Swallow Song

I posted here a couple of weeks ago about the Holmfirth Arts Festival, which runs from 14-17 June.  That post mentioned that I, among others, had contributed words that were being set to music by composer Barry Russell for Sing Holmfirth, a choral event with musical accompaniment, in celebration of the Holme Valley.

So I thought I’d share the lyrics of a song I’ve written for Barry that will feature in the concert.  This is a novel experience for me – I’ve written many songs in the past but always written the music myself, and often asked someone else to write the lyrics.  I think this is the first time I’ve written lyrics for someone else’s music.  The icon (and to some extent, the theme) of the festival is a swallow, so I thought I’d write about a swallow that has returned to the Holme Valley from its winter migration.  Here goes …


Swallow Song


This was my birthplace, long ago

but do not ask me how I know;

no sooner had my life begun

than I flew south to seek the sun.


I lived well and grew fast and strong,

forgetting where I once belonged.

Somehow I knew I could not stay

I felt an urge to fly away.


And so I left the southern lands

I crossed the burning desert sands

the unforgiving endless sea

the waves I thought must swallow me.


At last the shore brought me release

I put down in a place of peace

and plenty. I felt something more:

a sense of being here before.


A voice held deep in memory

had come to life, was calling me

and now new purpose filled my wings

to make new life, to soar, to sing.


I saw this moor, these fields, this stone

the voice inside said ‘this is home’.

Six thousand miles and more I flew

to find this place and sing for you.


Anyway, I hope that’s helped whet your appetite for the Sing Holmfirth concert (3pm on Sunday 17 June in Victoria Park, Holmfirth – free entry!).  And by the way, I’ll be co-leading a creative writing workshop in Holmfirth Library at 3 o’clock on Saturday the 16th.


swallow pic: (c) Sannse 2004


Welcome, Joan!

Today fellow Crooked Cat author Joan Livingston is visiting to talk about herself and her crime novel Chasing the Case, published on 18 May.

Welcome, Joan!  Tell us about your novel, Chasing the Case.

Chasing the Case is the first in the Isabel Long mystery series. Isabel Long, who tells the story, is a longtime journalist turned amateur P.I. In fact, her first case is also her first big story she had as a rookie reporter. Adela Collins, 38, walked home from her family’s general store and no one saw her again. Her car was found two months later on a logging road in the middle of the woods. Her disappearance hit the family and those who knew her hard. How could a woman disappear from a town of a thousand people? Isabel should know. She lives there. Isabel has the time — she lost her job running a newspaper — and a Watson, her 92-year-old mother who comes to live with her. She relies on the skills she used as a journalist to try solving the case. And she also gets a part-time job bartending at the Rooster, the local watering hole where many of the people connected to the case hang out.

Chasing the Case cover

What led you to write it?

Like all of my other books, I just sat down and started writing. Or rather it started writing itself.

As a crime novel, it’s a departure from your previous work. Is this a change of direction, or do you see yourself continuing to write in more than one genre?  

The short answer is yes. Actually I have a number of books I’ve finished but not published. They are more literary. Then there is a middle-grade series using magical realism and a bilingual book series for kids.

Before signing on with Crooked Cat Books, I self-published. Peace, Love, and You Know What is a comedy set in the early ’70s. Turn on, tune in, and then what? That’s the question facing these college kids. But first they’ll escape to a three-day graduation bash.

The Sweet Spot is a serious book set in a rural area in 1978. Edie St. Claire is the young widow of a man killed in Vietnam. When an affair with her married brother-in-law turns tragic, the town turns against her.

Right now, I’m hooked on the Isabel Long series. The next, Redneck’s Revenge will be out Sept. 30. I am working on the third. But who know will inspire me after that?

You used to be a journalist. Has that helped your fiction writing?

Yes, it did. First, it helped break a twenty-five-year writers block.

But I am also grateful because as a journalist I had to listen to what people said and write it down. I also observed the way they behaved. I believe that experience helps me create realistic characters and dialogue.

What other interests or facts about your life would you like to share with the readers?

I’m a person who likes change. Our most recent was leaving Taos, New Mexico after 11years to move back to Western Massachusetts, where my husband, Hank, and I raised six kids. This time we moved to Shelburne Falls, which is a lively village.

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

Whenever I got that question from reporters, I used to say: if you could be any animal in the forest, which one would you be?

And what is the answer?

Definitely a panther.


Website: www.joanlivingston.net.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/JoanLivingstonAuthor/

Twitter: @joanlivingston

Instagram: www.Instagram.com/JoanLivingston_Author

Goodreads: www.Goodreads.com/Joan_Livingston

Litsy: JoanLivingston



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

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 Chasing the Case and its sequels.

The Festival Season

I’m very fortunate to live in an area where there are always a lot of creative things going on.  There’s the Huddersfield Literature Festival, the Marsden Jazz Festival, and Holmfirth in particular is has reinvented itself as a festival town since the ending of the ‘Summer Wine’ days.  The Film Festival has just finished, following hot on the heels of the Folk Festival.  And next month, from the 14th to the 17th of June, it’s the turn of the Holmfirth Art Festival.

Holmfirth Writers Group, of which I’m a member, has had a long association with the festival and has been involved in many events over the years. This year is no exception. On Saturday 16 June we will be putting on two creative writing workshops in Holmfirth Library: the first, at 1-2pm, aimed at children and the second, 3-5pm at adults (I’ll be involved in that one). Also, some members of the group – myself included – have provided words that are being set to music by local composer Barry Russell for Sing Holmfirth, a choral event with orchestral accompaniment, in celebration of the Holme Valley.

As ever, there will be lots of other things going on too: comedy, music, art, theatre, and plenty of events people can get involved in themselves. Looks like it’s going to be an exciting few days – I can’t wait! If you’re in – or within range of – the West Yorkshire area, why not check out the festival website: www.holfirthartsfestival.co.uk. And if you’re interested in doing a bit of writing, I’d love to see you at 3 o’clock on Saturday the 16th!


Revealing The Secret

Today I’m handing over the reins of my blog to fellow Crooked Cat author Katy Johnson, whose novel The Secret is published on 1 June.  Welcome Katy!  Over to you …
the Secret

Last year my novel The Silence was published by Crooked Cat Books. It’s about a dark secret harboured by a Tuscan villa going back to the summer of 1992 that ended in tragedy – a secret about to resurface into the idyllic life Abby has made for herself and her family in England.

But Villa Leonida has more than one story to tell.

The Secret which is published on 1st June is about a different secret guarded by the same villa. A secret that had a devastating impact on the village and which the discovery at the centre of The Silence now threatens to expose.

I love old buildings and am fascinated by their multi-layered history and the different stories they hold. Villa Leonida has had many lives, experienced several reversals in fortune, and witnessed some shocking events.

In the 1930s Villa Leonida is the most prestigious house in the village, owned by the most powerful family and admired by everyone including Irena and Martina, two girls trying to make sense of the world around them as they grow up in Mussolini’s Italy.

When Martina marries Gianni and moves into Villa Leonida she finds she’s been deceived and life there is nothing like the one she expected.

So when war breaks out and Gianni goes off to fight it’s almost a relief.

But she soon has a secret of her own, one that threatens to destroy her friendship with Irena.

People who have read The Silence will understand how secrets in the two stories connect and recognise a couple of characters. But The Secret is a standalone story so can be read on its own.

The Secret is available in paperback now and will be published in digital form on 1st June 2018. 

You can preorder at http://mybook.to/thesecretjohnson

Online launch

I’d like to invite you and your readers to my virtual book launch on Facebook on 1st June. 

There will be more information on the book as well as awesome author visits and prizes to be won. You can drop in and out at any time during the day.


Hope you can come!

About the author: Katharine Johnson is a journalist with a passion for reading, old houses and all things Italian (except tiramisu). She grew up in Bristol and has lived in Italy. She currently lives in Berkshire with her husband, three children and madcap spaniel. She plays netball badly and is a National Trust room guide.


Amazon – The Silence

#BlogTour: #AMindPolluted by Martin Geraghty @MartinGeraght1 @crookedcatbooks @annecater #randomthingstours

Thought I’d share this blog post from fellow Crooked Cat author Martin Geraghty.

chapterinmylife: Scottish Crime Fiction Blogger


I am always happy to check out some new Scottish authors and was delighted when Anne over at randomthingsthroughmyletterbox asked me if I’d like to take part in the Blog Tour for Martin Geraghty’s debut novel, “A Mind Polluted”. It gives me great pleasure to be kicking off the blog tour today for this novel!

Before I share my thoughts, here’s what the official blurb says:

His world falls apart… 

Triggered by overhearing a confession from his mother’s lips when he was a young boy, Connor Boyd carries the burden of the secret through his life. 

Is falling in love his saviour? Or will he embark on a journey down a self-destructive path which ultimately leads to his version of justice? 

Will he concentrate on his future, or be consumed by his past? 

My thoughts:

“A Mind Polluted” is the story of Connor Boyd, a teenager growing up in the…

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The Gift

Here’s a little piece I wrote at Holmfirth Writers last week.  It’s not true, I’m afraid, but I have heard of cases of similar behaviour by these intelligent birds.


I had gone to the cabin to be alone, to get away from the maelstrom of working life.  But I wasn’t alone for long. When I had unpacked my belongings and cooked myself a quick meal, I sat outside to watch the sun go down.  A large black crow landed on the level space in front of me.  Looking for bugs and snails, I thought – there was precious little open ground in these wooded mountains.  Sure enough, it patrolled the ground with that odd, head-jerking gait birds have, and turned over a stone here and there. But it seemed to find nothing.

That’ll be that, then, I imagined. Off to the next clearing. But the crow did not fly away. Instead, it strutted towards me, stopping a few feet away to stare at me with quizzical black eyes.  “Kraa,” it said.  It walked a little to the left, then to the right, and back towards me.  “Kraa,” said the crow again.

I don’t know what it was. Probably just the novelty of interacting with another creature, maybe with an underlying hint of unacknowledged loneliness.  I happened to have a couple of biscuits with me, that I had brought out to have with my evening coffee. I broke one into pieces and threw a piece towards the crow.

“Kraa, kraa,” called the crow enthusiastically, picking up the morsel and swallowing it. Then it came closer, close enough that I could almost touch it. It called to me again, a softer sound, almost like the purring of a cat. What could I do but give it another piece of biscuit? We continued until the whole biscuit was gone and I, for my part, had eaten the other one. Now at last, as the light began to fade, the crow flew away.

The following morning, I was working outside the cabin, chopping wood, when I heard a sound behind me.  “Kraa, kraa.”

I turned around, and there was a crow. Was it the same crow that had been here last night, or another one?  Then I saw my answer. On the ground at my feet was a small shiny disc – a beer bottle top.  My crow had brought me a gift.


photo. (c) Lip Kee Yap 2008


Road Trip Reads: Merle by Angela Wren

A post from Katy Johnson about Angela Wren’s crime novel Merle – which Angela was reading from at our joint reading event in Tickhill (with John Jackson) last Thursday.

Katy's Writing Coffee Shop

Continuing my series of reading books appropriate to the places I visit:


Passing through France, I grabbed a copy of this detective story set in the French town of Merle. I’d really enjoyed Messandrierre by the same author so was looking forward to reading this one. Jacques Foret the very likeable main character in Messandrierre also stars in this story. Formerly a gendarme, he’s now a private detective and is called in by The Vaux organisation to investigate malpractice within their firm. But the case turns out to be more complex than it appears and then a young woman’s body is discovered. Who’s behind it all and why? Will Jacques find the answer before another person ends up dead?

The story starts quite gradually as we’re introduced to the firm and its problems but what I loved here was the sense of place and the growing tension between Jacques and…

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