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Monday, 22 December 2014

Clarity, All Is Clarity, by Ali Bacon

I’m afraid I’m not talking turkey gravy here, just another writerly conundrum. Do you ‘flatter your reader’ by letting them work out what’s going on, or just lay it on the line, loud and clear?

This balancing act came to mind during the recently concluded TV drama The Missing,  a gut-wrenching tale about the abduction of a five-year-old child and his father’s insistence on following up new clues eight years later when everyone thinks he should move on. I’m not questioning the characterisation, the acting or even the labyrinthine plot, only the problem of keeping track of what was going on in a narrative that jumped backwards and forwards in time right up until the final denouement. At first we were told this with useful captions ‘present day’ or ‘eight years earlier’ but after a couple of episodes we were left to work it out. 

Well that was fine up to a point, but because the locations and characters were the same in each time frame, some close observation was required:– what colour is her hair? – how bad is his limp? Despite a fair amount of concentration a few expletives were unleashed in our living room – so is this NOW or THEN?!? Maybe producers think it’s good to introduce a degree of mystification, but once or twice I just felt deliberately confused (why were we suddenly in the Indian Ocean?) as if the story wasn’t taut enough without a degree of over-complication. 

Daughter, captivating, and above all, clear!
While the series was under way I also happened to read Daughter by Jane Shemilt about the disappearance of a teenager. This narrative is also in two time-frames hinging on the day of her disappearance. There were a few other similarities with The Missing, but how wonderful it was to be told at the start of every single chapter that this was ‘two weeks before’  or ‘6 months after’ the abduction (if that’s what it was).
Clarity! This harrowing (but not entirely bleak) novel unfolds with a sense of inexorability that’s the hallmark of a page-turner without ever feeling contrived or over-complicated.
I suppose the visual medium has different demands and too much labelling might have seemed clunky  - and I know that even in a book ‘date stamps’ don’t always work (I read the whole of The Time Traveler’s Wife without taking in any of them!)  But there are lots of ways you can flag up a change of chronology in print or on screen. And if in doubt, I’d say don’t risk irritating your reader. Make the stuff they really need to know as obvious as you can!
Celebrate Christmas with a book, or a whole tree of them!
Seasonal message? I think it has to be that Christmas is for reading, so here’s a lovely tree built at my local library in Emersons Green, Bristol, where I’ll be joining in Christmas stories and carols on Tuesday.

Happy Christmas and a Guid New Year!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Aah, it’s Christmas – Seasonal Ramblings from Pauline Chandler


  







It’s an odd thing that we change so much as we grow older. Odd, but exciting. It’s not just our bodies and faces that change, it’s our opinions, too, isn’t it? And our habits, long ingrained, that give way to new ones. Even if you never move house, if you stay in the place where you were born for the whole of your life, you change. Life is movement. Families alter, like the patterns in a kaleidoscope. Our children leave home, make their own families, change the pattern, yet we stay bound together, the colours repeating themselves in different ways.



Years ago when my boys were young, I drove myself mad at Christmas, crossing every t,  dotting every i, ticking every box, following like a brainless sheep – baaaa! - every idea thrown at me from tv or magazines, to create the perfect day.

c. telegraph.co.uk
There had to be masses of presents, mostly useless but good for a giggle. 

There had to be a full English breakfast, a three course turkey dinner, a buffet tea. Meals must be served on an artistically decorated table. There must be a door wreath, a welcome bough, a blazing hearth draped with greenery, and twinkling lights, hundreds, everywhere! And cards! And hats! And ..and ..and.. Phew! I was a big mummy spider, frantically weaving my Christmas web.

It’s taken a while, some years, my later years, for me to change and see what it's really all about. It's not about frantic, is it? It’s about peace.

File:A Winter landscape of Parracombe - geograph.org.uk - 221642.jpg
c.geograph.org.uk

Why didn’t I know this? I did know, of course, it’s in every carol we sing, but I didn’t know it, not really, in head and heart. 

It’s not about spending money on people, is it? It’s about spending time on them, with them if possible, but certainly on them, with a phone call, a text, a card or a letter. Connecting.

Or not connecting, if that’s what you need. Time to yourself, a gift of calm, time to think, to reflect, take stock, fill the tank again.  However you spend it, Christmas is completely different from normal life, isn’t it? It’s time out, in a different place. I love that.

Let me tell you about my Christmas tree, the heart of my home for the holidays. 

It’s a real tree, a beautiful fir tree, dressed with our family collection of decorations, our yesterdays, todays and tomorrows, part of our history. Some are in loving memory, some brand new, some from my childhood, some for my sons and my grandchildren. 

Cornish Teddy
 
Grandma Dorothy's Santa
                                                                   
Peter's turtle
Magie's angel



There's a Californian one for Si, a guitar for Matt and a lucky black cat for Ben, a humming bird for Phoe and a new silver one for Lucas. For B there's a London one and for me, there are owls, stars and snowflakes, and a menagerie of animals, sheltering.



Every morning as I come downstairs, I smell the tree. It fills the room with its warm pine scent and makes me feel safe and complete. Happy.

So, no frantic. Just peace. 

Wishing you a calm, peaceful time and all love to you and yours this Christmas!

Pauline x

         











Saturday, 20 December 2014

A shameless Christmas post by Sandra Horn



Sorry, Folks - I am suffering from run-up-to-Christmas fever. I was just about to shut down the pc tonight when I saw it was 19th. Here I am without a coherent thought in my head, so I'm cutting and pasting a Christmas story for children. Please don't drum me out of AE - I promise to do better in the New Year!



The Christmas Presents
     The December moon swung high over Ghyllside Farm, bright as a promise and round as pudding.  The first snow of winter lay crisp and white over the fields.  The farm folk were all abed, snuggled down and fast asleep, dreaming of plumcake and presents.  Down in the kitchen by the fire, Hob and Miss Minkin were toasting their toes.  There was a smell of pine-needles in the air from the sparkling tree in the corner, and there were two large stockings hanging from the mantelpiece.  The stockings belonged to the farm children, and had their names pinned on them: Ben and Susan.  The children had hung them there before they went to bed.  They had put a small glass of sherry and a plate with two mince pies on it, by the hearth.
     “In case he’s hungry,” said Susan.
     Miss Minkin had watched all this with great interest, and told Hob about it later.
     “Who did she mean?” asked Hob. “Nobody knows about me.  Nobody has ever seen me.”
     “She must have made a mistake.  She meant to say ‘she’,” said Miss Minkin. “She’s a good girl and she left the things for me, but you shall share them, my dear.”
     “Thank you, I’m sure!” said Hob.  They ate the spicy pies to the last crumb.
     “Very tasty!” said Hob.  Miss Minkin was not so sure.  Then they sipped the sherry, but it made Miss Minkin cough a little so Hob kindly finished it up.  He left a silver sixpence under the plate for good manners. 
     “This is all very pleasant,” he said, “It must be Christmas again, I suppose.”
     “Yes,” said Miss Minkin, “Jenny has been charging round the kitchen boiling and baking and getting hot and cross.  She even forgot my morning milk!I had to yowl to remind her, and then she slapped it down in a very grumpy manner.  I kept well out of the way after that.  I spent most of the day snoozing in the airing cupboard.”
     “Dear me, what a difficult day you’ve had!” said Hob. “She shall find a frog in her shoe in the morning for being unkind.”
     “Oh, please don’t bother,” said Miss Minkin, “she was sorry after and gave me all the bacon rind.  I have forgiven her.  Christmas is a trying time for her.  I like it, though, on the whole.  There is always plenty of leftover turkey.”
     Hob puffed on his pipe.  “It’s a merry time, right enough,” he said. “I remember in the old days there was always a great deal of eating and drinking and dancing and wassailing.  Neighbours went all round the houses and sang a song or two, and people gave them spiced ale and presents.”
     Miss Minkin put her head on one side and thought for a while.“I should like to have presents,” she said. “I have a very fine voice and you can play the fiddle pretty well.  What do you think, my dear?  Shall we go a-wassailing?”
     “Indeed we shall!” said Hob, “That is a fine idea.  The neighbours will like to hear some good old Christmas music.  It will cheer them up.”
     Hob fetched his fiddle and a sack to bring all the presents home in.  Miss Minkin washed her face and combed her ears.  They slipped out through the cat flap into the snowy moonlit garden.  Miss Minkin sniffed the air and said it was safe to be out.  There was no smell of fox or badger.  Hob looked up.
     “A fine night indeed, but there’s a nip in the air,” he said.  He was wearing a stout green jacket and hat, and Miss Minkin had fluffed up her beautiful fur, so neither of them minded it much. “Where to?” asked Hob.
     “Let’s try Berryman’s Farm first,” said Miss Minkin, “the farmer’s wife is fond of me and they keep a very good larder.”
     They set off across the round the henhouse, and ducked under the gate to Halfacre Field.  Their footsteps crunched on the frosty grass.  Only the moon saw them cross the wooden bridge over the murmuring ghyll and turn down the lane to Berryman’s.  Farmer Croft had just filled the coal scuttle and taken off his boots before going to bed.  Miss Minkin cleared her throat and Hob tightened his fiddle bow. 
     “Ready!” he said, “one, two, three!” 
     He played a good loud opening chord, and they began ‘Ding Dong Merrily on High,’ with all their hearts.
     Hardly had they sung the first line when a boot and three lumps of coal came flying through the farmhouse window.  The boot sailed over their heads and lodged in the branches of a tree, and the lumps of coal fell right in front of their feet.  They were quite surprised, but they remembered their manners and called out, “Thank you! Merry Christmas!”
     Hob looked up at the tree.“What was that?” he said.
     “I don’t know, it sailed by so fast and high,” said Miss Minkin, "but we must try to get it down.  It’s a present and the farmer will think it very rude if we leave it in the tree.  He’ll think we didn’t want it.”
     “True enough,” said Hob.  Then he waved his fiddle bow three times round and pointed it at the tree.
     “Come!” he said, and the boot came tumbling down at his feet.  Hob scratched his head. “I’m sure this is kindly meant,” he said, “but one boot on its own is a strange sort of present.  It will be heavy to carry home, and then what would we do with it?”
     “We don’t want to hurt his feelings,” said Miss Minkin, “shall we hide it somewhere?”
     They pushed the boot a long way behind the staddlestones, where nobody could see it.  In the spring, a pair of mice moved in and raised a family of ten.  They were very snug.

     The farmer looked all over the yard for his boot the next morning, but it was well hidden.  It was his good boot, too.  It was the other one that had a hole in.  He had to hop on one leg all over Christmas until the shops opened again. 

     Hob picked up the lumps of coal and put them in the sack.  He covered them with straw for tidiness. 
     “This is very generous,” he said. 
      Miss Minkin would have helped him, but was afraid of blackening her beautiful paws.  Hob said he didn’t mind a bit of honest dirt.“Where to now?” he said.
     “The Bird and Hurdle, I think,” said Miss Minkin. “They keep a good kitchen and I have done them some favours in the matter of rats.”
     Off they went, over the crisp white fields, through the hedge and across the lane, to the back door of The Bird and Hurdle.  The landlady, Peg Brewer, was already fast asleep and dreaming of Christmas pudding.  Her husband Tom had stayed to lock up, and had just poured himself a last pot of Christmas ale before bedtime when Hob struck up on his fiddle and Miss Minkin began to sing at the top of her voice.  She had not got much further than ‘Silent Night, Ho –‘ when the door opened and the pot of ale came sailing out.  Hob dropped the bow and caught it one-handed.
     “Oh well done!” said Miss Minkin, “how clever!”
     “It’s nearly full of good ale, too!” said Hob.
     He put the pot of ale carefully in the sack, waved his fiddle bow three times round it and sang:

“Stay right side up, 

Neither spill nor slop.”


     And it didn’t.
     “This is more than kind of our good neighbours,” said Miss Minkin. “I expect he remembered me and the rats and he wanted to say thank you.”
     In the morning, Mr Brewer looked everywhere for his favourite pewter pot, but he never did find it.

     “The sack’s middling heavy now,” said Hob. “Shall we be getting home-along?”
     “Yes,” said Miss Minkin, “but let’s call at Windlemoor as we go.  It’s on the way home, and the Missus has always had a soft spot for me.”
     Hob shouldered the sack and off they went.  The moon was beginning to set, and the stars were very bright as they went back down the lane towards Windlemoor.  An owl swooped low over their heads on silent wings, and Hob wished it good night and good hunting.

     At Windlemoor House, the whole day had been busy with Christmas preparations, and Mrs Biggins was still up and about with some last-minute jobs.  The back door was open to let out the heat of the Christmas baking.  Mrs Biggins was sorting out chunks of marrowbone for roasting in the morning when Hob and Miss Minkin came through the garden gate and up the path.  They stopped outside the door and began ‘O Come All Ye Faithful.’  Mrs Biggins jumped, screamed and threw the chunks of marrowbone up in the air.  They came bouncing out of the door like skittles, and Miss Minkin had to step smartly out of the way.  Hob picked up the marrowbones and put them in the sack.
“Really, our neighbours are very good,” he said.  He called out “Merry Christmas!” but a gust of wind must have caught the door and made it slam shut.
     In the morning, when Mr Biggins asked for the Christmas marrowbones, his wife gave him a very black look and told him he could have cold mutton and like it.

     Hob and Miss Minkin made their way home in the fading moonlight, under the Christmas stars.  Hob stumped along with his fiddle in one hand and the sack over his shoulder.  Miss Minkin watched where she was stepping and took care not to get her paws too snowy.  They were very pleased with their night’s work.
     “Wassailing is a very good thing,” said Miss Minkin. “I’m glad I thought of it.”
     “Yes, my dear, the folk round here are very kind, although their manners are a little rough,” said Hob. “In the olden days, if I remember rightly, they didn’t throw the presents at people – but times change, I suppose.”
     “Hurry along now, please,” said Miss Minkin, “my fur is getting damp.”

     They slipped quietly through the cat flap at Ghyllside Farm, and into the shadowy kitchen.  It was late into the night, and the fire was dying.  Hob and Miss Minkin were feeling a little chilly.  Hob blew on the embers to make them glow, and piled on the straw and the three lumps of coal.  He soon had a good blaze going, and he and Miss Minkin were warm and cosy once more.  Then Hob took the pewter pot and put the ale to warm on the hearth.  Last of all, he set the marrowbones to roast on the grate.  While they were sizzling, he lit his pipe and blew several perfect smoke rings round the star on top of the Christmas tree.  Miss Minkin washed her face and paws, ready for the feast.
     “Merry Christmas!” she said as she eyed the sizzling marrowbones.
     Hob lifted the pewter pot, “Wassail!”
     They feasted and danced until morning began to light up the eastern sky, and had just nodded off to sleep when there was a noise of feet scrambling down the stairs, and the children came running in.  Hob slipped into the shadows and was back under the hearthstone in no time at all.  Miss Minkin opened one eye.
     The children took the bulging stockings down and began to shout, “I’ve got a doll!”
     “He’s given me a train!”
      “Look, a chocolate mouse!  A spinning top!”
     They ran upstairs to tell their parents that Father Christmas had eaten the mince pies and drunk the sherry, and had left lots of marvellous presents in the stockings and two old bones and a pewter pot on the hearth.
     Miss Minkin closed her eyes and settled down for a long Christmas Morning nap.




Friday, 19 December 2014

A CRIME WRITER COOKS! by Chris Longmuir



This month I thought I would tempt you with something from the Authors Electric recipe book Cooking the Books. as you can see it's a mix of the ridiculous and the helpful. You may find a recipe to suit you within the pages, or you may prefer just to have a laugh with us as we tackle this alien enterprise. After all, we are writers, not celebrity cooks.!

Excerpt from Cooking the Books

Cooking – definition – an unpleasant occupation but something you have to do to ensure continued life. It requires a well stocked cupboard, fridge and freezer. An aptitude to combine any ingredients found into something palatable. And a burning desire to take part in Ready, Steady, Cook!

Are you sitting comfortably? We shall begin.

TAKE STOCK
Contents of Detective Sergeant Bill Murphy’s fridge – a prehistoric egg, bacon with white wriggly things on it, cheese that is green and furry, and something indistinguishable (Bill can’t remember what it was!).

Contents of Chris’s fridge – don’t know, haven’t looked in there for yonks!

Cooking tools – Chris doesn’t know what most of them are for, but she has a great library of beautiful cookery books. She bought them to drool over the pretty pictures.

Check freeze, choose from a selection of ready meals, remove cardboard sleeve, pierce film top with a knife (remember to remove it from the body and clean the blood off), and nuke for the required amount of minutes in the microwave.

Job done.

EXCEPTION TO THE RULE
Once a year Chris is sentenced to cook. She dines well with family providing great festive meals over Christmas and the New Year, but then comes payback time. Yes, you’ve guessed it. It’s time to invite the family to the annual post New Year dinner. Well, one has to show willing!

LETS GET STARTED
Switch off computer. Lock study door. Hide iPad. Close eyes, relax, and go ‘Um’ over and over again in an attempt at self hypnosis. Give up and get started.

Remove turkey crown from freezer in garage. Imperative to take this out at least 2 to 3 days beforehand to thaw out.

Check freezer – no turkey crown – forgot to buy.

Go to supermarket – no turkey crowns left. Scream!

Visit friendly butcher, get talked into buying a haunch of venison. Take it home. Look at it. Scream!

Check cookery books. Some lovely pictures but no venison.

Unlock study door. Switch on computer. Google ‘How to cook venison’. Read several and groan. Too complicated.

Choose the simplest one, and check for ingredients:
Haunch of venison – got that.
Marinade – what the heck’s a marinade? Oh, well I suppose it’s not really necessary.
3/4 lb fat bacon strips ( I thought we’d gone metric, but I know what pounds and ounces are).
1/4 pint of burgundy (Another run to the supermarket to buy it).
Seasoning – that’s salt and pepper isn’t it? At least I know that.
1/2 lb butter (I definitely have that, margarine or spreads never darken my door).
Olive Oil (Yup! Got that as well).
1 tablespoon of flour (I don’t suppose it will matter how old it is!).
Juice of half a lemon or orange ( it will have to be an orange, I don’t like lemons).

Execution
Marinate the haunch for 24 hours – How the heck do you do that? Go off and check the internet.
OK now I’ve found out what a marinade is so let’s get started.
First of all find a tin or dish big enough to hold the venison and add the ingredients of the marinade to it;
4-6 tablespoons of olive oil;
1/2 bottle of red wine (another run to the supermarket);
1 onion sliced (wipe tears from eyes);
3 sprigs parsley;
1 bay leaf;
1/4 teaspoon thyme.

Mix them all together and put the venison into the dish, making sure the marinade coats it completely.
Leave the venison in the marinade for 24 hours.
Take it out the next day, rub it with oil, dab it all over with the butter, and wrap the bacon strips round it.
Now wrap it loosely in foil and place in the oven at 190C/375F/gas mark 5 (Don’t know what the first two are so I set my gas oven at 5).
Cook for 20 mins per pound, and baste every 10 minutes (How the heck do I do that when it’s wrapped in foil?).

Relax with remainder of wine and enjoy the aroma of roasting venison.

15 minutes before the end of the cooking time, unwrap the venison, remove the bacon strips and sprinkle flour over the top of the meat. Baste well and return to a hot oven for 10-15 minutes.
Place venison on serving dish and pour away all the fat in the roasting tin except for 1 tablespoon. Add flour and cook until brown.
Gradually add the burgundy, and lemon or orange juice. Bring to boil, stirring all the time, and simmer for a few minutes. Add the seasoning.

Serve the venison with redcurrent jelly.

I’m sure you’ll all be pleased to know that it looked okay, and nobody complained. Quite surprising considering Chris cooked it!

THE SWEET AND DEADLY STUFF
A festive meal is not complete without a selection of sweets, or puddings, if you prefer.

Black forest gateaux
Select biggest one from supermarket freezer;
Remove cardboard box;
Allow 2-3 hours to thaw;
Serve.

Fruit salad
Buy a selection of tins of fruit from supermarket;
Open tins with electric tinopener;
Plonk contents in a bowl;
Serve.

My Special Sweet and Sour Pud
Ingredients:
Biggest size double cream;
Biggest size natural yogurt;
Enough tinned fruit (or fresh if you like) to cover bottom of a fairly large shallow dish; It’s best to have something tart like raspberries, blueberries, cranberries etc. My favourite is tinned fruits of the forest;
Brown sugar.

Execution:
Whip cream until thick, add yogurt and mix together;
Layer fruit on bottom of dish;
Top with the cream and yogurt mixture;
Sprinkle brown sugar on top;
Place in fridge for several hours until the brown sugar looks melted.

And that’s it, folks. that’s how a crime writer prepares a festive dinner. Thank goodness there are 364 days between each banquet!

If you want to buy a copy of Cooking the Books to see what other writers get up to when faced with a hot stove, then you'll find it here Amazon UK and Amazon US 

Chris Longmuir.
Author of the Dundee Crime Series







Thursday, 18 December 2014

An Old Polish Christmas by Catherine Czerkawska

The Amber Heart on Kindle - Polish & Christmassy
When I was wondering whether to do a Christmas 'special offer' on one of my books and also wondering which one to choose, I found myself trying to decide between a couple of suitable books. But really, when it came down to choices, it was a no-brainer. It had to be the Amber Heart. Even the cover seems kind of Christmassy and in my heart, when I think about this book, I think about Poland at Christmas.

It is a big doorstop of a book but then it's a big story. Epic. Romantic. Heart rending. When one of my previous agents sent it out, she relayed a letter from an acquisitions editor who said that she had stayed up all night reading it and weeping. They didn't acquire it though. Poland was a non starter as a setting. Now if it had been Russia ...

No point at all in telling them that Eastern European borders have been so fluid and so deadly, in consequence, that this novel, set firmly in that part of mid-nineteenth century Poland called Galicia would, if set in the same physical place today, have to be in the Ukraine.

I grew up with a Polish father and an English/Irish mum. Christmas was one time of the year when we became thoroughly Polish, and celebrated in the Polish way, with a Christmas eve dinner and Polish carols like this one  Lulajze Jezuniu, that always made my late dad cry. Then, on Christmas Day, we did it in the English way as well. Nothing like having the best of both worlds.

But really, in order to celebrate in the Polish way, you need to be in Poland. I spent a couple of Christmases in Poland when I was in my twenties, teaching EFL in Finland and then when I was working for the British Council at Wroclaw University.

Wojciech Kossak - one of the family forebears - was the artist.
I used the setting - and perhaps even these characters - in the novel. 
It was magical.

I still remember wandering through a big indoor market in Warsaw, with it's peculiar scent of horseradish, smoked cheese, apples. I remember the extreme cold, the snow and the plentiful mistletoe for sale on the street flower stalls.

On Christmas Eve my father's cousin and her partner took me to a house in the Zoliborz suburb of the city where the Kossak family - relatives by marriage - still lived. The Christmas Eve meal was traditional and extraordinary: twelve small but delicious 'courses' with beetroot soup, lots of fish but no meat. Lots of flavoured vodkas too. And makowiec - a luscious Christmas cake made with ground poppy seeds and rich yeast pastry. Straw was placed under the tablecloth and if you 'drew the short straw', woe betide you because your life would be a short one as well. To be honest, I think they made sure that all the straws were fairly long!

Great Uncle Karol Kossak: my favourite uncle.
I can't remember everyone who sat around that table but there were lots of them and they were all related in some way, however remotely. They had to place me very firmly within the family - even though for most of them, I was only related by my great aunt Wanda's marriage. I was Julek's daughter, and Julek was the son of Wladyslaw who died in the war, and my Great Uncle Karol (Wladyslaw's friend) had married Wladyslaw's elder sister Wanda and they were the children of ... It went on and on, until they had established exactly who I was and where I belonged in the family hierarchy. I remember too that they kept a tortoise, a large one, that clicked and clattered across the wooden floors as the party progressed.

I think this is actually signed by one of the Kossak family. Note the Galicya name
Christmas Day involved a round of visits to other family members and friends throughout the city. In every house, I was offered a plate of the substantial hunter's stew called bigos and of course it was rude to refuse. I began to feel a bit like Dawn French in that episode of the Vicar of Dibley with all the Christmas Dinners.

It was a busy and blissful time.

But one thing that I remember perhaps more clearly than any other, was a friend of the family taking me around the walls of the old town of Warsaw, a perfect mediaeval town, destroyed by the Nazis not by overhead bombing, but its buildings deliberately and maliciously blown up from the ground, to prevent the people from ever returning.

Warsaw from the air, after the Warsaw Uprising. 
Except that they did return, and rebuilt it. It is a place with the most extraordinarily poignant and beautiful atmosphere. I remember walking along quiet alleyways on a cold, clear night, the twilight just coming on, and the lamps lit. I remember my cousin's friend Michael telling me about his wartime experiences, and how he could not come here now without thinking about all the people he knew who had died, but how he still loved the place anyway. Even now, thinking about it, brings a lump to my throat.

My dad in the snow, in Galicia, Poland.
The Amber Heart is set at a much earlier time - the mid 1800s. But my dad's stories informed it. Fortunately, because he died when he was only 68, I had encouraged him to write things down for me.  I used all kinds of stories that I had been told over the years about our fascinating family history. It's fiction, but it has a basis in some very intriguing facts. It's a snowy novel (but not always). It describes a traditional Christmas - but it describes a traditional Easter too.

All the same, if you read it, I think you'll see what I mean when I say that it always seems to me to be a Christmas novel - or perhaps I mean that it's a good long Christmas read. And for seven days beginning 24th December, you can download it onto your Christmas Kindle for the bargain price of 99p or 99c in the US.

And can I take this opportunity to wish all Authors Electric readers a very happy holiday season - and a new year that brings you all you could hope for.

Catherine Czerkawska
www.wordarts.co.uk