Hunting Fatality’. His frown deepened as he read the line: ‘…the recovered bullet is now known to have been fired…’ He looked up.
“From a Derringer? An antique Derringer! How can they be sure about that?”
Maxim puffed his cheeks out as he exhaled. “It doesn’t say, but I doubt your ex-colleagues in the police would have released the information to the press if they weren’t certain.”
“Of course,” said Jacques. “So, despite the journalist’s nomenclature, it’s murder, then, and not a hunting accident. No one goes hunting with a Derringer.” He got up and moved across the room to a large display board. A map, with the département of Lozère at its centre and the surrounding départements of Cantal, Haute-Loire, Ardèche, Gard, and Aveyron, was displayed and spiked with a number of amber coloured pins spread, apparently randomly, across its expanse. He cast his eyes over the map and then fixed his attention on a single pin below the centre.
“Here,” he said. “This victim was found here on the Col de St-Pierre on the south side of the D260, which is just on the other side of the boundary with Gard.” He pulled out the pin and replaced it with a green one.
“He was fourteen years old,” said Maxim joining his boss at the board, a weighty file of papers in his hands. “Found by a garde-forestier. It’s managed woodland up there, and the body was about two days old when it was discovered.” Maxim consulted his notes. “He’d been missing for just over seventeen weeks.”
“And that was?”
“May this year when he was snatched, and the body was discovered at the end of the week before last.”
Jacques stepped back and scanned the map, trying to recall a detail. “Wasn’t there another case about eight or ten months ago with a similar M.O.?”
“Here,” said Maxim pointing to another pin, located in a forested area to the north-west in Cantal. “An old Mauser, the C96, was used. A boy again, aged twelve, shot in the back. He’d been missing for over three months, and his body was discovered about a month after he was shot.” Maxim paused as he thumbed through his notes.
Jacques’ eyes moved systematically across the board. He nodded. “That’s two. It’s not a pattern…yet. But it is a happenstance that I don’t like.” In his mind, there was no rhyme or reason to the arrangement of pins in front of him, but there were apparent connections. All the bodies had been found in woodland often used for hunting. The victims had been minors who had disappeared from either home or school without any trace. The newspapers had speculated widely and wildly on the reasons for the youngsters being in the locations where they were found. As far as Jacques was concerned, not one scrap of the speculative column space could be relied upon. But it couldn’t be ignored either. Somewhere, in all of those words, was a grain of truth. He would just have to find it...

You can read more about the city of Marseille and the locations used in Jacques latest story herehereherehere and here

Marseille, the new Jacques Forêt mystery, is available for purchase Here

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Writer and friend, Sophie Claire...

... is visiting my blog today.  Hi, Sophie, thanks for making time to be here.  So, tell me, why do your books feature Provence as a setting for part or all of the story?

A sensual place
Well firstly, it’s a special place, as anyone who’s visited will know.  The colours are intense, the air is rich with the perfume of pine trees and sun-baked earth, and the pace of life is different from anywhere I know: it’s calmer and more relaxed, perhaps due to the intense heat.  All this provides a very sensual backdrop for my books, which is useful because I write sensual, emotional stories.

My childhood memories
But the other reason I set my books in Provence is that, as a child, I spent every summer there at my grandparents’ house.  They lived near Sanary, a picturesque fishing port turned tourist hotspot, and I have wonderful memories of trips to the beach, visiting hilltop villages, and big family meals with delicious French cooking (my grandmother was an excellent cook).

The weather
Although Provence is known for its heat and sun, the weather can be volatile, and this is useful in fiction writing.  The Mistral wind blows fiercely in Provence and it’s bitterly cold, even in summer.  It also brings the risk of forest fires, too, so the mention of it adds a subtle note of menace.
Storms are another dramatic feature of Provencal weather.  The last two weeks in August are notorious for storms.  I remember several occasions when our house came close to flooding and the lights went out (always useful in a book for forcing characters together), and the thunder and lightning were far more exciting than anything we’d experienced in the UK.  I like to use these kind of extreme weather conditions to ramp up the tension in my books and make my poor characters suffer.

Village life
Although tourists tend to take over the region during the high season, for the rest of the year Provence can be quiet, and there’s a strong sense of community in its towns and villages.  Family values are important here too, and in my novels I love to show the close bonds which this creates.  Travel through any Provencal village and you’ll see locals stopping to chat or catching up over coffee.  This slow pace and tightly-knit community spirit contrasts greatly with the solitary lives and busy pace most of us are used to, and is something readers are drawn to.

An escape
In my latest book, The Christmas Holiday, Provence is where my characters, Jake and Evie,
flee to at Christmas.  They hope it will be an escape because the holiday season is a painful time for them.  But being alone together also forces them to get to know each other more intimately, and it becomes increasingly difficult for them to ignore the attraction which has been simmering beneath the surface. 
When it’s raining in Manchester (which it often is), the sun-soaked landscapes of Provence provide an escape for me, and there’s nothing I like more than to let my imagination carry me away to a place where the cicadas sing all summer, and the smell of lavender perfumes the warm air.

You can follow Sophie on her Website on Facebook Twitter and on Amazon
You can get Sophie's book Here

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