Body in the library and thriller in handbag

Karl Holton

 

 

 

 

From a darkened corner of the room a figure appeared. ‘The Weight of Shadows’ is all he said, before collapsing at my feet; an ornate handled knife buried in his back. What could the victim’s last words possibly mean? 

Greenway House

I met with author, Karl Holton, at Greenway House, and he had staged a dramatic introduction to his new book.  He is an Agatha Christie fan and it seemed fitting to visit her holiday home.  The house is deemed ‘the loveliest place in the world’, on the website, and it certainly lived up to expectation. I marvelled at the glorious view of the River Dart. Appropriately, Karl wanted to conduct the interview in the library. I inspected the library for a body, again, but it was safe.  The light and airy library seemed a fitting place to inspire the great Agatha Christie.  Karl waxed lyrical about the house and gave me some interesting facts about the great author. 

Karl:  Did you know that this house inspired Dead Man’s Folly? It’s one of the Poirot novels and it was the last ever ‘Poirot’ made by David Suchet playing the role of the great detective. They made it right here in the house and this was what she did so well; she adapted what she knew directly into the narrative.

Jessie:  No, I wasn’t aware of that. I love the Poirot novels – they are great fun.  My husband can watch Poirot programmes all day. Who is your favourite TV Poirot? I like Albert Finney. I’m not sure if that was TV or film.

Karl: For me, David Suchet is the quintessential ‘Poirot’.

Jessie:  Of course, yes he was brilliant – he was Poirot.  We digress, can you tell me about ‘The Weight of the Shadows’?

Karl delved into his rucksack.  Strangely enough, his rucksack was full of his favourite Agatha Christie novels, and he proceeded to display some of the novel on the table.  Finally, the actor, who had performed earlier, reappeared with a copy of Karl’s novel. The cover of ‘The Weight of the Shadows’ is modern and suggests a fast-paced plot set in London. 

Karl: At one level ‘The Weight of the Shadows’ is an entertaining crime thriller mystery with plot twists and turns. At another level it is the first six days at the beginning of a series that introduces some interesting characters and a narrative that has subtle and, I hope, thought provoking subjects.

Jessie:  Crime thrillers are always popular.  It’s a great genre to establish a fanbase. What have the reviewers said about your new book?

Smiling, Karl started to recall some of the reviews. 

Karl: “an intriguing plot, thoughtful, profound themes, complex troubling characters, and language that make us shudder for its honesty, clarity, and confidence” – Piaras O Cionnaoith

“irresistible book, impossible to put down” – Bookgirl Sulagna

“a story that is intense and heart-pounding!” – Elaine Emmerick

Jessie:  I’m impressed that you have already commenced your second book. We are in an ideal place to read.  Can you read an extract from the book to tempt the reader?

Karl:  It’s a real privilege to read here in Agatha Christie’s library.

Benedict was motionless with one thought. Never give up.

She pushed the tip of the blade in and under the skin on his chest, near his heart.

Karl: This extract is only a few words, but the importance of these at the start of the narrative is significant.

Jessie: A great choice – you certainly hook the reader into the narrative.  I can tell that you enjoyed constructing the narrative and the characters.  How did you feel when you had finished writing your book, and did you miss any of the characters?

Karl: The euphoria of finishing was quickly met by the realisation that as an indie author the work had just started. Apart from the marketing, reviews, social media etc. I remembered that I needed to start working on the second book in the series.

Given the second book in the series starts the day after the end of this first book I’ve not really had the opportunity to miss the characters.

Jessie: Who would you like to read your book and why?  This could be another author, someone famous, a friend or a member of your family.  

Karl: If I were choosing an author it would be Agatha Christie. We could discuss the pace of the plot and sub-plots.

If it were someone famous (and alive) I’d ask Stephen Fry to review the book. Within the series I’m going to try to examine and compare some cognitive and emotive subjects through the plot, characters and narrative. I’d really like to discuss these with him.

Karl Holton

Jessie: Why should I keep your book in my handbag?

Karl: Well I hope it has a plot that keeps you guessing and is enjoyable as it begins to reveal itself. If you read some of the reviews you will notice that it’s not clear what the connections are at the start and then the plot arcs entwine; that’s very deliberate.

Jessie: What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?

Karl: ‘Nice nails’ – you’ll have to read the book to see why I might have written that down.

Jessie: What is the biggest challenge for an author?

Karl: This is a really interesting question because it will very much depend upon what type of author you want to be. A full-time author who wants a publisher to do everything for them will have a very different set of challenges compared to an indie with a job who is happy selling a few books a month. I’m going to give you my answer based upon what I am, which is an indie who is trying to make this my full-time job.

My single biggest challenge is becoming known enough so that people take a chance and buy, read and review the book. As an indie author, you have no one to help this happen so you need to do it and this takes a significant amount of both time and commitment. In a world where we have over 200k books published in the UK per year and possibly 1 million in the US, just being seen is a challenge that any aspiring author should not understate.

I have discussed this issue with other authors, both published and indie. Personally, I think many really talented authors will either give up or just never be seen because they get lost in this ‘jungle’.

Jessie: What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?

Karl: Get an editor.

About Karl

Karl is a chartered accountant who previously worked in financial markets for over thirty years. He has collected books his whole life with a focus on London and crime fiction. He is married with two children and lives in Surrey.

Karl is very animated when talking about his book. It is clear he is dedicated to his writing and is very industrious.  Many reviews say that the book is ‘spine tingling’ and ‘irresistible’   I do hope that Karl’s debut novel is successful and wish him the best of luck with his novel.

Contacts:

Blog = http://karlholton.com

Twitter = @KarlHolton

Facebook = @KarlHoltonAuthor

Email = info@thuja.co

 

Please see all my interviews at My Guests and my blog at jessiecahalin.com

‘Superauthors’ and the social media catwalk

Nowadays, authors must have the superpowers to make themselves heard in a world where over two million books are published each year. Superauthors write beautiful books and know how to strut their stuff on the social media catwalk, but the modern author doesn’t have to go it alone.

Superauthors lock themselves away to write, but they connect with likeminded people, via social media, and tweet about their writing journey.  They tweet and post on Facebook about: funny events, sad events, offer quotations from writers who inspire them and images of world surrounding them. After long periods of tapping at the keyboard, my role models also find time to read and review books. Coffee and cake consumed, this unique author goes an extra mile to share to support others when they are having a little wobble. They will also retweet other authors’ cover reveals, publication days etc. It is a wonderful supportive community of authors, and I have the greatest of respect for these dedicated, talented people.

Social media means the writer is no longer alone on their writing journey, and they have a green room where they can vent frustrations about editing, writing and editing. However, once the book is finished, it is time to plan the walk on the social media catwalk to promote the book. Firstly, the author must dress up the book in as many advertisement guises as possible then send it out on the social media catwalk.  Walking the social media catwalk also involves: stopping for an interview, turning to provide an extract. stumbling on mean review, bowing gracefully when they receive a positive accolade and re-tweeting like mad.  The parade down the media catwalk looks like fun, but don’t be fooled, each step has been carefully planned. Superauthors engage support from their community before they face the spotlight, and take the time to visit Facebook pages, interact and comment in the way a friend may drop in occasionally.  They re-tweet and share references about their work of others.

As a tribute to these hardworking role models, I have developed virtual rooms for authors to promote their work throughout the year. I have observed that the promotion activity cannot be limited to one short period of time, and authors can’t go it alone. My Handbag Gallery, Chat Room, Bag a Bargain, Extract, News and reviews and are gifts to these wonderful team players.  It enables me to shout about their works of art in a gallery, plus it provides them with tweets and posts to celebrate. And I get to collect more role models and friends, while also interacting with inspirational people.

Cheers to my role models and friends – you know who you are! Thanks for popping up on Twitter and Facebook and my blogs.  Many thanks for writing about me in your blogs.  Your handbags are so last season and may need updating as you write more books. Thanks for the happy handbags and beautiful books!

Any new friends are welcome to visit my website and drop in on the authors in the Handbag Gallery and Chat Room. There is an abundance of learned role models, with great books, fabulous handbags and a wealth of advice. I am looking forward to launching more pages for authors and readers.

Feel free to send me a photo of your book in your handbag and you can join my community of superauthors.

 

Please see all my adventures at Handbag Adventures and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

 

Kindness of tweeters

Kindness of Tweeters

Twitter is such a polite form of communication that seems to promote that good old fashioned courtesy.  It is wonderful that good people can ‘like’ your comments and always thank you for a re-tweet; perfect strangers wish me ‘Happy Monday’, or tell me to have a good weekend.

Recently the lovely Diane Need wished me ’Happy Friday’ on Thursday and this prompted a string of humorous comments from others – all very courteous.  My phone beep, beeped for two days with various comments until it was indeed Friday and Diane’s birthday.  Here are some snatches of the conversation:

Sue Moorcroft‏ @SueMoorcroft

And the same to you! 🙂 (But isn’t it Thursday?)

 

Erin Green Author‏ @ErinGreenAuthor

If you want Friday… we will give you Friday – official

 

Diane Need Author‏ @dianeneed

Trust me, LOL. I think I’ll carry on with the Friday illusion! 🙂

 

Books in my Handbag‏ @BooksInHandbag

Always poised and ready for Friday with a cocktail in your hand – love the positivity! It made us all think of Friday!

 

John Jackson‏ @jjackson42

In the same vein, the sun is ALWAYS over the yardarm, SOMEWHERE!! Cheers!

 

Sue Johnson‏ @SueJohnson9

It’s your birthday – it can be whatever day you want it to be. x

 

Such interactions punctuate your day with positivity and make you laugh out loud in public places.  How, I wish that we could apply the same etiquette to everyday situations and people would walk past and share a positive greeting, rather than looking at their feet. Wouldn’t it be great if we could hand out cards with emojis on them, just to confirm our feelings?   They wouldn’t have to say anything just hold up a smiley face.  The only down side could be that one wouldn’t stop saying thank you.  In Twitterland, everyone keeps on acknowledging your comments and it is difficult to know when to stop: I haven’t yet learnt this etiquette as I like to have the last word.

I had a great dilemma when Angela Petch sent me a picture of an orchid from Italy and presented ‘an orchid in Tuscany for favourite Blogger.’  What could I do?  I couldn’t go on pressing the ‘like’ button forever and working my way through all of the emojis? I had to be courteous and creative so I sent her a picture of a cup with an appropriate message on it.  Does anyone know if that was sufficient or if I have missed something?

I adore the way in which Twitterland guides you down the path of courteousness, reinstates good old fashioned values and inspires creativity.  I want to share this love and hand out emojis as I walk the streets.  Of course, it would be even better if more strangers would just smile occasionally and pass the time of day – just as the lovely people do on Twitter.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone on Twitter for future re-tweets and any ‘likes’ that they want to share.  I like you all, with big hearts, and thank you!  I am happy, excited and winking simultaneously.

Please see my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Saving Private Tiggy-Winkle

Once upon a time…

As I collected my washing from the washing line, a hedgehog paused at my feet and rested next to a peg on the ground.  Mrs Tiggy-Winkle had come to help me with the washing.  I rushed to collect my camera, hoping that she would wait for me to return.

Hurray!  Mrs Tiggy-Winkle waited for me to capture the moment.  I couldn’t wait to send out the image via Twitter and Facebook.  My husband downloaded the image whilst I searched for an extract from one of Beatrix Potter’s books. The photo was saved in a folder labelled ‘Home Hedgehog’, because she was our hedgehog. Having constructed the post, I pressed send and we raised a glass to our hedgehog.

As expected the notifications and re-tweets followed.  Jenn Bregman said, ‘Sooooo cute!!’.  Angela Petch remarked, ‘Eat those slugs Mrs Tiggy-Winkle…’  The hedgehog charmed everyone.  Author, Jacqueline Kirk, asked, ‘Was the hedgehog out in daylight?’ Pondering this, I knew something was wrong.  Jacqueline tweeted more information. ‘#WildlifeOrphan1 says they are in trouble if out in daylight. The little fella looks small.’

Reality started to kick in, I realised that this wasn’t Mrs Tiggy-Winkle: it was either Ms or Mr Tiggy-Winkle.  Returning to my prized photo, I noticed that he/she was indeed a tiny, fluffy creature.  As my grandmother would have said, he/she is ‘nowt but a bairn’. Should he/she have been out at that time of day?

Jacqueline Kirk sent out a Code Red asking for advice.  I worried all night about the little hedgehog.  The Hedgehog Helpline didn’t answer my call. The following morning, I had a brainwave and contacted John Jackson, author of, ‘Heart of Stone, and hedgehog whisperer. Thankfully, the lovely man messaged me instantly.

‘That’s early, but not exceptional. We’ve had the hedgehogs out before sunset many times.’

Phew! Feeling better, I made myself a cup of tea and then called the Hedgehog Helpline again.  The wonderful woman was so calm and grateful for the call.  Her words echoed those of The Hedgehog Whisperer.  However, I can call the helpline again if the hog appears and they will assess his/her behaviour.  I may have to take my little hog to Hedgehog Hospital.  I didn’t know that these wonderful people existed.  Thank you, Hedgehog Helpline SEW, John Jackson and Jacqueline Kirk!

I will end with Jacqueline Kirk’s tweet:

That’s the beauty of twitter. I only found this out last week and now a little hog on the other side of the country has a kind person looking out for them.

And I hope that the hedgehog lives happily ever after!

 

Please see all of my adventures at Handbag Adventures and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

Innocence and Experience in my Vintage Handbag

Maggie Christensen the Good Sister

The Good Sister

Maggie Christensen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maggie’s inspiration for the novel

A haunting introduction from a dying woman commences this story. Isobel has written the story of her life for Bel, her niece, to read.  The narrative of the past begins in the thirties, and Isobel’s past life punctuates events in the present day.

Isobel has remained in the same house her entire life while her niece escaped to Australia.  Bel’s move to Australia symbolises the freedom of her generation – she could walk on the ‘long stretches of sand’ and feel the sun on her skin.

Glasgow: ‘She raised her eyes to the grey sky and shivered.’

In contrast Isobel has lived in cold, grey and rainy Glasgow and was inhibited by her morals. But morals seemed to have been loosened, for others, during the uncertainty of war.   But a chill of despair runs throughout Isobel’s life.

I admire the emotional parallels between Isobel’s love for Bob and Bel’s stirrings of a new love, as a mature woman,in her sixties. The contrast between Isobel’s innocence and Bel’s experience is moving; there is a beautiful connection in the feelings. I loved Isobel as she wasn’t bitter about her ‘lost chances’. Isobel seems to seek peace in orchestrating new romance for her niece.  She tells Bel, ‘I want you to get to know each other.’ The elderly lady intervenes in her niece’s happiness because she neglected her own pursuit of happiness.

The mystery of why Isobel remained alone, intrigues Bel and the reader.  Bel’s frustration with her aunt’s passivity, when younger, demonstrates the differences in the generations.

‘Bel couldn’t believe her aunt had been so foolish.’

One does wonder why Isobel denied herself opportunities, but I also felt completely frustrated with Isobel’s love interest, Bob.  Bob is also a victim of the era, as he fails to communicate with Isobel.  I really wanted to know what was happening inside Bob’s mind, and perhaps this is another novel. Why didn’t Bob speak with Isobel? I was furious with him, at times – but that is the fun of reading.

Fashion in Forties

Despite inhibitions, Isobel does have economic independence through the dress shop.  The shop is called ‘Plain and Fancy’, and I wanted to step back in time to visit place.  Perhaps, I could have found a fancy vintage handbag. Isobel’s glamorous presence throughout the novel is impressive.  Isobel is glamorous yet vulnerable, but her life experience translates into a formidable character in old age.  This made me reflect on how we change according to our experiences.

The contrast between the innocence of the young Isobel and experience of the mature Bel is poignant.  It is as if the two characters are one person experiencing the same life in a different era. The novel also shows us that ‘lost chances’ can be avoided, particularly in the twenty first century.

This is a charming, heart-warming story of second chances and the strength of family support.  The narrative moves at a good pace. I found myself hanging on to every word of Isobel’s story and willing Bel to unite with the enigmatic solicitor.  I hope there will be a sequel to this novel!

Maggie Christensen

 

 

 

 

 

To find out more about the author, Maggie Christensen and heart-warming stories of second chances see:

http://maggiechristensenauthor.com/
https://www.facebook.com/maggiechristensenauthor
https://twitter.com/MaggieChriste33
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8120020.Maggie_Christensen
https://www.instagram.com/maggiechriste33/

 

Please see all my reviews at Books In Handbag and my website and blog at jessiecahalin.com.

 

Fish Shack, ‘bay-bee’, Fish Shack

Books in my Handbag Tour

Fifteen miles from nowhere, we saw a faded sign for ‘Fish Shack’.  We followed a road to the middle of the beach desert until we reached a decaying old boat that was almost as big as a whale. Yes, and the B52’s track was playing in my head…

Parking the car on the uneven tarmac, we hobbled over the pebbles to the shack.  Luckily, I found a table overlooking abandoned boats and Dungeness Power Station.  Optimistic that my husband had reserved a love shack to celebrate two decades of marriage, I congratulated him on this romantic setting.  Alas, always thinking of his stomach, the Fish Shack was the destination.

Expecting greasy fish and chips, I was handed plaice and salad with a large cup of builder’s tea.  The food was absolutely delicious!  The plaice, caught only hours earlier, was cooked in olive oil on a hot plate. The fresh salad had an olive oil and lemon dressing. It was served in a small cardboard box, but they will probably steal this idea on the Great British Menu. And builder’s tea could be the new Pinot Noir.  I must confess that I declined the bread roll, but understood that it was a nod to the fishermen who eat this food.

Seizing the moment, we decided to go for a walk on the beach.  We were told it was fine to walk on the beach if we didn’t touch the ‘fishing tackle’!!  Forget visiting a maritime museum, there were artefacts on the beach such as rusty anchors and abandoned nets.  These savvy people are obviously protecting the objects d’art to prevent art galleries and Michelin starred restaurants from displaying them in their gaffs.  The food and the setting were perfect: The Fish Shack is indeed a funky little shack. Get yourselves off to the food getaway!

Who knows? Maybe this place will become either the Dungeness Modern Art Gallery or even the Derek Jarman Modern.  An art gallery and restaurant without walls could be the new concept of the 21st century.  Visit now as in the future you may need a credit card without a limit.

Funky Fact

Derek Jarman, the artist and filmmaker, lived in Prospect Cottage, Dungeness.

 

Please see all my travels and adventures at Handbag Adventures.

Celebrating authors in Handbag Gallery and Chat Room

Last week, the Handbag Gallery was launched to celebrate authors and their work.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank the authors for their overwhelming support.  It has been great to meet such a variety of wonderful authors.

The gallery displays authors’ books in their handbags/bags, and each photograph is linked to details about the author’s book.  It is an opportunity to celebrate all authors and to introduce them to readers and other authors.  Angela Petch also pointed out that ‘it was an excuse to buy a new handbag’.

I am delighted that twenty seven authors have sent me photographs of their books in their bags/handbags.  It is gratifying to receive comments from the authors. The amazing Ian Wilfred commented that ‘it was great fun to be part of BookInHandbag gallery’ and he supported the initiative throughout the launch week.  Many authors and readers said that they ‘loved the idea’ and it was ‘original’. For instance, Caz Greenham tweeted that ‘it was a great idea by Jessie’. Juliet Greenwood shouted ‘hurrah’ when her handbag was displayed.  Imogen Matthews declared that it was an ‘honour to be in such company.’

Viewing the gallery, it is clear to see the creativity informing the composition.  Some compositions suggest drama whereas others are more relaxed.  Rosanna Ley described her composition as ‘exotic’. Many authors take care to co-ordinate their handbag/bag with the front cover of their books.  Every single composition sets the scene and tells a story.  There are themes such as mystery, escapism, adventure and romance.  The images demonstrate the fact that authors are fun story-tellers who absolutely adore a creative challenge! To find out more, step inside the gallery.  You never know who you might meet in the Handbag Gallery

It would be an honour to showcase the novels of more authors.  I invite authors to email a photo of their book in their handbag/bag to jessiecahin@aol.co.uk if they want to be included in the Handbag Gallery.

What next for the jessiecahalin.com blog?

I have been building another room but no builders were required – great savings on the cost of tea and biscuits.

This week, I have been adding the final touches to the Author Chat Room with a picture gallery of My Guests.  I have already interviewed Elaine Jeremiah and am preparing for more authors.  My guest list includes: Angela Petch, Sue Moorcroft, Imogen Matthews, Emily Williams, Jan Ellis, Rosanna Ley, Diane Need, Helene Leuchel and Rosemary Dun.

I was delighted when Imogen Matthews tweeted that, ‘The Author Chat Room is such a great idea! @BooksInHandbag is going from strength to strength.’

This week, I chatted with Angela Petch in Italy as the Chat Room is still under construction.  It was warm out there but a cool glass of Prosecco helped, and we talked for a long time.  Angela is charming and the inspiration behind her story-telling is moving.