Month: April 2016

Rachael de Moravia – Not just a military wife

NEWS FROM THE HOME FRONT

EXTRACT

On ceramic plates and cupcakes

There is a body in the hall. I step over it when I open the front door. I wrestle it aside so I can put little shoes – sizes five, seven and ten – in the cupboard. The corresponding feet are innocent and skip over the dead weight. I kneel beside it. It’s cold to the touch and I wonder how long it’ll be here this time.

Jon is on two days’ notice to deploy. He’s been on two days’ notice for ten days, his body armour guarding our house. It stands upright, to attention, waiting to be made flesh. My husband’s blood and breath will bring it to life. I hate it, but I examine it – I want to make it less human.

It’s made of a densely-woven metallic fabric. The layers are laminated together for strength, designed to resist stabs and slashes. It’s engineered to catch and deform bullets, to absorb their destructive energy. There are thick, contoured ceramic plates which slip into pockets positioned over vital organs; extra protection for the neck and shoulders, heart and lungs, abdomen, spine and lower back.

The ceramic plates are smooth and heavy and I try to figure out which piece goes where, like a grotesque jigsaw. Once complete, it looks enormous, too large to fit a human. I think of the statues in Florence, the colossal representations of men, and I think of Michelangelo scratching away at the marble, adding muscles and veins. This armour looks big enough for David, I decide.

I am compelled to try it on, but I struggle to lift it, so I lay it gently down and try to crawl inside. I tuck my head and arms in, and as I sit up it slides onto my shoulders. It compresses my chest so I can’t fill my lungs properly and my breathing becomes shallow. I pick up the helmet and notice that Jon has written his name and blood group in permanent ink across the front. I put it on and do up the chinstrap. I’m bulletproof, but I don’t feel safe.

I have to write this feeling, so my enhanced body and I lurch for the laptop so we can describe how we feel. Jon comes home to find me sitting at the kitchen table wearing every scrap of kit that he left in the hall, weeping over the keyboard.

“Are you going somewhere?” he asks.

———————————————-

Rachael de Moravia is a military wife, her husband is a Flight Lieutenant  in the British Royal Air Force, but that isn’t all she is. She is also a mother, an author, a poet and a journalist. And whilst she is all these things, when at home in the RAF camp she is defined and known by who her husband is. News From the Home Front is Rachaels memoirs of her life, living not only as a military wife but as a creative individual with a passion for writing.

De Moravia met her husband at 18 years old when they were at university. They had both already planned their lives out; she wanted to be a journalist, and he wanted to be in the air force. Both managed to fulfil these desires.

She found it difficult to conform to the stereotype of a military wife and still be this creative independent person. She describes her home life as a secret — having over two thousand followers on Twitter and none had any idea who her husband. Just who her husband is can completely change the way people treat Rachael, as they “don’t know what they would say to a military wife.” When Rachael first moved to the RAF Base where she now lives, her neighbour introduced herself by her husband and his rank and was more concerned by who de Moravia’s husband was then who she was. It’s a very different way of life and this is what Rachael explores in her book.

The book is a look at  women’s role in a patriarchal society but also a window into a very private life formed through Rachael’s correspondence with writer Rachel Cusk.

If you want to support Rachael in releasing the first edition of her books, follow the link below.

https://unbound.co.uk/books/news-from-the-home-front

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

Second book in the Divine Cities series, City of Blades continues the story of the divine and brings the reader to the uncivilised land of Voortyashtan, once home of Voortya – divinity of war and destruction. And it seems like someone thinks she may still be alive.

Similar to the first book in the series City of Stairs; City of Blades starts with a possible murder. General Turyin Mulaghesh is brought of retirement to tour the world and solve problems for President Shara. One of Shara’s trusted intelligence agents has gone missing and so Turyin must uncover all the secrets of Fort Thinadeshi is this strange and uncivilised land in order to determine the fate of Sumitra Choudry.

A fantasy story set in a world crafted in the previous story Bennett, this second installment is brilliant for very different reasons to the first. I rant and I rave about the ability of writers to build believable characters in most of my reviews, because I think it is a key part of a good book but this book makes me joyous with the depth of background and emotion each character is given. Whilst City of Stairs amazed me through it’s story and the vast world built, City of Blades managed to connect me to each and every character in such a way that I empathised with their pain.

By the time I finished the book I was left emotionally drained. I couldn’t put the book down so I was tense, scared, amazed and confused for about six or seven hours straight. Bennett’s lack of fear of killing off key characters lends to the craft of this book. As readers we are actually forced to feel true sorrow when a character which is such an integral part of Turyin’s journey is developed only to be killed accidently and tragically; the death is particularly tragic because it came from one person deciding to be brave for once. With every ache and pain, every grievous memory of previous wars that Turyin has to suffer, I suffered with her.

As a portrayal of real life, the author recreates the emotions of not only how war affects the soldiers – as we see through General Mulaghesh and the soldiers in Fort Thinadeshi (e.g Pandey at the death of a loved one), he shows how the war affects the lands and the people involved. More poignantly he poses questions on how actions in war are identified and whether those who commit these acts can ever forgive their past, he focusses these thoughts through Turyin during her time in both the Battle of Bulikov and her time in the Yellow Company. And despite all the terrible things she has done and horrendous acts she has committed, we still root for Turyin because for all her flaws, Bennett shows the constant war in her head- trying to the right thing, and still keeping as many of those under her command alive. She treats them like her children and refers to them as such in many occasions.

Bringing his well planned espionage back into the fray, Bennett continues his themes of intrigue and corrupt deeds with the madness of Sumitra Choudry and the wishes of select few who wish to resurrect Voortya, or at least remnants of her power. Of course, bringing the divine of war and destruction is definitely not approved by everyone and here Turyin is key to preventing the end of all things. Above all, all she wants is to make things matter.

At a faster pace than the first book — most likely due to the reader already having a basic understanding of the world and it’s makeup — Bennett ramps up the action fairly fast, but carefully ensures that nothing is given away before time. Some clues are given but these are few and far between, leaving us as much in the dark as Turyin herself. Bennett makes sure we pay attention to all the details for fear of missing out on something vital later in the story – he doesn’t write fluff fillers in this book, everything leads or links to some other part of plot or reasoning, and so he creates a web of stories where vibrations bounce between lives.

If you enjoyed City of Stairs, then this book will only bring you further into the web of the Divine Cities series and you can join the eager crowd of those waiting for the next in installment in the series. By far a better book than the first, Bennett clearly knows when he is on to something good when the beautiful creation that was City of Stairs leads to a thrilling and capturing sequel such as City of Blades. Time to look up ways to start a campaign. We have high expectations and we want more!

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

 

An Interview With Kim Fleet

12 minutes with Kim Fleet, author of Paternoster.

How did you come up with the idea of Paternoster?

The previous books that I’ve written have all been murder mysteries rather than straight crimes and someone challenged me to write, if you like, a ‘proper’ crime story set in Cheltenham with a proper detective and clues and red herrings. And I thought I have absolutely no idea how to do this. But then I thought, well I wonder if I could give this a go. I do read quite a lot of crimes, so I thought ‘okay, let’s see how this works out’ and I just started with a huge piece of paper on the dining table and a pack of coloured crayons and I thought of everything that was interesting about Cheltenham. Just to look for places where murky things might happen or places that seem so very very respectable and wholesome and I quite like to subvert things so I write down all sorts of things about Cheltenham and then I thought ‘okay, which ones really excite me’ and I was really interested in the regency architecture and the development of Cheltenham as a spa town. I really liked the idea of all these elegant ladies and gentlemen coming to take the spa waters, and underneath that there might be a bit of murk that I could exploit in a crime story.

I then had to start thinking about what the contemporary timeline would be. I came up with my idea for a detective. She’s a private investigator, deliberately not a police officer because the police have very strict rules on what you are allowed to do and I wanted her to be quite a bit of a maverick and I wanted her to be a rule breaker and I didn’t want her to be hauled up in front of the chief constable every two minutes for doing something wrong. 

So, how did you build this character? Eden Grey is very interesting in the way her personality changes from this strong perceptive detective, to someone afraid in their own home after memories from the past come to find her.

I wanted her to have a background, so why has she turned up in Cheltenham and I wanted her to be an outsider because something about the way an outsider sees a new place, they see different things in it to those who live there. I wanted her to be exciting, so I gave her this back story that she was an undercover officer working for customs and excise. She’d implanted herself in a guns and drugs running and people smuggling group. It all goes horribly wrong when someone betrays her and her cover is completely blown and the gang tries to kill her. She survives it obviously otherwise it would be a pretty short story! But then she has to change her identity.

In the process of changing it, her parents are told she is dead. Her family is told she is dead. She has to move to a new place, she has to find a new job so she decides to become a private investigator. Being nosy, poking around in other people’s problems is what she is good at. But she also knows the gang is after her, she keeps on getting messages and mysterious phone calls saying ‘we know where you are, and we’re coming to get you’. She knows that if they catch up with her it’s going to be absolutely horrendous. So I have a scene in the book where someone else in the gang comes out of prison and is picked up. Two weeks later, somebody finds some very nasty human remains. The reason why I put that scene in there is just to say to the reader, this is what will happen to Eden if they catch up with her. She is going to be killed in the most horrendous way. I don’t spell out how that will happen cause I think the reader#s mind can come up with something much nastier. 

Well this criminal underground works not only in your modern day timeline with Eden, but also in old Cheltenham with Rachel Lovett. Where did you get the idea of the Paternoster Club? Of course, it is based off of the Hellfire clubs based in London, but where did the idea of one being in this seemingly respectable town, come from?

Basically I thought about Georgian Cheltenham and how it was developing. Areas of land were being bought up and huge estates of houses for the super rich were being built. Where there’s money there is going to be some kind of treachery and some kind of double dealing. Just because there is so much power and influence and money at stake. One thing we do know about the Georgians is that clubs existed for the very powerful and wealthy men. I knew about the Hellfire club and I thought ‘What if’ , what if there was something like that that existed in Cheltenham. And so I created the paternoster club, basically for the wealthy men to divvy up the power and the money between them.  

The thing that I like about Rachel, the 18th century prostitute in the story, is her story in many ways reflect Eden’s , in the way that she doesn’t use her real name; she is given a new identity when she is basically trafficked into London to be a prostitute. She is also on the run. In London, she’s been stealing some gloves and the thief-taker is after her. If he catches her, she will probably be hanged, if not transported. And so she is another woman who is running for her life and who is using a different identity. 

You have a lot of these mirrors in you story – not just between Eden and Rachel but also between the Paternoster Club in 1795 and when it is continued in the modern timeline. What was your reasoning behind this?

I just thought that if these clubs exist to benefit the wealthy and the powerful then why should they finish just because the Georgian era ended. So it was that really powerful question you have as a writer – what if – and because it’s fiction, you can do anything you like. You can twist history, you can twist story lines and I just liked the idea of it continuing to exist. Just being this absolutely subversive and underground club for men who are extremely bent and dodgy. It was a way of linking the two timelines. I have this philosophy of time that is never really finishes – as you walk down the street in Cheltenham you can see echoes of previous ages. We’re experiencing Cheltenham in ways very similar to the ways the Georgians experienced it. 

Throughout the story we see many of the well known areas of Cheltenham, how does it feel to put your town into a story, so people recognise the areas you show them?

It’s really satisfying when people come up to me and they say my street is in your book! And when they say we can really see where the places were. Because I’d been challenged to write this crime set in Cheltenham, and I thought about what makes it interesting and unique and I wanted to actually reflect the landmarks of Cheltenham. So that’s why there are mentions of Eagle Tower, GCHQ and the coffee shops along the promenade. It gives it an authenticity to the story as well. But there are specific things about Cheltenham, so that the story couldn’t be set anywhere else, like the spas and the regency architecture and the fact that GCHQ is there. There are things that don’t exist anywhere else, so I thought well, I’ll use them then. 

Do you have any advice for those who want to write a book?

It’s really simple; to be a writer you just need to read a lot, and write a lot. Sometimes people say to me , “I wish I could read more but I don’t have time but I want to be a writer”. Well you can’t be a writer if you don’t read. You have to submerse yourself in reading all sorts of different things. And then to be a writer, just write. That sounds a bit kind of basic really but what I would recommend is don’t think about it too much. Set aside some time every single day – even if it’s only fifteen minutes – and just write. If you like, get an object and make up stuff about who owned that object. Who is that person, what is there hobbies, what are their secrets, what do they dream about at night? Or get postcards of things that inspire you and fill them out about why and stories about them. Even if what you’re writing about you think is just complete rubbish, it doesn’t matter. The thing is all about showing up. 

What’s your favourite reading spot?

I have a little garden, and it’s really sunny. I have a little swing chair in my garden and it’s next to some roses and a lavender plant, so it’s lovely and scented. And that is my favourite reading spot, when it’s summer I absolutely adore curling up in that chair – if I can get the cat off it, of course – and I just love sitting there and reading. 

 

A quick thanks to Kim Fleet for spending the time chatting to me about the first book in the Eden Grey Mysteries – Paternoster. If you would like to buy the book go to:

 

 

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