Psychosis by Roger Bray

I am not a great fan of the crime genre but I do read them from time to time and I watch some on TV.  Not the Midsummer Murder type. I am more into Scandi Noir or Spiral from French TV, gritty, honest but engaging.

What do I look for in a crime novel? I dislike multiple murders, one is more than enough in a book. Plot – it goes without saying, there has to be a believable plot, with no glaring holes or people putting themselves into unnecessary danger when a quick call to the police would be the most sensible course of action.

Characters should be as rounded as in any other type of novel.

It must not be self-derivative, i.e. there is at least one crime writer who has written the same book twenty times, but with different characters and settings. Can you guess who?

Psychosis

Psychosis is the first book I have read by Roger Bray. It starts with Alex in prison for his wife’s murder. It appears that only his sister, Alice believes him to be innocent, despite the lack of evidence and that no body has been found. Both siblings are worn down by the three years of appeals,  lack of hope in ever discovering what has happened or any prospect of Alex ever regaining his freedom. A chance meeting in a coffee shop changes everything. Steve is drawn to Alice and he has both experience and a license for private detective work. The setting is Oregon. I have to trust the author on that one.

I found the book to be well-written, my only quibble that some sentences were overly long, as in paragraph long. The plot developed well and, for me,  I found it a page-turner. A slight curve ball was thrown which deflected the reader from the culprit. I enjoyed the budding romance between Alice and Steve. Alex, I feel, needed some sharper edges, he was almost too perfect.

Steve is a good detective and I wonder if this book is going to be part of a series. I hope so.

I can’t give too much of the plot away but it followed a sensible path, no one did anything that detracted from believability, or behaved out of character. One of the difficulties with crime novels can be an overabundance of characters from which to choose the culprit. This was not the case here. Another character or two may have helped the plot thicken.

Overall, I enjoyed reading the book and would read another of Mr Bray’s books. I will give it 8 out of 10.

I read the book in e-book format. My one criticism of that is that I found the paragraph indents too wide. A very small thing, I know, but I have made the same error myself. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Anglo Saxon Novels

Within the last year, I have read four novels set between 700 A.D. and 1066. Before that none that spring to mind. I’m not sure that I will become an aficionado of the genre but I have enjoyed each of them. Two of them were specifically set in Sussex, my present county, two were by women and two were by an old school mate, whom I have not set eyes on in almost sixty years. We rediscovered each other via another friend eighteen months ago and we now have a mutually supportive but virtual friendship.

Let me begin with John’s books. The Purple ThreadWyrd of the WolfThe Purple Thread mostly takes place in Europe as the protagonist escorts and abbess to her new convent. He battles not only with the many opponents who want to hinder him but with his own beliefs as Christianity shoves the old Gods aside. It has a very dystopian feel to it. There’s lots of action and atmosphere and you get a real feel for the lawless Dark Ages. Wyrd of the Wolf is not a sequel and is set in Sussex and the Isle of Wight. Christianity is beginning to take hold on England. What must it have been like to be alive in those times amidst constantly warring factions when both . body and soul are being pummelled by competing forces? It certainly made me look upon my county in a new light. I enjoyed figuring out the places by the Saxon names. Immense amounts of research have gone in to both of these books but that doesn’t hold up the action. John has written two more books to be published later this year.

The next book is The Handfasted Wife by Carol McGrath, the first book in a series. This is the tale of The Handfasted Wife: The story of 1066 from the perspective of the royal women (The Daughters of Hastings)Edith Swanneck, the handfasted wife of King Harold. The plot deals with the run up to the Battle of Hastings and its aftermath. It is very much told from the women’s point of view. Edith is first supplanted by a new wife as Queen to Harold and then progressively loses first her husband, then home, then sons. I could really empathise with Edith as she battles to save her family. For anyone interested in historical novels of whatever period, I think you would enjoy this book.

I finished reading Sons of the Wolf by Paula Lofting last night. It is set mostly in East Sussex and in the years leading up to the Battle of Hastings but while Harold is still Earl of Essex. It is a more intimate novel about the family of Wulfhere. It opens as he returns home from Dunsinane where the Scottish King Macbeth has been defeatedSons of the Wolf: (Sons of the Wolf : Book One 1) and ends just after the Battle of Hereford, but most of the action takes place in Sussex where he lives with his wife and children. Wulfhere is likeable, honest but a flawed character. He feuds with his jealous, unpleasant neighbour and alternatively with his wife and children. I could relate to him and his family as it transported perennial issues into a bygone age, adultery, sibling rivalry, envy, coming of age – it’s all there. There is a sequel and I am longing to know what happens to Wufhere. Although I am now beginning to understand the Saxon references,

I still find the Saxon names confusing. I am too lazy to write down the character’s names as they are introduced so I stumble occasionally. But for all that, I have enjoyed being transported to these ancient times.

 

 

 

 

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You Are Never Alone

If anyone believes that being an author is a solitary persuit, then I beg to differ. I may have agreed with that until eighteen months ago. Sat closeted in a room researching, writing and editing for eighteen months until the book is ready to be released into the world to fly or sink, Yes, I did that. However, you are unlikely to see more than a trickle of sales that way. The only way to get your book noticed is to get yourself noticed too.

When I retired from my day job, the thing I most missed was human interaction. Becoming an author was not an intentional way of cutting myself off from the world. Rather it satisfied my desire for intellectual stimulus and creativity but did little for my social life. So what changed? Two important steps from which all else has followed..

Joining a group of local authors who are willing to share their experience and are already getting out there. It’s called CHINDI.

Secondly planning a joint book launch with three friends from my writers group, all of us Twitter virgins. I’m not going to reiterate what we did to get that particular show on the road. But the impetus that gave us was huge. We went from being full of self doubt to being full on social media converts and to making contacts with book bloggers across the UK and across the rest of the English speaking world. Teamwork gave us the confidence to say ‘Ok, I’ll give it a go.’

We joined author Facebook Groups we didn’t know existed, made loads of virtual, supportive friends and are paying it forward ourselves.

So what is the message here?

Three Ss – Support each other; Share your knowledge; your time and contacts; and Socialise via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or whatever comes up next.

That’s not to dismiss newspapers, radio etc. But be imaginative. If you don’t know how to do something, ask. Someone will help.

And my sales? In the last two years they have risen sixfold. Pages read on kindle unlimited quadrupled over the last year, all without spending money on adverts.

 

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And Now For Something Completely Different

Why is it that when you retire from your day job, you become even busier? It is true that I no longer have the ghastly commute, which also means that I don’t have to leave the house before seven a.m. and often not return until after six p.m. My day no longer requires me to sit in management meetings or complete quality audits. Yay!

Looking back over the last year, at this point we were about to embark on a joint book launch, which was ridiculously hard work and the best fun, I have ever had. After that I took a break and then got on with the third book in the Currency Girls Series. Now I am about half-way through the first draft and praying I can get it finished by Christmas. But, and it is a big but – something else has come up – preparing a ghost book for the Littlehampton Ghost Tour in July, part of the CHINDI offering to the Littlehampton Arts Festival, LOCA.

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So today saw me and a colleague meeting for a cup of tea and an orientation walk around Littlehampton. It’s the next town along the coast (8 miles away) and despite living here for 33 years, I know it not. We managed probably 50 yards of our tour before we popped into a shop (reportedly haunted) asked the owner for his help and an hour later, while the weak, wintery sun had changed to a cold, drizzling rain, emerged from our own personal ghost tour. We heard stories to scare, to make us giggle, stories to chill the blood and bring tears to our eyes, stories that made us angry at the injustice and cruelty of bygone ages. But the most significant find of all was that we have an even bigger job to do than we thought. This trip into the murky Littlehampton of yesteryear cannot be wrapped up in an afternoon or two. It’s going to take patience, listening and seeing time. We need to take a deep look at the town, listen to its stories and try to create something that makes people see it with our eyes. Next visit is on Monday. How many more will it take?

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Trove

I my inbox this morning was a request to fill out a user survey for Trove. Often I come across such requests and delete them. Why should I help Sainsbury’s or Tesco become more efficient at selling me stuff, when I’m wanting to cut down on spending? Trove is different, Trove is magnificent, Trove is a wonder.

What on earth is it I hear you ask? Well, if you are not interested in Australian history, I doubt you will know. Let me go back a few years, to 2010, before my first trip to Australia. I was still working as a university librarian and as a hobby was tracing family history. Of my husband’s Australian family little was known. All we really knew was that a large sheep station had been owned and all the money had disappeared. I had been searching for the family in New South Wales but found little to help in births, marriages and deaths. Eventually I found an uncle’s war record in the Australian National Archives and saw that his enlistment had been signed by his father in Adelaide. I had never searched for records in South Australia.  I began my search and somehow it took me to Trove Newspaper Articles Bingo! What I discovered was the history of the father laid out in thousands of newspaper articles – free of charge – and with the option to correct the scanned records, in a simple to use side bar. I think I spent the next year correcting and tagging,  becoming one of Trove’s top users.

Contrast this with the British Newspaper archives where you either have to take out a subscription or pay per view. What you get is access to an uncorrected scanned image of the broadsheet which is difficult both to read or locate what you are searching for.

Trove also brings together other resources such as photos and articles, again free to access as are the war records. Why is it that in the UK we limit access and make people pay for research?

After that first year of searching, I had built up an amazing picture of the family and constructed an itinerary for our first trip which took us to West Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria – all with family connections. We have still yet to visit the sheep station area on the Darling River but at least now I know where it is and found a review of the book which will help me write that chapter – where? On Trove of course.

If you use Trove, please do the survey.

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Happy New Year

Is this a year when I will release another book to the world? I’ll try but if it has to wait until 2019 then so be it.

I always start New Year with the will to clear out rubbish. This year it’s not me but my husband who is culling his wardrobes and cupboards, ready for some new furniture. Not totally new, just hand me downs from a neighbour, but it’s doing the trick. The piles of unused clothes ready to go to charity are growing. Why ever did we need to keep so many blow up pillows for aeroplanes, or a travel iron, or coins pre Euro days?

What am I doing while all this is going on? Reading the most gorgeous little book which came from the British Library for Christmas Eve. My best Christmas present, almost my only one as we decided not to go mad this year and bought for children mainly. Socks, the item of choice for adults.Product Details

Why is this book so gorgeous? It is The Dreadnought of the Darling by C E W Bean and very few copies exist in England. Mine came from the BL repository up in Boston Spa via Darlington Library. I wonder why someone in Darlington Library considered buying a book about the Darling River in Australia in the early 1900s. Thank you to that mysterious librarian and thank you to the person who saved it and sent it to the British Library.

So encapsulated within this treasure of a book – which I would love to own – is the wonder of the Darling River and its surroundings,  in the era of paddle-steamers serving the sheep stations between Bourke and Wllcannia in New South Wales. It’s all here, the people, the flora, fauna, geology, economics – everything I wish I could know. For example, his chapter on His Majesty’s Mail.

“We dug it out – a battered old infantry bugle, minus a proper mouthpiece. The driver took it and blew a long call across the still night. A little later he blew it again. ‘My missus’d give it to me if I didn’t give her that call,’ he said. A few minutes later the coach climbed out on to a ghostly white sandhill and ploughed slowly up it. As we lurched over the summit, there lay, spread out beneath us a weird expanse of unreal white. It was the sandy bed of a small lake – Lake Yoe – absolutely dry. On a slope of the hill was a dark square from which glowed a smaller square of warm yellow light. It was the driver’s cottage. Inside there was presently waiting for us, warm and steaming, one of the most grateful suppers to which I had ever sat down.

There far back on the border of the Darling country, was the first place that I saw a coach horn used in earnest. …We had been somewhat surprised at it when we first saw it as rather an unnecessary affectation in a country in which the sentiment is dead against affectations.”

That last sentence is totally Australia. But I love the way Bean brings everything to life, and you can picture each moment. Much of what he writes about, was a last gasp of that life,  as the railways and air flight took over. Cobbs coaches and the river paddle steamers disappeared – the latter now used only for a tourist trip of an hour or so. Gone were six week journeys up and down the Darling /Murray river system or 36 hours nonstop mail coach rides twixt river and railway terminus, other than a brief stop for meals and ‘comfort breaks’.

I am trying to imagine what it must have been like for Jane Granny when she travelled from a small coastal town in England in 1916 and found herself a newly married woman on a sheep station on the Darling River, cut off from everything that she knew, cut off from other women, in temperatures that she couldn’t have imagined. I wish I could talk to her about it.

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At Chateau Yering

Six years ago today, we visited the Yarra Valley for the first time. We were half-way through our first visit to Australia. The drive eastwards from Melbourne was very busy until we got to Lilydale. Turning north onto the Melba Highway felt like driving into a different world. A lush valley of pastureland and vineyards with eucalyptus clad mountains beyond, was unlike anything we had seen thus far.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It seemed more like France or Switzerland. At that point we knew little other than my husband’s great grandfather had owned a house called Chateau Yering for a few years and that it was now an expensive hotel. We were booked in for one night for dinner, bed and breakfast, thanks to a couple of years’ Christmas present holiday tokens, which helped offset the £500 cost. Yes £500 for one night. Ouch! To compensate we stayed in a very cheap motel (£30) for our first night in the Valley. I fell in love with this magical valley and the history of the family right there and have been on a journey of discovery ever since. How did Joseph come to own the Chateau, why was it sold, Book Chateau Yering, Yering on TripAdvisor: See 255 traveller reviews, 95 photos, and cheap rates for Chateau Yering, ranked #1 of 1 hotel in Yering and rated 4.5 of 5 at TripAdvisor.how wealthy was he? Why did it all go wrong? It wasn’t until we returned to England that I began to write the story of the family. To do that I had to go back to the beginning and use what I had found out on our next port of call, Tasmania or Van Diemen’s Land. That is where the story began, with convicts. How does the grandson of convicts get to be so wealthy that they end up owning 5000 acres of this fabulous valley? Little did I realise that it would lead to a trilogy and only now am I writing the story of Joseph Timms, who is commemorated with a suite at this hotel. We stayed in that suite, dined in the cordon bleu restaurant, sat in the lounge for pre-dinner drinks, soaked in the atmosphere and I want to do it all over again with notepad in handChateau Yering Historic House in Victoria, Australia..  I can’t, so I making do with Dreams of Yarra, Sadie’s story. (The present title of my WIP.)

Chateau Yering  had a sheet of information on Joseph which was sketchy and inaccurate. My aim is to retell his story so that he regains his part in the history of Australia. No longer will he be forgotten, buried in an unmarked grave in the Yarra Glen cemetery, a few graves from the monument to his second wife, Isabella.Digital Camera

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