Monday, 28 December 2020

Just because it's Twixmas...

... I have a little tale of Christmas magic for you...

In a place so very far north from here, you will find a vast house of ice and snow where Mr and
Mrs Claus and their many helpers live and work. One of those helpers is Esme. Now, there’s something very magical and very special about Mr and Mrs Claus. And there’s something a little bit magical about Esme, too.
One day, early in December Mrs Claus summoned Esme to her office at the head of the vast workshop. 
“Esme, I have a very important and special task for you this year. I am suspending you from all toy manufacturing duties—” 
“But I haven’t fin—” 
Mrs Claus held up her hand. “There will be no buts, and it was Mr Claus himself who suggested that you would be the right person for this particular assignment.” 
Esme didn’t like leaving her work half-done. But as it was Mr Claus who had suggested her for this task, whatever it was, then she would do it. And she would do it willingly. Esme sat up straight on the stool and waited to hear her fate. 
“Now let me see,” said Mrs Claus as she shuffled through Emse’s personnel file. “Last year you were at number 52. This year I’m sending you to number 79, and I want you to go today. 
“But it’s not yet Christmas Eve, Mrs C.” 
Mrs Claus peered over her spectacles and lowered her voice. “You have an especially difficult task this year, I’m afraid. Christmas has been kidnapped at number 79.” Mrs Claus pursed her lips. 
“Kidnapped,” Esme frowned. “How can Christmas be kidnapped?” 
Mrs Claus raised an eyebrow. “I can assure you we have a hostage situation at number 79. Now,” Mrs Claus rested her forearms on her vast desk. “I need you there within the hour Esme.” 
Esme slipped off the stool and straightened her green pinafore dress. 
“Leave it to me,” she said. Shoulders back Esme marched out of the office and along the workshop floor to her bench. She toed her rucksack out from under her stool and slung it over her shoulder. Her hat pulled down over her ears Esme made her way to the great ice door. A wish in her mind and the vast door opened. Esme stepped out into the snow and ice. Taking a deep breath of fresh air, she waited for a wind and stepped onto its tail. 
Moments later, Esme bumped to a hard landing. When she looked around, all she could see was blackness. Nothing but blackness on all sides of her. 
“Oh no, they haven’t, have they?” She reached out her hand to touch a wall. When she looked at her fingers, they were all covered in soot. 
“Damn it! They’ve blocked up the chimney.” Esme reached up to the sky and wished herself elsewhere. Perched on a branch of the ornamental cherry tree in the front garden Esme looked for an open window. She spotted one on the first floor. In an instant, she found herself standing on the edge of the washbasin. 
“Perfect. I can use that flannel to get rid of this awful black stuff.” Free of the soot she pulled herself up to her full two inches of height and wished herself to dust. She swirled through the house until she settled on the stone hearth. 
“Ah,” she said as her eyes played over the carefully arranged logs in the space that had once been a fireplace. “They’ve gone all Hygge. Must warn Mr C about that.” 
As she turned to move to another room, she heard the sound of crying from somewhere at the back. In the kitchen, she looked out of the window. By the shed at the bottom of the garden was a little boy. Esme made a circle in the air. Pictures flashed by. A birth. Happiness. Six Christmases and birthdays. An accident. Sadness and finally, a new home. 
Esme wiped a tear from her eye. She turned intending to go to the fireplace and call up the chimney but changed her mind. The messages would be too muffled. She closed her eyes and thought of Mrs C. 
“You must do whatever it takes, Esme,” came the reply. 
“Whatever it takes,” she said to herself. She clasped her hands together, a deep frown on her forehead. “It’s breaking the rules,” she whispered to herself. An echo of Mrs C’s voice came to her on a light breeze from the open back door. Esme took a breath, willed herself to dust and slipped under the front door and round to the quiet alley behind the house. There she willed herself to human. 
From the back wall of number 79, Esme could see the little boy. He was seven years old and still sobbing. 
“Hello, why are you crying?” 
“Go away,” said the boy. 
“No,” said Esme as she slipped off the wall and into the boy’s garden. “I want to know why you’re crying?” 
The boy looked up. “My auntie Jo has kidnapped my Christmas tree and locked it in the shed. I’ve been saving my pocket money for months so I could buy it.” 
Oh well that’s easy, thought Esme. I can magic… no I can’t I’m being human. She frowned at her stupidity. “I can pick locks,” she offered instead. 
“Won’t matter. Auntie Jo says Santa Claus is a judgemental old man. She even tweeted about it and got hundreds and hundreds of new followers.” 
The boy looked up, his face streaked with tears, his eyes red and swollen. 
Esme wanted to hug him, but she’d seen all the briefings from Mr C about the parlous state of affection in the UK because of some nasty virus. She knew it wouldn’t be acceptable. 
“Auntie Jo says it’s not appropriate for an old man to decide if children are naughty or nice and to reward only the nice ones. She says it’s… She says it’s, umm, oh, long division or something.” 
Esme thought for a moment. “I think what your Aunt might have said was that rewarding only nice children with presents was divisive.” 
The boy scraped his hands across his grubby face. “Yeah, something like that. I’m Matthew, what’s your name?” 
“Esme. Look, Matthew, I can help you bring Christmas to your house if you want?” 
“How? Do you do miracles or something?” He stood up, hands in his trouser pockets and stared at her. 
“No,” said Esme. “But I can do magic.” She wished herself back to her real self. 
“What?” Matthew spun around. “Where are you?” 
“I’m right here,” said Esme as she hovered in the air the appropriate distance from Matthew’s nose. “Now, do you want me to help you with Christmas or not?” 
The boy nodded. Esme swooped to the top of the wall and sat down. She pulled off her rucksack and began ferreting around inside. From her pack, she took a tiny little cotton bag. 
Into it she whispered a wish and quickly tied the strings. With the tiny bag between her hands, she made another wish. 
“Listen and listen very carefully. I will open my hands, and this little bag of wishes will float in the air. The minute I do that you must catch the bag in both hands and keep it safe. As soon as you can, put it under your Aunt’s pillow and leave it there. When she wakes up tomorrow morning, she will be thinking about Christmas. That’s when you must ask her about the tree and the presents. If you don’t ask, the idea will quickly fade away and be gone forever.” 
Matthew nodded. A bright smile spread across his face. 
“Are you ready?” 
“Yes and I’ll do it exactly as you said.” 
Esme smiled. “One last thing,” she said. “It’s not Santa Claus who is judgemental; it’s parents. Parents invented the naughty and nice lists as a means of controlling unruly children. SantaClaus doesn’t need a naughty or nice list. Santa is kind to everyone.” 
“Really. Now are you ready, Matthew?” 
Hands outstretched ready to take possession of the bag of wishes, Matthew nodded. Esme
opened her hands, and the tiny cotton bag dropped into Matthew’s waiting left hand. He instantly placed his right hand over it and ran into the house. 
Two weeks later, Esme took up her station at the top of Matthew and Auntie Jo’s tree. When Mr Claus appeared on Christmas Eve, he gave Esme a wink. 
As Mr C made his way back up the now cleared chimney and fireplace, Esme winced. She had completely forgotten to replace the large purple Lurex patch at the back of his trousers. 

If you would like to read more Christmas tales you can find them Here  Here and Here

Saturday, 26 December 2020

An offer you really can’t refuse…

… I hope!

Just because it is Twixmas, I’m offering e-copies of my book, Merle for FREE this weekend.

This is the second book in the Jacques Forêt Mystery series. In this story Jacques finds himself invovled in the murky world of commercial sabotage – a place where people lie and misrepresent, and where information is traded and used as a threat. 
The Vaux organisation is losing contracts and money, and Jacques is asked to undertake an internal investigation. As he works through the complexity of all the evidence, he finds more than he bargained for, and his own life is threatened. 
When the body of a woman is found, it appears to be suicide. But as the investigation takes another turn, Jacques suspects there is more to it. 
But who is behind it all…and why?

Here’s what the reviewers said...
Author, Pam C Golden labelled Merle ‘…an intriguing puzzle’ and ‘an excellent read’ that she ‘…would highly recommend.’

Crime writer, Nicola Slade thought that as ‘…the BBC has given us a wide selection of tv detective dramas… the career of Jacques Forêt would make a great addition to them. Producers please take note!’

United States reviewer, Pia, dubbed the book ‘amazing’adding that it’s ‘as good as the first and worth… the wait.’

You can get the book Here

Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Merry Christmas...

That time of year has come around yet again.  It seems to come round more quickly these days.  As a child, I remember waiting interminably for Christmas to arrive.  Which makes no sense as time is a constant and a month, week or day back then still took just as long to pass as they do now!

It's been an unusual year - to say the least.  But, if my blog has entertained or informed or just plain chased the boredom away for a moment or two, then please accept my most sincere thanks for reading my words.  To readers of my books, I would like to convey my very grateful thanks.  Reviewers, thank you for reading my books and then taking some of your very precious time to let me know what you think.  Your comments and thoughts - positive or negative - are always read, considered and, if I can, are acted upon. Your input is greatly appreciated.

So, as I take a break over this festive season, I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, if you celebrate the season as such.  And to those who do not, may I offer my very best wishes to you and yours.

I will be back in the New Year with my first post for 2021 on January 12th, so watch this space...

Tuesday, 8 December 2020

I'm catching up with Jacques Forêt…

… today. I'd planned to meet Jacques in Place Urbain V right in the heart of the city of Mende.  But it's snowing today, so I'm on my way to his office…
AW Jacques hello, lovely to see you again.
JF   Take a seat and thanks for inviting me on to your blog.
AW So, Jacques, you've got a new case, and we would like to hear more about it.
JF  It's perplexing, and it is trying my patience.  I find one answer and then another piece of evidence turns up, and I have just as many questions as I had before.
AW  Not an easy case to solve then, Jacques?
JF   And without a body, it is very hard to know if a crime has really been committed or not. But there is malicious intent.  Of that, I am certain.
AW  Is that how Investigating Magistrate Pelletier sees it too?
JF   Not really.  Bruno is keeping an open mind.  But, like me, he is constantly asking himself what the actual intent might be.  What we found in the trees on Mont Mimat was most unusual, and that scene in the forest was created by a person or persons unknown.  But I can't work out why.  Both Didier and I have our theories, which keep changing as we discover more about—
AW   Ah, no spoilers please Jacques.
JF   Yes, of course. I'm sorry.
AW  And how is your business shaping up Jacques?  You're now JF Associates I believe.
JF   Yes, that's right and we're doing very well, thank you.  We're getting a lot of security work.  With the tightening up of the investigations of robberies on the Mediterranean coast and more convictions, the gangs that have plagued the south coast have moved north.  They are now striking wealthy properties in and around cities such as Le Puy, Mende, St Étienne, which is good for us.  People are very aware of the problem and are coming to us for advice and protection.
AW  I see and can you tell me if you're working for someone famous?  Someone we might know?
JF    If I could tell you, I wouldn't, anyway.  My client list is entirely confidential.
AW I guess I kind of knew that was what you would say.  And what about your team, Jacques?  Are they all well?
JF   Yes, everyone is well thank you.  Maxim's wife, Amélie is back with us for three days a week and she takes care of a lot of the admin for the office as a whole.  Didier and I still handle the investigation work.  We've also got Thibault Clergue, an ex-colleague from the gendarmerie, helping us out with the security work too.
AW  What about the village of Messandrierre?
JF    Things are changing.  The satellite gendarmerie there has closed now and there are some new people in the village.  But Gaston and Marianne are still at the restaurant and Monsieur Mancelle is still the Maire.  We still get plenty of walkers coming to the village and, of course hunting parties when the season starts.  Some things are the same.
  That's good to know.  I don't want to keep you from your work for too long.  So, I'll leave you and best of luck with the case...
You can read more about Jacques' next case Here  Here and Here
You can pre-order the book on Amazon

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Come stroll with me...

... through les Villages Morts...

As promised in my last post I'm back here on Mont Mimat, the mountain that overlooks the city of Mende from the south.  The view of the city from the Lot valley side of Mimat is quite spectacular.  The road winds towards Séjalan - an area of the city that I used as a location in my last story, Marseille.  But you can make out the basilica in the centre of the old heart of the city and the old bridge on the Lot.  There is also an abandoned village here, La Chaumette.
The name Chaumette has exisited as a family name from early times in the Languedoc.  But if you check a modern dictionary, you will find the noun chaume which means stubble or scrubland.  The word is also used to describe the thatch of a cottage.  The village is sited by a water source and is the remaining vestige of a hard caussenade life.  The lintel on one building has a date from the 17th century, so there have been people living here for at least 400 years, probably much longer than that.  The families that lived here would have tended sheep and sold the fleeces for wool. The area is harsh and at that time would have been mostly scrub land on limestone.  The houses are built of limestone blocks with thinner slabs to create stone floors inside and with smaller tiles crafted to create a solid roof.  In the mid-nineteenth century there were 26 inhabitants in the village.  By 1904 this had dwindled to a single family.
If we take a short climb and head a little further south on Mimat we can find the remains of the second village, Le Gerbal.  There is a second water source here, but this village is the less well preserved of the two.  The houses are of the same design and material as in La Chaumette.  There were around a dozen buildings in this village in the 1850s.  By 1905, the population had reduced to only one inhabitant.  The villages were abandoned and the slopes of Mont Mimat were later forested with Austrian pines.
Snow on the morning of September 27th
Life must have been desperately hard for those villagers.  Here in the
Cévennes, the summer months can be blisteringly hot, what little grass there is, can be bleached white and the winters can be freezing cold especially when the wind blows in from the north.  I've known it snow here at the end of September and I can recall Madame at my favourite camping spot telling me that the last fall of snow that year had been at the beginning of May.
The sense of isolation up here is something that you can't seem to escape.  It was that sense of isolation, the harsh landscape and the remains of les villages morts that convinced me that Mont Mimat would make an excellent location for a story.   My fictitious village of Mercœur, is modelled on the remains of the village of Le Gerbal and sits a couple of hundred metres further down the trail.

You can find out more about Mercœur Here and Here and I will be catching up with Jacques Forêt himself here on the blog next week.  Watch this space! 

The book is available for pre-order from Amazon

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Introducing Sue Featherstone...

... journalist and fellow Yorkshire writer who knows a good few things about writing.  Hi Sue, thanks for being here and tell me, what are your 7 pieces of golden advice about writing?
One way or another writing has been my job for a long, long time.  How long exactly?  Sorry, that’s a secret between me and my teeth.  Suffice to say I don’t yet qualify for a bus pass, although that’s largely because politicians keep moving the goalposts. However, since those early days as a gawky news reporter, when newspapers were still printed on hot metal, I’ve learned a lot about what readers want.  And what they don’t.  So here are seven things I know about writing.
1. The late Terry Pratchett once described the first draft of a novel as the author telling him or herself the story. This is a polite way of saying first drafts are full of waffle and hopelessly over-written.  It is also true.
So, write, revise, edit, re-write.  Repeat, as often as necessary.  And, yes, the post you are reading now is a revised version of the original.
2. Multi-voiced narratives can be challenging.  Some readers enjoy piecing together the threads of a story through the viewpoints of different characters, others feel it’s too much like hard work.  So, lighten the load for those readers by following the rules.
3. The first rule of a multi-voiced narrative is to make each voice distinctly different and easily recognisable.
In my Friends series with co-author Susan Pape, one character is reasoned and restrained, the other is more volatile and impulsive.  In our current work in progress, one viewpoint is presented by a first-person narrator using the present tense, whilst the alternative point of view is that of a third-person narrator, told in the past tense.
Readers should always know, without having to think about it, which narrator is speaking.
4. Rule two: don’t switch narrators mid-chapter.  The aim of a multi-voiced narrative is to let the reader see inside the head and heart of two or more characters.  Since those voices should each have their own tone and style, it’s confusing for readers if paragraph one is the voice of narrator A while paragraph two swivels to narrator B.
5. Where possible, be sparing in the use of possessive pronouns (I, me, my etc.). This can be difficult in a first-person narrative, but too much I or me or my jumps off the page like a toddler having a tantrum in a sweet shop.
The bonus is that in re-writing to eliminate these words, your sentences will become stronger, more succinct and direct.
6. Individual narrators only know what they are thinking or feeling.  This means narrator A cannot tell readers character B is confused or sad or angry.  But they can show. For instance: B scratched his head and sucked his bottom lip between his teeth.  ‘I don’t know…’  His voice tailed off.  ‘What do you think?’
7. Paint word pictures.  This is an extension of the show don’t tell rule and done well allows readers to intuit something important about the story being told without the writer having to spell it out in words of one syllable.  It takes practice to get right and the best way to learn is to do as Shakespeare did and borrow, and adapt, from the work of other writers.
Start by keeping a running collection of word pictures.  I keep a list on my mobile phone.  Some of the best come from magazine and newspaper features and opinion pieces.  For instance an earthquake described as a ‘tidal wave of masonry’ and a politician who spoke through ‘teeth so tightly gritted a snow plough wouldn’t have got through.’  Other favourites include ‘as flexible as a pencil’ and ‘the personality of a finger nail’.
I’m reluctant to share an example of a word picture from my own work – what if I haven’t pulled it off?  But here goes: an example from my current work in progress.
‘When he’s gone I remain in my seat, my stomach slithered down to my toes, my mouth’s dryer than a Saharan door mat, and my brain’s awash with a tidal wave of emotions as I re-imagine probably the worst day of my life.  The day I did the stupidest thing in the world and which I’ve been regretting ever since.’
I’ll probably tweak it some more before the book is done but I hope the reader senses the character’s turmoil.
about the author… Sue is a former journalist-cum-public relations practitioner-cum-university lecturer, who now writes women’s fiction with Susan Pape.
The pair wrote two journalism textbooks together - Newspaper Journalism: A Practical Introduction (also published in Chinese) and Feature Writing: A Practical Introduction – before deciding to turn their hands to something a bit more creative.
They’ve now published three novels in their Yorkshire-based Friends trilogy – A Falling Friend
(published 2016), A Forsaken Friend (2018), and A Forgiven Friend, published just one year ago in November 2019.
Reviewers have described their writing as warm and funny, and describe the books as an intelligent and sassy take on the friendship between two women on the cusp of middle age.
Next on the agenda is another Yorkshire trilogy, provisionally titled The Friday Night Knitting Club.
When she’s not writing, Sue enjoys reading, daydreaming and Nordic walking – which is a bit like skiing without the snow.
You can follow Sue on her Blog on Twitter  and on her Facebook page

You can get Sue's books using these links :  A Falling Friend  A Forsaken Friend  and  A Forgiven Friend

And if you are an author, with a connection to Yorkshire and wish to know more about Promoting Yorkshire Authors or to join us then check out our 

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Come stroll with me…

… through the forest on Mont Mimat…
The Cévennes
Mont Mimat is situated to the south of the city of Mende.  It overlooks the city and rises to a spot height of 1067 metres.  If you prefer your measures in feet and inches, then that's just a smidgen more than 3,500 feet.  It also means that Mont Mimat is just a tad taller than Carnedd Llewelyn in Wales, the 25th tallest peak in the UK.  Naturally when making such comparisons one has to remember that Mimat won't get the constant rain that we do, so you can more or less guarantee better weather at the top.
Mimat is covered with forest, mostly Austrian Black pines.  This was something that the municipality undertook quite some time ago.  Up on the plateau there is also a cross, dedicated to St Privat.  In third century Gaul, the area around the modern city of Mende was invaded by the Alamans led by Chrocus.  Chrocus took his troops into the heart of Gaul, looting and killing along the way.  He wanted access to the city and finding St Privat fasting in caves on Mont Mimat, Chrocus took him hostage, believing that the people would surrender in order to save their bishop.  They didn't and St Privat didn't surrender on their behalf either.  He was beaten and mutilated and eventually left for dead.  It was some days later before he finally died of his wounds.
He was buried close to where his martyrdom ended and a church was built.  The original would have been of wood and it was replaced by two later re-incarnations.  In the 14th century the final edifice was commissioned by Pope Urban V (William Grimoard) and was dedicated to St Privat.  That cathedral, subject to repairs following the religious wars and later additions and enhancements, stands in the centre of Mende and is the basilica of Notre-Dame-et-St Privat.  It's a stunning edifice and the beautiful Aubusson tapestries inside are definitely worth a look.
Basilica, Mende from lower slope of Mont Mimat
But there's something else about Mont Mimat - and the mountain takes its name from the ancient name of the city, Mimate, not the other way around, as is most often the case - it's used on the Tour de France.  The steepness of the routes across the mountain mean that it has been used several times.  The route on the Lot valley side is referred to locally as Montée Jalabert in honour of the French cyclist Laurent Jalabert.  He won the Mimat stage of the Tour in 1995 and was ranked as number 1 that year and numerous subsequent years besides.
Mont Mimat has such an interesting history that I thought it would make an interesting location in one of my Jacques Forêt stories.  Indeed, considering its dominance over the town, it's kind of hard to ignore it.  For Mercœur, I have some scenes that take place on the mountain.  And there are a couple more surprises that the mount has to offer too.  But I'll save those for another post.

You can find out more about Mercœur Here and the book is available for pre-order from Amazon 

There will be more about Mont Mimat in my post on December 1st. 

Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Introducing Heike Phelan...

... Hello Heike and thanks very much for being here today.  Tell me, exactly how does a Yorkshire Author find herself writing about the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ)?

Manipulators, abusers, gangsters, thieves and murderers!
You could be forgiven for thinking I am talking about the inhabitants of a Texas state prison, but no. These descriptions apply to many of the employees of the behemoth that is the Texas prison system. 
With relative impunity and no independent oversight to keep TDCJ in check the officers and wider staff are free to dole out and inflict whatever justice, punishment or crime on the inmates they choose and frequently do. The inmates have little recourse to redress the skewed balance. 
Power for power’s sake is an endemic feature of prison life, the attitude comes from the top and eventually filters down to the inmates themselves, which is then practised most often as a survival strategy. 
The under-regulated and overly punitive system is designed to break the inmates, and only those with very strong minds survive. Many will argue that these people put themselves there and so they can’t cry about it. But does that make those incarcerated fair game for the atrocities that are inflicted on them? 
Drawing by Matthew Schiffert
The main character in my Convict series of books is someone close to me. An offender currently serving a sentence in a ‘super-max’ state prison. Based on the real life and experiences of William, the books expose the reality of life behind bars in a prison system that is corrupt, violent and secretive. 
The purpose of incarceration is that the loss of freedom is the punishment for a crime committed. However the punitive and destructive punishment system of TDCJ shows what an institution can legitimately get away with when there is no independent oversight and no one actually cares because ‘they are only criminals’!
Over several years, I became more shocked, more appalled and more sickened by the treatment of inmates. Once behind bars, they cease to be humans, and are merely property to be used and abused for the purpose of making vast profits using free prison labour. In return, the inmates are fed sub-standard food; often discarded as unfit for human consumption. Subjected to abuse, violence and neglect; much of which is instigated and encouraged by the officers, and medical care that can at best be described as negligent. 
I never set out to be an activist, and I certainly don’t see myself as one. I do see it as a necessity that what goes on behind bars needs exposing. The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed many of the failings of the prison system. A system that was already bankrupt and overloaded has been further hit by their inability to deal with a virus that is running unchecked through the inmate population. It is to be hoped that the deadly effects of Corona virus will instigate widespread reforms to tackle the very problems the system has created. 
As my editor tells me, it’s a story that needs telling, and I hope in some small way I am helping to do that. 

about the author… As a coach driver and tour operator, I have spent my working life driving and managing tours all over Europe for incoming tourists of many different nationalities. It took several years of self doubt before embarking on the task of writing the first book. With no idea of what was involved, my first two books, Child Convict and Career Convict were both written during stops at tourist sites all over Europe. Certainly not the easiest or ideal way to take up a writing career. 
The Covid lockdowns have been a mixed blessing for me. On the one hand I am temporarily out of work for the foreseeable future, but on the other hand it has allowed me to use the time to focus entirely on writing book three in my Convict series, Convict Code. With two short stories and another two planned books to add to the series, I am beginning to feel like a genuine author, with multitudes of ideas and inspiration flowing. Having time to focus on my writing and my books I feel a growing level of confidence in my writing that is being reinforced by being a member of the amazing PYA group. 
Being a Yorkshire girl with the advantage of multiple nationalities, I am making use of them and now live in Co. Limerick in Ireland.   A place I see as magical and wonderful as Yorkshire and the place I plan to retire.  An idea for a series of fairy books is swirling around my head as I write this. 

You can the books Here  Convict Code will be released in January 2021

You can follow Heike on her Website and on Facebook 

You can contact Heike through Black Horse Publishing

Look out for more Yorkshire authors in the coming weeks...

And if you are an author, with a connection to Yorkshire and wish to know more about us or to join us then check out our Website

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

I'm reviewing A Box of Memories...

... by Canadian author Allan Hudson...

Despite being confined to the house because of the pandemic I have found reading novels a little dificult as my usually easily sustained concentration span seems to have deserted me.  I guess it's a measure of the anxiety that we are living with here in 2020.  However, I have been able to take comfort in the numerous anthologies that I have on my bookshelves and some new ones that I've downloaded on my kindle.  One of them being this little collection.  Read over three weeks, a story a day, I can  honestly say that this little treasure trove has kept me sane.
The stories fall into different genres but are mostly contemporary.  As a writer myself I enjoy creating short stories.  They are an opportunity to run with a great but small idea that can not be sustained for the length of a novel - Reaching the Pinnacle is a perfect example of that and a great story with which to open the anthology.
Sometimes, when you start what is intended to be a short story, you realise there's more you want to say either for or about the characters.  Often in anthologies the reader can pick up on this.  So I was very pleased to see that Mr Hudson didn't let me down.  Two Boys, one Wagon and a Secret introduces two great little characters in the form of Beans and Chops.  A pair of ten-year-old boys with adventure on their minds.   I loved the swift pace of this particular story, the wit with which it was told and the neat little plot.  The characters were so well drawn, that I wanted to know more and read more.  Luckily for me, Mr Hudson did not disappoint as there is a second story which is just as enjoyable as the first.
I felt the same about the character of Lloyd in Lloyd and the baby, the characters featured in Two Grumpy Old Men Cafe and on each occassion I got a follow up story just as heart warming and entertaining as the first.
There's something for everyone in this collection, even Sci Fi fans in the shape of the Far Out Mall.  I can thoroughly recommend it.

You can read more about Allan and his books Here

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Introducing Linda Jones...

... who writes children's books.  Hello Linda and thanks for being here today.  Tell me all about following the fantasy...

It was April 2020, and at last, I was preparing to write Cavern’s Fall, the third book in the children’s magical fantasy series. Yet, I couldn’t throw off a disturbing sense of being ‘disconnected from reality’.
The storyline was mapped out. I could envisage the characters - the action – all the component parts were ticking over in my brain, ready to fly out onto the computer screen. Those words refused to budge. They stuck in my head like a clogged drain. Each night, as I tried to drift off to sleep, the story would play out in my head; seamlessly animated, the words flowing. 
Two books into the Oozing Magic series for 7 to 10-year-olds; I honestly thought the process would be easier the third time around. There again – I hadn’t foreseen the sudden deluge of self-doubt, compounded in no small way by the arrival of a Pandemic! 
Cut to July and I finally began to make some headway. Given the storyline was set at Halloween and, there were illustrations, editing deadlines to be met, was I worried? 
Oh, just a little! 
Writing for children of any age is never easy. They are, as I’ve discovered over the past four years, the keenest of critics. So, I am quite sure the underlying sense of urgency I was experiencing, impacted Cavern’s Fall. It certainly doesn't take long before the two main characters, Dylan and Emily are plunged into the action. 
As soon as the proverbial ink was dry on my computer screen, David Hailwood, illustrator and editor extraordinaire, leapt into action. Illustrators like David are a rare breed. Patient, incredibly talented, who can extract ideas from this author’s scribbles and transform them into amazing pieces of artwork. 
It’s usually when deadlines are tight or I’m feeling particularly frustrated, that I wish I had the comfort of a traditional publisher to fall back on. Someone to take on the burden of formatting, prepping for launch and publication days. But those moments are a rarity. There is a huge amount of satisfaction in opening up the first box of my books, knowing that all the hours of angst were worth it. 
I’m very pleased to say Cavern’s Fall made it to market and with days to spare. Although, as with so many other parts of our lives in these strange times, it’s been impossible to celebrate it’s ‘birth’ with the usual fanfare. Social media is no compensation for a face-to-face book launch. Zoom isn’t quite the same as a group of excited children sitting in front of me, listening avidly. Those shy conversations as we talk about our favourite bits from the other stories. The thrill of handing over a copy of my book in person…
However – what I do have is my laptop, fingers that work - most of the time - and a head full of stories desperate to escape. 

about the book… It’s Halloween – which is usually Dylan and Emily’s favourite time of year.
But this year there’s going to be a full moon, and the smell of bad magic is in the air. It would be far safer to stay at home and lock all the doors and windows… Dylan barely has time to set foot inside the 'Spooky Party In The Park' before he and his sister Emily are plunged into another breathtaking adventure. Almost captured by a mysterious veiled Flinyor, they are chased by monstrous flying Begrogs, while they race to try and save their friends Snifflebit and Quintus... and that’s just the beginning! Somewhere deep inside a mountain, the Flinyor have imprisoned their grandfather. Can they outrun the Begrogs and Flinyor guards to find him in time – and will they finally discover the secrets he’s been keeping from them? 

about the author… Once upon a time, when the world was very different - I was a Psychiatric nurse. Now, I'm a storyteller and Independent Author/publisher, with five books under my belt. As a writer of children's fiction, I enjoy delving into the worlds of fantasy and adventure. Throw in a healthy dollop of science fiction and I'm very happy. 
Originally from South Wales (UK), I have always loved listening to stories and grew up on a rich diet of Welsh and Greek myths and legends, so it isn't so surprising my books are full of weird creatures! 
Right now, I'm to be found roosting near Pontefract, West Yorkshire, where the rain tastes and smells pretty much the same as the Welsh valleys. 

You can find the books on Amazon and you can follow Linda on her Website or on Facebook

And if you are an author, with a connection to Yorkshire and wish to know more about us or to join us then check out our Website 

Look out for more Yorkshire authors in the coming weeks...

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

I am very pleased to announce...

...that Jacques Forêt is back with a new and testing case...

I've decided to re-schedule the post that I had planned to run today because I have some very exciting news that I would like to share.

After several months of working on a very different project, I'm finally back with Jacques and his little team in the city of Mende.  Yes, that means that Book 5 in the series will be hitting the shelves on March 23rd, next year.  The book will be the first one published by Darkstroke Books - my publisher - in 2021.

Yes, I know it's been quite a while since the last one, but time seems to move very fast these days and before we all know it, March will be here along with the next story.  And during the intervening months I will be letting you have little bits and pieces of information about the characters, the story and the location I'm using for the setting in the book.

Just to give a very early hint of what's in store for you, here's the blurb :

On a quiet forest walk, Investigator Jacques Forêt encounters a sinister scene.  Convinced there is evidence of malicious intent, he treats his discovery as a crime scene.

But intent for what?  Without a body, how can he be sure that a crime has been - or is about to be - committed?  Without a body, how can Jacques be sure that it’s murder, and not suicide?  Without a body, how can the perpetrator be found?

A baffling case that tests Jacques to his limits.

#Mercœur will be published in print and e-format on March 23rd, 2021.  You can read more about the story and the setting Here  Here  and  Here

You can pre-order your copy using the link :  Mercœur


Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Introducing Phill Featherstone...

...a fellow writer from Yorkshire and a member of Promoting Yorkshire Authors.  Hi Phill, thanks for being here and the floor is yours...

‘How did you know it was coming?’ That’s what one reader asked me on reading the final book in my REBOOT series. What prompted her comment was the subject. REBOOT is about a pandemic. Sadly that’s a very topical theme at the moment, and my reader credited me with being a prophet. Not surprisingly I am no such thing. The first book in the series, ‘Paradise Girl’, came out three years ago and had been conceived two years before. So what was it that gave me this idea?
It was simple, and sudden. At the time I was living in the country, my closest neighbour a long way away. I was alone in the house struggling with an idea that wasn’t going well. I went out into the garden and was struck by how still everything was. Even in the country there’s always some noise - birdsong, sheep bleating, a dog barking, a distant tractor, but this time there was nothing, and it felt as though I was the only living thing. Suppose I was? I thought. What might cause that? What would happen and how would I cope? It soon dawned on me that it would be a great theme for a story. But the main character shouldn’t be me, a grown man with a lot of miles under his belt. It should be someone much younger, a teenager with their life and all its promise before them. I went indoors and started to write and Kerryl, the heroine of Paradise Girl walked onto the page. 
A story about a pandemic isn’t an original idea. There are plenty of books and movies based on this theme. That’s not surprising, because actually there aren’t many plots at all – it’s been suggested less than ten – and there are certainly no new ones. What are they? 

1.  Rags to riches, and maybe back again; 
2.  Boy/girl meets boy/girl, wins them, and maybe loses them too; 
3.  The hero/heroine sets out on a journey to find something lost or achieve a goal; 
4.  Somebody with the world at their feet makes a mistake, often because of a fault in their own character, and loses everything; 
5.  Somebody who has been wronged looks for – and takes – revenge; 
6.  The hero/heroine has to cope in a challenging environment, often alone – e.g. marooned on an island, in space, quarantined; 
7.  A character is so consumed by jealousy that their personality becomes distorted and they act in ways that would have been inconceivable before; 
8.  The hero/heroine confronts a person or organisation much more powerful than they are, and has to draw on all their resources to survive; 
9.  A character or event from the past suddenly appears and overturns the status quo. 

It’s fun to go through books you’ve read and movies or tv dramas you’ve seen and match them to this list. Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels, Love Actually, Skyfall, Mars, Hamlet, Normal People, you name it. I’d be surprised if you find one that isn’t based on one of these ideas. Of course, many incorporate more than one, and various elements are brought in to add drama or facilitate the plot – for example dreams, prophecies, chance, an order. 
What does that mean for the writer? It doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to say, because every time one of these plots appears it’s in a fresh context brought about by a new telling. What it does mean is that we always have plenty to write about. If you’re stuck for ideas for your next novel, try this. Take a character – newspaper reports are a good source – pick one of the numbers above and develop a story involving your character and the theme you’ve chosen. Pick another number and incorporate that. Write your best seller. 

about the author… Phill was born and brought up in northern England. His first job was as a
teacher, and from this he went into education advisory work. He left to start with Sally, his wife, a company publishing educational materials. It was not until this business was sold, after ten years, that he found the time to give to writing. Paradise Girl, book 1 in a trilogy about a pandemic (the REBOOT series) appeared in 2017. Book 2, Aftershocks, came out in 2019 and book 3, Jericho Rose, in 2020. Phill has also written The God Jar, a mystery set partly in the present day and partly in Elizabethan times. His fifth novel, A Summer of Dreams, is due in the spring of 2021. 
When he’s not writing, Phill enjoys the theatre, galleries and museums, walking, and playing the saxophone.

You can get the books Here  You can follow Phill on Facebook  and on Twitter

Look out for more Yorkshire authors in the coming weeks... 

And if you are an author, with a connection to Yorkshire and wish to know more about us or to join us then check out our 

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

The Mysterious Affair at Styles

One hundred years ago this month, one of my favourite authors released onto the unsuspecting world a character that captivated my imagination and stayed with me throughout my life.  That author was Agatha Christie and that character was her Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.  He made his first appearance in The Mysterious Affair at Styles which was published in America in October 1920.  Unfortunately for us Brits, Poirot would not make it across the Atlantic until January 1921 when the book was published here.
I first came across detective fiction as a bored 12 year old who strayed across from the children’s section of the library to where all the books for adults were shelved.  Being a highly methodical child I began my browsing at the letter A.  My fist detective story was A Bone and a Hank of Hair by Leo Bruce.  Even now I can remember the cover and his amateur detective was Carolus Deene.  I can distinctly recall thinking what a ridiculous name Carolus was.  But my education at that point was incomplete and I had no idea that Carolus was the latinised version of the German name Carl which meant ‘free man’.  I got my book stamped by the librarian, who gave me an odd look when doing so, and I took it home and devoured it.  The pages had been well thumbed by many other readers so the book had been around for a while.  However, Carolus Deene, I thought, wasn’t really so clever, as I worked the ending before he did!
On further trips to the library I continued my search for these puzzle books as I thought of them, little understanding the complexity of the genre, nor realizing they fell into the category of cosy crime.  On reaching letter C, I not only discovered Agatha Christie but I also found Raymond Chandler, Leslie Charteris, G. K. Chesterton and Wilkie Collins.  By this time, I’d got used to the regular interrogations from the lady at the library and whenever she raised an eyebrow at one of my choices, I told her the queried book was for my dad!  But I was hooked.
My first ever Agatha Christie was Why Didn’t they Ask Evans?  And no that’s not a Poirot book, but the puzzle she so carefully laid out kept me guessing right until the end.  My first ever Poirot story was The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, first published in 1926.  From that point on I knew I would be reading every other story that featured this eccentric, but fascinating Belgian with his little grey cells.  I remained with letter C for a good few months and when the next Poirot book I wanted wasn’t available, I took up Christie’s Jane Marple series whilst I waited for the book I really wanted to be returned.  If there was no Poirot or Marple to read I started the Tommy and Tuppence Beresford stories.
Of course, by this time, I’d been rumbled.  It was a chance meeting in the local post office between my mum and the library lady and her need to enquire if my dad was enjoying all the detective fiction his daughter kept getting him on her own library card.  That necessitated a talk from my father about honesty and a trip with him to the library to apologise to the librarian for fibbing.  But the best bit wasn’t expected.  My dad then went onto say that he hoped my reading habits would not be questioned again and that I could read detective fiction as much as I liked with his blessing.  Until that point I had had no idea that my father found detective fiction interesting.  From then on my choice of books was always a subject for discussion, often with him recommending other writers such as Simenon, Conan Doyle and many, many others.
Regrettably dad is no longer around, but I have often wondered what he would have thought or said if he knew that the day we went to library would set me on the path that would culminate with me creating my own detective and writing my own cosy crime stories.

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Jottings from the Journals...

... I read Lawrence Durrell's book, Caesar's Vast Ghost, some years ago and, as is often the case with books about France, I felt compelled to see what the writer had seen.   As I was leafing through my journals recently I came across this…

Wednesday, 19th

… in Gard this time around. My purpose is to visit the Pont du Gard, a vast piece of Roman architecture that Durrell dubbed to be 'so huge in conception' that it ranked along side Westminster Abbey.  Having seen it, I know exactly what he means.
The Pont du Gard sits across the valley of the river Gardon, which rises in the mountains of the Cévennes close to St-Martin-de-Lansuscle (48).  The river runs for about 127 kilometres (just short of 80 miles) until it joins the Rhone just north of Beaucaire.  The bridge, is not a route across the valley as I had originally thought before I read my Durrell, is an aqueduct.  It was built solely to bring water to the Roman settlement of Nemausus - that's our modern city of Nîmes.  At the time, Nemausus was a vast city of some 60,000 inhabitants and a regional capital.  The modern city has a population only 3 times the size of the ancient one.  But the roman legacy is very much in existance.
The aqueduct, which once carried water along its 50K (about 30 miles) length, was built under the auspices of emperor Augustus in the 1st century AD by his son-in-law, Marcus Visanius Agrippa. I guess that means even the ancient Romans kept it all in the family!
As I stood looking at the monument, I had to marvel at the sheer scale. But, when you take into account that it is only a little short of 2,000 years old, that it stands 49 metres (161 feet) above the water, that there is no mortar holding the vast blocks of limestone together, you
L'Arene, Nîmes
surely have to admit that the Romans must have known what they were doing. You also, surely have to admit that when they invaded this area of France, they very definitely came with the intention of staying. But, then my thoughts turned to how? There were no mechanical diggers back then. And what about the vast amount of human effort involved in the day-to-day work of construction…

… When I got back home after that trip I clearly did some more research as I've added some notes at the side of the original entry.  Apparently the edifice took between 15 and 20 years to build and used up to 1,000 workers at any one time.  When I visited Nîmes three years ago, I was able to see the other end of the aqueduct.

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Introducing Kathleen Swan...

...poetess, mum, step-mum and nurse.  Hi Kathleen, thanks very much for taking some time out of your busy schedule to be here today.  So, tell me more...

Becoming a stepmother is a challenge, undertaking it in my twenties was perhaps lunacy but that is what I did.  I took on my husband’s four children, three girls and one boy, a large town house and a husband with a busy career.  I think I spent the first five years permanently tired and never quite seemed to finish the list of jobs in a month never mind a day.  However, there was tremendous satisfaction in being part of their lives as they grew into young adults.  But if you want to complicate the situation further have a baby of your own why don’t you!  Well that’s just what we did and of course there was no shortage of attention and people willing to wheel the baby round the park.
I had been an only child until I was nine and being part of a busy family was a new experience.  I didn’t drive so walked miles to brownies, guides, school events and when I got a bike with a baby seat on the back I found freedom.  I could fit in even more in a day!  Of course there were days when I could have given it all up and run away but I started to write down some of the frustrations and turn them into magazine pieces.  I began to look back on my upbringing and the lives of my parents during the 1950s when money was tight and we had to make do and mend.  I gained a greater understanding of myself and what I wanted to do when I finally had the time. 
Coniston from Brantwood
After the children had grown up I had a busy working life in the NHS for 26 years and looked after my parents in their later years.  However, when my husband asked me once what I was going to do with my retirement,  I answered very firmly that I was going to write and in particular I was going to write poetry.  So I started to pick up my habit of scribbling in a notebook and signed up for courses to help me understand more about how to write well.  I found that my instinct was to write about the people and places I knew best so that is what I have been doing for the last eight years.  I have gone back to my emotional roots in the Lake District and written about characters from my childhood and places which left a lasting impression on me.  I think being a step-mother taught me tolerance, perseverance, which battles to fight and how to time things to my advantage.  All valuable in writing and getting work published.
In 2019 I was selected to work with a young composer to produce a song which was performed at the  International Leeds Lieder Festival.  I firmly believe that poetry is at its best when it is performed and through belonging to Yorkshire Authors I had the opportunity to take part in The Ilkley Literature Festival last Autumn.  Having had poems published in books and magazines, I finally got round to gathering my work together and Ripples Beyond the Pool was published by Coverstory books  last summer.

about the author and the book… Kathleen was brought up in rural Cumbria and now lives in North Yorkshire.  She spent her working life in the NHS and, since her retirement, is able to concentrate on family, gardening and studying and writing poetry.   Her poetry embraces relationships with family and friends and reflects a love of rural life and characters.  It also takes us on visits to other countries and cultures.  Her poems are published on-line, in anthologies, magazines and her first collection is “Ripples Beyond the Pool.  

You can get the book on Amazon

Look out for more Yorkshire authors in the coming weeks...

And if you are an author, with a connection to Yorkshire and wish to know more about us or to join us then check out our Website