Friday, 28 December 2018

Just because it's 'TwixMas'...

here are some lines to amuse…


The Wife's Eptaph

To follow you I'm not content.
How do I know which way you went.
                                               Anon

Inscribed on a Pint-Pot

There are several reasons for drinking,
And one has just entered my head;
If a man cannot drink when he's living
How the Hell can he drink when he's dead?
                                               Anon

On Taking a Wife

'Come, come,' said Tom's father, 'at your time of life,
There's no longer excuse for thus playing the rake.
It's time you should think, boy, of taking a wife.'
'Why so it is, father. Whose wife shall I take?'
                              Thomas Moore

And finally, some Limericks

A simple youg fellow named Hyde
In a funeral procession was spied.
When asked, 'Who is dead?'
He tittered and said,
'I don't know.  I just came for the ride.'
                                              Anon

There once was a person from Lyme
Who married three wives at a time.
When asked, 'Why a third?'
He Replied, 'One's absurb,
And bigamy, Sir, is a crime.'
                                             Anon

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Merry Christmas...

...everyone




It's the time of year when I take a rest from the blog so that I can enjoy this very special season with family and friends.
I will be back in the New Year and there may be a little surprise waiting for you for the days between Christmas and New Year - so do remember to check back!
Lastly, I would just like to say thank you to all you readers out there who take the time and trouble to read the posts.  I also want to say a very special thank you to everyone who has reviewed my books.  Reviews are vital and your comments are always appreciated.


Merry Christmas

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

Friday, 2 November 2018

Friend and author, Nancy Jardine...

... makes a welcome return to my blog today.  And I understand you have some exciting news for us...

It’s always an exciting time for an author when a new novel is being launched and I’m absolutely delighted to share that Agricola's Bane, the 4th book in my highly acclaimed historical fiction Celtic Fervour Series (published with Ocelot Press), is now available to Pre-Order on Amazon! Paperback versions will also be available in November from Amazon.  The official online ebook launch will take place on the 15th of November 2018, with a physical paperback book launch event on November 22nd at a local Heritage Centre in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
Book 4 continues the tales of the Celtic warrior clan, this time featuring second-generation Enya of Garrigill.  The location is Caledon territory (modern-day Aberdeenshire) where most of the tribal warriors, who have survived a recent battle, take refuge in the hills.  However, circumstances force some of them to venture forth from their relative safety at Ceann Druimin, the roundhouse village of Chief Lulach.  Going anywhere near the Roman legions means risking a stabbing death under a Roman gladius but Enya and her warrior companions find the traitorous Vacomagi tribe can also be just as dangerous.
General Agricola discovers that conquest of the Caledonian tribes isn’t as easy as he expected.  The local warriors are very adept at guerrilla warfare and they behave in ways that both confuse and irritate him, much like his capricious Emperor Domitian.  Time is running out for Agricola since he’s already on his seventh summer campaign season but he still wants to achieve so much more during his domination of Britannia.
Although my second generation Garrigill clan members are in their early to mid-teens, well-old-enough to be a trained warrior back in late first century A.D., Enya’s father and her uncles – Lorcan and Brennus – still have a part to play in Agricola’s Bane as do the other female clan members of earlier books.
A reader new to the series can read Agricola’s Bane as a stand-alone novel, though they would most likely enjoy it even more if they have read Books 1-3 of the series.
  
about the book... AD 84 Northern Roman Britain
Nith of Tarras aids Enya of Garrigill in the search for her kin, missing after the disastrous battle at Beinn na Ciche fought between the Caledon warriors and the mighty Legions of the Rome. Enya soon has a heartrending choice to make – should she tread Vacomagi territory that’s swarming with Roman auxiliaries to find her brother? Or head south in search of her cousin who has most likely been taken captive by the soldiers of Agricola? 
General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola – Commander of the Britannic Legions and Governor of Britannia – is determined to claim more barbarian territory for the Roman Empire, indeed plans to invade the whole island but finds not all decisions are his to make. It increasingly seems that the goddess, Fortuna, does not favour him.
The adventures of the Garrigill clan continue...

about the author... Nancy Jardine writes contemporary mysteries; historical fiction and time-travel historical adventure. Her current historical focus is Roman Scotland, an engrossing pre-history era because her research depends highly on keeping abreast of recent archaeological findings.
A member of the Romantic Novelists Association, the Scottish Association of Writers, the Federation of Writers Scotland and the Historical Novel Society, her work has achieved finalist status in UK competitions.
She lives in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, with her husband but life is never quiet or boring since her young grandchildren are her next-door neighbours. She regularly child minds them, those days being cherished and laughter filled.
  
You can follow Nancy on her Blog Website both of her Facebook & Here pages.on
Twitter  Amazon and on Goodreads

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Last chance in the Spooktacular Crooked Cat Sale...

Be prepared to be frightened...


Loads of books - mysteries, thrillers, romances, historical - available at 99p/c or international equivalent for today only.  Scoot on over to Amazon before it's too late...

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

The Spooktacular Crooked Cat Sale...

Be prepared to be spooked...


Loads of books - mysteries, thrillers, romances, historical - available at 99p/c or international equivalent for two more days only.  Scoot on over to Amazon before it's too late...

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

The Spooktacular Crooked Cat Sale...

Be prepared to be horrified...


Loads of books - mysteries, thrillers, romances, historical - available at 99p/c or international equivalent for three days only.  Scoot on over to Amazon before it's too late...  

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Please welcome, friend and playwright, Will Templeton...

...to the blog today.  Hello Will, thanks for being here and I know how busy you are, so I'll get straight to the questions...  

AW  So, you're an actor, a theatre director, a playwright and a poet.  What first got you into writing and why?
WT  I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember.  Longer really, as my memory’s not what it was.  I started as a small boy, and considering how tall I am now, that was obviously a long time ago.
AW  Hmm... Readers, I can vouch for that - he's as tall as a tree!  But you were talking about writing...
WT  I’m not sure what set me off, it was just something I always loved doing.  Or should that be, loved “having done”?  The results were much more rewarding than the actual process of writing.  It can feel such a chore.  I’m the world’s worst procrastinator (or do all writers think that?).  But holding a finished piece of work in my hands, and being able to show it to family and friends was such a buzz, and still is.  I still have a hand-written collection of horror stories that I wrote in a school exercise book in my mid-teens.  I stencilled the title “Venture Into The Macabre” onto the cover and pretty much wrote the stories straight out.  I wouldn’t be keen to show anyone the contents these days but I was very proud of it at the time.
AW  And what about other types of writing?  Have you ever dabbled with short stories, for instance, or novels?
WT  I wrote a lot of short stories back then.  My first published works were short stories in the in-house magazine for the registration service when I worked there.  The plays came later, after I joined a local drama group and acquired a taste for that style of writing.  For the last few years I’ve been producing short-form screenplays for young actors to turn into videos for YouTube.  The screenplay format is a natural progression from stage plays, but with its own rules and restrictions.  It’s gratifying to think that my work has been viewed millions of times on the internet, but the scripts were all ghostwritten so there were no onscreen credits.  I’m currently working on a crime novel, but, of course, it is a completely different discipline to writing scripts; the necessity to fill in the bits between the lines.  When you rely entirely on dialogue you have to convey so much merely with speech.  It actually feels like I’m cheating in a way, being able to explain the motivation behind a character’s words and deeds.  And then there’s the need to describe a location so that a reader can “see” where the characters are, instead of simply writing “a bedsit, somewhere in England”, and leaving a director to create the visuals.
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?
WT  Not a shed, no.  What would be the dining room in my house has been converted into an office and a den.  My desk and chair are actually my old ones from the register office, rescued from abandonment when the registrar team moved to their new premises.  I also have a wonderful old Chesterfield chair and retro music system in the same room, to create the ultimate man cave.
AW  Finally, if you had a whole afternoon to yourself and could choose to spend it with any one real individual (living or dead), or a character from a book, play or poem, who would it be, and what would you want to discuss?
WT  Shakespeare has had such an incredible influence on all of literature, plays and prose, plus films and TV shows and any form of entertainment imaginable, so it would be amazing to have the opportunity to meet the man himself and get to know the mind behind all that.  Also to let him know that he’s remembered four hundred years after his death and get his reaction to that!


Thanks Will and best of luck with the crime novel.  Just because it is coming up to Hallowe'en, I have a little poetic offering from Will for you...


What feet were these with shuffling gait
Did tiptoe on the creaking stair
To hesitate and stop and wait
And linger just a moment there
What eyes were these in growing black
Did peer into the shadows thick
But dared not part the curtains' crack
Or spark the ashen candle wick
What ears were these, alert and ware
Did strain to catch the merest breath
Of one who slept with not a care
For hurt nor harm nor creeping death
What hands were these when trembling so
Could scarce maintain a sturdy grip
Would others care, would others know
Would any curl a sneering lip
What blade was this so razor keen
As ever been on any knife
What man was this, unheard, unseen
Who ventured forth to claim a life

You can find Will's work using the following links No Harm Done Splish Splash - A Comedy in 2 Acts and 5 Towels Jenny's Friend  Sod's Law

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Photography with Beth Samuels

I was able to catch up with the character of Beth Samuels, whilst I was in France a little earlier in the year.  Having put one or two testing questions to Jacques Forêt last week, I then went to meet Beth in her new studio and shop.  Read on to find out what she said…

AW   Beth, thanks for giving me some of your valuable time and I have to say this place looks wonderful.
BS    Thank you.  It has taken a lot of hard work to get everything exactly how I wanted it.  And I still haven't quite finished yet.
AW   So the fire in October 2009 did extensive damage then?
BS   In some respects, yes.  Come through to the studio, the beams above us were badly burnt and two had to be replaced. The window is completely new and part of that back wall had to be rebuilt.  There was damage to the floor above too.  All of this room and the shop front had to be re-plastered.  The windows had shattered with the heat and have now been replaced.  It took a lot longer than I anticipated.  Let's go back into the shop and I'll show you what I'm working on at the moment.
AW  Those pictures on your computer screen look great - how did you do that?
BS   It's quite easy really.  I'm just experimenting today.  I got the base shots with my very small digital camera one day last autumn when I was visiting a village just north of here.  I thought the autumnal displays were lovely, but it was only when I downloaded them and looked at them on the big monitor that I thought the windows might make a good feature to use as the pictures on greetings cards.  And that's what I've been playing around with this morning.
AW   So this first one is the original shot and the second is?
BS   The one that I've cropped and then applied a filter.  The third one has had the colour density for red enhanced slightly.
AW  And did that take long?
BS    Not at all.  Once I'd got the window as the central feature, right size and sharpness, then I can change the picture using the filters in the software at the click of the mouse.
AW  Amazing.  So, next, you will print the picture onto cards, is that it?
BS  Not quite, no.  Now that I know the idea will work I will go back and take my tripod and my other camera with me and spend a day there taking shots.  As the sun moves through the sky during the course of the day, the light changes.  I'll go back four times so that I can capture the inside of the church in each of the seasons.  Then I'll choose the best shots and then create the finishes that I want on the computer.  When I have my final set of images I'll take them to Monsieur Rochefort - the local printer here in Mende - and get them printed and then sell them here in the shop.
AW  I see.  I wish you all the best with that.  Beth, I was talking to Jacques last week and I know he asked you a very important question when he had completed his investigation in Merle.  Is there anything you want to share with us about that?
BS  Mmm, Jacques told me you'd been fishing for information.  So, I'll take the same line as him and just say that we're both working hard to make a life for ourselves here in Mende.
AW  Not quite the answer I was hoping for.  Are you sure there's nothing more you want to tell us, Beth?
BS   Yes, quite sure. You'll just have to wait until November.



Montbel  Jacques Forêt's next case is available for pre-order in both print and e-format.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

In the city of Mende with Jacques Forêt

Cathedral and the city of Mende
I was able to catch up with my central character, Jacques Forêt, whilst I was in France a little earlier in the year.  I put one or two testing questions to him… read on to find out what he said…

AW  Jacques thanks for making time in your busy schedule for me today.  You're working here at Vaux Investigations, in the centre of a city, how does that measure up with your own little 'barony' in the tiny gendarmerie in Messandrierre?
JF   I enjoyed my time as the local policeman in Messandrierre, and yes, I suppose you could say I had my own domain.  But village life is what it is, and whilst I needed some quiet when I first arrived, I quickly realised that I missed the excitement and the pressure of working on a large and complex case like the ones I used to handle in Paris.  Being here at Vaux gives me more varied work as I always have a number of cases on my desk at any one time.  I have the thrill of complex investigations again, but I'm still answerable to the management board… and that has its difficulties.
AW  Difficulties?  Would you like to tell me more about that?
JF    Not really.  But I will say that adjusting to life in a corporate organisation has not been easy for me personally.
AW  Alright, I'll let you get away with that one.  I understand you have a new case that you are working on.  Can you tell me about that?
JF    Hmm.  A difficult one.  What I thought at first was a straight forward missing person's case is turning out to be much more complex.  A key witness is now dead and myself and my colleagues are unsure of where to go next.  I'm also concerned that there are other parties working in the background to thwart my progress… It's a difficult situation.
AW  But you are confident that you can resolve it, aren't you?
JF    Oh yes.
AW  And that smile tells me everything I need to know!  And when will we be able to read all about this?
JF    In November.
AW  OK.  So, moving on, what about Beth?  Anything you want to share with us about you and Beth.
JF    She's very well, thank you and working hard to establish her photographic studio and shop here in Mende.
AW  I see.  Not quite the answer I was hoping for.  Are you sure there's nothing more you want to tell us about you and Beth? … And there's that smile again!
JF   You know me too well!  Perhaps we can talk off the record over lunch.


... and here's a short extract from Jacques' next story



                               la lettre 

…families fracture, Monsieur Forêt. No one desires it or intends it, but it happens. A harsh, unforgiving word begets a rash and revengeful action, and a sliver of ice takes hold in a dark corner of the hearts of those at odds with each other. And there it wedges itself, the frost gradually deepening and destroying. One of us has to stop the cold, as this impasse can continue no longer.  I have to put things right with my son, Monsieur… 


june 3rd, 2011


Montbel is available for pre-order in both print and e-format.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

I'm reviewing an Egyptian Journal...

...by William Golding

Published in 1985 this book charts Golding’s experiences, in the previous year, as he travels down the Nile with his wife, and a motley crew at the behest of his publisher.
At this point in his career, he had been awarded the Noel Prize for literature, had won various other accolades and had 11 novels published along with some notable travel pieces, books of poetry, some non-fiction and his only full-length play, The Brass Butterfly..
Like me, Golding, had a life-long fascination with ancient Egypt, so one has to ask the question – what took him so long?  Born in 1911 he would have been 73 when he took this trip.  I made my trip to Egypt at the age of 35.  I remember announcing my intentions to my family and then promptly going out a few days later to make all the arrangements with the travel agent.  And OK, I made my journey several years later than Golding, but, it was interesting to note as I worked my way through the book, that some of the frustrations I witnessed and felt about Egypt, had been there when Golding made his.
Beginning in Ma‘adi, just south of Cairo, as I did, Golding takes you with him as he sources and secures a small river cruiser to take him down the Nile to Luxor.  And so begins a chapter by chapter discourse of each day of his cruise.  Not that he had the same level of comfort as I did.  He complains about the lack of regular meals, the lack of heating, enough bedding, wardrobe space, his own overpacking and much more besides.  The most important lesson for Golding to learn, though, was how NOT to be the Captain of the ship!  His eminent naval career may have prepared him for life at sea and in war, but taking a step back to become a passenger on a ship was not one of them, much to my amusement as I read the details of these regular little clashes between ex-naval officer and Egyptian river boat Reis.
The monuments visited play their own individual roles throughout the text and I was glad to see that, in telling the ancient history, Golding maintained the easy narrative flow.  However, despite the history, the detail of the look of the monuments, it is no substitute for the wonder of seeing these incredible pieces of history for yourself.  Luckily, I had my own memories to draw upon to supplement Golding’s thoughts and descriptions.
One other thing that Golding comes back to again and again, was an issue for me, too, when I was there.  There’s an inconsistency to Egypt, its history, its people and culture, that he could not rationalise.  Neither could I, and having finally read his book, I’m still none the wiser.  Still a riveting read, though!