Our Past Shapes Our Present And Our Future. (Whether We Like That Or Not) #BOTY2021 #memories #secrets #TheMemory #Promotion @honno

1. How did you feel when you were nominated for the Wales Book of the Year Award?

It was a strange feeling, The Memory was published around the first week of the first lockdown and, I felt, became subsumed in all the disruption and anxiety of the pandemic. So, when I first heard that the book was being nominated, it was a complete surprise. Naturally I was also thrilled, because The Memory is so different from my other novels, which are all historical family sagas. And I wasn’t sure how it would be received by readers. To be recognised by Literature Wales for the Wales Book of the Year Award 2021, The Rhys Davies Trust Fiction Award, was a great accolade for me.

2. What made you want to write the Memory?

I believe we are all affected by our pasts; experiences that shape our present and future. And, as writers, memories feed our stories. Families fascinate me: the love, the loyalties, the rivalry, the complex relationships. Layers that are in all families. The casual acceptance of one another in a family can bring the best and the worst out in all of us, so there is a wealth of human emotions to work with. This is how The Memory evolved. Some of the background comes from a time when I was a carer for my aunt who lived with us. She developed dementia and I kept a journal so we could talk about what we’d done each day. Many years after she’d died, those memories crept into The Memory. And then there are memories from my childhood, when I had a friend who was a Downs Syndrome child. The affection she gave, the happiness that seemed to surround her, is something I remembered long after she died of heart failure at the age of eleven. And I wanted that love to be a huge part of the book, a main theme. Fundamentally it’s the story of a secret that is never discussed within a family, but which has had a profound lifelong effect on the relationship between the mother and daughter. The Memory is sometimes poignant, sometimes sad, but is threaded throughout with humour.

3. What would your words of advice be for aspiring writers?

The way you see the world is different from anyone else, so write from your heart. If you don’t feel the emotions as you put the words on the paper or screen, no reader will feel them either. Basically, your job is to write the story in the best way you can; you will know if you have. And then accept that not everyone is going to like your work; just understand that every reader will have a subjective opinion of your book.

My Review of Remember No More by Jan Newton – Now an Audio Book #review #DSJulieKit #Crime @CrimeCymru #audiobook #families #FrometheArchives #Wales

I can’t believe it is almost five years ago since I wrote this review of Jan Newton’s brilliant crime story. Originally, I was given an ARC of Remember No More by the publishers, Honno, for a fair and honest review. I said at the time:”Believe me, this is one to look out for!! I wasn’t wrong. And now Honno have released Remember No More as an audio book: https://tinyurl.com/32cm2n8s. So now we have a choice… read, or listen – it’s brilliant.

Book Description:

Newly promoted DS Julie Kite is at a crossroads. Her husband’s new job takes her away from urban Manchester and its inner city problems to a new life in tranquil mid-Wales. It is to be a new start for them both. On her first day at Builth Wells police station, Julie is thrust unexpectedly into the centre of a murder investigation in a remote farming community. At the same time, Stephen Collins is set free from HMP Strangeways. He immediately makes his way back to mid-Wales, the scene of his heinous crime, in order to confront those who had a hand in his incarceration.

The twists and turns of the investigation into the death of solicitor Gareth Watkin force DS Kite to confront her own demons alongside those of her new community and the lengths to which we’ll go to protect our families.

My Review:

This is a plot with many twists and turns. The depths of the historic layers are slowly revealed alongside the introduction of the protagonist, Detective Sergeant Julie Kite and her struggles in both her work and home life. I loved the author’s ability to balance  – and juggle – both, and to keep the reader interested throughout the story. For me the genre of crime fiction can only work if there are false leads, clues that baffle or can give a ‘eureka’ moment. Remember No More does all these.

The story is told from an omniscient point of view, weighted mostly from the protagonist’s viewpoint and this works, as I have the feeling we will be hearing more from DS Kite. But there is also an insight to the other characters and this adds depth to the them; to their struggles, their loyalties, their place in both the community and their families. The characters are well rounded and it is easy to empathise with some of them – and to recognise the weakness and malevolence in others. 

The dialogue works well, differentiating the Welsh born characters and contrasting with the accent of Julie Kite and other Northern England characters. The internal dialogue gives greater perception to them all. I liked the slow internal acceptance of the protagonist’s change of life and work situation from Northern England to Wales.

I think one of the great strengths in the author’s writing is the descriptions of the settings. If I can’t picture the world the characters live in, it doesn’t work for me. Jan Newton  bases her book in mid Wales. The details are authentic and give a tangible sense of place. I admired  her ability to bring the sense of place alive. I was immediately drawn in by a very early description: ” the road was hemmed in either side by reeds and grasses, which had been bleached by the winter’s snow and were still untouched by the spring sunshine…”.And later, “the car rattled over a cattle grid and a vista of villages and isolated farms opened up below them as the road hair-pinned to the right, before descending along the edge of a steep valley. the tops of the hills were the pale browns of moorland, but the valley bottoms were already lush with meadows and hedges.” Good stuff!!

If I had anreservations about the story it would be about the relationship between the protagonist and her husband. But this is only because I wanted to know the background of their marriage. Maybe this is something to be revealed in the next story of DS Julie Kite. 

A couple of last mentions; I love the cover, the image is wonderful, I feel it is the scene that the buzzard sees in the Prologue. Oh, I do like prologues!

This is  a book I have no hesitation in recommending to any reader who enjoys a good strong crime mystery.

 I enjoyed reading Remember No More, and, by the way, there’s another offering from DS Julie Kite

Book Description:

Newly promoted DS Julie Kite has been in sleepy mid-Wales for mere months when she’s faced with her second murder case. A man’s body has been found by school kids trekking the Monk’s Trod. The trail takes her back north to her parents in Manchester and to a housing estate in Blackpool. It’s not a simple case – a young mother has disappeared, but so has her son and her next door neighbour’s wife. And the husband of the landlady of the B&B where the girl was staying. When an ex-serviceman farmhand with PTSD attempts to take his own life the case gets more complex still.

Buying Links:

Amazon.co.uk: https://tinyurl.com/2p9adcpx

Amazon.com: https://tinyurl.com/2p87s9fm

About Jan:

Jan Newton grew up in Manchester and Derbyshire and spent twenty years in the Chilterns before moving to mid Wales in 2005. She has worked as a bilingual secretary, an accountant, and in the Welsh stream of Builth Wells Primary School. She plays the euphonium in Llandrindod and Knighton brass bands

Jan graduated from Swansea University in 2015 with a Masters in Creative Writing and has won the Allen Raine Short Story Competition, the WI’s Lady Denman Cup, the Lancashire and North West Magazine’s prize for humorous short stories and the Oriel Davies Gallery’s prize for nature writing. She is a member of the Crime Writers’ Association.

Places in our Memories: With Chris Lloyd #Memories #MondayBlogs #Crimewriter #CrimeCymru

There are places that remain in our memories, the details may become slightly blurred, nostalgia may colour our thoughts, but they don’t fade. And how those places made us feel at the time is the one thing that remains.

Today I’m really pleased to welcome Chris Lloyd, who I seem to have known for quite a while, yet I can’t remember where we met, but who has since become a good friend.

Over to you, Chris…

Thanks, Judith.

So here I am, remembering Girona …

You can’t help but feel love for a city that puts up a statue to books.

I knew very little about the language of Catalonia and nothing of its history when I went to live in Girona for six months in 1979, my year abroad on my degree course in Spanish and French. Sending me to study Spanish in the heartland of Catalan language and culture wasn’t perhaps the wisest move, but in the end I had no complaints. Quite the opposite, in fact. It was the first and one of the most important of the turning points in my life.

When I turned up one very hot morning at the end of August to start a teaching job in September, Franco had not yet been gone four years. Institutions were changing, slowly. Spain’s new Constitution had been approved, and a Statute of Autonomy for Catalonia voted in and enacted shortly after I turned up. Changes small and large, visible and not so visible, were taking place all around us. The most disreputable street names had been changed – either back to their original pre-dictatorship names or to new ones to mark the passing of the dictator and the return of democracy – but there were still others high up on the walls of buildings that were still in Castilian Spanish, waiting to be replaced.

The Catalan language had been banned under Franco, its use in public office prohibited, no songs recorded or books published (with the exception, eventually, of a small set of Catholic-funded tomes few people read). No Catalan holidays were observed or traditional celebrations allowed, and a pan-Spanish pseudo-culture was imposed on the country, not just in response to a burgeoning tourist industry but to dilute national and regional differences.

Catalan hadn’t been taught in schools since 1939, and there were at least two generations of Catalans who could speak their language, albeit with many ‘Castilianisms’ creeping in, but few of them could write it. So much of what had been taught about history and culture, hijacked by a petty and brittle dictatorship, had to be untaught and old subjects and thoughts rediscovered. Years later, researching for a guide book, I came across stories of archaeological sites that had been destroyed during the Franco years as the evidence they provided didn’t fit in with the new narrative that the dictatorship had demanded.

All around me, it felt like a people sloughing off a hide of oppression. More than that, it was a rebirth. A nation emerging dazzled into the sunlight after decades of darkness, suddenly being given a second chance, this time with a determination to get it right.

It was the most exciting and optimistic of times. And it just seemed to fit in with me and with my stage in my own history. I’d grown up in an insecure Wales that was torn between trying to revive its old identity and searching for a new one. I was the same. I was the youngest of three siblings, a bit of an age gap between me and my brother and sister, uncertain of where I fitted in. At twenty, when I went to Girona, I still had no real idea of who I was, collectively or individually, or of my place in the world.

Girona – and Catalonia – changed that. I was swept up in their renewal, in awe of their determination never to return to the days of every decision taken away from them and to move forward in asserting their own identity. It formed a sense of community in me and a sense of me in a community. The Catalans’ belief in the validity of their own language and culture made me take a fresh look at my own, at Wales. Beyond all of that, it made me take a fresh look at myself, at where I fitted in. And the lynchpin of that was the language. Lacking in self-confidence but blustery to hide shyness, I found that speaking in another language allowed me to overcome that. It was a façade I could hide my real uncertainties behind – my initial lack of fluency gave me an excuse for my lack of confidence and a way of overcoming it, while becoming fluent over time and the kind words said about my Catalan finally dispelled some of that insecurity.

Quite apart from the effect that that period in that place had on me, Girona itself is a beautiful city. To a twenty-something me, it was a whole new school and playground. An old quarter half-encircled by medieval city walls – in one of the most unfortunate urban decisions in history, the city council decided to knock down the other half of the walls in the 1930s to create an avenue – that was a den of minuscule alleys, smoke-filled jazz bars and elderly people sitting on upright chairs outside their front doors. A Jewish Quarter that had been so forcibly cut off from the rest of the city, it had created its own micro-climate. A cobbled hill that eventually led to Rome, part of the Via Augusta, and a towering Baroque cathedral atop Europe’s largest flight of Rococo steps that dominated the city as far as the Pyrenees.

And bookshops. A city with barely 100,000 people and there are about twenty bookshops, the vast majority of them independent. That’s why the city put up a statue to books. And it’s probably why, thirty-five years later, I set my first three novels in Girona, the first a story of clinging to the past while embracing the new. Full circle. From that first day in Girona, it gave me exactly that: the confidence to write and the curiosity to pursue it. Even my new series, set in Occupied France, owes its genesis to the lessons I began to learn in Girona.

I stayed in Catalonia. I went back to Girona for a few years after graduating before moving on to Bilbao, Madrid and Barcelona. In all, I stayed twenty-four years in Spain, twenty of them in Catalonia, and while Barcelona was where I lived the longest and the city I loved the most, Girona has always stayed with me as that first love you never forget and to which I owe so much.

Straight after graduating in Spanish and French, Chris Lloyd hopped on a bus from Cardiff to Catalonia and stayed there for over twenty years. He has also lived in Grenoble – researching the French Resistance movement – as well as in the Basque Country and Madrid, where he taught English and worked in educational publishing and as a travel writer. More recently, he worked as a Catalan and Spanish translator.

About Chris:

Chris now lives in Wales, where he writes the Occupation series, featuring Eddie Giral, a French police detective in Paris under Nazi rule. The first book in the series – The Unwanted Dead – won the HWA Gold Crown Award for best historical novel of the year and was shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger Award for the best historical crime fiction. It was chosen as Waterstones Welsh Book of the Month. The second book in the series, Paris Requiem, will be published in February 2023.

He has also written a trilogy set in present-day Girona, in Catalonia, featuring Elisenda Domènech, a police officer in the devolved Catalan police force.

Links:

Website: https://chrislloydauthor.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/chrislloydbcn

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chrislloydbcn/

My Review of Bethulia by Thorne Moore #TuesdayBookBlog #DiamondPress

I have read all of Thorne Moore’s books, so far, and I can honestly say this is one author who can turn her hand to any genre.

From her days when she was published with Honno and her domestic noir stories such as: Motherlove, to being published by Lume and the enthralling Llys y Garn books that hold a blend of gothic mystery and family drama, for example: Shadows, to her ventures into Indie Publishing and her powerful Sci Fi novels, beginning with: Inside Out, and now as an author of Diamond Press (her first book with them being Fatal Collision) this author has a talent for compelling plots and characters (to quote a well-known cliche) that leap off the page and live with the reader well after the story is finished.

And so it is with Bethulia.

Book Description:

Alison, Danny, Jude. Three girls bound closer than sisters. Nothing can divide them.

Until Alison falls for Simon Delaney. Handsome, successful and ambitious, what woman wouldn’t want him? He’s surely her perfect husband. So why does she commit suicide?

If it is suicide. The police say yes, except for the driven DC Rosanna Quillan. She says no, but she can only watch as Jude and Danny fight for the prize – the widower. How far would either of them go to have him?

My Review:

This is a story that grips from the start; the death of one of three women who have been friends from childhood. Initially drawn together by grief as young girls, and now, two of them again, Danny, Jude, as young women, with the apparent suicide of the other, Alison.

I say, ‘apparently’, because, thrown into the mix we have an unreliable narrator, the protagonist, Judith Granger. Brought back to England, from her work abroad by the dreadful news, her part of the story is told in first person point of view. And, to be honest, I was completely taken in by her actions. As always, I won’t give any spoilers in my review, but this is so difficult with Bethulia, because there are two plots here, but the same scenarios: one ambiguous, one explicit. And it takes the reader quite a while to get to that, “oh!” moment; that realisation of what is going on.

Because there is also an omniscient narrator, who follows the other characters, and relates their actions in a third person perspective.

And then there is Simon Delaney, the antagonist, who tells his story from his viewpoint, – a man it is easy to dislike, distrust, yet still wonder about….

And each point of view brings conflicting emotions in the reader. And that’s about all I can say about the storyline. Suffice it to say, it’s riveting.

And, as always in Thorne Moore’s novels, every character, even the minor ones, have distinctive characteristics and dialogue that bring an instant image of them. The major players are multi-layered, well rounded, their personalities evolving; being revealed, as the book progresses. Those you learn to love, those who from the beginning reveal themselves to be … shall we say… dubious ( or worse!) Besides the three main characters, Alison, Danny, Jude, I particularly like DC Rosanna Quillan. There is a small but dramatic twist at the end of Bethulia, which makes me wonder if we will hear more of her.

A short word about the settings in Bethulia. Whether it’s the interior of police stations, churches, or the description of houses such as Jude’s memory of Alison’s childhood home, Summervale, “a forbiddingly brown house”, or the secluded converted boathouse, Bethulia, which was to become a haven for Danny, or the snow-filled streets of Oxford, and the ethereal Teifi estuary in Wales,the portrayals give an evocative sense of place.

This is a well written story told in the usual confident and erudite writing style of this author, weaving themes and plot twists effortlessly throughout. As you may have guessed, I really enjoyed this book, and I would thoroughly recommend Bethulia to any reader who enjoys psychological and action thrillers with a strong plot and and memorable characters. You won’t be disappointed.

About Thorne Moore:

Thorne was born in Luton and graduated from Aberystwyth University (history) and from the Open University (Law). She set up a restaurant with her sister and made miniature furniture for collectors. She lives in Pembrokeshire, which forms a background for much of her writing, as does Luton.

She writes psychological mysteries, or “domestic noir,” exploring the reason for crimes and their consequences, rather than the details of the crimes themselves. and her first novel, “A Time For Silence,” was published by Honno in 2012, with its prequel, “The Covenant,” published in 2020. “Motherlove” and “The Unravelling” were also published by Honno. “Shadows,” published by Lume, is set in an old mansion in Pembrokeshire and is paired with “Long Shadows,” also published by Lume, which explains the history and mysteries of the same old house. She’s a member of Crime Cymru. Her latest crime novel, “Fatal Collision is published by Diamond Crime (2022)

She also writes Science Fiction, including “Inside Out” (2021) and “Making Waves” (2022)

Links:

Website: https://thornemoore.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thorne.moore.7

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ThorneMoore

Places in our Memories: With Kathy Miles #poet #MondayBlogs #Memories

Today I’m really pleased to welcome wordsmith extraordinaire, Kathy Miles, to tell you about her memories. I’ve known Kathy and her works for some years, and today, for a change, I’m going to leave it to her to express her thought on Places in our Memories.

The places in our memories are constantly changing. New insight or knowledge might lead you to view a cherished place with different eyes; sometimes the place itself will have altered beyond recognition over the years, and your memory of it becomes elusive, so you ask yourself whether what you remember is the truth, or built upon a desire for it to be so. Sometimes they vanish. I live near the coast at Aberaeron, and sea-mists often obliterate the landscape so completely that it becomes hard to remember what it looks like on a hot summer’s day:

Some days the land is stolen from itself,

chimneys and slate roofs swallowed, village

and pit-head lost to this cold mouth of mist

as it muffles hymn and chapel bell, silences

the scold of crows that crowd around

the plough like a flock of ranting preachers.

(‘Vanish’)

In my case, these problems of recall are compounded by a breakdown I suffered in my mid-forties, which wiped away a good many of my childhood memories. What remains is fragmentary and fleeting; a series of impressions that appear occasionally, like landmarks emerging from a sea mist, or footprints that might at any moment be washed away by the tide.

Growing up in Liverpool, the sea and river were constants. My paternal grandfather and great-grandfather had been merchant seamen, and their love of the sea passed to my father and on to me. I remember standing with my Dad on the Cazzy, the Cast-Iron Shore on the banks of the Mersey, where the sand was rust-coloured from the residue of an old iron foundry. Dad was wearing a shirt and tie as always, jacket slung across his shoulders. His face had already reddened in the heat. We kept a wary eye on the tide. The river creeps quickly and silently over those mudflats, brimming up as suddenly as an unwatched bath. A slub of saltmarsh, shards of driftwood, and just up the river bank, old shipyards festering in the sunshine. From there you can see the outline of Welsh mountains across to Moel Famau. But it was the water Dad was staring at, with a kind of longing, as if he wished he could be whisked away to far horizons.

It was inevitable that our annual holidays would be taken by the sea. Cemaes Bay, Cornwall, and later on, Guernsey and Sark.  Mum would pack a picnic basket with boiled eggs and sandwiches, a thermos of tea, and the three of us walked to the nearest beach, stopping on the way to pick field mushrooms for next day’s breakfast. I’d head for the nearest rocks, fishing net in hand, and was soon absorbed in a rock-pool, catching tiny shrimps and sometimes a rockling or blenny. Dad fished for mackerel from the shore, whilst Mum would scoop out limpets to use as bait, and patiently rewind my crabbing line when I’d tangled the twine.

Home in Liverpool was a small bungalow, built on farmland in the 1930s as the edges of the city expanded. It was eight miles from the Mersey, but still close enough for us to be able to hear the ferry hooters blasting out in chorus to mark the start of each new year. Dad took the train to work each morning, and in the evenings I’d race up the road to West Allerton station and stand on the bridge as his train came in, usually getting covered in steam and smuts. If trains can be special memories of place, then these old steam trains are mine, with their plushly-covered seats, leather strap to pull up the window so the door could be opened, and pictures hung above the luggage rack. Even now I still feel the excitement of boarding a train, the promise of new experiences and unknown places.

At 18, having failed most of my A levels, I went to work in the Everyman Theatre for a year. I had to retake my exams if I had any hope of getting into university, and we also needed the money. The Everyman at that time was a shabby building in Hope Street, in desperate need of renovation, but with a fabulous bistro in the basement run by Paddy Byrne and Dave Scott. My job was a combination of ASM and general dogsbody. I helped out in the wardrobe department, sourced props, answered the telephone and manned the box office. On one occasion I even appeared on stage, though as I was crammed into the frame of a large fabric-covered snake, it was hardly going to make my fame and fortune as an actor. The company then included Antony Sher, Jonathan Pryce, Roger Sloman, Alison Steadman and David Goodland, and the director was Alan Dossor, who produced gritty, contemporary agitprop plays.  The actors shared a single dressing-room; costumes were often held up by safety pins or my dangerously-loose tacking stitches, and in one notable production of Caucasian Chalk Circle, Roger Sloman was carted off to hospital after being hit on the head by a large iron hook that descended from the ceiling at the wrong time. It was chaotic, but it was also fun. Everyone worked as a team, and when I left – very reluctantly – to go to university, I was presented with a large publicity poster of the whole cast as a present. Although the Everyman is now a state-of-the-art modern theatre, I’ll never forget that old building, which stank of fags and paint, sweaty tights and damp wood, and to me was as glamorous as anything in the West End.

When I came to Lampeter, however, I finally found my special place. The Everyman had been a wonderful experience, but I’d never felt truly at home in Liverpool. My Mum in later years said that Wales had stolen me away, and she was right. I had grown up with Welsh-speaking aunts, and from the moment I stepped off the rickety old Richards bus that brought me from Aberystwyth, I felt I had truly found my cynefin. Here I was near my beloved sea, and a landscape I instantly felt rooted to. In 1995 I published an anthology of poems and photographs, The Third Day; Landscape and the Word (Gomer Press), commissioning work from poets such as Dannie Abse, RS Thomas, Gillian Clarke, Sheenagh Pugh and Raymond Garlick. Travelling around Wales to photograph old Welsh sites gave me new places to tuck away in my memory, including the then-unrestored Aberglasney, where the photographer and I kissed surreptitiously in the Yew Tunnel, and a different chapter of my life began. If my memory of those early years is sometimes veiled in sea mist, and many of the places of my childhood no longer exist, the ones I have gained since then provide a constant source of delight, and inspiration for my writing.

About Kathy:

Born in Liverpool, Kathy Miles is a poet and short story writer living in West Wales. Her work has appeared widely in magazines and anthologies, and her fourth full collection of poetry, Bone House, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2020. Kathy is a previous winner of the Bridport Prize, as well as the Welsh Poetry, Second Light, Wells Literature, Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Festival and PENfro poetry competitions. She is a regular book reviewer and workshop facilitator, has co-edited The Lampeter Review, and guest-edited Artemis magazine.

Poetry Collections

Bone House  (Indigo Dreams, 2020)

Inside the Animal House (Rack Press, 2018)

Gardening With Deer (Cinnamon Press, 2016)

The Shadow House (Cinnamon Press, 2009)

The Third Day: Landscape and the Word (Gomer, 1995)

The Rocking Stone (Poetry Wales Press, 1988)

Other

Ugly as Sin and other clichés (Pentad Books, December 2020)

Links

https://www.indigodreamspublishing.com/kathy-miles

http://welshwriters.co.uk/kathy-miles/

http://www.poetrypf.co.uk/kathymilesbiog.shtml

My Review of Fifteen First Times: Beginnings: A Collection of Indelible Firsts by D.G. Kaye #Memories #Humour #Nostalgia

Book Description:

This book is a collection of stories about some of Kaye’s first-time experiences with life’s most natural events. Told through the intimate conversational writing we’ve come to know from this author, poignant personal steppingstones to learning moments are revealed. She encompasses the heart of each matter with sincerity and sprinkled inflections of humor.

From first kiss to first car to walking in the desert with four-inch heels, Kaye’s short coming-of-age stories take us through her awakenings and important moments of growth, often without warning. Some good and some not, life lessons are learned through trial and error, winging it, and navigating by the seat of her pants.

My Review:

Fifteen First Times is a collection of short but evocative memoirs by D G Kaye. I actually wasn’t sure what to expect when I first started to read. All I knew was that, having read various other books by this author, and having always admired her intimate writing style, I was in for a treat. I wasn’t disappointed.

 Although brought up in a different country with a background that was poles apart from my own, I found myself nodding, reminiscing, and recognising so many of her firsts. Indeed I would go so far as to say, that many women would recognise something of themselves, something of their own experiences, in what these recollections bring to mind, wherever they have lived.

 The poignancy of some of the stories brought tears, others a “laugh out loud” moment. But all are written with integrity and complete openness, something I always anticipate from D G Kaye. It’s like sharing and swopping tales from our youths. We have all had our “firsts” in our lives, and this compilation of memories is a treat that makes the reader sit back and reminisce – very satisfying.

So I would urge any reader to immerse themselves in this book… to enjoy and reflect on their own “firsts”. That’s what this author’s words brought out in me. Highly recommended.

As I say above, I have read other books by D G Kaye, and never been disappointed. The following are a couple from quite a while ago; around the first time I came across this author. As you will see, I’ve been impressed by her writing for many years. Do check them out…

https://tinyurl.com/547bkmz4

https://tinyurl.com/mt7ftnem

And this post from Debby when she took part in my last series of Places in Our Memories: https://tinyurl.com/2mcnz87s

Places in our Memories: With Hugh Roberts #MondayBlogs #Families #Christmas #Chocolates

There are places that remain in our memories, the details may become slightly blurred, nostalgia may colour our thoughts, but they don’t fade. And how those places made us feel at the time is the one thing that remains.

Today I’m really pleased to welcome Hugh Roberts to Places in our Memories.  Hugh has been a friend for many years and, besides being a writer, has a wealth of knowledge on blogging and how to get around all the glitches that WordPress throws at us. And he is always so generous in helping those of us who are technophobes. But, today, he’s here, telling us how he’d much rather have chocolate for Christmas dinner.

I have always been a lover of life. Yes, it’s thrown many curve balls at me and said: “here, deal with that!” but my love affair with life has never ended or been anywhere near ending. I could just ‘like’ life, but I have always adored it and will continue doing so until my’ sell-by date’ comes along. If I could marry life, I would have proposed many years ago.

There is one part of my life that I especially enjoy – Christmas. Unlike others who quickly grow out of Christmas after they reach teenager years, Christmas has never lost its magic. In the 60 years I have been on this earth, Christmas has never failed to deliver its magic to me.

The memory I am sharing with you today is extraordinary only because it includes three wonderful ladies I will never forget. So, let me take you back to a day I can remember and tell you what it means to me.

I’m sitting on the floor in the huge living room of our house. It’s the second home I have lived in since the day I was born. In front of me is a big high, dark wooden table and, on top of the table, I can just make out the brightly coloured yellow truck I had been given that day. The colour fascinated me and became my favourite colour until about twenty years ago when blue took over.

Sat at one end of the table, to my right, is the first of these ladies, my grandmother, Nana Wallington. She looks down at me and smiles. She has thick, black-rimmed spectacles, which make her eyes look huge. She’s wearing a green pork pie hat with two red cherries and a bit of tinsel stuck to the side and is dressed in a velvet green two-piece jacket and skirt. I wonder if the house isn’t warm enough because she hasn’t taken her hat off.

Underneath the jacket, I can see a cream cardigan helping her keep warm. She’s quite a chubby lady and adores me because I am her first grandchild. She has some white pearls around her neck, a Christmas present from my Grandfather Sam. He’s not my real grandfather but has always been in my life. Her lips are painted a bright red, and she has a pair of flat, black shoes and beige-coloured stockings on. They remind me of the stocking I was given the night before to hang on the bottom of my bed. My sister had the other leg of the stocking to hang on her bed.

To my left is the kitchen. I can see the back of the second of these extraordinary ladies, Mum. She’s busy peeling sprouts, and my grandmother reminds her to put little crosses on the bottom of each sprout with the knife. I wonder why the sprouts must be crossed. As if by magic, my mother asks the question. Because that’s what your grandmother did with sprouts at Christmas, my grandmother replies.

I can see lots of steam from various pots boiling away on the stove, and the house smells of ‘roast dinner.’ But I’d rather delve into some of the selection boxes I’d been given that morning. Full of yummy chocolate, I’d much rather eat chocolate than cooked dinner.

Mum is wearing a green and red festive dress and a new pair of slippers, which are tartan green and have cream-coloured fur inside them. She continues to talk to my grandmother about how long it will be before the men return from the pub.

Behind me, I can hear a baby stir. My baby sister, Jayne, is the third of these special ladies in my life. She doesn’t understand what day it is. Stupid girl, I think. You’re missing all the fun.

I look behind me. In the corner sits a small, artificial Christmas tree lit up by colourful Victorian-looking lanterns. I love looking at bright red, green, blue, and yellow lights. I squint my eyes to make the colours blend into each other. For the rest of my life, coloured lights will always be a part of Christmas. The tree is on a small table to prevent me from getting my hands on the pretty foil-wrapped chocolates which hang from some of its branches. There are no gifts under the tree because they’ve all been opened, most of which are scattered across the living room floor.

Jayne starts to cry, and my grandmother gets up and peeks inside the carrycot while my mother continues to prepare dinner. Besides me, I notice some of the selection boxes my mother forgot to move, one of which is opened. On the front of each selection box is a picture of Father Christmas in his sleigh, pulled by some reindeer over some snowy roofs and chimney pots of houses. The scene on the boxes gives me a peaceful, snug, cosy, happy feeling.

Pictures of the various chocolate bars and sweets inside the box are displayed on the back of each box. To my grandmother’s dismay, I’ve eaten most of the contents of the opened box. She tells Mum that I won’t want to eat my Christmas dinner! She’s right. I’d much rather have chocolate for dinner.

On the ceiling are two colourful honeycomb paper bells, one just above me and the other down the room’s far end. When taken down, unclipped, and closed, they both look like the shape of a boot, the type of boot my mother wears when going out. When taking them down from the ceiling, my father would always say how when folded back, they reminded him of a country called Italy and that one day he would like to take us all there for a holiday. Only I ever made it to Italy.

My grandmother and Mum continue to talk while I play with one of the toys delivered the night before. It’s a spinning top that makes a whirling noise when I push down on the handle. Letting go, I watch with amazement as all the colours on the toy merge into each other.

Mum eventually comes into the room with two small glasses of sherry and hands one to my grandmother. Even though I am just coming up to school age, I already know that these three special people will be the three most important ladies in my life and that the date will always be special to me.

“Merry Christmas,’ says my grandmother as she raises her glass.

“Yes, Merry Christmas, and Happy Birthday, Hugh,” replies my mother.

Hugh W. Roberts – Social Media and other links.

Blog: Hugh’s Views and News

Twitter: @HughRoberts05

Flipboard

Amazon Author Page

Goodreads

Link for Glimpses

Link for More Glimpses

Ann Hatton ( Ann of Swansea) and Sarah Siddon #FamousSisters #relationships #families #stage #actresses, #authors #poetry @honno

Sisters Ann of Swansea and Sarah Siddon

Ann Hatton and her older sister Sarah, were the daughters of Roger Kemble and Sarah Ward, who led a troupe of travelling actors. Sarah was born in Brecon in July 1755, Ann, otherwise known as Ann of Swansea, in Worcester in April 1764. There were ten other siblings.

All, except Ann, were early performers on stage with their parents.Considered by her family to be unsuitable to be on stage, owing to a disability (she had a slight limp), Ann was more or less excluded from the family. Later in life she often said she received little love from her parents, and that her education was neglected.

In contrast Sarah was well educated, adored by her parents, and performed her first major Shakespearean role, as Ariel, at the age of nine.

Yet both fell in love with men whom their mother and father thought unsuitable. Ann, at the early age of sixteen, married a man called Curtis who was actually already married, and was later convicted and jailed for bigamy. She was considered to have brought disrepute on the family and was cast out by them; their only concern was their determination to validate their respectability within the theatrical world.

Sarah was dealt with in a different way. Initially sent away to work as a lady’s maid because she began a relationship with William Siddons, (one of the members of her father’s troupe), she was soon forgiven by her parents, who gave their blessing for her to marry William. Sarah was then allowed to continue her acting career. She was so outstanding that she was noticed by David Garrick, actor, playwright, theatre manager and producer, who took her to London to appear on the stage at Drury Lane, although her first role at Drury lane wasn’t a total success.

Rejected and isolated Ann became increasingly depressed and suicidal, actually attempting suicide in Westminster Abbey. She lurched from one catastrophe to another. After her failed marriage she attempted to earn her own money by working for a Dr James Graham, a sex therapist, who ran a business called the Temple of Health and Hymen, in Pall Mall. Her family was enraged to discover he advertised the lectures Ann gave as “given by Mrs Curtis, Mrs Siddons’ younger sister”.

In 1783, Ann produced her first volume of poems, (Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects). Again she gained her family’s wrath; she published the collection under the name of “Ann Curtis, sister of Mrs Siddons”.

The Kemble family was determined to disassociate themselves from Ann, so Sarah, joined with one of their brothers, granted Ann a yearly allowance, but only with a condition that Ann lived at least a hundred and fifty miles away from London.

The annual payment meant that Ann’s reputation and station in society became more acceptable, and in 1792 she married William Hatton.

They emigrated to America, and it was here that she wrote her opera libretto Tammany (otherwise known as The Indian Chief), which was given its première on Broadway. This was the first known libretto written by a woman.

Following the triumph of her libretto, Ann and William returned to Britain, and by 1799, had settled in Swansea in South Wales, where they ran a bathing-house and lodgings near the coast until William’s death in 1806. She then moved to Kidwelly. One of her poems, Swansea Bay, describes her emotions as she left Swansea. Eventually, she returned to Swansea in 1809 where she settled down to write her poetry and Romantic novels. These encapsulated themes of social and moral parody,(sometimes with gothic leitmotifs). She used the pseudonyms of “Ann of Swansea” and Ann of Kidwelly.

Many of her books were set in Wales; Cambrian Pictures, published by my publishers, Honno, is one of them.

Sarah and her husband William, took up the life of a travelling thespian, playing many parts all over the country. She cleverly chose roles that made her more popular, that protected her image and preserved her reputation as a wife and mother of five children, as well as an actress. This helped her to avoid any rumourmongering and scandal that usually plagued actresses at the time. She ultimately became Britain’s most renowned and highly paid actress in the 1780s, much sought after by equally famous painters, such as Sir Joshua Reynolds, to sit to have her portrait painted. She even gave private readings for the king and queen at Windsor Castle and Buckingham House. Reputed to have a striking stage presence she became most famous for her role as Lady Macbeth; a role she was reported as played to perfection, and she was also called the Queen of Tragedy.

But, after thirty years the marriage between Sarah and William became strained and they separated.

She retired from the stage in June of 1812, playing Lady Macbeth in Macbeth. So enthralled by her performance were the audience that they continued clapping when she finally left the stage and the play ended there.

She died in 1831 and was buried in St. Mary’s, Paddington. Her funeral was attended by thousands, and a statue of her was later created by Francis Legatt Chantrey and erected in Westminster Abbey (ironically, as I said, earlier, the place where her sister, Ann attempted suicide after her first marriage to the bigamist, Curtis, and when she was both ostracized by her family, and desperately poor). .

Ann died and was buried in 1838 in a churchyard in High Street, Swansea. She left most of her belongings to her servant Mary Johns, executor of her will, as a “very small remuneration for her affectionate, honest and undeviating conduct” for almost 16 years.

At no time in my research for this post, did I discover that the two sisters ever met again.

It occurred to me that, sometimes, it is only through fate and coincidence that estranged families are forced into contact. And so it is for the two sisters, Angie and Mandy (later known as Lisa) in my next book, Sisters. Due to be published by Honno on the 26th January 2023, I’m thrilled that it’s now available to be pre-booked.

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My Review of Murder & Mischief (The Victorian Detectives Book 10) by Carol Hedges #crime #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

I received a copy of Murder and Mischief from the author as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team, in return for an honest review.

Book Description:

It is January, a time of year when not much crime usually happens. But when Inspector Greig is unexpectedly summoned to the opulent Hampstead residence of Mr. James William Malin Barrowclough, a rich businessman, he embarks upon one of the strangest and most bizarre investigations that he has ever been involved in.

Why has Barrowclough been targeted? What is inside the mysterious parcels that keep arriving at Hill House, and why won’t he cooperate with the police? The case will take the Scotland Yard detectives on a journey out of London and into the victim’s past, to uncover the secrets and lies that haunt his present.

Murder & Mischief is the tenth novel in the series, and in the great tradition of Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, it entices the reader once again along the teeming streets and dimly gas~lit thoroughfares of Victorian London, where rich and poor, friend and foe alike mix and mingle.

My Review:

I’ve heard a lot about Carol Hedges’ Victorian Detectives series over the years, and been promising myself I will read one of her books. How I wish I hadn’t waited so long!  Murder and Mischief is a brilliant read; I loved both the story and the author’s distinctive writing style. I actually resented having to put the kindle down when other things needed doing.

Murder and Mischief is number ten of this author’s series, but I read it as a standalone book, and that was no problem at all. I’ve since checked some of the others in the series, and even though some of the characters are in the other books, and most of the settings are similar, this is a complete story in itself. There are no loose ends. In fact I should imagine that, for those readers who have followed the series, familiar characters and backgrounds must add to their enjoyment of each story.

The first thing I have to say is how much I enjoyed the voice of the omniscient narrator. Told from the various points of view, in the present tense, and in the first person, I could actually hear him (yes I do think it’s a “him”) in my head. The conversational tone, the way the reader is directly addressed, gives instant imagery to this shared observation. We are encouraged to view the disparate and unfair class divide, and actions of all the characters  in the same way as the narrator does.

The dialogue is skilfully written and adds another layer to each character, their standing in society, and their role in Murder and Mischief. And here the narrator comes into his own again, revealing often that the direct speech doesn’t reflect their internal dialogue.

The descriptions of the settings that the characters move around in are flawless – extremely atmospheric, and adding much to the story. In fact, the sense of place is so redolent that the streets, the houses, the workhouse, the public houses, the Chinese mission house, all almost become characters in their own right.

There are two main plots that intertwine and coalesce, threaded throughout with various themes of honesty and crime, indifference and cruelty, love and hatred. Sometimes the plot leaps from one thread to another in startling speed, and yet it works, reflecting the change of circumstance the characters find themselves in, and, for me, kept me enthralled.

 As I always say, I try not to give spoilers in my reviews, the book descriptions reveal enough of the story. I can only give a subjective appraisal. But, for anyone who likes the crime genre, a book with an utterly compelling plot, and an insight to Victorian London, this is for you. Murder and Mischief is a novel I can thoroughly recommend.

Carol Hedges

Carol Hedges’ writing has received much critical acclaim. Her Victorian Detectives series is set in 1860s London and features Detective Inspector Leo Stride and his side-kick Detective Sergeant Jack Cully. The ten books in the series are: Diamonds & Dust, Honour & Obey. Death & Dominion,Rack & Ruin, Wonders & Wickedness, Fear & Phantoms, Intrigue & Infamy, Fame & Fortune, Desire & Deceit, Murder & Mischief.

Today I’ve been invited onto @JanBaynham’s Blog #MondayBlogs #Interviews #Research #GuestPost #Authors

When Jan asked me to write about research, I started with one purpose, to research the subject of research, and then to explain how I use it…

If we knew what we were doing, it would not be called research, would it? – Albert Einstein, (1879-1955), German physicist who came up with the theory of relativity, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921.

Here’s the link to Jan’s website: https://janbaynham.blogspot.com/

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Remembering Past Places in our Memories: Roundup of November 2022 #Memories #MondayBlogs #houses #families #childhoods #Holidays

There are places that remain in our memories, the details may become slightly blurred, nostalgia may colour our thoughts, but they don’t fade. And how those places made us feel at the time is the one thing that remains.

This is a round-up of the Places in our Memories posted over the last few weeks. There have been some wonderful memories shared.

Phil Rowlands gave us a very poignant account of the many special memories he has of Newgale in Wales. https://tinyurl.com/wkevacw6

Liz Hines brought to life her memories of growing up in a house that was once a public house (called Albert House, her childhood home has, unfortunately, been in a state of disrepair for some time now), and told us what it was like to live in a strong matriarchal family. https://tinyurl.com/2anfptxb.

Marjorie Mallon talked about her love of botanical gardens, recalling, in particular, her admiration for Cambridge Botanical Garden in the United Kingdom, and her respect for sculptural/artistic and wonders of engineering science. She also shared one or two of her poems with us. https://tinyurl.com/yc325da8

And finally, Jane Frazer told us us how, although enjoying a wonderful holiday in… she missed her homeland of Wales… and how it brought other thoughts: https://tinyurl.com/msnchysx.

This month, in the lead up to Christmas, we’ll only have one post in December, on the 19th, but I can guarantee it will be a fascinating Christmas memory. I hope you enjoy reading it. In January 2023, we will begin another round of Places in our Memories.

Places in our Memories: With Jane Frazer #Memories

There are places that remain in our memories, the details may become slightly blurred, nostalgia may colour our thoughts, but they don’t fade. And how those places made us feel at the time is the one thing that remains.

Today I’m really pleased to welcome Jane Fraser to Places in our Memories. Jane is a a Honno author like myself, I’ve known her quite a while, and know how much she loves Wales. Here she tells us how, although enjoying a wonderful holiday in… she missed her homeland… and how it brought other thoughts.

Hiraeth

Home Thoughts From Abroad

I am in the elevator going up to the condo on the 6th floor. It feels moist: a stale smell of sweat and coconut sun-oil cloying the cramped space I’m sharing with my husband and another couple. We’ve all rushed off the beach because of the squall. The sign with the palm tree on the wall tells me to have a nice day.

         “Where you guys from?” asks the man with the baseball cap.

         “Wales,” I say.

         “Oh, part of England – we passed through it on our way to Ireland when we did Europe a couple of years ago, didn’t we Jo? he says to his wife who says: We sure did. It’s where Princess Diana was from.

         I don’t bother to even try and explain but say, Bye, enjoy your day as we make our way back to our little rental overlooking the Atlantic which is now stewing, a nasty grey, with white spume peaks whipped by the wind as far out as the eye can see. I sit on our balcony, my mind’s eye can see far across this ocean, as far as the wet west coast of the home I’ve escaped this Christmas.

         “You homesick?” my husband asks.

         “A bit,” I say. “The weather, probably.”

         “Least it’s hot rain. Won’t last. They’re not there anyway.”

         He’s right. My daughter and the kids are in Australia to see the in-laws; my son is happy with his girl-friend in the north of England. My parents are sorted going to my brother’s for Christmas lunch in Cardiff and I know they’re OK as I see them all year, living just a couple of miles away. I’m guilt free. I haven’t left or abandoned anyone. No person I love. It’s just my house I see empty and forlorn; standing unlit and unloved, in the place that tugs at my insides.

         “Don’t you miss our house? Our beach?” I ask my husband.

         “It’s just a place, “he says. “C’mon. We’ve worked all year for this.”

         I continue looking at the ocean, listen to its constant churning. It sounds the same as home. And it’s beautiful. But at 27 degrees north 80 degrees west Hutchinson Island is not 51 degrees north and 4 degrees west in Llangennith. The tide hardly budges here between high and low water, no vast expanse of sand exposed on the ebb. When my wind blows from the south west it is mild and wet, it cakes my windows with salt and browns and bends everything I try to grow in my garden. Everything here is back to front: the north-easterly brings the rain, steamy and sticky; and when the wind blows from the south-west, it’s off the land, hot, dry on the skin, giving respite from the humidity. When my sun rises it is behind me, comes up over Llanmadoc Down and when it is done at the end of the day it falls into the sea just to the left of Burry Holms. I just cannot come to terms with the sun coming up over the ocean and going down over the land.

         “You’ve got no sense of home, have you?” I snipe at my husband.

         “What Merthyr Tydfil? London? Gower?”

         “You don’t belong anywhere, do you?”

         “No. Happy in a camper van, me. Don’t need that stuff.”

         “What stuff?”

         “Roots.”

         “Running away all the time, you are.”

         “Nothing to run from.”

         “No place you see yourself dying? Spending your last days?”

         “Jesus. We’re supposed to be on holiday.”

         I see myself in my own bed at home. I am lying propped up on pillows, looking out through the sash windows at the expanse of ocean. The window is pulled up slightly at the bottom and fresh air rushes through the gap, making the silk curtains billow, and cooling my face which is warmed with the sun in my south-facing house. If I had a choice about the last thing I’d like to see in life it would be the view through this window: the bronzed burrows, the conical dunes, the limestone island of Burry Holms which when the tide is high rises like a turtle out of the sea.

          But it is beautiful here in its own way. Now. The scale of the views astounds: big skies; big seas; but too much sea if there is such a thing. Sea that is not broken up or interrupted with headlands or coves or churches or castles that run down to the water’s edge. There is but one long, straight continuous ocean’s edge strung out along the rim of the pan-handle. I long for things to shrink, for the familiar littleness and quirkiness of my peculiar patch of earth.

         I’m in the tropics in a flat right in the dunes and I am happy and grateful for what life has dealt me. But they are not my dunes. My dunes are golden and soft-sanded, carpeted with marram grass, sea holly and thrift and all manner of orchids and blackberries when autumn comes. Here the sand is greyer and grittier, a flat colour pitted with holes where ghost crabs burrow. Where blue and pink-bubbled Portuguese men of war with foot long tentacles lurk ready to sting at the tide’s drop line. Here everything grows quickly, too quickly; it is hard to keep things under control, to hold back the mangrove to prevent the railroad vine choking. Here the dunes sometimes cannot hold back the hurricanes. Here there are signs that say evacuation route.

         My husband goes back inside the condo to the chill of the air-con, sliding the door behind him. Even though it is raining, I am covered by the popcorn roof of the balcony and shielded from the wet by the sliding concertina-folded shutters. The heat is sapping the life out of me. I consider life’s evacuation route. When and how my end will come. There have been a few near-misses to date and again, I am grateful that I’ve still got a few lives left. My mind wanders and I hope I will have what my grandmother used to call a ‘good death’. A death that is in old age, that is relatively pain-free. One where there is time to say goodbyes.

         I open the sliders and go inside. The air-con confronts me like a fridge.

         “Do you want to be buried or cremated?” I ask my husband. But he cannot hear as his earphones are on and he’s on the iPad catching up with latest episodes of ‘London Spy’.

         “What?” he shouts, taking out one of his ear-pieces.

         “When you die. Buried or cremated? We need to make our wills.”

         “You need to see someone. Seriously.”

         “I want to be buried. In the church. Near the wall. Gets the sun all day. And I can keep an eye on what’s happening in the pub opposite!”

         “Just feed me to the birds. Or drop me overboard near Burry Holms.”

         “I was thinking Burry Holms to start with too: though sprinkled like your mother. Then I changed my mind and fancied the crem. But thought, no. Production line. So it’s to be burial. But not in Llanrhidian with my mother’s lot. Too dark. Damp.”

         “Long as I know.”

         “Don’t you want to be buried with me, then?”

         “Don’t believe in all that tosh.”

         “Is it ‘cos we’ve got different names? Shall I change my name to Griffiths?”

         “You do what you like. I just want to go back to nature. No fuss.”

         “That’s great. Buried alone. That’ll give them something to talk about.”

         “Who?”

         “Villagers.”

         “Well, you won’t hear them, will you?”

On Christmas Eve the sun has decided to shine again. It is in the high eighties. The checkout girl in Publix tells us the weather here is Bipolar. My husband tells me he thinks I am too.

         We hit the beach again with our striped canvas chairs, turning away from the sea to follow the sun as the day progresses. We watch fisherman landing croakers and pompanos, their rods bent like arcs over the sparkling ocean along the water’s edge as far as the eyes can see. One man is sweating with the effort of reeling in a big fella that’s been taking line for over an hour as far south as Miami. Must be a shark or a stingray his friend says who stands at the ready with a rope to help him when the time comes. But the line snaps and it was the one that got away.

         The sun is high even in mid-winter, searing the crown of my broad black-rimmed hat which I notice is fading so fast. I look at my watch. 3pm. Eight o’clock back home. It’ll be dark and raining and the teles will be blaring and the pubs heaving. At this precise moment I’m not missing it at all.

          But at six o’clock, when the light goes yet the heat remains locked in, I’m out of kilter again. The condo looks bare even though we’ve tried out best with potted red tulips and white lilies and red and gold baubles which are too glitzy for my liking. The Christmas cards we’ve bought each other in Barnes and Noble are too schmaltzy and shmucky: like the apples and the vegetables in the supermarkets, too big and shiny and perfect that look lovely but don’t actually taste of anything.

         The tele goes on but it’s all American Football and medical adverts every few seconds with lists of alarming side effects of certain medications. It’s Fixer Upper then, nothing but edition after edition of Fixer Upper and houses that are transformed in Wacko Texas for under $80,000 including land. Next is Chopped which I tell my husband is a poor imitation of Bake Off and even worse than Australian MasterChef.

          I turn to my iPad for comfort and start googling Llangennith. I get the Gower Webcam from The Worms’s Head Hotel looking across Rhossili Bay. But it’s dark there, the sea hardly visible just an eerie rippling. It will restart live at sunrise tomorrow morning the message promises. Apparently it’s been a great day for surf. Overhead and light winds from the south west. I go to Wikipedia: pictures emerge of a village on the Gower peninsula near Swansea in Wales. It has an 11th century church dedicated to St Cenydd. It is the largest Church in Gower and the only one with a lych gate. I know. We were married there. I am suddenly in its nave, in its chancel, standing among the choir stalls with a bouquet of lily of the valley, taking our vows. It’s where I’ve recently told my husband I’ll be buried. I can see the unkempt grass, though not onscreen, see the weathered tombstones, tottering at all angles, see the names of generations of Taylors and Groves and Bevans and Beynons. I think I’ve made the right decision about being buried there, I say to my husband but he’s engrossed in Dallas Cowboys v Pittsburgh Steelers. I can smell home through the ether, pine and Christmas pudding.

         “You umbelicalled to that thing?” he shouts from the sofa.

         I’m on Google Earth now, I’ve keyed in my postcode SA3 1JE and I’m being taken from the beginning of Cock Street following a white arrow like Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs, past Gill and Paul’s at Bullen’s Well – I can see the spout from the well, taste the spring water I always taste in cupped hands when I’m finishing up my daily walk. The camera takes me on along the single track lane – there’s Cock Street Farm with the gate with the two horses’ heads and the Land Rover parked in the yard. Must have been taken a few years ago as Joe Grove has changed it now for an Isuzu Trouper. And it must have been early summer too as the gorse is out, a blaze of yellow and the ferns at the lane’s edge are hip-high. I press the arrow with a compulsion, I’m at Long Offing now, and then the old barn in the field next to mine – Steve Taylor’s Fiesta is parked outside the gate – probably watering the plants in his polytunnel. And then there’s my gate. From 5,000 miles away right in front of me is my five barred farm gate and my drive with the car parked in it. CF13 MFU – all my personal things there for me to see, but not to touch. I can hardly bear it. I zoom on to the front of the house. It’s white and lime washed and perfectly symmetrical. Surrounded by newly ploughed brown-earthed fields it looks like it’s growing there, like it belongs there, like it’s been there for all time.

         It looks sad without us there. The windows at the front look as though they are crying. The wooden loungers are in place on the patio, perfectly positioned to take in the views of the ocean and the full sun. But they are empty. The stone pots of lavender are in full bloom but there is no one to smell them or water them. The seeds I must have planted back then are sprouting in the raised beds and the olive trees standing tall in the terracotta pots on the plum stoned driveway. They say all roads lead home at Christmas, I tell my husband. But he doesn’t reply.

About Jane:


Jane Fraser is an award-winning fiction writer, based in the Gower peninsula, south Wales. Her debut novel, Advent, was published by Honno, the UK’s longest-standing, independent women’s press, in January 2021. It was Book of the Month at Books Council of Wales in February 2021 and in June 2022 was announced as winner of the Society of Authors’ Awards – The Paul Torday Memorial Prize for a debut novel in English. Her first collection of short fiction, The South Westerlies, was published by Salt, the UK’s foremost independent publisher of literary fiction, in 2019 and her second short fiction collection, Connective Tissue, in October 2022, and also published by Salt.

She has been widely published in anthologies and reviews including New Welsh Review, The Lonely Crowd, Fish Publishing, TSS and The London Magazine. Her fiction has figured highly in major international competitions: in 2017 she was a finalist in the Manchester Fiction Prize (and has also been highly commended eight times), and in 2018 was a prize winner in the Fish Memoir Prize. She has also long and shortlisted in the Cambridge Short Story Prize, the ABR Elizabeth Jolley Prize, the Rhys Davies Short Story Competition and Retreat West Short Story Competition. She is winner of both the British Haiku Society and Genjuan International Prize for haibun. Her work has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 as part of its ‘Short Works’ series.

She is a Hay Festival Writer at Work, a prestigious creative development award for emerging writers. She has a B.Ed as a first degree, and an MA (distinction 2013) and PhD in Creative Writing from Swansea University.

Jane Fraser is proud to be represented by Gaia Banks, Literary Agent at Sheil Land Associates Ltd. http://www.sheilland.com

When she is not writing, Jane Fraser is Co-Director of NB:Design a brand and digital agency along with her husband Philip Griffiths, a designer and photographer. When she is not working or writing, she walks her home patch of Gower and tries to be a good grandmother to Megan (13), Florence (11) and Alice (8).

Find Jane on:

Twitter @jfraserwriter

Instagram @janefraserwriter

@jfraserwriter@mastodonapp.uk 

Website www.janefraserwriter.com

Email: jane@nb-design.com

My Review of TimeSlip by Phil Rowlands #Crime #Thriller #WeekendRead

Book Description:

Ian Chambers is in trouble and under pressure, guilt ridden and struggling to complete the first draft of his novel.

On a stormy night on a Yorkshire beach, he experiences something so terrifying that he questions his sanity.

In a desperate search for a rational explanation, he risks losing not only reality as he knows it… but his very existence.

My Review:

I really enjoyed TimeSlip, both for the narrative and for the Phil Rowland’s writing style.

This is a book that runs on two timelines that merge and separate throughout the story. In 1943, during a raging storm, a policeman is stabbed to death on Bridlington Beach whilst on a stakeout – fast forward almost eighty years and a writer experiences an attack on his life in the same place. This turns out to be a dreadful flashback – one in which his experience duplicates that of the policeman. Or was it himself in another lifetime? Whatever the truth, he can’t escape the terror that haunts him every day.

The protagonist, Ian Chambers, an author, is a multi-layered character who comes alive in the page – so much so that I became alternately exasperated and sorry for him as he wrestles with both his emotions and his lack of an ability to, “just sit down and write the book he is being paid for, before his agent sacks him”. That and his infidelity tempered my sympathy for him at times.

And he is supported by an excellent cast of minor characters, both from the story in the past, and from the contemporary narrative that adds an interesting complexity to the plot.

The brilliant descriptions of the settings give a good sense of place to the dangerous time during WW2, and of the sometimes frenetic changes of background as the protagonist strives to find answers to his dilemmas in his present life.

TimeSlip is a fascinating and thought provoking psychological  thriller, and I recommend it to any reader who enjoys a book that crosses genres. This is a contemporary story of a man struggling with marital and work problems of his own making , and a preternatural mystery. One that almost costs him everything he holds dear  – including his own life.

About Phil Rowlands


I am a screenwriter, author and producer.

After many years as a ‘safe pair of hands’ actor, mainly in film and television, I moved into the production side as a freelance writer and producer. I’ve written feature films, TV and radio dramas, documentaries and animation series and worked on productions as a script doctor and consultant.

In 2009 I was one of the co-founders of Funky Medics, a production company focussing mainly on innovative health education. Its projects have included heart disease, diabetes, smoking and drug abuse.

Currently, I have four screenplays under option, one for production in 2023, the other three at various stages of draft development.

Siena, my first novel, was revised and republished by new indie publisher Diamond Crime along with my second, Single Cell in April 2021. A new book, TimeSlip, was released in late March 2022

I write in a shed at the bottom of my small garden.

Originally from Pembrokeshire in West Wales, I now live near Cardiff and have British nationality and Canadian citizenship.

Find Phil here:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PhilRowlands2

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/phil.rowlands.906

My Review of The Nesting Place by Jacqueline Harrett #TuesdayBookBlog #TuesdayBook Review #crime #DiamondPress #crimefiction

I gave The Nesting Place 5*

Book Description:

Megan Pritchard is reported missing during a party in an isolated house in the Vale of Glamorgan.

A short time afterwards, her body is found. It looks like an accident, the result of consuming too much alcohol. But DI Mandy Wilde is suspicious. And Megan’s friends are hiding something.

As Mandy and the team dig deeper, they uncover a catalogue of secrets, and reasons why being friends with Megan could be difficult.

My Review:

I love Jacqueline Harrett’s writing style, the excellent narrative of The Nesting Place slots seamlessly into the crime genre, with a main plot that moves along at a steady pace and has enough twists and turns to keep the reader engrossed. And, threaded throughout is a subplot that strengthens the story by revealing the emotional stress that the protagonist, Detective Inspector Mandy Wilde, is battling with as she and her team struggle to uncover the truth of the mysterious death of a young woman.

Mandy Wilde is a many layered character, her professional façade, shown through both the spoken and internal dialogue as curt, stubborn, often irritable, sometimes cracks to reveal a more sympathetic and empathetic personality… when earned by any of the other characters. And also reveals a conflicting familial wish to concentrate on a search for her missing twin sister and taking care of her deserted niece.

This is a distinct contrast to the ambiguous emotions of the four friends of the victim, Megan Pritchard, who is discovered dead after she has walked away from a party in a house in a remote area of Wales. Each of them has an unresolved issue with the dead woman. Each of them could be responsible for her death. Or not…

A good plot, characters that evolve as the story unfolds, dialogue that identifies every character, descriptions that bring instant images to the settings, and themes of love and loyalty juxtaposing distrust and suspicion. I couldn’t have asked for more.

 Except more was what I wanted when I reluctantly left the world of Mandy Wilde. So I was delighted to discover that Jacqueline Harrett has written a second Detective Inspector Mandy Wilde novel, The Whispering Trees.

 I’m looking forward to reading it.

In the meantime I thoroughly recommend The Nesting Place to readers who enjoy well written crime drama.

About Jacqueline Harrett


Former teacher and lecturer with a passion for storytelling. Retired from education but still loves learning. Writes in different genres. Crime series with DI Mandy Wilde as the detective. Women’s fiction with Janet Laugharne as J. L. Harland – What Lies Between Them.

Places in our Memories: With Marjorie Mallon #MondayBlogs #Memories #Gardens and Sculptural Treasures

There are places that remain in our memories, the details may become slightly blurred, nostalgia may colour our thoughts, but they don’t fade. And how those places made us feel at the time is the one thing that remains.

Today I am so pleased to welcome MJ Mallon. I have known Marjorie through her great support of other writers, especially with her work as poet, a blogger, and a book reviewer. She is also founder of the Authors Bloggers Rainbow Support Club. I have long admired her work.

Welcome, Marjorie.

Thank you so much to Judith for inviting me to talk about my places in our memories.

There are so many precious memories in our lives gathered from childhood to adulthood and beyond. In this series,  I would like to talk about my love of botanical gardens – in particular Cambridge Botanical Garden in UK, and my respect for sculptural/artistic and wonders of engineering science.

In particular, nature has been a wonderful inspiration in my writing… I visited the Botanical Gardens in Cambridge often, working nearby – and being in the lucky position of having a free pass from my work!  My employer encouraged us to attend an in-house mindfulness course which further enhanced my sense of awareness, allowing me to utilise all my senses on my daily walks.

I am a visual writer gaining ideas from immersing my consciousness in the world around me. I remember our first task in Mindfulness training was simply to eat a raisin slowly, savouring it, and noticing any sensations as we did!

The mindful magic of the garden kept me enthralled, with the leaves of the trees gently rustling in the breeze, or shedding, or colour changing their welcome celebrating all the seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter, the changes in colour delighting me.

Let me introduce you to some of the  unexpected animals and birds who greeted me there… one day I spotted a ginger cat who became one of the inspirations in Mr. Sagittarius Poetry and Prose as did the cute robin and the dragonfly.

Here are some poems and photos from the collection…

Red, Devil’s Needle,

Or luck bringer with kind eyes?

Ancient, sweet fellow,

Secret magic bestower,

Change tumbling on fragile wings.

© M J Mallon

Bench,

A bird,

Red-breasted,

So, tame you rest,

Beside me robin,

Two friends on a park bench,

One human, one of nature,

I appreciate your kind time,

Until you away… exploring far,

Hinting at possibilities you go. 

I wonder what you notice in your world.

And why you choose that ground to explore,

When you could have stayed here with me,

In mindful meditation.

Maybe you’ll visit me,

Christmas day, perhaps?

To bring good cheer,

Until then,

Peace to,

You.

Tree and nature poems are also the focus  in my latest poetry collection: The Hedge Witch and The Musical Poet and nature will also feature in my soon to be published Do What You Love.

I have to say I miss the gardens now I’ve moved away from Cambridge. I am currently spending time in Portugal in a long stay holiday residence and the rest of the time in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Whilst  I was in Edinburgh I was delighted to be asked to provide copies of two of my poetry collections: Mr. Sagittarius and  Prose and Lockdown Innit Poems About Absurdity to prestigious libraries in the UK: National Library of Scotland, The Bodleian Library Oxford University, National Library of Wales, Cambridge University Library, The Library of Trinity College Dublin, and The British Library in London. And… my Curse of Time fantasy series, (which is with a Japanese Publisher,) are now held at my old school FP library at George Watson’s College, Edinburgh. It’s nice to know a little piece of me is to be kept for posterity for people to read in the UK!

So, with regards to poetry, my botanical delight has served me well! Giving me a chance to explore a happy place in my writing.

Further memories… sculptural and artistic in nature… drew my attention and captured my heart in Cambridge, England… the Corpus Christi grasshopper clock in King’s Parade and Juniper Artland’s Anya Gallaccio’s crystal grotto provided the initial inspiration for dark fantasy The Curse of Time series, Bloodstone and Golden Healer which are published by Next Chapter Publishing. And… I was so lucky to meet and be invited to lunch with the world renowned inventor of the clock, Dr. John C. Taylor, OBE  in Cambridge, UK, which was definitely a highlight of my life in 2017! There was such synergy in the meeting as he loves clocks and crystals too! Talking to him has given me such a respect for the wonders of engineering innovation.

More about the three clocks on his blog – the grasshopper, the midsummer fly and the dragon! https://www.johnctaylor.com/the-chronophage/

Just to add – exciting news on Marjorie’s behalf. Her next new book is out to preorder.

Blurb

Do What You Love Fragility of Your Flame Poems, Photography & Flash Fiction is a personal poetry collection celebrating how the fates may have a part in all that we do.

With special poems and short reflective moments inspired by family, flowers and nature, love, scrumptious morsels, places I’ve visited, lived and intend to live in, the friendships and hopes I have for the future.

The overarching theme is to live a life well lived… And to do what you love.

float along with me

create clouds of sweetest joy

to do what you love

hold fate’s hand as we venture

near and far on life’s journey

Release Date: 25th November 2022, able to preorder via the following links.

Until we meet again… sweet robin, dragonfly, cat and scary grasshopper… and all the other creatures both real, created or imagined… Goodbye, adeus, tchau!

Next Chapter Publishing

Acclaimed YA Fantasy series, The Curse of Time:

Bloodstone and Golden Healer

For details of publications please visit:

https://www.nextchapter.pub/authors/mj-mallon

Kyrosmagica Publishing

Acclaimed Poetry and Flash Fiction

Poetry and Flash Fiction: The Hedge Witch and The Musical Poet

https://bookstoread/u/mv1oev

Poetry, Prose and Photography: Mr. Sagittarius Poetry and Prose http://mybook.to/MrSagittarius

Pandemic Poetry: Lockdown Innit Poems About Absurdity

http://mybook.to/Lockdown Innit

Pandemic Anthology: This IsLockdown

http://mybook.to/Thisislockdown

Kyrosmagica publications are available on Amazon kindle, Kindle unlimited and paperback.

Short Stories in Anthologies:

Bestselling horror compilations

Nightmareland compiled by Dan Alatorre

“Scrabble Boy” (Short Story)

Spellbound compiled by Dan Alatorre

“The Twisted Sisters” (Short Story)

Wings of Fire compiled by Dan Alatorre

“The Great Pottoo” (Short Story)

Ghostly Rites 2019 compiled by Claire Plaisted“Dexter’s Creepy Caverns” (Short Story)

Ghostly Rites 2020 compiled by Claire Plaisted

“No. 1 Coven Lane” (Short Story)

For all my publications and contributions to anthologies please refer to my Author Blog: https://mjmallon.com and my Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/M-J-Mallon/e/B074CGNK4L/

All my links are available via: https://linktr.ee/mjmallonauthor

Author Bio

MJ’s favourite genres to write are fantasy YA, Paranormal, Ghost and Horror Stories, various forms of poetry and flash fiction. She celebrates books, the spiritual realm, love of nature and all things magical, mystical, and mysterious at her blog home: https://mjmallon.com

She’d describe herself as a reading, blogging and photography enthusiast!
M J Mallon was born in Lion city Singapore, a passionate Scorpio with the Chinese Zodiac sign of a lucky rabbit. She spent her early childhood in Hong Kong. During her teen years, she returned to her father’s childhood home, Edinburgh where she spent many happy years, entertained and enthralled by her parents’ vivid stories of living and working abroad. Perhaps it was during these formative years that her love of storytelling began bolstered by these vivid raconteurs. She counts herself lucky to have travelled to many far-flung destinations and this early wanderlust has fuelled her present desire to emigrate abroad to Portugal. Until that wondrous moment, it’s rumoured that she lives in the UK, in Edinburgh. Her two enchanting daughters have flown the nest but often return with a cheery smile to greet her.

She writes fantasy/magical realism because life should be sprinkled with a liberal dash of extraordinarily imaginative magic! Her motto is to always do what you love, stay true to your heart’s desires, and inspire others to do so too, even it if appears that the odds are stacked against you like black-hearted shadows.

ABOUT M J Mallon

My favourite genres to write are Fantasy YA, Paranormal, Ghost and Horror Stories, various forms of poetry and flash fiction. I celebrate the spiritual realm, love of nature and all things magical, mystical, and mysterious at my blog home: https://mjmallon.com

I’d describe myself as a reading, blogging and photography enthusiast!

M J Mallon was born in Lion city Singapore, a passionate Scorpio with the Chinese Zodiac sign of a lucky rabbit. She spent her early childhood in Hong Kong. During her teen years, she returned to her father’s childhood home, Edinburgh where she spent many happy years, entertained, and enthralled by her parents’ vivid stories of living and working abroad. Perhaps it was during these formative years that her love of storytelling began bolstered by these vivid raconteurs. She counts herself lucky to have travelled to many far-flung destinations and this early wanderlust has fuelled her present desire to emigrate abroad. Until that wondrous moment, it’s rumoured that she lives in the UK, in the Venice of Cambridge with her six-foot hunk of a rock god husband. Her two enchanting daughters have flown the nest but often return with a cheery smile.

I write fantasy/magical realism because life should be sprinkled with a liberal dash of extraordinarily imaginative magic! Her motto is to always do what you love, stay true to your heart’s desires, and inspire others to do so too, even it if appears that the odds are stacked against you like black-hearted shadows.