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…

City of Secrets1 (2) (1)

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

Why the Name Change?

I have noticed that my blog posts have changed and are less about the music playing whilst I write them and more about my new life in Italy. I’m certain that this is because it’s my life here in Italy that influences most of what I write about. Back in the UK it was things like lost parrots and badly spelled signs and the occasional run down of the Eurovision.

So why, Being Britalian, firstly because I thought it was a nice play on words being British and in Italy and second, because of my birthright I’ll always be a Brit in Italy and never an Italian. But as I’m adopting many of the Italian ways of life as time passes I feel quasi-Italian, so I guess I feel 70% Brit and 30% Italian.

My posts will still contain a mix of sensible info-blurb and mindless bonkers observations as before, and you can be sure that my musical tastes will still be mentioned as hardened readers already know my iPod is always on shuffle whenever I’m working. As I write this Contact in Red Square from the Plastic Letters album by Blondie is playing.

Another reason is I’m having an hiatus from writing for Italy magazine, (I don’t have the time at the moment) but I am putting together notes for a non-fiction account of the why’s and wherefores of my move here that may grow up to be a book and Bieng Britalian is the working title. This project is of course subject to vetting from the Renegade’s back in Stoke on Trent, who will advise, critique and inspire me should they feel the idea is worthy of a potential readership.


So I’ll leave it for today with a photograph taken in the lane yesterday showing that despite today being the first day of spring, it had arrived earlier here in our corner of Abruzzo.


In cucina con…

Today as I sauntered through the book department of the centro comerciale, in Lanciano, I came across the recipe-slash-celebrity-cook-book section. The Italian’s have their fair share of these books fronted by a smiling chef promising you easy ways to prepare wonderful dishes. As I studied the covers, I spotted a familiar face. A well known multi-lined, some may say craggy, other’s may say handsome; me, I’m indifferent, face..

The celebrity face belonged to none other than Gordon Ramsay. Now I hear you say, “Well as he’s so popular, his book may have been translated into Italian, it’s not unheard of for best sellers to be…” I’ll stop you there and explain something.

This book was created solely for the Italian market, it’s called, In Cucina con Gordon Ramsay, (in the kitchen with Gordon Ramsay). I flicked through it and all the recipes are Italian styled, carpaccio of sole with olives, pasta filled with proscuitto crudo – you get the idea. At first I’m impressed that he has managed to come up with a new market to plunder, or rather his agent and publishing company did and he just put his name and face to it for extra income.

off on a tangent moment: I know of a professional chef who was employed to come up with a book of recipes, write to text for the book and actually cook the dishes that were photographed for the content. The book was then packaged with a celebrity chef as the figure head and quoted as the author. All the celebrity did was write a 200 page forward and the actual chef got a six word thank you in the acknowledgements. Ghost writing at its worst, the celebrity made a packet and the chef made a pittance.

back to the subject in mind: I was surprised at the Italian recipes, and wondered why an Italian public would buy a book by an English chef when there are a plethora of Italian chefs publishing their own manuals.


Photo taken as a screenshot © unknown

I have to say the book was well put together, the photography was nicely executed and I was enjoying flicking through it when I came to a page that had a recipe that made me smile.

The dish was called, sandwich di patate con salsa pomodoro. which translated is a chip butty with tomato ketchup, as the picture also pointed out. Good on you Gordon.


You couldn’t make it up.

Yet Another ‘I Started a New Life’ Book?

Back in 2010 while I was on holiday in Italy, the Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajökull erupted spewing ash into the atmosphere and grounding planes. This meant that we couldn’t fly home at the time we had booked to do so: no great hardship to be honest. We rescheduled with Ryanair to fly back six-days later from Rome, which meant a coach journey from Pescara in Abruzzo to the capital. I blogged about this back in the day, the link is: The Purple Shirt and Carrier Bag Drama. So were stuck in Italy and we decide to spend the time looking at houses for sale, I wont bore you with the details of the house hunting, but suffice to say it was an experience like no other. The result of our being stranded is that we found a nice little house in a rural location and agreed to buy it.

I was telling a friend about my experience of purchasing a property in Italy and the restoration that will need to take place to bring our little piece of Italy up to a comfortable and habitable standard. “What you need to do,” my friend said, “is write a book about it.” I shook my head and responded that there’s already a multitude of books out there and is the world ready for yet another, I started a new life in Italy book? I’ve read so many of these books, some tell of restoration of ancient vineyards, others talk about reconstructing ruins into remarkable palazzos, (actually the plural should be palazzi), but the one thing they all seem to do is romanticise their story. I know Tim Parks’ books tend to record a more honest account of his life in Italy, but to be brutally honest I find his style dull so gave up after his first book.


It’s this romantic notion that starting a new life in Italy that the readers seem to want. No one wants to hear about your fight to get the water company to realise that as your house once had a fully functioning bathroom and kitchen there must be a pipe underground connected to the newly installed water meter. (Yes we’ve had an on-going debate about this with our water company, who say the house has never had a water supply, despite them fitting the new meter within days of us buying the place). But my friend argues that with my comedic writing style I could write a different kind of I started a new life in Italy book. I ask why he thinks people would be interested and says that because of my ability to do or say the wrong thing, it’d make a more refreshing read, rather than endless passages of descriptions of olive groves and old ladies clad in black. I smile and think back to one of the incidents, again blogged previously as How a simple vowel. “Surely,” I say, “People want books with practical advice.” My friend then points out that the people who purchase these books are looking for escapism, they want to hear about the authors dilemmas but they also want to believe in the prospect that life in Italy is as idyllic as the Dolmio adverts.

I’m not sure, maybe when I’m there I’ll keep a diary for a few months and re-read any blog entries I post and if I think my musings are worthy of a book, then I’ll decide what to do, until then it’ll be onwards and upwards with my fictional book, ‘52’ and concentrating on those non-fiction magazine features that should get my undivided attention, for it’s those pieces that will be paying for the new windows for la nostra casa in abruzzo.