Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Silent Lies - Kindle Countdown

Just a  brief post to let you know that Silent Lies is available on Kindle Countdown this week for only $0.99 in the US and £0.99 in the UK.

Or if you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, you can download the book free in not only the US and UK, but also Germany, France, Italy, Spain, India, Brazil, Mexico and Canada.

Small-town businessman Cal Miller discovers that secrets he kept to protect his reputation may be the cause of his downfall when a police investigation into the whereabouts of his young assistant Katy Shore reveals that her deceptions far outweigh his own.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Mohonk Mountain House, New York

A recent day visit to Mohonk Mountain House in New Palz, NY, gave me a chance to find out if the resort is really as spectacular as the adverts claim. Day visitors have to park at the Gatehouse and either take a shuttle or walk the two miles to the Picnic Lodge, the only building open to them unless they have a dinner reservation or a spa treatment booked. As we got there too early for the first shuttle, we opted to walk.

The route starts out on the Hugenot trail, a tree-lined path through the woods,
 but then emerges to provide panoramic vistas of the surrounding countryside. For those not scared of heights, wooden structures offer the chance to literally walk  out on the ledge to sit and admire the surroundings.

Just past the Picnic Lodge we came to the flower garden, with its stone summer house, and got our first glimpse of the hotel.

The resort offers a multitude of activities depending on the season:
mini-golf on the lawn
the beach and swimming area

boating and paddle-boarding
An alternative use for the ice-rink off  season - tricycle polo!

the hotel nestles against steep cliffs

There is also horseback riding and tennis, but all these activities are for hotel guests only. We were there for the hiking - the property contains 85 miles of trails and fabulous views.

lakeside walkway
One trail runs around the lake from high up on the cliffs behind the hotel to along the water's edge on the other side, a short distance of it cutting through the rocks.

view of the tower at the top!
view of the tower from below
Another trail leads up to the highest point of the property and the Albert K. Smiley Memorial Tower, also known as the Skytop Tower. 

The entrance to the scramble
For those who like a challenge there is an alternative route up, the Labyrinth, which involves scrambling over the rocks. A sign at the entrance to the trail warns that participants should be physically fit enough for the forty-five minute climb up. Stupidly, I let the warning scare me off though in hindsight I'm sure I could have managed it. As we walked up the more sedate trail to the top we were able to see other hikers tackle the scramble. 

But whichever way you choose, it's worth the effort, the views are simply magnificent. From the top of the tower you can see New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Vermont. I only wish they'd had some of those handy signboards at the top of the tower indicating what exactly you were looking at in each direction.

Looking down on the hotel

Not sure how many states you can see here!

At $26 per adult for a day pass, it's not the cheapest day out, but it certainly allows you a glimpse into this beautiful resort, which would otherwise be beyond most budgets. The problem is, having been for the day, it whets the appetite for a longer stay. With the cost of most of the activities included in the all-inclusive rate (including 3 meals and snacks) I don't think I'd have any problems keeping myself occupied - so probably not the best choice for a writer's retreat.  But as a source of inspiration?  Just let's say, I'm keeping my eye out for any special deals!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Hike in the Park - Bear Mountain State Park, NY

After my recent trip around the U.S. I decided I should spend some time exploring closer to home. After all, New York State apparently has 215 state parks and historic sites, many of which are within a couple of hours drive from where I live, so there is no shortage of places to visit.

As fall arrived with slightly cooler temperatures and lower humidity it seemed the perfect time to go for a hike. Given that most of my walking tends to be on the flat and often in the city, I was looking for a trail which would provide an element of challenge without being too scary and, ideally, some nice views. A little online research offered the Major Welch Trail at Bear Mountain State Park as an option. Rated as ‘difficult’ but only just over four miles round trip it sounded just what I was looking for. It also had the advantage that the drive from home to the park along Route 9 was scenic in itself.

 The visitors’ parking lot is close to many of the amenities offered in the park. These include picnic tables, paddle boat rentals on the lake, a children’s playground, a trail-side museum and even a carousel.

This strange shaped building houses the carousel.

The trail starts alongside the lake, a gentle stroll with pleasant views.

So pleasant that we managed to miss the turn-off for the Major Welch Trail and had to retrace our steps. A beaten pathway led us upwards through the trees, nothing too challenging to start, but then we reached the rocks and the walk became more of a scramble. 

Did we really just come up that narrow path?

And then there wasn't really a path at all, just the red dot on the white card on the tree to show you which way to go.

Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River

But the rewards were worth it. Especially the fabulous views of the Hudson River.

By this point we weren’t too far from our destination and we were told by two walkers on their way down that it was only ten minutes to the top. Of course, it turned out to be more like twenty in reality!

Just as I was thinking the downhill trail had to be easier than the ascent, we met a family of four who were walking the trail in the opposite direction to us. As the two children were quite young I mentioned that the trail they were about to go down could prove to be quite a challenge for them to which they responded that it couldn’t be much more difficult than the way they had come up, with masses of steps and in the words of the youngest “like mountain climbing.” Not exactly what I wanted to hear at that point!

But for now we were at the top, time for a lunch break and to take in the magnificent views.
Perkins Memorial Tower

It was such a clear day that if you looked very hard the skyline of Manhattan was visible in the far distance. 

Can you make out the skyline? It's in the center of the photo!
Our descent was via the Appalachian Trail and, as the family had suggested, it was mostly stepped, but at least on a definite pathway, and there was only a very short scramble over rocks. I didn't think the trail was anywhere near as difficult as the Major Welch Trail, and I couldn’t help wondering how the family had got on – I don’t think I would have enjoyed going down the way we’d come up so  I'm glad we followed the suggested hike route.

There are a number of other trails in the State Park including easy strolls for those just looking for a leisurely walk. And for anyone looking for a longer getaway, the Bear Mountain Inn offers accommodation and dining. 

The Bear Mountain Inn

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Visit to the Ernest Hemingway: Between Two Wars, Morgan Library and Museum Exhibit

The first cool weekend of fall provided the ideal opportunity to visit the ‘Ernest Hemingway: Between Two Wars’ exhibition which recently opened at the Morgan Library and Museum in midtown Manhattan.

Laid out chronologically, beginning with Hemingway’s high school years, the exhibits include letters, draft manuscripts and excerpts from published work providing a fascinating insight into Hemingway’s writing process and personality.

He wrote his first drafts by hand maintaining that this way he had at least three chances to work over what he had written: one when he wrote it out, the second when he typed it up and the third when he proofread the hard copy. He also claimed that he took a great deal of care with his writing, stating in one quote that if he didn’t take as much care he could easily turn out two novels a year! I couldn’t help wondering what he would have thought of the current suggestion that authors should put out multiple novels a year to please their readers.

My favorite pieces were:

1.       A letter from Hemingway to his parents expressing his disappointment that they obviously did not like his work given they had returned the copies of his books.

2.       A letter from Bill Horne, a friend whom he’d met in Italy, consoling Hemingway following the breakup of his relationship with the nurse who had cared for him while he was in hospital after being wounded while working as an ambulance driver for the Red Cross and whom he’d hoped to marry. (Part of this experience became the basis for Farewell to Arms.)

3.       Pages of Hemingway’s work drafted on Western Union Telegraph paper – presumably the only thing available to him to write on at the time of inspiration.

4.       Two handwritten pages of an edit of ‘A Farewell to Arms’ by Scott Fitzgerald.  The whole document was apparently ten pages long and much of it was praise for the writing rather than outright criticism or suggestions for change, but across the bottom of the last page Hemingway had written “Kiss my Ass”!

5.       One of Hemingway’s books which he had been asked to dedicate. However the book had been bought second hand from a book collector for the owner’s home library and Hemingway knew this so he wrote a sarcastic comment about how the author wouldn’t see any royalties from the sale of the book he was being asked to dedicate.

Maybe because I like to write my first drafts by hand I enjoyed the chance to see Hemingway’s versions complete with insertions, deletions and, in one case, three false starts on the opening paragraph, a reminder that no-one writes perfect first drafts. True, Hemingway’s writing is not always easy to read, but the exhibit labels provide the gist of the documents for those having problems deciphering his script.

The exhibition runs until January 31st, 2016. If you get a chance to go, I’d highly recommend it.  

Thursday, October 1, 2015

PJ Boox - The Indie Author Bookstore

Photo: Patti Brassard Jefferson
It's not easy for indie authors to get their books into bookstores and often if you do the book will be placed spine out on the shelf in the appropriate alphabetical section for your genre making it almost impossible for it to be discovered amongst the mass of others. As of today, 1st October 2015, there is now an alternative.

PJ Boox is a bookstore for indie authors, whether self-published or small press. The store, in Fort Myers, Florida, offers authors the opportunity to rent a shelf for four months to display up to 3 different titles for browsing. The store will hold a stock of up to 10 of the books for sale at any one time. There will also be an option for readers outside the area to purchase online from the bookstore website with PJ Boox handling both orders and shipping. 

The store owner, Patti Brassard Jefferson,  has already had success with another smaller bookstore that she opened for local authors. She had so many requests from authors outside the catchment area that she decided to open this second store but with no limits on where the author resides. 

I, for one, couldn't resist this opportunity - as they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained - and it's quite a thrill to see my books on the shelves in the above picture (third shelf down on the right nearest the corner). I may have to visit Florida again soon!

For more info on the store:

Monday, September 28, 2015

Kindle Countdown - Ulterior Motives

Just wanted to let you know that Ulterior Motives is on sale until October 4th. $0.99 in the U.S. and 99p in the UK.  

Alternatively, if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it for free not only in the U.S. and U.K. but also in Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, France, India and Mexico.

Click here for link to local Amazon site. 

What reviewers had to say about Ulterior Motives:

"A methodical thriller bristling with interpersonal intrigue and compelling characters.
A slow-paced story of captivity with an emotional center that will keep readers engaged." - Kirkus Reviews

"An American businessman kidnapped in the Philippines after storming out on his wife--Parish draws the reader in with a compelling, challenging plot. What keeps the pages turning, however, is Parish's careful development of character. Told from the perspective of the kidnappee, Jake, the reader is taken through the ups and downs of an emotional roller coaster as Jake's worst nightmare becomes increasingly darker. Rather than leaving the novel at that, Parish creates a truly engaging story through her full development of the kidnappers." - John Walters 

"Parish does an excellent job of developing the character of Cornish and the kidnappers, and slowly but surely reveals the motives of each party involved. Jake's feelings toward his captors (and their feelings toward Jake) have their ups and downs, and you can never quite guess whats going to happen in the next chapter. On a larger scale, Parish touches on issues of distributive justice, gender roles, and the definition of success and happiness in the modern world. Ultimately, Ulterior Motives is a story about family, and Parish leaves readers thinking about what family truly means." - Hunter Goodman

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Charming Small Towns - Rhinebeck, New York

Rhinebeck in Dutchess County, New York has been on my list of places to visit since reading about it in AAA's Car and Travel Magazine earlier this year. Just under two hours from us via the Taconic State Parkway - one of my favorite roads to drive - it seemed like a perfect place for a day trip. 

Founded by the Dutch in 1686, the area became a popular place for the wealthy to build their riverfront homes, so much so that today there is a nearby historic district of thirty estates established between the eighteenth and early twentieth century, some of which are now open to the public. Our first stop was at one of these, the Wilderstein Historic Site, which is just over two miles south of the town center.  

The house was built in the 19th century for Thomas Suckley, with grounds designed by landscape architect Calvert Vaux (co-designer of Central Park in New York). The original house was relatively small, having only two stories, but when Thomas' son inherited it he added a third floor, a five story tower, a huge veranda around three sides of the house (including a glassed in section so that it could be used in all weather) and a port cochere. 

Trails wind around the forty-acre grounds past formal gardens, across meadows and through wooded parkland. We followed one trail to this sitting area which provided a pleasant if slightly overgrown view of the Hudson River. 

The train tracks, part of the line from New York to Albany used by Amtrak and CSX, run through the estate along the east bank of the Hudson river.  

The gazebo 
Dog houses

Nearer the house there is a gazebo which the family liked to use for reading on a summer's day and, beside the back entrance, two cute dog houses. 

Behind the house there is a huge carriage house. It was in such a bad condition that half a million dollars had to be raised to reinforce the external structure to save it from being demolished. Now that the structure is deemed safe, once the interior work has been finished the plan is to use it for for educational activities, exhibitions and weddings. 

The grounds are open to the public most days while the house can only be visited on a tour. We were a little disappointed to discover that the tour only covered the ground floor of the house as the remaining floors were still undergoing restoration. We saw pictures taken before restoration began which showed just how bad a condition the house was in. The outside had not been painted for over seventy years! They also gave us an idea of why we were not yet able to see the other floors of the house. Most had not been used for decades.

Until her death in 1991 Thomas's granddaughter Margaret Suckley lived in the house. Known as Daisy, she was a distant cousin of Franklin D. Roosevelt and became a close friend and confidante to the President. She spent time at the White House, often traveled with him around the country, and was with him when he died.

In her later years (she was almost one hundred when she died) she used only the ground floor rooms. It's hard to imagine what it must have been like living somewhere so big and dilapidated alone, but I guess when it's been the family home for generations, it is hard to give up.  In the 1980's when the property was finally put into a trust it was with the proviso that she would be able to live there for the rest of her life. 

After the tour it was time to head into the town center for a late lunch. Rhinebeck has an attractive main street, Market Street, lined with one-of-a-kind shops and a wide variety of restaurants and cafes. 

An alleyway off E. Market St leads to The Courtyard, a small square of eateries with outdoor seating and live music. 

Being history buffs we couldn't resist a visit to the  Beekman Arms which claims to be America's oldest continuously operating inn. The inn offers several dining options but we settled for the old world atmosphere of the Tavern with its wood beams and low ceilings. The food was excellent, the menu offering variations on classics such as Crab Cake Benedict, my choice, which was delicious, and Vegetable Quiche with seafood Hollandaise which looked equally delectable.   

After lunch it was time for some exercise in the form of walking up Burger Hill, a 550 foot peak, in Drayton Grant Park. It is a well-maintained, smooth slope to the top (reputed to provide excellent sledding in winter) and well worth a visit for the views of the Catskill Mountains and Hudson River. You really can see for miles and miles. 

After all that exertion it was time to relax in the shade and have one more drink before heading back home. We chose Gigi, an Italian trattoria with a very pleasant outdoor area and an enticing range of desserts. Their Tiramisu portion was so large it probably undid all the good of that walk up the hill!  

Verdict: Well worth a visit and would make a great base for a weekend getaway.