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TWIG – The Writers Interaction Group

ctMitchellWhen author C. T. Mitchell and I last emailed each other, he didn’t have the slightest idea that he’d be a TWIG before the month was out! (He’s much more of a BRANCH really, but, like trees, our group’s starting out small… ).

The idea is to write a post, as usual, each month – but give a worthy author an airing, as publicity to a writer is as valuable as air!

C.T. Mitchell, a well-known Australian author of a dazzling array of murder stories – from ‘cozy’ to ‘dastardly’ – has written a plethora of Short Reads and full-length novels, which are listed below.

DETECTIVE JACK CREED SERIES

Rejection

Shattered

Secret of Barnesdale Manor

Murder on the Beach

High Stakes

Murder at Stonehaven

The Thin Line

DETECTIVE JACK CREED BOX SET

Lady Margaret Turnbull

Murder at the Fete

Murder in the Village

Murder at the Cemetery

Murder in the Valley

LADY MARGARET TURNBULL COSY BOX SET VOL 1-4

Murder at the Manor

Murder Shot

A Sugar n’ Spice Culinary Cozy Mystery

Just Murdered

Killer in the Kitchen

Cupcakes, Cider & Crime

SUGAR N’ SPICE CULINARY COZY BOX SET

Father Douglas Cozy Mysteries

Murder and the Mechanic

Murder and the Jewelery Box

SELENA SHARMA MYSTERIES

Murder by Butter Chicken

Murder of a Bollywood Star

SOCIAL MEDIA

Facebook

Twitter

LinkedIn

Web: www.CTMitchellBooks.com  /  www.theshortreads.com

Press

The above is, you will agree, quite an impressive list of accomplishments. C.T. Mitchell and I hope you will enjoy choosing one or two, or maybe even more of his books to read at your leisure. It would be a crime not to.

Happy reading!

 

Where Angels and Devils Tread

book coverI’ve a strong feeling that May is a popular month for many folk. It’s certainly my favourite. Usually… there’s more sunshine around; and the earth, with Mother Nature’s collusion, delights us at every turn. Buds pushing through and a colourful array of flowers to gladden any heart. A time of rebirth and renewal, giving hope a chance. What’s not to like?!

And then there are plans germinating: holidays ahead? Or at least picnics and barbecues. If you plan being a beach-bum for a week or two, you’ll need something to read, and this is where people like me come in handy; us writers have our uses….

This time, I’ve collaborated with a worthy author and friend, Jean Wilson: no slouch with the written word. Jean has worn several hats in her time. She was a Queen’s nurse for many years and then became a Psychologist to needy children and adults. Humour, that vital element, is evident in a lot of her and my work, so whether you want to read a murder tale or something a little lighter, there’s something in our book of short stories for you. It is available from CreateSpace and also Amazon (paperback and Kindle).

Why not order a copy and see for yourself?!

 

Eat, drink and be Mary

“IF YOU CAN’T FEED A HUNDRED PEOPLE, THEN JUST FEED ONE”

Mother Theresa

I recently edited an exciting tale of a ‘one man marvel’ who was a cross between James Bond, Captain Scarlet, and Batman. It certainly moved apace, with plenty of car and bikes chases, shoot-outs and mayhem. Perfect Boy’s/Men’s Own stuff. Only one thing about the story bugged me. Our hero rarely ate.

He downed a few jars that I recall, but seemed on a starvation diet. I do, of course, appreciate that when one is pursuing dangerous criminals, intent on murder, or blowing up the Houses of Parliament, et al, indulging in coq au vin and chocolate mousse has to take a back seat, but as chapters passed like indulgent buses, the poor hero was, surely, losing weight?! I was mentally urging the author to serve him a quick pizza, hot dog or burger at the very least., but as there was a war on by then, the poor devil had to make do with stolen eggs and stale bread…Hey ho.

As individuals, and being unique, we all have our fancies, likes and dislikes, and there’s nothing I like more than to eat a good meal, and digest it curled up by the wood-burner with a good book. But it goes much deeper than that and I’m no detective on a case…As a wife and mother, I took to cooking early on in my marriage, and my husband and I liked entertaining so much, he caught the culinary bug and – at one time in our years together – we ran a modest, twelve-bedroomed hotel in Bournemouth. Hard work but great fun and it launched me on a writing path: Running Your Own Small Hotel and Jobs in Baking and Confectionery. Both published by Kogan Page Ltd, London.

Involved in research for the book, I came across some exciting revelations, such as Chilean-American writer, Isabel Allende’s love for and allusions to food in her books. One: Aphrodite, covered the aphrodisiac combinations of food and love, and actual recipes from the book are still used by readers today. “A cornucopia of spices…” and potent writing of rich, dark chocolate, oozing, seductively and sexily through the pages, with titillating aromas almost escaping from the words. Sadly, my personal flights of food fancy were rejected and I was commissioned to write an account of “The day to day running of a small hotel, with modest menu suggestions.” Disappointing, but the book went to a second printing and did very well, so I couldn’t complain.

Later, leading a more prosaic, while interesting and rewarding life, I read and wrote as much as I could in between cooking for four men, noting that Oscar Wilde once said: “After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations!”

Apparently, Alexander Dumas was also a cook and gourmet, and while his three musketeers were marinating in his imagination, he wrote Dictionnaire de Cuisine, but concocted over-fanciful tales about the Romans driving ducks over the Alps for their dinner.

Tragic, American-born poet Sylvia Plath loved to cook and it seems that some of her recipes “ghost the web;” one for “Tomato soup cake” sounds rather strange!

In A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway, his pockets at the time, empty, wrote of his hunger while his stomach rumbled and the teasing aromas of baking bread and rolls drifted, torturously, from the open doorways of the Boulangeries.

As for the infamous Tom Jones, written by Henry Fielding in 1749 – marked as one of the “best ever 100 books” – although I admit to not having read it, I did see the film. And if ever food was linked to love and sex hilariously, it was in this epic. It is incredible to note that from a London population of only 700,000, 10,000 copies of the book were sold. One critic helped sales along beautifully, by calling it “A motley history of barstardism, fornication and adultery.” I never looked at food the same way again…

While I continued to scribble away and cook such basic temptations as Shepherd’s Pie, Toad in the Hole, Goulash and innumerable stir fries and roasts like most other mums, I still took time out to read – often in the kitchen. Joanne Harris’ book Chocolate captured me hook, line and sinker. I loved it, and although I haven’t written a “foodie” novel, yet, I did manage to get a few, culinary-based, stories published in an anthology: Food Glorious Food (QG Publishing) which, hopefully, sent a few taste buds salivating… and there are more due in a collection of fascinating, mixed stories by writer Jean Wilson and yours truly called Angels & Demons, also to be published shortly by QG Publishing.

Luckily, since publishing my memoir My Gentle War, I’ve been able to send modest donations to Mary’s Meals, a wonderful charity in Scotland who feed over One Million children per day and only keep a paltry seven pence in the pound for administration costs…

Website: www.marysmeals.org
Email: info@marysmeals.org

On being an eclectic writer

If you find yourself in this category, it is unlikely, while not impossible, of course, you’ll be rich, or even partly-wealthy for starters, or – more pertinent – a household name…All that chopping and changing – a poem here, a serious article there, a travelogue and then a short story and some silly limericks… will only confuse a possible “readership,” if that’s the word. Keeping a diary, penning a funny piece and writing factual stuff in between, doesn’t help one iota. I can claim to be one, so I’m doomed to mediocrity, although I’ve written five books (which can, again, be termed “eclectic.”) Two are factual, one is a biography, another a memoir; a fifth is my only novel, and the sixth an “adaptation.” Entirely my own fault and choice, of course. Deep down, I know the real reason…I’m a “literary butterfly” more like a moth…and am fearful of fame; a typical extrovert/introvert, with an emphasis on the introvert All those photographers and all that money?! I imagine looking for the exit sign.…What a silly woman!

The secret to being a truly successful writer is – usually – sticking to one genre/ writing a series (or being a wealthy genius). Of course, there are some brilliant writers “out there” who are educated and talented people. Hard graft and tenacity are part of the equation, and in today’s literary climate, being technically minded is also of huge benefit, which leaves many more mature writers out on a limb. Including me! If a door states PULL, I hesitate…so that will give you a clue as to my technical abilities. A wing and a prayer come to mind, and I’m not religious…Hey ho.

51cuwiwnwcl-_sx331_bo1204203200_1However, did you feel a “But” coming on? Now and then, I step outside my “introverted self” and toot my own trumpet – something I have, grudgingly, learned to do these past few years…When asked to adapt an autobiography by a friend, Graham Knight, I read the manuscript – typed by his grandfather with a head device as he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and had lost his right arm due to wounds sustained in the First World War – I readily agreed. What a man, and what a story! Aptly published on the 11th of November, “From the Prairie to Passchendaele” is the life story of a poor boy, born at the end of the 1800s, in Kent, UK, in a family of twelve children, he borrowed the money to emigrate to Canada, dreaming of becoming a cowboy…Ending up as a hard-working farmer, tending bullocks and horses and countless acres of prairie-land, at seventeen, he soon became a man! Sadly, World War I intervened and put paid to his farming life. Part of the tenacious 10th Canadian Military Unit, he bravely fought in many battles and was awarded the Military Medal at the eventual cost of his right arm. He retrained as an accountant – by then married with four sons – returned to Kent and prospered, despite painful interludes. Fred’s simply but powerfully told story, highlights the sheer guts and courage it took to make your way in the world in those hard days. No wonder Graham Knight is so proud of him!

Note: 2017 is the 100th Anniversary of The Battle of Passchendaele in which Fred fought.

From the Prairie to Passchendaele is available now from amazon.com

On characterisation / a poem

Being human, all writers have strengths and weaknesses and enjoy/dislike different aspects of their craft. Plots and sub plots are, of course, vital, as is the balance between action, dialogue, description, etc., but, for me, one of my favourite tasks – or I should say joys – is endowing a character with a personality and physical image through description.

Jean Wilson, a writing colleague, who has now retired to Torquay in the UK, was a favoured member of a small group I take as group leader for the University of the Third Age, in Torrevieja, Spain. Here is her take on a certain man who helped people a short, brilliant, story, she wrote.

‘Harold was a person one endeavoured to avoid if at all possible. He was an intense, blustery man of somewhat large stature, which of itself failed to hide his poorly controlled thinking ability, rather like a failed computer made in a third world country, which hadn’t yet got its act together. He was certainly low in gigabytes, and wanting in RAM. One couldn’t be certain that the keys struck would register as expected and a whole load of input seemed to have no relation to its later output. Harold’s idea of taking a short-cut was to fall down the stairs; and his confidence in himself took no account of the extent of his limitations. Any unfortunate encounter with him left many people feeling immense hopelessness in the integrity of the workings of Nature. Here was a man who told everyone he was a born again Xtian. It didn’t occur to him that he hadn’t been one in the first place, but he liked the reaction it had and tapped one of those pleasure seeking nerves which made him feel good for the day, enjoying the illusion of people’s undivided attention.’

Thanks Jean.

And now, as light relief from the really terrible happenings on this precious, be-devilled planet of ours, is a poem.

Most long-term Facebook, Twitter and Skype users, now and then get odd messages…And when I started receiving several requests from ‘Generals’ to Skype them, it struck me as amusing and didn’t quite ring true. This led to the writing of a poem, which I hope will make you giggle or grin…

TO SKYPE OR NOT TO SKYPE, THAT IS THE QUESTION

The first message was explicit:
(I imagined him cock-sure and slick),
I giggled but quickly recovered,
got rid of him quick with a click.

I’m spoken for and happily married,
and let’s face it “over the hill…”
but it took me back decades of years,
provided an egotistical thrill.

‘Twas as if I’d sent out a photo,
doctored and faintly erotic:
where my boobs were “in place,”
and an unwrinkled face
suggested a jolly good frolic.

Dear reader I’m totally innocent,
except for writing on line;
don’t wear fancy drawers
(prefer metaphors)
although the thought was sublime.

These days my pleasures are simple:
coffee on patio, pastry snack,
hot chocolate at night,
a book and “to write,”
not gymnastics in bed on my back.

What triggered this poem you may wonder,
I’ll tell you the truth – it’s a fact,
in twenty-four hours
I was suddenly showered
by four Generals, a sir and a hack.

Of course most of “the others”
intentions were pure, white as snow,
but it’s safe to be wary
and quite necessary
for how is a woman to know?!

THIS AND THAT…

trapeze_med

As this post is a slight departure from the norm… I’d like to put strangers to my occasional ramblings in the picture, lest they send ‘the men in white coats’ to my door. Eldest son, Jason, is a blogger (among other things) and I have written the following in reply to his recent out-pouring of nonsense.

Who would have believed it, after all the years of shady shenanigans; coded glances and messages secreted in ancient lavatory cisterns, the truth was revealed by our eldest son to the unwitting world.

It is true, we ran a modest hotel in Bournemouth, before being pursued and approached by the Cirque du Soleil (not the Circus con Leche as stated by Jason). Seduced by our reputation – for ‘‘im indoors and yours truly were renowned for our prowess on the trapeze (despite the gathering years, and not known by many people) – the troupe were planning to ‘star’ us in a dazzling Spectacular, which would astound the public. While middle-aged, what we couldn’t do with our amazingly virile, versatile and talented forms, wasn’t worth talking about. Our stage names were Kermit and Dolly Rodriquez. Tragically, the spectacle was cancelled after Kermit developed a large corn on his big, right toe, and ‘delayed acne’ at the same time as my varicose veins became too prominent.

It was more than our lives were worth to comment further about the man with the withered hand. Then Jason suggested plastic surgery would be ‘rejuvenating,’ (and otherwise advantageous) and our planned retirement to sunny Spain fitted neatly in with the circumstances. It also meant that our other two sons wouldn’t be able to find us, thereby paving the way for our eldest son to inherit our vast estates and the oil-fields in Texas when we popped our clogs. We were astounded by his dastardly plan.

Quite a few Menu del dias and Café con leches later…

It is with huge relief that we have learned of a few, pertinent, arrests in the UK by MI5. This is most fortunate in that we were looking over our shoulders so frequently, we kept bumping into lamp-posts. We are also delighted to discover the truth about our eldest son. He arranged the plastic surgery to save our lives, which were in imminent danger at the time, and due to his magnanimous nature and a windfall from a grateful, former client (Jason was a ‘Professional Carer’ at one time, and not as he claims a Ninja assassin), he’s totally disinterested in our alleged fortune. Another massive bonus, we have been reunited with our other two sons, and so folks, as the sun sets in the Western, technicoloured sky, we are able to paddle in the Med. again with carefree hearts and be a united family..

And now for something completely different..

Three of us flying Lennicks are planning to publish a book of humorous poems, anecdotes, jokes and fifty word stories in the near future. So, do look out for The Moon is Wearing a Tutu. By Joy, Eric and Jason Lennick.

Available now for your reading pleasure – Food Glorious Food – a ten-story anthology, penned by various writers: members of WordPlay Forum. Published by Quirky Girl Publishing. A must for any occasion: beach or curled up in an armchair.

Keep an eye open (or two) for our up and coming anthology: Des Res. Another treat from WordPlay writers and the able Quirky Girl Publishing stable. (Both available from Amazon,
Kindle and CreateSpace..)

Coming soon: a brand, spanking new version of My Gentle War, a memoir written by yours truly. (No. 1 on Kindle in Memoir/Social History category.)

An interview with Dale Rominger

Scene: a sun-drenched patio in Playa Flamenca, Spain..

DaleHi Dale, Welcome to Spain and Chez Lennick. May I ask you a few questions?

Dale: Fire away!

Me: First off, would you like a cold beer?

Dale: It would be rude not to…Thanks.

Me: Would you tell us a few relevant facts about yourself: where you were born, lived and work/worked, and have you travelled much?

Dale: I was born in Summit, New Jersey in August of 1948. We moved around a bit when I was young. Actually I moved very five or six years until I landed in London, England where I lived for sixteen years. We lived in New Jersey, Washington D.C., and Ohio when I was young. I went to college in Ohio and then moved to Montana followed by California. They were both great places to live. In 1987 I moved to Great Britain where I stayed for almost thirty years. Now I’m in Seattle, Washington. I’ve been here a year and a few days and am doing my best adjusting to life back in the United States. I must confess, it’s not easy.

You asked if I have traveled much. The last time I counted I have been to 67 countries. For about ten years I was putting in about 100,000 miles a year in the air. I’ve been fortunate in this regard. I loved it, but it was tiring and now I’m settled here in Seattle.

Me: Wow! You’ve certainly burnt up some shoe leather…and clocked up some air miles! How interesting. Now, about the kernel in the shell: your writing… What inspired you to write in the first place?

Dale: A desire to write began when was in high school. I actually started writing a sci fi book then – it was crap! I never had the discipline to write and work full time, that is to write fiction. Much of my work demanded some writing of various kinds. But I retired early – around 62 – in part to begin writing in earnest and to create a website to post my writing and to provide a place for other people to publish their writing. I’m happy to say that I’m doing both of those things and enjoying it.

Me: I know everyone asks this question, but have you a specific routine or are you a more spontaneous writer?

Dale: I have a kind of routine. I’m a real night person so most of my creative time is late at night and early in the morning. I usually spend a couple of hours in the afternoon on whatever project I’m working on. That doesn’t mean I necessarily write, though I might. But more than not I reread what I wrote the day before, work on my flow charts – I keep flow charts of the narrative so I can quickly find scenes I want to look back on. I also may do some research. That sort of thing. At about 10:30 pm I go up to my study and begin writing. I’ll work until about 2:30 am, run the spell check, and then go off to bed. I love working like that. The world is quiet and it seems peaceful. And if it’s raining, I crack the window open a bit. The sound of the rain is great.

Me: Do you edit as you write or map out a rough draft/s first? And are you meticulous as regards to research?

Dale: I edit some when I write, but I’m a lousy editor of my own work – not unusual for writers. When I’ve completed a book, I print out that first draft for editing. When I’m done it goes to my wife who will go through it twice. Then it goes to a professional editor I use through the publisher. That edit is great and necessary, as far as I’m concerned. The professional editor not only makes sure the book is in the proper grammatical style demanded by the publishers, she (mine is a she) also finds plot holes, etc.

I don’t create a detailed outline or synopsis of the book before I begin. I do have a general outline, mostly in my head, but some on paper. That outline will change as I write. Those flow charts I mentioned allow me to keep a hold of the narrative structure as I write so I can see what is happening. They allow me to keep some control of the story. If I were made to write a detailed outline first, I’d never begin the writing.

I do a lot of research for both my fiction and nonfiction writing. A lot of that research is done before I begin writing, but not all. I often click on Google when I’m writing, look something up, do the research, and then return to the writing. It works for me. If you were to look at my word count each night, those nights with less words are also the nights I did a lot of research. I don’t lose the flow of my writing when I do that. And I enjoy the research as well.

Me: I have just finished your recently published book ‘The Woman in White Marble’ and I must say I was very impressed at the way the story-line just zipped along. Your writing flows really well. Do you have a clear idea of the way the complete story should go or do you let your characters lead you?

Dale: Well, as I said, I start with a general outline, but when I sit down to write, while I know in general what I will write about each evening, I often have no idea what the details will be or what the characters will do and say. Sometimes, however, a future scene will come to me in detail, so I pause and write that down in its detail so I don’t lose it. For example, I always discover the ending of my books at the beginning only a few days into the writing. I stop and write it down, either in my notebook or in a computer file. When I actually get to the end, it will change some, but I’m surprised how accurate that first imagining was.

Me: What inspired ‘The Woman in White Marble’?

Dale: You’ll notice that the book is dedicated to Peter Crook. Peter was a dear friend of mine. He died suddenly and I participated in his memorial service. A couple days after that service I was lying on the couch supposedly watching TV. What I was actually doing was remembering my times with Peter. Something happened on the TV that sparked with my thoughts and a general outline for the story just appeared in my mind’s eye. I laid there for a few minutes thinking about it, then got up, went upstairs to my study, and started writing. The book is interesting and fun because Peter was interesting and fun. It was really written for his wife and two daughters, my good friends.

Me: At roughly what age did you start writing seriously?

Dale: Depends what kind of writing we are talking about. Nonfiction probably in my early thirties. Fiction when I was 62.

Me: Now for the three W’s – Where do you write? What do you have a preference for: fact or fiction? And When is your favorite time to write?

Dale: I write in my upstairs study. Where ever we live, one of the bedrooms becomes my study. It’s filled with books, photos from around the world, and items I brought back from my travels.

I now prefer fiction, though I do nonfiction writing for my website almost every week.

My best time for writing is between 10:30 pm and 3:00 am.

Me: Have you a favourite writing tip you can share with us?

Dale: Not sure I do, except to find what works for you. I’ve read a few “how to write” book by successful authors. I enjoyed them and got some tips. But those book are really “how I write” books which have authority because they are written by successful authors. But how they write may not be how you write. I think Stephen King said you should first create a detailed outline. On the other hand, Ian Rankin doesn’t even know “who done it” when he begins writing his mysteries. They are both very successful authors, but you can’t take advice from them both.

I did read in one “how to write” books that if you never actually get down to writing something, and not just thinking about writing something, then you are probably not a writer and should go on to something else. Seemed like good advice.

Me: Who is your favorite writer/s?

Dale: To name a few: Philip Roth, Toni  Morrison, Chuck Palahniuk, Zadie Smith, Dave Eggers, Kurt Vonnegut, Barbara Kingsolver, Roberto Bolaňo, Haruki Murakami, Margaret Atwood, Julian Barnes, and Joyce Carol Oates.

Me: What’s next, Dale? Do you plan writing anything specific, or does your Muse surprise you?

Dale: I’m currently writing a second Drake Ramsey mystery – Drake is the protagonist in The Woman in White Marble. This one takes place in New Orleans so the city is a character in the book as well. I’m enjoying it very much.

Ideas are never a problem for me. I have another novel sitting in my computer – well, 4000 words of it – which I will return to when I’m done with good old Drake Ramsey.

Me: I feel I have taken up enough of your time! It’s been fascinating talking to you. Thank you for the interview. I’m looking forward to your next book!

Dale: Thank you.

*

You can find Dale at The Back Road Café

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