The Fabrian Books’ Blog

Beltane – New Cover Reveal

Alex Beltane ebook coverI’m delighted to announce that my supernatural fantasy romance, Beltane, has a gorgeous new cover.  The cover features a rather good looking Green Man.  I’m rather taken by his lovely eyes and how it’s clear that under those leaves there’s a really interesting and (let’s be honest) downright sexy guy.

Now if you’ve not read Beltane then you might be thinking, what’s with the Green Man.  I’m afraid to answer that question would need a spoiler alert so I’ll just say that the Green Man is a very key character in the book.

My original title for Beltane was The Green Man but after one too many person said, “Sounds like a pub” I decided Beltane was a better option. It’s taken me a while to find my perfect Green Man for the cover and, since I published the book, readers have very kindly sent me Green Men that they’ve found on their travels.  I’ve now got pictures of Green Men from all over the UK so I thought I’d share a few with you.  There’s stone ones, wood ones, knitted ones and even ones on biscuits!

IMG_0703Green Men have been around for many centuries but that name wasn’t used until 1939 when Lady Raglan coined it in an article about ‘The Green Man in Church Architecture’ which was published in the Folklore Journal.  Before that they were known as foliate heads being essentially heads surrounded by foliage.

Green Men are surprisingly ancient.  There are Roman examples of the Green Man and carvings from Mesopotamian in present-day Iraq.  Surprisingly, as he’s (probably) associated with fertility and nature, he’s found in many mediaeval churches where you’ll find him carved in wood or stone.  He had a bit of a revival in the nineteenth century when he was a favourite of the Gothic revivalist and arts and crafts movement.  Since then he’s been interpreted by artists, had a festival named after him and a lot of albums (I’ve just discovered, and I have to say it seems somewhat unlikely to me, that Mark Owen of Take That’s 1996 solo album was called ‘The Green Man’) and given his name to a Morris side (which my Morris dancing friend tells me is the technical name for a group of Morris dancers).

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Green Man biscuits

The Green Man is sometimes confused with Jack in the Green (the trickster character of English May Day parades), Green George (who it turns out is a leaf covered young man in mummer’s plays), John Barleycorn (a character in a folk song which personifies the life cycle of barley) and Robin Hood (yes, the robbed from the rich to give to the poor Nottinghamshire outlaw).  But he predates all of them.

Interestingly, with all those images of him there’s no clear understanding of what he represents. The experts aren’t one hundred percent sure which means there’s lots of different theories.  Some believe he’s a symbol of death and rebirth, others that he’s a symbol of fertility and others that he’s a symbol of life and nature.   For me, it’s the last one that rings true and that’s why he’s important in Beltane.

Knitted green manI hope you’ve enjoyed looking at my Green Man photo gallery.  They’re all remarkably handsome in different ways.  If you’ve got a photo of a Green Man or if you see one on your travels then I’d love to see it.  You can add a comment below, tweet me at @Alyswestyork, post on my Facebook page @alyswestwrites or visit my website at www.alyswest.com

If you’d like to know more about Beltane click here

Revisiting Mr Rochester ~ Why I Returned to the Ultimate Hero

Today sees the publication of my sixth book, Resisting Mr Rochester. I expect that the title will give you some indication that it’s loosely – very loosely – based on Jane Eyre. The question you may be asking yourself is why? Why name your hero Mr Rochester? Why not call him Mr Smith? Or Mr Jones? Or Mr Culpepper-Blanchard-Entwistle, for that matter?

Because I like alliteration. 😊 Seriously, it’s a good question, and one I asked myself many times over the course of writing it. I was terrified. I remember meeting up with my fellow Fabrian author, Alex, (aka Alys West) and telling her how scared I was. I was paralysed with fear. “It’s because Jane Eyre means so much to you,” she told me gently. She wasn’t wrong. It felt like such a responsibility – not to mention a cheek. When I told my husband the title of my book, he gasped and said, “Are you allowed to do that?” Well, yes, I was allowed. The question was, dare I?

I’ve made no secret of the fact that Jane Eyre is my all-time favourite book. It was down to that novel that I even started writing in the first place, and I paid tribute to it in my debut novel, There Must Be an Angel. The first line of that book was “Reader, I married him”. You can read how Jane Eyre brought me to that point here.

I’ve read various novels based – with varying degrees – on Jane Eyre. I even studied possibly the most famous of them, The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, as part of my degree in literature. This is a well-written and beautiful novel, in its own right, telling the story from Antoinetta (Bertha) Rochester’s point of view. The mad woman in the attic finally gets a voice. It doesn’t, however, do Mr Rochester many favours.

Ah, Mr Rochester. He divides opinion, no doubt about it. Some see him as a cruel, brutal gaoler – keeping his mentally ill wife locked up in an attic, lying and cheating, mocking Jane and breaking her heart. I never saw him like that. I saw a man who found himself in an impossible situation. Rather than put his wife in an asylum – and many mentally ill people at that time ended up in those horrific institutions – he accepted his responsibility for her and kept her safe under his roof. For a modern audience, locking an ill woman up in an attic may not seem kind, but in those days it was a far, far more compassionate solution than having her placed in an asylum.

Yes, Mr Rochester played away, but with a wife unlikely ever to return to him, is that so unforgivable? He wasn’t able to divorce her. He was a lonely man, looking for everything a man of his age would naturally want. Should he have been honest with Jane? Probably. But knowing Jane, the way he clearly did, he realised she would have no part of any illicit relationship. His deception may not have been right, but it was understandable. Did he torment Jane? I think he wanted to provoke her. Mr Rochester is a passionate man, given to explosions of temper and outpourings of love. He wears his heart on his sleeve. Jane, by contrast, appears to him to be controlled and cool. She knows better than to expect love from her “betters”. She has never experienced real love, and she is compelled by her upbringing and position in life to behave in a certain manner. Mr Rochester wants to see the real woman beneath the proper exterior. He wants her to be jealous. He wants her to tell him she feels love and passion for him. If he tries to make her jealous by flirting with Blanche, if he tries to provoke a reaction by pretending he’s sending her away, who can really blame him? They were different times and different attitudes prevailed.

Mr Rochester was always my favourite Brontë hero. Forget Heathcliff. He was far too cruel and warped for my taste. And the truth is, I always thought that, one day, I would write my own version of Edward Rochester. My own version of Jane Eyre. Not, I hasten to add, that I think for one minute that anyone could write anything as wonderful as the original novel by Charlotte Brontë. If I wrote serious literature, I would have avoided going anywhere near this story. Because I write light-hearted romantic comedies, I felt I could do something with the characters, and give a flavour of the original, while creating my own story and developing my own version of this giant of literature.

I suppose, the plain fact is, I couldn’t resist Mr Rochester.

Times have changed. Mr Rochester had to be a new man. I made him very aware of feminism, and I made quite sure that he never did anything as strange as dressing up as a gypsy fortune teller(!) However, he does have a secret, and he is a married man who falls in love with someone else…

So, don’t buy this book expecting a retelling of Jane Eyre.  This is a contemporary romance with modern characters and a lot of humour. But the flavour, I hope, is there, and there are some similarities between the two stories—as my heroine, Cara, becomes uncomfortably aware.

I loved writing Resisting Mr Rochester, and I really hope you enjoy reading it.  I was quite sad to leave my hero behind. Then again, if ever I’m missing him, I can go into a garden and smell the roses, or sit on a swing and daydream. You’ll see…

You can buy Resisting Mr Rochester here.

Are You Ready for More Eighties? #NewBook @MyEighties

The phrase “Creativity Breeds Creativity” is often bandied about. However, shortly after starting the interviews with songwriters and musicians for my latest book ‘More Eighties’, I began to realise the truth behind the statement. My aim in writing the book was to explore how the Eighties worked as a backdrop for artists, and examine how the decade that encouraged individuality, and saw huge technological, political and social change, impacted on their creativity. Their recollections were humorous, touching, entertaining and thought-provoking, but more than that, they were inspirational.

Listening to Fairground Attraction’s Eddi Reader, a woman with one of the most beautiful voices I have heard live, describe the terror she felt when performing proved to me that self-doubt does not discriminate by talent. Her telling of the hilarious incident which led her to actively challenge any negative thoughts will not only have you crying with laughter, but make you consider how your own thought processes affect your actions. Her journey from Glasgow’s tenements to top of the charts is one which highlights how artistry cannot be ignored, even when the artist may be their own worst critic.

‘More Eighties’ features interviews with those at the forefront of popular culture during the era, and includes a range of contributors as diverse as the decade itself. The electro sound synonymous with the decade is discussed with synth pioneers Martyn Ware (Human League and Heaven 17) and Dave Ball (Soft Cell), along with the changes that have taken place over the last forty years in music and in wider society. Issues including multiculturalism and racism form part of the conversation with Dave Wakeling (The Beat), Pauline Black (The Selecter) and Junior Giscombe, while Rusty Egan (Visage) discusses the manifestation of creativity in the UK’s nightclubs in the form of both music and fashion. I was also fortunate enough to talk to Suzi Quatro, Ian Donaldson (H2O), Nathan Moore (Brother Beyond), Karel Fialka, Jona Lewie, and The Lotus Eaters’ Peter Coyle about their memories and insights.

Dave Wakeling and Peter Coyle were incredibly generous in sharing their creative processes with me, sending me some of their unfinished material to listen to, followed by the completed tracks. Not only was it a privilege to be entrusted with those early pieces of music and to have my opinion valued, but it helped me further understand what we had spoken about in our interviews and, I hope, better relay those discussions in my writing. As I said, creativity breeds creativity. Being involved in those songs from the early stages and seeing them develop into the wonderful final recordings was really a ‘lightbulb moment’ for me. I realised that even those artists I had listened to since I was 12 experienced the same frustrations, doubts and eventual pleasure I do when writing. The key was harnessing creative flow when it came. That realisation freed up my writing immensely, and I even found myself writing poetry again, something I had not done so prolifically for about 25 years.

You may well now understand why ‘More Eighties’ is, for me, the best book I have published. It achieved everything I had set out to do, in examining how the decade facilitated a huge surge of creativity, but it also allowed me to rediscover the joy of submitting to my own creative driving force. It is something I shall endeavour to hold onto in future when facing some of the more onerous aspects of writing, such as transcribing interviews (despite what some may think, I actually can’t bear to hear the sound of my own voice!). I hope when readers have finished the book, they will have also found inspiration, as well as nostalgia and entertainment, in its pages.

You can buy More Eighties here.

 

My (not so) Strange Addiction by Jo Bartlett

Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m addicted… to watching medical documentaries.  It’s not the blood and gore that grips me, or even the drama of the pending diagnosis, it’s the emotions of the people involved. My favourite is probably 24 Hours in A&E, because they film talking head segments with the patients and their loved ones, alongside footage of the action in the emergency department itself.  These segments give such an insight into relationships, love, loss and the ties that bind, that each one could probably warrant a novel in itself.

With this addiction and the impact that the stories behind the emergencies have on me, I guess it was only a matter of time before I wrote a novel with a medical theme.  A Highland Practice is set in the wilds of Scotland and, whilst it’s centred around a rural GPs’ surgery, it has its fair share of high octane emergency, between the more routine consultations.

I was in America recently and watched a documentary over there about a woman in India who was purportedly crying blood. To cut a long story very short, it turned out she was actually biting the inside of her cheek so hard that it bled, so she could use it to convince her family she was crying blood. Why? Because she’d suffered agonising stomach pains for years and no-one would take any notice of her. In the remote Indian village where she lived, it took the perceived threat of supernatural forces to make anyone notice her pain. The happy ending was that the doctors in the city realised what was happening, gave her a placebo for the crying (so her family were none the wiser about what she’d done) and operated to resolve her stomach pain.

Medical staff have to deal with all sorts of situations and it seems to me that as often as not the emotional and psychological needs of patients are just as demanding, if not more so, than the physical ones. I hope I’ve manged to capture that in A Highland Practice too. It’s got medical themes, of course, but ultimately it’s about people, friendships, love and the uniqueness of life in a rural community. And if you’re kind enough to download it, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did researching it.

Jo Bartlett

Books & Bank Holiday Treats

Great news from Sarah Lewis! More Eighties, the final book in her Eighties trilogy, is now available for pre-order.

My Eighties

The final book in my trilogy on Eighties’ popular culture ‘More Eighties’, out on 16th May, is now available for pre-order. See my website for more details. Those of you pre-ordering the Kindle version this weekend may also want to add ‘Your Eighties’ to your basket as it will be FREE for the entire bank holiday weekend (29th April to 1st May). There is no need to miss out if you haven’t got a Kindle. Simply download the Kindle conversion app to read ‘Your Eighties’ on PC, Mac and mobile.

Have a great weekend!

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Guest Post by Linda Huber

Read what led Linda Huber to The Saturday Secret, and why she chose Doctors Without Borders as the charity that would benefit.

A Lover of Books

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I am delighted to have Linda Huber on my blog today.  Her new book, ‘The Saturday Secret and other stories’ was published on the 15th February by Fabrian Books.  Profits from ebook and paperback sales of this collection are being donated to charity.

Linda has written a guest post for my blog.

The Saturday Secret and other stories

I’ve always been a ‘scribbler’ – I started aged seven when I did my writer’s badge in the Brownies, and I’ve never looked back. As a child, I wrote short then longer stories for children before the teenage phase of terrible poetry arrived, after which I went back to my children’s books – and I was still trying to write something publishable in the late nineties, when my mother challenged me to write a magazine story.

Once I realised that being published in a mag meant writing a story that would fit…

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The Year After You

Congratulations to Sarah Lewis. Something good came out of something so sad. What a lovely tribute to a friend.

My Eighties

Writing extensively about the Eighties means I sometimes have to be more analytical than reflective. Holding up a mirror is not enough. You have to examine things in microscopic detail. However, irrespective of whether I’m writing about an historic event, a backstage anecdote or a fond recollection, there is an underlying fundamental thread that often defies methodical analysis. The people involved in these events.

I could write reams on the political significance and worldwide implications of the fall of the Berlin Wall, but just one image of the revellers celebrating its demise atop the landmark, shortly before its collapse, says so much more than I ever could. The revelation, during my interview with Ranking Roger, of David Bowie turning delivery boy ahead of his Milton Keynes gig in 1983, to ensure Saxa had his cans of White Stripe, only serves to emphasise the star quality of the man behind the legend…

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