Chitchat with the Author
1.Your first book, “Oh What a Pavlova”, had a good bit about traveling and food and the like woven into the main storyline. Your latest, “The Cocktail Bar” centers around a rock star, trying to make a success of his new cocktail bar, armed only with a very specific drink. Would you call yourself a foodie? What is your favorite food/drink?
I’m a definite foodie. That’s not to say that I love all food. Hand me an aubergine (eggplant) and I’ll run a mile, I’m not the world’s greatest fan of lemongrass or coriander either…
Aside from that though, yes, I do like to eat. I spent my late teens and early twenties calorie-policing every morsel that went into my mouth, labeling my food ‘good’ and ‘bad’, and I was miserable for it. Nowadays, I have a respect for everything I put in my mouth; from the cookie to the carrot. It makes for a happier me; I believe the good properties of every bite go on to do good things to the body that way (well, Quantum Physics proves it).
I suspect that in a past life I probably lived in Italy though! My favourite foods span well-made risotto and pasta dishes through to gelato and Mozarella. I’m also a sucker for an Aperol Spritz.
Ultimately, food (and drink) is life. It brings people together and is there to be enjoyed, rather than feared and slated. That’s the key to balance and moderation when we come at it from a more spiritual, loving angle.
2.Do you also like to travel? Where is the best place you’ve ever visited?
Travel should have been my middle name. I have visited 40 countries, and currently live in Spain. In the last decade, since having kids though, I’ve had to keep a lid on my wanderlust somewhat. No mean feat when you get itchy feet! There are so many incredible places I have traveled to, that it really is hard to choose my favourite. One of the most invigorating places I’ve been is definitely Seoul, in South Korea. It was mind-blowing and so very different to everywhere else.
3.What is your writing process like? Do you plot out your stories, or do you begin and see where the story takes you?
I have an inkling of the direction the story will go in, but my creativity flows best when I give myself permission to be a ‘pantser’. I really am a Post It note kind of girl and cannot bear the constraints of all things spread sheet and rules!
4.What’s your favorite part of being an author?
It’s clichéd, I know, but there’s no greater feeling than that blank canvas (page) waiting to be filled with your art (words).
5.What’s your least favorite part of being an author?
The perpetual self-promotion (sigh!)
6.If you had to choose only one, which of your characters would be your favorite?
River Jackson from ‘The Cocktail Bar’. He has fine-tuned the enviable quality of not giving a rip what others think. We could all learn a lot from him!
7.You’ve had two books come out recently. What’s your next project (ie when can we expect the next book from you?)
Costa del Churros is another spiritual, foodie, romcom and it will be out in the autumn. It’s based here, in Andalucia (as you might guess) and is packed full of weird and wonderful characters in desperate need of a diversion from their comfort zones… which definitely happens – both in the novel, and in real life. I particularly enjoyed writing this one as it gave me the perfect excuse to sit in various cafes, testing out their churros con chocolate!
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 - http://secure-web.cisco.com/10HW_x_BB7T9NzoP5AFmHREbJ188dKf8BhFxPOlKBmXRrSag6GjlikkJfv-0hPVxO3HlM66Cf24FvVEdNzQTH7pfsvb4PFImk2XfFmaMl8aadI2Ydoa0xawWn_aUOUMnKDSxx3-y9fU2fXscbFUUpI0JW_Dt71v0Bzc71FtSMijZIX5SMNUCT6BRx5_NTCBCLvAEMdM0q0cnfYBOylS1LfF_QK3rxwXOqR-DUP0llQW7l8z1g9MKo-jQkMvk3f_C62WlvL9hS7hSaz0FUNM3TOiFfg6miGniqlr-W3ClFIk_8DvFNhK3dik8Agsa5jeXFVToC8JDVNa9g9S_Sg--6wYeEkosKEvlRerbWxRA20b4o_cer_a1qVlV6EhgUN_3M5AL5jrvK_749IS1_tJkRsA/http%3A%2F%2Fwww.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'!
The Cocktail Bar is her second novel with Crooked Cat Books, following on from the hit sensation, Oh! What a Pavlova, published in 2017. Her third novel, Costa del Churros will be published in September 2018.
Twitter - @IsabellaMayBks
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/IsabellaMayAuthor/
Today Val Penny, author of the wonderful, much acclaimed new novel "Hunter's Chase", stops by to talk about her writing process. Read on and be sure to grab your copy of the book, available now on Amazon.
Author contact details
Friends of Hunter's Chase - www.facebook.com/groups/296295777444303
Article about Plotting in Novels
Plotting is central to writing a novel, but it is a highly individual process. No two authors plot in the same way. Some plot organically while others plot in a very orderly fashion. Many writers even plot differently from one book to another. Some write scenes: hundreds of scenes that interest and excite them and then they stitch the scenes together to from the novel. While others visualise the way the book will take shape using dozens of bits of paper laid out on their desk or even on the floor. It must be important to make sure the windows are closed if you plot this way!
Some authors use tree diagrams, spreadsheets or mind-maps to plot and there is software available to download on line for this.
However you plot your novel, the goal is the same, to allow the journey it is about take that will last several months on the road with a novel. It is important that you, as an author, choose between the 'organic' and 'orderly' methods of plotting so that you are comfortable that your choice works best for you and the book you are setting out to write. I plotted my first novel 'Hunter's Chase' organically but, after attending a course run by Sue Moorcroft at last years' Swanwick Writers' Summer School, I plotted the sequel 'Hunter's Revenge' using diagrams and spreadsheets. Neither is wrong. Both have strength and weaknesses and either can be successful for crafting a novel.
Writers who follow an organic way of plotting, approach the outline largely as a form of awareness of the story, rather than as an actual document to be followed strictly. Many view the the outline not so much as a planning device but more of an analytical tool that helps strengthen the final draft by indicating the flaws in the story-line.
Some authors begin with an idea and just jump in to tell the story. They write steadily and regularly until they have written tens of thousands of words. Then they go through the organic draft and delete large chunks and add other pieces until the final manuscript is complete.
Other authors, like Sue Moorcroft, plot meticulously and there is no doubt that plotting an outline is hard work. However, having undertaken an outline on 'Hunter's Revenge', I found myself into writing my novel with confidence. I was happy that one chapter followed another in a sensible sequence. My characters retained their identities. Of course at the end of the first draft, there were flaws, but I found I was able to repair those readily.
Whether you plot organically or in an orderly fashion, the important issue is that you can tell the story to your readers and that you, and they, are satisfied by your novel.
Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballet dancer or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her first crime novel, 'Hunter's Chase' set in Edinburgh, Scotland will be published by Crooked Cat Books on 02.02.2018. She is now writing the sequel, 'Hunter's Revenge'.
Today I’m speaking to Lin, who is the main character from Heidi Catherine’s novel, The Soulweaver. She’s had a few unusual experiences that I’d like to find out more about.
Hi Lin, I’ve heard that when you look out of your bedroom window, you see a forest. How is this possible for someone who lives in the middle of Hong Kong?
I suppose I must see what I want to see. It’s just a game I’ve been playing since I was a child. Where you might see buildings, I see trees. You might see people below on the pavement, but I see possums or wallabies. You might hear traffic horns, but I hear birds calling out to each other. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always dreamed of living in a forest. It’s almost a surprise to me each day to open my eyes and see that I live in Hong Kong. I hope to find out why this is happening one day.
You also dream of faces you don’t recognise. Who do you think these people are?
Again, I have no idea. They are western faces, with fair skin and hair. So different to the people I am surrounded by each day. It’s just another thing I don’t understand. One face I dream of quite often is a boy with blond hair and a scar running down his face. It almost feels like he’s trying to talk to me sometimes. I just wish I could hear what it is that he wants to say. Maybe then I could find out who he is.
How did you learn to speak English so well?
Well, of course we learn it in school, but my parents also own a convenience store not too far from home and tourists come in there all the time. I love talking to them and watching American sitcoms on the little television we keep behind the counter. I picked up the language very easily, which for some reason annoys my parents. They think that I want to be like one of these western tourists. I’ve tried to tell them it’s not because I don’t think my family is good enough – they are! It's just that somehow I don’t feel like I belong.
Tell me about your friends at school.
I don’t really have any friends. The other girls think I’m strange. I just don’t see the point in the conversations they have or the games they play. There’s so much happening in the world – forests are being cut down and people are starving – and they’re more interested in talking about what they’re going to wear on the weekend. I don’t get it, just like they don’t get me. So I keep to myself mainly.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to go to the woodlands and draw the faces from my dreams. I started doing it thinking it would help me to make sense of all of this, but so far it hasn’t. In some ways it’s made it worse. I look into the eyes of these people I’ve drawn and I know so well, yet I’m certain I’ve never met them. Especially the boy with the scar on his face. He’s so familiar. I just can’t place where I know him from. It’s like I recognise him with my heart rather than my eyes.
Thanks Lin. Good luck with the drawing and I hope you figure out who all these people are one day soon!
Heidi Catherine can be found on Facebook, Twitter or on her website. Her debut novel, The Soulweaver, is available for order now. She also has a free prequel novelette called The Moonchild, which introduces you to two of the main characters from The Soulweaver in the lifetime they lived before the book takes place.
To buy The Soulweaver: myBook.to/thesoulweaver
Today, Barnabas makes room on his dance card (which is busy busy busy as he's just wrapping up his latest caper) to talk to Anne-Marie Ormsby, author of the just released (as in, TODAY!) Purgatory Hotel. Now, the book is just a little bit spooky, not really anything to be afraid of at all, so I'm sure Barnabas will set aside his nerves and...um, Barnabas? Where have you gone...oh, you crazy fellow, will you come out from behind the sofa and properly welcome our guest? (Barnabas peeks up over the back of the sofa, so that just his eyes and the top of his head are showing.)
Sigh. I suppose that will have to do. Anyway, a big welcome to Anne-Marie! Please, do sit down and we'll have a chat about your book. Maybe not on the sofa though. (Anne-Marie gives the peeping Barnabas a questioning glance, makes herself comfy on the armchair, and we proceed with the interview).
So, your book, Purgatory Hotel, is coming out today! Very exciting! In three sentences, can you give us an idea of what it’s about?
A girl wakes up in Purgatory which is an old hotel, but can’t remember who she is or how she died.
The girl must have done something bad to end up in Purgatory.
The girl has to remember everything before she can get to Heaven.
It’s clear that you are fascinated by the darker side of things. Where did your love of the macabre come from?
My mum and dad always loved reading crime books and watching murder mysteries on TV. They loved Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie so I ended up loving those too. I recall Saturday nights with the whole family in front of the TV watching Miss Marple and Poirot aswell as Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes stories. My dad was interested in true crime too so as I got older I ended up reading more and more books around the subject. I have 2 brothers and 4 sisters and between us all we all ended up with an interest in the darker side of things, all of us sharing horror movies and scary books. It definitely shaped my movie and book preferences!
Have you ever seen (or experienced in any other way) a ghost?
Yes I have. Several times. But that’s my next book….
On a scale of 1-10 (with 1 being a mild startle and 10 being “oh dear I can’t sleep because I’m sure there’s a murderous clown under my bed”) how scary is Purgatory Hotel?
Ah I don’t think it’s that scary at all, creepy maybe, no one likes the idea of being stuck in a dark and creepy old hotel! I haven’t written it to be a scary book but it features a lot of things that scare me – old hotels, long corridors, dark forests and ultimately dying in a very unpleasant way.
If none of those things bother you I’d say it’s a 2…..however if you aren’t a fan of the woods at night, probably an 8.
No clowns though. I’m too scared of them to write about them!
Did the idea for the hotel come from an actual hotel you’ve visited?
I didn’t think it did, it felt like an amalgam of a lot of different familiar images of old hotels. But my sister pointed out to me when she was reading descriptions of the hotel, that in places it was like a hotel that was around the corner from where I grew up called The Grand. I went there all the time in my teenage years as it was a great pub but the hotel part was damaged by fire and not used. I went up there once when a friend who worked there showed me around. It was really creepy. Perhaps that thought of all those empty rooms and lightless hallways stuck somewhere in my subconscious.
So that wraps up our conversation with Anne-Marie. Check out Purgatory Hotel on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Purgatory-Hotel-Anne-Marie-Ormsby/dp/1977649521
and visit Anne-Marie on her blog here: https://www.annemarieormsby.com/
Today we welcome Samantha Priestley to talk about her fifth novel, "A Bad Winter". She'll tell us a bit about it, and has awesomely given us a nice, juicy excerpt (which most definitely made ME want to buy the book!) So, with no further ado, here is Samantha! (Bow, flourish, dramatically exit stage left...)
A Bad Winter is my fifth book and my first ghost story, and it all started with a snippet of a local story from the Peak District, Derbyshire, England. When I read about the murder of a young woman in 1760 in Hill Head House in Bradwell, which is no longer standing, and the strange events that followed, the idea for the book began. The book runs between 1760 and modern day, telling the story of what happened to Sarah Vernon and the people of the village, and what happens to Lorraine when the events of 1760 meet with her own life today. It’s about love and what it drives us to do, the power of belief, and of course, ghosts!
Here’s the opening of the book, hope you like it, leave a comment or ask a question below and I’ll get back to you x
Sometime in the 1760s this happened in Derbyshire
The snow had fallen the day before and tonight, a slow wind curling in the valley, all about was frozen. Sarah approached the house, pulling at her skirts as a cold branch snagged her from behind. The branch held on for the briefest moment, brittle claws tugging, but lost its fight as Sarah pulled herself free. Only the light from a shaded moon helped her forward.
Her feet slid on humps of frozen snow. She could feel the places his feet had walked earlier in the day, the warmth from the roots of his body melting curves in the frozen ground, and hers, making ice bump like the clods of earth in the top field. Sarah tried to figure the path in front of her, but her feet lost their way a couple of times and the soles of her shoes failed and slipped on the blackness of the ice.
She saw the front door of the house open, yellow light behind his bulky form as he stepped out. She heard him speak to the dog and a whistle fly from his lips as the dog jumped and ran in the cold night.
Sarah stopped dead and waited, her arms slightly apart from her body to steady herself. The door closed and Joseph walked quickly away from the house.
It was the dog who found her first. Bess’s warm nose snorting breath forward in the dark, her brown eyes shining as she caught the scent of Sarah waiting down by the bush. The dog leapt at the girl, her hind legs skitting on the frozen ground, her front paws up and muddying Sarah’s clothes. Sarah put her fingers to the place behind Bess’s ears and rubbed them like lumps of butter in flour.
“Bess,” she whispered. “My girl, yer know me, alright, don’t yer?”
Joseph was only three strides behind the dog and he came upon them like he was the deceived and they were the lovers.
“Bess!” he said, and he yanked the dog away from Sarah. Then he stood himself tall and looked down on the girl. “Sarah,” he said. “Tis a cold night.”
“Aye, that it is,” she replied, a smile beginning, “But I’m the one to warm yer on this cold night, Joseph.”
She saw something enter his eyes then, like she often did. Sarah encouraged herself to mistake it for emotion, a shift under his skin, a heat in his body, which he could never turn away from. But it was more animal than anything Sarah had ever seen in Bess’s eyes.
Joseph turned Sarah away from him, the top of her head resting beneath his breastbone, and urged her into the wooded area behind his house. It meant them turning back towards the solid stone house, smoke like a wisp of hair from the chimney, the light from the fire inside golden on the windows. Then away to the right they moved, away to the trees. Sarah giggled. Joseph’s arm fitted around her waist, his other hand up under her skirts. He had her by a tree, neither the house below them nor the path above them visible from where they stood. Her skirts high around her waist, Joseph’s breath hot by her face. A quick fumbling with his clothes and she felt herself lifted a little more.
Bess began to bark, frosted leaves brittle beneath her set paws. Bits of bark from the tree fell to the ground around Sarah’s back.
When she felt Joseph’s body relax against her and his shoulders slump, Sarah opened her eyes. Through the pattern of the trees she could see, up on the top of the hill, the shape of cattle slow in the cold evening, black against the winter sky. They hardly moved at all, their bulky forms meandering like streams. She lifted her head slightly and above she saw the moon, shimmering beneath the clouds like its own reflection on water. The cattle shifted in the corner of her eye, the moon bright on her face, and she thought she saw a different form flit behind the animals up on the hill. But it was gone, if it was there at all. Joseph removed his body and Sarah fell to a standing position by the tree, her clothes ruffling against her legs as they dropped back into place.
Joseph stood back, fastening his clothes again. He bent, his face taut, and he grabbed at a lump of frozen snow on the ground, holding it in his fist, so cold it burned. He threw it with such force it made Sarah flinch, though it wasn’t aimed in her direction. She could feel all his frustration and aggression exiting his body with that one angry action. He threw it at a space between the trees to his right and watched for just a second as it scattered and hit the ground in lumps. Then he looked at her. “There’s trouble.” he said. “Standing right there and looking like Sarah Vernon. There’s trouble alright.”
“I’ll be no trouble to you Joseph.” she said.
“This shunt go on.” he said. “We ‘ave the devil in us when we do this.”
“And yet it does go on.” she said.
He looked to the side, away from her face, and watched the dog sniffing
amongst the icy leaves. He moved suddenly, like he always did, without a moment for Sarah to complain. “’Ere Bess!” he said, and he walked back down towards the house.
Last month I went to Costa Rica and Nicaragua with a dear friend of mine, and had the most amazing time. There’s so much to tell, so many amazing things happened, so many adventures and misadventures! There was the chocolate factory in Grenada, the monkeys on islands in Lake Nicaragua, the stalker-ish bellboy (that’s a tale for another day…actually, I’m pretty sure there’s a novel coming out of that one!) But the beginning of the story is probably the funniest part, so that’s what I’ll tell here.
Firstly, a month before we were due to go, my horse stepped on my foot and broke it. it was somewhat healed, but I still had the dreaded boot, Ace bandages, and a cane. Not the ideal situation for a trip that was going to involve a great deal of walking and hiking and yoga on the beach.
The good thing about lurching around an airport with a broken foot is that you get to pre-board (on Southwest Airlines that means you get the best seat). I got to the airport early, sailed through the lines, and plop myself down into the very front seat of the plane. The only problem is that I don’t see my friend anywhere.
So, here I am, with a broken foot, sitting on the plane, which is about to take off…and I’m by myself (well, excepting for all of the other people who are also on the plane, of course. But they are all going to Costa Rica with each other, not with me, which is an important distinction).
This was not the plan; not at all. I was not supposed to go to Costa Rica by myself. I was supposed to go with my friend, my travel buddy, my adventuresome kindred spirit who doesn’t care where in the world I suggest we go…she just says, “ok, when are we leaving?” She is awesome.
And she has missed the plane. The next plane isn’t for another two days. Which means that I am going to Costa Rica…alone.
Now, I am resourceful. Really, I’m pretty ballsy, if you ask me. I’ve traveled alone before (on purpose though, usually…it’s a different sort of trip when you’re by yourself versus with someone else). I tend to view the world as a place full of friends I haven’t met yet. So the plane pushes off, and we start to taxi towards the runway, and I’m a little nervous but mostly I’m just excited. I’ve got this. I can roll with it.
We land. I chose a cab at the airport that looks the least likely to contain a molestering cabbie, and I’m off on the hour-and-a-half drive to the hotel. This is where things start to break down. He insists, “No anglais! Solo espagnol!” Now, I’ve been learning Dutch (my fiancé is Dutch and I want to be able to speak Dutch with his family and it seems that all the new Dutch words have pushed whatever Spanish words I used to know right out of my head. The Dutch and the Spanish and the English got all jumbled up, and I ended up speaking a very bizarre combination of the three. Even I didn’t understand myself. Dommage. Which is French for “too bad”.)
Weirdly, the words I do remember all seem to have something to do with farm animals, so we spent the next 90 minutes marveling over the cows and horses and chickens that we saw. Scintillating stuff.
Eventually we get to the hotel, where I meet the truly intrusively “friendly” bellhop (really, there WILL BE a book involving this pester-some kid). Once I’m settled I also try to reschedule the excursion to the rainforest we had planned for the next day. No luck. It’s too late to cancel. Either go alone or lose the money.
Anyone who knows me will know my answer to that: Ima go to the rainforest.
And this is where everything started to bite me. Literally. Like, for real.
First there was a dog in a little town where we stopped for a snack. I pet the dog, the dog jumped up, and we had a nice moment. Then he bit me. (It wasn’t a nasty bite, it was a playful sort of thing, but still.)
Then we get to the rainforest itself, and start hiking (or, in my case, hobbling with my foot all wrapped up and two walking sticks to help me get along). I see a trail of very large red ants, doing something that seems, to them, Very Important. I get excited. I step right up to the trail and bend over to observe them more closely.
“These are fire ants,” says the guide. “They are carnivores.”
“Oh,” I say. “And what are they doing now? Are they moving their nest?” Really, there are thousands of them, and they’re all running along in the same direction. They’ve even formed a little groove in the dirt where they’re passing, like the ant version of a one-way road.
Except it’s not a one-way road. It’s a two-way, which I’m about to find out.
“They’re hunting,” replies the guide. “They’re bringing food back to the nest.”
“So they must come back, then?” I ask. “Ow.” Feeling a pinch, I brush at my toe, which is exposed because of the ace bandages on the broken foot.
“Yes, they go out and hunt things like spiders and caterpillars and bring it back…” says the guide.
“Ow,” I say. “Ow. Ow. Owwwww!”
You see, the whole time I’ve been standing right smack in the middle of the line of ants heading in the other direction. I’m blocking one whole lane of their road, really. And let me just say that fire ants don’t like it when you block their road. Indeed, they get rather nasty about it.
So now I’m hopping about, with fire ants all over my broken foot, biting me in a million places at once (those little suckers have some sharp whatever-they-use-to-bite-people-with!). The ants are in my bandages, and they’re mad about that, too, but I can’t get them out of there so it’s not really my fault.
What was my fault, though, was that I stood right on top of their little lane, which was terribly rude of me, so I’m trying to brush the little buggers off my foot, yelping all the while, and apologizing to the ants who are furiously trying to rebuild the road I so carelessly trampled.
“Lo siento, little ants,” I say. “Ow.” The guide is nearly falling over, he’s laughing so hard.
Luckily for me, that was the last day that anything (other than a few giant mosquitos, that is!) bit me in Costa Rica. It was enough biting for one vacation, I think. And it is enough for one gruelingly long blog post.
Next post: Nicaragua and the Miraculous Foot Scrub!
Soooo, it's finally here...."Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab"'s release date! In honor of the occasion, Barnabas (and I, of course!) have embarked on a whirlwind blog tour. I had a blast visiting each one! Here, though, I think I'll post the most, errrr, unusual ones, where the blogger interviews Apep, who is an Egyptian god of evil and chaos and who is portrayed in the book as a rather unsavory (and quite dangerous!) fellow. So let's give poor Apep a chance to speak, and perhaps clear up some misconceptions about his character (or reinforce them, as the case my be!)
So here, with no further ado, is the transcript of the interview:
Btw, "FB" refers to Fang-tastic Books, the intrepid blogger who bravely (foolishly?) undertook the job of interviewing a god of evil who also just happens to be a very large snake. Good luck to you, FB!
Today we’ll be talking to Apep, the Egyptian god of chaos and evil, about his role in the just-released “Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab” by Columbkill Noonan. Barnabas Tew himself was supposed to come by as well, but he claimed to come down with a mysterious and somewhat vague ailment the moment he heard Apep was coming, and could not be reached for further comment. Probably for the best, anyway, since Apep’s first words upon arrival were to inquire about the whereabouts of Barnabas whilst gnashing his teeth rather fearsomely.
FB: So, Apep, thank you very much for coming, we are very pleased….
Apep: (looking around, still gnashing those nasty-looking fangs) “Are you absolutely sure Barnabas isn’t here? I could do with a snack, you know.”
FB: Uh, sorry, no. He’s not here. But we do have a nice cheese platter.”
Apep: “Blech. How about some tasty mice?”
FB: “Hmmm. I think we’re all out of mice. Sorry.”
Intern: “I think we have some gummy worms….”
Apep: “Worms, you say? I suppose that will do.”
(Intern leaves to fetch the gummy worms.)
FB: “So, Apep, now that we’ve got the snack situation in hand…” (looking at Apep, realizing that he has no hands, as he’s a snake, and that comment might be seen as offensive) “….er, under control, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself?”
Apep: “Well, I’m the Egyptian god of chaos and all that is evil, as you probably know.”
FB: “Very interesting. What, exactly, does it entail, being the god of chaos and evil and what-not?”
Apep: (looking into the distance and speaking with great seriousness) “The biggest thing is that I do my best to sow discord as much as I possibly can. Anytime anyone has a plan, I do what I can to wreck it. Just little things, you know, mean so much. Like if someone has just plowed a field, I’ll do my best to whip up a windstorm and blow all their seeds away, so they’ll have no crops and starve. It’s hilarious! And my minions and I love to eat up all those mouse-headed people that live around my mountain, Bakhu. Not all of them, mind you, because then there would be no one left to be terrified of me, but just enough to keep them on their toes.”
FB: “Hmmm. Lovely. Sounds like fun. Now, in ‘Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab’, we learn that you have a rather complicated relationship with the sun. Can you expand on that a bit?”
Apep: “Well, as you know, the sun is rolled across the sky every day, and then every night it sinks below the horizon and travels underground, which is where I live, of course. So every night I ambush the sun once it sets, and we have a wonderfully terrible battle.”
FB: “And you do this…why?”
Apep: “Why, to keep it from ever rising again! Wouldn’t that be the absolute best chaos anyone had ever seen?”
FB: “But so far the sun has continued to rise, pretty regularly…”
Apep: (grumpily)“Yes, well, I haven’t managed to stop it yet. But one must keep trying, right? I’d be a terrible god of evil if I just gave up.”
FB: “Of course. Your dedication is commendable.”
Apep: (nodding head graciously) “I’m not the god of evil and chaos for nothing, you know.”
FB: “I’d like to ask you about Barnabas Tew, and what happened in Bakhu with him.”
Apep: (hissing angrily) “Barnabas Tew! Ugh, I hate that guy! He’s the absolute worst. He doesn’t understand chaos at all, and he went way out of his way to thwart me. He had no real reason to come after me like that! Yes, yes, I tried to eat him, but what did he expect?”
FB: “I guess it was because he was hired to find the missing sun god. Seems that he may have had some reason to be, well, a bit wary of you....”
Apep: ‘Well, of course he did. But there was no need to do what he did. That business with Bastet, you know, was truly over the top.”
FB: “I hate to pry, since this is clearly a tender subject, but can you tell us how you feel about what happened with Bastet?”
Apep: “On the contrary, I’d be happy to tell you. People really should be warned, if there’s going to be a detective wandering about interfering with chaos the way Barnabas is doing. Everybody knows that there is a list of ways in which to defeat me. ‘Setting fire to Apep. Defiling Apep with your left foot. Taking a knife to Apep.’ Things like that. Now, I don’t like those things very much, obviously, but that’s how it’s done. For Barnabas to bring in Bastet…Bastet, a cat, for chaos’ sake! Well, that’s just disgusting. And it’s most definitely not on the list.”
FB: “I can see that you’re very upset….”
Apep: “Of course I am! If I ever get my fangs on that Barnabas, I’ll show him some real chaos, I can promise you that.” (looking around) “Where are those gummy worms? I’m really very hungry. What about you?”
FB: “Am I hungry, you mean?”
Apep: “No, I was wondering if I might have you as a snack. Are you tasty?”
FB: (backing away nervously, and speaking in a voice that is far too chipper) “Well then, I think we’re done here! I’m sure you have some evil to sow; some chaos to wreak?”
Apep: (slithering closer, flickering his tongue in and out whilst drool drips from his lower lip) “Yes, well, there’s always time for a snack. You’re not a mouse, precisely, but I think you’ll do.”
FB: (backing away, then running) “Intern! Intern! Ack!”
Disclaimer: No interviewers or interns were harmed in the making of this blog post, but the bag of gummy worms that the panicked intern tossed in Apep’s way was devoured most mercilessly.
“Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab” is now available on Amazon! (https://www.amazon.com/Barnabas-Tew-Case-Missing-Scarab/dp/1546786074/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1499198796&sr=8-1&keywords=barnabas+tew)
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I thought I'd let you see one of my favourite scenes from my new novel, Merle, published on July 5th.
This is the second book in my Jacques Forêt series of mystery stories set in the Cévennes and featuring my lead character and investigator, Jacques Forêt. Although Jacques is now working in Mende, a major city about 30m kilometres south of my fictional village, Messandrierre, he still keeps in touch with the villagers and his close friend, Gaston, in the village restaurant. Beth Samuels, his love interest, is also back in her chalet in the village and Jacques calls in to see her when he can.
The local farmers are still giving Jacques a few headaches but he finds ways of dealing with them… as you will see in the extract below.
"I want an explanation and none of you are leaving here until I get one." Jacques, unshaven from having being woken so early and dressed in a pair of creased jeans and a jumper, paced back and forth in the bar as he waited for someone to respond. "This find has to be called in. There is no question of that. But you will have to explain what you were doing up in the north pastures at four in the morning. It's a very odd time to be mending fences, Rouselle." His tone hardened. "What were you doing?" He stopped and looked each one of the men in the eye in turn.
"Rouselle?" he prompted.
Rouselle shifted in his chair and looked away. Gaston and Pamier glanced at each other but said nothing.
"Right." Jacques pulled out his phone. "You leave me no option and the charges I will be suggesting to my old colleagues in Mende will be trespass, concealment of a body and obstruction of a police investigation. I'm sure I can think of a couple more, but those will suffice for now." He began to dial.
"Tell him, Rouselle." It was Gaston who broke the silence. "Damn well tell him, man."
Jacques pulled up a chair from a nearby table, pulled his notebook from the back pocket of his jeans and sat down. "Any chance of some coffee?"
"Of course," said Gaston as he got up and moved across the room.
"It's not trespass, Jacques." Rouselle blustered, "I was taking back what was mine." He sat upright, his hands placed on his thighs, defiance in his eyes. "I was taking back my land."
"And do you have documentary proof of where the boundary between your land and Delacroix's actually sits?"
"So, if I were to ask for those documents so that I could pass them on to a surveyor, he will be able to tell me that your new fence is in exactly the right place. Is that correct?" Jacques watched the farmer's face as a smidgen of colour suffused his cheeks.
"I'm just a simple farming man, Jacques," he said, his tone more moderate and respectful. "I understand cattle and the land. How do I know what a surveyor will find?" He shrugged off his evident lie.
Jacques tapped his notebook with his pen. "And why did this…reclaim of your land have to be undertaken now? It's 4.37am, it's still dark. Moving fences is not the sort of job that I would normally expect to be done at this time in the morning." He accepted the coffee that Gaston handed to him and sat back in his chair, left ankle resting on his right knee.
"I've a very busy day today and I wanted to get the job done and out of the way early." Rouselle placed the coffee he was handed on the table next to him.
"I see. You have such a busy day today that you can afford to keep lying to me, can you? No-one is leaving until I get to the truth, Fermier Rouselle. The whole truth."
"Delacroix owes me," he shouted. "And I'm not giving up on my land. I'm doing my bit for the community by taking care of his cattle, as requested by Monsieur le Maire, even though the compensation for those two beasts of mine that he injured and Clergue killed is still outstanding. I want my land back." He stared at Jacques.
"Then do it legally, Rouselle. What you've been doing here tonight is highly suspicious. I have no doubt that your new fence will be more or less in the right place, Fermier Rouselle. But, more or less is still not exact and still not legal."
Before the farmer could remonstrate more, he turned his attention to Gaston. "And your involvement is what?"
"I was just helping out a fellow villager, that's all, Jacques." He finished his coffee and took out his cigarettes and lighter.
"Fermier Pamier, your reason for being there?"
"The same as Gaston." The both exchanged a look.
Jacques drained his cup and placed it on the table behind him. "And what about the body. Do any of you know who it is?"
"No," the three of them chorused.
"Is that so?" Jacques stood and began to pace, his instincts sharpened by their response.
"So, none of you knew the body was there before you found it?"
"No." Another unified response.
"You don't seem very surprised that there is a body on what you claim to be your land, Fermier Rouselle?"
Rouselle opened his mouth to speak but paused and closed it again.
"Nothing to say, Fermier Rouselle?" Jacques waited. "That's not like you, is it? Always voluble. Always to be relied upon for an appropriate opinion. But today, when a body is found on your land, you say nothing."
Rouselle stood. "And you're not a gendarme any longer, this isn't Paris and you have no right to interrogate me."
Jacques turned to face him and shouted. "That may be so, but you sent for me, so sit down. You've involved me in this very suspicious escapade that you three are undertaking and I have to be absolutely certain that I am not implicated in any way. My reputation as a gendarme and investigator is at stake and you three seem to think that you can just brush that aside behind a wall of silence." Hands on his hips he towered over them. "I'm calling this in, I expect it will be Magistrate Pelletier who is assigned to this enquiry and I expect the three of you to be absolutely open and honest with him as you seem to be incapable of being truthful with me."
Leaving his notebook on the table he marched out of the bar, phone in his hand and dialled.
Merle, published on July 5th, is available here https://www.amazon.com/Merle-French-mystery-Jacques-Mystery-ebook/dp/B0728BMD96/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
Without giving any spoilers, can you give us a hint of what the book is about?
The Watcher follows the journey of DI Jack Grayson, as he tries to track down an obsessive stalker and serial killer, who’s currently cutting a swathe through London, slaying young female victims in the most brutal manner. Grayson’s job is made especially difficult because the person he is tracking doesn’t leave much of a trace, and there are no discernable leads from which he can hone in on a suspect, at least not at first.
The novel also takes readers into the mind of a master predator, showing them the motivations of a monster and how he became that way. It is quite dark in places but then so are psychopaths, at least when they turn violent.
Describe the hero/heroine of your book in three words.
Stressed, chivalrous, well-meaning.
Describe the antagonist of your book in three words.
Manipulative, vengeful, brutal.
What inspired you to write this book?
Before I ever sat down to write The Watcher, I made a study of several infamous psychopathic killers, such as Ted Bundy, Zodiac and The Green River Killer to glean what their possible motivations might have been and to learn a bit more about what made them tick.
The antagonist in my novel The Watcher, definitely draws on traits from these kinds of psychopaths, but as readers will discover the antagonist in The Watcher also has his own very unique reasons for doing what he does. As well, I wrote the book to answer a question I had always wondered about, which is, just how much does environment shape a psychopath.
In other words, if someone is predisposed to a psychopathic personality, can an abusive or neglectful home environment, or an especially traumatic formative incident tip them over the edge, into violent madness?
Do you ever base your characters on real people?
No, all my characters are composites, complete mixes of traits and behaviours that I’ve observed in others. None of them are faithful studies on any one individual, that’s not how they come to me. So I suppose you could say I try to make each of my characters truly unique, a new and hybrid creation that’s part product of observation, part the result of my imagination. I suppose it’s up to my readers to let me know whether that works or not!
What's your favorite part of writing? Least favorite?
Once I get in the flow of it, my favourite part of writing is the writing itself, as the story comes together and the characters reveal themselves to me. I must confess, I abhor the editing part, although I am quite meticulous over it, which is probably one of the reasons I always try and put it off. Once I start editing something I’ve written, I cannot leave it until I’ve picked over everything and probably rewritten it once or twice, and that’s before I’ve even sent it off to the publisher.
Given current political activities, many of us in the US feel that it is our responsibility, as individuals, to take up the slack in terms of environmental protection and prevention of climate change. Do you have any tips from "across the pond" that might be fun for readers to try at home to be more environmentally conscious?
Well, what we put in our bodies naturally has an impact on the environment around us as well as a direct result on how healthy we are, so one of the most important things I would stress would be to select the food we eat with care. I know it’s more expensive but if you can afford it, I think it’s extremely important to try and buy local organic produce wherever you can, as not only does it support independent business rather than propping up global corporate franchise, but it also cuts down the amount of chemicals, toxins and pesticides both our bodies and the environment have to cope with.
You can make a start by checking out your local farmer’s market, or independent whole foods store and paying them a visit. It’s enormous fun to go round selecting tasty produce you’re later going to cook and eat actually, and particularly interesting to notice the dramatic difference between organic and non-organic produce.
As well, what we put on our bodies is just as important as what we put in them. Start reading the back of the toiletries and household cleaning products you select, and see if you can begin by making the switch to more eco-friendly alternatives, with less toxins and pollutants.
This doesn’t have to cost the earth, as you can also do a bit of research online and compile a list of basic ingredients that you can purchase, such as stocking up on a few multi-purpose essential oils, and common household products such as baking soda. Then you can start making your own eco-friendly toiletries, such as home-made mouth wash, washing up liquid, and natural disinfectant.
THE WATCHER is officially released on June 21st by Crooked Cat Books and is available for purchase now in paperback or for pre-order for e-copy at getbook.at/thewatcher
Readers can stay updated on release news, bonus content, and promotions regarding THE WATCHER at http://www.elicarros.com
It's launch day for The Silence by Katharine Johnson, a psychological, coming of age story set in Tuscany.
What's the book about?
Ok, here's the elevator pitch:
Doctor Abby Fenton has a rewarding career, a loving family, an enviable lifestyle - and a secret that could destroy everything. When human remains are discovered in the grounds of an idyllic Tuscan holiday home she is forced to confront the memories she has suppressed until now and relive the summer she spent at the villa in 1992. A summer that ended in tragedy. The nearer she gets to the truth the closer she comes to losing her sanity. In order to hold onto the people she loves most, she must make sure they never discover what she did. But the reappearance of someone else from that summer threatens to blow her secret wide open...
There is also a short video trailer you can watch which gives you a good idea of what the story is about.
How are you feeling about the launch?
Excited - and a bit terrified. It's like how I felt seeing my children go off to school on their first day. I'm thrilled to see the final published version - I love the cover and am especially pleased with the spine because it's so simple. But I know I've passed the point of no-return now. I can't suddenly grab it back and rewrite anything!
Where did you get the idea for the book?
I just wrote the book I wanted to read. I love stories about houses with secrets and I love coming of age stories where someone makes a choice that will change the course of their life.
Why did you choose Tuscany as the setting?
I wanted it to be set somewhere beautiful to contrast with the events which are quite dark. I know Tuscany well because I've lived in Florence and had a home in Lucca for several years so it was quite easy to describe. I also felt the remoteness of some of the Tuscan mountain villages would make it easier for an event like this to be covered up and forgotten for many years. But also, with so many old houses being bought up and restored, it was quite likely that the secret would be discovered at some stage. A skeleton was found in a house near us when it was being renovated which gave me the idea.
How are you celebrating the launch?
I'm having an online launch party on Facebook today and would love to invite your readers along. Here is the link to the page. There will be information about the book, visiting authors and giveaways. The main event is at 8pm UK time but the page will be up throughout the day and the following day so people from other countries or who are busy this evening can join in and enter the giveaways.
I will also be having a launch/book signing in my village on 22 June.
How can we buy the book?
It's available from Amazon on this link
There is more information on Amazon author page
and my website