Tuesday 31 August 2021

Friend and author, Ashley Meggitt joins me...

...here on the blog today.  Hi, Ashley and thanks for taking time out to be here today.  You're the author of a number of non-fiction books and the best-selling novel, The Dark Chorus.  So, why do you think stories are so important?
AM  Stories resonate with us.  We use stories to understand and explain ourselves, to make sense of the world around us, to connect with others and to connect to the past.  Stories offer us paths to commonality and help us make sense of our differences, imbuing cultural knowledge, social norms, and morality.
The particular stories we hear are dependent on our social location which in turn informs, what can be thought of as, our ideological environment.  When we construct a story, either to deliver some factual position (as we see it), or for entertainment, we call on narratives as construction resources.  The narratives we have to hand are drawn from our ideological environment.  In other words, we build bespoke stories based on existing, often implicitly, understood narrative templates.  A story can be seen as instance of a given narrative.  Multiple stories can be derived from the same narrative template.
Works of fiction are by their nature based on the narratives available to the individuals that write them.  There is no difference between the narrative use for a personal story or one of fiction, but there is between the stories themselves. Their difference lies in the story’s degree of factuality, the adherence to or deviation from a person’s real experience.
The chilling cover of my copy
of 1984
With this in mind then, it’s arguable that works of fiction can be as valid and impactful as real accounts.
  An example of this would be George Orwell’s 1984. A narrative of state oppression and control provides the template from which Orwell created his iconic story of Winston Smith - a bleak and powerful telling of a dystopian future.  The work is clearly fiction, yet it seems to ring true.  That’s because the narrative is familiar, it runs through our history, and Orwell’s skill in its delivery has had a lasting impact on many of those that have read it (including me!).
The eminent sociologist, Arthur Frank says, “Stories work with people, for people, and on people, affecting what people are able to see as real, as possible, and as worth doing or best avoided.”
As writers, this statement is worth keeping to hand.  We have the opportunity to affect the reader’s thinking, to give them alternative ways to see everything from the minutia to world views.  And this can have consequences which we need to be aware of.  Stories have power, they can create feelings of happiness and empathy, create hate and resentment, and they can even set a country on the road to war (the latter is a little unlikely but possible).
The narratives we use when we write tell our readers what they can broadly expect, but this in itself doesn’t give us a story that can be impactful.  To do this the writer needs to call on their penmanship, on their ability to create believable characters, events, create emotional conflict and possible resolutions.  If Orwell hadn’t been such a skilled writer 1984 would not have been nearly as impactful despite the powerful narrative.
People are hardwired to process stories.  Stories are our fundamental vehicle for communication and from a social reality point of view, we might consider that we exist only as the stories we tell.  In essence, stories animate us as both the teller and the listener.

...about the book The Boy can see lost souls.  He has never questioned the fact that he can see them.  He thinks of them as the Dark Chorus.  When he sets out to restore the soul of his dead mother it becomes clear that his ability comes from within him.  It is a force that he cannot ignore – the last shard of the shattered soul of an angel. 
To be restored to the kingdom of light, the shard must be cleansed of the evil that infects it – but this requires the corrupt souls of the living! 
With the help from Makka, a psychotically violent young man full of hate, and Vee, an abused young woman full of pain, the Boy begins to kill. 
Psychiatrist Dr Eve Rhodes is seconded to assist the police investigation into the Boy’s apparently random ritualistic killings. As the investigation gathers pace, a pattern emerges.  When Eve pulls at the thread from an article in an old psychology journal, what might otherwise have seemed to her a terrible psychotic delusion now feels all too real…
Will the Boy succeed in restoring the angel’s soul to the light? Can Eve stop him, or will she be lost to realm of the Dark Chorus?

You can get Ashley's novel on Amazon

You can follow Ashley on Facebook  Twitter and on Instagram

Tuesday 24 August 2021

Come and join me…

…at the village fête in Kirk Smeaton.  Everything is happening at The Shoulder of Mutton (WF8 3JY) which is located on Main Street in the centre of the village…

On Sunday September 5th I will be at the Smeaton Villages Fête from 10.00am until 4.00pm.
There will be all kinds of events going on during the course of the day - see below for details.

11.45 Children's Golf Challenge to be followed by a second round for adults

12.00 The Smeaton Bake-Off Challenge, which is to produce 6 identical and scrumptious cupcakes, will be judged. Just in case you were wondering, I've already got my eyes on those cakes!

12.30 Welly Wanging - and I haven't the least idea what that is, but with a name like that, it has to be something peculiar to the wonderful county of Yorkshire! There will be two rounds, the first for the kids and the second for adults.

13.00 This is the official 'opening' of the incredible sculpture, 'The Tree' that has been created especially for the village.

13.15 Two rounds of an inter-village Tug of War contest. Again the youngsters are first and the adults later. It'll be interesting to see who wins!

In addition there will be various stalls for you to browse along with all the usual games and raffles. Refreshments will also be available in the shape of bacon sandwiches, burgers, cakes and scones along with hot and cold drinks. If you're looking for something a little stronger or thirst quenching after all those activities, the pub will be open.

I will also be there. So, if any of the above events are just too energetic for you, drop by my stall and say hello. We can chat about books, reading, writing, France or just the weather, if you prefer. 

It would be really great to see you there if you can make it...

Tuesday 17 August 2021

I'm reviewing The Paris Library...

... a novel by Janet Skeslien Charles...

This is a dual time-line story set in Paris during the occupation and the US of the 1980s.  It is also based around the largest English-language library on the European mainland and that library is the American Library in Paris.  With a current address of rue Général Camou in the 7th arrondissement, the library is within a 5 to 10 minute walk of the Tour Eiffel. 
But the library has an interesting story all of its own to tell.  It was established originally, in embyo form, in 1917 as part of the Library War Lending Service in order to supply books to American soldiers who were fighting in Europe during the 1914/18 war.  Once the war was over, the library was firmly established at its first address on rue d'Elysée in the 8th in 1920.  The original stock of books being the core of the wartime lending collection.  It also took the motto 'atrum post bellum, ex libris lux'.  Very fitting when you consider this translates as after the darkness of war, the light of books.
Like a lot of other institutions, The American Library hosts and runs various events across the year - including interviews with authors.  One of those authors was Janet Skelsien Charles and I was lucky enough to get a ticket.  Obviously, I had to join the event virtually.
It was fascinating to discover how the author had researched the history of the American Library in Paris.  The detail she had discovered about the running and management of the place during the occupation and, the interesting snippets of information she had ferreted out about the actual personnel who lived through those very troubled years in the 1940s.
The result of that research was a novel based on the findings from all of that work - information picked up from actual archive documents, interviews with people who had survived the war or their relatives, insights demonstrating how a city coped with being occupied for almost 5 years.  The book was The Paris Library and I found it to be a fascinating tale.
The parallels demonstrated between the central characters in Paris and their later counterparts in the US were interesting and thought-provoking.  I thought that the two timelines were very cleverly woven together and I loved the attention to historic detail.  The day-to-day working of the library became a comforting distraction from the taught and constantly shifting tension created throughout because of the occupation and the ever increasing menace of Nazism.
I thought the charactrers were all very well drawn, although I did not warm to all of them.  It was also interesting to be able to understand how, over time, the central characters when older would make different choices or even condemn or reaffirm previous actions.  I welcomed the opportunity to consider those characters in both a modern and previous light.
A great book and I will be reading more of this author's work.

Tuesday 10 August 2021

The story behind the story...

… in the latest Miss Moonshine anthology… 

I've always found history, particularly social history, fascinating. So it probably won't surprise you to learn that I've been researching my family tree for almost 20 years.  And that research has prompted several stories - not all of them published - and one of them is now in Midsummer Magic at Miss Moonshine's Emporium.
I came across the photo on the right a while ago.  The man in the chauffeur's uniform at the front of the car is one of my ancestors.  The registration number - GU1909 - which can just be seen is the title for my story.  Maddie, the central character, is a car mechanic, just as the man in the photo was, too.
When I first came across the photo, I wondered if the car was still in existence.  The search took me to car museums all over the country, to archives in central London, Teddington and Kew, and various websites worldwide.  Regrettably, the car no longer exists, but the search was fascinating.
From an archive of car magazines, I was able to identify that the car was a Wolseley E4, 12/32 hp saloon with a coach-built body and fabric interior, non-dazzle lights, electric horn and the latest in vibrationless suspension.  It retailed at the time for £315, and for an extra £12 10s, you could get a model with Triplex Glass and, the sole London dealer then was Eustace Watkins in Chelsea.
At the archives in Kew and central London, I established that the registration series GU was issued to London County Council in July 1928 for use from August 1st that year.  But that was all.  Sadly the register detailing each registration number for the GU series is lost.
However, research about the car manufacturer revealed that the car must have been one of the last off the production line.  And that was a little piece of history that I gave to my central character, Maddie, to pass on to Miss Moonshine in my story.
My research didn't stop there.  I had to know as much as I could find out about the man too. Born towards the end of the19th century in London, he first worked as an errand boy and later in service.   In the early 1900's he was a reservist in one of the London regiments, and he may have picked up some of his skills as a motor mechanic during that time.  By 1911 he described himself as a 'motor driver for a private firm'.  He also states that he undertakes 'motor repairs'.  When he married, he cited his profession as a private chauffeur - I suppose that sounded better on a document as important as a marriage certificate!
From my research
During the first war, he didn't enlist until 1915, and he may have done so in response to calls from the War Office for drivers.  The Imperial War Museum has copies of several posters that were used at the time.   It seems likely that he served with the 37th division of the Army Service Corps.
Unfortunately, there is no trace of his service records, but from another source, I know that he shipped out to France in July 1915 and was first billeted at Tilques - a small place between St Omer and Dunkerque.  Working as an ambulance driver, he may have been assigned to one of three crews - but without that elusive service record, I can't be sure which one.
During the second war, although he was still working, he wasn't called up because of his age.  But, his skills would have been valuable.  There are various stories about him driving famous people and possibly some top brass in the military.
Will I ever substantiate those myths?  I don't know.  Probably not.  But they will remain on my To-Do list for other times when I have a few hours to spare or when new information or archive material becomes available.
For now, I'm content that the car my ancestor drove inspired a story…

You can get the book Here

You can find out more about the Miss Moonshine and the books Here and Here  

Tuesday 3 August 2021

Please welcome Suzanna J Linton...

...to my blog this week. Thank you so much for being here today Suzanna and I'd like to know all about your latest book...

SJL  My latest release is a novella called Calculated Magic.  It takes place after Secret Burdens, which is Book #3 of my Stories of Lorst Series.  It follows the adventure of a wizard in exile whose actions can affect the outcome of a meeting of enemy kings.
AW   What first got you into writing and why?
SJL  I first got into writing to cope with living in a violent home.  My parents fought a lot and it oftentimes became physical.  However, when I was in high school, I read Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight.  Something about the novel and its world made me want to write novels for others to read.
AW  You write Fantasy.  Is it all imagination or do you also undertake research?
SJL  Both!  Imagination is the starting place but I also do research into the practical stuff, like how people used to keep clean, how did soldiers in armor fight, and things like that.  I feel that grounding the novel in reality, in things that the reader can easily see being done, makes it more believable when the magic shows up.
AW  I notice that you describe your writing as ‘magic, mayhem, and mystery, with a touch of romance’.  Have you ever dabbled, or thought about writing stories, in other genres?  A pure romance perhaps or a crime story?
SJL  You know, I’ve thought about writing a mystery.  I started thinking about it when I wrote Secret Burdens because the main character is essentially investigating an attempted murder.  I really enjoyed setting out the clues and the red herrings.  I also love those true stories about weird ways people have died or gone missing and surely that sort of interest would come in handy for a purely mystery novel.  Knowing me, though, I’d probably give it a touch of the supernatural.
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?
SJL  I would love to have a writing shed, complete with electricity so that it would be bearable in the summer.  I do have an office where I go for my writing and other work.  It’s small, painted a lovely shade of purple, and my desk does not face the window or I would end up staring at the trees for hours.
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?
SJL  I would spend it with my mother, who passed away eleven years ago.  I would ask her all the things I wish I had asked when she was alive, about her life before she met my father and things like that.  And I would get her recipe for cornbread dressing.
AW   Oh Ok.  But, now you are just going to have tell me what cornbread dressing is.
Cornbread dressing courtesy of S J Linton
 Cornbread is similar to bread but made with corn meal and without any yeast.  It can be sweet or not.  It can have things added to it like broccoli or jalepenos but not when it's going to be used for dressing.  Cornbread dressing is not like a salad dressing.  In the Southern USA, this baked dish is always served with turkey at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  So, I suppose dressing is meant as another way of saying "accompanies".  In the northern USA, there is cornbread stuffing, which is cooked inside the turkey.  But in the southern US, that is considered an abomination. Cornbread dressing is made using cornbread, stock, onions, celery, and spices, then baked in the oven.  Oftentimes, people like to top their serving with giblet gravy, which is gravy made from the giblets of the turkey.  Every Southern family has its own cherished cornbread dressing recipe and I never got my mother's before she passed.  All I know is the house smelled of sage as the dressing baked.
AW   Thank you Suzanna.  And that dressing sounds absolutely scrumptious!

about the author… Suzanna grew up in (very) rural Orangeburg County, South Carolina.  She was fed a steady diet of catfish, tall tales, and ghost stories.  After reading the Dragonriders of Pern books in high school, Suzanna decided she wanted to be a writer.
However, after many, many rejection letters, she decided to reject traditional publishing.  She self-published her first novel, Clara, in 2013.  In 2014, she quit her job at a library to write full time.  
Today, she continues to live in South Carolina with her husband and assorted pets.

about the book… Bruin, exiled to Arvent, starts life over as a simple charm-seller. That is, until he learns of Emmerich’s plan to meet Precene in a historic summit of kings.
In this game of secrets and alliances, the one wildcard is Galeen.  The small coastal kingdom is dying under the stranglehold of Tier.  The actions of the Crown Prince Gentius could be the difference between peace and war.  Bruin decides to go to Gentius and offer his services in the hope of preventing disaster.  However, only smugglers can pass through Tier’s blockade.  He buys passage on one such ship for himself and his newly acquired apprentice.
During the voyage, Bruin discovers the ship carries precious cargo stolen from Lorst. It’s destined for persons unknown—a person that might be Gentius.  Caught out in the ocean with nowhere to go, Bruin must choose between what is convenient for his mission and what is right.

You can get all of Suzanna’s books Here  or from Amazon

You can follow Suzanna on her  Website and on Instagram