Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Please welcome author and real-life adventurer, Michel L'Aventure...

...to my blog today.  Hi Michel and thanks for being here.  Your new book has the intriguing title of Grand Lure.  Tell me why you chose it...

MLA I liken the plot to a fisherman who uses bait to attract a fish; in my story, the “bait” is a bundle of cash to attract someone who believes he can get a percentage and live the rest of his life on a paradisiacal island.
AW  How closely does the storyline follow your actual experience in Africa and in France?MLA Eighty per cent of my story actually happened and the rest comes from my imagination.  Places are real (with a couple of fictional locations), but names are changed to protect the guilty!
AW  Were you afraid for your safety while in Africa?
MLA When I accepted this mission financed by a French businessman, I was aware of the possible risks and dangerous consequences after this covert investigation was over.  Since I am a “believer,” I knew I was protected from the above; in any case, I wasn't alone.  I waited several years before I started writing my story because by then, the guys I met in Africa hopefully would have forgotten my face.  They never knew my real name anyway.  I would lie if I said that I didn’t fear for my life, particularly when I met the ‘boss’ of a ‘financial company’ in Ivory Coast.  When I didn’t go along with their game, he became violent.  In Togo, I was more at ease with another ‘financial company.’  What happened in Ivory Coast was a warm-up to prepare me for the undercover investigation in Togo.
AW Have you had any follow-up information concerning the "investors" in Ivory Coast and Togo?
No!  In the book, after I returned somewhat safe and sound to France, I met my acquaintance, the French businessman Pierre, gave him my findings (and other stuff), and told him he’d better get invisible for a while.  Pierre is a savvy guy that you’d want to have on your side.  I don’t want to say anything else about him.  I have also made myself ‘invisible’ and would not make the mistake of approaching these Africans again.  In their underworld labyrinth, they have antennae all over the globe. 
AW   Which characters in the book are based on "real" people?
MLA All are real.  Most of them I actually met, and a few are based on characters related to me by other individuals.  Of course, I am Charles! 
AW  What lessons did Charles (you) learn from his "Grand Lure" experience?
MLA From this mission, I learned that one should always be cautious before sending money to needy people; it often ends up in the pockets of the “needy” politicians!
AW  Did Charles's (your) experience in Africa in any way change his (your) goals or your world view?
MLA No!  After this experience, my world vision did not change.  I have long been aware that poor countries receive huge sums from rich countries; unfortunately, too often the poor only get a small percentage.  It would be great if more control could be enforced on such contributions from origin to delivery.
AW   Will you write a sequel to Grand Lure: Africa?
MLA Yes!  I have already started writing a sequel based on my experiences in....  All I can say is you will be surprised where the next adventure occurs!

about the author… Michel is an author, freelance French instructor, translator, and tour guide living in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.  His debut novel, Grand Lure: Africa is based on his actual undercover investigations in the former French colonies in West Africa.
about the book… Set in the year 2010, Grand Lure: Africa is inspired by the author’s real-life experiences in West Africa.  French journalist Charles Dufor is on assignment when he finds himself entangled in a search for investment funds for French businessman Pierre Chevalin’s real estate project.
Convinced this new mission will net the scoop of his career, Dufor strikes out to uncover the source of a pile of cash offered by Ivorian and Togolese “financiers.” Does the money originate with crooked politicians or the military?  Is it from drugs, stolen international aid, or a common scam job?
In a story ripe with action, emotion, danger, and desire, Dufor’s investigation propels him into a corner of Sub-Saharan Africa crammed with greed, corruption, and civil unrest.  In Togo he witnesses intimate details of the so-called investors’ operations and infiltrates their underworld.

You can follow Michel on his Website on Twitter  Facebook and on LinkedIn

You can get the book from Amazon

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Interview with Miss Moonshine…

…I'm here in Miss Moonshine's Wonderful Emporium on Market Street, Haven Bridge.  Napoleon is asleep in his basket under the table, and Miss M and I have a pot of camomile tea to share…


AW    Thank you for inviting me here today and for taking some time out to chat.  The third book, Midsummer Magic, about you and your good deeds, is out.  Did you have any inkling at all that the first anthology would become a series?
MissM It wasn't my decision, dear.  The authors themselves decided there was a need for a second book and have gone on to produce the latest one because of its success.  I can only provide a nudge here and there or a whisper of inspiration as required.
AW      Hmm, as enigmatic as ever!  The stories in the latest collection include a ghost, guerilla gardening, antiques, to mention just a few. Do you have a favourite?
MissM Now that would be telling!  Each of the authors has their own style and  ideas.  I just help where I can as I did when Kate Field stopped to look at a portrait and thought how vivid and alive it was.  She devised her story around whether the lady in the painting may have smiled or not.  Mary Jayne Baker's story, inspired by a personal loss, enabled her to say goodbye to her childhood home.  I just watched over her as she wrote.  That's all that was needed.  The inspiration for Melinda Hammond was some pretty Clarice Cliff pottery and the family story behind it.  Who can resist a tale about meeting a childhood sweetheart again?  For Sophie Claire, who didn't plan her story, as usual, wondering how I would react to a shoplifter in the emporium was her catalyst.  Did I direct the way her story would go?  Perhaps.  Just a little.  Marie Laval's story was very interesting and required quite a lot of research.  Did you know that there are only 120 professional perfumiers in France (also called 'nez') and not more than 500 in the whole world?  It was fascinating to learn that the perfumier in her story could visualise scents as colours.
AW     I notice that vintage cars are mentioned in three stories this time around - a Lanchester Ten in Jacqui Cooper's story.  Is this a great interest of yours, and do you have a favourite?
MissM I suppose you could say that cars are an interest.  I've driven many different vehicles over the years, including all the cars mentioned in the book. Do I have a favourite?  Well, I suppose it depends on where I'm going and what I'm doing.  You see, my dear, there are some cars to drive, and there are some cars to be driven in.  I certainly enjoyed the jaunt in the vehicle in Helena Fairfax's story.  It belongs to the hero's mother, you know.  A writer of romance novels.  Rather neat to include that, don't you think?
AW     Mmm.  One of the stories includes a ghost.  Where do you stand on ghosts, Miss M?  A believer or not?
  Ah, yes. There's so much in this world we don't understand; so much that can't be seen by others.  In Helen Pollard's story, Ginny certainly doesn't believe in ghosts.  But the story does enable differing points of view to be aired, and that's always a good thing, I think. And if it can be done with a bit of humour, too, so much the better. 
AW      And finally, Miss Moonshine, what does the future hold for you, do you think?
MissM  I really couldn't say.  My work here in the shop will go on, of course.  I always aim to provide whatever is needed.  And, if my writers need me at any time, I will be there for them.

You can get the book and the first two in the series Here  

You can read more about Miss M and the books Here and I will be telling the story behind my story in the anthology on the blog next month.  Watch this space!

Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Come stroll with me...

...through the town of Bar-sur-Seine. You might be surprised by what we can find...

If you look at a map of the département of Aude (region of Le Grand Est), you will find a number of places that use the word 'bar', or a derivative, in their names. Bar-sur-Seine, which is where I am today, is one of them. The word 'bar' may come from the latin 'barra' meaning barrier or it could have it's root in Old French 'barre' meaning rod to secure a door or some form of gate. Either way, the intention appears that it is something to do with getting in the way! Which makes sense when you consider that back in Medieval times, the County of Bar and Bar-sur-Seine were territory to be fought over - and the remains of the original château are on the edge of town. Sitting close to the border with Champagne, the town was strategically placed to repell potential usurpers from Bourgogne and Champagne.
The original Gallish settlement was ransacked by the English in the 14th century and suffered again during the Religious Wars of the 16th century. By the time we get to the late 18th century the town was prospering and subsequently became a sub-prefecture.
I'm stood at the end of Grand Rue de la Résistance and the importance of the town can be seen in the length of the street and the many handsome timbered buildings. The street is cobbled which adds to the charm. Take away Monsieur's white delivery van, shut out the noise of the 21st century and I can imagine myself strolling along here in the latest outfit that 18th century fashion had to offer. But there's more to come.
I make my way back to the junction with Place de le Republique and take a left. Note the timbered house on the corner. A few steps along this street on the left is a small shrine. The flowers have seen better days, but it was early October when I was last here. The plaque on the wall is in remembrance of a much more recent piece of history. Towards the end of August 1944, Bar-sur-Seine was on the frontline between the hastily retreating forces of Hitler and the rapidly advancing forces of the Allies.
As we continue along we come to an intersection with rue Victor-Hugo. Just stand for a moment and examine the the stunning carving of the 16th century timbered house on your right. I had to wait for the sun to move out from behind a cloud - but I didn't mind. And there's plenty of detail to see, too.  But I will let you make that little discovery for yourselves when you are next in the area.
Continuing towards the river there is one other thing that I want to show you. The Moulin Charrier was built in the mid-19th century and was a working flour mill right up to 1925. The remains of the building that we can see represent the latest mill on this spot. According to the archives there was an earlier mill here in the 11th century. As I wait for the sun to be kind to me again I wonder what will happen to such a large chunk of this town's history. Will it be preserved? I certainly hope so. It may be derelict now, but even in that, with the right light, it has an empty magnificence about it that is hard to deny…

I will be back with more little discoveries from my travels in France next month - watch this space!

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Friend and author, Sophie Claire...

Photo courtesy of Jodie Thackray
... visits my blog today.  Hi, Sophie and thanks for being here.  So tell me, what is your current release...

SC It’s called Summer at the French Olive Grove and it’s about adventurous filmmaker, Lily Martin, who breaks her arm and must return home to France while she recuperates.  She hasn’t seen her childhood crush, Olivier Lacoste, since the devastating fire that changed her life and they have unfinished business.
AW   What first got you into writing and why?
SC  I first began writing twenty years ago when my son was a baby.  I had an outbreak of very painful eczema and writing was a form of pain relief that took me away for a couple of hours while my son napped.  Then I saw a leaflet in my local library for a women’s writing group and went along feeling very nervous and convinced they’d turn me away.  In fact, they were wonderfully encouraging and I learned so much there.  I’ll always be grateful to that group for setting me off on this journey.
AW  You write Romance.  Is it all imagination or do you also undertake research?
  I think it’s imperative to research because I know it’s off-putting as a reader when an author gets something wrong (having said that we can all make mistakes despite our best efforts).  So I do a lot of reading around a subject if it’s unfamiliar (eg burns survivors for Summer at the French Olive Grove) and I interview knowledgeable people where I can. A lot of research can be done on the internet too, of course.  If anyone saw my Google searches it might make them chuckle because they can seem quite random.  In the same day, I might look up the symbolism of olive groves, how long a broken arm takes to heal, and how to make choux pastry.  Writing leads me to learn all sorts of quirky facts.
AW  And what about other types of writing?  I know you write short stories for the Miss Moonshine anthologies, but have you ever dabbled with other genres?
SC  My most recent ‘dabbling’ was a piece of flash fiction (250 words).  It was such fun to write and satisfyingly quick.  I try to keep an open mind about trying new projects and never say never.  It takes me a year minimum to write a novel, so shorter pieces are especially rewarding and keep the magic of writing alive.
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?
SC  I wish!  A shed would have been perfect during lockdown or when we had workmen in.
But I can’t complain because I’m very fortunate to have an office of my own.  It overlooks the garden so there are no distractions except squirrels, cats and foxes trotting through.  My office is also very messy, so don’t be deceived by this picture.
AW  Finally, what would your eight-year-old self think of, and say about, you today?
SC   Great question!  My eight-year-old self adored making up stories and she used to fill exercise books.  She’d tell me I worry too much, and I should relax and have fun.  Children are so good at being spontaneously creative, and I strongly believe that we adults could learn a lot from them.  When I’m writing a scene and it’s going well, it does feel as if I’m plugging into my inner child.  Nothing beats that feeling.

about the book...
Filmmaker Lily's life is all about work and adventure.
  So when she suffers an accident on her travels and finds herself recuperating in the quiet French seaside village where she spent her childhood, she can't wait to escape.  Not least because Olivier - Lily's childhood friend and former crush, who she has spent the last thirteen years avoiding - is staying next door.
Strong-minded master baker Olivier is happily settled in St Pierre, preparing to marry and put down roots.  But Lily's return to the village risks turning his carefully-laid plans upside down, and as the pair rediscover their familiar rivalry and fun, sparks fly.
Is Lily really as fearless and independent as she seems on the surface - or is she just running from the past?  And what if Olivier is the only one who can teach her what it really means to be brave?

about the author… Sophie Claire writes uplifting emotional stories with their heart in Provence, where she spent her childhood summers.  She is half French, half Scottish, was born in Africa and growing up in England she felt she didn’t belong anywhere – except in the pages of a book.  Perhaps this is why she likes to help her characters find their home; a place in the world where they can be loved for themselves.
Previously, she worked in marketing and proofreading academic papers, but writing is what she always considered her ‘real job’ and now she’s delighted to spend her days dreaming up heartwarming contemporary romance stories set in beautiful places.

You can follow Sophie on her Website on Facebook Twitter Instagram and on Pinterest

You can find Sophie's books on Amazon