City of Secrets

Home or away, summer or winter, nothing beats a good book and I’m currently reading the latest book; City of Secrets by Misha Herwin. It’s a book in which you can lose yourself and become immersed in a tale where dragons and gargoyles gossip. I asked Misha, the author of the Dragonfire trilogy and Clear Gold to tell me more about her new book…

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First and foremost, thank you Barry for hosting me on your blog and giving me the opportunity to talk about my new book “City of Secrets”.

“City of Secrets” is a fantasy adventure aimed at the 8-12 market, but I think that anyone who reads Harry Potter or Philip Pullman will enjoy the book. Like the Oxford of “His Dark Materials” is a place of plots and dark magic, where dragons and gargoyles gather on the rooftops at night to gossip and exchange news.

Making a living in such a city is not easy, but Letty Parker is a resourceful girl who has learned to tread her way carefully through areas ruled by rival gangs and to avoid the Barbary eels who lurk in shadowy corners. Her business, selling pies, is going well − until the street children, who are her friends and customers, start to go missing.

Letty is determined to find out what has happened to them and when the authorities prove less than helpful, for no one about children who are poor, she gets together with her friends, Jebediah Hill, the leader of a gang of pickpockets, and the mysterious Gabriel and they hatch a plan…

This is the first of the “Adventures of Letty Parker” and I’ve had great fun writing it. Bristol is a city I know well and love. I was brought up there and have used some of my favourite places, like The Christmas Steps, in the story. Transferring streets and terraces that really exist to my fantasy world is something I enjoy as I can build on what I know yet make it darker and scarier with a touch of sinister magic.

What I like about Letty Parker is her courage and independence. She might be scared, but she’ll do it anyway and not let any so called authority stand in her way. She comes from a line of great role models, Pippi Longstocking, Anne of Green Gables, the Chalet School Girls, Katniss Everdeen and Captain Nancy of “Swallows and Amazons” to name but a few.

We need more of these girls out there. Girls who are prepared to stand up for themselves, say what they think, yet at the same time have a keen sense of what is right and wrong and a fierce loyalty to their friends. This, I hope is the essence of the “Adventure of Letty Parker” series.

And it is not all about the girls. Letty’s friends: Jeb, his side-kick, Mango and Gabriel, her half-human, half-Nephilim guardian, play their parts.

They are all characters that simply could not be ignored. My first view of Letty is at sunset on the wharf at the Bristol docks. “A dark tangle of masts and rigging was etched against the sky and the setting sun stained the water red.” A faint breeze lifts the hair at the back of her neck…

From that moment she was fully formed. The plot came next and needed refining and working on. Next came a great deal of editing and then, finally, Letty Parker was ready to go out into the world.

If you want to know more about her adventures then “City of Secrets” is available on order at bookshops, in paperback and e book at the following places, click the links below.

Barnes and Noble                                Amazon                                           Booktopia e-book

You can find Misha’s Blog here           For information about Penkhull Press click here

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Shadows On The Grass

In November I was pleased to asked by Misha M. Herwin to be part of her blog tour following the launch of her third novel, Shadows On The Grass. For those of you unfamiliar with Misha’s work, she’s a prolific writer who writes both young adult literature and mainstream novels. She’s better known for her YA trilogy, Dragonfire and the popular Clear Gold series. Her mainstream work has included the time-slip novel House of Shadows and the keenly observant Picking Up The Pieces and this month saw the release of her third novel, Shadows On The Grass..shadows-on-the-grass

My first observation of this new novel is that it’d be foolish to assume this is solely women’s literature, it’s most definitely not. Yes, the action is centred around several women but that’s where the similarity with other women’s fiction ends. Set in 1960’s Bristol the story segues easily from 1965 to past events in time building the characters piece by piece, while also drawing on historical events.

The narrative belongs to three generations of women struggling to come to terms with their desires, their identity and their Polish heritage. Mimi and Marianna grow up in turmoil, exiled by the Russians and desperate to retain their identities they end up in Bristol. Mimi is a character that’s difficult to warm to, she’s cold and demanding and throughout her life she shows herself to be a selfish mother. Her old friend and cousin, the Royal Marianna seems to be her saving grace but scratch the surface and there’s a darker side to the princess.

For me the star of the novel is Hannah, Mimi’s downtrodden daughter, all she’s ever wanted is acceptance from her mother and now Mimi is dying she spends her days tending to the ungrateful woman out of her sense of duty. Her husband doesn’t help things with his constant need to smother her and protect her, in his defence he’s so ineffectual that he really cannot comprehend that his cloying love is holding his wife in emotional chains.

Hannah’s daughter, Kate, is a rebellious teenager, trying unsuccessfully to throw off the , shackles of family life and her Polish heritage. Her young life is centred around her desire to become a woman. She’s flagrantly sexual in her demeanour but initially afraid to cast off the restraints of her Catholic upbringing. At times she’s as caustic as the bitter lemon she drinks and unforgiving in her attitude to her mother. Possibly this is a trait she’s inherited from Hannah as she in turn inherited it from Kate’s grandmother, Mimi.

Historically there’s passages in the text that stop you in your tracks and propel you towards Google, in a bid to research further the repression of the Polish people in Russia. Thus giving you a better understanding of Mimi’s internal rage and Mariana’s misplaced humility: she’s an enigma and although fictional I’d love to read her memoir.

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My favourite thing about reading anything written by Misha Herwin is her attention to detail and the ability to create sublime sentences. You’d be forgiven for thinking that she pondered over every line crafting and redeveloping it to make it perfect, but I doubt she’s that pretentious; she naturally has the knack of writing a line that makes the reader stop and read it again before continuing with the story. Lines like, ‘Exhaustion fed on her, like some malevolent spirit; it sucked the words from her mouth, the thoughts from her brain.’ and ‘Her fingers were laden with rings, huge stones set in gold, rubies like gouts of blood, sapphires dark as despair.’ make Herwin’s work a joy to digest. And my favourite , ‘she struggled to avoid using the surname that rattled like pebbles in a tin.’ perfectly sums up the inability of an English tongue to pronounce a Polish name.

If you’re looking for a good read, maybe this summer’s beach holiday book, check out Shadows On The Grass available from Amazon now.

For more information on Misha and her work, follow her blog here

Visit Tim Diggles’ blog here for more of his photography projects.