Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The Owners Volume VII: Hunter's Moon

I spoke to a lovely lady who sat next to me on the train into Birmingham the other day. The journey takes about half an hour from where I live but she had got on before me and was nicely ensconced in her seat before I came to sit by her.

I don't normally strike up conversations with strangers - perhaps she doesn't either - but on this occasion for some reason we began to talk. She told me she was visiting a female friend who lived in Stirchley and whom she had known for forty years and then she told me about how her husband had died and the male friend who had helped her through those difficult times.

The conversation was particularly apt for me not only professionally as I soak all these things up for later use in my characters but also in my personal life. But one of the things she said that struck a chord with me was that this friend had been a lecturer in literature and had written a paper about Tess of the d'Urbervilles. Not specifically about Tess either, but about the boots she wore!

It hit me then that people pay attention to what we as writers say, think and believe - even if it is contrary to a reader's own set of beliefs and opinions.  That gives writers a responsibility to portray things in a correct light. And it is for that reason that I am writing this post.

Split Decisions will be out very soon. Unlike The Owners series I have written, Split Decision is not suitable reading material for the under fifteens as it contains graphic material. I am being very specific here, not only because I have children of my own but because yes, I did write Split Decision to make a specific point. It contains some violence and some swearing because it is true to life but I think and I hope that it will make people think about the state of our society.

But not every page I write has a deeper significance and some things are just a tiny little detail which means nothing either way. I wonder if the esteemed Mr Hardy ever intended that a paper be written about his character's boots...or were they just the things she put on her feet? Whatever the case, writing, like any art becomes the possessor's property to display and to discuss at the point of sale. What the creator of the project meant [if anything] is sometimes lost in the wind.

So here for your delectation is a little snippet from the book I am currently working on, Volume VII of The Owners: Hunter's Moon.

Breathing furiously, lungs labouring like bellows, Taylor and Breaker were forced to pause for breath. With hammering hearts they turned back towards the forest and the flames which rose there. The woods had become a conflagration, an inferno from which they could already feel the heat sear them with its intensity. Still they didn’t dare speak or even look at one another lest their emotions betrayed their resolve.

Preparing to gather Matilda up once more, Taylor was surprised when the woman seemed to pull herself together, managing to plant her feet firmly on the forest floor and bear her own weight.

She looked at him with eyes that seemed too large for the rest of her features and too old for her face. “I did the wrong thing!” she said, as huge tears dropped from those liquid orbs.

Taylor felt his heart constrict in sorrow. “Now’s not the time Tilly. What’s done is done,” he reminded her.

She bit her lip and turned away from the blaze, the dead and the dying. “And can’t be undone,” she finished for him. “God help me. It can’t be undone.”
I wish I could lift the burden these characters have found themselves under. But it is their story, I am merely the teller of their tale...
Happy Reading.

Chocolate Alchemy!

Chocolate - thick, creamy, wickedly sensual - melting on the tongue until its solidity disappears, leaving only its lingering taste and a memory... Have I caught your attention?

Chocolate has been the mainstay of my adult life. Seriously, I kid you not. Men have come and gone but chocolate has remained my constant companion, always there when I needed a moment of comfort, a little bit of escapism. That was why I was intrigued when I attended a workshop on chocolate making last week.

Let me be perfectly honest, I eat chocolate every single day. I don't eat cakes [unless someone gives me one], I don't eat biscuits or sweets or desserts of any form. But chocolate, now that's a different matter.

Up until the workshop I consumed chocolate with abandon. Dark, milk, somewhere in between - all of it tasted good and the differences between them remained a mystery. Until Chocolate Alchemy and its knowledgeable chocolatier, Isaac, came into my world. Alchemy, the medieval forerunner of chemistry, was concerned with the transforming of matter, in particular with attempts to convert base metals into gold. It was half science, half wizardry. Perhaps because of that, it is a particularly apt name, for Isaac takes dull, bitter cocoa beans and almost magically transforms them into chocolate concoctions which have a depth of flavour I hadn't previously encountered.

Isaac educated me in the geography and history of chocolate, explaining where the different cocoa beans were grown and the distinct individual flavours they produced. He showed me cocoa pods the size of small coconuts and produced samples of chocolate made from single varieties of beans to try and then samples of chocolate from different combinations of beans. If you haven't tried this before you may be sceptical - chocolate is chocolate right? I can tell you now that the chocolate from some of the beans packed a real punch, whilst others were more subtle and they were all different.

But in watching Isaac, whose face lit up when he spoke of making chocolate, I realised something else too. Here was a young man who was passionate about what he did, who strove to create chocolate perfection which was not just delicious but aesthetically pleasing too. I saw in him what I feel every time I begin a new chapter, or introduce a new character into my books, that longing to create and blend and strive for my creation to be the best it can possibly be, the most enlivened, entertaining and downright engaging I can make it for its intended audience.

And that, I think, sums up the whole essence of Chocolate Alchemy. Perhaps it could be no other way due to the people who remain largely behind the scenes, ex-professional athletes and big names in the world of athletics. These are people who are intrinsically dedicated and determined, who are never, ever, satisfied with sitting on their laurels but who continue to push forward with relentless enthusiasm.

Having only recently taken over the company, its directors are now intent on expanding from the small original venue to a national scale. And they are achieving their goal! Not just rapidly but with a surefootedness that took my breath away. Able to produce bespoke creations in an eye blink, they are looking to bigger markets whilst also maintaining that individual quality which sets them apart. Their chocolate remains hand made, produced by the clever Isaac himself and whatever your preferred taste, it can be created for you. And they are not greedy either - it is not their intent to fleece you of your hard earned cash. Indeed their products are very reasonably priced, especially when you consider the care and quality of them. And you do know how I love a bargain!

I was lucky enough to be able to partake in the truffle making workshop and the very next day I sat down and wrote a new chapter as I nibbled on the truffles. Ok maybe there wasn't much nibbling going on, it was more of a devouring thing really, but what the heck, they were  great!

So if like me, chocolate is an enduring passion, here is their website.

In the meantime I will keep you up to date with my writing and with all the various new things I get to experience in my research. How I love this job!

Until then,

Happy Reading!