Greetings from my attic in the Blue Mountains, where spring has sprung!
As a keen gardener, I always look forward to spring as a wonderful time of rejuvenation, and reward for all the hard work put into the garden throughout the year. It is also a time when familiar visitors return and drop in for a chat…
Not all of you would have seen the email below about a recent literary award. Because all of you are in some way part of this and have contributed to the success, I wanted to share it with you here:
EXCITING NEWS, my friends!
The Curious Case of the Missing Head – book 5 in the Jack Rogan Mysteries series – has just won a major international literary award in the US! The book was awarded a GOLD MEDAL in the 2020 Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards (Fiction/Thriller – Conspiracy category).
This would not have happened without your ongoing support, and makes keeping the lights on late at night up here in the attic worthwhile!
THE NEXT BOOK
In my last newsletter, I introduced you to the subject matter of the next book, and we spoke about the extensive research carried out in Russia last year, and the many iconic places I visited to get a ‘feel’ for the locations featured in the book. I believe this is hugely important for a writer who takes authenticity seriously and tries to convey not only the characters and historic facts accurately, but wants to describe the locations and settings used in the storylines as realistically as possible.
As the book is nearing completion, I believe the time has arrived to reveal the title, and share this important aspect of the book with you. Needless to say, the title is always critical, and it takes a lot of thought and soul-searching to finally come up with one that works, and accurately reflects the ‘spirit’ of the book and sends all the right ‘signals’ to the readers. For me, selecting a title is an ongoing, organic process that unfolds as I write the book and it begins to ‘speak’ to me. Usually, the title then somehow suggests itself and you know when it’s right. That was once again the case here. So, drumroll please…
The title of the next book which, as you know, is book 6 in the Jack Rogan Mysteries series, is THE LOST SYMPHONY. Intrigued? I hope so!
I am pleased to tell you that the book is definitely ‘on track’ for publication this year. Once again, this is a ‘big read’ with fast-paced action, multi-layered storylines, many exciting new characters, and some familiar ones you already know well. Together, we will visit many fabulous locations like the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul in St Petersburg, The Novo-Tikhvinsky Monastery and the stunning Church on Blood of All Saints, both in Yekaterinburg, and get a ‘feel’ for these spectacular locations that have played such an important part in Russian history. We will travel to Paris, London and the Vatican, and stop in Fatima, in Portugal, along the way, to meet some fascinating characters who will keep you up at night, and make you turn the pages!
There’s no better way to illustrate this, than to share a brief extract from chapter 3 of the book with you now:
The Prophet of Salvation: St Petersburg: December, 1894
Russia at that time was gripped by a fascination bordering on obsession with the occult, mysticism and everything supernatural, from telepathy, hypnotism to fortune-telling and chiromancy. All kinds of questionable practitioners, self-proclaimed preachers and prophets and ‘mediums’ – many of them opportunistic charlatans – appeared as part of a fervent spiritual searching that swept across Russia like a plague and engulfed the educated classes during what became known as Russia’s Silver Age.
Igor Borodin was a cunning, drunken rogue who had spent time in jail for fraud, rape and seducing a minor. Tall, with a grey beard and penetrating eyes that seemed to look straight through you and a deep voice commanding authority, he was an imposing figure. After his release from jail, he reinvented himself and became a popular preacher who claimed to be able to summon the spirits of the dead and communicate with them. He called himself the “Prophet of Salvation,” and soon, he had a dedicated circle of followers, many of them impressionable young society women who fell under his spell and were prepared to do almost anything for him. Rumours of unspeakable debauchery and drunken orgies held during his séances soon circulated throughout St Petersburg, yet despite all this, or perhaps because of it, many flocked to his sermons promising salvation.
Borodin was a gifted, almost zealot-like speaker with a magnetic personality who was able to whip up passion and excitement wherever he went. In Olga Gutnik, a stunning, ruthless Polish woman without morals, he had found a kindred spirit, and soon a successful partnership was forged to trick the gullible and exploit the desperate, looking for a spiritual experience. Olga, a former actress who had also spent time in jail for soliciting and fraud, became the medium, and Borodin the preacher-prophet interpreting her ‘messages.’ The Borodin séances became fashionable and famous, and people were prepared to pay a small fortune for an invitation to participate.
The setting for these séances was a large, vaulted underground cellar in an old, dilapidated house on the outskirts of St Petersburg. The house provided an almost stage-like, theatrical backdrop to the spectacular séances full of ingenious props and clever, concealed special effects that were accepted without question as real by those who wanted to believe, and did.
Borodin preyed on the vulnerabilities, weaknesses and hopes of his subjects and tailored the séances accordingly. He interviewed potential subjects and their friends before each séance. This was done for the sole purpose of obtaining information to be used later during the séance by the medium in her answers as proof of her ability to access the spirit world, and summon spirits at will to answer questions and provide guidance and advice.
So successful and sought-after were these séances that one had to book them several weeks, often months in advance. Many came to ask questions and seek comfort from their dear departed, others came out of curiosity and for entertainment and debauchery for which the séances were well known. Borodin and Olga had something for everyone.
I hope you enjoyed briefly meeting Igor and Olga who, I am sure, will entertain you in unexpected ways that are bound to surprise you…
Events have once again overtaken us, and the popular Hooked on Classics segment about Jules Verne I have promised you for some time now, will have to wait a little longer. I thought it was more important to tell you about the next book rather than explore another iconic writer. We will do this a little later; promise!
However, we certainly cannot do without our Reader Of The Month segment, can we?
READER OF THE MONTH
Once again, a big ‘thank you’ to you all for writing to me so diligently. As you know, I treasure the contact with my readers, and do my best to reply to you all whenever possible. That said, somehow every month one little email stands out and just has to be shared. This month, it was a delightful email I received from Kathleen about reading to her two year old grandson. This is what she had to say:
“I am writing to say thank you so much for all the writing.
I have read all the books and love them. With the pandemic and lockdown, I have started to read the books to my 2 yr. old grandson. He so far liked the first one… I even do voices …lol.
It has been slow but we will get through them together.
Thank you again, you have made bedtime storytime amazing and full of adventure.
Thank you so much,
I know if you want to be successful, you have to try to appeal to a broad readership. However, I didn’t realise that this included two year olds … Obviously, you can’t start too early, can you? Thank you, Kathleen, I’ve learnt something new here, and that’s why you are my Reader of The Month of August.
Finally, my friends, just another little reminder about the FREE Starter Library which can be downloaded right now by visiting my website and following the prompts.
STAY SAFE, STAY CHEERFUL, and please STAY IN TOUCH.
We are all in this together, and together we will get through this!