Book review, excerpt & giveaway: Paris Nights, by actor Cliff Simon (& Loren Stephens)

Paris NightsCliff Simon
with
Loren Stephens

on Tour October 24-November 2 with

Paris Nights:
My Year at the Moulin Rouge

(memoir)
Release date: July 15, 2016
at Waldorf Publishing
ISBN: 978-194384892-8
197 pages

Website
Goodreads

SYNOPSIS

A memoir by the critically acclaimed actor Cliff Simon.

Paris Nights, the memoir of a South African soldier turned performer in the world’s most famous cabaret, delivers in a hugely entertaining way.

Little did Cliff Simon know that a single phone call and a one-way ticket to Paris would ultimately change his life forever.

Now the acclaimed television and film actor shares his journey from Johannesburg to the Moulin Rouge to Hollywood in his debut memoir, Paris Nights: My Year at the Moulin Rouge.

From a young age Cliff Simon knew he was headed towards big places. Having grown up as both a skilled gymnast and a competitive swimmer, performance was in his blood. But with the onset of Apartheid and the looming threat of war, he and his Jewish family soon retreated from Johannesburg, South Africa to the London countryside. Before he knew it, he joined the British swim team and was near Olympics-bound with a full-ride offer to a United States university.

But something wasn’t quite right. Instead, Cliff returned home and enlisted in the South African Air Force. Cliff’s habit of impulsive risk-taking would continue but ultimately pave the foundation for an experience most of us would only dream of. After he was honorably discharged, twenty-seven-year-old Cliff worked a series of odd jobs at a resort near the Indian Ocean until he received a phone call from an old friend inviting him to join him at the iconic Moulin Rouge.

Here begins the story of Cliff’s meteoric rise at the Moulin from swing dancer to principal in the glamour filled show, Formidable; his offstage encounters with street thugs and diamond smugglers; and the long nights filled with after parties and his pick of gorgeous women. Encounter the magic, the mayhem, and the glory that was and still is the Moulin Rouge.

EXCERPT

At dawn, I took the Métro back from Sophia’s hotel to my apartment on Rue de la Victoire. The night before, somebody had taken my spot in the courtyard, so I left my car on the street. I fell into bed exhausted from a night of lovemaking and slept fitfully. When I got up at about noon, I took a quick shower, made myself a cup of coffee, and then opened the heavy doors of the courtyard out on to Rue de la Victoire. My car was parked where I had left it the previous evening, but there was a bouquet of dead red roses tucked under the windshield wipers. I had seen enough murder mysteries and read enough spy thrillers to know that this was bad. Chantal or one of her goons had followed me back to my apartment from Sophia’s hotel, and now they knew where I lived.

I ran back upstairs to look for a weapon. I got a kitchen knife and stuck it inside one of the leather boots I was wearing, and I put a stick inside my jacket sleeve. I thought about taking my car to the Moulin, but I decided I’d rather walk. Someone might have put a pipe bomb underneath my car. My imagination was getting the better of me, but I didn’t want to take any chances. I had seen worse things than that in South Africa—ANC vigilantes setting fire to cars, kidnapping whites from their houses, planting bombs in trash cans.
It was eight o’clock in the evening. I found Monsieur Thierry, who was talking to one of the chorus boys. I needed to speak with him immediately. I told him about the fight with Chantal, and finding the dead flowers on my car. He winced, “Les Fleurs du Mal.”

“What do you mean?”

“The Flowers of Evil. It’s a poem by Baudelaire. Read it someday.”

I was in no mood for a lesson in French literature. “I need to speak with Monsieur Clerico. Can you arrange it? This is serious.”

Thierry gave me his standard response. “Monsieur Clerico doesn’t make appointments with the cast. He leaves these matters up to Doris, Ruggero and me.”

I asked him, “You want to mess with the Mob? I think they are somehow involved in this.”

“All right. Come by tomorrow before the show. I’ll talk to Monsieur Clerico. Maybe he’ll see you.”

For the first time since I had been in Paris, I felt nervous that something might happen to me. I had a feeling that I might need protection on the street, and who better to give it to me than Monsieur Clerico.

REVIEW

I will admit that I knew nothing about Cliff Simon when I picked up this book, but I quite enjoy memoirs, and I’d never read about a dancer from the Moulin Rouge before. I didn’t actually look him up until after I’d finished the book, and now I realize I’d seen him in a couple of Stargate eps. Very cool, and I’d had no idea he’d been a dancer.

His time in Paris was somewhat predictable in that he slept and partied his way through his year of dancing, but somehow I would expect no less from someone with such energy and need to be doing things. As for the Moulin Rouge itself, seeing behind the curtain and learning about the organization and backstage secrets was fascinating. I think it’d be very cool to be able to truly go backstage and see how it all works. Mr. Simon’s book is a great teaser and taste of what the dance hall must be like. I’d be curious to see how it has changed since the 80s, and how it has stayed the same.

Though I picked up the book because of the Moulin Rouge reference, I was more intrigued by Cliff’s tellings of his younger life, in pre-apartheid South Africa. Though he could have blunted or softened his earlier (perhaps more naive) views, he approached the issues with honesty, acknowledging the difference between views then and now. It’s refreshing, and shows the depth of his thoughts, and his voice is very specific and unique.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Paris Nights Cliff Simon

 

Cliff Simon
is a well-known television actor,
born in Johannesburg, South Africa.
He appeared for 7 seasons on the sci-fi thriller,
Stargate as the evil Ba’al.
Some of his recent appearances
have been on CSI, 24,
the Americans, and in the film, Project Eden.

Paris Nights Loren StephensLoren Stephens
has been twice nominated for
the Pushcart Prize for the Best American Short Story,
and her essays and short stories
have appeared in the Los Angeles Times,
the Chicago Tribune, Peregrine,
the Montreal Review, to name a few.
Her novel “All Sorrows Can Be Borne,” set in Japan will be published in 2017.

Visit Cliff’s website and his fan page
Follow Cliff Simon: Facebook, Twitter

Visit Loren’s website: Write Wisdom

Follow Loren Stephens: Facebook
Follow Waldorf Publishing on Twitter | on Facebook

Buy the book: Amazon | Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Target

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Book review & Giveaway: The Art of Rebellion by Brenda Joyce Leahy

the-art-of-rebellionBrenda Joyce Leahy

on Tour October 17-21 with

The Art of Rebellion

(YA historical)
Release date: June 15, 2016
at Rebelight Publishing
ISBN: 978-0994839985
252 pages
Website
Goodreads

 

SYNOPSIS

Released June 15, 2016, by Rebelight Publishing, this beautifully written, lush piece drops you into tumultuous and breathtaking late 19th century Paris.

Sixteen year old Gabrielle dreams of becoming an artist but her ambitious parents agree to an arranged marriage to an aging Baron. In protest, she runs away from her provincial home of Laval to Paris, the City of Light, intending to live with her grandmother and pursue her passion for art. Her bold plan disintegrates as she arrives in Paris to discover her grandmother has disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Alone in the capital, Gabrielle wonders who to trust: her new artist friends or the handsome but irritating stranger she met on the train, who just might be stalking her. Gabrielle’s pride, ambition and impulsive nature thrust her into Paris’ underbelly of betrayal and abuse. Will she find the courage to begin a new life on her own terms?

REVIEW

It’s been a while since I’ve read YA. From the start I was rooting for Gabrielle, cringing at the Baron, and the staunch demands of her mother. I cheered when she ran away, and agonized to see her making her decisions, knowing that she’d suffer some. But then, that’s what growing up is, isn’t it? Or at least, what it should be. I admire her determination, even when she has no money and is in a dangerous situation. More people should have such willpower.

Brenda Joyce Leahy brings 19th Century Paris to life, and I loved reading this book. I loved to learn about the feminists, about the Exposition, about the tawdriness, and dirt, and desperation. Politics, domestic life, art, passion, all rolled into one.

The Art of Rebellion was on the Calgary Bestselling Fiction list in August 2016

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

the-art-of-rebellion-brenda-joyce-leahy

Brenda Joyce Leahy
loves historical fiction
and thinks she was born a century too late
but can’t imagine her life without computers or cell phones.
So, perhaps, she arrived in the world
at just the right moment to tell this story.
She grew up on a farm near Taber, Alberta
but now lives with her family near the Rocky Mountains in Calgary, Alberta.
After over 20 years practising law,
she has returned to her first love of writing fiction.
She is a member of several writing organizations,
including the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)
The Art of Rebellion is also profiled on the Humber School of Writers’ website
Brenda is also a member of the Historical Novel Society and leads a YA/MG writers’ critique group in Calgary.

Visit Brenda’s website

Follow her on Facebook | on Twitter
Follow Rebelight Publishing on Twitter

Buy the book: Amazon | Indigo | Barnes & Noble

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Book review, excerpt, & giveaway: The Madonna of Notre Dame, by Alexis Ragougneau

The Madonna of Notre DameAlexis Ragougneau

on Tour September 12-21 with

The Madonna of Notre Dame

(thriller)
Release date: October 11, 2016
at New Vessel Press
ISBN: 978-1-939931-39-3 210 pages

Website
Goodreads

 

SYNOPSIS

Fifty thousand believers and photo-hungry tourists jam into Notre Dame Cathedral on August 15 to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption. The next morning, a stunningly beautiful young woman clothed all in white kneels at prayer in a cathedral side chapel. But when an American tourist accidentally bumps against her, her body collapses. She has been murdered: the autopsy reveals disturbing details. Police investigators and priests search for the killer as they discover other truths about guilt and redemption in this soaring Paris refuge for the lost, the damned, and the saved. The suspect is a disturbed young man obsessed with the Virgin Mary who spends his days hallucinating in front of a Madonna. But someone else knows the true killer of the white-clad daughter of Algerian immigrants. This thrilling novel illuminates shadowy corners of the world’s most famous cathedral, shedding light on good and evil with suspense, compassion and wry humor.

EXCERPT

“Gérard, there’s a bomb alert. In the ambulatory. Serious stuff this time. Big.”

His shoulder wedged in the doorway, a huge bunch of keys hanging at the end of his arm, the guard watched the sacristan fuss around, open all the sacristy cupboards, and pull out rags, sponges, silverware polish, while muttering expletives of his own composition at regular intervals.

“Gérard, are you listening? You should take a look, really. Fifteen years on the job, I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s enough to blow up the whole cathedral.”

Gérard interrupted his search and finally appeared to take an interest in the guard. The latter had just hung the keys on a single nail stuck in the sacristy paneling.

“Later on, if you like, I’ll go see. Is that all right? Are you happy?”

“What’s going on today, Gérard? Haven’t you got time for important things anymore?”

“Look, you’re starting to really piss me off. Thirty years I’ve been working here and it’s the same thing every year: every August fifteenth they have to make a goddamn mess in the sacristy. And I can never find anything the next day. I have to spend two hours cleaning up. I don’t understand why it has to be so difficult. They arrive, they put on their vestments, they do their procession and their Mass next door, they come back, they take off their vestments, and see you next year … Why do they have to go rummaging in the cupboards?”

“Tell me, Gérard, what have you lost?”

“My gloves. My box of gloves for the silverware. If I don’t have them I wreck my hands with their shitty products.”

“You want me to help you look? I’ve got time—just finished opening up.”

“Don’t worry, here, found them. I don’t know why it’s so hard to put things back where they belong, I mean, Jesus H. Christ …”

The guard fumbled in his pocket, inserted coins into the slit of the coffee machine, and pushed a button. He signaled goodbye to the sacristan and then, a steaming cup in his hand, started to walk back to the interior of the cathedral. Gérard caught up with him in the corridor.

“So tell me about your bomb … Worth seeing?”

“The works, I promise: the ticktock, the time switch, and the sticks of dynamite.”

“OK, I’ll go see later, before the nine o’clock Mass. Might still be there. Where’s your explosive device again?”

“In the ambulatory, outside the chapel of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows. You’ll see—impossible to miss.”

MY REVIEW

It was a slow start for me, but this book was worth my patience. It’s been awhile since I’ve read any thrillers, and my last ones were books from translator/publisher Le French Book. (Their stable of authors includes Frederique Molay, Bernard Besson, David Khara, etc.) Once this book got going, I really couldn’t put it down. The first suspect seemed too easy, but I couldn’t identify another, and that questioning kept me reading. I like thrillers and mysteries where I can’t easily identify the killer(s).

What intrigued me the most, beyond the external plot, were the details involved in the running of Notre Dame, and of the ‘inside look’ at what it might take to organize and secure such a large and popular tourist destination. Locks, cleaning, security, filming, masses,… it all seemed to be there. I’d love to read a book solely on this background information.

Definitely an excellent read. I look forward to seeing what M. Ragougneau writes next.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexis Ragougneau

Alexis Ragougneau
is a playwright and
The Madonna of Notre Dame is his first novel.
He has worked in Notre Dame Cathedral
helping monitor tourist crowds
and knows well its infinite secrets
and the forgotten souls who linger in its darkest corners.

Follow New Vessel Press on Twitter | on Facebook
Sign up to receive their latest news and deals.

Buy the book: on Amazon

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Book review & giveaway: Time and Regret, by M.K. Tod

Time And RegretM. K. Tod
on Tour September 1-10 with

Time and Regret

(historical mystery)

Release date: August 16, 2016
on Amazon

ISBN: 978-1503938403
366 pages

Author’s page | Goodreads

SYNOPSIS

When Grace Hansen finds a box belonging to her beloved grandfather, she has no idea it holds the key to his past—and to long-buried family secrets. In the box are his World War I diaries and a cryptic note addressed to her. Determined to solve her grandfather’s puzzle, Grace follows his diary entries across towns and battle sites in northern France, where she becomes increasingly drawn to a charming French man—and suddenly aware that someone is following her…

Through her grandfather’s vivid writing and Grace’s own travels, a picture emerges of a man very unlike the one who raised her: one who watched countless friends and loved ones die horrifically in battle; one who lived a life of regret. But her grandfather wasn’t the only one harboring secrets, and the more Grace learns about her family, the less she thinks she can trust them.

MY REVIEW

After a somewhat slow start, Time and Regret quickly became intriguing. Martin’s diaries gave way to sections set during the Great War, and I was fascinated. His words weren’t the lengthy sort of diary one usually gets in books like this, but brief, blunt observations that set the stage. Then, to have Grace trying to find clues… I couldn’t stop reading. Things built, and the ending wasn’t quite what I expected it to be. In a good way.

I especially appreciated that Grace was not a 20-something year old, but a woman of an older age, with more experience, and having gone through a divorce. She was a more interesting character for it, and her friendship and relationship with Pierre felt very natural, and not overdone.

It was also refreshing to have a novel partly set in 1991. It’s two historical periods in one novel, and it took me a few minutes to reset my brain to ‘not present time’ when reading about the more modern era. I had to remind myself that 1991 was pre-cellphone, internet, etc. (I am more than old enough to remember it, but still…)

And finally, the art world connection was a real treat. Museums and (*mumble mumble spoilers*). Definitely a book to pick up.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Time And Regret MK Tod

Time and Regret is M.K. Tod’s third novel.
She began writing in 2005
while living as an expat in Hong Kong.
What started as an interest in her grandparents’ lives
turned into a full-time occupation writing historical fiction.
Her novel Unravelled was awarded Indie Editor’s Choice
by the Historical Novel Society.
In addition to writing historical novels,
she blogs about reading and writing historical fiction at http://www.awriterofhistory.com,
reviews books for the Historical Novel Society
and the Washington Independent Review of Books,
and has conducted three highly respected reader surveys.
She lives in Toronto, Canada,
with her husband and is the mother of two adult children.

Please visit her website and her blog A Writer of History
Subscribe to her mailing list
or contact her at mktod [at] bell [dot] net

Follow her on Facebook and Twitter
on Goodreads and Pinterest

Buy the book (print, ebook audiobook): Amazon

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Book review, excerpt & giveaway: Paris Runaway, by Paulita Kincer

Paulita Kincer

on Tour July 18-27
with

Paris Runaway cover

Paris RunAway

(women’s fiction)

Release date: June 30, 2016
at Lulu.com

ISBN: 978-1-365-18923-4
220 pages

Author’s page
Goodreads

 

SYNOPSIS

When divorced mom Sadie Ford realizes her 17-year-old daughter Scarlett has run away to Paris all she can imagine are terrorist bombings and sex slaves. After learning her daughter chased a French exchange student home, Sadie hops on the next plane in pursuit. She joins forces with the boy’s father, Auguste, and the two attempt to find the missing teens before they can stumble into more trouble. The chase takes Sadie and Auguste to the seedier side of Marseille, where their own connection is ignited. Since the divorce, Sadie has devoted herself to raising kids and putting her dreams on hold, but when her daughter needs her most, Sadie finds that concrete barrier to life beginning to crack. In her journey, she learns the difference between watching the hours pass and living.

REVIEW

This book was a refreshing read, especially because the heroine was not an early-20s woman, but one of middle age, with teenage kids and a ‘normal’ life. That is, hectic and messy and full of the little details that a lot of books gloss over. I connected with her immediately, and could feel her frustration and anger and worry all at once.

And when the action moved to Paris, I was delighted to be ‘visiting’ one of my favourite cities once more. I could absolutely envision the car chase through the huge traffic circle at the Arc de Triomphe, and wandering down avenues, and experiencing Paris for the first time.

Now that I’ve read The Paris Runaway, I think I’m going to need to go read all of Ms Kincer’s other books!

EXCERPT

I’d been distracted by my class of first graders, my fingertips dripping with paint, as one boy pulled on the hem of my dress and a strange man in shiny shoes walked into the classroom. He said, “I’m lookin’ for Sadie Harrison Ford.”

“That’s me,” I said, my brows scrunching together at the bridge of my nose. No one called me by my maiden name and married name. I was fine as Sadie Harrison or Sadie Ford, but combine the two names, and I became a Star Wars joke waiting to happen.

“Got some papers for you,” the man said as he moved a piece of chewing gum to the side of his mouth.

“Well, I obviously have my hands full right now,” I told the man, irritated that the office had let him come down to my classroom. “Just put them on my desk.” I jerked my head toward the oversized wooden desk that had piles of papers on one side, a stack of wavy artwork on the other side, but a nice empty section in the middle where an envelope would not go astray.

“I’m afraid I can’t do that Mrs. Harrison Ford,” he said as he approached me holding out the envelope.

“Just a minute, Josiah,” I told the boy pulling on the hem of my dress.

“Miranda,” I called to a little girl nearby, “take that envelope and put it on my desk please.”

She obediently stood and approached the man with her hand out.

“I’m afraid no one but you can take this envelope.” The man stretched the envelope higher as if Miranda would try to jump up and snatch it.

“Oh, fine.” I reached out to grab the envelope with blue, red and purple fingers then moved to toss it onto my desk.

“Consider yourself served,” the man said.

I looked around for a camera as if I starred in a reality television show. “What do you mean?”

“Those are divorce papers from your husband.” The man threw the words over his shoulder as he walked toward the door.

And that’s how my official divorce papers got rainbow-colored fingerprints all over them as I tugged the stiff white papers from the envelope, and my face collapsed in a sudden rush of shame and tears. This couldn’t be happening to me. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paulita Kincer

Paulita Kincer
has an M.A. in journalism from American University.
She has traveled to France 11 times,
and still finds more to lure her back.
She currently teaches college English
and lives in Columbus, Ohio,
with her three children, two cats and one husband.
Visit her website www.paulitakincer.com and her blog at http://www.paulita-ponderings.blogspot.com
or follow her on Twitter @paulitakincer
Like her Facebook page at Paulita Kincer Writer.
Email paulita@paulitakincer.com

Buy the book (print, ebook audiobook): Amazon

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Book Review, Giveaway AND Guest Post: In Another Life, by Julie Christine Johnson

In Another LifeJulie Christine Johnson

on Tour March 1-10 with

In Another Life

(Historical Fiction/Contemporary Women’s Fiction/
Fantasy/Romance)
Release date: February 2, 2016
at Sourcebooks
368 pages
ISBN: 9782954168197
Website | Goodreads

Read the GUEST POST here.

SYNOPSIS

Historian Lia Carrer has finally returned to southern France, determined to rebuild her life after the death of her husband. But instead of finding solace in the region’s quiet hills and medieval ruins, she falls in love with Raoul, a man whose very existence challenges everything she knows about life–and about her husband’s death. As Raoul reveals the story of his past to Lia, she becomes entangled in the echoes of an ancient murder, resulting in a haunting and suspenseful journey that reminds Lia that the dead may not be as far from us as we think. Steeped in the rich history and romantic landscape of the Languedoc region, In Another Life is a story of love that conquers time and the lost loves that haunt us all.

MY REVIEW

This book kept me absolutely intrigued all the way through, wondering at what was real and what was not, and what was going to happen. I read a lot of books, and this one was fascinating. There’s something about the combination of historical fiction, with the touch of the supernatural, that I really enjoy. Rather like the classic Anya Seton novel “Green Darkness” (which also involves a sort of ‘time travel’ in history, and past lives).

Lia’s grief was very well portrayed, and I felt bad for her, and already from the first paragraphs, wanting for things to go well. Of course, they don’t, and the ensuing tangles kept me reading late into the night, wanting to know what happened next.

I’m trying to think of what I could say about the book without giving too much away. The history goes back to Templar times, so it’s quite a range, and I learned a lot about history as well as being entertained by the book. I think readers of books like Outlander, and the aforementioned Green Darkness, would really like this one. I’m already planning to recommend it to several people.

Don’t forget to read the author’s guest post, here, and to scroll down to enter the giveaway (below).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

In Another Life- Julie Christine Johnson

Photo by Al Bergstein

 

Julie Christine Johnson
is the author of the novels In Another Life
(February 2016, Sourcebooks Landmark)
and The Crows of Beara (September 2017, Ashland Creek Press).
Her short stories and essays have appeared in several journals,
including Emerge Literary Journal, Mud Season Review;
Cirque: A Literary Journal of the North Pacific Rim;
Cobalt, the anthologies Stories for Sendai;
Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers;
and Three Minus One: Stories of Love and Loss
and featured on the flash fiction podcast, No Extra Words.
She holds undergraduate degrees in French and Psychology
and a Masterís in International Affairs.
A runner, hiker, and wine geek,
Julie makes her home on the Olympic Peninsula of northwest Washington state
with her husband.
In Another Life is her first novel.

***

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Guest Post: Divine Sparks, by Julie Christine Johnson, author of “In Another Life”

In Another LifeJulie Christine Johnson

on Tour March 1-10 with

In Another Life

(Historical Fiction/Contemporary Women’s Fiction/
Fantasy/Romance)
Release date: February 2, 2016
at Sourcebooks
368 pages
ISBN: 9782954168197
Website | Goodreads

Divine Sparks
By
Julie Christine Johnson

“Certain bodies… become luminous when heated. Their luminosity disappears after some time, but the capacity of becoming luminous afresh through heat is restored to them by the action of a spark, and also by the action of radium.” ~ Marie Curie

I’d been warned by authors who’ve launched many a book before me that the muse would flee in the weeks and months leading up to and following the release of In Another Life; all my energy would be taken up by the demands of supporting my book virtually and in person. It would need to be nudged along, out of the nest, set free to soar on its own, but I’d need to remain close by, watching, guiding, occasionally letting the book draft behind my lead.

And to be sure, these past weeks have been filled with a busyness bordering on frantic. There’s a sense that no matter what I do, it, it isn’t enough. And then there is a novel I’m on deadline to revise. So I carefully apportion my time and energy, reminding myself to focus, to breathe, not to skip yoga or a hike or making dinner or folding the laundry—the meditative, restorative, ya-ya releasing activities that take me out of mental chaos into the sweet comfort of routine.

One of the unintended consequences of writing/talking about my book’s subject matter, its themes, the research, characters, setting and inspiration, is to be enthralled again by the Cathars, Languedoc, the tangle of history and geography, the wonder of an afterlife that weaves reincarnation with redemption with angels with good and evil and all the layers in-between.

And somewhere in those layers, my imagination, my writer’s soul, continues to work, digging in, excavating, uncovering ideas and holding them in her hand, like tiny embers just waiting for the breath of words to burst into the flame of a story.

In this time, when my attention and energy is as far from the blank page as it’s been since I committed to a writer’s life, a torrent of sparks has burst into the air.  A character has risen—a bit wobbly and unformed, a slip of clay that needs other elements to take solid form—but she is there, complex, a little feverish with her own possibility.

And then came a scribble on scrap paper, an opening line of humor for my upcoming author readings. I pulled my pen away and laughed for a different reason. I’d just released an idea that I may love. A story idea crazywonderfulsparklethisisnutsbutiloveityesyesyes 

The Cathars regarded stars as divine sparks—angels if you will—created by one fallen angel from the crown of another who had dominion over the waters of the earth. From half the crown, the Fallen Angel made the light of the moon and from the other half he created starlight.

Somehow, that starlight-moonlight illuminated the parts of me gone dark in this rushed and anxious and excited time. Though I can’t pull away just yet to follow the tendrils of light, I no longer fear the luminosity will fade. I hold the divine spark in my hands.

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Book Review, Giveaway, and Excerpt: Messandrierre, by Angela Wren

MessandrierreAngela Wren

on tour February 23-27 with

Messandrierre

(murder mystery/romance)
Release date: December 8, 2015
at Crooked Cat Publishing Ltd
119 pages
ISBN: 978-1910510759
Website | Goodreads

 

SYNOPSIS

Sacrificing his job in investigation following an incident in Paris, Jacques Forêt has only a matter of weeks to solve a series of mysterious disappearances as a Gendarme in the rural French village of Messandrierre. But, as the number of missing persons rises, his difficult and hectoring boss puts obstacles in his way. Steely and determined, Jacques won’t give up and, when a new Investigating Magistrate is appointed, he becomes the go-to local policeman for all the work on the case. Will he find the perpetrators before his lover, Beth, becomes a victim? Messandrierre – the first in a new crime series featuring investigator, Jacques Forêt.

MY REVIEW

I’ve had a bit of a thing for French  mystery novels (having indulged myself in the books put out by publisher Le French Book, for one), and this is another excellent French mystery, albeit less gory than Frederique Molay’s novels, for which I was thankful. It’s not every day that I want to read about violent, awful, vivid killings.

Forêt is an interesting fellow; he’s a former Paris cop now in a small town, and he seems to be still adjusting. He’s an occasional babysitter for a five-year-old boy who idolizes him, chasing up those who haven’t paid their car tax, and finding stolen bicycles. And then there’s the tourists that keep going missing, which no one seems to notice until a young man disappears and his friend insists that he wouldn’t have. He definitely was an engaging character, and I was intrigued by his previous history with Englishwoman Beth. I’m hoping there will be another book, so that I can find out more.

This book starts quietly, and you think that nothing bad at all could possibly happen in this small French town, where everyone seems to know everyone else. But as more and more evidence comes to light, it’s apparent that not all is what it seems, especially when it comes to the missing tourists.

I’m usually really awful at guessing who the villain(s) is(are), but this one was a little easier than most. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. 🙂 But the book is definitely worth reading, even if it was fairly easy to figure out who (although not necessarily the why).

EXCERPT

it begins

I died beneath a clear autumn sky in September, late in September when warm cévenol afternoons drift into cooler than usual evenings before winter steals down from the summit of Mont Aigoual. My shallow grave lies in a field behind an old farmhouse. There was no ceremony to mark my death and no mourners, just a stranger in the darkness spading soil over my body. Only the midnight clouds cried for me as they carried their first sprinkling of snow to the tiny village of Messandrierre. My innocent white coverlet allowing the earth around me to shift and settle unseen and become comfortable again.

september 2007

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Messandrierre Angela Wren

Angela Wren
Having followed a career in Project and Business Change Management, I now work as an Actor and Director at a local theatre. I’ve been writing, in a serious way, for about 5 years. My work in project management has always involved drafting, so writing, in its various forms, has been a significant feature throughout my adult life.
I particularly enjoy the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work. My short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical. I also write comic flash-fiction and have drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio. The majority of my stories are set in France where I like to spend as much time as possible each year.

***

Visit her website and her blog. Follow her on Facebook, Google +

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Buy the book on Amazon or on Smashwords

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print or digital for Europe residents
digital otherwise

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Book review, excerpt, and giveaway for Blood Rose Angel, by Liza Perrat

Liza PERRAT

on Tour

December 14- 23

with

Blood Rose Angel

Blood Rose Angel

(historical romance)

Release date: November 14, 2015
at Liza Perrat

349 pages

ISBN: 978ñ2954168197

Website | Goodreads

 

SYNOPSIS

1348. A bone-sculpted angel and the woman who wears it: heretic, Devil’s servant, saint.
Midwife Heloise has always known that her bastard status threatens her standing in the French village of Lucie-sur-Vionne. Yet her midwifery and healing skills have gained the people’s respect, and she has won the heart of the handsome Raoul Stonemason. The future looks hopeful. Until the Black Death sweeps into France.
Fearful that Heloise will bring the pestilence into their cottage, Raoul forbids her to treat its victims. Amidst the grief and hysteria, the villagers searching for a scapegoat, Heloise must choose: preserve her marriage, or honor the oath she swore on her dead mother’s soul? And even as she places her faith in the protective powers of her angel talisman, she must prove she’s no Devil’s servant, her talisman no evil charm.

EXCERPT

The outlaw looked on the birth scene with obvious surprise. A scowl darkened his grimy, sweat-slick face. ‘Christ drowning in merde. What the …?’ He stepped inside, a stench of smoked fish and old ale filling the room, the horsewhip he brandished in one shovel-like hand making unearthly cracks.

Despite the fearsome display, and the sword in his scabbard, a reckless courage flared inside me.

‘Get out,’ I ordered, jabbing a finger at the door. ‘Can’t you see this is a birthing room … a sacred place for women only?’

The outlaw glowered down at me. ‘Bit bold for a woman, aren’t you? Who might you be?’

‘I’m the midwife, and I order you out of this cot now!’ A drop of sweat rolled down my nose.

The room remained silent, save the outlaw’s bellows-like panting, and the ragged breaths of the women and Nica’s boys. The man’s gaze flickered sideways, locked on the newborn. He stepped towards Alix and her baby. ‘What’s wrong with its head?’

‘Nothing,’ I said. ‘He’s a perfect child.’

‘Yes, perfect,’ Poppa affirmed.

‘Looks like the head of the Devil itself.’ The outlaw laid his whip over the baby’s brow, stroking the tender skin with the tip, as if caressing a kitten. ‘Such a monstrous thing don’t deserve to live.’ His scarred face puckered into a grin that could have melted stone.

The new mother shrank away, whimpering and clutching her son to her breast.

‘Don’t hurt that newborn,’ I said, ‘or God will see you straight to Hell.’

The outlaw turned his crooked stare on me. In a movement more deft than a slaughterer’s knife, he wrenched the babe from Alix’s grasp. Jerking the newborn free of his swaddling, he held the bawling child upside down by the ankles.

As the infant screamed, writhing like a trout snagged fresh from the Vionne, the outlaw eyed the cot wall beside him. My insides seized with sudden terror.

Oh Lord no! Blessed Virgin save him.

‘Stop,’ I said. ‘Give me that child.’ I began rocking my angel pendant back and forth before the brigand, stepping towards him until I was level with the black hairs unfurling from his tunic. His eyes widened, fixed on the talisman’s glowing blue and green ones.

I knew the newborn’s life––probably all our lives––depended on not showing him fear. As a woman who’d lived without a man at her hearth for almost two years, I’d learned that terror only fuelled such lawless beasts.

With the soft, low voice I’d used to sing my daughter to sleep, I said, ‘If you don’t hand me the baby, and leave this cottage right now, a pack of wolves will pounce on you as you sit around the fire with your friends, boasting the spoils of Lucie. They’ll rip out your black heart and feed it to the Devil.’

Still gripping the bawling child, the outlaw’s eyes didn’t flicker from the swinging pendant.

‘Give me the child,’ I went on, in my lullaby voice. ‘Pass him to me now.’ The pendant swung back and forth, back and forth.

REVIEW

This book was a fantastic historical novel, filled with more detail than I could almost take in. The time period, when the Black Death was rife in Europe, made for a tense, even sometimes suspenseful backdrop for the story. At times I felt every horror-stricken moment, when Heloise had to choose between caring for her own family, and caring for those in her village struck down by the plague.

Most fascinating was the detail of midwifery, and of Heloise’s skill. And of course the knife-edge of being only one step removed from witchcraft in the eyes of the populace. I was never sure that Heloise would survive, given the malice against her.

Definitely a book worth reading, both for its plot, which was well-paced and intriguing, and for its historical detail. I think I’m going to read the other books Ms. Perrat has written, since I finished this one so quickly.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Liza Perrat 2Liza Perrat grew up in Wollongong, Australia,
where she worked as a general nurse and midwife for fifteen years.
When she met her French husband on a Bangkok bus,
she moved to France, where she has been living
with her husband and three children for twenty years.
She works part-time as a French-English medical translator,
and as a novelist.
Since completing a creative writing course twelve years ago,
several of her short stories have won awards,
notably the Writers Bureau annual competition of 2004
and her stories have been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines.
Her articles on French culture and tradition have been published in international magazines
such as France Magazine, France Today and The Good Life France.
Spirit of Lost Angels is the first in her French historical trilogy, The Bone Angel Series.
The second ñ Wolfsangel ñ was published in October, 2013,
and the third, Blood Rose Angel, is published in November, 2015.
She is a founding member of the author collective, Triskele Books and reviews books for BookMuse.

***

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Book review, excerpt & giveaway! The White Leopard, by Laurent Guillaume

white-leopardLaurent Guillaume
on Tour
November 2-21
with

White Leopard

(hard-boiled African noir)
Release date: November 19, 2015
at Le French Book
238 pages
ISBN: 978-1939474506
Website | Goodreads

 

SYNOPSIS

Everything is possible and nothing is certain in Bamako. A man torn between two continents finds himself in a dangerous confrontation between tradition and corruption. Solo is a former cop who ran away from a dark past in France to start his life over again in Bamako, Mali, as a PI. An ordinary case turns out to be not so ordinary. The drug mule gets her throat slit. The French lawyer is too beautiful and too well-informed. The cocaine is too plentiful. This is hard-boiled noir with a modern twist set in West Africa.

REVIEW

The White Leopard is definitely noir. The PI set on a case by a woman, and continuing on it to avenge a friend… it’s like The Maltese Falcon, except there’s no falcon, and I have a feeling that Sam Spade might take awhile to get up to speed in this modern world, where it’s drugs people are after, not mysterious and legendary falcons.

Solo, the PI, has cunning and guts, and is startlingly cool under pressure. Yet he’s human, like everyone else in this drama, and he has his weaknesses. Beautiful women, girls without protectors, his friend and houseman, and a kid needing a job. Like most PIs, he’s troubled, and running from (or just plain avoiding) a troubled past. He’s also quick-witted, reminding me somewhat of Henry Kane’s hero, Pete Chambers (just minus New York).

Bringing noir to an African setting instead of a more typical US metropolis got me interested quickly, and Guillaume’s compelling writing kept me reading. I am so glad Le French Book had this one translated. I hope they’ll translate more from M. Guillaume in the near future, because I think I’ve found another favourite author.

EXCERPT

PROLOGUE

LYON, FRANCE, THE PAST

There she is, a metal monster with a tricked-out engine, lying motionless in a chop shop outside the city. She’d been souped up with heavy side panels and a supercharged engine. Perfect for trafficking. It’s stinking hot out, but they really should have closed the door of the garage.

Big mistake.

Sweating’s better than bleeding.
I check my watch. I don’t have much time before the others show up, lights flashing, sirens blaring, and all that crap. I lift the latch and push the gate open. It hardly squeaks. I stay off the gravel driveway and walk through the overgrown yard to avoid being spotted. The makeshift shop looks like it was once a house. Bodies of abandoned cars are rotting away all around it. Waste oil and battery acid are seeping from their guts, making holes in the weeds. The men are there. They’re busy taking apart the front of the car. The crushed radiator and bumper have already been ripped off.

It’s the watchdog that spots me—a rottweiler mutt with a big muscular chest. His black and wild coat’s full of scars, some of them still fresh, no doubt from being forced to fight in basements of the neighboring projects.

Chained to the rusty body of a Renault 11, he leaps up on all fours, baring a steel-jaw trap and yellow fangs.

He gives a muffled growl. From deep inside.

Slowly, I walk closer, bringing my finger to my lips.

“Shush!” I whisper. How pathetic. The dog turns his huge snout toward his masters. When they don’t react, the animal starts barking. The men raise their heads. I freeze. They look at each other and come out of the garage, glancing around. No surprise, considering what they’re working on. Eddie, the giant, wipes his huge grease covered mitts on a rag. Steve, the weakling, approaches the animal, who’s barking louder now and foaming at the mouth. He leaps toward me with crazed eyes. The dog’s chain looks ready to break. The skeleton of the car rises each time the animal jumps.

“Who’s the black asshole?” Steve asks.

“Can’t you see he’s a pig? Fuck!” Eddie shouts.

“I know he’s a cop. Why’s he alone?”

The animal has gone quiet. With a half-smile, Steve starts unfastening the chain that holds him back.

“Go on, Panzer. It’s lunch time.”

I’m not scared. I know what I have to do. I open my jacket and slip my hand on my weapon. The freed watchdog rushes toward me. The two brothers howl with laughter, cheering the attack.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

white leopard - Laurent_Guillaume©reservedLaurent Guillaume
is a multiple-award-winning French writer
and former police officer.
In law enforcement,
he worked anti-gang, narcotics,
financial crimes,
and served in Mali as advisor to the local police.
He is now a full-time writer.

ABOUT THE TRANSLATOR

Sophie Weiner is a freelance translator and book publishing assistant from Baltimore, Maryland. After earning degrees in French from Bucknell University and New York University, Sophie went on to complete a master’s in literary translation from the Sorbonne, where she focused her thesis on translating wordplay in works by Oulipo authors. She has translated and written for web-based companies dedicated to art, cinema, and fashion as well as for nonprofit organizations. Growing up with Babar, Madeline, and The Little Prince, Sophie was bitten by the Francophile bug at an early age, and is fortunate enough to have lived in Paris, Lille, and the Loire Valley.

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Global giveaway open internationally:
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Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook,
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Visit each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday
of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time!
[just follow the directions on the entry-form]

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