In The Plotting Shed

In The Plotting Shed
Click on The Plotting Shed to get your FREE book

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Don't blow your nose in it!

Don't blow your nose in it! (Click here to see the article)

Handkerchief maps were used by Allied forces in World War II (Credit: Credit: Georgina Kenyon)

This is a very interesting post from the BBC about silk handkerchiefs used by pilots in World War Two. I jump on anything to do with this conflict when I read it, as I am deeply engrossed in Woodbine and Ivy, which is set in that time. These squares of silk had 3 different maps of Europe printed on them and formed part of an escape kit. In the article, journalist Georgina Kenyon describes how important these maps were psychologically to those who carried them, along with more predictable things like spare socks and penknives. She quotes her 94 year old father-in-law, himself a Australian pilot who saw service in Europe. "Keep your sense of humour and your escape kit with you at all times."
Ms Kenyon also draws out deeper truths in this fascinating article, ones that really resonated with me as I too study this dreadful time. She concludes by reflecting on how temporary the stupidity of war can seem and yet how permanent are the scars it leaves behind.
Let us hope that we never, ever experience anything like it again. Human nature is flawed, and I'm discovering how dark some of the aspects of our nature can be in desperate circumstances but also how inspiring are those who are able to rise above it to become genuine heroes.

Image result for yin and yang images free

As I delve deeper and deeper into my story, I keep reflecting on the Chinese symbol of yin and yang. It is a circle with opposite tadpole shapes spooning against each other, one white, one black. Inside each is the seed of the opposing colour. I perceive this in over-simplistic terms as the seed of evil contained deep within the larger good and the seed of good contained within evil. Rather biblical terms! I guess what each of us has to to is keep a healthy balance between them, both as individuals and as communities and ultimately as a planet.
After all, there is no Planet B.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

another review for #Daffodils

I know I keep banging on about reviews but, due to changes that Amazon have made, they are becoming rare beasties. This one perfectly captures everything I was trying to achieve when I wrote Daffodils.

"5.0 out of 5 stars The breadth and depth of the "war to end all wars"

ByMeiguion May 3, 2018
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

The scope and depth of this book is enthralling, as it envelopes the reader in three different aspects of "the war to end all wars". Beginning with a blunt view of class arrogance, it moves on to the general home front as war creeps into all of England--a viewpoint rarely considered in war stories. Next we are confronted with the ugliness of the war from a soldier's perspective. But the surprising aspect is a view of women's roles in the same theater. There are, of course, books which have covered these areas individually, but to read of all three intertwined provides a perspective on the impact on individuals unique to this genre. And the reading is much more enjoyable and satisfying than reading a lot of academic histories on the topics! I highly recommend it."

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

300th review of Daffodils in US 100th on #Goodreads

Review number 300 for Daffodils in the States. 
Bit of a watershed moment. It reads:
5.0 out of 5 stars
"Wonderful book of an era I have not delved into before!!
Highly recommend this book and anxious to begin the sequel!! History told in a very captivating and descriptive form in this novel!!!"
Happy with that.
Then the next day came the 100th review on Goodreads:

"5***** A romance with extras - I really enjoy reading a good romance, a story set in the war years and how people managed during this dreadful time. Daffodils has everything telling of a young couple getting married, having a child and struggling through their tragic loss. The stresses faced by family members 'doing their bit' comes across in the writing of this exceptional book. I read of love, unwanted attentions, terrible conditions of war and the bravery of young men and women fighting towards peace. I've read the book twice and loved every chapter."

I was particularly pleased the reviewer read the book twice. No writer could ask for more than that.

Daffodils (The Katherine Wheel Book 1) by Alex Martin

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

Image result for pictures of daffodils

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. 
Image result for pictures of the battle of britain
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."

Image result for pictures of the battle of britain

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.