Tuesday, 22 February 2022

I'm reviewing Snow Country...

...by Sebastian Faulks today.  And what a read it is...

Snow country is one of the most moving books I've read in a long time.  As I read the foreword I realised that it was part of trilogy - the first instalment of which I read when it was first published in 2005.  Faulks, being the incredible writer he is, I'm sure there are details in that first book that will link with and which are pertinent to the story in Snow Country.  But as there is a 16 year gap between the two books, I'm going to have go back and read the first one again to see what I might have missed.

Snow country is essentially a love story, but the agonies and ecstasies of the two central protagonists are so beautifully played.  The missed opportunities, the misguided decisions and actions and the miscommunication - so reminiscent of the Henry James novels that I read as a teenager through to my twenties - are exquisitely examined.  There is such a depth of emotion in this story.  Add in the fabulous landscape of Austria, the looming first war and the march towards a second and the activism prevalent across Europe in the interwar years and you have an ever-present sense of gathering danger through out.

I found the narrative flowed exceptionally well.  I found the characters absorbing, each in their own way, and the plot was well paced and provided interesting turns of fate.  But there is pathos and sadness there too.  This is a two-hanky book.  The first for when you are reading it.  You'll need the second for the days and weeks after you've finished reading it when you discover that Anton and Lena won't leave your thoughts, or for those times when someone makes a comment or asks a question and suddenly you're back with Rudolf, or one of the other characters and yet another deeper level of realisation pops into your conscious mind.  A wonderful read and this book is a keeper, I know I will return to it.

You can also find this review on Amazon, Goodreads and Bookbub and you can find other reviews on this blog Here  Here and Here

Tuesday, 15 February 2022

Please welcome, friend and author Pierre C Arseneault...

...to the blog this week.  Hi Pierre, thanks very much for making time in your busy schedule to be here today.  So, Pierre, just how much do you think you should have plotted out to start writing?

PCA  The answer to this question will be different for everyone as it’s the same as asking if you’re a plotter or a pantser.  Although there is also the lesser known term plantser, which is a blend of the two, which I feel that I am for the most part. There have been times when I’ve started short stories knowing the beginning and the ending but I didn’t have a plan on how to write the middle.  This is why I often state that the middle is the most difficult part for me, although in short stories, you can just write until you feel satisfied.  It’s different when trying this with a novel as there is a word count to also worry about, making the middle an even bigger challenge in an effort to have a novel when finished.  This usually has me mildly obsessing over word count.  A short story called 'Filjan, Filjan' comes to mind.  I know the title is odd and you’ll just have to get a copy of Sleepless Nights and read it to know what it means.  But with that said, when I wrote this story, I had the beginning and the ending firmly in mind, but didn’t have any of the middle. None.  Not even the why it would end the way it did and why Andrew was the way he was.  I just started writing.
Another example is my novel Poplar Falls: the death of Charlie Baker.
I’m sitting at my computer and the urge to write is huge but I’ve no idea what to write.  The blank page to me, represents endless possibilities as it could be anything.  I just knew I wanted to write a novel and it wouldn’t be horror this time. Dark, sure but nothing horrific or scary.  On my bookshelf, facing me was a book which I had recently finished reading called 'Gerald’s Game' by Stephen King.  The image on the cover sparked an idea and I began writing.  I started with nothing but an opening combined with an urge to write and made it to about 15 thousand words before hitting a wall.  I was stuck.  I had no idea how I wanted to continue this story I had gotten so invested in.  I set it aside for a bit and when I came back to it, I made some changes and started over.  Again, I made it about 15 thousand words in and blocked again.
Frustrated, I whipped out a pack of post-its and notepads and started planning what should happen to each character and their storylines.
  I compiled these notes, figured out what order they should be in and began writing again.  So now I had a book that I started pantsing and then plotted out the rest making this a plantser novel.  And after over 20 short stories and five novels (3 published so far), I can tell you that I’m still trying to figure out what works best for me.  I think the story idea will play a really big role in this for me.  My next horror novel called Maple Springs, which is set to come out in October 2022 was completely pantsed.  I tried to plot when I hit walls and wasn’t able to.  Instead I kept working on it and ended up pantsing it entirely.
As for my short story, The Path to Redemption in the Autumn Paths anthology, it started with the seed of a character with a secret path to school to avoid bullies and it evolved from there.

You can follow Pierre on his Website  Facebook  and on Twitter   

You can get his books on Amazon  and a copy of Autumn Paths Here

You can read  more about the anthology Here Here and Here  and on March, 15th another author with a story in the Autumn Paths anthology will be visiting the blog.  Come and join us then...

Tuesday, 8 February 2022

I'm very pleased to announce...

...that the anthology, Autumn Paths, is going on  a blog tour...

Beginning Wednesday, February 9th, our anthology will be visiting numerous blogs each day for the next week.  You will be able to read reviews of the whole book and, in some instances, you will see short excerpts from a selection of the stories.  One blogger has also asked us a series of questions - so you can get to know some of us a little better. 

Of course, some of you may want to read the anthology and make up your own mind.  Then please do so and to help you decide here's the blurb :

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.

Here's what others are saying about the book :

⭐ Not a single story here disappointed and I can recommend this book as a great read.  A reader in the UK

⭐ A mix of subjects and authors makes for an absorbing and varied read.  A reader in the UK

⭐ The short stories in this collection are a mix of genres, including mystery, romance, historical, sci-fi and adventure... These snappy, well-written tales are sure to delight no matter the season.   American author, MJ Lebeff

Original, entertaining and a darned good read.  A great collection of stories well told by nine very memorable authors.  Eden Monroe, author of Dare to Inherit, Almost Broken and more

You can get the book on Amazon

You can read more about the anthology Here and you can find out about the story behind my story Here
Fellow writer, Allan Hudson, also visited the blog a while ago and you can read the story behind his tale Here

Look out for visits to the blog from other Autumn Paths authors, Pierre C Arseneault on February 15th, and S. C. Eston on March 15th

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

Off my Beaten Track…

… I'm in Brampton, today.  I've been going through my journals, and I came across my notes from last September when I was unable to travel to France and took myself north to Reiver country instead…


Wednesday, 8th


I'm camped at Clarks Hill Farm.  It's an open field with plenty of space, beautifully kept grass and sheep for neighbours.  There may not be the vast mountainous views that I'm used to when I'm in the Cévennes, but there are stunning sunsets.
Into Brampton today in the sunshine - unusual for the sun to be so relentless here in England!  So unusual that if I closed my eyes, I could believe I was in France.
Brampton is a fabulous little market town.  It sits about 15K's from the city of Carlisle in Cumbria and is about 4K's from Hadrian's wall.  We've got some serious history here, which I can't wait to explore.
The earliest settlement is thought to date from around the 7th century.  In the settlement rolls - an opportunity to raise taxes - of 1252, the town is listed as Braunton and Brampton in a later document from 1291.  The place was granted its Market Charter by Henry 3, and it has continued to trade as a market town ever since.
The octagonal Moot Hall sits at one end of the market square and was built by the Earl of Carlisle in 1817.  It now houses the Tourist Information Office.  It replaced an earlier building from 1648 that Oliver Cromwell used to house prisoners.  The town is also noted for its role in the Jacobite uprising and, if you look carefully as you wander the streets, you'll see the Blue Plaque that tells you that Bonnie Prince Charlie (Charles Edward Stuart) once stayed here.  One other thing to note as you stroll around the market square are the old stocks, used to mete out punishments in earlier times.  I can't help but wonder what stories those stocks might tell if they could talk!
It's almost time for lunch, and I need to find some food to eat on the hoof.  Luckily, at one side of the square is an amazing place called Cranstons.  It's the kind of shop that makes [insert name of the posh supermarket you never use] look cheap.  Nevertheless, the produce is sumptuous, and I purchase a slice of smoked bacon and Emmental cheese quiche for lunch and a slice of Ullswater pie for later.
Leaving the heart of the town behind, I head towards the church dedicated to Saint Martin. The church was designed by Philip Speakman Webb (1831 - 1915).  After qualifying and obtaining a post as an assistant architect to George Edmund Street, Webb became acquainted with William Morris.  Webb and Morris continued their friendship, became associates and central to the Arts and Crafts movement and founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in 1877.
Inside, the church is cool and a stunning example of the clean lines and arches of the Arts and Crafts era.  The stained glass windows were designed by Edward Burne-Jones (1833 - 1898), another leading light of the A&C movement and one of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.  I linger longer than intended as the cool air, and the coloured light from the windows are too great a draw for me to leave them just yet.
Eventually, I wander outside and around the exterior of the church.  I step into Church Lane to find a tiny, sunny square edged with old properties.  As I walk back to the main road, I notice a name plaque - Knuckleskuds.  Now that's a name to conjure with…

If you enjoyed this little jaunt, you might also like other #OffMyBeatenTrack posts.
You can find me in Sicily  and  Verona    

I will be #OffMyBeatenTrack in Reiver country again in April - check out my post Here