Friday, 28 November 2014

Flora Maguire

SS Minneapolis 1900
My Flora Maguire Cozy Mystery is now in edits, which means my announcement of a release date is drawing closer.  I have learned a great deal from this exercise, in that reducing the word count of a story that holds, clues, red-herrings and false trails throughout the manuscript, is incredibly difficult to cut!  

Characters tell each other things in the wrong order, recognise people they have not yet met and reveal stuff they shouldn't know - fortunately my lovely editor has pointed these glaring errors and I am in the process of putting them right.

Next time - if there is one - I'll write a shorter story.

I have been asked what inspired this story which takes place on the SS Minneapolis on its maiden voyage from New York to London in March 1900. I was trawling through Newspaper reports for that era and came across one published in the New York Times dated December 1899 that  I knew I could make a story out of.  

I cannot reproduce it here as that would reveal three quarters of the clue. However there is a postscript to the creation of this novel I can mention, in that during the WW1 Centenary celebrations this summer, I delved into the fragmented family records including my grandfather's service record. 

Amongst the snippets of information, was one saying that his regiment were sent to France in October 1914, where they fought at Ypres. The ship was the SS Minneapolis - something of which I was completely unaware when looking for a steamship on which to base my murder mystery. 

In fact on further investigation I discovered all the 'Minne' class steamships of the Atlantic Transport Line were used as troopships during WW1. A possible clue  for the 'Twilight Zone' music, and for anyone born after 1980, and I don't mean the vampire movie.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Release Day - The Goldsmith's Wife

The second novel in the Woulfes of Loxsbeare series is now available on Amazon 
as an e-book released by Books We Love

It is London in 1688, and Helena Woulfe Palmer has what she always wanted, 
respectability and security. Her elder brothers, however, remain a worry - Aaron 
is scheming in Holland with the Prince of Orange and other exiles to depose the reigning 
King James II, and Henry carries his own sorrow in that he is pining for 
another man's wife.

Prince William arrives in England to re-establish the Anglican Church,
and when anti-Papist riots break out in London, Helena is forced to flee 
from her home – again.

The Palmers enter a new era of prosperity under the reign of King William III and 
Queen Mary, but Helena discovers she should be have been more careful what 
she wishes for. 
While Helena strives to keep what she holds dear, can she and her 
brothers attain what they both desire above all, will they ever learn the 
fate of their missing Father, who disappeared after 
the Battle of Sedgemoor?

Thursday, 6 November 2014

REVIEW - Married By Midnight by Talli Roland


Christmas is coming . . . and so is the biggest day of Kate's life.

While choosing a vintage dress for her Christmas Eve wedding, Kate finds a cryptic note pinned to the inside of a 1930s gown. As doubts about her own ceremony loom, Kate is determined to track down the dress' owner and determine what became of her - and the marriage.

Will Kate find the answers she's seeking to propel her down the aisle, or will her discovery prompt her to call off the wedding for good?


This novella is perfect for curling up in front of the fire with on a chilly evening with a hot chocolate at your side. The theme of this charming light romance is that some people appear to need signs and omens to decide whether a relationship is right. 

Kate has a Christmas Eve wedding planned, but her last minute nerves drive her to seek a sign from the cosmos that she is doing the right thing.  She ignores all the tell-tale signs that Tim is not the man for her and puts up with some pretty annoying behaviour – but she hasn't learned that marriage doesn’t change men – it just reinforces their characters! 

Kate’s sister Bea, however, has her head firmly on her shoulders and tells her sister to trust her instincts.  Kate, however isn't at all sure of her gut feelings, and is encouraged by their mother, who is equally fixated on horoscopes and omens to guide her and

Kate's Mother convinces her to visit a rundown bridal shop, where surprisingly, Kate finds the wedding dress of her dreams. The note attached to the vintage gown is from the previous owner wishing her well. Kate decides to find this woman, hoping to be told a story of perfect love and marriage, or is she simply looking for a reason to call off the wedding to rugby-obsessed Tim of the student habits and doesn’t yet know it?  Possibly.

Kate’s search, carried out through social media, [where Kate discovers to her surprise that her mother has over 640 virtual friends] brings her into contact with the original owner of the gown, and Kate has to face her demons at last.

I have read some of Talli Roland's other stories so knew vaguely what to expect and this one didn’t disappoint. My only criticism is it was too short and I finished it too quickly. 


Tuesday, 30 September 2014

REVIEW-Dying In The Wool by Frances Brody


Take one quiet Yorkshire village, Bridgestead is a peaceful spot: a babbling brook, rolling hills and a working mill at its heart. Pretty and remote, nothing exceptional happens.
Until the day that Master of the Mill Joshua Braithwaite goes missing in dramatic circumstances, never to be heard of again.
Now Joshua's daughter is getting married and wants one last attempt at finding her father. Has he run off with his mistress, or was he murdered for his mounting coffers?
And Kate Shackleton, amateur sleuth extraordinaire!
Kate Shackleton has always loved solving puzzles. So who better to get to the bottom of Joshua's mysterious disappearance? But as Kate taps into the lives of the Bridgestead dwellers, she opens cracks that some would kill to keep closed.


As a fan of Historical Cosy Mysteries, and an author of my own series, I admit I bought this book to see how the experts did it.  I wasn’t disappointed as the writing style is beautifully done, smooth and full of images, while the characters have quirks and faults which make each of them well rounded and intriguing.

The reason for Kate Shackleton’s interest in sleuthing professionally is understandable – her husband was missing believe killed in action five years before. As an independent widow in a position to choose how she lives her life in an age when women were still expected to be led by the nose – by a man – Kate is outwardly strong and runs around in a motor car, much to the approbation of those she meets. For her part, Kate is emotionally damaged and has not discovered how or why she ought to let go of her husband as there is a tiny voice telling her he may still be out there, somewhere. I really liked her.

The author’s research into running a textile mill in 1920’s Yorkshire is masterful, and she comes down on just the right side of info dumps in her descriptions, the attitudes to the owners and the way they treated their workforce.

Kate also takes on an assistant, an ex-policeman of whom she isn’t sure, but who proves a valuable asset in her investigations. He also grows to like him as he treats her as a professional colleague not an empty-headed woman.

There were a couple of details I found unusual, in that even taking into account the ‘surplus women’ left over after the First World War, would the wealthy socialite Tabitha Braithwaite really marry a man ten years younger, who was a boy scout when his fiancĂ©e was tending the wounded as a VAD? Hmm, not sure about that one.

Kate's methods are very practical, in that her interest in photography doubles as a way of collecting evidence, but just when a second body turns up in suspicious circumstances, Kate takes herself off for a week to attend a family dinner which, for me, dragged the story down just when it was picking up pace.

Kate’s friends aren’t quite as loyal of forbearing as she is, and the aptly named Tabby, turns on her when the investigation appears to be going in a direction she doesn’t like. Kate comes close to death at one point and the ungrateful girl revokes Kate’s invitation to her wedding.

The plot is very complicated, and interspersed with flashbacks to 1916, a device used to show what motivated the other characters as the story is told in Kate’s PoV. The reader needs to pay attention or vital nuances will be missed, which is where I found the flashbacks distracting and felt the story was strong enough without the additional characters putting in their own penn’orth.

Saying that, I fully intend to read the other five books in this series. Ms Brody’s narrative is easy to read, nostalgic and so English.  I hate to admit it but I recognised some of the idioms, i.e a 'tanner' was still being called that when I was a nipper. Oh dear.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Writing Path Blog Tour

Lisa Yarde, amazing Historical Author and friend, invited me to participate in IC Publishing's writing path blog tour - thank you, Lisa. Please check out her answers to the tour questions. As I'm composing mine, I'm actually in the spot where most of my writing endeavours take place, next to the corner window of my bedroom complete with cluttered desk and PC. The clutter is necessary; it's how I write. Speaking of writing....

1. How do you start your writing projects?
I am writing a series of historical cozy mysteries set during the early Edwardian period in England. I have my core characters organised so need to create a murder that requires solving by my main character, Flora Maguire. I tend to trawl through old newspaper reports until I find either a report that can be adapted to suit my story, or an event that happened at the time which can impact it, although I don’t change recorded history, I just embellish it something that might have happened. My latest novel mentions the Serbian Murders of 1903.

2. How do you continue your writing process?
I am an inveterate ‘Planner’ so the next step once an outline exists, is to summarise what happens in each scene, including dialogue, where the clues are scattered, how the scene moves into the next part and what Flora’s own thought processes as new information is revealed and how she handles it.

The story may change from conception to completion – Flora tends to tell me when the next action I have planned for her doesn’t feel right. She acts on impulse sometimes and I have to change tack to let her go with it, or the story becomes too stilted.

3. How do you finish your writing project?
Once I have a first draft mapped out, I submit each chapter to my critique group. This is a set of authors whom I have come to know over a period of several years. I trust their judgement and if they tell me a chapter isn’t working for them – I listen. They have saved me a lot of wasted time writing uninteresting prose and forced me back to the beginning on more than one occasion.

After a rewrite, or maybe two – I submit the manuscript to my agent, who reads it through and if she thinks it would suit one of the publishers she is working with, she submits the manuscript. 

Sometimes a publisher will ask for re-writes, which I am always happy to do, but even then the final result may be rejected. My writing is quite individual, and sometimes, like in Royalist Rebel, readers don’t like my main character.  The heroine was a real person and in that case, I  believe I was true to her character.  With my ‘cozies’ I need to make Flora Maguire, engaging, likeable and a person readers care about and someone they would like to follow through her own life.

4. Include one challenge or additional tip that our collective communities could help with or benefit from.

In this one I agree with Lisa when she says - Publish. The world of literature has undergone a massive change since the innovation of the Internet and because everyone with a computer can, theoretically, produce a book. Or should I say start a book, only a certain type of person can complete one.

There is a lot of dross out there, even more so now with the relative ease of self-publishing – however if you are determined to see your work in print, make it the best you can be. Learn your craft, draft and re-draft, and then hire an editor.

Take their advice, no matter how painful, you can learn from it.

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