Research Trips

Next week is my first research trip of the year – to Grimsby. Half of my new book is set there during World War 2. I am lucky to have aunts who still remember the war and can give me some first-hand memories, but that cannot take the place of a research trip to the library.Heanage Road Grimsby WW 2 bomb damaged houses..

On a sad note, I see that the library is to close on Mondays from next month (I’m pleased I am going before that. However, if you have limited time and specific arrangements to make, imagine how disappointed you would be travelling 300 miles to find the main reference library closed. We are all to blame with the rise of e-books but there is no substitution for a reference library. Stick up for libraries. Over the years I have received wonderful service from libraries from Washington to Sydney. Librarians rock, OK!

I am also taking time out to have coffee with Grimsby author, Joy Wood. We met on Facebook a month ago. Although we are not too happy with Facebook, politically, at the moment, no one can doubt how it has been wonderful at linking people and interests across the globe.

So this is my first research trip of the year. Can anyone guess what I am hoping my second on will be?


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Pro Writing Aid

I received an email offer, money off ProwritingAid yesterday. It’s 25% off until today, March 18th, with a code I have been given, MARCHNL18 . I subscribed for a couple of years and thought it might be useful to discuss my experience with it. I was new to creative writing at the time, needing all the help I could get. There were certain things I had been told, but somehow when the creative juices are flowing, they don’t always sink in. I thought before I press publish it may be a good idea to put my first book through this programme I had been recommended.

First lesson – don’t wait until then. By scrambling through the changes it recommended, altering as I went along, I also introduced errors which I did not pick up in my final proofread. I have since done further major edits to unpick those errors – missing words; missing letters; repeated words – how embarrassing and a good job they were found by my beta readers.

Second lesson – we all have favourite words and ways of writing which get repeated. I see this in some books I now read and thing to myself – you should have used ProWritingAid.

  • Had, could, would, just, then, still, for – oh my, they were everywhere, littering my prose like cheap confetti. I now stop when I am tempted to write any of those words. Think, is there an alternative or can they be expunged. Usually, they get left out.
  • Sticky sentences – it took me a while to understand this term. I recently did some editing of ghost stories and I can now say I get it. Take this example. ‘The next day, she went on the internet and used a search engine to look for local shipwrecks.’ Edited to – ‘In the morning, she googled local shipwrecks from her phone.’ Avoid sticky sentences and tighten your writing.

Third lessonavoid passive writing. I knew this and yet I still did it. Why? – ‘She was feeling unhappy’ – not only passive, but telling not showing and a weak verb.

Fourth lesson – now the programme won’t point out where you tell not show but it does pick up words where you can deduce that you are telling -words like feel, know, seem, look

  • She felt him come closer – the hairs stood out on her neck as he moved towards her.
  • She knew he was angry – the expression in his eyes hardened and a scowl formed on his lips.
  • He seemed sad – sighs replaced his smile, a wistful, lingering glance as she walked by, not noticing.
  • He looked so happy – he skipped along the pavement, chortling with glee.

Fifth lessonadverbs. Yes it picks these up and words I didn’t even know were adverbs, not just the ly endings. I am not of the opinion you should never use them, but once again, think as you are tempted to put one in. I don’t remember that it picks up over used of adjectives, perhaps it should.

Sixth lesson – repetition. It picked up occasions when I started a sentence with the same word three times in a row and also overuse of certain words as per lesson two.

One final point – you can choose which type of writing it’s assessing. I chose creative but you can choose academic, business and others.

For someone embarking on writing, I think it was an invaluable programme and would fully recommend it.

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Holiday Reading

This week in Mallorca, I am catching up on research with The War at Home, volume 4 of The Centenary History of Australia and the Great War. It’s the perfect book for my current WIP. It does point out the contradictions in Australian society, the country of the Fair Go. Where women got the vote much earlier than in the UK and where men achieved a living wage before WWI but where the Hughes government became quite despotic about patriotism and the threat of Bolshevism. Conscription was voted down twice but those considered alien were kept in the most horrific conditions. 4,500 Australian born nationals, but of German stock, were kept in 3 sided huts for years in NSW, on limited rations to the point were some went mad. Economically, the war was disastrous with Australia thrown into depression earlier than the US or Britain. Women were not drafted into men’s jobs as they were in Britain and were rebuffed if they volunteered. A third of eligible men volunteered which declined as the war went on and death rates rose. Initially many men were rejected as unfit but eventually they accepted men of 5 ft. We tend to think of Australians as tall, strapping men but the depression of the 1890s meant that was not the case in WW1.

I have found all this fascinating. Much of it won’t get used but it helps me understand the atmosphere of the time.

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Sadie’s Wars

I think I have found the title of my WIP. It came to me last night out of the blue as all the best titles should. As usual I had been overcomplicating things again by wanting Yarra or Yering in the title. However, the Yarra Valley represents only a fraction of the book, while the main theme is about the effect of both world wars on Sadie’s life.

This third book in the Currency Girls series is proving the most difficult to write. I have been toying with flashback chapters but am now veering back to sequential. I think and editor will have to advise me in the end. This is the only photo I have of Sadie, standing 2nd left as a bridesmaid at her half-brother’s wedding. She standing next to her seated grandmother, Jane, The Digger’s Daughter.

Marriage of Joseph T Timms, jnr. Grandmother Jane Dugmore Timms seated fourth left.

The elevator pitch – a beautiful and wealthy young woman casts aside her first love because he won’t fight for the empire. From this point, her life unwinds with devastating consequences. Can she make a new start in a new country?

When will it come out, I hear you ask? Possibly before Christmas but maybe early next year.

A general question – do you like flashbacks or not?


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South Coast Book Show – March 4th

This is a new venture, thanks to the hard work of the organiser, Natasha Murray. Over fifty authors will be at Worthing Pier from 9.00 – 6.00 this Sunday, March 4th. If you are in the area, please pop in. It’s free. Yay!

Please come and make it a success. It might be early to think of Christmas, but when else will you get the chance to buy signed copies of books for all ages and all genres? There’s also a full programme of readings and speakers throughout the day.

Make a date, this Sunday at the Pavilion Theatre, Worthing Pier.


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Psychosis by Roger Bray

I am not a great fan of the crime genre but I do read them from time to time and I watch some on TV.  Not the Midsummer Murder type. I am more into Scandi Noir or Spiral from French TV, gritty, honest but engaging.

What do I look for in a crime novel? I dislike multiple murders, one is more than enough in a book. Plot – it goes without saying, there has to be a believable plot, with no glaring holes or people putting themselves into unnecessary danger when a quick call to the police would be the most sensible course of action.

Characters should be as rounded as in any other type of novel.

It must not be self-derivative, i.e. there is at least one crime writer who has written the same book twenty times, but with different characters and settings. Can you guess who?


Psychosis is the first book I have read by Roger Bray. It starts with Alex in prison for his wife’s murder. It appears that only his sister, Alice believes him to be innocent, despite the lack of evidence and that no body has been found. Both siblings are worn down by the three years of appeals,  lack of hope in ever discovering what has happened or any prospect of Alex ever regaining his freedom. A chance meeting in a coffee shop changes everything. Steve is drawn to Alice and he has both experience and a license for private detective work. The setting is Oregon. I have to trust the author on that one.

I found the book to be well-written, my only quibble that some sentences were overly long, as in paragraph long. The plot developed well and, for me,  I found it a page-turner. A slight curve ball was thrown which deflected the reader from the culprit. I enjoyed the budding romance between Alice and Steve. Alex, I feel, needed some sharper edges, he was almost too perfect.

Steve is a good detective and I wonder if this book is going to be part of a series. I hope so.

I can’t give too much of the plot away but it followed a sensible path, no one did anything that detracted from believability, or behaved out of character. One of the difficulties with crime novels can be an overabundance of characters from which to choose the culprit. This was not the case here. Another character or two may have helped the plot thicken.

Overall, I enjoyed reading the book and would read another of Mr Bray’s books. I will give it 8 out of 10.

I read the book in e-book format. My one criticism of that is that I found the paragraph indents too wide. A very small thing, I know, but I have made the same error myself. 






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Anglo Saxon Novels

Within the last year, I have read four novels set between 700 A.D. and 1066. Before that none that spring to mind. I’m not sure that I will become an aficionado of the genre but I have enjoyed each of them. Two of them were specifically set in Sussex, my present county, two were by women and two were by an old school mate, whom I have not set eyes on in almost sixty years. We rediscovered each other via another friend eighteen months ago and we now have a mutually supportive but virtual friendship.

Let me begin with John’s books. The Purple ThreadWyrd of the WolfThe Purple Thread mostly takes place in Europe as the protagonist escorts and abbess to her new convent. He battles not only with the many opponents who want to hinder him but with his own beliefs as Christianity shoves the old Gods aside. It has a very dystopian feel to it. There’s lots of action and atmosphere and you get a real feel for the lawless Dark Ages. Wyrd of the Wolf is not a sequel and is set in Sussex and the Isle of Wight. Christianity is beginning to take hold on England. What must it have been like to be alive in those times amidst constantly warring factions when both . body and soul are being pummelled by competing forces? It certainly made me look upon my county in a new light. I enjoyed figuring out the places by the Saxon names. Immense amounts of research have gone in to both of these books but that doesn’t hold up the action. John has written two more books to be published later this year.

The next book is The Handfasted Wife by Carol McGrath, the first book in a series. This is the tale of The Handfasted Wife: The story of 1066 from the perspective of the royal women (The Daughters of Hastings)Edith Swanneck, the handfasted wife of King Harold. The plot deals with the run up to the Battle of Hastings and its aftermath. It is very much told from the women’s point of view. Edith is first supplanted by a new wife as Queen to Harold and then progressively loses first her husband, then home, then sons. I could really empathise with Edith as she battles to save her family. For anyone interested in historical novels of whatever period, I think you would enjoy this book.

I finished reading Sons of the Wolf by Paula Lofting last night. It is set mostly in East Sussex and in the years leading up to the Battle of Hastings but while Harold is still Earl of Essex. It is a more intimate novel about the family of Wulfhere. It opens as he returns home from Dunsinane where the Scottish King Macbeth has been defeatedSons of the Wolf: (Sons of the Wolf : Book One 1) and ends just after the Battle of Hereford, but most of the action takes place in Sussex where he lives with his wife and children. Wulfhere is likeable, honest but a flawed character. He feuds with his jealous, unpleasant neighbour and alternatively with his wife and children. I could relate to him and his family as it transported perennial issues into a bygone age, adultery, sibling rivalry, envy, coming of age – it’s all there. There is a sequel and I am longing to know what happens to Wufhere. Although I am now beginning to understand the Saxon references,

I still find the Saxon names confusing. I am too lazy to write down the character’s names as they are introduced so I stumble occasionally. But for all that, I have enjoyed being transported to these ancient times.





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