Tuesday, 30 August 2016

An interview with…

… Mills and Boon author Rachael Thomas.  Hello Rachael and thank you so much for agreeing to be cross-examined by me today.  I know your time is very precious so…

AW  What is your current release?
RT  ‘To Blackmail A Di Sione’ published by Harlequin Mills and Boon and I’m really excited about this book, as it is book three in The Billionaire’s Legacy.

AW   Congratulations on the book!  What first got you into writing and why?
RT   I was about eight when I first thought I want to be a writer after being told a short story I’d written at school was really good.  It was fifteen years ago, when my children were small, that I thought it’s time to chase that dream.

AW  You write Romance.  Is it all imagination or do you also undertake research?
Author on location!
RT   For the kind of character driven stories I write, I believe research is around me all the time.  I delve into the human emotions, happy or sad, and use them to bring my characters to life.
I do, though, enjoy the opportunity for a bit of setting research.  I have either set stories in places I’ve visited or even in the case of ‘To Blackmail a Di Sione’, made that trip after having written it.  In this book, a scene takes place at The Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, New York.  I had researched this setting online, but was thrilled to be there for real.

AW  And what about other types of writing?  Have you ever dabbled with short stories, for instance, or other genres?
RT   When I began seriously writing fifteen years ago, I was trying for the short story market, but my lifelong love of Mills and Boon books meant that focusing my attention there was inevitable.

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?
Rachael's writing room
RT   I do have my own special place, but it’s not a shed.  It was once, the dining room but is better known by my family as the writing room now.  In it I have all I could need to immerse myself in my writing – except a supply of coffee from the kitchen!

AW   Hmm, I know what you mean about the coffee but that’s a lovely room.  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 want to discuss?
RT   I have just finished reading ‘Sleeper’s Castle’ by Barbara Erskine and, being fascinated by history and living in Wales, I’d love to go back to the early 1400’s and spend an afternoon with Catrin.  Although she is fictional, I would love to be able to find out all about what it was like then, when Owain Glydwyr was revolting against the English King in a bid to be proclaimed The Prince of Wales.
AW  How very interesting!  Thank you Rachael and if you want to know more…

Rachael's latest release

…about the author  Rachael lives in Wales, where she and her husband run a farm.  Writing romance has been a long held dream and she can't believe how lucky she is to be ale to escape into the glamorous world of her heroes and heroines as part of her job.  When she isn't writing or working on the farm, she enoys photography and visiting historic castles and grand houses.

You can find her books atTo Blackmail a di Sione  Mills and Boon

Visit her at : www.rachaelthomas.co.uk

Monday, 22 August 2016

Please welcome a very special guest...

I have royalty on my blog today - courtesy of friend and author, Jennifer Wilson
Hi Angela, and thank you for hosting me on your blog!
You're very welcome Jennifer, so what is this all about?
Today, 22nd August, is the 531st anniversary of one of the most decisive battles in British history – the Battle of Bosworth.  It ended, in just a few hours, the Wars of the Roses and the Plantagenet Dynasty, and marked the start of one of our most notorious dynasties – the Tudors, starting with Henry VII.
So, you might (fairly) ask – how does this link with Angela’s current theme of travel and living in a foreign country?
Well, monarchs have always been amongst the most travelled people, whether acknowledging or rewarding their loyal subjects, over-seeing their widespread houses and lands, invading to try and expand said lands, or, in the case of Richard III, heading into exile.
If we’re being pedantic, Richard wasn’t king whilst in exile, ‘merely’ Duke of Gloucester, but between October 1470 and March 1471, he escaped England with his brother, Edward IV, having just evaded capture by the Earl of Warwick’s forces.  During this time, Richard spent time in Veere, now a picturesque town, with sadly little left of what Richard would have seen during his visit, but one street is still named Warwijcksestraat, after a gate which was built in fear that Warwick would invade, looking for Plantagenet prey.  Richard subsequently travelled to The Hague, even then a centre of international politics.
Richard's funeral
But this wasn’t Richard’s first urgent Channel crossing.  Ten years earlier, aged only eight, he and his brother George (later Duke of Clarence, he of drowning-in-Malmsey infamy) had been sent to the Low Countries for their safety.  They returned only when their elder brother had claimed the throne, having spent time in Bruges, where much of the medieval town is still largely as they would have known it, including the grand market square.
Richard subsequently travelled throughout England in his various roles, and even invaded Scotland in support of his brother, but his last journey abroad was as part of Edward’s invasion of France in 1475.  Richard’s was the largest private contingent which took part, and he was with Edward during negotiations with the French king, Louis XI.
Time abroad, or travelling in general, has always been seen as an education.  Unfortunately for Richard, one man had fourteen years of such education: Henry Tudor.  Fourteen years of brooding, plotting and waiting for a chance to strike; on 22nd August 1485, the two men met in battle.  And sadly (from my perspective, at least), we all know how it ended for Richard Plantagenet.
But still, Britain loves nothing more than an underdog, and of the two, Richard III is by far the better known, and certainly the one who has captured the public’s imagination, especially since his re-interment in Leicester.  He definitely captured mine, inspiring Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, and my current work-in-progress.
Therefore, on this, the 531st anniversary of his death, spare a thought (and raise a glass) to Richard III!

About the author : Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for
history whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots of childhood holidays (she has since moved on to Richard III).  She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consultant since graduating.

Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since.  In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to work on developing her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online.  Her debut novel Kindred Spirits: Tower of London was published by Crooked Cat Publishing in October 2015.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

In the village of Messandrierre with Gendarme Jacques Forêt

Messandrierre - or at least my version of the village!
Since May I’ve been blogging about the Cévennes, an area of France that is close to my heart and that is the backdrop to my story Messandrierre.  Today I’m in the village of Messandrierre with my hero, Jacques Forêt,  and I’m following him as he pursues his investigation into the disappearance of a missing traveller.

The clear blue morning sky had given way to a vast bank of dark cloud that was rolling in from the north. Jacques glanced up in response to a distant rumble as he stood outside Delacroix’s open front door. He knocked and shouted and was about to walk in as Guy Delacroix came round the corner from the back of the dilapidated house.
“Gendarme Forêt,” he said. “What is it now?”
“The traveller, Alain Lavoie, do you know him?” Jacques fished out his notebook and the photo.
“Everyone does. He always passes through about now heading north and then comes back at the beginning of October heading south.” His explanation delivered Guy gave a disinterested sniff.
“When did you last see him or speak to him?”
Taking a deep breath he shoved his hands to the bottom of the pockets of his overalls. “Saturday in Mende,” he said. “I ran into him in the central square. He asked me if I had any work for him and I said I didn’t and that if he wanted some decent whisky and conversation to come here about seven. But he said he was already fixed up for the night.”
“And you didn’t see him or hear from him after that?”
Guy shook his head and then looked at the sky as the thunder cracked and a flash of bright green light striated the advancing bank of cloud.
“Did he say what he meant by ‘being fixed up for the night’?”
“No. That was all he said. I supposed he had already arranged food and a bed for the night. But that’s what he does, Jacques. A day’s work here, a couple of days somewhere else. And all he wants in return is to be fed and somewhere to sleep. Sometimes he will ask for old clothes as well.”
Jacques heard the first spots of rain hitting the filthy windowpane as he thanked Delacroix and then turned to walk back up the track to the top road. “And I’ve checked the car, Guy,” he said. “That tax is still outstanding.” Stopping where the track met the top road, he stood and faced him. “You have just over a week left,” he shouted and waved his notebook at him.
Breaking into a run as the first few spots of rain became a waterfall, he took the steep track down the hill, that by-passed Ferme Pamier, into the centre of the village and just made it to shelter underneath the porch at the church as the storm released its full force. The thunder reverberated through the valley as the lightning serrated the gunmetal sky. There was no choice. He would have to wait this one out.’

Friday, 12 August 2016

An interview with...

Wrea Head Hall
...fellow author Lynda Stacey.  Lynda, thank you for agreeing to be crossed-examined. Now, I know you are very busy so...

AW  ...tell us about your current release?
LS  My current novel is called 'House of Secrets'.  It’s a story about a woman on the run, a broken hero and a house with a shocking secret.  It was described by the former Vice Chairman of Warner Bros, as ‘Fatal Attraction meets Lady Chatterley’s Lover’.
AW  And a little bird tells me that 'House of Secrets' has already won an award.  Would you like to tell me more?
LS  I first entered the Choc Lit competition by accicdent.  I'd submitted to them the year before with a different title, which hadn't quite hit the mark.  But I had had a really nice response, so when I finalised 'House of Secrets' I submitted it to the publisher in the hope that they'd remember me.  They did.  I got a lovely email back saying that they'd prefer to put it through as a 'Search for a Star' entry.  Which, of course, I agreed to. Then, around the beginning of September, I got a text from a friend, saying '...well done on your shortlisting.'  I was amazed.  I had no idea what she was talking about.  It was early on a Saturday morning and I hadn't realised that the announcement had been made.  I searched through my emails to see what had happened.  In October I was invited to a Skype call with Lyn Vernham.  I was in the final three entries, which was very exciting.  I had to wait a few days to hear whether or not I'd won.  My whole world exploded!  I'd wanted to be with Choc Lit from the beginning and I was so excited.

AW  Well done!  So, what first got you into writing and why?
LS  I was bought a Lilliput Typewriter for Christmas when I was around 13 years old.  I used to tuck myself away for hours, tapping away on the keys.  When I got to 14, my English teacher advised me to keep writing and to look towards working in journalism, once I left school.

AW  You write Romantic Suspense novels.  Is it all imagination or do you also undertake research?
LS  I do research.  I’d be crazy not to.  There would always be someone out there to tell me, if I got it wrong.  Besides, going to Wrea Head Hall for long, lazy weekends was the best research that I could have ever done.

AW  And what about other types of writing?  Have you ever dabbled with short stories, for instance, or other genres?
LS  I’ve written for magazines before.  I’ve had a few articles in 'Dealer Support', an industry magazine for the Office Supplies trade.

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?
LS  I actually spent a LOT of money building an extension on my house, to incorporate a real and proper office.  But, I still tend to sit with the lap top on my knee.  It’s how I’m comfortable.

AW  Finally, if you had a whole afternoon to yourself and could choose to spend it with anyone, living or dead or a character from a book.  Who would it be, and what would you want to discuss?
LS  I’d love to meet the Queen.  She’s an amazing lady, whose job I certainly wouldn’t want.  I’d ask her what it’s really like to live in the public eye for the whole of your life.  What she really thinks to all the pomp and ceremony.  About, how different her life is when she does get away from the public and what her normal daily routines are.  I’d find her fascinating.

About the author...  Lynda is a wife, step-mother and grandmother.  She grew up in the mining village of Bentley, Doncaster, South Yorkshire.  She is currently the Sales Director for a stationery, office supplies and office furniture company in Doncaster, where she has worked for the past 25 years.  Prior to this she'd also been a nurse, a model, an emergency first response instructor and a PADI Scuba Diving Instructor ... and yes, she was crazy enough to dive in the sea with sharks, without a cage. Following a car accident in 2008, Lynda was left with limited mobility in her right arm.  Unable to dive or teach anymore, she turned to her love of writing, a hobby she'd followed avidly since being a teenager.  Her own life story, along with varied career choices helps Lynda to create stories of romantic suspense, with challenging and unpredictable plots, along with (as in all romances) very happy endings.  She lives in a small rural hamlet near Doncaster, with her 'hero at home husband', Hadyn, whom she's been happily married to for over 20 years.

You can follow Lynda using the links below... 

Thursday, 11 August 2016

One year old today...

... and, no, it's not me that is one today, it's my blog!  So I'm breaking out the champagne and I've got the birthday cake all iced and ready to be cut.  I also thought I'd mark the occasion with one of my all time favourite pictures...

Arc de Triomphe, RN7, Orange

...this is the Arc de Triomphe that everyone forgets or ignores!  I happen to think that it's better than the one in Paris, because it really is roman!  It is around 2000 years old, is still standing and is truly magnificent!  I spent a very happy lunch hour here, a few years ago, eating and gazing in wonder at the monument.

Readers, wherever you are in the world, please accept my very grateful thanks for reading my random jottings over the last twelve months and please join my virtual celebration with some cake and a glass of bubbly, or a tea or coffee or... whatever you prefer.  And if you would like to leave a message...I would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Following Stevenson through the Cévennes

River Lot and wier at Bagnols-les-Bains
For my last post in this series I’m going to continue my journey from La Garde-Guérin along the D901.  I still have Mr Stevenson’s book with me, but I need to confess that he didn’t actually take this route.  Nor would he have done when you consider where he had stayed the previous night – Trape de Notre-Dame des Neiges, just to the northeast of Chasseradès – and his destination, Le Bleymard.  My final destination today is Bagnols-les-Bains, but I have a little surprise for you along the way.

The D901 follows the valley of the river Altier and twists and turns through rugged scenery all the way to Bleymard.  Robbie took the more direct route across Mont Goulet and not without difficulty.  He states that there was ‘no marked road – only upright stones posted from space to space to guide the drovers.’  Modestine was not happy with her master’s choice either, as she ‘backed, she reared’ and ‘actually brayed with a loud hoarse flourish’ her protest at being made to walk cross-country.  But arrive in Bleymard they did, and like me, they didn’t stay either.  A little further along the road is St Julien-du-Tournel.

Ruins of chateau St Julien-du-Tounel
The chateau was built by the Tournel family (one of the eight barons of the Gévaudan) and it became their baronial seat sometime before the 13th century.  The chateau was at the heart of their territory, which stretched from Mont Lozère to Mende along the valley of the Lot.  Around 1307, the fort at St Julien was abandoned by the family in preference for the more comfortable surroundings of the Chateau du Boy.  Sitting as it does, on a high rocky outcrop, the Chateau du Tournel was of great strategic advantage and also considered to be impenetrable.  Throughout the disputes and skirmishes of medieval Gévaudan, the fortress was maintained even though it was not lived in.  But in 1337, the commencement of the Hundred Years War, the family put all their effort into fortifying the chateau at Boy.  The castle at St Julien was destroyed for the first time around 1500.  Later it suffered at the hands of Mathieu Merle and his Huguenot army until the Baron liberated his property.  Since then it was left as a ruin but is now maintained without restoration.  I’m left wondering why Stevenson, as he crossed Mont Goulet, did not see the chateau.  It has a very imposing prominence for miles around, but he makes no mention of it.

Monsieur Hibou
A little further on is Bagnols-les-Bains.  A spa town that sits on the river Lot with origins from roman times.  At an altitude of 913 metres above sea level and surrounded by forest, the village has hardly grown and supports just over 200 residents.  The hot spring, which has a steady temperature of about 40 degrees, has been in use since the roman era, and still is today.  And if you take a walk along the banks of the Lot at one side of the village you will find hand carved sculptures like this one of Monsieur Hibou!

Unfortunately, I have to leave this fascinating part of France and move on.  So my Stevenson is going back on the bookshelf for the time being.  But other musings about France will be appearing on my blog for a new series of posts that will begin in October.