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...