A CASTLE AND A CHILD

TRAVEL – PRAGUE

More pictures of St Vitus cathedral as I took rather a lot of them and it would be a shame not to share them.

They started to build it in 1344, so as you can see, it’s quite new! I can truthfully say this as it was finally finished in 1929 in time for the St Wenceslas jubilee. The style is Gothic, which is very popular for large churches as they look big and important. Even today you can look in awe and wonder how they built them without modern cranes and machinery.

HISTORY – ISABELLA OF SPAIN

Ferdinand is trying to reach Princess Isabella to marry her. Eventually, very late the small party of merchants arrive outside the castle of the Count of Trevino. It’s well guarded as the Count is ready for an attack, it’s also well known that he supports Isabella and will give sanctuary to Ferdinand.

Osama castle

(I’m not absolutely sure this is the right castle, but I like the picture and you get the general idea).

The merchant’s party are tired and with no money to buy a meal, they are hungry and thirsty too.  They shout for the drawbridge to be let down, but seeing a party of rough travellers, one of the soldiers pushes a boulder off the top of the battlements.  Ferdinand is almost crushed to death. Obviously, he wasn’t expected.

I told you this was exciting, didn’t I?

AFRICA FACTS

As this bounces out through space and into inboxes, I will be in Miami for the Reader’s Favorite Awards. The book that has won the gold medal is the second book in the Amie in Africa series “Amie and the Child of Africa.”

I got the idea for the story from a news item. On the night of 14-15 April 2014 Boko Haram a fundamentalist group abducted 276 schoolgirls from their school in Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria. As far as I know not all the girls have been reunited with their families.

In the first book, Amie loses Angelina the little orphan she adopts when the civil war breaks out and so I put the two ideas together. A fast page turning tale with lots of adventure – pure escapism – pun intended.

Till next time, take care.

Lucinda

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STREETS AND SECRECY

TRAVEL – PRAGUE

I don’t think of myself as a travel writer, so it’s always a tussle between noting down what I have seen and taking time to look at things. I didn’t keep a diary when we were in Prague, so I’m relying on my memory here and that’s a very dangerous thing to do.

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Many of the roads are quite wide and there are tram lines everywhere. We did take a short ride on one on the last day, and they are more fun than riding on a bus, but don’t ask me why – they just are.

Two views from the Charles Bridge.

HISTORY – ISABELLA OF SPAIN

Now we’re coming to another exciting bit. I left off when Isabella is in hiding but under protection and she has decided it’s time for Ferdinand to come and marry her, but he must be quick. Lots of people want to stop them.

ferdinands dad

 

But there is a problem – isn’t there always? King John of Aragon, Ferdinand’s dad has fallen on hard times and he doesn’t have enough money to fit out his son with all the clobber needed for a royal wedding. Sad eh?

That’s King John on the left.

Ferdinand 5

First though he tries to fool King Henry of Castille – remember he doesn’t want Isabella and Ferdinand to get married. So King John makes very noisy preparations to send a whole retinue to the court of Castille.

Meanwhile, a party of 6 merchants quietly leave for Valladolid which is where Isabella sits waiting.

That’s Ferdinand on the right. Can you see the family resemblance? No, I can’t either.  I just love that saying “Momma’s baby, Poppa’s maybe.”

AFRICA FACTS

There are a total of 54 countries on the African Continent, among which are the 5 poorest in the world –

  1. Central African Republic — GDP per capita: $656 (£535)
  2. Democratic Republic of Congo — GDP per capita: $784 (£639) …
  3. Burundi — GDP per capita: $818 (£667) …
  4. Liberia — GDP per capita: $882 (£719) …
  5. Niger — GDP per capita: $1,113 (£907) …

The two richest are Nigeria and South Africa followed by Egypt, Algeria and Angola. Much of this wealth is due to the minerals beneath the ground, especially the oil in Nigeria and a wide range including gold and diamonds in South Africa.

Maps often distort the size of Africa, this one is more realistic. This shows you how large it is in comparison to other places.

AFRICA REAL SIZE

Often I get carried away and forget to mention my books, but you can find them all here on my Amazon page,

https://www.amazon.com/Lucinda-E-Clarke/e/B00FDWB914

or click through from here to my web page.  https://lucindaeclarkeauthor.com

Whoops, just remembered – Unhappily Ever after my political satire is on sale for $/£0.99 until the end of the month. Picture Fairyland in chaos as the royals wallow in their misery and unhappy marriages and the Green Giant is sent from the Red Party to foment unrest among the happy peasants.

Till next time, take care

Lucinda

MEET MARK MOREY

I’ve lost count of the number of guests I’ve had on my blog, and I have not read all the books featured, but this week is different.

My guest is Mark Morey and I have read two of his books and thoroughly enjoyed them and the third, the one set in Japan is on my kindle and second in the queue to be read and I’m really looking forward to it.

I enjoy his stories as they are set in different countries and the first one that caught my eye was No Darkness as it was set in Zimbabwe.  But Let Mark tell you his own story.

MARK MOREY HEADSHOT

I hadn’t thought of writing fiction until I went to the local library to borrow a book, but couldn’t find anything which interested me.  By that stage I was tired of writing dry, technical dissertations, so I set myself the task of writing something more interesting.  It had to have interesting characters, and it had to have an interesting and unusual setting.  I thought authors better than me have written about many aspects of past and contemporary Western life, so I should tell a story far from that.

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My most recent novels please me the most.  No Darkness is set in my wife’s country of Zimbabwe, where we were married and had our honeymoon, and which has been through terrible times since then.  She and her people are the most wonderful people on this planet, and those good people don’t deserve what they’ve been through.  Nobody deserves what they have been through, but particularly not the people of Zimbabwe.  I have an insight into African culture and memories of my time there, which helped to write this story.  I hope those who read No Darkness will understand more about the tragedy of modern-day Africa.

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I like contemporary French music.  One of my favourite albums has a song ‘Dans Nos Souvenirs’ or In Our Memories.  I didn’t understand what it was about, until eventually I came across the Armenian Genocide of 1915.  I was quite shocked that I had never even heard of the first genocide, and I was sure that others would be the same.  Indeed, reviews have shown this is the case.  In Our Memories is currently under consideration for the UK school curriculum.

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The Syrian Civil War is complicated, and I set myself the task of writing Blood Never Sleeps about the rise and defeat of Islamic State in Syria.  For this I got the help of Syrian Kurds, who have translated my novel into Kurmanji Kurdish for use in their schools.  For Westerners, the stoicism of Kurds and Arabs under stress may seem a little distant at times, but this is how they are.  Even in battle, living or dying is in God’s hands, and if you die for a good cause then you will be a martyr.  But there is more to Blood Never Sleeps than battles and war.  These Kurds are aiming not for women’s equality, but for the total dismantling of the patriarchy.  I do thank Komutan Rodja Felat for allowing me to use her and her words in my story.  Also a big thank-you to ‘Clara Raqqah’!

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My country of Australia was shaped by the Pacific War against Japan.  My father and my uncle fought in this conflict, while my mother was terrified the Japanese would invade Australia and brutalise her.  At the time it seemed Japan would, but ultimately that was not their plan.  But how did a small nation decide to go to war against the rest of the world; a war they could never win?  After reading a crime novella set in pre-war Tokyo I was fascinated by the setting.  So Ketsumeidan opens in Asakusa, Tokyo in the year 1932, where forces seem determined to drag Japan to war.  I have been to Japan, and when I was younger I lived in Hong Kong and in Korea for a time, so I do understand the Asian way of thinking to a degree.  I have a friend who was born and raised in Japan, who helped me with aspects of Japanese culture.  Finally, a geisha helped me to get my geisha character right.  Ketsumeidan is the most truthful of these four novels.  Almost everything in Ketsumeidan actually happened, and wherever possible I used actual words of the people involved.  A letter by Shumei Okawa, the police interviews with Sada Abe, or the sad story of Chang Jiazhi (her real name was Zheng Pingru).  Zheng even had a Kenpeitai lieutenant as a friend.  It seemed like all the pieces were there waiting to be written, and all it needed was three, strong characters to bring this story to fruition.  For Australians and Americans, the war against Japan is well-known but not necessarily understood; while those in other parts of the world might be surprised that this brutal conflict was being fought two years before Hitler invaded Poland.  But Ketsumeidan is not about war and battles, rather individuals going against the flow because it was still possible that war wasn’t inevitable, and then when war happened; those who truly loved their country had to stop it from destroying itself.

All Mark’s books are available in e-book and print on demand paperback, from Amazon, Apple iBooks and other online retailers.

https://www.amazon.com/Mark-Morey/e/B00I3U8V2S/

Thank you Mark for being my guest this week. I hope lots of readers will check out your books and enjoy them.

 

 

 

BETS AND BEGGARS

TRAVEL – PRAGUE

Most of the statues first put up on the Charles Bridge between 1600 and 1800 have met a sorry end due to wind and weather, but they are being restored.

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One statue in particular is of St John of Nepomuk. There are all kinds of stories about him – and it is rumoured the tales surrounding his being thrown off the bridge for one reason or another was to make him important enough to become the first Bohemian Catholic saint.

photo Sergey Ashmarin

It’s said if you rub the brass cross at the bottom of his statue you will either a) return to Prague or b) have your wish granted.

Personally, I think they are hedging their bets and I don’t think I rubbed the right bit! There was quite a queue. (DH walked right on past) but us writers take no chances – you never know!

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HISTORY – ISABELLA OF SPAIN

Next to arrive with a marriage proposal was the brother of the King of France.

Alfonso V Portugal

 

Hot on his heels is Alphonso V of Portugal giving it another try.

He really doesn’t look that exciting does he?

Isabella turns them all down. She is still determined to marry Ferdinand of Aragon and they haven’t even met!

Ferdinand young

 

OK, you have to admit Ferdinand on the right looks better than Alphonso and they are roughly the same age. A bit sulky – but maybe the painter was on a go slow?

But King Henry sends her a letter (or something similar) telling her she must marry the King of Portugal or he’s going to lock her up.

She hides out in a town called Ocana where the local people like her.

Will this girl get any peace?

AFRICA FACTS

Like many who grew up in Europe or America I had most of the perks growing up – a telephone, car, a roof that didn’t leak, indoor bathroom and food on the table. We were not wealthy by any means but basic needs were met.

I also learned a little about the world from newspapers, magazines and much later the television.

grayscale photo of little boy

Photo by Dazzle Jam on Pexels.com

So, when I first arrived in Africa – Kenya – it was such a shock. The poverty, the shanty towns, the beggars, the half-clothed children. There was also the sharp contrast with the suited business men, the fashionable ladies – the wealth gap was enormous. I reacted as many a tourist would – at first though, I did learn not to give to the beggars – do it once and in milliseconds there is a crowd with their hands out.  I also learned to pay the protection money each time I left the car – refuse and risk four flat tyres, or scratched paintwork.

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The day my attitudes changed was when I saw a wee scrap of a child holding a brush, tin of polish and a piece of cardboard. He offered me a shoe shine for cents.

I agreed and every time I went into town I paid him to clean my shoes. Now, I had less respect for the beggars, I could harden my heart to those who wanted something for nothing.  It’s something most expats learn sooner rather than later.

Have you read any of my books yet? Want to take a peep? Why not click on this button.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lucinda-E-Clarke/e/B00FDWB914

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Till next time take care.

SPIRES AND SUPERMARKETS

TRAVEL – PRAGUE

While I had booked several trips in Prague, having lost my notes, I’ll have to stretch my brain here! But that’s fine, there isn’t a lot left to stretch.

We went for a walk to orientate ourselves.

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I noticed that much of the architecture is what I call European.

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Prague lies on either side of the Vitava river and is called the City of a Hundred Spires. I suspect this might be because there are a lot of buildings with spires on them.

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HISTORY – ISABELLA OF SPAIN

Isabella now takes time out to do a bit of travelling round Castile with her brother, then pops into a convent for a bit of R & R. While there she gets the news that her bother has been poisoned.

She rushes off to see him, but he’s fine. She goes back to the convent but the next day he is dead. The assassins got the date muddled.

Isabella stays in the convent of Santa Clara and prays a lot she is very upset – well you would be, wouldn’t you?

AFRICA FACTS

Another observation about coming home on leave when you’ve been working abroad.

All of the places we lived in before we moved further south to South Africa were not very first world. For example, in Libya it was impossible to buy fresh milk, so we purchased powdered milk in tins. We had one choice of cheese, one of butter and most other products – no ready meals, not a lot that was familiar or hygienic. I only ever bought whole beef fillets – which I then had minced by the butcher, or cut into chunks. Goat, camel and chicken carcasses lying on the butchers’ floor looked so unappetising.

assorted bottle and cans
Photo by Fancycrave.com on Pexels.com

Back in England in the supermarket I stood rooted to the floor. Firstly, the sights, sounds, bright lights and piped music overwhelmed my senses. Secondly, I couldn’t cope with the range of produce. Butter: salted, unsalted, English, Dutch, French, Irish. Large sized, small sized, foil wrapped, paper wrapped. It was all too much for me. Kind people stopped to ask me if I was feeling ill?

grocery cart with item
Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

We desperately missed our pork products and often on landing would rush to the airport cafeteria and order bacon sandwiches and a glass of real milk. Usually we were feeling very sick by the time we climbed into the hired car! Makes you wonder doesn’t it?

Lots more information about living abroad in any of my books wrapped up in exciting, fast moving stories.

http://lucindaeclarkeauthor.com

Till next time, take care.

 

 

 

HOTEL AND HOUSEKEEPERS

TRAVEL – WELCOME TO PRAGUE

I so often cringe when I read the ‘proper’ travel blogs as mine are simply ramblings of a geriatric couple ‘sticky-beaking’ (one of DH’s favourite sayings) as we amble from place to place.

Overall impressions? Touristy. Crowded. Well Oganized. Pretty. Reasonably priced.

DH had booked an all in package of flights and hotel – and I am in real trouble here as I don’t think I kept a diary this time – well I can’t find it anyway. I think I was just too tired overall and decided to soak up the sights.

PRAGUE HOTEL 1

 

We drove up to Barcelona to catch the flight to Prague and booked into the Red and Blue Designer Hotel.  It didn’t look much from the outside and I thought this was rather a strange name, but everything was either blue, or red. It didn’t look much from the outside but it was nice inside.

 

PRAGIE HOTEL 2

We had a blue room which was enormous. It overlooked the park and had coffee making facilities which always makes me happy – though breakfast was included. We got in quite late at night by taxi from the airport so just in time for a coffee and bed.

 

 

HOTEL BFAST ROOM

There was one thing I’ve never come across before. There was a little note about the pillows they put on the bed – the size, density etc. We were asked to tell them if we wanted harder or softer pillows or a different dimension. I’ve seen room furnishings on sale in Hong Kong, but never asked what density I required my pillow!

 

HISTORY – ISABELLA OF SPAIN

Isabel young

Last time we left the young princess waiting for the arrival of her new bridegroom – an ugly, fat, dirty old man who was vain and vindictive and supposedly celibate too. Just what every young girl dreams of!

His family was ecstatic about this high-class marriage and Don Pedro Girona sets off with a huge party of people to come and marry the girl he never thought he would get his paws on.

But either miracles do happen or Isabella prayed extra hard because, guess what, at Villarubia, on his triumphal journey to Madrid, Don Pedro is taken ill after supper and dies!!  Saved again.

 

AFRICA FACTS

Coming home on leave after maybe two years spent in another country, was a really strange feeling. Your attitudes and mindsets had changed. Expats had a different view of the world and had to be very careful what they said. I remember putting my foot in it when I mentioned we had help in the house.

My friends were horrified my Ex and I were perpetuating the colonial system. I didn’t know how to explain why it was expected, and even demanded, by the locals. As a foreigner, you were not playing your part if you didn’t employ local people to help in the house and the garden.

I had many a discussion with hopeful maids – or should we call them housekeepers now? – that I honestly didn’t need dozens of them working, one was enough. At one point I caved in and employed two. In my case it didn’t mean me sitting round having cups of tea all day – it meant that I could cope with two jobs at once, including the weekends – teaching and running a riding school.

WRS sign up 3 APRIL 2018

The discussion nearly turned into a mini riot in our local pub as we tried to justify a different way of life in a different culture. While we might have large houses, fair sized gardens and some had pools, most of us worked very hard – especially the men who had to cope with a lot of frustration. It was usually impossible to work without backhanders, fawning on local and powerful officials and waiting for the ‘fixer’ who promised something three weeks ago. Again, the remarks from friends that you shouldn’t perpetuate the system of corruption was not understood.

I’m hoping to launch Amie book 5 soon, until then, if you want to catch up this is the link to my Amazon page.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lucinda-E-Clarke/e/B00FDWB914

Till next time, take care.

 

PURE SELF INDULGENCE

Now I hope I’m not too spammy on my blogs, aiming to entertain rather than scream ‘buy my books, buy my books’. But usually on the first Monday of the month I write about general things or have a little rant. That gets it out of my system for the next four weeks. I’m a little behind this September what with having a birthday an’ all and many kind people to thank for their good wishes last Monday.

It was a special occasion.  DH organized a surprise dinner with lots of friends which was amazing. I got a new iPad – except I can’t work out how to transfer my old stuff onto the new one.

Yes, I turned that Biblical number – you know which one that is so don’t pretend. 😊

I also heard the amazing news on the day before that Amie and the Child of Africa had won a gold medal in the Readers’ Favorite Awards AND Amie Stolen Future won a silver. I was over the moon.

A lot has been said that these awards are worthless, and they do nothing for sales. I can’t say that either Amie books has hit the bestseller lists this last week (well I could, but it wouldn’t be true!). For me though the worth of the awards is an affirmation that someone, somewhere believed my books are worth reading. That to me is worth its weight in gold, or silver. I so often fret about the final product.

I was the same with my media work. The moment I finished the final mix on my video and television programmes I wanted to make them better, change bits, work on them, longer. Of course, with broadcast and event deadlines this was never possible. I would shudder when clients watched the final product sure they would find fault, but they seldom did. Then I worried they were too polite to say so!

There was one exception but the changes needed to be made because one of the organizations featured in the programme had been charged with fraud – hardly our fault. The big problem was it happened just before the banqueting ceremony when the film was to be aired. We were behind the scenes re-editing as everyone else was having their dinner!

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(OK, SO THIS IS AN OLD PIC OF ME – YOU NOTICED RIGHT?)

What I started to say was that while so many authors are shrieking with joy as they publish their latest book, I would prefer to sneak it out quietly hoping everyone will notice it without me mentioning it at all!

But that doesn’t happen does it?

I think I have finally decided on the title for the next book in the Amie series – book 5. Hopefully out in October.

I’ve also completed two more shorter books, back stories to Amie. One stars Samantha her sister with her boyfriend Gerry on a holiday from hell,

Amie Back Story - Sam-Gerry

And the other is all about Ben growing up in Africa, with some interesting facts many might not be aware of.

Amie Back Story - Ben

They should be out soon.

Till next week when I’ll be back to normal with the travel, history and updates, take care.

Lucinda