Next on the to do list

The blurb for Sadie’s Wars is done, so now on to the cover. A local guy had offered, but he hasn’t got back in touch with me after chasing, so I began to look at fiverr – I’m amazed to see so many talented people offering their services. There are 3000 to chose from, and several with good feedback.

I had an image of a young woman in mind for the cover, and I blogged about her a couple of weeks ago. However, I have had to reject that idea. I did a reverse google search on her and found that she was a famous Edwardian actress called Lily Elsie. She was the most photographed beauty of the day and several of her portraits are in the National Portrait Gallery. I enquired about the cost of using one on my book cover and found it was £249 – way too much for me.

All this put me in a time-wasting spin. I was recommended depositphotos    – there was bound to be a photo there that would suit. What a dispiriting afternoon I spent yesterday, searching 1920s women, flappers, vulnerable women, women in furs. It seems women are either cartoons or vamps. Please note, you cannot stick a vaguely era appropriate dress on a woman and ask her to pose provocatively, and expect to get anything remotely authentic.

I had a brainwave – or maybe I should come clean and say it was a simultaneous idea for both my husband and I. We own a photograph of the right era with a woman in fur. She looks too haJane Timms1ppy, but it could work, if I could find the right background. Yet more hours trawling through images of Australia and trying to imagine how they would work together.

At the same time as this I am trying to consider what this image says about the book and after another day of musing, I have come to the conclusion, not much.

My new idea is to through all this out of the window and try to combine references to war, women and Australia. I see a curtain of feathery, yellow wattle blossom, a small table containing an RAF hat, an Australian slouch hat with a string of pearls in between.

What do you think? Any ideas gratefully considered.


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Sadie’s Wars – Blurb update

The community of authors and friends is a wonderful thing. A  book blurb is one of the most difficult things to write and as I am told, I am lousy at selling myself and my work. Too British, too refined. I need to learn to be brasher. So I have listened and learnt and taken onboard suggestions and the result of my third attempt is below.

Jump on this unforgettable rollercoaster of love, loss and heartache.

Sadie is brought up in luxury as her work-obsessed father, with the touch of Midas, reaps riches from the boom years before the Great War in Australia.

Post-war, as depression looms, Sadie’s only option is to flee from her disastrous marriage, seeking refuge in a small seaside town in northern England.

Years later with her sons in RAF Bomber Command, she receives a letter from her long-lost brother which forces her to confront the past and her part in her family’s downfall.

Can old wounds be healed?
Will she find new love?
Will this second war destroy everyone she saved?

An astonishing tale, spanning continents, where truth is stranger than fiction. The saga of this extraordinary family of Australian pioneers continues.

This is still a work in progress but there’s some great advice here Writing Blurbs

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Blurb for Sadie’s Wars

I can take a breath to recover from four months of hard graft as my new book has gone to my editor. I am amazed that I got it finished in time thanks to a deadline suggested by my writer friend, Angela Petch. Yes we will have our joint launch on December 1st.

So now I need your help. These are blurb examples I want to send out to my cover designer. What do you think? Which one do your prefer?

1.Based on a true story;

Sadie is brought up in luxury as her railway magnate and pastoralist father reaps riches from the boom years before the Great War. A war which brings him and Australia crashing into depression. Sadie has no option but to flee from her marriage and her country, seeking refuge in Cleethorpes, a seaside town in England, before a new war threatens her sons in bomber command. As she is forced to confront the past and her part in her family’s downfall, can she find peace and love at last?

From Perth to Melbourne, from Adelaide to the Darling River, this is also the story of a man battling to tame Australia, a partner of Sidney Kidman, a friend of Dame Nellie Melba and the Murdochs, who rose from nothing and then sank back into the tides of history.

2. Spanning continents, Sadie’s life is a rollercoaster of love, loss and heartache. As her youngest son joins his brothers in the RAF in June 1940, a letter arrives from her younger brother in Australia, reawakening memories. The Great War changed everything, forcing her to flee from her marriage and country. Can old wounds be healed, and new love found or will this second war destroy everyone she saved?

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Ancient Paths

I remember taking some Australian friends to Devon a few years ago. We were driving to our holiday accommodation along byways near Newton Abbey and they had to get out of the car to take a photograph of the width of the road. They could not believe anyone would drive along a bendy single-track road with high hedges on either side. I hadn’t realised that Somerset has these lanes in spades. It got me thinking about how old they were. They have obviously existed as cart tracks in years, if not centuries, gone by and now they must cost a fortuDSC03746_edited-1ne in tarmacking and hedge-cutting or scything the grasses. Not too far from Dorset, it was the land of Hardy, of hiring fairs and a rural way of life I thought departed.

But it’s not just ancient paths, it’s also tiny villages connected by these paths and the small fields and wildflower meadows which abound in this part of the world. I felt like I was stepping back in time. I’m used to big fields, all the land to the roadside used for cultivation. Why are there so many areas uncultivated here? And isn’t the scenery so much better for it? Amongst the gorgeous rambling roses, perfuming the walls of beautifully kept thatched cottages, were lanes full of meadowsweet, daisies, buttercups and ragged robin with no sign of pesticide. Happy days.

Tinkling brooks and ponds to sit by and dream of past times, add to the magic and serenity. And lastly hills and dales. The country undulates constantly with new vistas around every corner. My problem woulDSC03747_edited-1d be wanting to get out and explore rather than sitting down to write. Or perhaps my next book could be set in such a landscape. Now there’s a thought.

Of course the truth is much harsher. The coal and weaving industries of Somerset have lone gone leaving rural poverty. Tourism must be a lifesaver, but I guess many people pass by on the road to the Devon beaches or the delights of Bath. How many stop in Chard or Crewkerne for more than a petrol stop?


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I first came across the word at college. The seminar is forgotten but the word, serendipity, has forever been a favourite, the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.” 
This week we spend three days in Somerset for a break. Why Somerset? It’s not too far and we don’t know it. What we saw of it is worth two maybe three blog posts. But here I am going to describe an act of serendipity. On arrival at our Airbnb, we found we had no broadband. My mistake, I usually check these things and it would have not been booked had I realised, but it was a deliDSC03825ghtful place. Nestled as it was in a valley, surrounded by fields and gardens full of sweet-smelling rambling roses and honeysuckle. The problem was, I had no plan about where to go and what to do, expecting to look it up once we got there. True, there was a box full of leaflets and pamphlets and suggested walks in a folder. Too many to choose from.

On the first day we did one of those walks from the folder, more of that in another post. On the second day we went to the coast,  familiar and favourite places in Devon – Beer and Branscombe (maybe another post). What to do on day three? I plucked a place from the map, it was nearby, it was gardens – always hopeful and easy walking. Would it keep us occupied? – I wasn’t sure.

A short journey down Somerset lanes – no more than the width of our car – and we arrived at Forde Abbey

We were early and there were few cars in the carpark and no coaches, always a bonus, but a good sign? Maybe not.

What a gem of a place. No, not a gem – that would suggest something small. Forde Abbey is a the Koh-I-Noor Diamond of private houses and gardens open to the public. We walked and sat in nearly every seat in astonishingly beautiful gardens and parkland. Views of the abbey, views of the lakes, flowers, trees, everything was delightful, peaceful and serene. Not as sumptuous as Chatsworth House, which we visited two years ago. This is somewhere you can imagine walking everyday amidst the changing seasons. It was so well cared for too and the walled vegetable garden was enormous. My husband definitely had his eye on that.DSC03784_edited-1

The bog garden near the lake, full of nemesia and unusual primulas, complete with rill and winding path was magical. We felt like we had the place to ourselves until the noon hour approachDSC03792_edited-1ed. It is then that the hundred-foot fountain is turned on for 15 minutes and the house open for inspection. The place began to fill with visitors but not too many. The Abbey itself still feels like an abbey, and you can imagine the ghosts of Cistercian monks working, praying and wandering the cloisters and the corridors, despite the family photographs and furnishings. It was full of atmosphere. What of the other people who have inhabited since. I have bought the guide book. Will a story leap out, even s short one? As I walked around, a whisper here began to invade my consciousness. This was truly a find of serendipitous proportions.DSC03794_edited-1



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Time for a Breather

Having completed three edits on Sadie’s Wars, I am waiting for my beta readers to give their reactions to the story. It’s always a nail-biting time. Will they like it? Is the main character’s motivation ringing true? Is there enough light and shade? I am conscious that in some of my books there is too much shade, but I as I write social realism that can be difficult. The book goes to the editor in three weeks, so next week I am going to take a short break before two final weeks work based on beta-readers reactions. Next thing to do is work with my cover designer. This is a mock-up.Sadie's Wars

It’s time to take stock. I have written three books about the same family following their story from convict, to gold digger, to entrepreneurial  success and finally the effect that war can have both economically and personally. I have learnt so much as I travelled the journey with them. Apart from an abiding love of Australia, with all its faults, hardships and optimism, I have learnt to love the family. It’s my family by marriage but what I have discovered is that it is a family which survives against the odds. In book three of the series, the family is torn apart and we are only now beginning to find each other again, almost a hundred years later. What a blessing that is. If I am proud of one thing, it is bringing the story and family back to the people who own it.

The cousins I have met, show the same qualities I recognise in my husband’s family. Loyalty, kindness and determination. What better attributes can you have?

One of my beta readers suggested a blank page at each section where the action changes between England and Australia. I then thought, why not also put in a sketch of the forthcoming scene in too. What do you think?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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A Place to Call Home

When I am deep into writing, I cannot settle to read other novels. As I am an avid reader, this a loss I will have to make up for at some point soon. I even balk at watching TV. The book, my book, consumes me. I have finished the first edit and it will soon be time to let beta readers pull it apart before I let my editor get her hands on it.

The only diversion I have and am addicted to in the odd hour of recreation I allow myself is a box set of A Place to Call Home, set in 1950s Australia. A Place To Call Home: Complete Series 1-5Finding it was pure chance. My husband knows I like to watch anything Australian and he happened to record half a dozen episodes – not from the beginning. Two episodes and I was hooked, so much so that I ordered the set, a first for me. I’m almost at the end and am now trying to understand why I am so gripped. The lead female is almost too perfect, the lead male tends to sound like a vicar giving a sermon in his intonation, but the story is utterly compelling. The family are from the squattocracy (Australian aristocrats) rich, entitled, benevolent and hidebound. However, change is afoot and the grandmother, who is superb, has to be led kicking and screaming to alter her attitudes to just about everything. She is a noble character – in the true sense of the word. She holds the family together, come what may, and it is her that we come most to love and appreciate.

For me it is the social history of the era which is so fascinating. Here we see the remnants of ‘White Australia’ and its mistrust of Catholicism, of aboriginals and of other ‘suspect’ white races or religions. Prejudice abounds, social class rules, sex is hidden, homosexuality can be ‘cured’ – horribly. But you root for the characters as the saga unfolds. There’s a great sense of place in the small town, an hour or so out of Sydney, where ordinary people get on with their lives despite the shenanigans at the big house. Respect for their ‘betters’ demonstrates the Englishness of this period in time. The effects of the war are still being felt but the sixties are on the horizon. Cars, fashion and nightlife add beautifully to the sense of era.

If you like a story and family, you can get lost it – try it. I will continue to soak up the language, the contradictions and my added understanding of what makes this county tick. One thing – don’t expect to see any wildlife other than a dog and a few sheep.


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