In The Plotting Shed

In The Plotting Shed
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Monday, 5 June 2017

CHILL WITH A BOOK AWARDS: The Rose Trail by Alex Martin

CHILL WITH A BOOK AWARDS: The Rose Trail by Alex Martin: The Rose Trail...

CHILL WITH A BOOK AWARDS: The Rose Trail by Alex Martin:

Thrilled to receive an award for The Rose Trail.
I've never entered any book into an award scheme so this makes it uniquely special.
Totally made my day - my week!
Here's the review:

The Rose Trail by Alex Martin has received a Chill with a Book Readers' Award

"What I loved about this book was the well written historical part of the story. The detail from that period placed you with the characters and you could feel their torment."
"I enjoyed this book and loved the slip back to 1642."
"Loved the content of the book and the style it was written in. Enjoyed getting to know the characters."

Pauline Barclay
Founder of Chill with a Book Awards

Sunday, 28 May 2017

New French adventure.

I have thought long and hard about sharing my new adventures here in the plotting shed blog. I'm quite a private sort of person but the world is so dark and troubled these days and my life is now so full of sunshine, I thought it time to spread it about a bit. What follows is a window on my life's dream - owning a tiny patch of the country I have loved since I came here, aged eleven in 1968 on a family holiday - France. It turns out that I have French genes which didn't surprise me at all as I just clicked with the place at that tender age and the sense of belonging has never left me. It's been quite a journey but I now feel extremely lucky to be able to say, despite many boulders thrown at us, we've arrived.
Of course, being a writer, I've kept a journal.

Le Voyage

Where to begin? Before I was even born, perhaps. French blood runs through my ancestors' veins and into me. When I started studying French at school, I sensed I already knew the language. It sounded familiar, sane, rational. Something the magpie English language could never be accused of. Without being taught, somehow I knew how to pronounce these foreign words, and I loved them.
I first visited the beautiful country of France at the age of eleven, maybe twelve. I drove my family nuts as we slept our last night on British soil before the voyage by asking them, every five minutes, 'is it morning yet?' I had drawn a calendar of the weeks leading up to our first foreign holiday and crossed off each day with a determined, triumphant, diagonal slash. Now the penultimate night stretched ahead shrouded in black mystery and I counted the minutes, surely each one longer than normal, until my family shouted at me to shut up, united for once in their desires.
Brittany in 1968 was unmodernised, without good roads, signposts or services. The most frequent sign on the roads was "chausée deformee" and that really meant what it said. The roads were so deformed that the sensation of driving along them was not unlike the rough seas I'd thrown up on as we pitched and tossed our way over La Manche.
Old women still wore tall white hats of beautiful Breton lace and ankle length black dresses above their wooden clogs. We saw them, wizened as oak bark, along the side of the road, herding a few goats or foraging for berries. Even then, they looked as if they belonged to another century.
And another century has dawned since then, bringing motorways, service stations, radios, the internet and far too many signposts. And yet, conservative France retains pockets of peaceful countryside that has changed little for millennia.
I have been visiting every year, pretty much, since then, even living here for a year between husbands. I picked grapes and worked as a camping courier - dogsbody would be nearer the mark - before ending up in Paris until Christmas lured me back to my British family. After such a long stay, I was more than ever convinced I was more French than English and longed to return.
Now, with our family flown and settled, Phil, my second husband and I are staring at the opportunity his retirement presents. After surprisingly little debate, we've decided where we want to spend a lot of those years and for the last five have researched and driven through much of Poitou-Charente, hoping for an epiphany of recognition that this was the very spot to spend our golden autumn. But, strangely, frustratingly, it eluded us. The logistics were there - the train and plane connections; the distance from home; the affordability; but we still hadn't found IT.
This year, we decided to explore further south, in the midi-Pyrenees, with Toulouse in our sights.
The journey didn't begin auspiciously. We'd both been working far too hard and started out tired and scratchy. As before, we were planning to sleep in our touring caravan on the dockside at Poole harbour, before boarding the boat first thing in the morning. Previous occasions had been fun. We had rolled up at a time of our choosing, snuggled up to the hangar wall and camped for free. Knowing how knackered we were, I had bought in some special easy pasta and a good bottle of wine. We would drive in the evening light and settle in for a cosy evening before sailing early the next morning.
Good plan. Didn't work out like that at all.
The British leg of the journey was fine, if you ignored our bad-tempered bickering. Poole harbour eventually came into view, looking much the same as usual except for enormous concrete barriers blocking the entrance to it. Dismayed, we drove on past and eventually found a nice security bloke who said they'd had trouble in the evenings with 'gypsies' and had to block the portside off from the road. He had no idea when it would re-open. After a very tricky turnaround on the side-road, we parked up against the ugly barriers. I cooked the pasta quickly and we wolfed it down, not knowing when we would have to move and sat there, tense and cross until gone eleven o'clock at night when, after the inbound ferry had disgorged lots of white-faced, weary travellers, a huge JCB came and removed the barriers. Our diminishing energy reserves had long since evaporated and we drove on to the dockside, put the caravan legs down and crawled under the bedcovers, too tired to really relax into slumber.
It was one of those nights when sleep eludes until dawn, so it felt like I'd been asleep for all of ten minutes when a loud knock on the door woke me up. Groggy and disorientated, I grabbed my dressing gown and opened the caravan door to reveal a youth, who looked no more than ten, smiling sheepishly and telling us to get in the queue for the boat. It was six am.
We scrambled into our clothes and dutifully joined the queue at the boarding gate. Still half asleep, I passed over our passports to the brisk woman behind the rain-streaked glass. The wind howled through my unbrushed hair and stung my gritty eyes.
A man came and bleeped his machine over the dog's microchip and reported the number to the woman in the official cubicle.
"This number does not correspond. You cannot sail today with this dog's passport." She looked at me with wide-awake eyes. She'd obviously slept in a proper bed after an early night and a long soak in a fragrant bath. Her manner was as crisp as her uniform.
"What?"
"You should have checked this number yourself before presenting yourself for boarding."
"How could I do that without a micro-chip machine?" I didn't feel I was being unreasonable, just logical and pleased my brain was functioning at all.
She sighed and repeated more slowly, as if I was deaf or senile, "I cannot let you sail on this boat with this animal's passport. You will have to get a new one. You can get one at the local pet shop but you only have one hour before we sail so you won't be able to catch this  boat. You will have to rebook and sail tomorrow."
"What?"
She folded her thin lips.
I gathered my scattered wits. "Are you saying that we have to cancel our holiday because of one digit on the dog's passport?"
"Yes, I am. If you go to France with that passport, your dog will be quarantined and you will not be able to return with him. I wouldn't like to face French border controls with invalid documents."
"Look, read the description. You can clearly see that this is the dog described. It's just one number!"
"That could be any border collie. I cannot let you sail."
"We are catching this boat."
"Look, I'll phone my colleagues in Portsmouth who have more experience."
I nodded and waited, trying to ignore the furious stares of the ever growing queue of other travellers. Many pairs of eyes glared at me as I waited for her terse telephone conversation to end. I looked away towards the ferry which puffed smoke from its funnel in a very unconcerned manner.
The ferry official slammed the phone down and turned to me. She was fuming. "Apparently I can't actually prevent you sailing."
"How very disappointing for you," I didn't say this out loud, but I really wanted to.
She continued, "You can sail, I can't stop you, apparently, but you must understand that this is entirely your responsibility. I suggest you phone your vet. It's his mistake and it's what you pay him for, after all. You can get a French vet to complete a French dog passport, but it will be very expensive. In the meantime, I shall have to fill out a 'Failure Form', which I've never had to do before."
More heavy sighs accompanied this procedure and much tutting at the photocopier which was playing up. I was invited to sign away my dog's destiny and our human passports were approved. Clamping our official status as failures to my chest before it blew away in the wind, I climbed back into the car and we abjectly crawled forward onto the boat, to the obvious relief of those queuing impatiently behind us.
For weeks, while I had been over-working, I had been picturing that moment of boarding and leaving all my cares behind me. When slogging away at my computer, many a vision had been conjured of standing on deck in the summer sunshine, the wind in my hair, a beer in my hand as we floated past Brownsea Island among white yachts full of happy sailors waving us on towards my beloved France.
Not this time. I made frantic phone calls to our vet, Bill, before the signal or my battery ran out. Bill is the most charming, funny and handsome vet you could ever meet. He was deeply apologetic about his mistake. We explored various avenues of how he could possibly wing a new passport to France for our dog, Sky, who though thankfully oblivious of the problem was currently stuck down in the depths of the ferry, probably wondering what the hell he had done to deserve being abandoned amongst the squashed in lorries and motorhomes.
Suddenly, in the midst of our brainstorming session about French post, train courier services and the expense of French vets doing his job, Bill said, "Hang on a minute, where are you going?"
"France, Bill, I told you."
"Yes, but whereabouts?"
"We're heading down south, below Bordeaux, towards Toulouse."
"How long are you staying for ?"
"Three weeks, if we're allowed in."
"I'm going to be on holiday in the Dordogne during your last week. I will bring six passports, have each of them checked a dozen times, and meet you there."
"Really? One would do, as long as it as correct!"
"Done! Send me an email quickly, before you lose signal and text me your destination as well. See you soon!"
A frantic half an hour ensued while we sent texts and emails from every device we carried. We were halfway to France before we could relax. I went to visit Sky in the hold. We'd not had Sky for even a year since rescuing him from the RSPCA and had no idea what kind of a sailor he'd make. He was very glad to see me and gave me a hug. Sky loves to hug. Every ten minutes preferably. I reassured him we were halfway across the channel, even if he was travelling incognito. He settled back down, mollified and I returned to my long-suffering husband.
The rest of the journey passed in a blur and we held our breath as we went through border control on French soil. Luckily they waved us through, without checking our dodgy documents, and, after an abortive attempt to fill the car with diesel, we travelled southwards, on a nearly empty tank.

In the nick of time we managed to get fuel and carried on down south, breaking our journey for a couple of nights in a delightful, but expensive, campsite in Tours. We started to relax as we walked around the lake admiring the tree houses. Sky demonstrated his swimming abilities by jumping straight in and casting about in the cool, green water. I started to believe he would cope further south in the hotter weather and tried to remember why I'd brought the dog in the first place.

to be continued...

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Woodbine and Ivy - Research

The fourth and probably final book in The Katherine Wheel Series is underway. It will be called Woodbine and Ivy and I'm hoping to publish it next year, 2018. I'm deeply engrossed in researching the second World War for this book as it will explore what happens to the children of Cassandra and Douglas, Jem and Katy.
These are the gems that arrived in the post today. Some women get excited over clothes - me? Books!

Saturday, 15 April 2017

The Rose Trail #FREE!

#FREE! This Easter weekend -The Rose Trail

a spine tingling timeslip ghost story

#FREE for the Easter weekend, The Rose Trail has already clocked up 
some great 5* reviews. A gripping tale of a tormented ghost seeking 
revenge, this story will make your spine tingle. Fay, a reluctant psychic,
is dragged into a romantic triangle where brother is set against brother 
during the English Civil War and the woman they both love cannot find
peace. 
Can Fay resolve this desperate tangle? She must somehow release her 
new friend, Persephone, from the terrifying events that haunt her 

Elizabethan Manor house, but only when her husband is away....
click above to go straight to your Amazon page




"5*s It’s dark, haunting and riveting and moves a a good steady place with the occasional revelation that shocks the reader."
"5*s A combination of love, tragedies, friendships, past and present, lashings of historical aspects, religious bias, controlling natures all combined with the supernatural give this novel a wonderful page-turning quality."
"5*s An engrossing and truly original read! Fay and Persephone are possessed by two long-dead characters from a turbulent time in England's history, whose short, tragic lives were entwined almost four centuries ago. The Rose trail took me on a gripping, complex journey and didn't release its hold until the very last page."



Grab your #FREE copy today! 

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

The Rose Trail - first responses: #amwriting

Switching genres has proved more challenging than I anticipated. The Rose Trail is a very different book to my others, especially The Katherine Wheel Series. The cover is starkly different for a start. I wanted it to be black to signal the darker nature of the book with its paranormal theme. Perhaps I subconsciously wanted to issue a warning to readers who might quail at the ghostly scenes. In view of its slow start perhaps that's worked too well!
However the following two reviews have given me heart. I hope to develop a series from this book, with Fay and Percy solving more ethereal mysteries in the future so having this feedback motivates me to carry on with that ambition. First I have to write Woodbine and Ivy, the fourth and final book in the Katherine Wheel series and I'm deeply involved in research for that right now, but with these two reviews spurring me on, I hope to hit the ground running with Book Two of 'The Spirit Level' series after that.

Format: Paperback
"An engrossing and truly original read! Fay and Persephone are possessed by three long-dead characters
 from a turbulent time in England's history, whose short, tragic lives were entwined almost four centuries ago.
 The Rose trail took me on a gripping, complex journey and didn't release its hold until the very last page.
 Ambitious and well-researched, it triggered further research on my part into that pivotal period of history. 
Hats off to Alex Martin for teaching me something - rare indeed, in fiction. But this didn't feel like fiction, 
and deserves to be noticed. Also, what a terrific film this would make!"

on April 2, 2017
Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase

Friday, 31 March 2017

Sally's Scribbles: Cephalopod Coffeehouse: March 2017

Sally's Scribbles: Cephalopod Coffeehouse: March 2017: The Armchair Squid says:  Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss the...

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Awesome review shifted #writer's block

Life has kept me away from the keyboard lately and I lost my writing mojo along the way. This has been terrifying. Two recent reviews, both for Daffodils, have restored my confidence a bit. I cannot stress enough how important constructive reviews are. They are worth more than money, more than gold, for the impact they have on a writer. To write at all consumes vast amounts of energy. Every author must draw deep upon the creative well. When mine dried up, I felt lost. A big thank you then to each and every reviewer who has taken the time and trouble to post a positive review for any of my books.
Daffodils is still #free to celebrate its season of spring. http://rxe.me/BPUQAY4 Daffodils
Here are those reviews that melted my heart:

product rating stars Fantastic book.
2017-03-18

"This book is one of the best I have read recently. The story is amazing. Set at the beginning of WW1, it is about an manor house and its estate incorporating the manor house family members, its workers both in the house, garden, and around the estate. This book is written extremely well. The author's talent for writing is so good that I felt I was there among the characters, on and off the battlefield, in hospital tent etc (without giving too much away). If an author can do this for the reader, it proves how marvellous the writing, choice of words, is. And not forgetting the emotions I felt through the story. Even at the end, I had tears (of joy). Well done Alex Martin."
product rating stars
2017-03-01

"I have read all three of this series. All excellent story lines, great characters, these are books that you will find you want to never stop reading until you find the outcome of each of the characters stories. Thoroughly recommend if you like ongoing family stories. I do hope Alex Martin writes more of these."

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

#FREE Daffodils for #StDavidsDay


Daffodils is #FREE today to celebrate St Davids Day
Here's the latest review, received today:
on 1 March 2017
"I have read all three of this series. All excellent storylines, great characters, 
these are books that you will find you want to never stop reading until you find the
outcome of each of the characters stories. Thoroughly recommend if you like ongoing family stories
I do hope Alex Martin writes more of these."

Dear Reader - I'll try! and am now plotting out the story for Woodbine and Ivy, the fourth book in the series.


Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Harriet Steel's Blog: Meet Alex Martin

Harriet Steel's Blog: Meet Alex Martin: I'm delighted to welcome historical novelist,  Alex Martin, to the blog today. Alex, thank you so much for accepting the invitation. Wo...

Saturday, 28 January 2017

chatting

I left The Plotting Shed the other day and went to chat with other authors at the exciting new studios of Pembrokeshire's own tv station,Showboat TV. They have a new series starting up, hosted by the ever generous and lovely Judith Barrow, writer, book-blogger and creative writing tutor, called 'Cover to Cover'.
Twice a week on a Tuesday and Thursday evening at 8.30 pm authors from south Wales will be talking about their work with other authors on a friendly panel of four. John Rolls, the driving force of Showboat TV, introduced the very first programme and it was an honour to be his first guest.
So, here I am, talking about my books, with Judith, John and Leah Jenkins who organised the day beautifully.
Just click on the link below to go straight to the interview.


To celebrate the event, I'm discounting my new book, The Rose Trail,
for a very limited time period to 99p. Reviews are coming in and I'm thrilled with the feedback so far:

"A combination of love, tragedies, friendships, past and present, lashings of historical aspects, religious bias, controlling natures all combined with the supernatural give this novel a wonderful page-turning quality."
"Couldn't put it down found it spooky romantic chapter after chapter you never knew what was coming next. With a fantastic ending hopefully will be more."
"I loved The Rose Trail, the humour, sadness, history, mystery and romance not to mention ghosts keep it fascinating from the first page to the last. I couldn’t put it down."
" love the cracking pace, with surprising jolts. It's a great gripping read!"

 Only 99p for limited time

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

A #bookish sort of day

I've had a lovely literary sort of day today. I was lucky enough to be included with a bunch of other Welsh authors to www.showboat.tv.co.uk at Pembroke Dock. The ever lovely and generous Judith Barrow was in the chair for a new series of programmes called 'Cover to Cover' that will shortly be on the Showboat channel. A panel of authors chatted together about their favourite topic, writing - of course! with one author showcasing their latest production number, mine being the ghost story of The Rose Trail.
It was great fun to meet up with old and new faces on the literary scene and John, the producer at Showboat TV, was a fantastic host. Leah Smith held it altogether seamlessly - not an easy task with a random bunch of creative talent!
Pembroke Dock is a fascinating mix of industry, docks and old town. I sat for a while on the estuary to take in the scene.


You can just make out the Irish Ferry waiting at the dockside. Although it is early January and the weather forecasters are predicting snow, the day felt more like early spring with blustery winds and bright sunshine. The water rushed into the estuary, roughed up by the stiff breeze. I was glad I wasn't boarding that boat.
After that,I grabbed the opportunity to visit Laugharne, one of my favourite haunts for quiet inspiration. Dylan Thomas has his famous boathouse there but I prefer the garage he commandeered for his writing space. The view is incredibly beautiful and the winter sun held out through the afternoon and streamed through the shed windows, as it does every sunny morning into my very own Plotting Shed. Although I can only aspire to Dylan's lyricism, at least I can identify with his office. My view isn't bad but the peace and serenity of Laugharne Bay is superlative; otherworldly.
 I walked back along the top lane, imagining him wrestling with his conscience as he walked from his house along the path. How many times, I wondered, did the promise of a pint of bitter sway him from the discipline of poetry and make him pass by the door of the little shed over the water. I pictured him, salivating in anticipation of that first bitter sip, before yielding to the lure of Brown's pub and felt I was eavesdropping on the promises he made to himself to 'just have one' to oil the wheels before returning to work. 

The winter sun streamed in through the window, catching Dylan Thomas's old tweed jacket
This doesn't do justice to the view, which is quite extraordinary, but the most significant aspect of this place is the utter peace. How many places can we escape the drone of traffic these days? All I could hear were the gulls and the curlews and the ceaseless tide.

The timeless view, made dynamic by the constant ebb and flow of the sea

The sample of Dylan Thomas' work displayed by the shed