Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Please welcome, friend and author...

... Stephanie Cage, who is returning to my page to talk about the serialisation of her latest story on her own blog...
AW  You say The Crash is going to be a difficult fit for a standard publisher - is that your only reason for serialising this story on your blog?
SC  It’s the reason I haven’t tried to publish The Crash sooner.  I couldn’t work out how to pitch a book which one friend describes as belonging to the category of “novels about bosses you love to hate”.  That’s a pretty narrow category!
I tend to think of The Crash as belonging to the category of ‘didactic novels’, which get a bad press nowadays, but which I’m quite fond of reading. Apart from being partly inspired by Dickens, it also came out of my experience in business. I’d helped to write some books and reports about Internal Communications, and around that time I also read Eliyahu Goldratt’s The Goal, which tries to teach business theory through a story, and I thought it would be fun to dramatise some of the lessons I’d learned during my research.
AW  Goldratt’s The Goal, great book and I’ve used the principles in there many times, myself.  But, I’m interrupting…
SC  I wrote the novel quite quickly as a NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge, and then I put it away because I couldn’t imagine what I’d do with it.  But friends who’d read snippets kept asking me about the rest of Jason’s story, so in the end I decided I needed to put it out there, one way or another.  Blogging it seems like a good way of doing that, as it means I can keep making changes as I go, and test out readers’ reactions.  It’s all a bit of an experiment really, but at the end I do plan to turn it into a book and e-book as well – if only so I can give my Mum a copy as she’s a bit of a Jason fan!  I’ve got as far as having a cover designed now, so keep reading to get a sneak preview of what the finished book will look like.

AW  Dickens did it, Collins did it, as have many other authors, so serialising a book has a long and well established history.  Is it now a bit old hat, do you think?
SC  I have to admit that Dickens was part of the inspiration for this story, but of course the tradition of serialising stories goes back a lot further.  In particular, Scheherazade comes to mind.  She certainly grasped the power of suspense and the need to keep an audience hanging so that they’ll come back.  Writers of soap operas and other TV dramas continue to use the same techniques today and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.  As long as people value stories and want answers to the question ‘what happens next?’ then the serial will continue to thrive – what changes is not the structure but the content and the presentation of the stories.
Scheherazade, from my C19th
edition of The Arabian Nights 
For example, in the time I’ve been writing, e-books have gone from a puzzling novelty to part of the mainstream, a change which has affected readers and writers in all kinds of ways.  One effect I’ve noticed is that electronic publishing has removed the economic and practical restrictions on the sizes of books so it’s now easy to get hold of anything from short stories and novellas that can be read in a single sitting to vast tomes (often, but not always, in the sci-fi and fantasy arena) that would have been unpublishable a few years ago.  I think e-books make experimentation a lot easier, but ultimately, it’s hard to come up with anything entirely new when it comes to stories, because they’re so much a part of human nature and so ingrained in us.

AW  You introduced your central character to us here on my blog in September last year and I re-ran the post, how has he developed and/or changed since then?
SC  That’s an interesting question as character development is a major theme of the story, but actually Jason arrived in my head pretty much fully formed and has changed very little.  The changes I want to make to the story are less about him, and more about the detail of the events that occur later on in the story.  I haven’t made many changes to the chapters I’ve published so far, but as the story goes on I’m aware that there are things I want to tweak, so it’s likely that towards the end I’ll have to do some work to stay ahead of my weekly publishing schedule.  It’s a good thing I enjoy a challenge almost as much as Jason does!

AW  Can you share a little outline of the whole story with us or are you going to keep us all on tenterhooks from week to week?
SC  Well, I’ve already mentioned that the story was partly inspired by Dickens’ Christmas Carol so I don’t suppose it will surprise you to hear that some events will take place which cause Jason to rethink his attitudes.  He doesn’t get any visits from the ghosts of business past, present or future, though – Jason’s comeuppance is much more of his own making.  As far as the details go, you’ll have to wait and see.  

AW  Lastly, Stephanie, with your romances in e-form and print, I know you've dabbled with Sci Fi, you like Fantasy and you are starting to look at crime as a genre in which to write.  What would your eight-year-old self, make of you today?
SC  I guess my eight-year-old self might have been a little disappointed – I think I was about eight when I decided that my life’s ambition was to win the Booker prize, and I certainly haven’t done that!  In some ways, my aims have changed a lot, in other ways not so much.  At eight I knew I wanted to write good books, but I hadn’t yet given a lot of thought to what that might look like, so I seized on something that sounded impressive, and involved going to a televised awards dinner and wearing a pretty frock.
Although I loved studying literary fiction (I have a degree in English Literature from Trinity College, Oxford), after a few years in the working world I realised that I wanted to write books that more people would read, and that wouldn’t be too taxing to settle down with after a hard day at the office, so I switched to writing romance. 
I’ve been lucky enough to be published by two fantastic companies, The Wild Rose Press (who published Desperate Bid, The Santa Next Door and Djinn and Tonic) and Crimson Romance (who published Perfect Partners and the fairy tale anthology Modern Magic, in which my Goldilocks retelling appears).  I’ve also made some great friends through the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA), which hosts excellent awards dinners – posh frocks and all – but I’ve always read widely and ultimately, I didn’t want to be tied to just one genre, so I’ve been experimenting with others. 
You could say that with crime I’ve come full circle, as another of my passions aged about eight was Enid Blyton’s stories, particularly the Famous Five and the Castle of Adventure series.  I’ve also always been a sucker for moral tales (What Katy Did, Little Women and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series all made strong impressions on me, and I feel that each of those is very much a story with a message) so in a sense The Crash also has its roots in my eight-year-old interests too.

And now here’s the cover I promised to show you as a reward for reading this far.  If you have a moment, I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below! 

You can catch up on The Crash on Stephanie's Blog

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Friend and author, Ailsa Abraham, requires...

… your attention, please...

AW  Thanks for dropping by, Ailsa, it’s nice to catch up with you again.  I believe you have a new book out, actually released on Friday.  Tell me more.
AA  Thank you for inviting me.  My new book is a departure from my previous series in magical realism.  Here I take off on a murder mystery.
AW  Mmm, that is different. Can you tell me why?
AA   Erm... limited attention span?  Love of variety?  But as you said ‘Attention to Death’ was released on 10th March and you can find it here on Amazon using this universal link  http://mybook.to/AttentionDeath  I’m also very pleased to say that it has received some fabulous comment already :

"In Attention to Death, Ailsa Abraham pulls off something I wouldn't have thought possible - a steamy romance with a twist of murder and a splash of social conscience. A remarkable book that will have you turning pages as quickly as you can to find out what happens next."
~ India Drummond, author of the Caledonia Fae series

AW  Praise indeed, well done.  Can you give us some idea of what the story is about?
AA   Here’s the blurb.

Finding a murderer among a group of killers is not going to be easy for two Royal Army Military Police investigators, Captain Angus Simpson and Staff-Sergeant Rafael ‘Raff’ Landen, whose Christmas leave is cancelled for an investigation into a suspicious death on a base in Germany.
The case is further complicated by unhelpful senior officers who make pre-judgements on colour, creed, race and sexuality. Yet the insight of the investigators helps them uncover a sinister plot, although they too have something to hide: their own fledgling relationship.
Will Angus and Raff be able to solve the murder without giving away their secret?
The best and worst of human nature is represented in this story, which is why it is suggested for over 18s only.

AW  That must have taken a lot of research.
AA  I delved into my past life as an officer in the Royal Air Force and my lifelong friendships with gay men to research this book.  Coming right after LGBT History Month in February, it highlights the problems that men who have to be “in the closet” and the sort of bigotry that causes people to refuse to read a book just because there are gay characters in it, although this doesn't stop them leaving reviews.  Me? I've never been too sure.  I'm gender-neutral which is why the first thing I wonder on meeting new people isn't “What do they do in their bedrooms?”
Read it for yourself and decide.  Is it an honest portrayal of two men doing their job who just happen to have started an affair?

About the author… Ailsa Abraham is the author of six novels.  Alchemy is the prequel to Shaman's Drum, published by Crooked Cat in January 2014.  Both are best-sellers in their genres on Amazon.  She also writes mystery romance.
She has lived in France since 1990 and is now naturalized French.  She enjoys knitting and crochet and until recently was the oldest Hell's Angel in town.  Her interests include campaigning for animal rights, experimenting with different genres of writing and trips back to the UK to visit friends and family.  She is also addicted to dressing up, saying that she is old enough to know better but too wise to care and pirate gear is her favourite!

You can follow Ailsa on Twitter  Facebook  Website  and  LinkedIn

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Please welcome, author, voice actor and pianist...

...Maria Corley to my blog.  Thanks for dropping by and I know how busy you are so let's get straight to those questions...
Maria's current book
AW  What is your current release?
MC  Letting Go. There's also a CD, Music from Letting Go, featuring my performances of the music referenced in the novel, prefaced by me reading the passages in question.  I have a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in piano performance from Juilliard, and I'm also a professional voice actor.  Both are available on Amazon  Smashwords and the CD here Music from Letting Go

AW  What first got you into writing and why?
MC  I'm an introvert, and writing was always easier for me than speaking.  I've overcome that, but I still feel like I delve deeper in writing.  It's my way of processing reality, and creating alternate, interesting realities. I really like to explore people's emotions, particularly the messy ones.

AW  You write Contemporary novels.   Is it all imagination or do you also undertake research?
MC  I do research and draw from my experience, along with using my imagination.  I don't think you can create a realistic imaginary person without researching, even if that means paying close attention to how people—including I, myself--behave.
I deleted romances, although my books tend to have male/female relationships at their centre.  I'm not devoted to the idea of happily ever after, though I do like a positive spin at the end; real emotional and mental growth qualifies.
I'm just beginning to work on a book that is taking much more research.  The protagonist is a famous animal, so I have to learn about her world.  I'm excited about getting time to write this story, although having to stay somewhat closer to actual events means the project will take longer to complete.
Maria relaxing at home

AW  And what about other types of writing?  Have you ever dabbled with short stories, for instance, or other genres?
MC  I want to write a short story because I think it would be a good way to improve my skills.  I'm naturally very long-winded!  Or maybe I should say, given to detail. :)
I wrote poems until junior high, then stopped.  Last summer, I joined an online writing group that was full of poets, so I tried my hand again.  Two of my poems got a lot of attention, which was a big shock.  One was about my son, who is autistic.  I ended up presenting that at a national autism conference.  The other was a short love poem which came second in a contest and got published in a magazine.  I keep saying I'll try writing more poems—my focus on doing so lasted maybe two months—but it's tough to find the time.  Actually, that's my theme song!

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?
MC  Nope.  Most of it takes place at my kitchen table, but I'll write anywhere I can take a laptop.  On airplanes, during my son's appointments and activities, in bed...if I needed particular surroundings, I'd be in trouble.
Maria on stage

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?
MC  Wow, a whole afternoon to myself with no pressing projects?  Let me wrap my head around that for a moment!  I hate to be cliché, but I'd talk to my dad.  And my brother.  I'd ask them about the other side.  I'd also really, really love to spend some time with Prince.  Maybe we wouldn't talk much—maybe we'd just jam.  And if MJ (Michael Jackson) and Whitney (Houston) were around, so much the better.  And I'd invite Jimi Hendrix.  And Bob Marley.  And Nat King Cole.  And Amy Winehouse. And...I could go on forever!
If I could hang out with any living people, I would definitely call up the Obamas.

MC  Thanks so much for this!
AW  It's been an absolute pleasure, Maria, and best of luck with the book. You can follow Maria here Maria's website

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Friend and author, Stephanie Cage.. .

Author, Stephanie Cage
...introduced her character, Jason Jackson-Jones to the world here on my blog in September. Her story, 'The Crash' is now being serialised on her blog and I thought you might like to get to catch up with him again...

SC  Hi, Jason, thanks for allowing me to visit you here at Triple-J.  What should we know about you?
JJJ  I’m Jason Jackson-Jones.  At school I got the nickname Triple-J, so when I started my own company, the name was an easy choice.  I own and manage Triple-J Autos, the most profitable car parts manufacturer in Sheffield.  I’m the president and a founder member of the Association of Car Parts Manufacturers.

SC  I guess you must be very proud of that achievement.  I see your membership certificate there, above your desk, and a photo of you being invested as president.  But all that is your professional biography.  What about the ‘real’ you?
JJJ  That is the real me.

SC  OK, I’ll rephrase the question.  What about your personal life? 
JJJ  I’m married and I live in the Peak District with my wife and teenaged daughter. 
SC  That’s it?
JJJ  That’s it.  I like to keep my private life private. 

SC  Okay, let’s get back to work, then.  You have been likened to Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.  What do you have to say to that?
JJJ  I take it as a compliment.  Scrooge was a practical man.  He was all about making money and that’s what a business is for.  Of course, he changed when those ghosts came along, but I don’t believe in the supernatural.  If you can’t see it, measure it and put a price tag on it, it doesn’t exist.  So don’t expect any changes around here. 

A view of the Peak District
SC  We’ll see about that.  I hear there’s a big change coming up at Triple J Autos.
JJJ  What do you mean?
SC  I’ve heard your PA, who’s been with you since you founded the company, just quit. 
JJJ  That’s hardly a big change.  Support staff are ten a penny.  I’ve already got a call in to the agency now for a new girl.  In fact, there’s the door buzzer now.  It might be her, or my new engineering manager.  No rest for the wicked.  I’d best get back to work now.  The receptionist will see you out. 

SC  Thanks for agreeing to see me today.  I know you’re a very busy man, but just before I go, do you have any comment on the other rumour?
JJJ  Which other rumour?
SC  The rumour that Triple-J has been cutting corners to save money and manufacturing substandard parts.
JJJ  Have you been talking to that evil journalist?  His entire purpose in life is to undermine legitimate business owners.  He’s just jealous of my success and wants to put a spanner in the works for me.  Let me say again, everything’s going on exactly as usual at Triple-J, and will be for a long time to come. 

SC  OK, Jason, you carry on believing that.  As author, of course, I know what’s coming for you, whereas you’ll just have to wait and find out, along with my readers, when ‘The Crash’ is released!

About the Author… Stephanie began writing at an early age, and her first published short story appeared in a local newspaper while she was studying for her A-Levels.  She earned a degree in English Literature from Oxford University and then gained experience as a business writer while working for a communications consultancy in Berkshire.  After studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, she moved to Yorkshire, where she lives with her husband and a rather large collection of books.  She now works in business administration and writes mainly romantic fiction.  The Crash is a contemporary fable, inspired by Charles Dickens (as mentioned above), as well as the likes of Mitch Albom and Cecilia Ahern.
Follow Stephanie...   Stephanie Cage Author  Facebook  Stephanie's Blog  Twitter

And Stephanie will be making a return visit to my blog on March 21st, be there!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

I'm reviewing 'The Dogs and the Wolves'...

... by Irène Némirovsky

The story begins in the Jewish quarter of a city in the Ukraine in the early years of the twentieth century and then moves to Paris in the twenties and finally, to eastern Europe on the brink of war.

Ada Sinner is a small Jewish girl who is born into a poor family who are living in a ghetto and scratching an existence together by whatever means they can.  Ada’s mother is dead and when her Aunt comes to live with the family and brings her son Ben and daughter Lilla, Ada finds herself totally displaced in her own home.

It being Russia, these people are maligned and discriminated against and in trying to escape a pogrom and charging Cossacks on horseback in the streets Ada and her cousin Ben find their rich relatives house on the opposite side of town and are taken in.  The rich Sinners are snide and patronising and out of duty rather than genuine concern for their less fortunate cousins they clean up and feed the two children and then send them packing.  But Ada has now met her rich cousin Harry and begins the long and difficult quest to win him and marry him.

In Paris, Harry is now married to the daughter of a rick banker, Ada is married to her poor cousin Ben – it’s a marriage of convenience - and working as an artist.  Ben is working as an agent for the international bank that Harry will inherit from his elderly father and uncle.  Ada begins to draw Harry towards her and to come between him and his wife.  Ben sees what is happening and seeks his own revenge.

Avenue des Champs Élysées 
The title is interesting in that it echoes a French saying – entre chien et loup.  Translating literally to ‘between a dog and a wolf’ but meaning dusk – the time of half-light when it is difficult to distinguish between similar shapes.  In addition, dogs and wolves are from the same genus of animal, one domesticated the other not.  The Sinner family have two halves, the rich half and the poor.  There is no appropriate equivalent expression in English for ‘entre chien et loup’, unless you want to use ‘between a rock and a hard place’.  But, for me, that does not convey the underlying sinisterness of the French expression.  And that sinisterness is a theme that emanates throughout the whole story.  Nothing is quite what it seems and happiness is caught between the light and the dark.

Némirovsky’s own life was tragic. Born in Kiev in 1903 to reasonably wealthy parents, she and her family fled Russia at the end of the 1914/18 war.  Settling at first in Paris, she lived and worked as a writer.  ‘The Dogs and the Wolves’ was published in France in 1940, a few months before the occupation of the country and the subsequent creation of the Vichy government.  Occupied Paris was very different and Irène and her family moved to rural France.  She was subsequently interned and died in Auschwitz in 1942, along with so many others.  An incredible talent that was cut short way too soon.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

An interview with…

Gendarme Jacques Forêt from the village of Messandrierre.

AW  Hello Jacques and welcome to my blog.  Would you like to tell us a little about yourself and your family?
The Seine, central Paris
JF  There’s not that much to tell.  I was born in Paris.  My father worked at a large printing firm and my mother trained as a teacher.  I grew up in Paris with my sister Thérèse.  She’s married now and has two sons.  I joined the police in Paris and worked in investigation until I came to Messandrierre.

AW  So why did you leave your job in investigation in Paris?  Surely the pay must have been a lot better and why choose Messandrierre - it's a long way from home and very small?
JF  Yes, the village is a long way from home and I do miss my sister and the boys and papa.  I needed to recover from a serious injury.  Police work can be dangerous, you know, especially on some of the investigations I handled whilst in Paris.  It was Vuillard, my old boss, who suggested this area as a good place to work and Messandrierre needed a new policeman.  Everything just seemed to fit into place at the time.

AW  And how is the work here in comparison with Paris Jacques?
JF  Slow.  Very slow.  It's a very different kind of work, but there is less stress.  However, there is not quite so much enjoyment, in the same way that there used to be when I knew I had to resolve a complex case.

AW  And the serious injury you sustained.  Are you able to tell us anything about that?
JF  Not really.  It was a gunshot wound and I was on duty at the time, which is why I can't really say much about the circumstances.  The case still has not been fully resolved and there are no convictions yet.  Afterwards I needed some time to recuperate and it caused me to think very seriously about my role in investigation.

AW  It can’t have been easy coming from Paris to a tiny mountain village, Jacques.  How did you find the transition?
Lac Charpal
 JF  The villagers are very nice people…but it’s true, they all kept their distance to begin with.  I think, I hope, I haven’t made any enemies whilst I’ve been here because all I want is to do a good job and to keep everyone safe.  Yes, I have differences of opinion with some of the Farmers but that's it, really.  They have their faults.  We all do.  I think you have to take the time to get to know people and I know I have gained their trust now, but I think, deep down, I will always be the Policeman from Paris to them.

AW  You say you miss your family and your nephews…do you have any plans for a family of your own at some point in the future?
JF  Hmm...that’s a difficult question.  I would like to have someone to share my life with and I would like a son of my own…but…

AW  Are you saying there is no one in your life at the moment Jacques?
JF  Not exactly.  Just that it’s complicated.  I met Beth for the first time a year ago and I don't know if she will be back this summer or not.  But I hope so.

Eiffel Tower, Paris
AW  OK, my last question Jacques.  If you could bring one thing to Messandrierre from Paris what would it be?
JF  Le Tour Eiffel!!  It's a magnificent structure and when I was a child my papa told me that if I wanted to be a policeman I would have to grow as tall as the tower!  I haven't, of course, but I could see it in the distance from my bedroom window as I was growing up.

Thank you Jacques.  You can read more about Jacques’ life in the village in the novel ‘Messandrierre’, published by Crooked Cat Books and available as a paperback or in e-format using this link : http://authl.it/4ws

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Happy Valentine’s Day…

… and I have some of my favourite romantic pieces for you…

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
W B Yeats

Love has had his way with me.
This my heart is torn and maimed
Since he took his play with me.
Cruel-well the bow-boy aimed,

Shot, and saw the feathered shaft
Dripping bright and bitter red.
He that shrugged his wings and laughed-
Better had he left me dead.
Dorothy Parker

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
                                                                    Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
                                                                    Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade
                                                                   When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st.
                                                                   So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
                                                                   So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
                                                            William Shakespeare

Absent from you – absent from sight and sound – 
Clouds are but clouds and the ground is only ground;
Say you that birds yet sing? Or that the heart is boundless?
Mervyn Peake