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Friday 26 October 2018

FINDING JACQUES - a guest post by Angela Wren

My guest today is the lovely Angela Wren, whose latest novel Montbel (Book 3 in the Jacques Forêt Mystery Series) will be released on 13 November 2019.  Here, she tells us how she discovered her leading character.

Welcome, Angela!

As a writer, ideas occur to me all the time.  No matter where I am or what I'm doing thoughts that might be useful in stories pop into my head.  Now, I always have a small notebook in my handbag so that I can jot down anything I see or hear that prompts an idea.  As I write crime, this means that I think about murder… a lot!  Methods for murder are also often buzzing around my head, too.

With my characters, the scenario is very different.  I start with a completely blank sheet of paper and I ask myself a stack of questions.  For Jacques Forêt, I knew instantly that he would be absolutely honest and the kind of man who was set on catching the baddies no matter what.  But for some time I had no clear idea about what he looked like.  At least, not until I spent a few days in Prémery – and that's where I would like to take you and your regular readers today, Sue.

Prémery is a small town in the département of Nièvre (58), which is part of the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region of France.  Sitting at the side of the D977, the town has an elevation of around 800 ft above sea level and is surrounded by rolling hills covered in forests.  When here, I always use the local campsite, and when the charcoal burners are at work there's a lovely smoky scent to the clear air.

It's a short walk from the campsite, around the lake and down Rues des Donloups, into town.  At the château – which is little more than the remains of a 14th-century portal attached to a main building and a tower that date from the 16th century – take the street on your right.  It gives the best view of the château, and the tourist office is in the tower.  The château may be small, but we are in distinguished company here as the bishops of Nevers used the château as a summer residence right up until the 17th century.

If you continue past the château you will come to Grande Rue, which dissects the town.  Take a left here and the first shop on your left is the butcher's and the second is the boulangerie.  I can't visit this town without calling in here.  They make absolutely gorgeous cakes.  I can thoroughly recommend the Mille Feuilles, and the Tarte au Citron (my personal favourite) is to die for.  On this particular occasion it was market day when I walked into town and as I emerged from the bakers with my tart, all carefully wrapped, the man with the rotisserie full of sizzling chickens asked me if I was looking for something for lunch.   I pointed to my cake and said I had everything I needed.

'Non, non,' he said, shaking his head.  'You can't just eat cake, too much sugar.'

It was only then I took any particular notice of him – and immediately thought, you're Jacques!  You are exactly what Jacques would look like and how he would sound.  Keeping my thoughts to myself I smiled and told him that I might come back for a chicken on another day.  I quickly made my way back to the campsite, got out my laptop and started writing a detailed description.  I also decided that, unlike the man with the rotisserie, Jacques would not be a smoker.  I gave that particular habit to his fellow character, restaurant and bar owner, Gaston.

Thank you, Angela - that was fascinating!  I really enjoyed the first two Jacques Forêt novels, so I'm really looking forward to this one!

More about Montbel:  

A clear-cut case?  

A re-examination of a closed police case brings investigator, Jacques Forêt, up against an old adversary.  After the murder of a key witness, Jacques finds himself, and his team, being pursued.  When a vital piece of evidence throws a completely different light on Jacques' case, his adversary becomes more aggressive, and Investigating Magistrate Pelletier threatens to sequester all of Jacques' papers and shut down the investigation.  

Can Jacques find all the answers before Pelletier steps in?  

More about Angela:

Having followed a career in Project and Business Change Management, Angela now works as an Actor and Director at a local theatre.  She has been writing, in a serious way, since 2010.  Her work in project management has always involved drafting, so writing, in its various forms, has been a significant feature throughout her adult life.  

She particularly enjoys the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work.  Her short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical.  She also writes comic flash-fiction and has drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio.  The majority of her stories are set in France, where she likes to spend as much time as possible each year.
Amazon : AngelaWren
Facebook : Angela Wren
Goodreads : Angela Wren
Contact an author : Angela Wren

Thursday 25 October 2018

FIERCE GRACE - an interview with Jess B Moore

My blog guest today, all the way from the USA, is the lovely Jess B Moore.

Welcome, Jess.  Please tell us about your new book Fierce Grace.  What was the inspiration for this book?

            Fierce Grace came from a place of fear – of a young woman who had lived a life of pain and sworn off opening herself up to more pain.  A young man swamped with family responsibility, loyal to a fault, and with a poor view of himself as a respectable partner.  These were themes I could relate to, and felt others could as well.  Annabelle is a music teacher, which ties perfectly with my musical life, as well as the music culture in Fox River (the small North Carolina town setting of both my books).  Asher is a steel worker, motorcycle rider, and the mostly “manly” character I’ve written.  It was fun to show how he’s more than his image.  For me it’s about the characters, and I write people who I want to know, or I have know, or I could be.

What does a typical writing day involve for you?

            I write when I can, between homeschooling two children, as well as helping manage their gigging band.  I’ve never had a set time or place, instead fitting in a few minutes here and there.  Now that I’m published and have specific deadlines, I have carved out more time for writing, but it’s still something that shifts day to day.

How do you decide on the names for your characters?

            Names are one of my favorite parts!  I have a running list of names I like/love/loathe to choose from, but also rely on “Name Berry” (baby name website) quite a bit.  For my first book, I wanted the names to feel southern, which meant names like Magnolia and Cotton.  With my new book, though it’s set in the same small southern town, I wanted her name to be timeless and his to be more modern, and went with Annabelle and Asher. 

Do you plot your novels in advance, or allow them to develop as you write?

            I usually start out with the characters, and follow their story as I write.  I’ll have waypoints along the way, and a general idea of where the story is going, but for the most part it happens while I’m writing. 

Which writers have influenced your own writing?

            My favorite romance authors are Penny Reid, Susannah Nix, and Sally Thorne.  They’ve played a big part in inspiration.  I’m also a huge Maggie Stiefvater fan, and love her way with words, and her incomparable connections between her characters.  John Green as well serves to remind me that it’s okay to write nerdy smart quirky people. 

What has been the best part of the writing process…and the worst?

            I love crafting stories.  Love seeing where the characters take their stories and watching them grow.  I enjoy the process of writing.  What I don’t love, now that I’m a published author, is the “work” side of it all.  Marketing, promotion, website, social media – it’s all been an uphill learning experience for me.  After about 11 months, I finally feel as if I’m getting into my stride with it all, and continue to learn along the way.  My favorites so far are my newsletter and Instagram. 

Now the book is published and ‘out there’ how do you feel?

            Thrilled, terrified, raw, and in awe.  It’s a roller coaster of emotions to put your work out into the world!  Reading reviews can be validating in the best of ways, or devastating, confirming all your greatest fears and doubts. 

What can we expect from you in the future?

            My third book, The Worth of a Penny, will be out in 2019.  I’ve already started the sequel to Fierce Grace as well, and hope to have it ready for the world later in 2019.  Overall I have six Fox River Romance books planned, and hope to get them all released over the next couple of years.  After that?  Unsure, but it’s likely to include romance, family, and music. 

You can find more about Jess, and her books, on these links:

The Guilt of a Sparrow:
Fierce Grace:

Thursday 11 October 2018


The Ghostly Father was first published in 2014 by Crooked Cat Books.  Now, after a few revisions to the original text, it has been reissued under a new imprint.  Find out more by clicking here.

Ocelot Press is a new publishing venture and I'm really thrilled to be part of it.  To find out more, take a look our website.

Wednesday 10 October 2018

REDNECK'S REVENGE - a guest post by Joan Livingston

Isabel Long is in a funk months after solving her first case. The cops say she must work for a licensed P.I. before working solo.

Encouraged by her Watson — her 92-year-old mother  — Isabel snaps out of it by hooking up with a P.I. and finding a new case.

The official ruling is that Chet Waters, an ornery so-and-so, was unconscious when his house caught fire. His daughter, who inherited the junkyard, believes he was murdered. Topping the list of suspects are dangerous drug-dealing brothers, a rival junkyard owner, and an ex-husband.

Could the man’s death simply be a case of redneck’s revenge? Isabel is about to find out...

When I decided to write a mystery series, I wanted strong women characters. They wouldn’t be damsels in distress but women who knew what they wanted and went after it. Topping the list, of course, is Isabel Long, the protagonist of the series, which began with Chasing the Case. Redneck’s Revenge, its sequel and my newest mystery, was released on Sept. 26.

Isabel is a former journalist who turned amateur sleuth when she lost her job as managing editor of a newspaper. Isabel is not a sweet young thing. She’s got some miles on her. She’s smart, sassy and doesn’t take crap from anyone. She’s also a good listener with a big heart, which makes it easy to connect with people, especially since she encounters a rather rough crowd in Redneck’s Revenge.

A recent widow, Isabel is also done with grieving, and ready for a relationship with a man.

Then there’s her 92-year-old mother, Maria Ferreira, who lives with her. Ma is a big reader. Mysteries and spicy romance novels are her big thing. She’s also a great ‘Watson’ for Isabel, giving her ideas to ponder and even going on interviews.

Redneck’s Revenge has two other characters who don’t take crap from anybody. Isabel hits it off with them despite their different backgrounds.

Marsha, whom Isabel and her mother nicknamed The Floozy, is a character in the first book. She was an alibi for one of the suspects. In the second book, she introduces Isabel to her cousin, Annette, who hires her.

Annette, aka The Tough Cookie, runs a garage and junkyard that used to belong to her SOB of a father. She wants Isabel to find out how her father died. The cops say he was passed-out drunk when his house burned down. Annette says he was murdered.

Other women in Redneck’s Revenge: a woman police chief and the co-owner of a gas station, who eventually finds her inner strength.

Here’s an excerpt. Isabel goes to Baxter’s (a biker bar) with the cousins, for her case. By the way, the Rooster is the bar in Isabel’s town where the band played the previous night.

As we head toward the front entrance, I hear music, something by the group Alabama, bouncing through the walls. Beer signs flash through the windows. Ahead of me, Marsha marches inside as if she owns the damn place. She stops short of the dance floor, nods, and then points toward the far end. Annette already has a table. Some guy is talking in her ear while he stares at the cleavage rising about her low-cut sweater. She paws at him as she laughs.

Marsha turns toward me.

“My cousin’s a slut, what can I tell ya?”

“She looks like she’s just having a good time.”

“Same difference.” Marsha slaps my arm and points at the band. “Well, well, look who’s playin’. It’s the Country Plowboys. You didn’t miss ’em after all.”

When the song ends, Marsha and I make our way across the thinning dance floor. Annette, aka the Tough Cookie, gives the guy she’s with a friendly push and says, “You gotta get lost now. Maybe later.”

The guy, in the usual country attire of flannel, canvas, and denim, checks us out, but he clearly isn’t interested. We take our seats. Marsha whistles sharply through her teeth to get the waitress’s attention.

I lean forward.

“I’ll get this round,” I say.

“All right,” the Floozy says.

I glance around the barroom. It’s three times the size of the Rooster, with a long bar on one side and an actual stage. Tables border the dance floor on three sides. It’s dark inside except for the wide-screen TVs lit over the three shelves of booze behind the bar. The clientele is on the rustic side, which I expect and enjoy. Frankly, as a reporter and a denizen of the hilltowns, I found the natives often more interesting than the white-collar folks who commuted to the city.

That’s when I notice the beer cans. Everybody who doesn’t have a mixed drink has a can of Bud or whatever. The woman who took our order is carrying a tray of them.

“No beer in bottles here?” I ask my companions.

“Nah, it’s safer with cans,” the Floozy says. “Even the glasses are plastic. I’d say that was being real smart with this crowd.”

I hand the bills to the waitress.

“Keep the change,” I say, remembering the buck-a-round-rule at the Rooster.

The cousins are gabbing about the men, which ones are decent looking and who’s available for a roll in the sack. They appear to like men with hair and a steady job, which is a sound idea, or as Annette puts it, “I don’t want some guy spongin’ off of me. Did that. Won’t do it again.” They also don’t like guys with big beer bellies or steady girlfriends and wives. No sloppy seconds, the Tough Cookie says.

"What about you?” Annette asks with a grin. “See anybody here you might be interested in?”

Joan Livingston is the author of novels for adult and young readers. Redneck’s Revenge, published by Crooked Cat Books, is the second in the mystery series featuring Isabel Long, a longtime journalist who becomes an amateur P.I. The first is Chasing the Case.

An award-winning journalist, she started as a reporter covering the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. She was an editor, columnist, and most recently the managing editor of The Taos News, which won numerous state and national awards during her tenure.

After eleven years in Northern New Mexico, she returned to rural Western Massachusetts, which is the setting of much of her adult fiction, including the Isabel Long series.

Joan Livingston on social media:

Twitter: @joanlivingston 

Book links to Chasing the Case and Redneck’s Revenge:

Sunday 7 October 2018


As some of you may know, this blog originally started out as a poetry blog for National Poetry Writing Month.  But in the five or so years that it’s been in existence, although quite a few of my poems have appeared in anthologies and on websites, I’ve never actually released a poetry anthology of my own.

Thanks to my dear friend Karen Little (a highly talented artist, author, poet, and all-round lovely person), that has now changed.

Karen is producing a series of nine poetry pamphlets, for which she has drawn some incredible cover artwork.  Each pamphlet is lovingly produced by hand and printed on high-quality cartridge paper, and all proceeds are donated to an animal shelter which Karen supports. 

My own pamphlet is called VARIATIONS ON AN APOLOGY.  Here is a brief teaser of what you can find inside it:


Inspiration fail.
Today is not going well.
I can’t think of a

Five of these beautiful pamphlets (including mine) are available now, with the rest to follow soon.  

They cost £7 each, including postage within the UK.  Prices to other countries are available on request.  To order, or for more details, please contact Karen directly on kazvina AT yahoo DOT es (remove the spaces, and replace the shouty bits with appropriate punctuation).

Go on – what are you waiting for?