In The Plotting Shed

In The Plotting Shed
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Thursday, 1 March 2018

#FREE for St Davids Day! DAFFODILS

Happy St David's Day! Wales is a bit frozen but the daffodils are in bud, just waiting to burst forth when the weather relents. 
To celebrate the occasion Daffodils, the first book in the Katherine Wheel series is #FREE today! Averaging a review score of 4.5*s after over 400 reviews worldwide it is a heart-wrenching tale of true love persisting through tragedy, loss, the demands of World War One and the social chan
es that global conflict imposed. Daffodils

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Sunday, 25 February 2018

Woodbine and Ivy Research - The Battle of Britain

Woodbine and Ivy is turning into an epic story! Not only have the characters hoiked me off to Paris and Normandy, thus involving the French Resistance  (and therefore the background politics of a very complicated time) but one of them witnesses a key battle in the heroic fight between German and British airforces. It's thrilling stuff but much of the research is equally grim. This war was indeed our darkest hour, not just for us, but for the whole world. Let's hope history never repeats itself. 
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However, the way people responded to the threat of Nazism can often be uplifting. 
Take this anecdote: (courtesy of

"Another story is that a young pilot from North Weald, his Hurricane badly shot up, trailing smoke and with his controls damaged was fighting to keep altitude, yet all the way in, he was singing 'Maisey don'ts and daisy don'ts a little lambsey divey' only to interrupt his singing with a message to base that they should keep the kettle boiling as he was getting close."

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Another quote from the same amazingly detailed site (took me days to find it!):
"Many Station Commanders put 'red tape' and 'going by the book' to one side to welcome back their pilots, others got caught up in the excitement and themselves in their own way became part of the Battle of Britain. One pilot said "...that it was always good to know that after exhausting combat, it was good to know that you would be welcomed home by your commander, most commanders were not bad, they showed their admiration for their pilots in so many ways."  Group Captain Richard Grice at Biggin Hill airfield threw all books out of the window and ordered crates of beer for all pilots returning after combat, at Hornchurch Wing Commander Cecil Bouchier often gave a running commentary over the station loudspeaker system from the Ops Room so that all members of the ground crew and administrative staff would know what was going on. He would yell out in excitement like a commentator at a football match that 'Blue Leader has got a Dornier' or "Blue One has a 109 on his tail, he's diving....yes he's left...  now right....a Spit....yes a Spit has got the 109...yes Blue One has gone back into action" and a loud cheer would go up as all the listeners joined in the excitement.

Truly, I'm learning that it might have been the darkest hour in the history of humankind but it was, to quote Churchill this time, also 'our finest.'

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

I have a confession to make...

It's been a traumatic time.
Driven by a desire to bring all my books up to the writing standard I hope I have now acquired through diligent application, hard work and the help of many others, cleverer and more skilled than me, I have re-edited all the books in The Katherine Wheel Series. 
Of course, it was partly procrastination. With all the joyous busyness of last Christmas, when both our kids came home and we got together after a bit of a bruising year, the current work in production (WIP) got left behind.
Instead of cracking on with it, I came up with this brainwave of tidying up the ones that preceded it.  For those writers among you reading this, you will understand the many and varied ways most writers will employ to put off the moment of returning to the very hard work of a first draft.
Woodbine and Ivy is a challenging project, because of the research about the second World War involved but also because it has to pull all the threads left hanging in the last book, Speedwell, together into a magnificent (we are talking aspirations here) emotionally satisfying ending.
It took the best part of 2 weeks, some days working 12 hours a day, to get those edits accomplished and I was horrified at some of my punctuation and lack of speech tags! I have learned a lot in these last five years since I published The Twisted Vine, my debut book. But, the task was hugely satisfying and I felt vindicated when Daffodils rose significantly in the charts, and is still doing so, ever since.
Phew - so - nothing else for it but to return to the first draft of the complex story that will be Woodbine and Ivy. Then my computer started playing up. Wouldn't switch on enthusiastically, would sometimes accept the internet, sometimes not, graphics played up - all very scary. I decided I had to buy a new one soon.
In uploading the paperback of Speedwell onto its publishing forum, I needed to get my dear husband to do some tricky formatting that I could not make this temperamental computer accept. He has a gift for technology that I sadly lack.

We'd just had a lovely romantic candlelit meal. He is left handed and pushed the computer to a different angle. I went away and left him to it. When  I came back, the candle flame had burnt a hole through the back of the screen.
Although it was ten o'clock at night, I had to walk up the garden for some deep breathing.
I decided I had to buy a new computer the next day.
Transferring files, bookmarks and all the familiar sites and comfort zones, let alone remembering all the passwords, was a nightmare. I now have three cloud spaces and one external hard drive with all my stuff on it. I never want to repeat the trauma!
And do you know what? Somehow,
through all of this panic and mayhem, I have managed to squeeze out 5000 new words into that first draft of Woodbine and Ivy. The scenes I have written are full of tension and stress  - maybe that computer disaster will bear fruit after all!

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Research adventures

Research trips make great excuses to travel. Winter can be a dreary time, though it's often a productive one for a writer. This week research took me to London.
Canary Wharf couldn't be more different than the Gower peninsula. All those lights for a start!

I went to the Science Museum as well. It's going to be really useful to have been so close to a WW2 spitfire and 1930's flatbed lorry:

All in all, a great way to cheery up these short January days.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to everyone, especially those who've taken the time and trouble to write a review or tell friends about my work. I appreciate each and every one.
I'm hoping to publish Woodbine and Ivy at some point in 2018, I'm about a third of the way in and looking forward to getting back to work early in the new year but for now it's time to eat, drink and be merry!
Wishing you all a very happy Christmas and all you desire in the new year.
But for now, have a whiff of my cranberry sauce:

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Dreams realised #amwriting

I fulfilled a lifelong ambition on Tuesday.  I went back to Devizes where I used to live and took my books into the bookshop there. The Rose Trail is set in Devizes and the historical section is based on the battle of Roundway Down an iconic range of hills above the town. Oliver's Castle - which is not named after Oliver Cromwell, who joined the English Civil War after this Royalist triumph - looked even more magnificent than ever, laced with frost. The ground underneath my feet was still frozen and the tiny segments where it had thawed were lethally slippery. I went to the very spot where the Roundheads fell to their deaths and shivered - and it wasn't from the bitter wind.

The Katherine Wheel series is also set nearby. We used to live in Erlestoke, just outside Devizes, and the village above its steep valley is called Great Cheverell. These are the two villages that I've named Upper and Lower Cheadle. Cheadle Manor itself is entirely fictional but there was a big estate between the villages. It burned down in World War Two and has now a much more prosaic and sombre role as one of Her Majesty's Prisons.
However some of the minor details of the stories do come from real anecdotes from our time there. The book is dedicated to Old Harry for a good reason. A raconteur who mined a rich seam of a life of nearly a hundred years, Harry could tell a yarn  like no other. He had a wooden leg, lost - not in the war as you might suspect - but through scything it through while working on the railway sidings and cutting the grass. It was Harry who told me about the village pump being the only water supply - the one that had such a devastating effect on little Florence in Daffodils. He told me how the row of cottage in which we both had little 2 up, 2 down homes shared a tap at the end of the row at first, then one between two - which were still there - and then the great day dawned when they had sinks installed in lean-to kitchens at the back of the cottages. A sink of their own; he still remembered the joy of it.
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We (and Harry) lived in the row of cottages to the left.

He'd lived through it all. As a boy he'd worked in the walled garden above our cottages. Like everything else it belonged to the estate, and provided it with fruit and vegetables. It must have been glorious in its day, as the beautiful warm red brick walls curved around the southerly slope to catch all the rays. Not easy in such a steep valley. It was a work of art. Harry remembered those walls covered in apricot and peach trees, espalliered against the terracotta clay bricks. As a boy he was a runner, carrying fruit and vegetables up to the big house, across a bridge that had been demolished after the fire in World War Two.
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It was Harry who was really the boy who ate half the strawberries by the time he reached the cook at the big house. And it was because of Harry that scales were introduced into the garden so that cook's scales matched the weight of the produce before and after it was ferried across!
I look back with great fondness on that time living in that historic village, and not just because both my children were born there. It is a wonderful feeling to know that the story that grew out of that time is now sitting on a shelf in the local market town's bookshop.
A heartfelt ambition achieved.