Friday, 31 December 2021

Published today...


I am very pleased to announce that the anthology, DARK PARIS, is published today.  This is the 4th book in the DARK series of anthologies published by Darkstroke Books.  Proceeds from all the books in this series go to various charities.

My story in this collection is very different from my usual style.  It was inspired by a pair of ravens.  I was camped in a small town in Nievre and the campsite was between a river and a canal.  From my pitch I could look out over the river to the opposite bank which had a narrow track and lots of trees.  On my first morning there I was awoken by the harsh stabbing calls of the ravens.  Later that morning I watched as they scavanged together amongst the fallen leaves and debris along the bank of the river.

Over the next week I got to know their routine and in the early evenings I would watch them watching me as they perched on a couple of mooring bollards set at the side of a small jetty.  They seemed to be waiting for the sun to indicate it was time for them to roost.

On the Sunday morning it was the sound of distant shot-guns that disturbed me at around dawn.  I didn't see the ravens at all that day.  In the evening, just before the sun set only one returned.  He, or she settled on the mooring bollard and watched me for a moment or two.  There was a single call from the bird, which was left unanswered before he/she retreated to their usual perch in the canopy overhead.

I left the following day, I had to in order to get back to the port for the ferry.  The sound of the desolation in that creature's final call remained with me.  I knew there was a story there somewhere, I just didn't know what it was until now.

I am very privileged to have a story in this anthology.  There are some wonderful authors who have contriubuted and the foreword is by fellow Darkstroke author, Kate Braithwaite.

You can read about the companion DARK LONDON anthology Here

You can get DARK PARIS Here

Wednesday, 29 December 2021

Just because it's Twixmas, Jacob has a second adventure...

The Long Gallery, Hardwick Hall
Jacob Takes a Stand

“I’m bored,” said Jacob levitating just a few centimetres above the floor of the long gallery. “I’ve done all mi training and mi work experience like and I still can’t go ’aunting until next year. It’s not fair.” He plopped onto the ground and sat up.
“Well, go on strike then,” said Wayne, who had recently completed his course of tuition with the Association of Ghostly Haunting, Apparitional and Spectral Training.
Jacob frowned. “Strike? Wot’s the point of that if you’re only allowed to ’aunt on one night a year?”
“So, go on strike on your haunting night, then.”
Jacob wasn’t listening. A strange rustling in the chimney breast and a fall of soot onto the hearth had captured his attention. Jacob grabbed the poker from the nearby set of fire-irons. Holding the black implement tightly in both hands, he stood ready to pounce.
A large red sack dropped onto the hearth amidst a cloud of ash and soot. In the next moment, a large, red-suited figure dropped with some weight into the grate. Jacob raised his weapon, and before the wearer of the suit could turn around, the poker had landed square on the red-capped head.
“Oh my God, you’ve just killed Santa,” wailed Wayne.
“Santa. You’ve just murdered Santa Claus. That means all the living kids aren’t going to get any presents this year.”
Jacob dropped the poker and rolled his shoulders. “Wot do you mean presents? Nobody breaks into an ‘ouse and brings presents, Wayne. Robbers break in and take stuff. Look around yer. There’s a right load of valuable stuff ’ere in this ’all.”
Wayne jumped down from the oversized chair he’d been using as a climbing frame. “He’s wearing a bright red suit, dumbo.” Hands-on his hips, Wayne pulled out his tongue.
Jacob looked from his friend and colleague down to the prone figure on the hearth and back again.
“S’pose you’ve got a point there. It wouldn’t make much sense to go burglering dressed like that.”
“So, what are you going to do?”
Jacob scratched his head. “Shove ’im back up the chimney?”
“But what about the presents? It’s Christmas Eve. He’s got to deliver all the presents.”
Jacob recognised the jutting bottom lip and the look on Wayne’s face. He knew the youngster would have tears streaming down his face in a few more moments.
“Alright. But wot’s all this presents lark?”Jacob slumped down on the floor and started pulling the parcels out of the sack.
Wayne ran across and slapped Jacob’s hand away. “Stop it. They’re for the living children. If Santa doesn’t wake up and take them to every kid, then tomorrow there’ll be wars and riots and stuff, and we’ll be for it.”
“Is that right?” Jacob had a nucleus of an idea. “Is that right,” he said to himself as the nucleus divided and grew into a plan of action. He grabbed the poker.
“Wayne, sit on ’im and keep ’im down. I’m going to use this, ’ere.. er wots ’is name?”
“Santa Claus,” said Wayne as he settled himself down for a sit-in on the middle of Santa’s back.
“Righto.” Jacob had a wide grin on his face. “’Ere take this.” Jacob handed Wayne the small iron shovel. “Any nonsense from Santa, threaten ’im and keep ’im down. We’re fighting for our right to ’aunt.”
With the poker resting against his shoulder, Jacob began marching the length of the hearth.
“We demand our right to ’aunt. We want to ’aunt,” he chanted as he paced backwards and forwards.
“It’s our human rights,” shouted Wayne.
“Wots them then?”
“Dunno. It’s what mum and dad used to shout when they took me out protesting.”
Jacob nodded. “We demand our ’uman rights. We demand the right to ’aunt. We demand our ’uman rights—”
“ENOUGH!” roared Big Lizzie as she stepped out of the frame of her portrait and stormed—
“And YOU. Yes, I’m talking to YOU with that alphabet thing in front of you. Address me by my proper title.”

“ENOUGH!” roared Big Lizzie Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the First as she stepped out of the frame of her portrait and stormed the length of the long gallery.
Jacob froze as the disembodied head of Mrs Anne Tudor appeared from a corner of the room.
“It’s alright, your majesty. I will deal with this.”
The queen remained where she was, her left foot tapping out her impatience.
“Jacob, neither you nor Wayne have any human rights,” said Mrs Tudor. “You lost yours four hundred years ago when you died, Jacob. Wayne, you lost your human rights in 1964 when the accident happened. So, what is this all about?”
Jacob dropped the poker and stood to attention. “We’re protesting, Mrs Tudor, because we want to do more ’aunting, and if our demands are not met, the old bloke in the red suit gets an even bigger ’eadache.”
“Jacob, show some respect. Santa Claus is very important to the living, and we ghosts are tolerant of that.”
Jacob thought for a moment. “So, if we let ’im go, does that mean we can have more ’aunting?”
“No, Jacob. You will still only be able to haunt on the anniversary of your death. That is all.”
Portrait of Elizabeth I, Hardwick Hall
“For goodness sake, pull yourself together, woman and stop all this namby-pambyism,” said her majesty. “Rescind their certificates of competency and have done with it.”
“That’s not how we do things here, your majesty,” said Mrs Tudor as the rest of her body manifested itself. “We explain and encourage rather than order and direct,” she continued as she fixed her head on her shoulders.
“Stuff and nonsense,” harrumphed her majesty. “Get rid of them and YOU, yes YOU with the alphabet, any more of this rubbish, and I’ll put you in the tower.” With that, the queen turned on her heel and marched back to her painting.
Santa Claus groaned. “Help him up, boys,” said Mrs Tudor.
Santa shook his head, dusted off his hat and secured it on his head. He looked around.
“Hmm, the new sat nav isn’t working as well, I thought,” he said. He shouldered his sack of presents. “I think I’m a little behind, so I’ll be on my way.”
“But wot about presents for us?” asked Jacob. “I ain’t never ’ad a present before.”
The old man smiled and sprinkled some magic dust. “Perhaps even your wish might come true, Jacob.” With a wink at Mrs Tudor, Santa was gone.

This story first appeared on the UK Crime Book Club Facebook page on December 21st.

Monday, 27 December 2021

Just because it's Twixmas, come and meet Jacob...

Hardwick Hall

 Jacob’s Learning Curve

“It weren’t my fault,” snapped Jacob. His jaw was set as tightly as his arms were crossed against his chest.
Mrs Tudor smiled. “Take a seat, Jacob,” she said indicating the chair on the other side of her desk. The boy plonked himself down, his face a picture of frustration and streaked with recently dried tears. “Now, tell me exactly what happened.”
“I got to the ’all and went up to the long gallery like wot I was told to. I went straight frough the door and there were all these toffs there. It woz a party. I ducked and dived me way frough but as I passed the fireplace one of the dogs caught a whiff ov mi and started growlin’. I just kept going but the dog follered and the servant wiv a big platter of food didn’t see ’im and tripped and there woz this right big clatter and…”
Mrs Tudor had her hand held up waiting patiently for Jacob to stop. “Thank you”, she said as he finally paused for breath. “I’d like to go through things in a little more detail if you don’t mind.”
“Righto Miss.”
“Let’s start at the beginning you were—”
“In the long gallery like wot—”
“Jacob!” Mrs Tudor clenched her fist around the long string of pearls resting against the bodice of her ornate dress. “I will ask the questions, you just need to provide a short and succinct answer. Do we have a deal?”
“Yes, Miss.”
“Yes, Mrs Tudor.”
Jacob shuffled in his chair and nodded.
“Now, you were at Hardwick Hall yesterday. Why was that?”
“Well, it woz part of mi training. Frankie said I’d got to do work experience like, and that meant visiting places and doing stuff.”
“Frankie?”  Mrs Tudor adopted her sternest of looks.
“Sorry Miss… I mean Mrs Tudor. And it’s Sir Francis.”
“Better. So was this your first instance of a visit?”
“Yes, Mrs Tudor.”
“I see. As it would appear it did not go well, we need to find some positives, Jacob, otherwise, you risk failing the whole training module.”
Jacob frowned.  “Right.”
Mrs Tudor reached for her calendar. “Why did you visit yesterday in particular?”
“Frankie, sorry, err Sir Francis told me to.”
Mrs Tudor checked the calendar against the notes in Jacobs training record. “No.” She said. “Sir Francis told you to visit next Tuesday.”
Jacob shrugged. “This Tuesday, next Tuesday, wots the difference Miss?”
“A whole week,” said Mrs Tudor, her left eyebrow raised to such an extent it almost reached the edge of her gabled headdress. “This Tuesday was the AGHAST organisation's annual dinner and awards ceremony. Next Tuesday was when you should have paid your visit. It would have been the four hundredth anniversary of your death, Jacob. But we’ll put that little faux pas to one side for the moment.  Now,” she continued. “You arrived at the hall and went straight to the Long Gallery?”
“Yes, Mrs Tudor.”
“Did anyone see you as you walked through the mansion?”
Jacob shook his head. “Don’t think so.”
“Thinking isn’t enough, Jacob. You need to be certain.”
“Right, Mrs Tudor.”
“The door to the gallery. Was it open or closed when you got there?”
“But you went through without any difficulty?”
“Yeah. Easy peasy Mrs T.” Jacob had a wide grin on his face. “Sir Frank told me his trick for getting it right first time every time. And I did.”
Mrs Tudor smiled. “Well, that’s a positive then.” She dipped her quill into the ink in preparation for adding a note to Jacob’s training record. Lifting her head from her work she looked straight at the young trainee. “You said one of the dogs caught a whiff of you?”
“Yes, Mrs T.”
“Jacob, here at AGHAST Incorporated we always address our seniors as Mr, Mrs, Mistress, Master or by their appropriate title. Am I making things clear?”
“Yes, Mrs Tudor.”
Jacob sat up straight and lowered his eyes. The change in his demeanour brought a slight smile to Mrs Tudor’s face. She didn’t really mind his use of the nickname. She’d known for centuries that it was widely employed throughout the organisation out of her earshot. But, there were standards to be adhered to. Manners to be respected and an orderly approach to training and induction to be maintained. These had been the principles that had gained Anne Tudor the most senior post as Head of Training and Resources.
She consulted her notes. “You were instructed to walk the full length of the gallery, to climb on the rocking horse and to set it in motion. If a dog caught a whiff of you then you must have manifested too early, Jacob. Is that what really happened?”
“’Course not Mrs Tudor.” Jacob set his shoulders back. “I know what I’m doing.”
Anne Tudor widened her eyes and stared at the trainee for a moment. She turned to the next page in the training plan. “Did you actually make it to the rocking horse?”
Jacob looked down. “No, Mrs Tudor,” he whispered.
“What was that Jacob?”
“No, I didn’t. Wiv all the palaver and the five bird roast all over the floor I legged it. Did smell good, though, that roast.”
Mrs Tudor pursed her lips as she shot Jacob her most penetrating look. “I see,” she said rubbing the back of her neck. It had been a stressful period at the training organisation, with one difficult interview after another. For reasons she couldn’t yet fathom there had been a number of trainees who had had to repeat modules and there had been a marked increase in incidents of insubordination, insolence and disrespect within the training rooms. Mrs Tudor had been thinking for a while that it was either down to the new intake of recruits being mostly children and young adults or perhaps the new master, Sir Francis Drake himself.  She let out a sigh and fingered her pearls.
“’Ave I passed Mrs Tudor?”
“I’m afraid not Jacob.  There are too many infringements.”
Jacob’s bottom lip began to quiver. “Are you sure Miss?”
Anne Tudor winced at yet another infringement. She pointed to the large portrait of the organisation’s founder that hung on the wall behind her desk.
“Our motto, Jacob, what does it say?”
Jacob looked at the picture and frowned. “I can’t read Mrs Tudor but it’s something about guide and accury… um or somefing.”
Mrs Tudor glanced at the Latin words displayed on an ornate scroll below the coat of arms for AGHAST.
“Accuracy is our watchword,” she recited. “And relevance is our guide. You visited on the wrong date, Jacob. This Tuesday you were neither relevant nor accurate. Next Tuesday you would have been.” She paused.
The Long Gallery, Hardwick Hall
Tears began to stream down Jacob’s face. Not again, she thought. Deciding enough was enough she got up from her chair and came round towards the boy. Regretting her harshness, she perched on the corner of the desk. Her tiredness got the better of her and, placing her hands under chin, she carefully lifted off her head and placed it beside her.
Jacobs’s eyes stretched. “Cor blimey, Miss can you teach me ’ow to do that?”
Mrs Tudor sighed. “Jacob, sweetie,” she said as she rolled her shoulders in an effort to soothe the ache that had been there for far too long. “Let’s chat as friends for a moment. You’re a very clever boy with a great future as an apparition within this organisation. But you must learn to walk before you can run. Patience is a requirement. At this Association of Ghostly Haunting, Apparitional and Spectral Training we pride ourselves on our accuracy and efficiency when it comes to frightening the living. In joining our group you automatically sign up to those rigours.”
Jacob snuffled. Mrs Tudor felt in the sleeve of her dress for a handkerchief and passed across a small white embroidered square. “Wipe your eyes and smarten yourself up,” she said. “You will have to repeat the last module but that doesn’t mean that we can’t begin the next one a little earlier than usual.”
Jacob strenuously blew his nose. “Fanks, Mrs Tudor,” he said handing back the sodden piece of cotton.
“Keep it.” Mrs Tudor stood and tucked her head under her left arm. “Come with me, I have some outstanding business at Hever Castle tonight.  It was an old stomping ground of mine when I was young,” she said as she swept out of her office. Jacob followed in silent awe.

This story first appeared on the UK Crime Book Club Facebook page on October 25th as part of the #ScaryShorts writing event.

Look out for another adventure for Jacob on December 29th...

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

Merry Christmas...


It's the time of year when I, and the blog, take a break.  It is also my favourite time of year and there is only one place to be - home.

I've yet to put up my tree and get the house looking festive.  But all of that will happen in the next couple of days.  My Christmas cards are all done and posted and I'm looking forward to putting my feet up for a couple of weeks or so.

I'd like to thank every one of you for reading my blog - I hope it has informed, entertained and perhaps raised a smile or two along the way.

I'd also like to pass on my heartfelt thanks to all readers.  In  the same way that actors need an audience, writers need readers.  Without the first, the second would not exist!  Readers, thank you for being there, for reading or borrowing my books, for taking your precious time to review my books.  Your thoughts, comments, and questions are always, always greatly appreciated.

Lastly, if you celebrate Christmas, please have a happy one and if not then I would like send you and yours my very best wishes.

Merry Christmas

I will be back here on January 4th to let you know what will be coming up in the New Year.  Between then and now... well, look out for something special here on the blog at Twixmas...

Tuesday, 7 December 2021

Friend and author Val Penny makes a welcome return...

... to the blog today.  Val, hello and long-time, no-see!

VP  Thank you for hosting me on your blog today. It is always a pleasure to visit.
AW Great to see you here and what have you got for us today?
VP  I write crime thrillers and started writing in this genre because that is what I enjoy reading. I firmly believe that to be a good author, you must first be an avid reader and it is due to my love of reading and story-telling that I began to write novels.
Hunter’s Rules is the sixth book in my Edinburgh Crime Mysteries series and there are many more to come!  Although the books form a series, each works as a standalone novel, so readers can join the stories at any point.
The books are set in the beautiful city of Edinburgh which is the capital of Scotland.  I chose it because it is a relatively small city and people from different walks of life and backgrounds are known to each other.  That allows me to have some fun with my characters and storylines.
I am particularly proud of this book because, although the story is complete within itself, the concept follows on from a short story that I contributed to a charity anthology, Dark Scotland. The story, which is again a standalone piece, is the prequel to the novel.  I hope those who read both will enjoy the conceit and those who read either will be absorbed by them.
AW I loved that story in Dark Scotland.  I shall look forward to reading Hunter's latest case.

about the author… This is the sixth book in The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries series of novels.  Val Penny’s other crime novels, Hunter's Chase Hunter's Revenge, Hunter's Force Hunter’s Blood and Hunter’s Secret form the rest of this bestselling series set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by darkstroke.
You can also start at the beginning of The Jane Renwick Thrillers with The First Cut.
Her first non-fiction book Let’s Get Published is also available now and she has most recently contributed her short story, Cats and Dogs to the charity anthology, Dark Scotland.
Val is an American author living in SW Scotland with her husband and their cat.

about the book… A bloody scene brings Hunter and Meera’s romantic plans to an abrupt
A young woman was attacked in a hotel lift.  She has life changing injuries, but she is alive.  Hunter notes that her wounds are like those inflicted on two women who previously died. 
Can Meera keep the injured woman alive long enough for her to identify her assailant?  Is the same person responsible for all three crimes?  When Hunter is identified as a suspect in the crime, can he establish his innocence and lead his team to solve the crime and keep Edinburgh safe?

You can follow Val on her Website Facebook,  Twitter and on Goodreads or  Bookbub 

You can get all the books in the series, Dark Scotland and Val's non-fiction on Amazon

Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Friend and author, Karen Moore makes a welcome return... the blog this week.  Hi, Karen and thanks for making time to be here, and we're talking about the importance of setting today.  Tell me, what's your take on this...

KM  Read any novel and you can’t fail to be struck by its setting – when and where the action takes place - and the key role it plays in the overall story.  In some novels, the setting is bold, clamouring for attention, a character in its own right, while in others it may be meek, a mere backdrop to the action.
Writers know that creating the right setting is vital for the mood and atmosphere of the story, taking readers where they want them to go and making them experience the appropriate feelings along the way.  The right setting adds another dimension and helps to carry and support the plot. It also influences and reflects the behaviour, reactions, and emotions of the characters.
Picking a familiar setting can create an instant bond with readers, while opting for a more exotic one adds colour and heightens the reader’s sense of escapism.  My personal preference as a reader is to go for the latter as I love being immersed in new surroundings.
As a writer I have gone for the unfamiliar, the bold option, in my two thrillers, Torn and Release, selecting the contrasting land and seascapes of Sicily and Wales to provide a vivid and dramatic setting against which the story develops and unfolds.  Both areas are rich in culture and history relevant to the themes explored in the books, as well as being breathtakingly beautiful.  Both places fascinate and intrigue me and were wonderful to write about.
My latest novel, Release, opens in a serene setting: a family barbecue on a beautiful summer’s day in Wales.  That serenity is shattered by the devastating news that Hanna’s estranged mafioso husband has been released early from a Sicilian prison.  She fears he may come after her and her young daughter, Eva. The revelation leaves her with a dilemma: she has been invited to Sicily to attend her best friend’s wedding, but can she really take the risk?
But even staying at home in North Wales may not be safe.  As the lines between Sicily and North Wales blur, Hanna uncovers a criminal operation that leads her to fear for Eva’s life all over again.  Caught up in a web of intrigue and fear, how far will Hanna go to protect the ones she loves?
In North Wales, the setting shifts from mountain to coast, from Snowdonia to Anglesey, takes in a short trip over to Dublin in Ireland, then shifts to Sicily, from idyllic boutique hotel out in the countryside to the streets of Palermo, before moving to the coastal town of Cefalù, and from there up into the Madonian Mountains.
Coastal town of Cefalù
Even the weather plays a role, fluctuating from hot to cold, extreme heat to storms and floods, from tranquil to menacing in line with the plot.
All this with a sprinkling of local cuisine, a prominent feature of both books.  One reader even told me that she now drinks a certain type of Sicilian white wine after reading about it in my first book, Torn.
I’m currently writing the third book in the series.  Although some of the main characters remain, the setting shifts away from Sicily to Rome and Calabria.  And what about future books, will they continue to be set in Italy?  That depends very much on the storyline and finding the most suitable location for it.
Wherever it is, it will have to be a place I find evocative and fascinating.  For me, the writing journey is just as important as the finished product.  Writers spend so much time and effort on their books, it’s vital that it’s a labour of love.  If writers love their books, there’s a good chance that their readers will too.

about the author... Karen is passionate about all things noir – crime, mystery, thrillers – and writes in that genre.
She has been writing all her life, mostly for work purposes, and is now delighted to be able to spend more time developing her own creative work.
Karen worked as a tour guide across Europe, North America and Canada, followed by a career in PR and marketing.  She has lived in France and Italy and is now based in Cheshire, England.
Her debut novel, Torn, is a dark tale of intrigue and betrayal set in Sicily and North Wales.  Her second novel, Release, has recently been published.  Release is the sequel to Torn but is a stand-alone novel in its own right.  Karen is now working on a third novel in the series.

You can get the books on Amazon and you can follow Karen on Facebook and on Twitter 


Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Friend and author, Allan Hudson returns to the blog this week... tell the story behind his story in the Autumn Paths anthology.  Hi, Allan, and thanks for taking some time out to be here today...

When the idea for an anthology was first discussed with my co-authors, it was an exciting time for me.  Not having been involved in an anthology prior to Autumn Paths, I regarded it as a highlight to my writing projects.  To be able to rub shoulders with authors I admire and have read is a feeling which is difficult to describe.  To be involved in this collection is pure joy.
Once the theme was decided upon, I wondered how I could contribute.  Where would Autumn Paths take me?  Would my story be up to the caliber of my fellow authors?  Ideas drifted through my mind.  It kept getting stuck on the main character (MC) of my Drake Alexander Adventures.  How could I introduce Drake in a fun way to a different audience?  Anyone who may have read the novels would know Drake Alexander is a former NCO in the Canadian Armed Forces. Looking back over the stories, I never told the readers why he chose to become a soldier.  You’ve seen cartoons where the Light Bulb of an idea appears over their head, well, that is what happened to me.  I would contribute a story to the anthology of when my MC was a boy, when he had the magical moment of deciding he would become a soldier.
What fun it has been to create a cast of eleven years olds up to mischief.  The title of my story is Warriors and Trickery.  One of the eleven-year-olds falls naturally into the role of being the ‘leader’.  Imagine, if you will, hanging with a bunch of your friends on a Saturday in the fall.  The trees are full of color, the sun is shining and a path to adventure awaits you.  They are not all boys, one of their best friends is a girl who loves escapades.  You’re only eleven and full of curiosity.  Lots of time on your hands.  You have the toy gun one of your friends carved out of wood stuck in your waistband.  You’re not interested in boring stuff, but, when one of your buddies suggest soldiers and war games, all kinds of images will fill your head.  Your imagination runs wild.  Camo uniforms, walkie talkies, guns and other weapons, maybe tanks.  Knowing you shouldn’t be doing what the rest of your gang is considering, the temptation is too great and you tag along.
I hope Warriors and Trickery will take you back to when you were a pre-teen. Maybe share a few chuckles with their antics.  It is the most fun I’ve had writing any story.  I hope you’ll enjoy it.
about the book... Nine writers - Seasonal Collective - from both sides of the Atlantic, including best-selling and award-winning authors, have created this miscellany of stories.
These tales of family, mystery, intrigue, adventure, and suspense will take you across continents, through time and space in this world and others.  With a linking theme of autumn, discover new landscapes, encounter new and intriguing characters, uncover secrets and lies, and witness the resolution of old enmities.
Take the first step on this roller-coaster of an emotional journey, and you won't be disappointed.
You can get the book Here

You can read more about the anthology Here  and  Here  And you can follow Allan on his blog the South Branch Scribbler

In the New Year, there will be more visits from other writers who also have stories in the anthology.  
The next visitor will be Pierre Arseneault in February and you can read his post here Here  I hope you will join us then... 

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Please welcome friend and author Jeffrey Metzger...

... to the blog this week.  Hi, Jeffrey and thanks for making time in your very busy schedule to be here today.   Tell me all about your recent work of fiction...

Several years ago, before social media and in the age of blogs, there was a blog devoted to more or less gentle mockery of the wedding announcements in The New York Times.  The posts focused on the uniform lives of privilege led by almost all the subjects of those announcements, extended soft-focus profiles of the well-off and unruffled.  Since then, of course, economic and social equality has become a much more serious and often grim subject in American life.  The internet also seems to have become a much less happy and innocent place.  So what if those columns got the same attention, but instead of light-hearted jeering it was murder?
The Wedding Column Murders is about a series of murders that initially seem to point in this direction.  Is someone killing people profiled in the high society wedding announcements of a major newspaper, one new target each week?  This of course seems far-fetched, and there are other suspects and motives for each killing.  But as the bodies pile up a pattern seems unmistakeable.  Could this be someone with a socioeconomic axe to grind, someone trying to start a revolution, or just someone from the same world as the victims who has their own reasons for wanting them dead?
The story is told by Ethan Balfour, a younger member of one of New York’s elite old money families.  He finds himself in the midst of the investigation and various other complications, including the fact that his own sister’s announcement is supposed to run in the paper soon.  Along the way there is plenty of humor, sometimes from one of Ethan’s sharp-tongued acquaintances but more often from one of his oblivious peers.  
Of course a novel is not a sociological treatise (though I think all forms of writing tend to take on a life of their own once they’re started).  Characters need to be fleshed-out human beings, not mere symbols of a social class or a political problem.  Some of my favorite parts of the novel are dialogue from some of the more amusing characters.  In the end the novel is as much about despair and human psychology as it is a traditional mystery or thriller.
about the book…
Someone is stalking the members of New York’s wealthy elite.
A series of murders has targeted some of Manhattan’s most affluent families, and the connection appears to be the exclusive wedding announcements column in The New York Primrose.
Ethan Balfour, a young member of one such family, is thrust into the middle of the investigation when the police ask his help in navigating the world of his often preposterous – and oblivious – peers.  Now, he splits his time between the police and the world of old money and high society, trying to uncover what, if anything, links the murders.
Reluctantly, Ethan finds himself drawn ever deeper into the case – until its final shocking revelation.
Will the culprit be caught before another member of the illustrious circle falls victim?

You can get the book from Amazon 

You can follow Jeffrey on his Author Page and on Twitter

Tuesday, 9 November 2021

I'm reviewing The Passenger...

…by Ulrich A Boschwitz

Born in Berlin in 1915, Ulrich was the son of a Jewish businessman and factory owner who had converted to Christianity.  His father died, as a soldier in WW1, shortly before Ulrich was born.  Ulrich's mother, Martha, an amateur artist, took over the running of her husband's business interests and Ulrich was destined to take on his father's original role once he was old enough.  However, with rise of National Socialism in Germany in the 1930's, Ulrich's heritage would be brought into question.  Martha took her son first to Sweden in 1935 and then to Oslo to escape the growing constraints on their business and their personal lives. Ulrich's first novel - People Parallel to Life - was written whilst he was in Sweden.  The book was published in 1937 under the pseudonym of John Grane.
The immediate success of that first story meant that Ulrich could go to Paris to study at the Sorbonne.  Whilst in Paris he wrote The Passenger.  November 9th, 1938, became a date of note that year and has continued to overshadow history ever since.  It was the reporting of what happened on Kristallnacht along with other privations that the family had suffered whilst still in Germany that prompted Ulrich to write The Passenger, again under his assumed name.  The book took about four weeks to complete.  The first English version was published by Hamish Hamilton early in 1939 under the title, The Man Who Took Trains.
I mention all this history because it is so pertinent to the story.  Beginning with Kristallnacht, the novel follows the plight of Otto Silbermann, a businessman living through the November pogroms, who is helped to escape arrest by his protestant wife.  The novel follows Otto through his emotional shifts as he tries, desperately, to reconnect with his family, his friends and previous associates whilst hiding in plain sight of anyone who might report him to the authorities.  He spends days travelling by train in an effort to get out of the country and many of the scenes are based on actual personal or familial experiences.
Although a novel, there are many autobigraphical similarities - Otto tries to cross the border into Belgium but is caught.  Ulrich had a similar experience in Luxembourg.  The closeness of scenes in the book to real life give the text an edge of nervousness that I, in my blissful and peaceful 21st century existance, can only partially understand.  But the growing sense of desperation and menace that Otto experiences is there on every page.
As a character, I didn't particularly warm to Otto but then, when under such extreme duress, having lost everything, would any of us behave in a way that would encourage empathy?  Probably not.  Otto's shifts from absolute despair through to whimsical belief for a bright future in the Germany of 1938 were sometimes hard to read, but the inner workings of his mind were an insight into the daily terror that ordinary people had to face during that time.
I found the writing style a little difficult at the outset, but it soon became very clear that the narrative voice employed was the only one that could fit such a unique story - a unique story that had to be told.  I can thoroughly recommend this book as a fascinating view of a terrible time in our recent history.
As for Ulrich himself, he and his mother settled in England in 1939.  With the outbreak of war they found themsleves interned as enemy aliens on the Isle of Man.  In July, 1940, Ulrich along with over 2000 other internees, was put aboard the troop ship Dunera to be deported to Australia.  During the 2 month journey the internees were maltreated and any belongings they had were rifled through and stolen or thrown overboard.  The troops on board to guard the internees were mostly men who had recieved a pardon and been released from prison to help the war effort.  Luckily, Ulrich made it; arriving in Sidney in early September.
Two years later, in 1942, Ulrich was allowed to return to the UK.  His journey this time was aboard the MV Abosso.  On October 29th, the ship was torpedoed whilst in the Atlantic and sank.  T here were no survivors.  Ulrich was twenty-seven years old.
His short and contraversial writing life has meant that it is only possible now for his two books to be published in his native language, hence the latest English version of The Passenger, which is published by Pushkin Press.  Ulrich wasn't only a novelist, he also wrote poetry.  Regettably, very little of his verse is available to us to read.

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Please welcome, friend and author, Natalie Cammaratta... my blog today.  Hi, Natalie, and thanks for bring here today.  You have two young boys, Natalie, so how do you manage to make time to write with children???

NC  Hello, people of very good taste who follow Angela.  And thank you, Angela, for having me.
AW  Thanks and you're very welcome.
NC  My debut novel was recently published by darkstroke.  I started writing it a month before COVID blew up, and I found myself locked into my house with my sons aged two and four.  As if being a stay-at-home-mom with one child always home and the other only in part-time preschool, wouldn’t have already been an overwhelming situation to add writing to, 2020 made it even more of an adventure.
People frequently ask me how I’ve completed two novels in a little over a year and a half with little ones underfoot, and to be honest, I don’t know how it happened.  Sometimes it takes on that dream-like blur, and I’m not entirely convinced elves didn’t do it while I slept, and I was handed a couple of complete manuscripts.  The reality is, I did it whenever I possibly could.
Nap time, quiet time, whenever: I’d open up my laptop, which until then was only used once a week or so to pay bills.  I wrote after my children went to bed, sometimes staying up until 2AM to get to a scene I was particularly excited for. The nights were fine, but my little human alarm clocks tended to start going off around 6AM, and they don’t have a ‘gentle wake up with soothing sounds’ mode, so days didn’t start in a very pleasant way.
Author and helper at work!
That’s when I made the shift to reset my internal clock and become a morning writer—setting my alarm for 5AM so I could have some quiet time to write before my children woke up.
  It’s also when I started my coffee addiction.  I’ve heard it said, and found it to be true, you can’t find time to do something for yourself. There is always plenty to stop you, but you can make time if it’s something important.  That’s what I did, and I’m glad for it.
Falling & Uprising was signed thirteen months after I started writing it and published four months later.  Now its sequel Scattered & Breaking will be released in December.  It’s been fun, and stressful, and rewarding.  I’d do it all again.  Or rather, I’ll keep doing it.  I don’t intend to stop writing books any time soon.

about the book... Serenity Ward is the golden girl of Kaycie.  She never questioned her city’s status as the last dry land on earth.  The Establishment takes care of its citizens…or so she thought.  But now she’s seen the map!

Why would they lie about other islands just beyond the horizon?  In a city built on falsehood, figuring out who to trust is its own challenge, but Serenity pulls together a feisty group who all want the same thing—an end to the government which has hidden a world from them.

Bram’s anger drives his own desire for revolution.  Being from another island, he was selected to be a brainwashed marshal in service to Kaycie, but he knows what’s going on all too well.  Hidden in plain sight, he is ready to draw blood to free the islands.  Only dealing with Serenity is the one thing he wasn’t prepared for. 

Can two people who were never supposed to meet stop fighting each other long enough to remember who the enemy is?
Falling & Uprising is a young adult dystopian series, available for kindle and free on kindle unlimited.
You can follow Natalie on her website Website  on Instagram and on Twitter  
You can get the books on Amazon 

Tuesday, 26 October 2021

I'm reviewing The Infiltrators... Norman Ohler.  Read on...

Set in Germany in 1933 and the following decade, this book examines the lives of a group of people who sought to act against the rise of Nazism.  The story centres around Harro and Libertas Schulze-Boysen, both privileged in heir own way through their families and personal histories.  Although I've referred to it as a story, the author has undertaken his own, and used existing, meticulous research undertaken by others in order to piece together and chart the lives of Libertas and Harro from the thirties through to their deaths in December 1942.

As an example of the insidiousness of totalitarianism, this book could be viewed as a thesis on how and why such policies should never be allowed to exist.  As an exposé of a secret organisation it makes, at times, very difficult reading.  The misscommunication, the apparent missed opportunities and, to a certain extent in my view, the scant internal organisation of the group would suggest to me that failure was inevitable. 

However, the fact that Harro and Libertas and their helpers managed to survive and try to subvert for as long as they did is little short of a miracle when you consider the ever increasing grip of Nazism.

Based on witness accounts, diaries and a small amount of archive material, the author has had to make some assumptions.  It's the readers choice to agree with those assumptions or not and I found one or two a little questionable.  But I'm not an historian and I'm sure others who are far more knowledgeable about this period of history may take a different view.

Despite the sadness embodied in this book, I found it a fascinating read.  The narrative voice flowed well and the story is one that needed to be made public.  A very telling and interesting look at a troubled period of Europe's history. 

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Please welcome Jessica Thompson... my blog this week.  Hi, Jessica, and thanks for making time in your busy schedule to be here today.  So, tell me, what is your current release?

JT   A Caterer’s Guide to Holidays and Homicide is a holiday-set sequel to my first book, A Caterer’s Guide to Love and Murder.  It is also a culinary cozy mystery with recipes.  But lots of the recipes in this book are Christmas-y and several are gluten-free because one of my characters has some sensitivity.  It was really because I noticed that many of the recipes were already naturally gluten-free.
AW   What first got you into writing and why?
JT    I always enjoyed writing little things and I already loved mysteries and recipes, but I never took it seriously until I decided to actually try to be published.  That happened when I read a terrible book.  It was formulaic, boring, the recipes were banal, and the mystery was obvious.  And that was a best-seller!  Right then I decided that if that could get published then so could I.  It just so happened that book was also my introduction to the genre of culinary cozy mystery.  So at the same time I knew that this was a subgenre in which I could carve out a place for myself.
AW  You write cosy crime stories – your first including recipes.  Is it all imagination or do you also undertake research?
JT   I do a lot of research.  I research and try the recipes, have independent recipe testers, and do all the conversions to metric measurements for my readers across the pond.  I also research a lot of mysteries.  I read and watch other mysteries, outline, and try to understand the psychology behind killers and other people that have justified their actions to radical degrees, and think about the psychology of my reader so they won’t guess who the killer is right away.  I also try to make the modes of death realistic.  So I research the poisons, the timelines, the injuries, anatomy, and all that.  I also ask my nurse-friends a lot of morbid questions.
AW  And what about other types of writing?  Have you ever dabbled with short stories, for instance, or other genres or perhaps a recipe book?
JT    I have tried a few short stories, including one plot that came fully-formed in a dream, but so far they have always turned into mysteries.  Right now I am writing a short story that is Frosty the Snowman crossed with the original Frankenstein by Mary Shelley for a Halloween anthology.  It may be my first piece that has not turned itself into a mystery.  I have also considered a recipe book many times, but maybe I’ll compile all the recipes from my books into their own book some day.
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?
JT    I just have a writing corner.  Not enough space for a shed.  I have taken a corner of the dining room that already had most of my houseplants, added a desk, piled it with writing paraphernalia, and I just put on headphones with strictly instrumental music in order to ignore what is going on behind me when it is time to write.
  Finally, what would your eight-year old self think of, and say about, you today?
JTI’ve thought about this a lot in recent years.  In some ways I have done everything young-Jessica had on her list of goals, but in other ways I am very far away from where I thought I would be.  I have met all the life goals that I had, but maybe I was maintaining too realistic of goals.  I’m happily-married, have two kids that I stay home with, have black belts in two different martial arts, went to my college of choice, worked in my dream job and gave it up to have kids as I had always planned to do, have a house, a dog, live near my parents, and regularly go out to foreign food restaurants without any complaints from the kids.  That’s when I tell them that I’m “livin’ the dream.”
But eight-year old Jessica would be shocked and horrified that I mow people's lawns, work on the car, do all the handyman jobs around the house, regularly work as a ranch hand, get covered in sweat and poop and blood, and just generally get dirty. When I was a kid I thought I would live in California forever.  Austin Texas only became the goal when I was in high school and visited with my parents.  And I think being handy and useful in most practical situations was only the goal in and after college.

about the book…While acting as personal chef for a friend’s mountain retreat, Violet and her husband, Jake, must set aside their stress over infertility and create a magical and delicious holiday – until tragedy crashes the party.
Being snowed in and unreachable from town, Violet and Jake end up hired for a different kind of job – finding out which of the guests committed murder and why they’re trying to frame their hostess.
Violet must find a balance between following her gut and keeping it all under control until the police can reach them, while still managing the kitchen.  But can she sniff out the killer before anyone else bites the big one?
about the author…When Jessica discovered mystery novels with recipes, she knew she had found her niche.
Now Jessica is the author of the Amazon best-selling culinary cozy mystery, "A Caterer's Guide to Love and Murder," and will be publishing her second book of the series, “A Caterer’s Guide to Holidays and Homicide,” on October 19, 2021.  She is active in her local writing community and is a member of the Writers’ League of Texas and the Storymakers Guild.  She received a bachelor's degree in Horticulture from Brigham Young University but has always enjoyed writing and reading mysteries.
As an avid home chef and food science geek, Jessica has won cooking competitions and been featured in the online Taste of Home recipe collection.  She also tends to be the go-to source for recipes, taste-testing, and food advice among her peers.
Jessica is originally from California, but now has adopted the Austin, Texas lifestyle. She enjoys living in the suburbs with her husband and young children, but also enjoys helping her parents with their nearby longhorn cattle ranch.

You can get Jessica's books on Amazon   

You can follow Jessica on Facebook  Twitter  and on  Instagram