Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Please welcome...

Beatrice Fishback to my blog this week.  Continuing the theme of murder and mayhem, Beatrice is here to tell us about her forthcoming book and one of the characters who is a real baddy!

Bethel Manor, an inspirational Victorian romance set in the beautiful East Anglian area of Great Britain, offers some lively characters.  Along with the reliable and generous, Fredrick Shaw and his feisty daughter, Clare and the hot-tempered, yet compassionate, Master James Blackwell, there are also vagabonds and thieves.  Simeon Quire plays a secondary role, but thinks he has a major responsibility for the demise of the Blackwell name.  Simeon can be best described as a combination of The Grinch and Scrooge.  He is a mean man who has little sympathy for the poor, yet he goes to great lengths to maintain his reputation as an upstanding citizen.
It appears a parchment recently uncovered in the annals of Ely cathedral’s vast library details Simeon’s plan to destroy the Blackwell family and his reasoning for doing so.  Although the words are barely legible, he pens that his desire to get rid of them is because his previous deceitful and conniving ways of stealing from the coffers were exposed by James Blackwell’s father, Andrew.  Simeon kept detailed records of the monies he pilfered from the church, and the authorities turned a blind eye since he paid them handsomely to stay quiet.
Simeon is an evil man who managed to make Andrew and Elizabeth Blackwell and their two children, James and Grace, flee from Ely in order that they would not be placed in the workhouse in separate quarters.  Further, it was revealed that Andrew and Elizabeth had to give up their son, James to Alpheton orphanage in Bristol since they no longer had enough income to feed a family of four.
Simeon Quire tried to destroy the Blackwells in order to save his own reputation, and the parchment and confession prove it.

Short clip from Bethel Manor:

“It’s time.” Simeon bounded off his chair.  
“I’d hoped to finish this tonight, but I’ll come back in the morning. It shouldn’t take long.” He twisted the knob on the oil lamp to stop the wick from burning and noticed a name under the dimming light. “Wait!”
“I told you one hour. And it’s been longer. At least ten minutes longer. I’m ready to go, so come back again in the morning.” Simeon slipped on his coat and headed toward the door. “You can write down what you need then.”
“The name Blackwell stared at him from the inked paper. “This is extremely important. I must be certain to see this when I return at dawn.”

 About the Author

Beatrice Fishback is a Yankee who has traveled the world as a military spouse and lived in Europe for a total of twenty-years. She is the author of Loving Your Military Man by FamilyLife Publishing and, with her husband Jim, is the co-author of Defending the Military Marriage and Defending the Military Family. She has been published in various compilations, magazines and online websites.
She and her husband have spoken to audiences in the U.S.A, Germany, England, Italy, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Korea, and Japan. They have also presented to international audiences in the Czech Republic, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Zimbabwe, Romania, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Latvia.
Beatrice and Jim currently reside in North Carolina where scones are called biscuits and are topped with gravy, and tea is served over ice.

Bethel Manor is available for pre-order using this link : Amazon Pre-order


Tuesday, 22 March 2016

On things found in showers…

A favourite haunt in Brittany
My morning thus far has been shocking, disconcerting, horrifying and a few other useful words in the same vein.  So I'm writing a letter of complaint to the Mayor.

            Monsieur Le Maire, Je proteste…

I began, but then found I could not continue because my French failed me.  So I decided to continue in English and translate later when I was absolutely certain of my sentiments, comments and helpful suggestions.

            My brother, James, and I have been camping for many years now and I am afraid I have to tell you that, as pleasant as your campsite is, you have the wrong trees.  I appreciate only too well that this will come as a great shock to you as those trees have clearly been there so long that they probably have a preservation order.  They are maple, Monsieur, and therefore completely the wrong trees.  Ask your wife.  Would she hang out washing under maple trees?  Of course she wouldn't.  Who wants to wear clothes reeking of waffles and syrup?

I suggested he replace them with good old English Oak.  I moved onto the more delicate subject of the sanitary block and its inhabitants…I had to scribble this next section in a whisper to save my embarrassment.

Grand Rue
            At 7.37 precisely this morning I walked into the shower block only to find - and I must steel myself to say this, Monsieur - a very large Dutchman in his underpants and slippers getting shaved at a washbasin.  Naturally I averted my eyes and rushed through to my shower - third one on the left.  You really must have a word with that camper's wife.  One, such a sight is quite definitely to be reserved for wives and mistresses; two, she needs to buy better washing powder as those underpants were grey and not the white I always achieve; three, he was of an age to know better, over-confidant and over-my-dead-body as a pin-up.

Of course, that distressing little incident led me onto the plumbing and the…umm unfortunate death that occurred.

            I am very sorry to have to tell you, Monsieur, that your plumbing is positively Napoleonic.  And the noises emanating from the cistern whilst I was showering can only be described as Josephine.  For a single lady of my advancing years such an experience is most unsettling.  May I suggest that you have your plumbing looked at urgently? 

The chateau
            Lastly, I must confess to a very unfortunate death on the campsite.  Having showered, and assured myself that the Dutchman had left I went to the communal washbasins to clean my teeth.  One of your basins was inhabited by an enormous black beetle.  In an effort to put the poor creature out of its misery I put the plug in the sink and switched on the tap in the hope that it would float to the top and walk away.  Meanwhile I used the only other basin available.  When I next looked over to the beetle I found him on his back immobile.  I had mistakenly switched on the hot tap and boiled him.  I do apologise for this terrible error, but you have the taps the wrong way round.  I further suggest your plumber addresses this too.

vos amis Anglais
James et Moi

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Murder and Mayhem at The Tower

Tower of London
This week Jennifer C Wilson pays a visit to my blog to talk about mayhem and murder...

There couldn’t really be a better theme to fit the Tower of London, the location for Kindred Spirits: Tower of London – you can’t think about the place without some grisly end or other coming to mind.  Since starting to research and write about the Tower, I’ve become a bit obsessed with its history.  The executions, of course, don’t technically count as murders, although it could be argued that some, at least, were unjustified. Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, for one: killed out of Henry VIII’s anger at her family, rather than having committed any specific crime.

Now, some would bring up the Princes in the Tower at this point, but being in the camp who sees Richard III as innocent, we’ll not go down that route too far.  But let’s not forget the convenient ‘death’ of Henry VI, the traditional place of his assassination today marked with a plaque set into the floor.  The man accused of his murder?  Um, well, moving on… Nothing to see here!  He’s my leading man after all, and we have to stand by our man, don’t we?

Let’s stick to the mayhem…

For six hundred years, the Tower was home to the Tower Menagerie, with the first royal lion kept there in the early 13th Century.  In 1235, three leopards arrived from the Holy Roman Emperor to Henry III, and in 1251, a polar bear. Plenty of mayhem here, as the beast was regularly allowed to fish in the Thames at the end of a rope.  Crazy then, but imagine if we tried it now.

For a very particular entertainment, you might be lucky enough to be invited to the “annual ceremony of washing the lions”.  Anyone who ever tried to bath a cat probably has a good idea of how well lions would react…  Given our history of animal-based ‘entertainments’, it’s not surprising that some of the Tower Menagerie’s residents took revenge on their human captors.  One unique payback was that of a brown bear in the Martin Tower.  As the story goes, a huge ghostly bear appeared in the Martin Tower, and managed to frighten one of the guards to death.  Other incidents include one of the group of monkeys which lived in the Tower, who “tore a boy’s leg”.  Happily, most of the chaos was of a more innocent nature, with one female leopard pouncing on visitors’ belongings including hats, umbrellas and muffs, before tearing them to shreds.

The Polar Bear

Just spare a thought for the cats and dogs who were taken on a day out to the Tower.  They may have gained their owners free entry, but the pets themselves did not come out of the deal well. Or at all, if truth be told…

In my version of the Tower, following its ghostly residents in their day-to-day ‘lives’, there’s certainly plenty of mayhem, as the Georges cause havoc with their haunting.  Thankfully today, there’s no longer so much of the murder.

About the author...

Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots of childhood holidays (she has since moved on to Richard III). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consultant since graduating.
Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to work on developing her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online.

A King, three Queens, a handful of nobles and a host of former courtiers…
In the Tower of London, the dead outnumber the living, with the likes of Tudor Queens Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard rubbing shoulders with one man who has made his way back from his place of death at Bosworth Field to discover the truth about the disappearance of his famous nephews.
Amidst the chaos of daily life, with political and personal tensions running high, Richard III takes control, as each ghostly resident looks for their own peace in the former palace – where privacy was always a limited luxury.
With so many characters haunting the Tower of London, will they all find the calm they crave? But foremost – will the young Plantagenet Princes join them?

Blog: https://jennifercwilsonwriter.wordpress.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/inkjunkie1984 
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/jennifercwilsonwriter
International Amazon link: http://authl.it/B016TRKU2A
                                  Smashwords link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/586365

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Riverbank and Lemon Juice

River Creuse
We're camped across from Monsieur and Madame Dix-Huit.  They're from Cher, you know, and here for the fishing.  The other day Madame and her keep net, in which were seven fish of varying sizes from miniscule to quite definitely not big enough to eat, presented herself to me.

‘Pour vous,’ she said smiling.  So I got my bucket and tipped them in – all fresh and alive and looking like nothing I have ever seen on my local Fish Market.  I thanked her profusely and then gave them to James to murder.  I can handle most things but I do draw the line at murder.

When quite dead I thought about gutting them and realised that this operation required specialist equipment.  I got one of James’ hankies and sprayed it with perfume and then tied it over my nose.  Well you don’t know what these river fish have been eating – do you?  Then I put on my rubber washing up gloves and proceeded to prepare them whilst my brother went to get some fresh bread and patisserie for lunch.

Another river dweller that was not presented!
‘They’ll taste as muddy as hell,’ he said when he got back.

‘Well we can’t just throw them away.  Monsieur and Madame will be upset.  I shall at least have to cook them,’ I said.

There is no mistaking the smell of frying fish – it was just beginning to waft across the campsite from Madame’s caravan.  Whether we ate the fish or not I knew I had to cook them.  So, hot oil in the pan, floured postage-stamp-sized fillets in as well, and there it was again – that smell.  At least Madame would be pleased, I thought.

Sitting at the table I looked at my fish with absolutely no relish whatsoever.  I seasoned it, added a splash of lemon juice and then pushed it about a bit, decidedly unsure about whether I should eat or not.

James took a mouthful of his and almost immediately retched over the table and frantically started stuffing great chunks of bread into his mouth. Eventually, I summoned up enough courage to try a tiny mouthful.  It tasted of riverbank and had the consistency of thick custard.  I quickly went for the bread option to stop myself retching.  To keep up the pretence of eating I started knifing and forking the fish around the plate.

'You need to do the same,' I said.

‘Why are we whispering, they don’t speak any English?’

'Retching is multi-lingual, James,' I said.  'It doesn't need translation!'

After what I thought was an appropriate amount of time I cleared the plates away and put the fish into an empty carton that I had forgotten to take to the bins after breakfast, put that in a plastic box and put that in James’ bag for life.

Display outside the nearby bakers

'You'll have to make it look like we're going shopping this afternoon so that we can get rid of the evidence,' I said as I put the patisserie and coffee on the table.

Got back yesterday to find a package in the shade of my tent.

'Oh no,' I said.  'That's more fish, James.’

‘Give that to me,' he said.  'They're not here so I'll walk back into town and dump it.'

Later I saw Monsieur and Madame eating their fish.  I nodded and smiled and thanked them again for ours.
‘James,’ I whispered, ‘that fish you threw away today was trout!’

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

An Interview with...

...Pierre Mancelle who lives with his parents in the village of Messandrierre.  Pierre is lucky enough to count Gendarme Jacques Forêt as one of his greatest friends...


AW  Hello Pierre and please thank your maman for agreeing to let you be interviewed today.  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

PM  I'm five and I'm going to be six very soon.

AW  Are you?  Well happy birthday and what are you getting for your birthday?

PM  I want a bike like the one Jean Pamier has, but maman says I'm too young.  But papa says I'm not and anyway, Jean lets me ride his bike, so I already know what to do.  I'm a lot faster than him.

AW  I see. Well I really hope your wish comes true. Do you live here in the village Pierre?

PM  Oh yes in the big house up there.

AW  And what about school?  Do you go to school here in the village too?

PM  No.  There is no school here so I go to Montbel and maman takes me each day and then fetches me back unless she forgets.

AW  Forgets!  I'm sure she doesn't forget.

PM  Oh but I like it when she forgets, then I get a ride on the police motorbike.  I'm a Junior Gendarme.

AW  Are you really?  That must be very important work that you do then?

PM  I patrol the village with Gendarme Forêt and I help him with his work.  He says I'll make a good policeman one day.

AW  And is that what you really want to do?

PM  Yes.  Then I can get to see dead bodies and things and I can arrest people and stop people in their cars and make them pay fines.

AW  I see.  And will you be helping Gendarme Forêt with the mysterious disappearances in the village?

PM  Maman said I'm not allowed to tell you about that.  But she said I can tell you what's going to happen on my birthday.

AW  And what is going to happen?

PM  Maman says I can take some cake to school for the others in my class.  But I will get my presents and all my birthday cards before I go to school and then, on the Saturday after my birthday, maman says Jean and Alain and Thierry and me are all going somewhere special as an extra surprise.

AW  You are very lucky Pierre and I hope you have a wonderful day and thank you for agreeing to let me ask you a lot of questions.  And you can find out what Pierre gets up to in Messandrierre, available using the following links.
Amazon UK
Amazon US