Friday, 29 April 2016

An interview with...

… author Olga Swan.  Welcome to my blog Olga, your time is prescious so let’s find out what your current release is shall we?
Available from April 29th
OS  Thank you Angela for hosting me on your prestigious blog.  It’s much appreciated. Today, 29th April, is the release date for my novel Vichyssoise.
AW  Congratulations on the book and you’re very welcome.  Hmm…prestigious!  Wow!  That’s the best thing anyone's said about the blog thus far, thank you.  So, what first got you into writing and why?
OS  I started writing Vichyssoise when I retired with my husband to France in 2005.  I remember trekking to the tiny library in our village of Varen in the Midi-Pyrénées to search out essential source material in the original French on the wartime Vichy leader, Philippe Pétain.  It seemed to me, from talking to the older locals, that there was much suppressed about the whole sorry episode so I was determined to write something about it.  I do hope that both you and your readers will be able to join me online at my Facebook launch event later this morning.  Just click on this link and say ‘Hi’:
AW  Yes, I’ll certainly be there at 10.00 am UK time.  Sorry, you were about to say…
The prequel to Vichyssoise
OS  The Holocaust period is very poignant to me as past generations of my family are listed as victims in the Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem.  On Facebook recently there was a comment that people should forget what happened and move on.  What I’ve tried to explain in the Foreword and Appendix of Vichyssoise is that this mentality is simply ill-thought-out.  Century after century man has fought others simply because they are ‘different’ from him, allying with those with whom you identify somehow making you feel more comforted.  (You only have to see this expressed today at any football match!)  It’s, therefore, so important that everyone reads, learns from history and recognises the insidious build-up to conflict so that nothing like the Holocaust of innocent citizens can ever happen again.
AW  You write mainly historical novels.  Is it all imagination or do you also undertake research?
OS  I often think that the historical genre is the most difficult of all.  Not only do you need imagination to build your fictitious characters and plot, you must also ensure historical accuracy with the real events that are happening in the background.  This takes an awful lot of research, especially in the appropriate, original language.
A crime novel
AW  And what about other types of writing?  Have you ever dabbled with short stories, for instance, or other genres?
OS  I suppose I’m unusual in that I’ve published (some self-published) full-length literature in several genres including humour, children’s (with my real name of Gillian Green), science fiction and crime; see my Amazon author page link below.
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?
OS  We currently live in a large house in S.W. France, so I’m very fortunate to have a separate office/study, well away from the salon, kitchen etc.  This helps me concentrate when I’m searching for inspiration!
AW  Finally, if you had a whole afternoon to yourself and could choose to spend it with anyone, living or dead. Who would it be, and what would you want to discuss?
OS  One of my heroes from the past is Winston Churchill.  (It was interesting to hear the other day on TV that Obama also liked him.)  I would love to discuss that famous, underground, wartime Cabinet meeting in 1940 which he chaired as the new PM.  Most of the Cabinet were in favour of appeasing Hitler except for one, drunken, man called Greenwood.  If it hadn’t been for Greenwood standing up and telling everyone that there was no way Britain should sign an accord with Hitler, who knows what would have happened!  I certainly would not be here writing this if the vote had gone the other way.  That is what I would like to discuss with Churchill :  ‘As PM and an honourable Cabinet Chairman, what would you have done if there had been a majority vote to collaborate with Adolf Hitler?’

Karin Schmidt, a former German citizen working for the British government, has disappeared during a spying mission in south-west France.  Reporter, David Klein, is tasked with her search, which he gladly undertakes, despite the risks.  In 1939, Karin had helped a Jewish family escape from Germany - and rescued him from Kletschkau prison.  He owes her his life.  But will he be in time to save her?
Set agains the historical background of the Vichy government, the story shows an explosove Adolf Hitler and an irascilble Winston Churchill, culminating in Philippe Pétain's nai-biting trial for treason. David Klein and Karin Schmidt live through agonising times of danger.

You can buy the books using the links below :

LAMPLIGHT : Book 1 of the David Klein War Reporter series is available on :
VICHYSSOISE : Book 2 of the David Klein series is available on :
Other books are available on Olga's Amazon page at :
Her children's books are availablew on :

You can catch up with Olga on her blog at : 

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

My favourite fantasy characters...

Please welcome Stephanie Cage to my blog this week, along with some of her favourite characters from fantasy novels...
Favourite Books
There are a lot of characters I love, in a lot of books, but when it comes to fantasy, two of my favourites are Kvothe, in Patrick Rothfuss’s powerful and poetic epic, The Name of the Wind, and Locke, in Scott Lynch’s wonderfully imaginative fantasy The Lies of Locke Lamora.  Both are larger than life, one of a kind characters, unique within their respective worlds.  Their deeds are much talked about, sometimes exaggerated, and it is the stories about them which give them their other names.  Kvothe is also the Red and the Flame (for his striking hair), and Kingkiller, as well as a host of other names.  Locke Lamora is also The Thorn of Camorr, a Robin-Hood-like folk hero.  
Both have unusual talents which soon get them into trouble. Kvothe has a gift for sympathy (the science of what we might call Magic) and manages to be expelled from the Arcanum at a younger age than most people begin their studies.  Locke’s gift for thievery is an advantage at first in the Underworld of Camorr, but even there his talent for causing mayhem becomes too much, and he finds himself with a bounty on his head, first condemned to death and then sold into the service of the order of the Eyeless Priest, the shadowy thirteenth deity who rules the world of Camorr alongside the twelve legitimate ones. 
Lincoln Rhyme Stories
Fantasy lends itself particularly to the trickster hero, stronger and cleverer and sometimes just plain crazier than his peers.  However, he can be found elsewhere.  Kvothe and Locke are distant relatives of two of my favourite heroes from the world of crime-fighting: Lincoln Rhyme, Jeffery Deaver’s superb wheelchair-bound criminologist, and Sherlock – not the original, brilliant though Conan Doyle’s creation is, but his present-day alter ego in the TV series Elementary.  What I love about all these heroes is their degree of mastery over the world they live in, their ability to assess all the variables and then put together a plan and follow it through to the desired conclusion, whether all runs smoothly or some ingenious improvisation is required to get things back on track.
Another thing these books share is that they follow the rule of magic so brilliantly described by Orson Scott Card in his classic How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy.  Great power must be balanced by great limitations.  Sherlock has his drug habit, Rhyme his disability, and Kvothe and Locke are hampered by their stubbornness.  They simply don’t know when to stop and walk away.  
It’s Card’s rule of magic which in some ways inspired my own fantasy hero: Ashtad in Djinn and Tonic.  As a djinn, he has the power to bend space and time and make any wish come true, but he can only use it in service of someone else’s desires.  In this case, that someone is Sal, who has to learn that the things most worth having can’t be gained by wishing for them -  a common lesson in fantasy… and, dare I say it, perhaps in real life?
Stephanie's latest release

About Stephanie  Having been born and educated in the South of England, including a degree in English Literature at Oxford University and an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, Stephanie now lives in the beautiful county of Yorkshire.  She is a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association, with books published by The Wild Rose Press and Crimson Romance.  She has won the Woman's Own Story competition and Yorkshire Ridings Magazine romance competition.  When she is not wirting, she enjoys dance and musical theatre, as well as being a lay worship leader and a member of Doncaster Speakers.

About the Book  As fashion photographer Sally Purdew sets up her studio for a special shoot, she wishes for the perfect model, and he appears.  Sal just wants to win the Alternative Fashion Awards, but her model, Ashtad, is a djinn with the power to grant her wishes and turn her into anything she wants to be.  From the pretty English town of Whitby to a tropical beach, Ashtad whisks Sal away on a magical trip neither of them can forget.  When Sal finds herself falling for Ash, she has to decide : do they have a future together, or will his magic always come between them?

Sunday, 24 April 2016

A Sneak preview of...

...Tall Told Tales.  As this month’s theme is fantasy I thought I would let you into a secret that I’ve been keeping to myself for quite a while now.  As well as workng on the sequel to Messandrierre, I have also been putting together an anthology of strange tales.

Some are a little bit scary, others are there to amuse and yet more are...  Well, let's leave it at that for the moment and here’s just a snippet from ‘The Tale of Benjamin Longshins.’

He lived alone in a cottage in the dunes...
Once upon a time, in a place not so very far north from here, there lived a man called Benjamin Longshins.  Benjamin, as his name suggests, was a very tall thin man.  He had a long sad face, with an equally long nose, his fingers were skeletal and his legs seemed to reach all the way up to his elbows.
He lived alone in a cottage in the dunes by the sea, but had often wished he didn’t.  He’d spent so much time alone over the years that he had almost forgotten how to feel, so, each day when he rose, he never knew whether he should feel sad or happy.  He hadn’t laughed in a century and it had been at least twenty years since he’d spoken to a human being.  He had even stopped wondering if he could still remember how to talk.
Benjamin spent his days and nights walking on the beach when no one else was there.  He had grown accustomed to the solitude and the rhythmic wash of the sea.  It also meant that he could collect things without being questioned or observed.  Benjamin liked collecting the flotsam and jetsam that washed upon the shore and, over the years, he had filled every available space in his tiny cottage with his ‘possessions’.
One day, a young lady called Lizabeth turned up on his doorstep.  She was distraught and crying.
‘Please Sir, have you seen my dog.  She’s small and white and very friendly.’
Benjamin, bending low to enable him to peer out of the small doorway, stretched his mouth in a wide thin smile.  He had never seen such a vision of prettiness before.  The girl’s long blonde hair was being swished and swirled around her face by the wind and her large blue eyes stared up at him.  His heart, long hardened by lack of feeling, clunked against his chest wall in a vane attempt at a small leap for joy.  He tried to speak but was unsure of what to say.  Then he frowned as he carefully framed his answer...

Saturday, 23 April 2016

A Personal Tribute to William...

In honour of the Bard I thought I would share my favourite snippets from some of his plays.  Some of these words I have actually spoken myself when playing that particular role.  I'll leave you to guess which ones!

Fairy : Either I mistake your shape and making quite,
In the rehearsal room.
Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite
Called Robin Godfellow.  Are not you he…
Puck : Thou speak’st aright;
I am that merry wanderer of the night.
I jest to Oberon and make him smile
When I a fat and bean-fed horse beguile,
Neighing in likenes of a filly foal;
And sometimes lurk I in a gossip’s bowl,
In very likeness of a roasted crab,
And, when she drinks, against her lips I bob,
And on her withered dewlap pour the ale.
The wisest aunt telling the saddest tale,
Sometime for a three-foot stool mistaketh me:
Then slip I from her and down topples she,
And ‘tailor’ cries, and falls into a cough:
And then the choir hold their hips and laugh,
And waxen in their mirth, and neeze and swear
A merrier hour was never wasted there.
                        A Midsummer Night’s Dream Act 2 Sc 1

On Stage

Portia : The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath.  It is twice blest :
It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes...
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings;
It is an attribute to God himself,
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice.
                        The Merchant of Venice Act 4 Sc 1 

Polonius : Neither a borrower nor a lender be,
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all – to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

                        Hamlet Act 1 Sc 3

Dunsinane perhaps?
Son :  If he were dead, you’ld weep for him : if you would not it were a good sign that I should quickly have a new father.
Lady MacDuff : Poor prattler, how thou talk’st!...
…Wither should I fly?
I have done no harm.  But I remember now
I am in this earthly world : where to do harm
Is often laudable, to do good sometime
Accounted dangerous folly.  Why then, alas,
Do I put up that womanly defence,
To say I have done no harm?

                        Macbeth Act 4 Sc 2

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

An interview with... Queenie Black.  Welcome to my blog Queenie and let's get straight to the questions, shall we?

AW  What is your current release?
Ancient Greek columns
QB  I've just released a quartet of short erotic stories under the title Love Bites.  Each one is quite different and although very graphic (they contain adult themes and BDSM/Menage situations) they are relationship stories that end with a happy ever after.  As well as a contemporary story there is a historical one, a paranormal one and also a fantasy.  For example, 'Immortal Longings' is set on a Greek Island and involves two gorgeous Demi-gods who cross dimensions to bring a lot of happiness to a young widow who, before she can be completely happy, has a difficult choice to make.  You'll have to read the story to find out what she decides...

AW  What first got you into writing and why?
QB  I was an avid reader from about the age of four.  I would read very fast and then digest the stories slowly over time.  Often there were bits in the stories that I wasn’t happy with and I would re-write them in my head.  Sometimes I would re-plan the plot again in the way I wanted.  A kind of fan fiction I suppose, adding to stories or writing the end I wanted.  Over time it developed into making my own and writing them down.  I was encouraged to enter competitions while at primary school and I was given a lot of encouragement.

AW  You write Erotic Romance, is it all imagination or do you also undertake research?
QB  Well it’s a mixture of both.  I read very widely in the genre but also do a lot of research through reading factual books about the lifestyles/topics/ issues that I write about.  I am a member of some forums where I can ask questions as well.

AW  And what about other types of writing?  Have you ever dabbled with other genres?
QB  Oh yes, I write quite varied genres.  I am currently working on a series of Romantic Suspense novellas and I have also written short stories that have edges of horror.  I am also working on a contemporary romance.

Queenie's Writing Shed
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?
QB  I write in a caravan at the bottom of the garden.  It is from the 1950s and is quite damp and cold in winter which means that I am motivated to write quickly so that I can get back into the warmth.  It has no internet access so I can’t be distracted.

AW  Finally, if you had a whole afternoon to yourself and could choose to spend it with anyone, living or dead or a character from a book.  Who would it be, and what would you want to discuss?
QB  Oooooh this is difficult.  I think I’d like to spend a morning with Georgette Heyer.  I love her historical novels and first started reading her books when I was about 14.  I love them all but my favourite is the Devil’s Cub.  Since reading her books I have had a soft spot for the genre.  One day I hope to be able to write a historical novel myself. 

Queenie's Author bio  I’ve been writing pretty much since I was able to read.  I juggle fundraising for charities, family life and writing with varying success.  My children have mostly flown the nest and I live in a small village in North Yorkshire, England with my husband and some chickens. I write in an old caravan in the garden where I can’t be tempted to procrastinate on the internet.  You can find Queenie on Facebook and Twitter, just follow the links below.
Facebook page: Facebook
Twitter: @queenieblackwr1

Book Blurb  Four delicious little erotic bites with happy ever after endings. Along with 'Immortal Longings' are 'Elevator Magic', 'Eleanor's Choice and 'Love Bites'.
This collection of four stories contains explicit language and graphic erotic sexual content.  It is intended for mature audiences, 18 years of age or older. Available from Amazon using the link below.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Living a Fantasy...

Author Stella Hervey Birrell
Please welcome Stella Hervey Birrell to my blog this week with her views on living a fantasy...

Several years ago, I was talking to a friend, who had finally ‘got it together’ with her future husband.  We were discussing what our fantasies were.  Our fantasies for life and relationships, not sex, this is not one of those blog posts.
‘It’s hard,’ she said.  ‘My fantasy has just become a reality.’
I can relate.  The main character, Melissa, in my first novel, ‘How Many Wrongs make a Mr Right?’ is not your standard ‘fantasy’ heroine.  Actually, Melissa is not a heroine at all, the word anti-heroine was made for her : amoral, blunt, sexually incontinent, she is also lost, miserable, and lonely.
But she does exist on fantasy.   She wants a soulmate, even though she doesn’t believe in them.  And she can’t work out how to start her quest: apart from throwing herself at every passing boy of course.  Which seems to work, sometimes…
Melissa does travel in the novel, but not through other dimensions, portals or around an alternate universe.  She travels through time, if by ‘travelling in time’ you mean forwards and backwards through a summer, and an autumn, just after the millennium.  She travels through space, if by ‘through space’ you mean ‘moving house from England to Scotland.’  She does travel in her mind, if by ‘in her mind’ you mean learning some important things about her body and her fantasies, and, eventually giving her fantasy up for lost.  Because that is right when things always start to happen.  It doesn’t matter what genre you are reading, when a character says they’re ‘all done with that,’ you can pretty much guarantee ‘all that’ is about to happen.
Melissa has a dream, and she chases it relentlessly.  I respect that.  It was what I did when I started
writing.  But unlike Melissa, who looks around and sees everyone else settling down with their perfect partner, I looked around at the world of writing and wondered how my voice would ever be heard over the clamour.  Would anyone read about Melissa and think ‘yeah, I could go for that?’
For a long time, Melissa occupied space in my imagination and on my computer, and in several emails, introducing her to publishers and agents.  It looked like she would be staying there.  But then Crooked Cat showed up.  Who needs a fire-breathing dragon when you can have a Crooked Cat?
It was a fantasy of mine, to be a writer.  I didn’t have to swap dimensions to make it a reality, although there were times when it felt like an endless, lonely quest.  I didn’t get an amulet to protect me from other people’s opinions, or a magic quill that produced 1000 words a day.
Melissa is about to go out into the world now, as a character in a book I wrote.  I’m sorry I didn’t give her a bow and arrows.  But I made her of strong stuff: hopes, dreams and fantasies.  I reckon she’ll be OK.

About the author
Please come and say ‘hi’ in one or more of these places
Twitter is @atinylife140
I can also be found wandering the streets of various East Lothian villages.

My book is available on :
IBooks - Search ‘How Many Wrongs make a Mr Right?’ in the iTunes Store

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Jacques Forêt, rural gendarme, talks about the Cévennes…

Today I'm interviewing my central character, Jacques, who is here to tell us about how he finds life in the Cévennes

AW  You’ve lived here in Messandrierre for about 2 years now, Jacques, don’t you miss Paris at all?
A village scene
JF  Of course!  Paris will always be home to me.  But the Cévennes has its own attractions.   The scenery is rugged; there are vast tracts of forest and in between lots of charming villages.  And we have some significant mountain peaks here, Mont Lozère is about 1700m above sea level, Mont Aigoual is just a little less than 1600m and the Corniche des Cévennes, a series of smaller peaks, rises to just under 1000m.  The Cévennes is on the southern aspect of the Massif Central and covers parts of the departement of Gard, Lozère, Hérault and Ardèche.  A tributary of the river Gard rises here just north of St-André-de-Valborgne.

AW  Lots of mountains and river valleys then.  So what’s the weather like all year round?
JF  From May to October it’s usually very warm and we have plenty of sun.  But with the mountains, the weather can change very quickly.   Autumn and winter can come early and up on the peaks there can be icy winds that sweep down into the valleys.  So from October the temperature falls sharply and we often get a lot of rain and in January and February there is frequently snow in the village.

AW  Does that mean you ski Jacques?
JF    Err…no.  I’ve never learned how to ski.  This countryside is good for walking and, on a cold bright winter’s day, with snow on the ground, the scenery is beautiful.  You should come back and see for yourself!

Scenic walks
AW  And that wink was out of order, Jacques!  Now, you were telling me about walking here.  Are the paths clearly defined and how difficult are they?
JF  The ones through the forest surrounding the village are well sign-posted and they are reasonably easy for most people.  But proper walking boots are essential as the terrain can be very rough.  There are other longer routes with difficult climbs and I would only recommend those for people who are used to walking in mountainous areas.

AW  And what about the hunting, shooting and fishing here?
JF  Ahh, you hunt?  That surprises me!
AW  No I don’t, but hunting, shooting and fishing are sports that all have a significant following in the UK.
JF  And here in France too, especially this area.  From August most of the tourists who visit come here for the hunting.  We have deer, stag and boar to hunt.  From later September and in October you can buy ready-prepared Sanglier au Armagnac in the local supermarkets.  You should try this.  And of course there is fishing in the many rivers and lakes in the area.  But anyone who comes to hunt here must have the correct permits.

AW  Of course.  As a policeman, Jacques, I wouldn’t expect you to say anything else!

Meet Jacques and the other villagers in my novel Messandrierre.  With more than 20 fabulous reviews on Amazon it is a snip of a read at 99p/99c.  Just follow the link.  Amazon