Tuesday, 26 April 2022

Friend and author, Morwenna Blackwood...

...makes a very welcome return to the blog this week.  Hi, Morwenna, thanks for being here and lovely to see you again.  You're latest book was published in February, so tell me more...

MB  Underrated is the third novel in the Glasshouse series.  The novels stand alone as stories, but they are interconnected.  In Underrated, we get Will’s version of events and find out why you should never underestimate a friend...
AW  Thanks Morwenna and here is the opening of the story…


It’s like tinnitus.
The silence with Mum and Dad in the front room is deafening and all-encompassing. Dad’s pretending to read the Sunday paper, and Mum’s pretending to read the magazine that came with it. I’m scanning the free paper for cheap, second-hand cars, but the pressure in the room renders me incapable of it, so instead I stare out of the patio doors at a load of crows that are hopping about on the lawn. There’s that phrase – you could have cut the tension with a knife. In all honesty, I wish one of them would cut the other with a knife – or me, or, better still, darling Dominic – because then it would be over with. The atmosphere in here is so tense that it’s given me a blinding headache. I stand, deciding to retreat up to my cave, and the sudden movement makes the crows take flight. I wish I could just fly away. Why the f do we all go on with this charade?! I can feel myself going mental; at some point I’ll crack and then I’ll take things into my own hands and force a change. Because this is absurd. It’s pathetic. It’s f killing me!
My bedroom – I think of it as my cave – is small; a dark box with a north-facing window. Even though I’m the oldest, I got last pick – or rather no pick – of the bedrooms, but mine does have a built-in wardrobe, so that, apparently, makes everything all right. Anyway, this room is all I’ve got, so it’s my refuge.
Though I want to slam it, I close my door quietly. It doesn’t matter how loud I am – no one notices me, so I don’t bother any more. I stare out of my bedroom window onto what is probably the most uninspiring view known to man: the length of our parquet-paved cul-de-sac, with its widely spaced four-bedroom houses and their uniform lawns that run flat from the house to the kerb. All the front gardens sport the designer slash that the housing developers refer to as ‘landscaping’, which is basically a strip of clay soil planted with hardy shrubs and a rowan sapling that wears a wire mesh dress. Outside every door are the generic pansies and lobelia in pots, in varying states of health. And then there’s the big, posh house – the former show home – at the open end of the cul-de-sac, blocking out the rolling hills and anything else that might be behind it, except the main road that connects our estate to everything and everywhere else in this shitty little town, which is basically nothing and nowhere.
I can hear my younger sister, Sally, in the kitchen; her overbright voice chirping on about biscuits and essays, while she makes another f cup of tea. I want to scream at her to stop it! I grab the nearest sheet of plain A3 to me – I draw a lot, there’s stuff everywhere – and shove it up against the window...

about the book...
 I stand as close as I can to the Liver Building without looking proper weird and tip my head back. My eyes can’t focus properly, but I can make out a turquoise shape right at the top, soI mouth ’iya to Bella. I’m a bit soft on the Liver Birds. They’re 300-odd feet up in the air, so they should be able to see everything, but they’re chained down...
A story of the far-reaching effects of unrequited love and drug (ab)use, Underrated follows five lads who are just trying to make things better for themselves. In Liverpool and on the south Devon coast, their lives entangle as they turn to cocaine.
While some people take drugs to escape their circumstances, others deal drugs to escape theirs. But is escape ever really an option?

about the author... When she was six years old, Morwenna wrote an endless story about a frog, and hasn’t stopped writing since.
She is the author of bestselling noir psychological thrillers, The (D)Evolution of Us and Glasshouse, has an MA in Creative Writing, and can usually be found down by the sea. She often thinks about that frog.

You can get all of Morwenna's books on Amazon

You can follow Morwenna on her Website on Facebook  Twitter and on Instagram

Tuesday, 19 April 2022

Come stroll with me…

…across the river Loire…

I bet that's got you thinking!  I'm not going to attempt to walk on water, I'll just get wet!  But I am going to take you to the lovely town of Briare in central France in the département of Loiret.  With a population of around 6,000 it is a small town with a long history.  It was called Brivodorum when those pesky Romans were here.  As much as I would like to treat you to some of the interesting places in town, what I'm actually here for is an amazing piece of engineering.
Briare sits on the east bank of the Loire which is one of the 5 great fleuves of France, the other four being the Rhine, Rhône, Seine and the Garonne.  It's a pleasant stroll from the centre of town, along rue de St-Firmin to the river and the harbour with moorings for pleasure craft.  If you prefer to ride to the harbour, there is a petit train during the tourist season that will bring you to the same spot.
Once here you cannot escape the spectacle that is the aqueduct that carries the canal latéral à la Loire over the river.
The viaduct was completed in 1896 and replaced an earlier river crossing that could be dangerous during times of flooding.  Made of steel set above masonry abutments and piers, it was formally opened on September 16th, 1896.  At 662 meters - that's 2,172 feet in length if you prefer - it was, until 2003, the longest navigable aqueduct in the world.  At least that's what my guidebook tells me.  Standing here and watching the boats come and go you have to admire the achievement.  And, if there are a few things about the bridge that seem a little familiar, that may be because one of the great and the good who created this piece of engineering was Gustave Eiffel.  Yep, that's him, the man who built the Eiffel tower and quite a few other bits of metal in and around France before he died in 1923 at the age of 91.  Eiffel founded his construction company 1866, which still exists today and has been involved in massive projects such as the Millau viaduct (2002) and the Normandy Bridge (1995).  And what is it that might seem so familiar?  The ornamental columns that mark each end of the crossing echo the pillars of the Pont Alexandre III in Paris.
To give you some idea of the enormity of the task to create the aqueduct, the channel is 2.2 meters deep, that's just over 7 feet.  It carries about 13,000 tonnes of water and has 8 sluices which means it can be completely emptied if necessary - not sure I'd want to be here when they did that!.  Now, I'm one of those people who is not that good with numbers or abstract measurements of space.  So, a metric tonne, kind of means nothing to me.  I need to drill it down to something I can visualise.  If all that 13,000 metric tonnes of water water were converted into bottles of wine, it would come to 17,334… And, when you come to think about it, that's one seriously large shed-load of wine!

If you want to read about more about my travels in France, you may wish to join me in Falaise   Bar-sur-Seine  or in the  Cévennes 

Tuesday, 12 April 2022

Off my Beaten Track in Reiver country…

…again.  In February I took you to Brampton, so join me today as I take a stroll along Hadrian's Wall and visit Vindolanda.  I'm doing all things Roman for a change…

Friday, 17th

From my base at Clarks Hill Farm it's a short drive to the Wall.  No, not the Wall of George R R Martin's imagination, but the real stone wall of Emperor Hadrian.  Born in Spain in 76AD, he became Emperor at the age of 41 in 117 and he remained in power until his death at the age of 62 in July 138.  He was responsible for a number of building projects and various military victories during his lifetime, but the one thing I want to see today is his wall.

Stretching 73 miles, from coast to coast, it was built to keep out the marauding barbarians from the north and to protect the most northern frontier of the Roman Empire.  The wall took about six years to build and is thought to have been constructed between 122 and 128.  Built of stone and wood it was constructed by skilled Roman soldiers and local auxiliaries recruited along the way.  It was common in the Roman army to use men who had a secondary skill, and when you consider that being in the army got you regular pay and vittles, it's not so surprising that the Roman army was probably one of the very first ethnically diverse organisations.  I have to wonder if they had HR targets to meet or had to complete ethnicity questionnaires every so often…
There is a footpath that follows the route of the wall and as you follow it you see that there are regular forts every mile or so.  This was a vast project undertaken at a time when there was only man-, horse- and oxen-power available.  I guess you have to give the army something to do once it's done all its conquering!
Lunch today is beside the wall.  If you read my last post (check it out Here) you'll remember I found a fabulous shop in Brampton.  Yep, I couldn't resist going back and today the food on the hoof is another slice of Ullswater pie.  Scrumptious!
Lunch over and it's a short trip down the road to Vindolanda.  This is a working archaeological site.  It was originally an auxiliary fort and excavations thus far indicate that it was under Roman occupation from 85 AD until 370 AD and during that time it was subject to various changes, rebuilds and new additions.  I have a guided tour booked and for an hour I find myself subsumed into a life of roman work, rest and play.  As I follow my guide I'm very much aware that the feet of Roman legionaries have traversed the paths I'm following.
The site has been under excavation since the 1930's and there's a vast quantity of artefacts that have been uncovered - from tiny shards of pottery to complete pieces of footware, jewellery and much, much more.  My guide tells me about the excavation of the ancient local rubbish dump.  It was here that in the 1970's one of the most valuable finds was made - vast quantities of the remnants of wafer thin wooden tablets that had been inscribed with carbon-based inks.  They all date to the 1st and 2nd centuries and record the communications of those living at the fort.  You read about someone being invited to a party or a soldier's request for more supplies.  There are military matters discussed on some of the tablets and there are just the general day-to-day notes passed between friends, family, employees and others.  I guess when you can't text or email, you just have to write, don't you?  The tablets are housed at the British Museum in London, but there is a fascinating selection here at Vindolanda.
After a long day, I make my way back to my campsite.  I know there is something just as interesting waiting for me there.  In life, there are some things that are completely free; you just have to be there to see them.  I know that there will be another fabulous sunset this evening and I will be out there with my camera to capture it.

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

Tuesday, 5 April 2022

Please welcome, friend and author, Katie Loveley...

...to the blog this week.  Hello Katie, (real name, Alyson), and thanks for making time to be here today.  So, tell me all about your latest book?
KLL  My current release is another social drama which raises awareness of current issues within our society.  I am very excited about this, my third contemporary fiction novel and sincerely hope that the readers enjoy this story of Willow and Gabriel, a young couple whose lives take a very different path from what the reader might expect.  The book will be published on April 29th and is available for pre-order Here
AW   What first got you into writing and why?
KLL  Writing is in my blood.  It is in my DNA.  I have always felt driven to put pen to paper on a daily basis since I learned to write.  I clearly remember my early days in infant school when I was taught the magic of putting my thoughts into words.  As I got older, I progressed from writing in my diary to writing in a journal, to date I have diaries and journals spanning sixty-one years.
As I left childhood behind, my love of reading and writing did not wane.  My work as an NHS nurse in primary care put me in close contact with the public and the many health and social problems encountered.  Many of these issues I felt could be fictionalized and written in a way that could reflect how life can sometimes run out of control even for people who could be considered strong minded and in control of their lives.
AW   You write issue-driven contemporary fiction.  Is it all imagination or do you also do research?
KLL  I was in a good position to research public health statistics and outcomes which helped me to decide the social and medical issues I wished to fictionalize, in addition I met many patients who led very interesting lives and shared their stories with me.  The characters in my social drama series are all from my imagination and from my observation of other people.
I’m often asked ‘how much of the stories came from my own life?’  The answer is thankfully, not much, but that does not mean that I have not used and exaggerated some of my own experiences and observations.
AW  And what about other types of writing?  Have you dabbled with other genres, short stories or poetry?
Yes is the answer to all three genres.  I truly enjoy writing poetry and do so on a regular basis.  I find that writing poetry gives me an emotional release.  I have written many poems, a few of which are published in my collection of illustrated poetry titled Chameleon Days.  This is also available as audio, which was quite an experience I can tell you.
I have written short stories for the occasional competition and magazine but prefer novels.
Under a different pen-name I have written a collection of illustrated children’s books based on the amusing antics of my hens.  Titled ‘Morning Mystery’ from the Coop Chaos series, this is aimed at the age range two to six years.
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?
KLL  My special place for writing is on our wonderful narrowboat that is moored in Mercia Marina South Derbyshire.
AW    And finally, what do you think your eight-year-old self would think and say about you and what you have achieved today?
  A very good question Angela, one that I have recently considered during my voluntary work as a school reader at the very same primary school that I attended as an eight-year-old.
While helping the teachers with literacy lessons (which have become so important since lockdown created a huge drop-in writing and reading competencies) I have reflected on myself at their age.
I clearly remember how much I enjoyed primary school.  My favourite place was the library which to me was the most magical of places.  The year I turned eight was 1961.  The swinging sixties around the corner and the year that the farthing coin was removed from circulation.
More importantly, it was the year that the first man went into space.  This was a hot topic at school for me and for my imagination.
Coming from a working class background the very idea that one day I would become a published author would have been beyond my wildest dreams, despite the fact that I was already writing on a daily basis in my treasured lock up diary and writing short stories.
Back then authors were put on a pedestal by me, I would have considered them like a celebrity, or someone to be revered.
If I was to turn back the hands of time and tell little Alyson that one day, she would be an author, I guess she would smile and say ‘well I was named after a children’s author called Alison Uttley.  Although my father decided to spell it with a Y.

about the book…
Nature lover, Willow embraces life to its 
fullest potential.  After all, she is living her life as two people.  When her identical twin sister, Molly, sadly dies a short time after birth, Willow carries with her the memory of sharing the same beginnings of life.
When Willow becomes a mother, the voice of Molly begins to drown out all sense of reality, as post-natal depression takes over her every thought.
Gabriel is a third-year medical student when he begins a relationship with Willow. Coming from a very different background of pious parents, he hides his own secret.  This is a secret that eventually has far-reaching consequences.
Gabriel is not the only one with a long-hidden secret.  His parents have a lot to answer for and are the driving force behind the events that unfold in his life.

Union Blues is available for pre-order Here

You can get all of Katie's books, in print or e-format, on Amazon and you can follow her on Facebook and on Twitter