Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Friend and author, Jennifer Wilson...

... makes a very welcome return to my blog this week.  Jennifer, thanks for making time to be here and great to have you visit the blog again.
JW   Hi Angela, and thank you so much for inviting me!
AW  I understand you have a new book due out on the 31st - and I can't wait to hear about it...
JW  My new release, Kindred Spirits: York, is set, unsurprisingly, in York.  At only half an hour down the line from Darlington, where I grew up, York is the closest to home of the Kindred Spirits locations so far, and it was lovely revisiting places I had known well as a child, and discovering some stunning new locations for my ghosts to inhabit throughout the novel.
AW   York!  Fabulous city and a favourite place of mine to visit too.  But I'm interrupting, tell me more...
JW  I knew early on that my four main leads would be Harry Hotspur, Dick Turpin, Guy Fawkes, and Richard Plantagenet 3rd Duke of York (yes, the father of my usual favourite leading man!).  Given that these were four adventurous and active men, I wanted York to have the largest geographic coverage of any of the books so far, and travel across the city, rather than staying fairly close to a single building or area.  That gave me free reign to research all the various haunted buildings, streets and pubs of the city, seeing who might be interesting to interact with my main story arc, that of looming chaos within the community.
Some are obvious, for example, I had to revisit the glorious York Minster, which I hadn’t been inside since I was at school, alongside Clifford’s Tower, and big tourist traps such as the Shambles.  But it was down the Shambles that I discovered, thanks to my fabulous editor Sue Barnard, St Margaret’s Chapel (and St Margaret herself, if I’m honest).  If you find yourself wandering the Shambles, do take a closer look in this beautiful little haven amongst the busyness of the rest of the city.
There are other treats too, such as the park behind the Minster, where the Bishop’s Palace was located.  For whatever reason, I’d never taken the time to wander through, and relax on the grass for a while, making notes about what I had visited already.  Given that we were at the start of the 2018 summer heatwave, I wasn’t the only one enjoying the fresh air and shade of the trees.
I’ve said so many times that for me, getting under the skin of a location is the most important thing, in terms of my writing.  For two of my settings, Edinburgh and York, I thought I already knew them pretty well, and that the research would need just a couple of specific points being checked, nothing more.  I was completely wrong, and actually quite glad about that.  I found so many new places (and people) of interest, and really re-connected with York and its history. After not having visited properly for so many years, three trips in six months was wonderful, and I’m planning another one for a couple of weeks’ time, to keep the exploring going!
AW   I know exactly what you mean about fully understanding a location you want to use as a setting.
JW   I’d love to know whether readers think I’ve managed to capture the city.
AW  And I will certainly do that for you.  I just want to get my hands on that book asap!  And here's a link to buy the book : Kindred Spirits : York

...about the book  In the ancient city of York, something sinister is stirring...
What do a highwayman, an infamous traitor, and two hardened soldiers have in common? Centuries of friendship, a duty to the town, and a sense of mischief – until they realise that someone is trying to bring chaos to their home.
Joining forces with local Vikings, the four friends keep an eye on the situation, but then, disaster strikes.
Can peace be restored both inside and out of the city walls?

…about the author  Jennifer C. Wilson is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history and historical fiction whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots on childhood holidays (she has since moved on to Richard III). Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east of England for work reignited her pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since.
In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and has been working on a number of projects since, including co-hosting the North Tyneside Writers’ Circle.  Her Kindred Spirits novels are published by Crooked Cat Books and her timeslip novella, The Last Plantagenet?, by Ocelot Press.
She lives in North Tyneside, and is very proud of her approximately 2-inch sea view.

You can follow Jennifer on Amazon  Facebook  Instagram  Twitter  and on her Website   

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Come stroll with me...

… through Salles-Curan, a sleepy village in the Averyon.  Parking is at the foot of the village and the road winds round the outside of what remains of the old ramparts.  As I walk up the hill I'm struck by the idea that I've been here before, but the pâtisserie on the right on the opposite side of the road doesn't seem familiar.  I cross and read the notice on the door which tells me it is opening soon.  The picture of the 'pastissou' on the wall beside the main window also seems familiar and I make a mental note to check out the cake.
A little further round there are some steps on my left and I pass through an ancient archway and into the old medieval part of the town.  The houses lean against each other, the road is necessarily narrow to keep out the sun and right at the heart of the town is the church,  More steps and I go in.
Dedicated to Saint Géraud, it is very small and gothic in style.  The sun streams through the large stained-glassed window behind the altar, illuminating the beautifully decorated rood screen.  But there's a surprise waiting for me and after some hesitation, I decide to move forward.  The choir stalls sit on the other side of the screen and they are all immaculately carved with all sorts of creatures from the sea.  They are also a little dusty!  I spend some time working out what all the creatures are and I'm certain some of them, a bit like our own dear old Nessy, are just a fiction from the wood carver's mind.  According to a short note in the church, this was a collegiate church and therefore meant for the Bishop and his priests rather than the local populace.  It is 15th century -  absolutely all of it, including the stained-glass window and the woodwork.
Back out in the sunshine and I nod to the pair of lions that guard the door.  They seem very well behaved.  The coat of arms above the door of the church is that of François d'Estaing, the Bishop of Rodez.
On the street, I continue to wander and from an open window above comes the smell of
garlic and smoked meat, reminding me that it is lunchtime.  But as I follow the road I come
across a stunning array of plants and flowers in front of a house - a burst of vibrant colour amongst the ochre of the stone.
On the edge of the old town sits the ancient fortified chateau.  Originally built by Guillaume de La Tour in the 1440's it soon became a residence for the bishops of Rodez and, for a time, the whole disocese was run from here.  At one time there was a winter garden and park which augmented the chateau, and of the once three aligned towers, only one remains today.
Moving on and into the more modern town that surrounds the old one, I come across the war memorial and a monument to Eugène Viala (1859-1913), a poet and a painter who was known as the bard of the Lévézou.  Apparently this little place was his home town…

Le Pastissou is made from walnuts and caramel, is dusted with icing sugar and has a pastry base.  It is a speciality of the Averyon.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Please welcome, friend and author, Megan Mayfair...

... to my blog today.  Hello Megan, thanks for being here and I believe you have something very interesting to tell us...

In my latest book, Tangled Vines – a contemporary romance novel, one of my main characters, Frederick Doyle owns a winery in the Heathcote area in Victoria, Australia – an area renowned for excellent wine, especially shiraz.
Frederick’s interest in wine-making is discussed within the novel.  We learn that courtesy of his mother, Odette, he has extensive French family history.  Her grandfather was a wine maker in France before emigrating to Australia, and following in his footsteps, Frederick travelled to France in his early twenties to work in wineries to learn his craft before returning to Australia and establishing Fox & Grey, his own winery – a little ode to France and his family history in regional Australia.
Like Frederick, around 100,000 Australians (at the 2006 Australian Census) claim French ancestry, either alone or with another ancestry.
According to the Immigration Museum in Victoria, French influence in Australia dates back to the 18th Century when French explorers begun arriving on Australian shores, followed by officers, then by free settlers and merchants – many of whom became land owners, establishing businesses, farms and wineries.
The Gold Rush of the 1850s saw further French migration (in fact, largely to areas where my book is set in regional Victoria) and 1892 saw the establishment of the first foreign language newspaper in Australia, Le Courier Australien, according to the Immigration Museum.  Post World War II also saw further migration from France, and from all over Europe, as many people made Australia their home.
With ancestry from Ireland on his father’s side and from France on his mother’s, Frederick is interested in both and there is little doubt how the differences between the cultures have formed his own personal interests and character.
Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne
He is acutely aware of his family history and in one scene, he visits the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne with his love interest, Amelia.
Like Frederick, this building is one of my favourites in Melbourne. It was constructed for the 1880 International Exhibition, which saw merchants and delegates from countries around the world attend to further trade and investment opportunities, including those from France.
The building still stands in Melbourne’s Carlton Gardens, which was constructed to host the 1880 International Exhibition, which saw merchants from a number of countries visit to further trade and investment opportunities.  According to The Argus Newspaper, which reported the event in considerable detail, the French ‘court’ at the exhibition displayed products for trade including toys, clocks, artificial flowers, pottery, fabrics, glassware, silk and tapestries.
And Frederick’s ancestor, well, according to Frederick, his ancestor was a French naval officer who may have gone ‘AWOL’ and decided to stay in Australia after the exhibition ended!
The Royal Exhibition Building later hosted the first sitting of the Australian Parliament and continues to host large events today such as the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show.  It’s surrounded by the Carlton Gardens as part of the museum precinct, and in fact, is the largest ‘item’ in the museum’s collection.
Family and ancestry is a big part of Tangled Vines and it was such a pleasure to write some of Frederick’s family tree into the book and understand a little of the French influence in trade, culture, food and art that has helped shaped Australia today.

...about the book  Amelia O'Sullivan is a photographer who has always viewed herself through the wrong lens.  When her marriage publicly crashes around her, she flees to the safety of her aunt's country property to pick up the pieces.  Can she adjust her focus to what she really wants from her life?
Born into a wealthy and powerful family, Frederick Doyle may seem like a man who has it all, but behind the scenes, a bitter business feud threatens an irrevocable family split.  As he fights for control of the winery he'd built from the ground up, he finds a supportive ally in Amelia and becomes increasingly beguiled by her creative spirit.
Jill McMahon is a successful novelist suffering from writer's block over her latest manuscript.  Finding her niece, Amelia, at her door, reminds her of the bonds of family, but in seeing Amelia and Frederick's relationship grow, a long-forgotten and painful secret threatens to re-surface. 
Can Amelia, Frederick and Jill untangle themselves from their pasts or will history simply repeat itself?

...about the author  Megan Mayfair writes about families, intrigue and love.  Every book contains a bit of humour and a lot of heart.  She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and three young children, and has a background in public relations and higher education.
Megan drinks far too much coffee and has an addiction to buying scarves.  She interviews other authors for her blog series, Espresso Tales, and loves a bit of #bookstagram.
Her debut novel, The Things We Leave Unsaid, and second novel, Tangled Vines, were both published by Crooked Cat Books in 2018.  Her third book, The Problem with Perfect, will be published in 2019 by Crooked Cat Books.

You can follow Megan on Facebook  Twitter  Instagram and on her Website and her book is available here

Monday, 7 January 2019

As I begin this new year…

Favourite pic from 2018 - Garden at Amboise 
… I know that I am very fortunate.

At this moment I stand on the threshold of the new but I'm still able to look back on the old year.  And it was a good one.  There were successes.  But there were losses too and this New Year is already tinged with sadness as I reflect that three friends will not be with me this year.  Two of these friends I had the pleasure of working with over a number of years.  The third was someone I spent a lot of time with in France.  Each and every friendship is unique and can never be replaced.  Even though I know I will make new friends in 2019 - some who will stay with me, some who will be with me for a short while and others who will be transitory - I also know that each new friendship will have its own individuality and I look forward to that.  As for my three missing friends, each of them will be very greatly missed.

But, as they say, life goes on and there is a lot to look forward to.  Another book, more blogposts, more interviews, book reviews and many other interesting projects to get involved with.  I sincerely hope you readers out there will join me for the journey through 2019.

I also want to let you know that I will be visiting Harrogate library in the coming weeks and that I will be in the auspicious company of some very interesting authors - Karen  Perkins, C L Spillard and E Rachel Hardcastle.  If you are able to join us on January 19th at 2.00pm in the café area at the library, we would be only too pleased to see you there.  And there is no charge for the event.  Please contact the library if you are interested.

My regular weekly posts on the blog will begin on Tuesday 15th.  Coming up on the blog over the next few weeks will be guest appearances by authors Megan Mayfair, Jennifer Wilson and Kate Schofield.  Book reviews will be a regular feature with the first being my review of Paris Proposal by Stephanie Cage.  A great read.  And there will be other great books in the months to come.

There will be more Jottings from the Journals… and I hope you will also Come stroll with me… through various towns and villages in France throughout the year.  All of this, of course, will be accompanied with photos and my regular tweet for the #FrenchFridayPhoto will be back on Friday, January 11th.  I hope that you will join me.