Tuesday, 26 September 2017

The Literary Lure of Portugal with Isabella May...

...Kate Clothier’s Salvation…
My debut novel, Oh What a Pavlova launches in just a few weeks and features no less than twenty-two travel destinations (trust me somehow it really does work…).  So when fellow Crooked Cat author, Angela Wren invited me to appear on her blog, I decided to take the opportunity to zone in on just two of these places (I can hear Angela breathing a sigh of relief from afar!): the stunning city of Lisbon, and its much overlooked neighbour, Oporto.

But how exactly did they come to appear in the book?
Well, first off, a little back story courtesy of the blurb:

Kate Clothier is leading a double life: a successful jet-setting businesswoman to the outside world, but behind closed doors, life with Daniel and his volcanic temper is anything but rosy. Some days – heck, make that EVERY day – cake is her only salvation.
Slowly but surely, the cities she visits – and the men she meets – help her to realise there is a better future.
And the ley lines of Glastonbury are certainly doing their best to impart their mystical wisdom…
But will she escape before it’s too late?

Kate lives in the small, rural Somerset town of Glastonbury, but works in a highly specialised field of publishing known as Foreign Rights, for a children’s publisher in Bristol (much to her abusive partner, Daniel’s dismay). Essentially, this means that every six weeks or so, she is on a plane to visit either her overseas clients, or to attend a book fair. Portugal is one of her favourite markets, not least because she adores the opportunity to scoff copious amounts of Pasteis da Nata, in all their eggy-vanilla glory… partly because she dreams of trading book sales for cake sales in her future book-encrusted café - and partly because it numbs the pain that is her domestic reality.
Some of Oporto's blue tiles
And yet Portugal offers Kate so much more than just pudding. Its place in ‘Pavlova’ is almost sacred. For in Portugal, many of Kate’s questions about the double lives she is leading are brought to the fore, and for once, she is unable to escape them.
Eduardo, her longstanding client/luxury dining companion seems to be carrying messages direct from the universe as to her real worth as a woman.  As do the flashbacks of another ‘Edward’, he's better known as Munch; whose work, ‘The Scream’ is impregnated in Kate’s brain following her recent trip to Oslo, causing her to wake up in several cold sweats. Perhaps she is finally realising that horror-filled face really is her mirror image captured on canvas?
Everywhere Kate turns in petrol-blue tiled Oporto, life is filled with dizzying colour and liberation – as well as chocolate mousse. She begins to realise every day could be this way, that she needn’t live parts of her life in inverted commas. From the port barrels to the unshackled Douro bridge, the laid back aura of this city pervades her soul.
Lisbon’s regal, marzipan-topped Pestana Palace only confirms the same (stuck-up businessmen hogging the couches in the day room, to one side). Kate is worthy of great things (infinity pools, decadent breakfasts and rose petals on the bed), and the simplest of things beside: freedom, respect, love: Self-love.

Monumento aos Descobrimentos, Lisbon
Oh! And how could I forget to mention Piers Middleton? The Golden Boy who used to work for her company, ‘She Sells Sea Shells’, is mysteriously hanging around the Portuguese airline check-in desks, swigging on a bottle of Fijian water, eyes panning the vista, in case a European Vogue Editor should be recruiting for cover models… Kate guesses, anyway.
Well, Kate might be sure it’s nothing more than a far-fetched coincidence, but I don’t think I’d be as naïve.
The question is though: will Portugal’s insights be enough? Or will the dreaded P word: procrastination, rear its ugly head until Paris o’clock… and beyond?
You’ll just have to buy the book to find out!

... about the author  Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the sea and the mountains.  When she isn’t having her cake and eating it, sampling a new cocktail on the beach, or ferrying her children to and from after school activities, she can usually be found writing.
As a Co-founder and a former contributing writer for the popular online women’s magazine, The Glass House Girls - www.theglasshousegirls.com - she has also been lucky enough to subject the digital world to her other favourite pastimes, travel, the Law of Attraction, and Prince (The Purple One).

She has recently become a Book Fairy, and is having lots of fun with her imaginative 'drops'!
Oh! What a Pavlova is her debut novel... and her second novel has already been submitted to her publishers: watch this space...

You can follow Isabella May on her website, on Twitter - @IsabellaMayBks Facebook
 and Instagram - @isabella_may_author

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Come stroll with me...

Tour de Pannessac
... through yet more delightful streets and sights of interest in Le Puy-en-Velay.

In July I took you on a tour of Le Puy-en-Velay and in that post I mentioned the Tour de Pannessac, the former royal entrance to the town and dating from the 14th century.  Our short walking tour today will begin there.  Standing here, next to the tower, I have to wonder whether Charlemagne was on foot when he visited the Le Puy or on horseback.   Probably the latter which unfortunately means that I can not claim to be following in his footsteps, just his horses hoof prints, which does not have quite the same panache does it?  But King Louis IX also passed this way in 1254 on his return from the crusades and he gave the town the right to add gold coloured fleurs-de-lys to the coat of arms.

Decorated house
Keeping the tower on your right, continue along boulevard Carnot to the square and then  go right.  The road climbs gently and after a short distance there is a left, rue Montferrand.  I recommend that you take this street and continue up the slight incline and you will find yet another of the many surprises that this town has to offer.

Continue to the top of the street which connects with boulevard Montferrand and takes you, eventually, to steps that lead to rue Chosson and the church on the hill.  Although it's not strictly a hill.  It's actually a volcanic plug - a stream of magma that has hardened in the vent of an ancient volcano - that has been exposed by erosion.  Standing at a height of 82m above the rest of the city, the church, St Michel d'Aiguilhe is small but well worth the effort of the climb.  The chapel was built in the 10th century (961 to be exact) at the insistence of the bishop Gothescalk of Le Puy following his return from a pilgrimage to Compostela and it has towered above the city ever since.  The frescoes in the interior are primitive but the colours are still vibrant along with the decorative stonework around the outside.  In the 1950's the chapel and altar were restored and it was during that process that a wooden figure of Christ was discovered.  It is thought to have been created in the 10th century.
Another fresco

Back in the heart of the old town and, as I meander through the narrow streets and onto rue Raphaël, I discover yet another little surprise.  This street originally housed the leading citizens of the town along with other well-healed families, their wealth displayed in the painted decoration on their houses and intricate masonry.  A little further along the street, out of the corner of my eye, I spot a man dressed in doublet, hose and a cloak in an archway and I begin to think I've slipped back through time.  Then I stop and look again and realise it is yet another fresco and I smile to myself.  'He's clearly a wealthy gent', I tell myself, 'collecting some Livres from a 16th century cash machine!'

This is my last post about Le Puy, however the city is a location that I use in my current novel, Merle.  To solve his current mystery, my central character and investigator, Jacques Forêt, follows a suspect to Le Puy and what he finds there, surprises him. 

I have no doubt, at some point in the not too distant future, I will be back in Le Puy and I will look forward to that!

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Please welcome, friend and author...

... Viki Meadows to my blog today.  Thanks for being here and I know your time is precious so, I'll dive straight in with my first question.  What is your current release?
VM  Kiss Me Goodbye will be released on the 22nd of September, which is my son Kosta’s birthday.  It’s a short story that I’ve written to raise money for various charities in his memory.  One hundred percent of all profits are going to be donated and I am covering all the costs.  For more information on the charities we’re supporting this year visit www.kostasolivetree.com  The story is set in Regency England during the festive season and is a rather sweet romance.  Hopefully Minnie, my heroine, brings enough tartness to the story to stop your teeth from hurting.

When Minnie tells Villiers that she wants to break off their engagement, Villiers must face some unpleasant truths about himself and come to terms with past mistakes. His future happiness hinges on him not only winning Minnie’s forgiveness but also her heart.  Will he succeed in making this the happiest of Christmases for both of them?

AW   What first got you into writing and why?
VM  Avid reading brought me in to writing.  I would read something and then spend ages developing scenes further, or thinking of alternative endings that I liked better, and at some point, I moved from imagining to writing these things down.  I also like imaginary worlds better than this one, especially if I can control what happens in them!  I get a massive emotional kick out of reading romance and non-gritty crime.  I like the guaranteed happy-ever-after endings and solutions and I’d love to bring a similar pleasure to my readers, so that’s what I strive to do.

AW  You write Romance and Contemporary novels.  Is it all imagination or do you also undertake research?
VM  I do undertake research.  Even when you think you know everything you still have to check.  For example, I recently found myself googling insect eating snakes and garden gnomes.  Don’t ask!  I love the regency era and am going to have to do a lot more research for future projects that I’m planning.  That certainly won’t be a hardship but the biggest problem with research is that I’m not always aware of what I don’t know and so therefore I don’t know what specific things I should be researching.  Does that make any sense?

AW  Yep to me it does.  And what about other types of writing?  Have you ever dabbled with short stories, for instance, or other genres?
VM  I have dabbled with writing of different lengths, penning novellas, longer books and short stories.  I don’t stick to one genre for my short stories, however I do stick to romance for longer pieces.  Romance is what I like to read, you see.  You can find some of my shorter pieces on my blog.  Here, for example, is a link to a story set in WW2 Behind the Fence 
AW  I really liked the story when I first read it.
VM  There are a couple more stories on there that have absolutely no romance in them.

AW  OK.  Famous authors, such as Roald Dahl and Dylan Thomas, had a special space for writing.  Do you have a writing ‘shed’ of your own?
Viki's writing companion!  And doesn't he look comfy?
VM  Sadly no and it’s not through lack of space.  It’s more to do with lack of will and the resources I need in order to write.  No, I don’t need a fancy table, or lovely pictures or a clean desk.  I need… noise.  I find it hard to write in complete silence or with music and I don’t like to feel shut away from the core of my home.  I need to have people around me.  I suppose, since I’m the oldest of eight children and while I was growing up the house was so full of noise and activity, that I’m conditioned to it now.  The end result is that noise and people are vital to how I work and I find silence distracting, so sometimes I’ll write with my laptop on my knee in front of the telly while watching reruns of Midsomer Murders, other times it’ll be on my bed (which my chiropractor slaps my wrists for) with the cat purring on my knee, and sometimes I’ll go to the local library (which luckily is still open) or a local café if I’m feeling flush.

AW  Finally, what would your eight-year old self think of, and say about, you today?
VM   I think my 8yr old self would be pretty proud of what I’ve achieved so far in my life, but a bit disappointed that I put my writing on the back burner for so many years and lacked discipline.  It’s taken me far too long to prioritise it.  I think both my 8yr old incarnation and my 52 year old incarnation would agree that one should always make time for creativity and that dreams should never be put away while you do other, more practical things.  It’s a pity all the in-between incarnations didn’t realise this at the time.  I think my 8yr old self would say, ‘You’re doing well, but you could have done better.’  Thanks for hosting me on your blog Angela.

You're very welcome and readers, you can follow Viki on her Blog her FB author page Viki Meadows Author on Facebook and on Twitter

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

The Power of One...

... I have the great pleasure of presenting a guest post from, friend and author, Bea Fishback, today.  So kick off your shoes, get a cuppa and read more about the Power of One...

I have been to a few writing conferences/events in the past and each has been a unique experience.  However, the most recent program that I attended was special in a different sort of way.
Although I generally don’t know any of the attendees at a particular conference, and as an extrovert this usually isn’t an issue, I was feeling particularly vulnerable and isolated this time.  Most often, I have the courage to step out and introduce myself to others. Then there are the moments that even this extrovert can feel a bit of the introvert pull.
I found a seat midway down the sloped theater seating, opened my notebook preparing for the seminar to begin, and wondered if anyone else around me felt as alone as I did.
Across the room, I saw someone I thought I knew but was unsure so I lowered my eyes and scanned the blank paper in front of me in an act of concentration.  Again I looked up.  And sure enough, the person I thought I had recognized waved in my direction.
Inwardly I breathed a huge sigh of relief.  I wasn’t alone.  I knew one person.  And it dawned on me that she probably had no idea how much power she had over my emotions right then.  It was the power of one.  The one who noticed me in the crowd.
As writers, we tend to live a reclusive lifestyle in order to finish manuscripts, be inspired by the next idea, or finish up the endless social media sites we maintain each day in order to stay relevant.
So, whether we “see” one another on FB or attend a program, it’s important that we acknowledge and support our comrades in words.  We were never intended to live life in a vacuum—even a writing vacuum.
A few tips for writing events:
  •  Reach out to others.  Everyone is in the same situation and each needs a seed of encouragement.  Even a simple smile can change the writing event for someone.
  • If you are in a group, invite someone you don’t know to your table during a meal. There are many who attend for the first time and are looking for a warm welcome.
  • Be the Power of One by setting an example to others by your warmth and acceptance to a lone visitor.
All of these things are easy but don’t always come naturally.  I was extremely grateful for the one who reached out to me and I want to pass on their kindness to the next person I meet at a writing conference or in a social setting where they may be feeling alone.
How about you?  What experiences have you had when you’ve gone to a writing conference where you didn’t know anyone?  Share so others can learn from the good and the bad.

You can follow Bea on Facebook  her  Website  on Twitter  and on Amazon

Friday, 1 September 2017

I'm reviewing 'Zelda's Cut'...

... by Philippa Gregory

This book was recommended to me by a friend and what a book it is!  I’ve read a number of Philippa Gregory’s books, but these have all been her historical novels.  So it was a bit of a surprise to me to find that she also writes in the ‘mystery’ genre.
The central character, Isobel Latimer is an academic and a writer of novels.  She has a husband, who through illness, is a constant drain on Isobel’s financial, emotional and day-to-day resources.  When she discovers that her latest book will not bring in the much-needed cash to help them to pay their living costs, health bills and general expenses, Isobel finds herself being talked into a scheme to create a different type of novel under a different name by her agent, Troy Cartwright.
And what’s so strange about that, you might wonder.  Lots of authors use more than one name for their work, mostly because they are writing in different genres where there is no natural cross-over of reader.  But, the original idea moves beyond the creation of a story and into something very unnerving.  Writers, be careful who you choose for your agent!
Isobel finds herself becoming further drawn into a web of deceit that causes her to question her own sense of truth.  When her husband becomes interested in a project to create an in-door swimming pool in a barn close to the old farmhouse in which they live, Isobel comes under more pressure to provide funds for the project.  Her life and her house are invaded by Murray, the pool man, and when he notices that some of Isobel’s trips to London may not be what they appear to be, the intrigue deepens.
This is a deliciously witty piece of observation of humanity at its best and its worst.  Excellently plotted, with a narrative voice that carries you effortlessly from page to page, and beautifully devised prose.  The characters glide from chapter to chapter and you just have to follow.  A brilliant story and I could not put it down once I’d started it.