Guest Post by Angela Wren – The Cévennes As A Setting

Location, location, location.  Despite having done a fair bit of travelling in my time, I set my novels in my native Hampshire.  Today  I am joined by fellow Crooked Cat author Angela Wren who talks about why she chose a French setting for the location of her novels.

Hi Rosie, and thanks very much for inviting me onto your blog.

I’ve been spending time in France since I was a teenager and I still find the country fascinating and I never seem to stop learning new things about the history and the culture.  But there’s also the geography too.

Today, I want to take you and your readers  to one of my favourite places, the Cévennes, an upland area in south central France.  Look at a modern map of France and you’ll see the Cévennes is now defined as a national park that covers parts of 4 départements – Ardèche, Gard, Hérault, and Lozère.  It spreads south and west below the route nationale RN88, a major thoroughfare that crosses this upland area from Lyon heading southwest.  It’s an area I’ve visited many times and there’s a wild ruggedness and a silence there I can’t seem to find anywhere else.

When I visit, I like to be in a tiny village that sits just north of the national park in col de la Pierre Plantée (planted rock).  So called because of that vast grey rocks strewn across the open pasture areas as though they are growing out of the landscape.  Apparently they warrant the technical term of ‘glacial erratics’, having been deposited millions of year ago as the ice sheets retreated.

At an altitude of 1263 metres (that’s 4,144 feet above sea-level), it’s a bit like living close to the summit of Ben Nevis (4,413 ft), but with better weather in summer.  Come here in June and the pastures are pear-green, the pines are inky-green in colour with the pale yellow pollen from the cones drifting on the gentle breeze.  The leaves of the chestnut trees are the same lush shade of green as shamrock, and, amidst the green expanse sit clumps of sunshine yellow genêt (botanical name Genista) almost competing for a right to grow amongst the planted rocks.

 

Having said that, the weather can be extreme and it can change in a moment.  When I was there a couple of years ago, it last snowed on May 31st.  In July and August the weather can be hot and dry and the grass turns a straw yellow under the baking sun.  In September the balmy breeze returns but so can the rain, bringing with it vast storms and floods.  I remember watching the sky in 1992 as a storm devastated the whole area and forced a national emergency to be declared.  That year it was rain, but sometimes it can be snow if the wind is coming from the right direction – as it was overnight on September 27th in 2007.  I woke up the next morning to a silent and white mountainous landscape and, after taking in the view, my thoughts turned to murder and how easy it would be to use snow in a place like the Cévennes to cover someone’s misdeeds.

From that single thought my stories for my hero, Jacques Forêt, were born and the location?  Well, that was a given.

Blurb

A clear-cut case?

A re-examination of a closed police case brings investigator, Jacques Forêt, up against an old adversary. After the murder of a key witness, Jacques finds himself, and his team, being pursued.

When a vital piece of evidence throws a completely different light on Jacques’ case, his adversary becomes more aggressive, and Investigating Magistrate Pelletier threatens to sequester all of Jacques papers and shut down the investigation.

Can Jacques find all the answers before Pelletier steps in?

Bio

Having followed a career in Project and Business Change Management, I now work as an Actor and Director at a local theatre.  I’ve been writing, in a serious way, since 2010.  My work in project management has always involved drafting, so writing, in its various forms, has been a significant feature throughout my adult life.

I particularly enjoy the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work.  My short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical.  I also write comic flash-fiction and have drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio.  The majority of my stories are set in France where I like to spend as much time as possible each year.

Links

Amazon : AngelaWren

Website : www.angelawren.co.uk

Blog : www.jamesetmoi.blogspot.com

Facebook : Angela Wren

Goodreads : Angela Wren

Contact an author : Angela Wren

Angela’s Books

MontbelJacques Forêt Mystery #03
MerleJacques Forêt Mystery #02
MessandrierreJacques Forêt Mystery #01
Miss Moonshine’s Emporium of Happy Endings An anthology of feel-good stories

Thank you Angela for giving us an insight into the corner of France that turned your mind to murder!

 

All At Sea

I’ve learned over the last few months that writing a book is the easy bit.  Launching, marketing, that’s the hard, stressful stuff and I’ll admit I am feeling slightly out of my depth.  When I first started ‘writing’, I wrote travel blogs. So in an attempt to get my mojo back, here’s a little piece about our recent Baltic cruise.

Although travel is my thing, cruising isn’t. I like to think I’m a feisty, independent explorer, but sometimes a bargain is too good to miss and cruising is a good way to see a lot of places in a short space of time. Our first port of call was Copenhagen, a beautiful city we’d always intended to visit while we were living nearby in the Netherlands but never quite got round to.

After Denmark, it was onwards to Finland – fulfilling a childhood dream to see the home of the Moomins. I learned to read on the Tove Jansson books so discovering the existence of Moomin Cafés was a bit of a personal treat. It was very bleak in Helsinki the day we visited and very easy to see why Moomintroll and his family hibernated every winter.

After Helsinki the weather picked up again and we travelled on to the highlight of the cruise – St Petersburg. St Petersburg in Russia has long been on my list of must-see destinations.  Home of the Russian royals, my imagination was captured as a teenager by the story of the Romanovs and their tragic demise. And now that I’ve visited just one of their many palaces, it’s really not that hard to see why the last Tzar and his family lost their lives. I’ve read a little bit about the Russian revolution, but nothing prepared me for the complete OTT opulence of The Winter Palace in St Petersburg. If you like your gold bling, and over 22 km of corridors to keep all your knick-knacks in, then this is the palace for you. No wonder the starving peasants were a bit upset by the extravagance.  The Russian Tzars like to collect things, from ancient Egyptian artefacts to Rembrandt paintings.  It’s all a bit much to take in, to be honest, and someone has now worked out that if you spent just sixty seconds looking at every exhibit in the Hermitage museum, you’d need eight years to complete your tour. We had just over two hours on our whistle stop expedition and it was exhausting.

From Russia to Estonia and Tallin – a charming medieval town of cobbled streets, castles and gabled houses.  

And after Tallin, Riga in Latvia, an unexpected gem. Riga was a revelation with its art nouveau architecture and massive indoor food market housed in former Zeppelin sheds.

After Riga it was onwards to Kiel in Germany, a stopping off point for shore excursions to Hamburg. Kiel itself was wet and uninspiring and as we didn’t want to go to Hamburg we took a local bus to view the workings of the Kiel canal – the world’s first man-made waterway which connects to the Baltic to the North Sea. If you’re into industrial-sized lock gates you’d be in industrial-sized-lock gate heaven in Kiel. If you’re not, enough said.

Our final stop was tiny port of Skagen at the very northern tip of Denmark. It’s the Danish equivalent of  John O’Groats and the country’s top tourist attraction. Here you can stand with one foot in the chilly North sea and the other in the equally freezing waters of the Baltic; the tides collide with some ferocity and its quite spectacular to see. Skagen was an attractive little town with arty boutiques and shops selling puffer-jacket style onesies.  Like the Moomins, the population of Skagen hibernate in winter – or at least move south.

And so the cruise came to an end and we returned to Southampton – and the scales. There’s nothing like a cruise to provide inspiration for a huge menagerie of new characters, or to make you appreciate your relative youth, and your good health. Just because the food is available 24/7 you don’t have to eat it – but plenty of people do. The diet begins tomorrow.

 

GUEST POST – ISABELLA MAY

Today, I am joined by fellow Crooked Cat Author Isabella May.  I thoroughly enjoyed Isabella’s first two books, Oh! What a Pavlova and The Cocktail Bar and I am very much looking forward to hearing all about her next novel. Who wouldn’t be tempted by this gorgeous cover?

COSTA DEL CHURROS

Muchas gracias for hosting me on your blog today to talk about my brand new novel with Crooked Cat Books! COSTA DEL CHURROS will launch on September 19th and is another romantic comedy which fuses all things foodie, travel and spirituality. I’m keeping my fingers (and paws!) crossed that it’ll have as good a reception as its predecessors…

Why write about Spain?
My first two books, Oh! What a Pavlova and The Cocktail Bar centred much of their activity around the quirky and mystical town of Glastonbury, UK.  But in actual fact I live in Spain nowadays and much as I relished the opportunity to write about the place where I spent my childhood through to late twenties, it was high time for a change of scene – as well as to prove to myself that I am not a One Trick Pony. Or should that be Cat?

Is Costa del Churros based on a fictional or real part of Spain?
Yes, Costa del Churros refers to the Costa del Sol, here in the gigantic province of Andalusia, where I live. I have traveled all over the country, but nowhere seems to make, eat or embrace churros (fried donut strips, often eaten dipped in a thick, velvety chocolate sauce and/or sprinkled liberally with sugar) with the aplomb of the people in this region. The churros play a central role throughout the book, used as a code word that brings four – very different – women together for flamenco lessons with their highly exuberant teacher, Carmen.

Here’s the blurb:

The rain in Spain doesn’t mainly fall on the plain…

Brits abroad Belinda, Julia, Laura and Georgina need more than the sweetness of churros with chocolate dipping sauce to save them from their unsavoury states of affairs.

Cue Carmen Maria Abril de la Fuente Ferrera, the town’s flamboyant flamenco teacher! But can she really be the answer to their prayers?

One thing’s for sure: the Costa del Sol will never be the same again.

Are these four women based on people you know?
Not per se!
But Belinda, Julia, Laura and Georgina are definitely a beautiful fusion of some of the kaleidoscopically colourful characters I have met here over the past seven years. I wanted to paint a truthful picture of expat life in Spain (and quite possibly this will extend to other areas of The Mediterranean too). It’s all too easy to assume that a life in the sun is all soaking up its rays, sand, sea and sangria, but in actual fact, we take ourselves wherever we go! There’s absolutely no running away from your problems when you are home from home, be they romantic, financial, self-esteem based, or all of the above. Often, as soon as the novelty of the new lifestyle wears off, those issues are only exacerbated…
I thought it would make for an interesting (and comical) read to throw four women from four completely different backgrounds together, to add a little magic (a la Carmen) and to watch the fireworks – from a very safe distance.

Tell us a bit about Carmen Maria Abril de la Fuente Ferrera…
Well, she was a joy to write.
And I think all of us could do with a Carmen in our lives. Not only is she a talented flamenco teacher, but she has watched the way Franco’s repression of the female has gnawed away at her mother, and at the lives of countless women around her. So Carmen’s mission is one of empowerment. And she’s particularly passionate about encouraging women to have their cake and eat it. Truly, I’d love for nothing more than to click my fingers and magic her up every time I witness a female friend or family member declare in a café/restaurant/gelateria ‘Oh! I really shouldn’t indulge… I’ll start the diet again next week!’
For Carmen is the antidote to any and all of that prescribed female behaviour, an advocate for positive body image on beaches and sun-loungers the length of the coast. She’s a breath of fresh air injecting a much-needed confidence boost to all four of the main characters in the story.

If your tummy has started to rumble… here’s that all important Universal Amazon buying link:

mybook.to/costadelchurros

You can find out about Isabella May’s other books, and follow her quirky cake and cocktail posts at these places:

www.isabellamayauthor.com

Twitter – @IsabellaMayBks

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/IsabellaMayAuthor/

Instagram – @isabella_may_author

Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the sea and the mountains. Having grown up on Glastonbury’s ley lines however, she’s unable to completely shake off her spiritual inner child, and is a Law of Attraction fanatic.

Cake, cocktail, and travel obsessed, she also loves nothing more than to (quietly) break life’s ‘rules’.

Costa del Churros is her third novel.

 

 

The Garden of Dreams

A family day out is real rarity in our household. We are currently all living on the same continent, which is a bonus, but that hasn’t always been the case.  They always say you should feel proud as a parent that you’ve given your fledglings the confidence to flap their wings and fly away – but I do sometimes wish they hadn’t flown quite so far  (although to be fair to our children we  have done our own fair share of flying in the past). With our elder daughter on sabbatical from her job in Budapest and working in London for three weeks, we took the opportunity to meet up for some quality time together, plans which  included a visit Hampton Court Flower Show on one of the hottest days of the year.

My house in the UK has a fairly compact garden, but after spending a large part of the last nine years or so living in rented apartments overseas, I value my own personal outdoor space. I’d like more, but  that’s because I look back through my rose tinted spectacles to the days when we had a third of an acre plot, complete with our own bluebell wood and children who needed trampolines, pop-up pools and wendy houses. Those days are gone – and so has the industrial-sized lawnmower. It’s not a question of quantity, but quality.

I still watch Gardeners World, I grow my own herbs and salad veg, albeit in high-rise containers to defy the slugs. I have a choice of seating areas, where I can chill out with a book in dappled shade or full-sun;  we even have a pint-sized pond. I’ve crammed my borders full of plants to attract butterflies and ungrateful bees (I was recently stung), and we have visiting hedgehogs. It’s a little oasis.

Hampton Court was packed, and parched, and all around us elderly ladies were collapsing from the heat, but we viewed the show gardens and marvelled not just at the seemingly effortless planting, but at sunken seating areas and outdoor entertaining spaces, wondering if we too could find room in our postage stamp plot for that leather-look hot tub complete with wooden surround (surely we could?) as well as a circular shed to house a fully stocked cocktail bar…

While our young ladies revived themselves with Pimms, Mr T and I wandered around looking for further inspiration. I’ve now found the perfect solution to keeping occupied during long winter evenings when the great outdoors is out of bounds.  We don’t need a bigger garden – we can create horticultural masterpieces from the comfort of our own settee. A knitting project for me, and a lego one for him.

But of course the best part of the day was being together – so that the kids could squabble just like they did when we all lived under one roof. To be fair my girls get on a lot better when they live apart, there is some truth in that old adage that absence makes the heart grow fonder.

A day out anywhere provides inspiration for a writer, characters, settings, planting schemes, I soaked it all up. Even if I can’t recreate those show gardens in my own backyard, I can certainly transplant the ideas into my next book – The Garden of (My) Dreams….watch this space!

Guest Post by Jane Bwye

This week fellow author Jane Bwye joins me to discuss her favourite ‘comfort reads’.

 

Thank you for having me, Rosie.

I don’t know if I’d call them “comfort reads”, and I’ve had to think a bit before making my final choices, based roughly on the number of times I can sort-of remember reading them. The truth is, it’s several years since I’ve opened the pages of any of them. But your invitation has reminded me.

I am an utter romantic at heart, and although I’ve never been to Russia, Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago has been my favourite read for as long as I can remember. As a sixteen-year-old, I read it a few times, then in 1965 I saw the film, and because in this rare case the film is every bit as good as the book, I now think of both, when re-visiting either. And that haunting music never fails to stir my soul.

 

You definitely cannot class Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty as a comfort read. I first read it way back before my teens and could never resist the temptation to repeat the exquisite torture again and again, barely able to see the words on the page through my tears. I have always been crazy about horses, which doesn’t help. I picked it up again about six years ago, as I’d come to live in Sussex where the book is set. To my shame, even in later life, the tears spoiled the pages and I was devastated that it could still affect me so much.

 

My mother introduced me to Nevil Shute at an early age, and Australia has been part of my dreams ever since. When I came across The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCulloch, I was in seventh heaven. I remember first reading it from cover to cover twice through without a pause, and a copy still graces my book shelves, ready for whenever I feel like a bit of self-indulgence.

 

 

I discovered Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese at a mature age. This classic story of twins, hardship and professionalism set against the exotic background of Ethiopia is surely a must-read for all reflective souls. Beautifully written, full of philosophy and ageless, it has made a deep impression on me, and I keep telling myself to read his other books…

 

 

There’s one more book, which I just cannot leave out. Enduring Love by Ian McEwan. I am not blessed with a good memory for stories, and whenever I pick it out, remembering the totally satisfying and tingly feelings it gives me, it is as if I’m reading it again for the very first time.

 

 

I could go on and on – I’m finding more and more good books and have forgotten hundreds, which leaves the way open for me to read them again and have pleasant surprises. I don’t want to bore you, and I must show you my African novels, which were inspired by the “Tribe” books by Nicholas Monserrat. However, that’s another story…

 

 

…And on 15th August 2018 I’ll be launching something entirely different. A Guide to starting your own business. Even authors need to show some business acumen these days.

https://bookgoodies.com/a/B00352B44Q

If you pre-order from Amazon now, you’ll get the special price of £/$.99!

 

 

 

Jane Bwye lived for 55 years in Kenya. She has been an intermittent free-lance journalist most of her life and has written several books. Her large family, scattered over three continents, are a good excuse for her to indulge in travelling. A former teacher, and owner of several small businesses, she works as a business mentor for small business start-ups.

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jane-Bwye/e/B00BOK0NN4/

Website: http://janebwye.com/

Time Out

I am very lucky, I don’t have to cram my writing into evenings and weekends, or get up five o’clock in the morning to write for a couple of hours before work, or taking kids to school. There is a saying, if you want something done, ask a busy person.    A few years back, that would have been me – a busy person.  I was a working mum. When your body is already wired in to operate at frenetic speed, what’s one more task to fit in? I’m a Virgo, and we’re notoriously hardworking, meticulous people.

But I’ve been out of the professional work-space for some time now.  I’ve got out of the habit of having deadlines. I’ve got used to being a lady of leisure. I’ve got used to thinking, I don’t need to do that today, I can do it tomorrow.

I want to be taken seriously as a writer. If people like my first book, they’ll want another. Writing The Theatre of Dreams was fun, because I had no other demands on my time, but now I have. My other half, who works for a multi-national oil company, doubles up with laughter when I tell him I feel under pressure, but as all authors know, the sequel to The Joy of Writing  is The Joy of Promoting Yourself on Social Media. And it’s not just the technical competence I lack, when it comes to efficiency, I’m out of condition. My work-space is chaotic and my time-management skills are zilch. I worry constantly that if I don’t keep up with what’s going on people will forget about me. Come that magical publication date of 1 August, nobody will know who I am.  I need to arrange a book launch, write blog posts, compile guest articles, add witty comments on Facebook and Twitter, post pictures on Instagram, surreptitiously promoting my book.  Creating an ‘author platform’ takes cunning, guile and time.

Time. That elusive commodity slipped through my fingers last week when I caught up with some girl friends from my ex-pat days.  We escaped to Guernsey, and it had nothing to do with the current hype about the Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society – it just so happens one of my friends is lucky enough to live in the Channel Islands, and we’d planned our visit long before the film’s release.  Guernsey is a beautiful place, a throw-back to a slower pace of life, a land where a traffic jam only lasts for five minutes and the busiest road is a single carriageway.

I shouldn’t be here at all, I thought in a moment of panic, that’s three days of not writing or posting meaningful literary-related comments.  I’m chatting when I should be tweeting, I’m admiring fields of cows when I should be creating publicity,  I’m walking along footpaths overgrown with pink campions and cornflowers, buttercups and stinging nettles when I should be….doing exactly just that.

What’s so wrong with not being busy? Sometimes you just need to take time out to relax and breathe.

And write a blog post very quickly when you get back home!