Catching up with Sue

My guest today is author and editor Sue Barnard.  Hello Sue, nice of you to drop in.

Hi Tim. Thanks for inviting me. It’s lovely to be back!

When we last spoke (in January) you were working on a time-slip novel. How’s that coming along?

I’ve now finished it (or at least, a version of it!), but in terms of length it’s closer to a novella than a full novel. What happens next remains to be seen.

I look forward to hearing more about it.  Do you have any other fiction projects on the go that you’d like to tell us about?

I recently found a project that I started last year, so I might try resurrecting that. I’ve also had a few other ideas, one of which has recently progressed to the Scribble-Down-A-Few-Notes-On-The-Back-Of-An-Envelope stage, but I think that particular one is going to need rather a lot of research. Not that I have a problem with that – it gives me a great excuse to spend ages trawling through the Interweb Thingy without feeling guilty about it.

And have you been writing much poetry?

A couple of political Clerihews. They were the result of trying to extract an iota of topical humour from the current chaos.

Here they are – they’re a bit controversial, so I’ll leave it up to you whether or not to include them. I won’t be in the least offended if you decide not to.

BoJo the clown

has let everyone down

with his selfish exit

from the chaos of Brexit.


Michael Gove

(that creepy old cove)

is far too sinister

to be Prime Minister.


Nigel Farage

(judging by his visage)

was the result of a snog

between a tortoise and a frog.

I saw you captaining a team on Only Connect the other day, and I seem to recall that you already have a track record on quiz shows. Is there a burgeoning TV career in prospect?

I very much doubt it! The “track record” is generally writing quiz questions, not answering them. And believe me, there’s a world of difference between the two! Having said that, it was great fun doing Only Connect. And we were asked back for a second game, which was very reassuring as it meant that we didn’t finish last overall. That one will be broadcast on Monday 22 August.

You’re a regular blogger yourself. What do you see as the purpose of blogging?

I think it has several purposes. My blog originated as a poetry blog (for NaPoWriMo 2013), but since then I’ve used it to promote books (my own and those of fellow-authors), interview other writers, tell a few stories, and have the occasional rant. In that respect, suppose it’s the e-quivalent of a soapbox.

What question would you have liked me to ask that I didn’t?

“If you could change one recent event, what would it be?”

And what is the answer?

Not have that bloody referendum. Whichever way it went, it was bound to upset those who disagreed with the result. And look at the chaos it has caused…

I’m with you there, Sue.  Maybe you could write another time slip novella in which your characters go back and sort it out!  Thanks for dropping in, and for those answers – entertaining as ever! 


Sue Barnard is the author of the award-nominated historical fantasy The Ghostly Father and the romantic intrigues Nice Girls Don’t and The Unkindest Cut of All
She is also an editor at Crooked Cat Publishing
You can find out more about Sue and her books via these links:

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A Visit to Mende

Today I welcome fellow Crooked Cat author Angela Wren, who has some insights for us about Mende, a French town rich in history that has been a source of inspiration for her.

Hello Tim, thank you for inviting me onto your blog. I thought I’d take you and your regular readers on a visit to Mende today. But, before we set off, I probably need to supply a few facts and a bit of history.

Sitting on the southern edge of the Massif Central, Mende is the préfecture – principal administrative city – for the département of Lozère in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. With a population of around 12,000 and an area of 14 square miles, the town sits in the high valley of the Lot about 30k due west of Mont Goulet and the source of the river. At an altitude of 700m, living here is bit like living near the top of Cross Fell in the Pennines, but with better weather.


There has been habitation on this spot for over 2,000 years and the history is varied and complex. Raided and sacked on numerous occasions – not least during the Religious Wars – Mende has survived to be the prominent town that it is, centred around it’s old medieval foundations with the modern city surrounding it. In the middle ages, Mende became a centre of culture and civilisation, a focal point for trade, art and craftsmen with a notoriety that stretched from the Languedoc north to the Auvergne.

We begin our visit in Place Urbain V with a look at the cathedral. The Basilica of Notre-Dame-et-St-Privat is striking because of its mismatched towers. Begun in the 14th Century, under the auspices of the then Pope Urbain V, the cathedral was partially destroyed during the Religious Wars of the 16th Century – hence the odd towers. The original bell ‘Non Pareille’, then the largest bell ever to have been cast, was melted down for bullets so that Capitaine Mathieu Merle and his Huguenot soldiers could continue the fight. With more than 10 interior chapels, Aubusson tapestries in rainbow colours and the detailed vaulting, this is a truly magnificent example of the changing architecture over the centuries.


Out in the sunshine again and we are going to take a right, past the préfecture building – more of that later – into the narrow streets of the old medieval town. With houses of three and four stories high, so close that neighbours could almost shake hands above the cobbles as they reach out of their open windows, the shade is welcome and necessary in the mid-day heat. This part of the city became the home to hundreds of Jewish traders and remained their domain right up until the 20th century. And it is one of these streets that I will be using as the location for a business for one of my characters in my next novel.


If you follow me into the bright white heat of Place au Blé you will see one of the vestiges of the old fortifications of the town – Tour des Pénitents. Originally constructed in the 12th century and then rebuilt after the Hundred Year’s War, it survived the deliberate destruction of all of the ramparts in 1768. In 1721, the plague moved rapidly north from Marseille to Mende and took the lives of over 1,000 people in little more than a year. The subsequent tearing down of the city walls was instituted as a health measure to enable fresh air to blow into the town.


From here it’s a short walk along rue de l’Abbaye to the préfecture building, which stands magnificently beside the cathedral. It was in this building, during the 1939/45 war that the Mayor at the time, Henri Bourrillon, defied the Vichy regime. Bourrillon objected to the internment camp that was built close to the town and, his words, actions and further objections caused him to be removed from his position of authority in 1941. Henri took this in his stride and joined the Resistance and Mende, and some of its bravest people, took on a new role in support of the Jewish community within the city. The story of such defiance against an unwelcome regime is beautifully told in the book ‘Village of Secrets’ by Caroline Moorehead. The book centres on the mountain village of Le Chambon, to the north of Mende and you can hear my review on the Bookit! Programme on Sinefm radio at the end of the month (Saturday July 30th at 10.00am) if you want to know more. For those with an interest in this period of history, it is a fascinating read.

And that’s Mende, a bit of geography, an amazing history and a place that I will always come back to. What about you?

Well there’s a good question to end on!  I’ll have to give it some thought and get back to you.  Meanwhile, thank you for that fascinating history of Mende – a town I’d not heard of before, but now I’m intrigued.


Messandrierre – the first in a new crime series featuring investigator, Jacques Forêt.

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?


Amazon UK

Amazon US

Angela Wren

Having followed a career in Project and Business Change Management, Angela now works as an Actor and Director at a local theatre. She’s 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 write 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.

Website :

Blog :

Facebook : Angela Wren

Goodreads : Angela Wren



Welcome, Jane

Today I am joined by fellow Crooked Cat author Jane Bwye.  Welcome back Jane! It’s been a few months since your last visit. Tell us what you have been up to since then.

Dear Tim – there’s nothing like a friend who makes you sit up and think once in a while. I can’t remember when I last visited, nor can I remember what I’ve been up to apart from my usual weekly activities. That’s scary. Is dementia creeping in – or is it just old age? I’ve been lucky with my health up to now.

cover1 (419x640)

You ask about my second book, I LIFT UP MY EYES. This little novella was written on the rebound after BREATH OF AFRICA. The story had been simmering in the back of my mind for about twenty-five years. After a tragic accident which left her husband physically and mentally shattered, a friend of mine just couldn’t cope, and she left him. Since then, both have recovered and found happy partnerships. But I’ve often bemoaned the fact that sickness should be the cause of break-up in families. Why does this happen, and how can it be avoided?

I set about exploring the question and during the course of writing, other dimensions appeared. I incorporated personal emotions experienced when trying to come to terms with another type of change – moving from one home to another in a different land. And then there is God. I’ve never thought of myself as an overtly religious type, but I’ve never abandoned my faith. That also comes into the equation, along with the temptations which befall a person when a relationship falters.

It is an intense book, but not without its lighter moments. However, it comes with a serious health warning: it will make you think, and if there has been serious sickness in your family, you may find parts of it bring back uncomfortable memories. (you might like to read this REVIEW)

To answer your next question, at the moment I am in limbo, taking a rest while awaiting our publisher CROOKED CAT’s reaction to the sequel to BREATH OF AFRICA. The weeks are ticking by with exceeding slowness…

Even blogging has taken a back seat for me. Its original purpose – to keep me writing creatively – works, while it happens. Benefits have been up and down. You never know what is going to be popular until you check the stats, and you’re often surprised. My visiting author blogspots on a Tuesday vary in popularity according to the status and marketing input of the author, but sales of BREATH OF AFRICA trickle along fairly steadily, so the regular exposure does work.

breath of africa - 902kb

And what else is new? My life seems to have taken a turn towards matters medical. On the premise that two heads are better than one, I have been accompanying my husband to appointments and in a couple of cases, admissions to different hospitals in our NHS. I have had to get my head round medical terms and have grappled to make sense of various ailments. It doesn’t help when neither of us can remember what has been said, or when we both forget our hearing aids.

Our son in frustration said, “Don’t forget to take a notebook, mum, and write everything down!”

That helped on the one occasion I remembered to follow his advice, and even made the doctor look away from his computer and pay attention. We have achieved a real sense of how fraught and fragile is the health service.

Any other questions? You have made me think enough for one day, Tim!

Thank you for having me again.

And thanks for those interesting thoughts, Jane!  Good luck with the sequel to Breath of Africa!  I enjoyed B of A and look forward to reading the follow-up. 




A Chapter of Accidents

Today I welcome back fellow Crooked Cat author Ailsa Abraham.  Ailsa’s books (and mine) are currently available in the Crooked Cat summer sale for 99p/99c till Sunday.  What have you got to tell us, Ailsa?
Series of Accidents
Hello and thanks for inviting me onto your blog. I wonder if any of your readers know any other walking accidents? Real-life disaster areas lurching from one place to another, looking for somewhere to happen?
I ask because that’s me. Lying in bed just now I wondered what to write for your invitation and I thought “Not another excuse for why my series has hit a ‘halt in production’! I’m sure everyone is sick of those.” Yes, I was lying in bed when I remembered I owed you this and picked up my laptop to note all this…that’s what it’s like being a disaster. I have all the tool kit to complete tasks but when I turn around, my tool-box has vanished. It’s rather like that feeling of walking into a room and wondering…why? What did I come in here for?
I long since stopped being surprised because I’ve been like it my whole life. All my time on this earth, which is getting close to sixty years, everything has been one big accident. I don’t seem to have taken any part in the decisions, just surfed along on it, having fun. Even coming to live in France, normally a life-changing thing about which a couple would have long and serious discussions over a long period, happened by chance. Having made the “flip a coin” choice of selling my old family home to buy a boat to live aboard, it took very little time to be offered a job in Egypt which sounded like fun and there was nothing stopping us getting there. We lived on a boat for Pete’s sake. We could sail there. So off we went with nothing more in the way of preparation than our animals vaccinated, jobs on offer and an Arabic phrase book from which I was mugging up on a language I used to speak when small.
The first Gulf War put paid to those plans when we hit France and heard on the radio that Westerners were no longer very welcome. No matter. We got jobs for the winter and thought we’d sit it out and see what happened. Come Spring we had fallen out of love with each other but in love with France. I was also enjoying my job so staying seemed more sensible as by that time I was much more fluent in French than in Arabic.
Writing? Oh yes that was an accident too. All my life I’ve written for the amusement of my friends but eventually they ganged up on me and bullied me into submitting one of my works to a publisher who grabbed it on the promise that they could have another and longer work very soon. Ooops! Didn’t see that coming and it was in a genre in which I hadn’t banked on spending my literary life.
five star Alchemy Gary
Undeterred, I wrote another novel in a completely different style but much closer to my heart and again it was accepted by the first publishers to whom I submitted. Only then did I realise, as reviews came in, that I had made a boo-boo and written Book 2 of a series first. I had to go back and write Book 1 as a prequel. Silly me, I should have known that there would be a demand for Book 3 or even 4 as well. I didn’t. The publishers of the other genre were still expecting more work from me and I had to let something go. It was my pen name that bit the dust.
I was doing pretty well until a real accident put paid to my writing for two years. I had a spectacular motorbike smash which you may say that at my age I should have known better but I didn’t so shut up! You think I haven’t told myself, already that double somersaults over the handlebars, exploding the spleen and landing in a three week coma are unbecoming to an OAP? Well I have. So there!
Finally I’m coming out of the after-effects of the coma and am getting ready to hit my series again but unfortunately, other books are now crowding into the edge of my consciousness. They are like a queue of patients in a doctor’s waiting room, lined up behind the chair in my study, wanting my attention.  Sometimes I feel like rounding on them and shouting “I didn’t plan to be a writer, y’know!” but that’s silly. I never really planned to be anything – so whatever comes out of it is a bonus, isn’t it? Normal writing process will obviously be resumed eventually and probably by accident. Expect two out in one year.
You can find out more about Ailsa and her books via these links:

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Lest we forget …

As we commemorate of the centenary of the battle of the Somme, I thought it would be appropriate to share a poem I wrote some years ago, inspired by the pointless sacrifice of human life in that awful battle.


Wings of Angels  


Upon the hillside, weary night

surrenders to advancing light.

A bird ascends and flies away

and sings for the beauty of the new-born day.

Down in the valley, trembling lines

of young men greet the bleak sunshine

with dread, and mix their fear with shame

as they pray to a god they have never named.


That morning, as the guns began their song

one man stood strangely calm and strong.

The captain thought of his wasted life,

of his failed career and his faithless wife.

He dreamed of a ribbon and a brazen cross,

well aware that his death would be no loss,

So he looked at the hilltop with desire

and saw salvation beyond the barbed wire.


He spoke to the pale ranks with pride

and assured them that God was on their side.

“My lads, I sense a holy force:

the wings of angels guard our course

through battle. You and I shall walk

up there to victory, so do not talk

of death, but what the world will say

of the great deeds that we did today.”


The boy of eighteen who had never kissed

didn’t want his name on a newspaper list

but he looked at the officer with surprise

to find no fear in those burning eyes.

So with hope in his heart he placed his trust

in this man, and a cause he knew was just

and he did not flinch at the word of command

as the company strode into no man’s land.


Words cannot frame the violent power

that rained on flesh for hour on hour.

At last, in the evening, the air is still

and the guns reign silently over the hill.

Cold on the red earth the heroes lie

and out of the burnt and tattered sky

fall feathers from a bird that no longer sings

or perhaps from the useless, broken wings

of angels.