Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Please welcome, friend and author, Grahame Peace...

...to the blog this week.  Hi, Grahame, and thanks for taking some time out to be here.  Tell me, what is your current work in progress?
GP  I’m currently working on my seventh book, which is the fifth book in my Ghost from the Molly House Series, which I hope to bring out later this year.  In March I published my latest book ‘A Journey into Fashion (The Dressing Room)’.  It’s fictional and is an amusing, coming of age story about the power of love and friendship, and of course, it’s about fashion.
AW  What first got you into writing and why?
GP   I retired nearly five years ago from the NHS, and I’d always enjoyed writing, but most of it had been work reports and academic assignments.  I like writing about my home town of Huddersfield and thought I had a story to tell; my writing grew from there.  I think it takes a lot of bravery to write and put your work out there; it’s very exposing, so it took a lot of courage; I’m still learning.
When I published my first book in 2014 (no longer in print) I had one scathing review, it was done with real venom, it was a real rant, and although some of the comments were justified, a lot of the things that were said were incorrect and untrue, it almost felt like a personal attack.  So, I lost confidence for a while, but slowly I picked writing back up again, and the scathing review taught me a valuable lesson.  But as I say, I’m still learning and probably will never stop, like it or not; everyone has an opinion.
AW  You write ghost stories and novels set in the world of fashion.  They are such diverse subjects; how did that happen?
GP   Good question!  I’ve always been interested in high-fashion, I’ve no idea where it came from, but it’s always been my absolute passion.  I wanted it to be my career, but young working-class men from the North of England, did not do fashion in the early 1970s, it’s all in the new book.  A Journey into Fashion is fiction, but I’ve tried to tell what I hope is a touching, honest, yet humorous coming of age story.  It starts in 1956 and covers a 40-year period, and although the book is aimed at people who are interested in and enjoy fashion and fashion history, there’s far more to it than that.  I’ve tried to tell a fashion story from a totally different perspective, my story isn’t based in Paris, London, New York, or Milan, but in the Northern textile town of Huddersfield!  Yet it’s full of the big historic fashion names, I think I’ve made it work, but the only way you’ll know is by reading the book!
In terms of my ghost stories, I like history, and I’d read a book by Rictor Norton called Mother Clap’s Molly-House, which is fascinating.  It’s a well-researched book about the ‘Gay’ community in London of the 18th century.  I’d wanted to create a ghost story, and it gave me the idea for a ghost who had experienced a lot of hardship and witnessed terrible cruelty and awful injustice in his life.  I wanted him to be sympathetic and accept people for their kindness and good nature, not their wealth, position, gender, the colour of their skin, their religion, nationality, or their sexual persuasion.
I wanted a character who looked for the goodness in people, but who understood there was also evil and badness in the world.  So, I created a sympathetic time-travelling ghost called Jasper Claxton, with super-powers and a wicked sense of humour.  He’s not gay by the way, not that it matters, and he has all sorts of adventures all over the world in different time periods.  I developed a different set of characters depending on which period he’s in, and I keep returning to them.  I love them all; somehow they have become part of me.  Jasper is great fun; he’ll run and run, because he can go anywhere in any period, past, present, or future, giving me endless story opportunities.  I just have to come up with the ideas!
AW  Ghosts and fashion, how much is solid research and how much is imagination?
GP  I do a lot of research for my books, I have an almost encyclopedic knowledge where fashion is concerned, particularly for the ‘Golden Age’ of haute couture from the early 1930s to the early 1960s and the great haute couture houses like Patou, Balenciaga, Vionnet, Lanvin, Gres, Poiret, Schiaparelli, Chanel, Dior, Balmain, Givenchy, Fath, Valentino, and YSL.  Then there were all the Hollywood costume designers.  I still follow today’s designers, but for me, they don’t have the magic or allure of the ‘Golden Age’.  People’s lives are so different today, let alone the huge cost of the clothes.  However, fashion has a way of creeping into all my books.
In terms of my ghost stories, it’s often real history that leads, drives or inspires the story, I do a lot of research, and then I add fantasy.  My ghost Jasper can do anything with his super-powers, but I try to make him as real as I can, I want the reader to feel he still has limitations, it helps to add a bit of drama to the story.  I worry what someone might think if they looked at my internet search history, what with the devil, black magic, the occult, demons, voodoo, witches, werewolves, wars, torture, cults, and spells to name only a few!
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?
GP  I have a special chair in our garden room.  I sit there with my laptop on my knee, and off I go.  We do have an office at home, but I don’t use it very often, I like my chair.
AW  Finally, if you had a whole afternoon to yourself and could choose to spend it with any one individual, living or dead or a character from a book, who would it be, and what would you want to discuss?
GP   For me it would have to be the late Cristóbal Balenciaga, the most celebrated haute couturier who ever lived, he was known as the couturier’s couturier, Dior called him ‘the master of us all’.  I’ve visited the Balenciaga museum in Getaria in Spain; I was allowed to have the whole museum to myself after it had closed, it was a 60th birthday present from my family.  It was eerie but amazing.  I would want to know everything about his early life in Getaria, what had inspired him and how he developed his many couture innovations and fabrics.
I do know a lot about him, but it would be good to hear it from the man himself, although he was quite a reclusive character, he rarely gave interviews.  Of course, there are many others.

...about the book  A Journey into Fashion (The Dressing Room), is a story about the healing power of love and friendship, it’s also a celebration of the high-end fashion world.  It’s a touching, amusing, coming of age story, set in the North of England.  It starts in the late 1950s and describes one man’s 40-year journey from humble, unhappy beginnings to find himself and build a future while striving to make his dreams come true.  His is an unusual story driven by self-doubt, dogged determination, and hope to enter the world of fashion; it’s a journey full of diversions.  The story covers a number of significant events and is told with honesty, and humour and takes you on his voyage of self-discovery and into fashion.
...about the author  Grahame Peace was born in Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, England, where he still lives.  He writes humorous, paranormal-historical-fantasy, mystery, and fashion fiction.  Grahame has several nursing qualifications and a degree in Health & Social Care, and a master’s degree in Innovation and Leadership.  He worked for many years for the National Health Service in Mental Health Services, before becoming a full-time writer.  So, he knows about ‘life’ and the many challenges, and ups and downs it can throw at people.
He’s always had a fascination with the history of fashion, especially the high-end fashion industry, which is evident in several of his books.  His other interests in no particular order are: keeping fit, fighting off the ravages of time, theatre-going, music, history, the cinema, good coffee, travelling, reading, cooking, oh and the odd glass of white wine or anything that sparkles!

You can find Grahame on his Website  on Facebook  Twitter and Goodreads

You can get Grahame's boooks from Amazon

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Please welcome, friend and author, Paul Smith...

... In his many guises

Writing, it’s a strange way of consuming the time we have on the planet: solitary, frustrating, disheartening, yes, all of these things. Yet, it’s something to savour, and it takes over one’s life. That little snippet of conversation overheard, an interesting character met, a current event or a historical one. All can fire a cascade of thoughts that lead to the unfolding of a story.
My serious writing started with a story set in occupied France during World War II, but with an unusual twist.  It required considerable research, especially about the French Resistance, mostly in the north of France, where men and women joined the Maquis to assist the allies and Britain’s Special Operations Executive, resident in France and conducting clandestine operations, to thwart the German war machine.  The story is in two parts, the same tale told from two perspectives, hence its name A Question Resistance -Two Perspectives 
My other love is Yorkshire and Fantasy:  Imagine a Yorkshire where the vales of York become ‘veils’, pathways to another world where time runs at a different pace, a realm where power is everything and dominion is the goal.  The Shires of York is a series of six parts with each chronicling a different stage of Yorkshire’s history, aided by Elven, Dragons, Goblins, Witches and Dwarves, everything you’d expect from a fantasy world, yet familiar too.  For fantasy, I don a new identity, becoming Joseph Murphy-James in honour of my grandfather who makes an appearance, though only I know where.
As a member of Harrogate Writers’ Circle, I read from prepared texts at regular ‘Manuscript Evenings’ and I created a short story about Yorkshire folk in a small town setting, then added to it at another evening meeting.   Members of the Circle told me that they liked the characters and suggested that I create a novel from the snippets.  I did this in Four Seasons of Heythwaite - the Antics of a Small Yorkshire Town.  It was a departure for me so, not to confuse readers, I wrote using a new pen name of Annie Eileen Rogers.  I’ve been told that it’s a lovely story portraying the richness of the Yorkshire clan, just what I wanted to create.  Heythwaite and the Ghost Train is the sequel, currently in final preparation.
On I go, conversing with my imaginary friends, making them real, becoming close to some and loathing others.  That’s what writing is, an escape from the trials of a real life, yet built from them because, what doesn’t kill you makes a story.

...about the authorI've written two novels and three travel guides in my own name, a six part fantasy series plus some prequels and a sequel under the pen name Joseph Murphy-James and two Yorkshire Sagas under the name Annie Eileen Rogers.
I have also provided proof-reading and editing for some successful novels including Hell Holes, The Khan, The Mission, Sistaz Revenge (loved this one), Above and Beyond, Operation Underpants (and this one), Claudia, The Frenchman's Daughters, The President's Legionnaire and Wolf 359.
I founded and now run the Wise Grey Owl book promotion site that has achieved over 2M book views. You’ll find my blogs on Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook, mostly to assist in the marketing and sales of my own and other authors’ books.
Like many writers, I’ve done other things with my life to pay the mortgage and keep the wolves from the door. Ask me about them if you’re interested but they include testing roles like Senior Management in FTSE 50 companies plus a stint growing a small-to-medium enterpise and helping others to expand theirs.  For the record, I’m keen on technology and know a great deal about it.
I‘ve been a volunteer technology writer for the IET, a Professional Engineering Institution of which I am a Fellow; many of my articles appear in newsletters, blogs and on the Yorkshire IET You Tube channel as short videos. I'm also a freelance writer for an academic technology journal and an active member of the Harrogate Writers’ Circle and my work features in competitions run by it and other writers guilds. My short story 'Change' about homelessness was shortlisted for Story Tyne 2019.

You can follow Paul on Facebook and on  Twitter

Friday, 19 April 2019

Crooked Cat's Grand Easter Book Sale...

...is now on.

Loads of books for sale at 99p/99c or equivalent.  Not just Romances, but Mysteries, Thrillers, Contemporary Fiction... Check it out... 

Shhh! Don't tell anyone else I said this... but my own books, available from Amazon, are also included in the sale. If you prefer, you can find my books on Bargain Booksy (April 20th) Book Runes (April 21st) and on Book Hippo (April 22nd)

Check out the links and grab yourself a bargain ebook!

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Readers needing answers...

… An avid reader asked me the other day where I get my ideas from and specifically whether I'd been given a particular remit for a short story of mine that she had read recently.  The first part - well, that's a really big question - but the second aspect is much more easily answered.  Read on…

My ideas come from anything and everything around me.  A chance remark overheard on a train or at the bus stop.  A picture on a wall that makes me ask myself a question, the ensuing answer often being an idea that I can run with for a story or a story arc in one of my novels.  My ideas come at any time of the day, but most often when I'm undertaking menial tasks such as peeling vegetables for lunch, ironing, cleaning the bathroom or vacuuming the carpets.  Such tasks require little or no intellectual input and I'm afraid my brain just has to find something to keep itself occupied. A great many of my ideas spring up at such times.  
But that's not all. Things I experience also become ideas. For example, whilst I was visiting the Cévennes in September 2007, the weather changed overnight and I awoke the next morning, September 29th, to snow and a pristine and white landscape. It was whilst I was watching the flakes of snow twirling past the window that it occurred to me that if someone had some terrible misdeed to hide, snow could be very useful. Later that morning, the opening lines of Messandrierre were crafted and a rough outline for a story was formed and jotted down in my notebook. From that idea to finished book took a lot more thinking and a great deal of hard work. In my current book, Montbel, the weather also plays a part. Jacques and Beth are discussing their future plans and I decided that it might bring a note of doubt into the reader's mind if the conversation was brought to an abrupt end because of the weather. The storm that is described in that scene was yet another experience from my time in the Cévennes in 2017.  So, it's true my ideas really do come from anything and everything around me.
As for the second part of the question, writing to a remit.  Yes, it can be constraining but it
can also be liberating, as I found when I was asked to contribute to the 
Miss Moonshine anthology.  At the point at which I joined the project, Miss Moonshine was an
already partially formed character.  As I started to write my story I found I couldn't hear her voice very clearly in my head and I wasn't totally sure of exactly who she was as an individual.  A couple of lunches with the
other ladies who form Authors on the Edge and
the sketchiness began to become more defined.  I realised that Miss M had her
own magic, that she was timeless, that she behaved impeccably and had her own style.  Through our discussions and supporting email exchanges I understood that she was all things to all people and she became the person she needed to be for each of the stories in the anthology.
So much about writing is solitary and those lunches with my fellow authors gave me the confidence to venture into a completely different genre from the one I normally write.  It was a wonderful opportunity to work collaboratively for a change.  And I think that, perhaps, Miss Moonshine's magic might also have been at work, too.

Another fellow Author on the Edge will be visiting the blog next month, so watch this space...

You can read previous posts from Authors on the Edge 

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Jottings from the Journals... St Louis-Arzviller Plan Incliné

Wednesday, 6th

…Camped in Saverne and weather really hot and sunny again.

…the marina behind the chateau is part of the Marne au Rhin canal which stretches from Vitry-le-François (in the département of Marne, 51) in the west to Strasbourg (in the département of Bas-Rhin, 67) in the east, passing through Saverne on its way.  The distance is  a little over 300Ks which is almost 200 miles.  The canal crosses through 5 départements, traverses the Vosges mountains too, and originally had 178 locks along its route.  That's quite a chunk of the country when you consider that construction began in the 1830's and the canal was not completed until some 15 years later.  However, it linked two massive rivers and provided a large port and trading route to Germany.  When it opened in 1853 it took the title of being the longest canal in Fance.

I cycled from Saverne to the St Louis-Arzviller Plan Incliné and the route along the canal - which is about 15Ks each way - is fairly smooth and mostly tarmac.  Stopped off in Lutzelbourg to have a look around - not that much to see - and buy a cake for lunch.  Then the last few kilometres to the Plan Incliné.

The boat lift replaces the ladder of 17 locks that were needed to climb the eastern side of the Vosges.  Originally that one section of the canal would take a whole day for the barges to move through.  The current boat lift takes about 5 minutes and moves the barges through a differential in height of 45m - that's about 140ft.

In the shade at one of the picnic tables I had my lunch.  The barges being moved between the two levels of the canal provided my entertainment.  I never thought I would find a mobile piece of concrete so entertaining.  But that boat Iift - it's quite a sight!

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

I'm reviewing A Walk Through Paris...

 ...by Eric Hazan...

A Parisian by birth, Eric Hazan has lived in the city all his life.  He is the founder of the publishing house, La Fabrique, and is the author of several books about Paris, France and its history.  He has also worked as a surgeon and is well known for his opinions  on Parisian society.  When I happened upon this little tome in a bookshop whilst visiting a nearby town in North Yorkshire, I just could not let it remain there unread.  It came home with me and I am very glad that it did.

Beginning at a bookshop - a most suitable place to start in my opinion - he charts his trail across the city from south to north.  Of course, were I to be in Paris now, my route would be significantly delayed whilst I browsed through the shelves of books.  I have probably spent half my life in bookshops already!  This particular bookshop in Ivry is one I have yet to visit.  It sits on rue Gabriel Péri and the opening hours are somewhat flexible.

As Hazan meanders through the streets and squares he shares with you little pieces of history about his surroundings.  He makes comments on the buildings, the architecture and, in some instances, even provides you with a potted history relating to how and why a specific building is there.  His wit shines through in his anecdotes and asides as he guides you across the city, and that's not always in a straight line either.  There are plenty of little detours and side streets to explore.

City guides and green guides are all well and good and very informative, but they only ever take you to where every other tourist goes.  This book takes you to the Parisians' city, to the places that only someone who has spent a lifetime in Paris would know.  A brilliant little book with a gently flowing narrative voice and it will be coming with me when I next visit.