Tuesday, 27 April 2021

When one thing leads to another...

... friend and author Alison Knight joins me on the blog today. Thanks for being here Alison. I understand that, like me, you believe in the power of questioning...

AK I think the most exciting – and probably the most dangerous – question you can ask is: “What if?”
What if this happened?
In my younger, fitter days, I once went for a run in the French countryside. I was enjoying a break in the sunshine, jogging along lanes between fields of sunflowers. The only sounds were the birds in the sky, the bees on the flowers and the distant hum of a tractor. As I turned a corner, I noticed some gates ahead. Through the trees, I could see the outline of a small chateau. It looked magical. As I drew level with the entrance, the peace was disturbed by the frantic barking of a couple of Dobermanns who snarled at me through the closed gates. I shrieked and leapt back, startled by their ferocity. I quickly moved on, not wanting a close encounter with those teeth!
As I made my way back to our gite, I started to wonder. What if the gates had been opened? Would they have attacked me? Would I have been able to escape? I decided that I could have leapt over the ditch on the other side of the road and scaled one of the concrete telegraph poles that marched across the countryside. These poles had handy footholds that would enable me to climb fast. The dogs would be left far below and I would be safe until someone came along to rescue me.
That sparked an idea for a story and I was off on my writing career. I finished the book, which I called Sunflower Summer, but it never saw the light of day. It really didn’t deserve to – but it was a great learning exercise.
What if someone changed their mind?
My latest book, The Legacy, came from a scene in my previous book, Mine, where an elderly spinster changes her will just before she dies. She’s in a nursing home, so her solicitor sends two of his employees to see her and go through the new will. They are satisfied that she understands what she’s doing, and they witness the document. This minor scene in Mine became the prologue to The Legacy.
Alison's work space
I wrote the scene as a means of getting two of my characters out of their office in order to develop their relationship. But I couldn’t stop thinking about that will, which effectively disinherited one person in favour of another. I started to obsess about why she’d done it and how the two heirs would react to their change in fortune. What if one of them was relying on inheriting that money? What would happen if they didn’t get it?
What if someone discovered a secret?
The more I thought about the legacy, the more I realised that it could be the key to some long-buried secrets that neither of the heirs is aware of. Initially, it seemed as though the old lady had simply decided that her nephew James was a spoilt, wasteful young man who didn’t deserve a large fortune, and had given it to her god-daughter Charlotte because she was a kind, loyal young woman who wouldn’t waste the money as James undoubtedly would. But, I kept asking myself, what if there’s more to it than that? What if each of the characters were keeping dark secrets? What would happen if they were discovered?
After asking all these questions, The Legacy became a story about an unexpected inheritance, a web of deceit and a desperate escape – because of one short scene in another book and my inability to stop asking, what if?
What if I want to be a writer?
I’m often asked for tips by people who want to be writers. The best advice I can give is to keep asking, “What if?” The more questions a writer asks, the more answers and possibilities appear. I also tell them to get to know their characters – their personalities, their concerns, their passions and their secrets. That way, they can ask those vital what if questions and will know instinctively how their characters would respond. They can take you on dangerous and exciting journeys, make you laugh and cry, and maybe inspire yet more stories.  Happy writing!

about the book… James has his dreams of an easy life shattered when his aunt disinherits him, leaving her fortune to her god-daughter, Charlotte. He turns to his friend, Percy, to help him reclaim his inheritance – and to pay off his creditors. But when their plans backfire, James becomes the pawn of Percy and his criminal associates.
Charlotte is stunned when she is told of her windfall. After an attempt at cheating her out of her inheritance fails, James tries to intimidate her. But she is stronger than he thinks, having secrets of her own to guard, and sends him away with a bloody nose and no choice but to retreat for now.
Resigned, James and his spoilt, pampered girlfriend, Fliss, Percy’s sister, travel across France on a mission that promises to free James from the criminals for good. But James isn’t convinced he can trust Fliss, so he makes his own plans to start a new life.
Will James be able to get away, or will his past catch up with him? Will Charlotte’s secrets turn the legacy into a curse?

about the author… Alison has been a legal executive, a registered childminder, a professional fund-raiser and a teacher. She has travelled the world – from spending a year as an exchange student in the US in the 1970s and trekking the Great Wall of China to celebrate her fortieth year and lots of other interesting places in between.
In her mid-forties Alison went to university part-time and gained a first-class degree in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and an MA in the same subject from Oxford Brookes University, both while still working full-time. She signed her first three-book publishing contract a year after she completed her master’s degree.
The Legacy is her fifth novel and the second book published by Darkstroke Books. It is a drama set in 1960s London and France, exploring how we don’t always get what we want and how we shouldn’t count our chickens before they’re hatched. Her previous Darkstroke book, Mine, is a drama also set in 1960s London, based on real events in her family, exploring themes of class, ambition and sexual politics. Some of the characters from Mine also appear in The Legacy, although this is a standalone story.
Alison teaches creative and life-writing, runs workshops and retreats with Imagine Creative Writing Workshops (www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk) as well as working as a freelance editor. She is a member of the Society of Authors and the Romantic Novelists’ Association. She lives in Somerset, within sight of Glastonbury Tor.

You can get the book on Amazon

You can follow Alison on her Website  on Facebook  Twitter  and at  Darkstroke Books

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Friend and author, Val Penny...

...makes a very welcome return to my blog this week.  Great to see you back here, Val, and thanks for making time in your busy schedule.  Your Edinburgh Crime series is selling really well, so tell me, why Edinburgh?

VP  Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog today.  I chose Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, as the setting for my series of novels, The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries. The fifth novel 'Hunter's Secret', will be published by Darkstroke on 08.08.2020.
Edinburgh is a beautiful city of around half a million people.  The city is situated on the south banks of the Firth of Forth.  There are some lovely views across the Forth from Edinburgh to the county of Fife on the north of the river. There are three bridges crossing the Firth of Forth: the oldest is the Forth Rail Bridge, built in the nineteenth century, the Forth Road Bridge was built in the twentieth century and the most modern, a bridge for road traffic was completed in the early part of this century, named the Queensferry Crossing.
The delegated parliament of Scotland, that has wide powers over how the people are governed, meets in the Scottish Parliament Building, in the Holyrood district of the city.  Following a referendum in 1997, in which the Scottish electorate voted for devolution, the current Parliament was convened by the Scotland Act of 1998 which sets out its powers as a devolved legislature.  Since September 2004, the official home of the Scottish Parliament has been a  new Scottish Parliament Building in the Holyrood area of Edinburgh.  The Scottish Parliament building was designed by Spanish architect Enric Miralles.  There was much concern at the time as the building was completed many years late and several times over budget.
The Monument, Prince's Street Gardens
The main protagonist of 'Hunter's Secret' is Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson.
 He lives in Leith, an area to the north of the City and drinks in his local pub, the Persevere Bar.  He plays darts in the pub darts team, but he is almost always late for matches.  His home is also close to one of the main soccer grounds in Edinburgh, the Hibernian Football Ground.  Hibernian Football Club, commonly known as Hibs, is a Scottish professional football club based in Leith and he referees the junior team.
AW  Fascinating and a favourite city of mine to visit, too.
VP  I hope your readers will enjoy the next case that Hunter and his team have to solve in the new novel Hunter’s Secret.

about the author… Val is an American author living in SW Scotland with her husband and their cat.
Her crime novels, Hunter's Chase Hunter's Revenge, Hunter's Force Hunter’s Blood and Hunter’s Secret form the bestselling series The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries.  They are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, and published by Darkstroke.  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 a charity anthology, Dark Scotland.
about the book… Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson is called to the scene of a murder.  DCsTim Myerscough and Bear Zewedu found a corpse, but when Hunter arrives it has disappeared, and all is not as it seems.
Hunter recalls the disappearance of a dead body thirty years earlier.  The Major Incident Team is called in but sees no connection – it is too long ago. Hunter is determined to investigate the past and the present with the benefit of modern DNA testing.
Tim has other problems in his life.  His father, Sir Peter Myerscough, is released from jail.  He, too, remembers the earlier murder.  There is no love lost between Hunter and Sir Peter.  Will Hunter accept help from his nemesis to catch a killer?
Hunter’s own secret is exciting and crucial to his future.  Will it change his life? And can he keep Edinburgh safe?

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

You can get the Hunter Wilson mysteries 

on Amazon along with all her other books

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Cycling the Canal du Bourgogne...

... from lock 83 to 90.  Come and join me...

I’m heading down the canal today, towards its source.  So this trip means that I will be cycling downhill.  The canal's lowest point is where it joins the river Yonne a little further west of Tonerre.  However I'm not going that far today as there's yet another fabulous château that I want to see.  From where I'm camped at Lézinnes it’s up to the main road, the D905, across the river and then a left onto the canal path.  From here it's a steady run through Vinnemer to Tanlay and the marina.  At Tanlay there's a wide basin and picnic area.  I can park the bike here, cross the canal and walk into yet another sleepy little village.
With a population of around 1000 people, it’s one of the larger villages on the canal, but, as I stroll from the marina and along the main street, as always, the place is quiet and mostly deserted.  Grande rue brings you right out in front of the petit château - what we Brits would call the gatehouse or the lodge - and access is over a walled moat.
At the time the château was built the moat and the bridge that crosses it from the town would have been very necessary precautions during France’s turbulent past.  Indeed, as large and as gracious as the building is, if you look at the masonry above the entrance to the gatehouse closely you will see military devices carved into the stonework indicating that soldiers were probably garrisoned here at some point.
Built a little after the château at Ancy-le-Franc, this property is a shining example of French Renaissance style and form rather than Italian – that southerly influence having been eschewed.  The building has symmetry and is beautifully decorated both inside and out.  I was not prepared for what I found inside.
Constructed by François de Coligny d’Andelot, in the mid-sixteenth century, it replaced a feudal fort and provided a sumptuous upgrade on what would have been little better than garrison life.  Since the late seventeenth century the house has been and still is, in the possession of the Thévenin de Tanlay family.
The stunning Long Gallery
The tours around the property are guided. I prefer to wander through such places at my own pace.  However, this property did not disappoint.  The great gallery is a stunning example of trompe I’œil in monochrome.  As I stood at one end of the room and gazed around I could imagine ladies in fabulous gowns and gentlemen in their doublets.  I could almost hear the soft swish of the silk, lace and velvet as these imaginary ladies moved across the floor.  Had I been an independent visitor I would probably have written a story in my head before I moved up the spiral staircase to the next floor.  But that was not to be and I, along with three others, was ushered out.
Up on the top floor, there are some lovely views of the grounds, but it had started to rain whilst I was inside so I passed on the opportunity to get pics.  But in the turret room was a secret place.  A small circular room has a fresco on the ceiling attributed to the Fontainebleau school of art that depicts notable people from the sixteenth century.  Our guide then lets us into the secret.  The turret room was the meeting place for Huguenot conspirators during the Wars of Religion.  I make a mental note to do some research when I get home.  It is quite apparent that this period of history is as important to the French as our own Wars of the Roses are to us.
The walk back to get the bike is under a grey and threatening sky.  I decide not to hang about and make the trip back from Tanlay (Lock 90) to Lézinnes (Lock 83) without stopping.  It’s just over 10Ks but it’s uphill this time!  I’m back at the campsite just before the heavens opened.  The rain didn’t stop for the next three days…

I will be taking another trip along the canal on May 18th and if you want to read about other stretches of the canal you can find my posts Here and Here

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Please welcome friend and author, D J Swykert...

... to my blog today.  Hi David, and thanks very much for making time in your busy schedule to be here.  So, tell me what is your latest release?

DS  Lebo, released in June 2020 which I edited and co-wrote portions of it with a young African writer from Botswana.  The latest release solely written by me is For the Love of Wolves, released in May 2019.
AW   What first got you into writing and why?
DS  I started writing poetry in my late teens to impress an art student I was dating.  I couldn’t draw a stick figure so I decided to try my hand at writing.
AW  You write in a number of different genres.  Is there one particular genre that you feel most at ease with and why?
DS  I worked in law enforcement for quite a while, so mystery and crime stories come easiest for me.  I worked on many cases with unsavory characters, I’ll never run out of bad guys to put into my stories.
AW  Lucky you!  The oft quoted mantra is write what you know. To what extent does your experience as a 911 operator bleed into your work?
DS  Most of the characters in my stories are fictionalized versions of real characters I have encountered.  My favorite cop is Benham, a female homicide detective, who is modeled after a female officer in our department.
  Famous authors, such as Roald Dahl and Dylan Thomas, had a special space for writing.  Do you have a writing ‘shed’ of your own?
DS  I have an office on the bottom floor of our Mid-Century Modern home.  When I lived in northern Michigan I used a plant room that was off of our dining room.
AW  Finally, if you had a whole afternoon to yourself and could choose to spend it with any one individual, living or dead or a character from a book, who would it be, and what would you want to discuss?
DS  Albert Einstein.  My favorite quote of his, of which there are many, but this one I like the best: Imagination is greater than knowledge.  I’d love to ask him what he thinks of the 21st century.

about the author… DJ Swykert is a fiction writer and former 911 operator. His work has appeared in The Tampa Review, Detroit News, Monarch Review, Lunch Ticket, Gravel, Coe Review, Sand Canyon Review, Zodiac Review, The Newer York, Barbaric Yawp and Bull. His books include The Pool Boy’s Beatitude, Children of the Enemy, Alpha Wolves, Maggie Elizabeth Harrington, For the Love of Wolves and The Death of Anyone. He is a self-proclaimed wolf expert.
about the book…  My name is Lebo. I am six years old and my mother is dying. They brought her home from the clinic in a wheelbarrow. She’s fragile and ashen, and looked at me with painful eyes as they unloaded her off the wheelbarrow. They laid her on a mattress in my aunt’s sitting room and left her alone there. It’s about four pm and the village was quiet except for the cries and howling of pain from my mother. It’s dark and cloudy and the day is gloomy, the atmosphere matched the mood of the home.

You can get his books on Amazon and on Barnes & Noble 
You can follow David on his  Website Facebook Twitter and on Instagram