Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Just because it's Twixmas...

...Part 2 of the Tale of Santa's Trousers follows and you can find Part 1 here ...

...Lifting her head Esme sniffed the air and stepped onto the tail of a wind.  Moments later her tiny form hovered above the hearth of number 52.
“Hmm, it's very quiet here,” murmured Esme as she let herself drift gently onto the brass fire surround.  She glanced around the room.  In the large bay window was an empty pot, but no tree or lights.  The boxes of decorations were stacked unopened on the floor around it.  Raising herself and hovering above the coffee table she saw some cards haphazardly discarded.  She turned and looked up, the corners of the room held no decorations.  The only display of Christmas was the red and white shine of the foil uniforms of a few of the chocolate soldiers that had spilled from the open box on the windowsill.  Esme frowned and decided to investigate further.
Wishing herself dust she disappeared under the door and into the hallway.  There were no signs of Christmas there either, just the sobbing of the mother in the kitchen and disregarded mail on the doormat.  Esme caught a draught of air from the front door that took her upstairs.  Crouched outside the child's bedroom door was the fully-grown Labrador.  The dog opened one eye and stared.  Esme retreated to the room downstairs.
“Mrs Claus,” she whispered up the chimney.  “Mrs Claus, there's something so very wrong here.”
“Look to the future, Esme,” came the echo of the reply.
Esme circled her finger in the air and watched as images moved across the space.  At the final picture tears welled in her eyes and she batted the circle away.  As dust she willed herself out of the room, the house and on to the forests of Norway.
“I need one of you to sacrifice yourselves for a little girl who is very ill.”  On again to a goose farm.  “I need your feathers,” she said.  “For a very good cause.”  On and on she travelled until she arrived safely at number 52 and slipped down the chimney again.
Exhausted, Esme rested for a few moments on the cold marble of the hearth.  The clock on the mantelpiece struck four.  Esme started at the sound.
“Oh no!”  She jumped up.  “There's so little time!”  She upended her rucksack and emptied the contents.  A wave of her finger and the Norwegian spruce settled itself in the container in the centre of the bay window.
“Lieutenant Sweeting,” she shouted.  “Get all of your men out of that box and get that tree decorated.  I've got Santa's trousers to mend.”  A rustle of card and a soldier hopped down.
Raising his hand to his forehead, “Yes Ma’m,” he said.  “Platoon, arise!”  The small army of red and white clad soldiers marched out of the box, down the wall and across to the pile of decorations.  Esme smiled.  They'll be done in no time, she thought.
With a sigh she pulled out Santa's trousers and looked at the damage.  “If it was just the seam, this would be easy.”  Her brow furrowed as she examined the extent of the damage to the torn material.  “I’m going to need a rather large patch to cover that!”  A wave of her finger and her workbox slid across the marble to her side and opened.  Esme searched through the contents.  Sequins were chucked onto the hearth, red material, green ribbons, white lace, pink chiffon… soon the white marble hearth was a rainbow of colour and Esme was intent on her task to repair Santa's trousers.
“Excuse me Ma’m,” said Lieutenant Sweeting as he saluted and presented the fairy for Esme to see.  “I think this is a problem that needs your expertise.”
Esme took the doll from him.  “Oh yes,” she said as she fingered the clumsily attached crepe paper that had been used as a replacement skirt the year before.  “That will never do.”  Esme ripped the crumpled paper from the fairy's body and threw it into the cold and lifeless fireplace.
“And that's something else we need, Lieutenant Sweeting,” she nodded at the empty grate.  “Wood and a warm fire.”  The soldier saluted, turned and marshalled his men.
Alone with her task Esme cut away great swathes of red cloth, fixed the patch and, completed the repair.  Satisfied with her handiwork she then began sorting through the pile of fabrics and haberdashery on the hearth.
“Perfect!  That is absolutely perfect,” she said handling a piece of white satin which she set against some gold coloured lace and the red cloth cut from Santa’s trousers.  Grabbing some white netting she laid everything out on the floor.  A wave of her finger and the scissors began cutting and shaping as Esme threaded her needle with gold coloured cotton and started to sew.
In the twinkle of the lights on the tree and the warm orange glow of the last embers of the fire Esme heard the rustle of a fall of soot onto the hearth.  A moment later a large red sack landed followed by Santa still sporting his hairy legs.  Esme let the wings she had made from the goose feathers carry her from the top of the tree to the hearth.
“My trousers, are they ready?”
“Yes,” said Esme pulling the garment from behind the fire irons where she had hidden it from human view.
“Marvellous!” Santa grabbed the trousers and turned them round.  His face fell as he saw the repair.  “What is the meaning of this?”
Esme hung her head.  At that moment, her newly stitched white satin slippers peeping out from under the gold lace edge of her newly created fairy dress were of more interest.
“Esme,” bellowed Santa.
Esme straightened her shoulders and ran her hands down the soft bright red overdress she had made.  “I’m sorry Santa,” she said.  “But making Christmas the best ever here at number 52 was my only thought,” she blurted out the flurry of words.  “And the gash in your trousers was so big and ragged I had to cut away more to make a patch possible and it seemed such a shame not to use the extra material and the fairy for the tree was in such a state and—”
“Enough,” said Santa.  The old man pulled at his beard as he cast his eyes over the patch.  “The stitching is of your finest, Esme.  As I would expect, but Lurex?  Did you really have to use purple Lurex for the patch?”
“It was the only piece I had that was big enough.”
Santa, hands behind his back, paced the hearth.  “I see,” he said.  “Misappropriating company property for your own personal use is a very serious matter, Esme.  I shall have to consult Mrs C about this.”
“But the little girl—”
Santa held up his hand.  “I know you did this with the best of intentions, but misappropriation is still misappropriation.  I cannot ignore it.  As for the little girl, she needs a miracle of medical science.  We can’t help with that, so you must make sure tomorrow is a very special time for this family.”
“Yes, Mr C.”
Santa nodded and stacked the presents under the tree.  Still in his shorts, but wearing his displeasure on his face, the old man disappeared up the chimney.  Esme smiled and took her place at the top of the tree with her heart torn and a tear in her eye.

Monday, 30 December 2019

Just because it's Twixmas...

... I have a little story for you.  This first appeared on the Facebook page of the UK Crime Book Club on December 21st.  Read on...

The Tale of Santa's Trousers

Once upon a time, in a place so very far north from here, there was a large house made of ice that was owned by Mr and Mrs Claus.  The house had stables, a workshop and acres and acres of rooms.  Many people, throughout the whole of history, have tried to find the Claus’ house and workshop, but have failed.  Even great explorers like Ross, Scott and Shackleton failed in their quests to find the Claus' address.  And, to cover their own embarrassment, said they were looking for the North Pole instead.  Of course, I can’t let you know where the Claus’ live... that would be telling.  But I can say that there is something a little magical about Mr and Mrs Claus and their army of helpers.  Just like there is something a bit magical about their house.
Recently, when Mr and Mrs Claus were preparing for the culmination of the year’s work on Christmas Eve, one particular helper called Esme decided she needed a change.  Threading her needle, Esme applied the last of the sequins to the dress and carefully stitched it in place.  Tying off the golden coloured cotton, she smoothed out the full-length copy of a Givenchy gown and reached for the doll.  Pulling the dress over the inanimate body, Esme tugged at the tiny zip and then placed the toy on the stand in the box and sealed it.
“Wish I could have a dress like that,” she said to no one in particular.  Her co-helpers were equally busy with the rest of the wardrobe for the very last doll required for the night’s delivery.  Esme stretched and then rubbed her aching back. Getting up from her workbench, she waved her forefinger in a circle.  Her scissors, needles, and pins danced across to her workbox and settled into their appropriate trays.  The remnants of cotton, material, and sequins tidied themselves away, and, with a final flourish of red ribbon, the workbox lid slowly closed and the bow at the front tied itself.
Esme grinned, smoothed down her green pinafore dress, rolled down the sleeves of her white blouse, and collected her little red pompom hat.  It would never do to be improperly dressed when reporting to Mrs Claus.  As she walked the length of the workshop she glanced left and right, her fellow helpers were all busily working at their allotted tasks.  Esme tapped on the door of the office and waited.
“Come in dear,” said a voice from inside the room.  As Esme entered, Mrs Claus removed her spectacles to reveal bright blue eyes that were overshadowed by an unruly shock of thick white hair around a kind face.  Mrs Claus peered over her desk.  “Esme, well done.  Yet again you are one of the first to complete your—”
“Mrs C!”  Came a loud and frantic cry from the room next door.  Recognising the voice, Esme wondered if she should leave.  Just as she was about to step towards the open door, Mr Claus appeared, his broad shoulders and wide girth completely filling the doorway.
“Mrs C,” he whined.  “Look!  Look at my trousers!  They have split,” he said thrusting the offending garment at his wife, and, in his haste, almost knocking Esme to the ground.“My trousers! What about my trousers?”
His bleating temporarily abated, Mr Claus slumped on to an inadequately small stool in front of his wife's desk.  Esme turned away and covered her eyes.  Santa Claus in his bright red boxer shorts, his hairy white legs beneath, was not a sight often seen in the very far north.  Mrs Claus, lips pursed, stared at her husband.
“Shorts,” she intoned with an edge to her voice as she pulled the pile of red cloth towards her.  “Wear your shorts,” she said, her annoyance rising.  “And do not come into my office inappropriately dressed again.”
Santa frowned.  “Shorts... do I still have some of those?”
“Yes, you do.  Bottom drawer on the right.”  Mrs Claus donned her spectacles and began to examine the tear in the trousers.
“Oh, right.”  Santa paused in thought.  “But will they still fit?”
Mrs Claus sighed.  “Unlikely,” she said.  “Highly unlikely considering your year on year expanding waistline.  But it’s all you’ve got.”
“Oh.” At the door he turned.  “And my trousers will be ready for the evening deliveries won’t they, my dear?”
“We’ll do our best.”
Esme remained quite still close to the wall with her hands across her face.
“He's gone, my dear.  Now, where were we?”
When Esme stepped towards the desk Mrs Claus was examining her papers.
“Ah, yes,” she said.  “Your family are going to be the same as last year.”
“What?”  Esme flounced down on the stool.  “But last year you promised me a new family.”
Mrs Claus consulted her list.  “Hmm, yes I'm aware of that.  But, when they took down their tree last year, although they decided to buy a new fairy and some new decorations they haven't done so.  Number 52, it is for you.”
Esme crossed her arms and glared.  “Have they still got that damn puppy?”
“Yes dear, but it won't be quite as boisterous as last year, though.”
“Good.  That tree and me were crashed onto that cold hardwood floor three times on Christmas day alone.  My imitation fairy wings were all bent out of shape, my fairy crown fell into the fire and was thrown out, and my dress was chewed beyond recognition.  It was bloody cold at the top of that tree for half of Christmas last year.”
Mrs Claus nodded.  “I know dear, but you are just what this family needs and you can mend Mr C's trousers whilst you are there.”
The piercing stare that Esme felt running through her was enough.  There would be no point in presenting any further arguments for change.  She jumped off the stool, grabbed the clothes, collected a bale of hay from the pile in the corner and a bag of carrots and left the room.  Head bowed she trudged through the workroom until she reached her workspace.
“I’m heading back to number 52,” she said to her colleague across the bench.
“Have fun,” came the half-hearted reply.  Esme sighed and toed her battered rucksack out from under the bench.  A wave of her finger and the carrots and hay concertina'd themselves into the small space inside the backpack with Santa's trousers following neatly behind.  Hat firmly pulled over her ears Esme made her way through the workshop, down the stairs and out into the northern ice and snow.  The large ice door slipped shut behind her.  
Lifting her head Esme sniffed the air and stepped onto the tail of a wind...

...you can read the final part of the story here ...

Friday, 27 December 2019

It's Twixmas and it's...

... the great Crooked Cat/Darkstroke Sale

From today all Crooked Cat and Darkstroke ebooks will be priced at 99p/c or international equivalent - including all 4 of my Jacques Forêt Mystery Stories.  Go on, spoil yourself and grab a bargain here ...

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Merry Christmas...

My blog has reached a special anniversary today.  This is the 250th post.  So, it seems quite fitting, to me, that this is also my Christmas post this year...

This is the time of year when I take a break from writing, reviewing and blogging.  I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all readers for visiting the blog and reading the books.  Your support is treasured.  I also want to thank reviewers for sparing their valuable time to comment.  Your thoughts are always read, considered and greatly appreciated.

Merry Christmas

Tuesday, 3 December 2019


... the end of the year is approaching and I often find myself thinking back...

This year has been a very busy one. There has been the publication of the fourth book in my Jacques Forêt mystery series. Released on October 15th, it has already received some fabulous reviews and it marks the end of this particular set of stories. Way back in September 2007, as I watched the snow falling from the warm comfort of my favourite little place in the Cévennes, I knew there was a story to be told. The more I thought about it during the course of that day and the ensuing week, I realised that there were going to be four stories... and, the rest is history! But that not is the end of Jacques and the villagers of Messandrierre. There are some more stories, I'm just not able to write them quite yet.

There has also been the publication of a second anthology of stories that include the character Miss Moonshine. I'd had the bones of my story in my head for over 6 months before we all started to put together the second anthology. I also knew that there was something missing from the story too. May, a trip to France and a happenstance... As I was cycling along the path that skirts the river Yonne from Vincelles to Auxerre I happened upon a large house. From an unshuttered window, I could see curtains and a shaft of sunlight on the glass as the clouds cleared momentarily. A snippet of conversation came into my mind and my planned story suddenly took an unexpected turn and became 'A Raven's Gift'. Not quite the original title I had had in mind.

Through talks, visits to libraries and community centres, craft, harvest, and Christmas fayres, I've had numerous opportunities to talk to readers and to meet other people. It's amazing what you can learn from others. Just recently, on a very cold and frosty Saturday morning at a market in Kirkstall Abbey, I was chatting to a Texan - about the weather, of course, we English are obsessed with it - who pointed out that there are only two seasons
each year in Texas; January and Summer! I must also mention the fabulous welcome I received from the community in Parisot (Tarn et Garonne) in September who listened
appreciatively, joined in my writing exercise and shared their experiences of France with me.  It was great to meet everyone and make new friends.   Naturally, whilst in the area, I had to indulge my sweet tooth and take a short trip to the market in Villefranche-de-Rouergue to find the nougat seller.  Yes, he was still there and I bought a chunk of the forest berries nougat.  Absolutely scrumptious!

I suppose a review of the year wouldn't be complete without some statistics. This blog was born on August 11th, 2015. This post is the 249th. Since beginning in 2015, I've had 4 books published, stories included in two anthologies, two other stories included on the Facebook page for the UK Crime Book Club, and a third one coming up very soon. I've surpassed my Goodreads reading challenge for the year already and still have another couple of books to add along with reviews. Just recently, I've been reviewing and picking up the threads of an old-about-to-become a new project... but more of that in the New Year.

It really has been quite a year...

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

A rainy day in London...

... a couple of weeks ago...

I had the great pleasure of visiting the The Pre-Raphaelite Sisters exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.  It's been a while since my last visit here, but London was busy despite the rain, the gallery was espacially busy, probably because of the rain, and the restaurant was full of people keeping out of the rain.  Luckily I'd booked in advance.

The exhibition presents the work of the women who are mostly known as the subjects of the paintings of the pre-raphaelite brotherhood.  But in their own way these women produced works of art just as compelling and stunningly beautiful as their male counterparts.  There are works by 12 women in total including Christina Rossetti, Effie Gray Millais and Joanna Boyse Wells.

During the course of my afternoon there as I meandered from room to room, I had to marvel at the colours of the paintings, the detail included, the careful positioning of the subjects to tell the story of the picture.  One of my favourite little items is a simple water colour, undated but attributed to Effie Ruskin - subsequently Millais once her marriage to Ruskin was annulled.  What I especially like about the picture is that, as I look at it, I feel as though I can step onto the path and therefore into the garden itself.  I never tire of art that conveys that impression.  Taking a few steps back, I can see and understand the science and form of the composition and I have to ponder whether the artist specifically chose that composition or just came upon and thought it would make a great picture.  In this particular room there are also drawings that became full portraits and it is fascinating to see the progression from pencil and paper to framed oil on board or canvas.

In the room for Joanna Boyce Wells, the face depicted in the painting, Thou Bird of God, catches my attention immediately.  The eyes of the subject stare out at you and invite you, or maybe compel you to come in.  In this room I can feel her eyes resting on me benignly.  It's almost as though she is making sure that I don't miss a single item on display.  My catalogue for the exhibition tells me that this particular picture dates from 1861 and is on loan from a private collection.  I have to say, I greatly envy the owner who can look into those eyes every day whenever he, she or they wish.  Luckily for me, this image is reproduced on a set of Christmas cards in the gallery shop.  I can take a copy of her home with me.  It won't be the same as the real piece of art, but it will be enough and if I decide to have the card framed, I already know exactly where I shall hang my copy.

A very happy two hours later and I grab a coffee and begin leafing through details of the lives of the women and their art set out in the book.  I want to preserve the visual feast of colour for as long as I possibly can whilst I'm still in the relative peace and quiet of the gallery.  My table is in a corner out of the way and, as I'm sat with my back to the room, I'm hoping I will be left in peace.  However, I can't stay for too long as I need to catch my train home.  But at least I will have my catalogue...

The exhibition is running through until January next year and is well worth a visit.  You can access the exhibition and book tickets using the link at the top of the page...

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Friend and author, Alice Castle...

... makes a very welcome return to the blog this week.  Hi, Alice, thanks for being here and I think you have something very different for us today...

AC  Hi Angela, lovely to be on your blog to talk about my psychological thriller, The Perfect Widow.
The Perfect Widow is quite a departure for me.  I’ve written seven cozy crime novels, starting with Death in Dulwich.  They are gently humorous whodunits set in a ‘yummy mummy’ world.  The Perfect Widow is, by contrast, a chilling read about a woman who may or may not be a ruthless killer.
Although the books are quite different in tone, they do all explore some central themes I find really compelling.  I am fascinated by the fact that we all tell lies, to protect ourselves or our families.  Often these are unconscious and harmless. Sometimes they are not.  I’m also always interested to know how far people will go to preserve a life they love.  I like to push my characters to extremes and see what they will do – so that we don’t have to go there ourselves!
I’ve long been a fan of the domestic noir genre.  Ever since reading Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier I’ve been intrigued by what goes on at the centre of the home.  It should be the place where we feel safest but often, very sadly, it turns out to be the most dangerous place in the world.  Statistics show that three women a week are currently being killed in the UK by their partners.  These crimes usually occur behind closed doors.
As well as hopefully providing people with a gripping read, domestic thrillers often provide a mirror to things that should, or should not, be happening to readers themselves.  They can be a guide to forms of abuse and control that are not right, but which can be hard to spot from the inside.  Partners who exercise coercive control, for instance, often ramp it up very slowly, so that by the time the situation becomes entrenched, it is difficult for its victim to see it clearly for what it is, much less escape.  We often shut our eyes to what may or may not be happening in other peoples’ relationships – the ‘clumsy’ friends who are always walking into doors, for instance – but domestic noir books can help by sounding alarm bells.
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that most writers of, and readers of, domestic noir are women.  We know this stuff from the inside out.  We live it.  Why, then, do we still consider it entertainment?  The shock of the twist, the bump of your heart rate as the heroine faces peril – it is all designed to be unrelaxing.  But there is always a denouement, and I haven’t read a psychological thriller yet where the perpetrator gets off Scott free.  In a world where rapists and abusers routinely escape justice, it’s no wonder that we find this sort of ending supremely satisfying.  I hope readers will enjoy my own contribution to the genre!

about the author... Before turning to crime, Alice Castle was a feature writer on national newspapers including the Daily Express, The Times and The Daily Telegraph. Alice writes psychological thrillers for HQDigital under the name A.M. Castle. The first, The Perfect Widow, was published in November 2019. She also writes the Death in Dulwich cozy crime series for Darkstroke/Crooked Cat as Alice Castle. The seventh in the series, The Slayings in Sydenham, came out in December 2019. Alice lives in south London and is married with two children, two step-children and two cats.

You can follow Alice on Twitter or her website Website.

You can find her books on Amazon and Death in Dulwich is also available as an Audio Book

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

I'm in conversation with Aria Ligi...

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Remember, remember, the fifth of November…

Image from Pixabay
… the gunpowder, treason and plot…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 2 November 2019


... picks up some glowing reviews...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Just because it's Halloween this week...

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

Shadwell Stair

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

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

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

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

Wifred Owen

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

I'm reviewing, Poirot and Me...

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Published today...

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

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

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

tuesday, september 18th, 2012

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

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

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