29 November 2015

Ever since JFK uttered those immortal words Ich bin ein Berliner at the Brandenberg Gate, there's been an urgent need to emulate them. And lately people have tried, first with Je suis Charley then recently with Je suis Paris. This week French TV showed Hollande standing side by side with Putin, each apparently empathising with each other over their losses in Paris and in the Russian air disaster. However, are they really on the same page when it comes to the problems in Syria? With one side aiming to eliminate the terrorists, the other seems only bent on shoring up Bashir Al-Assad. Rule no. 1: you can only strike an accord if your goals are exactly the same! I have to say I'm disappointed with Obama. Ever since he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, he's scared of doing anything that might jeopardise it, so instead of emulating JFK, he refuses to do anything globally other than just utter beautifully orated words. At least the French during Friday's commemoration ceremony showed their true colours by parading on every balustrade their blue, white and red underwear. Him indoors:  Bra-vo!  

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Writer Claire Stibbe recently hosted me on her blog. Here's what it said, including an exclusive extract from 3rd Degree Murder, describing character Jenny at work in the '60s:
Today I’m delighted to welcome Olga Swan to our Literary Kicks series.Olga Swan is the nom de plume of Gillian Green. She chose the name as a way of perpetuating her unusual E. European maiden name. After Gillian lost all her upper family, including her two brothers, one by one from cancer, she used an anagram of her late brother’s name, A. Olswang, and voilà, Olga Swan was born. After working for 30 years at a leading English university, she retired to France with her husband, where she concentrated on her writing. Her tastes are eclectic, writing in many genres including crime, historical fiction, sci-fi, humour and factional, non-fiction, plus under her own name she also writes for children (see links below.)
‘3rd Degree Murder’ which was released by Crooked Cat Publishing on 23 October 2015, draws on the wealth of knowledge Olga gained during her work at an English university. The title is a play on words: a third (science) degree conflating with an unintentional murder. As such, readers who either are graduates themselves or with student family members can enjoy an intrigue set in a university environment to which they can easily relate.
Hands up those who remember the ‘60s and ‘70s in England!
All of Olga’s books (and she has written ten mss in all) tend to have an underlying thread to the main story. In 3rd Degree Murder, a Jewish secretary and Maliha, a Bangladeshi PhD student, get together in hatred of their professor, showing how cultural barriers are no bar to friendship. But Maliha has her own problems, battling a family who refuse to conform to Western lores. The queue of people hating Prof. Axel Sloan builds throughout the story including lecturers denied promotion, other support staff, his wife, even the office cleaner. So, who in the end killed Axel Sloan? Here’s an extract describing Jenny, Olga’s favourite character.
 Jenny Mazowski stood in front of the mirror, turning this way and that. Looking good. Her black and white striped shift skimmed her slim frame just right. She’d backcombed her thin brown hair within an inch of its life, and piled on the eye-liner and pale lipstick. She stared at her reflection. If only she had olive skin and her father’s thick black hair, but instead she’d inherited her mother’s pale, thin skin and mousey hair. Why was life so unfair?
Dashing out the door, she ran for the bus, almost colliding with the postman, his cap dripping from yet another icy downpour. ‘They say it does the gardens good, but I couldn’t care less.’
But Jenny hadn’t time. Not this morning, as she dashed up the hill just as the corporation bus screeched to a halt. Jumping up she sank gratefully into a faded, velour window seat and rubbed her damp sleeve over the rivulets of condensation that pooled blackly onto the sills beneath.
At last. She could catch her breath and day-dream whilst the grey suburbs flashed by. Her first real job after that difficult eight months’ intensive secretarial course at Chance College. Don’t get me wrong. She loved learning all those pays, jays and chays in the Pitman’s class. And the typewriting was wonderful. Pages and pages of three-letter combinations, typing to the taped music of American on Parade, and woe betide you if you fell behind the beat. In her mind she kept spreading her fingers on the middle row of the keyboard, searching for those tiny raised bits on the F and J home keys whilst she hummed to the tune, stretching her bony fingers up, down and sideways. No, it wasn’t that. It was the other girls. Always causing her a problem as they moved away from her in class, constantly ganging up against her. There was never any real reason, but Jenny knew. Deep down she’d always known. She was different. She shook her head to rid herself of the memory. Someone clanged the bell, bringing her back to the present. Thank God school was all over now.
Just past the looming, menacing prison walls she jumped off and, collar up against the swirls of rain, turned the corner and walked down towards the Foundry. She hadn’t had time for breakfast and stared longingly at the huge posters for the new, flat Dairy Milk bars at 2d. But no time. She dare not be late on her first day, as she quickened her steps past the rows and rows of red-brick terraces, all identical except for the level of greyness in the net curtains at every window.
At the bottom of the road, she ran across the road, narrowly avoiding the milk cart, parked precariously whilst the whistling milkman made his usual doorstep deliveries. Round the corner, she rushed under the old, red railway bridge, its brickwork looking faded and grained with the centuries of time. Avoiding the inevitable drippings from the archway, she hurried on, glancing quickly at her new wristwatch her Mom had bought her for her new life at work.
Five to nine. Rushing under the Foundry archway, surrounded by hordes of maniac bicycles ridden by identical men in caps with cloth bags slung onto their backs, she was just in time. At the Sales office she clocked-in at the entrance to the huge, noisy, cavernous room and made her way down the rows of typing desks to her allotted place. In front of her was a large, clunky typewriter, top-heavy with its over-long, enormous carriage. Very different from the brand new Imperial 70s at college.
At the end of the desk were four rows of wire filing trays, filled with commercial documents. Gingerly she tried to open the stiff drawers of her old wooden desk. None of them seemed to open properly, whichever way she tried.
‘Ere,’ said one girl in the next aisle. ‘You can’t open ‘em from the end; you have to pull from the middle. Yes, that’s right.’
Clumsy as usual.
In the narrow middle drawer was an assortment of hard, round typewriter rubbers and various pens. She creaked open the side drawers, running her clammy hands over the thin, foolscap bank sheets in various shades. Nervously she glanced around, wondering where to start, until a friendly girl tapped her on the shoulder.
Fast forward to the present and, hot off the presses, a two-book deal has now also been signed by Olga with Crooked Cat Publishing, but in a very different genre. Lamplight and Vichyssoise are both set in WWII, the former taking character David Klein to Breslau, Germany, the second taking him to Vichy France, giving readers a unique insight into Maréchal Pétain and his Vichy government. Both are due to be released in 2016.
…a final word from Olga. Many thanks Claire for a chance to be on your famed blog.
Here are some links to Olga’s (and Gillian’s) books:
Or check out Olga’s amazon page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B013IBD4PU
Also, check out Gillian’s amazon page for her children’s literature. A great Xmas gift for them:http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B013IDLQ4O

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For all my American readers, please pause from eating all that Thanksgiving turkey and sweet potato a moment. And for all my other readers, who'd like to be eating turkey and sweet potato too if they had the chance.. I've something to tell you. I'm not used to this advertising lark, but a little bird told me tomorrow's Black Friday, so just thought I'd let those of you who haven't yet bought my novel about university life know there's an amazing sale on tomorrow. So,  roll up, roll up.  Isn't that what they say? Tomorrow's the day to grab a real bargain. Yes, '3rd Degree Murder' is available for the amazing price of just 99p/99c!  How much, I hear you say?  Come on:there must be someone in your life who needs to know just what goes on behind the scenes in university college life. You must surely want to know who killed Professor Axel Sloan, don't you? Let's see. Likely suspects:  Maliha, the Bangladeshi PhD student, whose family will kill her if she doesn't get her PhD, his wife(!) - enough said, the lecturers he's overlooked for promotion, Jenny his long-suffering Jewish secretary, sick and tired of all those anti-semitic comments, or even the office cleaner....the list is endless.  So who did it in the end?    

You'll have to hurry.  One day only. Here's the link. Just click and buy at just 99p/99c.


And, if you don't have a kindle, just go to amazon and click on the free kindle download button. Simple. Even a technophobe like me can do it! 

22 November 2015

Last Wednesday the British House of Lords voted 214-116 against Baroness Miller's amendment to grant the vote to all British citizens living in the EU. Stupid! Why? It reduces the eligible number of voters in the forthcoming EU referendum, the very people who would naturally vote to stay In! Crucially that vote will determine all our futures, both expats and those living in the UK. 
British expats: no longer EU citizens free to work, set up businesses, study, retire in EU countries nor benefit from subsidised health services across the EU. The Euro Health Insurance card 'EHIC' would cease to be available, so emergency health cover from Britain would cease. Private health cover would be mandatory but not available to those with pre-existing conditions!  
UK citizens: risk Britain's current buoyant economy plus future investment possibilities, widespread job losses, smaller ranking in the world, lose 28 EU friends, jeopardise the current 70 years of no war in Europe. Imagine a sudden terrorist attack with no friends. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!
So, members of the House of Lords: do you realise the implications of what you did last Wednesday?

15 November 2015

France is in shock. On French TV a woman lays flowers at the café 'La Belle Equipe' in the rue de Charonne in Paris....
Several weeks ago I was discussing aspects of past wars, based on my two forthcoming WWII novels, with a French friend in Toulouse. He said the world was already experiencing WWIII but no-one seemed to realise it. He says that war has now morphed into a new form, fuelled by our digital age and money-laundering. The frightening thing is: this isn't just one evil person any more, some kind of new Hitler, but a large, dispersed, group comprising trained passport-holders from every country. Is my friend right? France is a modern, western democracy, long holding true to its ancient lores of liberté, egalité and fraternité. As with others in the West, it's always welcomed diverse cultures and faiths as long as each person respects each other and does not seek to impose any kind of forced proselytisation on others. Live and let live in peace.
I thought that's what everyone wanted. Until last Friday, 13th November. What do I think?

At early morn' I had a dream
that man would cease his futile scheme
Fighting battles, suicide missions
Murder, hatred, blazing seditions
What man needs is re-appraise
in eyes of beings not so fazed
Yes, don't fight tribe v tribe
as if nothing else but diatribe
But see with eyes afresh from birth
that we're all one tribe - that of Earth! 

8 November 2015

It's a time of remembrance. Wednesday will be the day we remember all those who lost their lives in the terrible massacre that is war. My father always said if no-one remembers you, what's the point of living?  Three days ago in the UK everyone recalled 'remember, remember the 5th of November'. For me, though, the 5th will be remembered for another reason:  I received fantastic news from Crooked Cat, the publishers of my book '3rd Degree Murder': 'We are thrilled to announce a two-book deal with author Olga Swan for two World War II novels, Underneath the Lamplight (the lead up to 1938) and Vichyssoise (1938 onwards). Uncomfortable, revealing and dark, the continuing story of David Klein will keep you hooked. Welcome again Olga!' It was amazing timing because my reasons for writing both these new novels were to remind everyone about how past wars happened. The first book 'Lamplight' takes character David Klein from boyhood in 1912 to 1938 Breslau, Germany; the second 'Vichyssoise' is, I believe, unique as the same character traces the inner workings of the Vichy Government. It's not just war and the fallen we must remember: it's how it happened so that man never makes the same mistake again. Watch this space for when these two new books are released in 2016. Thank you everyone for your support with my writing. Much appreciated.

1 November 2015

These days we all have to be so multi-tasked. When we first came to France 10 years ago I just wanted to concentrate on creative writing. Naively I thought I'd self-publish and wait for my books to sell.  Wrong. The best writing in the world won't sell if no-one knows about it! So, when I finally achieved a book contract with Crooked Cat Publishing, I thought 'great' - now someone will do all the publicising for me, something I hadn't a clue how to do. Fast forward and I've learned that nothing is that simple. Nowadays all authors must be involved on social media.  So it was with trepidation that I approached my recent Facebook Book launch day. Because part of 3rd Degree Murder was set in my favourite decade, the '60s, I thought it would be fun to follow my character Jenny through the university story by conflating my past life with hers via old photos and fab music videos like Chuck Berry singing C'est la vie say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell.  But, my biggest fear: would anyone actually come to the event? Would my home wifi break down on the day?  Conclusion:  the wifi worked, many people came to the event and entered my university challenge quiz, and I actually managed to do what I never thought I could:  deal with downloads on social media!  Success.  Yes, Chuck, it goes to show, you never can tell!