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World Book Day – a teaser from Cowardice of Crows

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Later this year, the first Byrd novel hits the shelves. The following is a short extract from chapter 2… Enjoy

Friday 2nd November, 1900

12pm

A shy unassuming man,  who was wearing a clerk’s suit complete with a bowler hat, caught the noon train to Brighton. Aged about 40, he positioned himself in the corner seat of a second class carriage, and stared out of the window at the passing scenery. Every so often, he would look at his well-worn half hunter, and note something down in the pages of a little black notebook; but otherwise he was no trouble to the people who travelled with him from London. When the train entered the tunnel the man tensed, and a motherly lady with big hips and loud breathing, patted him gently on the arm, and made soothing noises. He thanked her, in a whisper, and continued to sit upright until the tunnel section of the journey was complete. Then with a sigh, he leaned back against the seat and closed his eyes (to all intents and purposes) worn out after his nervous display. And thus he stayed, until ten minutes before the locomotive was due to pull in to Brighton, when the carriage was disturbed by the conductor.

“Mr. Sampson?” The shy man jumped, dislodging the bowler from his lap and sending it to the floor.

“Yes?”

“The earl requests you attend him in First, sir.”

“Yes… Yes… Thank you.” The man rescued his hat from the motherly lady (who had swooped eagle like to pick it up) and stood up. Making his apologies, he made his way out of the carriage and down the corridor.

~~~

At the station, the motherly woman looked out for the shy man amongst Earl Byrd’s very noticeable entourage. But while she could see a burly porter pushing a trolley laden with cases; a ramrod backed valet (who had clearly seen military service); and an efficient looking secretary with grey hair and a hatchet nose; there was no sign of the shy man. Instead of looking perturbed by his absence, the motherly woman grinned and hobbled her way to the ladies cloakroom, where an attendant later found a pair of boots stuffed with newspaper.

Book Fair – photo spread from the Echo

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Not been able to scan this page; this was a picture a friend took of the spread of last Saturday’s Book Fair10603237_746637615373047_2002563571949548100_n

Book Fair @Southend Forum

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Saturday saw me at the 1st anniversary of the Forum in Southend selling the first two books and making contacts with the artistic world out there.

Character Profile: Mordecai Gold

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Meet another player in the Symington Byrd mysteries: Mordecai Gold, a man who “dances on the edge of the criminal world.”

Mordy (as he is known to his friends) runs a jewelers -come- pawnbrokers. He is a hard nosed businessman, with an eye for a bargain.

But I didn’t want him to be the stereotypical Jew of literature. When Walter Scott created Isaac of York he made him an extreme – the complete antithesis of his beautiful daughter Rebecca; while both George Du Maurier and Dickens created wholly evil criminal masterminds – who looked and acted in an immediately identifiable caricature.

There’s far more to Mordy than that. Tall, white haired – grandfatherly – this is a man who will admit to being 50 but not a day older. Having escaped the pogroms of Eastern Europe, Mordy  made his home in Whitechapel. Using his connections Mordy has built up a reputation as an honest criminal.  He is the soul of discretion  who (trusted by the highest born and the lowliest of beggars)  will ensure the best deal is achieved for all (though obviously the house will always win). But you cross him at your peril. Fail to keep your word and retribution is swift.

A man who always has sweets in his pockets, Mordy is at the centre of his community: respected, loved and feared in equal measure

When he first encounters Emily, the lonely little girl who spends at least ten minutes of her walk home from school staring into his shop window, Mordy sees an outsider – just like himself: a mystery inside an enigma. After her father’s death, when her mother brings trinkets to pawn to pay for the funeral, Mordy finds himself  being wrapped around the finger of a 7 year old girl who has wisdom beyond her years and an innate ability to identify rough diamonds. Intrigued  and sensing there is more to Emily and her mother than meets the eye, Mordy makes her mother  an offer  that will ensure that as Emily grows up she becomes the Pawnbroker’s apprentice.

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5* review – from a YA reader

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5 star electrical courses

This reviews is from a young lady in Year 7 (that’s first years for us oldies), an eleven year old to the rest of you. I shall spare her blushes and just refer to her as HG.

The Secret of Aldwych Strand: End of the Pier Affair

This book is about two school children who start off by doing a normal history project, but they somehow end up travelling back and forth into the past and occidentally messing with time and history itself. Mark and Lucy find themselves with the Chancellor of the exchequer and Winston Churchill in 1909 whilst someone is plotting to kill the Chancellor. The two friends travel around historic London, trying to keep history as it should be and attempting to solve the mystery of how they ended up in the past and how to get back to 2013, but things don’t always go to plan. But will they get back to 2013? Only one way to find out…

Mark is a boy who loves sport and is very good at history but not at many other subjects. He has a lively personality and is quite rude but rather funny. Lucy is the “class geek” as Mark say but is not a very sporty person. She also has a lively personality, and, like Mark, is a bit rude and sarcastic at times. I like both of the main characters because they are funny but smart.

The Secret of Aldwych Strand (End of the Pier Affair) is an exciting book of mystery, history and surprise. I would rate this as a five star novel. When I read it I absolutely loved it because it kept me full of wonder, excitement and interest until the very last page because Sarah E Smith writes in such a way that the reader is glued to the book until the very last page. I would wholeheartedly recommend The Secret of Aldwych Strand to anyone who likes a good mystery. The way Sarah E Smith has written this book is brilliant, because she writes from each of the characters’ points of view portraying the different people in the story and their thoughts. Overall, I think that it is a wonderful book and I am sure many people would enjoy reading it. I am looking forward to reading the next two books in this series when they are published.

Want to know more? click here to buy from amazon

 

As the old year wanes – a cat’s view

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This is Abbey Kat – an elder states’ cat. She can’t take the excitement, as you can see.

I think I may need to rename her:  Eggs Benedict Abbey

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1949 Affair – another cover option

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The latest possibility. How well does it capture the essence of the first book’s cover?

1949 affair pink

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside (Leytonstone Underground)

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Inside Leytonstone Underground station is a series of mosaics celebrating the films of its most famous son (and one of him as a young boy outside the family shop.)  I won’t insult your intelligence by labelling them. What I will say, is that for those interested in such things, one of the films depicted in these mosaics,  gives is the title of the book Lucy is searching for! Feel free to guess… there’s no prize though!

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For more takes on this challenge click here

An Avuncular

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My mind today has been exercised by the concept of an “Avuncular”. Good word isn’t it? Very underused I feel. So I set about redressing this…

Svengali_in_spider_web._Illustration_by_Georges_DuMaurier_1895One of my characters  is being an “avuncular”, and – while I’d like to think he is operating from the purest of motives – at the back of my mind lurks the possibility he’s more of a Svengali like figure; though he is certainly no incubus,  and I’m sure he’s not manipulating my heroine. There are others in the story far better placed to do that. Besides, he’s too good looking to be the original manifestation of George Du Maurier’s character from Trilby.

So, for the moment, I will put aside this nagging doubt and return to my original musings.

An Avuncular is such a Victorian concept. It relates to the “uncle like” relationship between an older  and younger – less experienced – person.  Its first recorded use is in 1831, although it is of Latin derivation – from  avunculus, meaning “maternal uncle.” Strictly speaking the term describes the relationship between an uncle and his nephew, but I first heard it used by Poirot in relation to a young lady he is with on a train. Murder and mayhem abound and he is helping her order wine and generally showing her the ropes.

Warming to my theme, I hunted around for other Avunculars. The most obvious (for me at least) were all the classic incarnations of the Doctor – especially Tom Baker and Pat Troughton. Santa Claus came readily to mind and then I stopped. I googled (well why not?) Vocabulary.com put the Dalai Lama forward as an Avuncular and there the trail stopped. It was far more concerned with telling you that Shakespeare invented Nuncle and that Materteral existed earlier and is the word for an Avuncular Aunt. In despair, I went to Facebook and posed the question to my friends.

Below are their offerings: some I agreed with; some I did not. I put them forward and leave you (dear reader) to make your mind up. Are they true Avunculars or would better adjectives describe them?

Mr Bennett (Pride and Prejudice)

Mr Brownlow (Oliver Twist)

Mr Micawber (David Copperfield)

Mr Tom (Goodnight Mr Tom)

The Professor (Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe)

Mr Jarndyce ( Bleak House)

Yoda (Star Wars)

Gandalf (Lord of the Rings)

Professor Dumbledore (Harry Potter)

Weekend Theme: Secret Watcher

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From the Diary of Lucy Pevensea Von Schmidt – Time Traveller –

November the 8th 1949

I’m dressed up to the nines in a white evening dress I can’t begin to describe – except to say Greta Garbo would look better in it than I do. It’s backless and strapless and held up with will power. We’re at the party,  in an ante-room waiting to be met by the guest of honour. I’m by far the youngest here. But I’m not the most nervous.

Everyone I look at is nervous. Soldiers of various rank and stature; eye each other up. Women with far more poise than I will ever have twist their fans and stare around them, at the array of famous faces. Infamous faces, to my mind, ruthless murderers and their ladies dressed in their finery  – taking full advantage of this disruption to the timelines. I’m not nervous, because I have nothing to lose. If I’m caught; I’m dead. I know the risks. And it’s a risk I’ll gladly take to make everything right again.

I’ve never been to this location before. Not in my time. Not in any time. But I know whose house it is. Or rather I know whose palace it was. It makes me sad that all this now belongs to the Conqueror.

As I wait my turn (at the end of the long receiving line that wends its way down long, thin corridors stuffed with dead animal heads and crockery) I tire of looking at the paintings on the walls, at the Van Dyke clocks and  the beautiful tapestries. My feet hurt and I want to get this introduction over and done with. Not that I know why we’re here or what this party  is for. HE won’t tell me! Says it’s on a need to know.

I want to get the meal over and done with I want to get to the dancing in the room where the library is. I want to get a chance to look at the books. You see I think the one we’re looking for is here.

The line moves slowly; very slowly. Obviously our unknown host is spending time talking to each of his guests. That’s fine by me – I get to spend more time in this palace. And it is beautiful, even with all these Swastikas everywhere. When/If I get home, I must go and see what it really looks like.

My thoughts are interrupted: “Look up! We’re being watched.” It’s a silly statement, we’ve been watched by sharp faced guards ever since we arrived in Woodstock. Dutifully, however,  I do as my companion tells me. And he is right. Four secret watchers:one in each corner, staring  down at us.

“Beautiful, aren’t they?”

I nod. I wish I could get closer, touch the golden wings with my finger; trace the outline of magnificence. But they are high above me.

“I wonder what secrets they’ve overheard in their time?” Valentin says.

So entranced by their beauty, I momentarily forget where I am: “And what ones they should have heard but can’t because Time’s gone wrong?”

A woman with more jewellery than sense, stares at me

Valentin returns her look  and it is clear she is frightened of his uniform. He smiles and pulls me closer – as sign of ownership. “Be on your guard” he whispers, loud enough for her to hear and think these words were meant for her. “You don’t know who’s listening. And remember always German. Never English. It’s so common.”

Jewellery woman condescends to smile and I realise she doesn’t speak English. I am safe.

It’s then he drops the first bombshell of the evening. “Someone, from your future is here. He’s watching you. Can’t believe his eyes. You see, he last saw you in London,1940! Be careful, Lucy my love.” I nod to show I understand. He puts his mouth next to my ear, so only I hear the next three words. “Mengele is dangerous…”

***

This extract was inspired by the following picture, and is in response to Sidey’s weekend challenge. For more takes on this challenge click here

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