Sunday, 27 December 2015

An author's work...

Today I am very lucky to have some space on Jennifer Wilson's blog.  Thank you for the opportunity Jennifer.  I have to say that Jennifer asked me some very tough questions, but the first one was about my current novel and was easy...
Col du Rieutort in snow

'...Messandrierre, which was published on December 8th, is set in the recent past and begins in September 2007 in the Cévennes in France - a place I have visited often.  Whilst I was there in September 2007 it began to snow overnight and the scenery the next morning was stunning.  That was when I had the idea for a body being buried and the evidence of the grave being hidden because of the snow.  It's a description of the burial, the snow and the mountains that begins my story.'

But then, the questions got more difficult and moved on to ‘rewriting’ history and what I would change if I could...
'Another big question!  It would be very easy and noble to say I would ensure the Franco-Prussian war never took place or that slavery never happened or any number of other things.  But the world is the place that it is precisely because of those terrible things and the lessons learned as a result.  If they were changed, we may not be who and what we are now.  So, my choice would be to change a question on the 1841 census.  On that census the enumerators only had to record whether an individual was born in the county in which they were living at the time.  For one of my ancestors - a potboy in a Coffee House in Southwark, London - the answer is 'No'.  So, I will never know who he was or where he was born and therefore who the rest of his family were.  A very large and solid family history brick wall!!

And there's more so scoot on over to Jennifer's blog (link below) to find out what else we discussed.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

For Two Days Only - Yule love this idea!

Today I welcome Ailsa Abraham to my blog.  Read on to take advantage of a wonderful offer...

We celebrate the Winter Solstice or Yule so as my gift to you readers I would like to present - for the two days of 22nd and 23rd December only.....Both books in the Alchemy series at 99p or cents each for an e-book. Come on, less than a cup of coffee? Lasts longer and keeps you awake better!
Click on the link below to see them on Amazon in YOUR country.
Universal Amazon link - anywhere in the world
 Plenty of five star reviews and the third one is on the way - grab them while they're this price!

Book 1 ALCHEMY  A world without war? Professor Sawhele Fielding stumbles across an invention that would change the world; something so monumental, it could spell the end of environmental disaster and conflict. With the help of her father, a shadowy figure in the world of international banking, she begins to set into motion the biggest upheaval the planet has seen. But in a changed world, dark forces are threatening the fragile peace. Where modern technology is proving useless, old magic from a bygone era might just save the day. Adrian Oliver, expert in ancient religions is sceptical until faced with incontrovertible proof that ancient evil is abroad once again. How could a Utopian dream of free fuel and peaceful co-existence turn into a nightmare? Iamo, a priest of the Mother Goddess and Riga, a Black Shaman assassin captain, are thrown together - reluctantly at first - to face a threat that nobody could have imagined before "The Changes". ALCHEMY is the prequel to Shaman's Drum which features the adventures of Iamo and Riga through their world in the near future, where the established religions of our own days had been banned.
Book 2 SHAMAN'S DRUM  England in the near future. Mainstream religions have been outlawed, and the old gods rule again. Iamo has been a priest of the Great Mother and is sworn to celibacy, but his love for Riga, a Black Shaman, a magical assassin, caused him to break his vows. After being imprisoned apart from each other for three years, Iamo accepts an offer to earn them both a pardon and the possibility of marriage. If they survive. Iamo and Riga must discover why demons are breaking through from the other side. Which of the cults are renegades who allow the demons through? Who can they trust? Combining their powers, they face the ordeal with the help of a band of eclectic pagans, spirit creatures, Riga's Black Shaman brothers, an undercover Christian granny, and three unusually energetic Goths. It's a tough assignment, but the hope of a life together keeps them fighting.

Follow Ailsa at : Facebook Page  Twitter  Website 

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

James et Moi at Christmas

I try.  I try my best but my brother James will just not get on board with Christmas.  He thinks it’s

My Christams tree
an ‘over-commercialised excuse to eat and drink in excess.’  His exact words, which are usually uttered round about the end of November.  
This year I thought I’d take a different approach. 
‘Let’s do Christmas the French way,’ I said.  ‘Even better,’ I said, ‘would be to go to France for Christmas,’ I said. 
It was a Saturday morning and he was at my house, as usual, reading his paper.  I thought I’d picked an appropriate moment, but then, from behind the newsprint came a groan.
‘Over-commercialised excuse to eat and drink in excess in French,’ he said.  But I was prepared for this.
‘Hmm no it’s not, actually.  We could do Le Révellion on Christmas Eve.  That would be different.’  
He put the paper down.  ‘Revvie what?’
‘Le Révellion,’ I corrected.  ‘It’s a special meal that is traditionally served on Christmas Eve and includes things like foi gras, or escargot or-‘
‘Snails!  I’m not eating those slimy little things!'
‘Well I could replace them with smoked salmon I suppose,’ I said trying to be helpful.  ‘But the main course would be goose or a capon stuffed with chestnuts-‘
‘Goose!’  The paper was discarded to the floor.  ‘Goose!  But I don’t like goose.’
I ploughed on regardless; I was so determined to have a different Christmas.  ‘Then we could do dessert like they do in Provence,’ I said.  ‘Lei tretze dessèrts.  That’s Occitan for thirteen desserts.’
‘What’s wrong with Christmas pudding and rum sauce?’  At this point his face was completely drained of all colour.
‘But you like your puddings,’ I said, ‘and when we’re in France you go into every single pâtisserie and buy a cake or pastry.  I just thought that Christmas French-style might be something we could both enjoy that would be different.’
He picked up his paper and flexed it back into shape.  ‘I don’t like eating late and what’s wrong with your Henry the second stuffing and turkey?’
So, here I am, menu decided.  Smoked salmon, turkey and all the usual trimmings followed by Christmas pudding and rum sauce.  That’s the big day sorted.  However, what James still doesn’t know is that he left his wallet here by mistake on Saturday.  So I popped down the shops and on Christmas Eve I will be having my own celebration of Le Révellion with half a lobster, a few oysters, some foi gras and a bûche de noël to follow.  His Christmas present to me this year!
I think another glass of merlot is required and then I just need Mr Claus to arrive – that’s the tall dark handsome one, not the old guy in the red suit – and some snow!

Friday, 11 December 2015

An interview with Aaron Speca

Today on my blog I put Aaron Speca under the microscope.


Aaron's books are available from numerous outlets, links below.

AW Hello Aaron and thank you for agreeing to be quizzed about your writing. So, what sparked your first foray into fiction?
AS In 2010, my wife and her friends convinced me to join an online role-play writing group.  This has been a surprisingly fun diversion and it what got me interested in creative writing in the first place.  This is where I learned about character and plot building.  It’s almost like an improv version of writing with a large group of writers.

AW From your books do you have a favourite character?  And if so, why?

AS My favourite character is the first one I ever wrote, who became the main male character of the two short stories I wrote with Patricia Laffoon.  Rudy is damaged but noble, completely devoted to his love Trish, sarcastic yet caring. Hopefully soon you will hear more about these characters in novel form.

AW Writing alone or writing with others – which would you say is best?

AS I actually prefer writing with others, because of how I got started.  All my works so far have been with partners.  I think it gives another perspective built into the story and I really enjoy the collaborative process.  Plus, in the publishing world, it helps me at least to feel like I am not in this adventure alone.

AW And your latest book is…

AS “Progeny of Sin: Dark Dreams” by Dawn Treadway and Aaron Speca was released in August 2015.  It is a paranormal adventure romance set in the present day.  Here is the blurb and links …

The Devil wants his due … The Daemon wants his out … and Jade just wants it all to be over. You don't always get what you want.

Jade Shear is an ordinary girl with an extraordinary ability that’s literally about to send her to Hell. When Daemons discover Jade’s power to read and manipulate others true feelings, they force her to assist with the rescue of their sibling; thrusting her from her everyday normality deep into the Underworld with the tall, dark and deliciously demonic Nias Hu’dor assigned as her guide.

All Nias wants is to live out his life without being involved with anyone else. No more emotion, no more connections, especially to pain in the ass humans. But when he sees Jade twisting a long curl of her wild red hair, and showing off the most amazing backside he’s ever been privy to; Nias just knew he was staring at a world of trouble. How could his family have enlisted him to obtain this girl's help to traverse Sheol?

This dark paranormal romance takes you from Jade’s everyday existence into the world of the Djinn Sentry; an army of demonic solders determined to protect the human race; and then plummets you straight down into the seething malevolent Underworld where a multi-levelled caste system of Shaitan and the Devil himself welcome you.

AW If you had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with any fictional character, who would it be and what would you discuss?
AS What an amazingly difficult question to answer.  Being a techno and comic book geek, I might pick someone like Tony Stark and get him to show me around his lab!  It wold undoubtedly be a fun afternoon!

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Busy, busy, busy

This week I am featured on the blog of author Victoria Howard.  Thank you Victoria for such a wonderful opportunity.  Here is a snippet for you to enjoy!

Lac de Sainte Croix
. light bulb moment was my decision to escape the rat race.  I started visiting areas of France I'd never had the time to go to before; I stayed in places I'd just driven through in the past and I wrote more seriously.  But when you have scenery like this to look at for as long as you want, it is hard not to be inspired.
I visited the Cévennes and took my Stevenson with me and, over three weeks, I followed his route from Le Monastier to Allais along with my version of Modestine - a Landrover!  That journey took me across some stunning countryside, tiny villages where everything stopped for lunch and the family, through vast groves of walnut trees and along winding mountain passes...

If you want to read more about France, Renoir, an interesting spot for lunch then go on over to Victoria's blog using this link :

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Messandrierre, published today!

Messandrierre, my novel set in the Cévennes and featuring my investigator Jacques Forêt, is published today.  Copies are available from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes and Nook.
You've already seen some of the letters that Jacques may have written home to his father in Paris.  Now you have the opportunity to meet Jacques for himself and below is a little taster from the text.

it begins
I died beneath a clear autumn sky in September, late in September when warm cévenol afternoons drift into cooler than usual evenings before winter steals down from the summit of Mont Aigoual.
My shallow grave lies in a field behind an old farmhouse. There was no ceremony to mark my death and no mourners, just a stranger in the darkness spading soil over my body. Only the midnight clouds cried for me as they carried their first sprinkling of snow to the tiny village of Messandrierre.
My innocent white coverlet allowing the earth around me to shift and settle unseen and become comfortable again.
september 2007


Tuesday, 1 December 2015

More Letters from the Cévennes

Jacques Forêt, a local gendarme and the hero in my forthcoming novel, Messandrierre, writes to his father in Paris regularly.  Here are some more extracts from letters he may have written...
1 Grande-rue
September 2008
Fishing Lac Charpal
  How's maman?  You didn't say much in your last letter papa and I'm worried.  I can come home for a few days at the end of the month if you need me to.
  It was good to see Thérèse and the boys last month.  I see Francis' attitude has changed little.  I know work is hard to find but he doesn't seem to me to be making much of an effort.  I took the boys camping in the woods for a couple of nights whilst they were here.  We did a bit of fishing too.  They really enjoyed roughing it!  Me, not so much.  Family time like this makes me miss Beth even more.

October 2008
Out on a shoot
…I'm having a few days off work, papa.  Nothing serious, so tell maman not to worry.  Gaston - the manager at the restaurant and campsite here - took me boar hunting at the weekend.  I didn't prepare myself for the first rifle shot and as it rang out I crashed to the ground and rolled and crushed my shoulder.  I'm in a bit of pain and there is some bruising and stiffness, but otherwise I'm OK.  I don't think I will be taking Gaston up on his offer for a stag hunt.  I haven't the stomach for it and perhaps, I'm not mentally prepared for it yet.
November 2008
…yes I'm still in touch with Beth, it's just by message.  But I can't stop thinking about her.
  You say maman wants to know about Christmas.  I am trying to organise some time off so that I can come home, but there are a lot of other married men here who want to be at home with their families too and my boss, Fournier, is giving them priority.  I will try to be there on Christmas Eve if I can, papa, don't worry…
Your only son, Jacques

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Fishing on the Marne

The view north and some quacking companions
I am awoken early this morning by the church bells in the village of Vouécourt ringing for Lauds.  Just as I am drifting back to the land of nod I am shocked awake by the shrill bleating of the mobile phone.  It’s five in the morning and time to fish the Marne.  Not that I do the fishing, you understand.  I can’t even kill a spider, let alone touch a maggot, or impale the poor little thing on a hook.  No, it’s my brother James who is the fishing fanatic and never more so than when we are in France.  Momentarily I tussle with the reason why I have to be up so early if he is doing the fishing.  But my brain just can’t hack the mental debate and I crawl out of my tent to go and get showered.

The village
Vouécourt, a tiny no-bread-shop kind of place, is situated right beside the Marne just below Joinville.  The campsite is small and our pitch is no more than 20 feet from the edge of the river.  The valley rises steeply on the opposite bank and even without my contact lenses, as I make my bleary way to the facilities, I can just make out that there is some sunshine somewhere.  There’s no-one else around – although there is a possibility that the tree I’ve just passed might have been that very tall Dutchman having a fag, I’m sure that tree wasn’t there yesterday.

As I go into the shower block I am greeted by the wonderful smell of air freshener with a satisfyingly clean hint of bleach.  I pick my shower.  There are two to choose from, so this is a particularly difficult decision at this time in the morning. 

Appropriately shampooed and shower-gelled I return to the tent for breakfast.  Breakfast is always James’ responsibility.  However, this morning I find everything just dumped on the table for me to help myself.  No kettle boiled, the remains of yesterday’s bread – ‘for toast’ shouts James as I slump down in my chair - and some dregs of cold coffee in the pot.  Why is this?  James has already got the fishing rods out and baited and in the water.  Supposedly one of them is mine.  Still can’t work out which.  So I resign myself to breakfast alone with my book.
The morning mist as it dissipates

As the morning wears on the early mist retreats in deference to the sun’s relentless heat.  I move my chair under the nearby tree and gaze at the hillside opposite and listen to the birds.  I would return to my book except that I am troubled by an especially knotty conundrum.  If fish do not sleep, why do we have to get up so early to catch them?

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Letters from the Cévennes

Last week author Miriam Drori ('Neither Here nor There' is her latest novel) asked me to contribute to her blog, 'Letters from Elsewhere'.  So I thought I would write about Jacques, the central character in my forthcoming novel Messandrierre.  Below are extracts from the letters that he might have written to his father in Paris...

1 Grande-rue
February 2008

The road from the village up through the col
…papa, keeping in touch would be so much easier if you used the laptop I brought for you and maman when I was home last month.  I know tinkering with your precious English Norton in the courtyard is more interesting than getting involved in modern technology, but it would help me a great deal if you could at least try.

I was up on the col at the weekend on my BSA and the engine failed again.  It was a long 10k walk home and mostly in the snow.  It’s been very cold here…

March 2008
The view south from the village
            …Messandrierre?  What can I say?  It’s much the same, papa.  I’m beginning to think the village is always the same.  Delacroix and the Rouselles are still feuding and I doubt that they can even remember the origin of the issue that really sets them against each other.  The Pamiers keep themselves to themselves, and I’ve realised that life here just meanders through the seasons.  So very, very different from Paris.
            I’m really sorry to hear that Francis has been made redundant.  That’ll make things very difficult for them and the boys.  I’ve still got the money from the sale of my place in Paris.  It’s sitting in the bank doing nothing except earning interest and, as yet I’ve no intention of investing in a property here.  Francis and I have had our moments over the years but I wouldn’t want see my sister and the boys in difficulty.  So, if you can papa, have a quiet word when you next see Thérèse and let her know she can come to me for help if she needs to and I’ll call her tonight and say the same thing even though it will be useless.  But if she hears it from you she’ll take notice.

June 2008

Lac de Charpal
            …I knew I shouldn’t have said anything in my last letter.  And I suspect it is maman that really wants to know.  Well, her name is Beth and she was staying in one of the chalets on the edge of the village.  She’s funny and clever and easy to talk to and vulnerable and shy and she’s English.  And it’s complicated.  Perhaps we should keep that last bit to ourselves eh?  I don’t want maman making assumptions and jumping to the wrong conclusions and then worrying about me.  And, just for the record, Beth is nothing like Madeleine.  She’s back in England now and it feels as though there is a hole in my life.  We’re keeping in touch.  Well I’ve messaged her a couple of times.  I’m not sure where this might go but…
 …give my love to maman and tell her that I’m relieved that she’s beginning to feel better.  I had no real idea the long-term prognosis was not good until your last letter.  Make sure you tell her I’m all right and that I’ll come home as soon as I can.
Your only son, Jacques

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Race Day in Angoulême...

Event poster
‘..and the sun is shining here in Angoulême for the Circuit des Remparts.  And Britain’s only hope for a win this year is the little lady in the black Morgan – that’s car number 7 ladies and gentlemen.  She’s in second place on the starting grid and….’
Vroommmmmm.'  I’m at the wheel of this magnificent machine from the 1930’s.  I’m on the grid.  I’m focussed.  I’m watching the man with the green flag.  I'm blipping the accelerator; holding the handbrake – vroommmmm – just keeping the car on its line but hungry to go.  Guy Villeneuve is in pole position; need to keep my eye on him.  And we have the flag!  I floor the accelerator and release the brake and I’m roaring down the straight towards the monument.  Guy is still ahead and pulling away.  I cut right into the seventy-left and gain a second or two along avenue Clemenceau.  I blast down the short straight of rue Carnot to the ninety-right into rue Desbrandes.  I cut right and hand-brake the car to gain another second.  I’m on Villenueves’ tail now as we head straight down avenue Verdun and into the sweeping seventy-right.  I cut left to overtake but the Frenchman is hogging the centre of the road.  No gent this bloke so I have to eat his smoke.  
One of the modern cars on display
Into the long straight and I slam the accelerator right down and the V8 isn’t even breathless. I cut right to take Villeneuve on the inside but can’t make it. I tail him through the hairpins and back up to the grid for the last lap. I’m up and down the box and then I power out of the last bend into the long straight and Villeneuve is history.
Into the hairpins and I notice Senna is on my tail.  I cut left and right and middle to keep him out.  I take the last hairpin on the handbrake and gain a second then I blast down the final straight to take the race.  
‘Eat my smoke’ I shout as the chequered flag falls in front of my car.  I cruise the straight in triumph…..
‘OK, I’ve taken the photos,’ says James.  He taps me on the shoulder.  ‘I’ve got the pictures.’
‘What?...Oh sorry.'
‘You can get out of the car now.’
‘Oh right.’  I clamber over the side.  ‘What a lot of people.’  I say, noticing the four deep crowd around the Morgan for the first time.  ‘That was brill!!!’  A self-satisfied grin spreads across my face, but James grabs my arm and drags me away.
The cute blue one!
‘Apparently,’ he says as we continue walking through the paddock.  ‘Just a couple of small points,’ he says.  ‘Gilles Villeneuve was a Canadian Formula One driver and Ayrton Senna is dead.’
‘Oh,’ I say.  But my attention is suddenly taken by something else.  ‘Wow, look at that cute blue car over there can we…’
‘Absolutely not!’ says James with a finality that takes me by surprise.  ‘You’ve embarrassed me enough for one day.’  
We walk on in silence.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

A Mysterious Disappearance in Châtel-Censoir

One of the things I dislike about camping is the counting.  And there is a great deal of it when my brother James et Moi are preparing for one of our trips sur le continent.  One has to count all sorts of things.  Especially the underwear - to make sure one has enough and then I always add VAT for emergencies.
The river Yonne at Châtel-Censoir

But I also have to count the weetabix - James won't eat anything else for breakfast. He never used to be this picky.  Well, not when I think back to the state of his bedroom when he was a teenager.  Must pause for a moment to let that ghastly thought dissipate.

Anyway, I count the cereal and this time around I packed a box of 72 and a single box of 12.  Exactly what we needed for this trip.  But after the first three weeks I couldn't help noticing that the large box still had not made it to the breakfast table.  

'That box of 12 is lasting well,' I said. Rolled eyes and a tut were all that I received as a response.  When I mentioned it again about a week or so later, James very rudely got up from the breakfast table and buried his nose in his book.

Yesterday I thought I would investigate the matter and delved into the large cardboard box that he has in the boot of the car containing all the provisions.  I searched and searched.  I removed everything and, still unable to find the large box, I replaced it all.  The 72 pack of cereal was no-where, absolutely no-where to be seen.  So I came to the very logical conclusion that someone had stolen our cereal!

The port at Clamecy
Now, I don't know if you know this but, the Nivernais canal runs alongside the river Yonne to Clamecy and we thought we would visit the museum there.  You see there's a whole floor dedicated to 'Les Flotteurs'. Apparently whole families of people scraped a living from the river and the canal. Les Flotteurs managed the vast barges made of 'bûches' - in effect long floating boons of lashed together tree trunks and logs - that had been cut in the Morvan and then floated down river, through to Clamecy for eventual delivery to households in Paris.

Anyway, after leaving the museum we strolled through the town and down to the port.  So I thought I would take the opportunity to mention my suspicions to James.  

'Don't be so ridiculous!'  He paused for a moment to take a photograph.  'I've given them all to the cat,' he said and strode back to the car.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Getting Started Part 2

The blogs I like best are those that contain photos or pictures.  That is probably because I have a very simple mind!  So the purpose of this post is to see if I can successfully include a photo in with my ramblings.  And before you ask, it is a nice photo - of the river Vienne at Chinon, actually. 

Looking west along the river at Chinon

The castle at Chinon was Henry 2's holiday home until the Duke de Richelieu nicked the bricks for his own pad a bit further south on a tributary called the Veude.

Richelieu's chateau is no longer there.  So one has to wonder who nicked those bricks?  And why?  But the chateau garden is still there with attendant pond and avenue of trees.  No pics of that, unfortunately, it rained the day James and I visited.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Getting Started

Not used to blogging, this is a new venture for me.  So I suppose I need to explain myself first. 

I'm the 'Moi' in 'James and Moi'.  James?  Well, he's a piece of fiction, because that is what I do - fiction.  And here on this blog you will be able to read about our adventures in France.  All complete fiction but with a grain of truth hiding in there somewhere.  

Perhaps you would like to guess which bits of the stories are fiction and which bits are fact. That will be entirely up to you and there will be no prizes for getting the right answer.  

You may wish to tell me what you think about my little pieces of fiction.  That would be good, but please remember that I am a very sensitive soul and understand that constructive feedback will always get a response!