In praise of readers

I had an interesting communication with a keen reader this week. She rumbled me!
Now that I have finished the first draft of Ivy, and have therefore worked out exactly how the whole series will conclude, I thought I had better share my reply to her query in case there are other equally diligent and observant readers out there who are also puzzled by the way Cheadle Manor has been bequeathed in Woodbine. This eagle-eyed reader remembered the exact detail of what happened after Sir Robert Smythe died and left his estate, not to his wife, but to his daughter, thus enraging Lady Amelia Smythe in Speedwell (which of course is easily done).
This was my reply:

\”Congratulations on your well-observed spotting of the change in the legal arrangements of Lady Amelia\’s will. When I wrote Speedwell, I intended it to be the final book in the Katherine Wheel Trilogy, as it then was. However, because of the somewhat sad, almost ambiguous ending, other readers encouraged me to write more. Many asked what would happen to the children, and I found that, over time, I became curious too. The final ending of the Katherine Wheel series occurred to me before the rest of the story became clear. 

I realised then that I had to change the legal arrangements I had described in Speedwell. By delving into legal inheritance and tax issues, I also found out that baronet\’s wives are called by their surnames and thus Lady Amelia had to be renamed Lady Smythe, unless called by her first name within the intimate family circle. This meant I had to go back, rewrite and edit all of the three books in circulation. I have just completed the first draft of Ivy, which will be the sixth and final book in the Katherine Wheel series, with the ending mentioned above. It entailed making that legal twist in order to be arrived at, but I think it will be worth it. 
You are very clever, and must have a terrific memory, to have noticed this! I hope you enjoy Woodbine, which I warn you, ends on a cliffhanger. 
Ivy is with my editor now and I hope to publish it soon and then I would love to hear from you about that conclusion and find out if you think the legal changes I sneaked in retrospectively to Speedwell were worth it. 
Thanks for your interest in my work. It\’s a good feeling to know someone has really followed the stories so closely.\”

I relate this anecdote because it shows the beauty (and perhaps the pitfalls) of self-publishing! The joy of doing it yourself means you can go back and change things. After all, this is fiction and it\’s fun to play around with stories – otherwise, why do it?

I shall be talking about my books on a radio station called 
live this Monday night at 8.55 pm. Do tune in and listen or catch up on their facebook page at at your leisure.

First draft completed of Ivy

Phew! I completed the first draft of Ivy, the sixth and final book of The Katherine Wheel Series just after midnight last night. It\’s been a long haul and it\’s a big book. Hopefully, I managed to pull all the threads together from the previous five books. The manuscript is now with my editor, who, I\’m very confident, will let me know in no uncertain terms!
Now I have the nailbiting wait for the verdict. After that, it\’s the second draft, which is usually not as onerous as the first. The thing is with creating a story in the way I write is that I have to not only research, and remember it as I write, think up creative solutions for what I am trying to portray for my characters, but also I LIVE it! It\’s a wonderful experience in many ways. Sort of like watching a video across your mind\’s eye but I do experience everything I put my characters through and that\’s what makes it both thrilling and exhausting.
I went to bed very late but it was impossible to sleep as I went over and over the story from every angle. Just as I was dropping off, at about three in the morning we had a tremendous thunderstorm, almost directly overhead. I gave up after that so today I\’m taking it easy!
Of course, there is now the fun of creating a cover, a blurb and a strapline but I may leave that for another day and just get out into the garden.

Celebrating #VE Day with special offer

Tomorrow, the 8th May 2020, is the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day. Then, we celebrated liberation from Nazi oppression. Today, we are fighting an invisible enemy, Covid-19, which is just as lethal.
In honour of today\’s heroes and especially the fallen of World War Two, my latest book, Woodbine, will be on special offer on a Kindle Countdown Deal.
The countdown begins at 0800 GMT tomorrow morning at a knockdown price of 99p for twelve hours, then it will increase until it returns to its normal price of £2.99 by Saturday morning.
So, you\’ll have to be quick to grab it!
Woodbine is Book Five in The Katherine Wheel Series and takes the children of Katy and Cassandra into the troubled and dramatic arena of the Second World War. In a way, it is only one half of the tale, as Ivy will conclude the series and the stories of Lottie, Isobel and Al in Book Six, coming soon, when all the threads will finally come together.

The start of it all

I wrote Daffodils, the first book in The Katherine Wheel Series, many years ago. The location is loosely based on the village where my children were born in Wiltshire. It took me ten years to write, off and on, as life distracted me many times. It was so long ago when I wrote it that the internet wasn\’t really up and running and research was a lot more difficult to access. Many times I felt like giving up, especially as I delved into the atrocity of World War One, not a subject I had any previous inclination to explore. There was no getting around it though, as I followed Katy and Jem\’s lives through that devastating period in human history.  And now I\’m doing it again with their children and their struggles through the Second World War!
And yet, as we all face challenges through the lockdown and witness new tragedies happening to families who are victims of this horrible virus, sometimes the dark side of life is inescapable.
I published Daffodils back in 2013 so I was especially pleased to see a fresh review from a discerning reader who posted it on Goodreads. Here\’s the review:

5 *s *****
\”I was given this book by a friend who thought that the WWI setting would appeal to me. It did. But that\’s only a tiny part of the book\’s charm.
Daffodils is a powerful book that puts you into the mind and heart of Katy, an inconsequential servant in a grand English house at the start of WWI.
Katy longs to break free of the restrictions and conventions that govern her life and you feel her frustration living in her claustrophobic village. Jem is a gardener on the same estate and has always loved Katy and when she agrees to marry him it seems that their path is set. However, tragedy strikes with a cruelty that threatens their relationship and things take a turn that leads them both into fear and danger.
I felt I really knew Jem and Katy. What happened to them mattered and I wanted to make things better for them. They are rounded, believable characters and their suffering was all the more real as a consequence. There are other, distinctive people in the book -some of them with character failings that make them unpleasant and even dangerous.
Katy does get to travel, but not under ideal circumstances. Her time during the war is written with a clarity and understanding that was wholly convincing and some of the detail concerning field hospitals in France was fascinating.
I loved this book and am now going to buy the next in the series.\”

Daffodils is currently free at Daffodils

First review for Woodbine – 5 Stars!

Woodbine has its first review and I\’m thrilled to report it has gained 5 Stars. It\’s a comprehensively written review and contains no spoilers.
Here\’s the review:

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 7 April 2020

I very much enjoyed the Katherine Wheel series, following the fates of Katy Phipps and Cassandra 
Flintock Smythe at Cheadle Manor through the early decades of the 20th century, so I was delighted
to find that the story continues into the next generation, with Woodbine, focussing on Katy’s son Al
and Cassandra’s daughters, Lottie and Isobel. A triangle involving two young women and one
young man is bound to spell trouble at any time, but the drama in this case is quadrupled
by the setting of World War II. Family and friends are divided by internal disappointments and shocks,
but then they are divided even more by war, with Lottie marooned in occupied France, Al determined 
to fly and Isobel joining the land army. The feel of the times is brilliantly conveyed, in the interminable
boredom of waiting, the moments of panic and the shock of real and sometimes horrific action, all
uncomfortably realistic. All aspects of the story are gripping, with Lottie especially emerging as a 
heroine in heart-stopping scenarios, but we are left at the height of the war, so I desperately await 
the next volume.

Launch of new book: Woodbine!

We\’re living through a strange time, aren\’t we? My heart goes out to anyone who is suffering from Covid-19 or has a loved one who is currently poorly, and I send every good wish to all patients with this cruel disease for a speedy recovery. 
However, I do think that books can be a great solace when you feel stressed, frightened or lonely. A book will not answer you back, it is not on a schedule that you may have missed. A book will wait patiently for you to read it, at whatever time suits you. It won\’t go out of date or change but will be a constant resource to escape the grim reality we each are facing right now.
It is my humble hope that Woodbine can be an escape for its readers. There are resonances in the story with this world war we are all fighting against a silent, invisible killer. World War Two was a tough time too and many people died who didn\’t deserve to. There were heroes then as well and, as I researched extensively for this new book, I kept seeing similarities between that global conflict and the worldwide struggle we now face. 
Woodbine is Book Five in The Katherine Wheel Series and I was struck how this second World War was really unfinished business from the first one, depicted in Daffodils. (Daffodils remains #free for now) In Woodbine, it is the children of Katy and Jem, Cassandra and Douglas who must battle their way through these difficult years. 

 Woodbine cover
Lottie, her sister Isobel and Al, the man they both love, are on the brink of adulthood and the Second World War in Woodbine, the fifth book in The Katherine Wheel Series.
Trapped and alone in occupied France, Lottie must disguise her identity and avoid capture if she is to return and heal the bitter feud over the future of Cheadle Manor.
Back in England, Al is determined to prove himself. He joins the Air Transport Auxiliary service, flying aeroplanes to RAF bases all over the country.
Isobel defies everyone’s expectations by becoming a Land Girl. Bound by a promise to a dying woman, she struggles to break free and follow her heart.
Woodbine is the penultimate book in The KatherineWheel Series.


New Book, new cover!

Excited to reveal the new cover for my new book, coming out very soon:

As you can see, Woodbine is Book Five in the Katherine Wheel Series.
Ivy, Book Six, will hopefully follow soon as it is part 2 of Woodbine, in a way!

Lottie, her sister Isobel and Al, the man they both love, are on the brink of adulthood and the Second World War in Woodbine, the fifth book in The Katherine Wheel Series.

Trapped and alone in occupied France, Lottie must disguise her identity and avoid capture if she is to return and heal the bitter feud over the future of Cheadle Manor.

Back in England, Al is determined to prove himself. He joins the Air Transport Auxiliary service, flying aeroplanes to RAF bases all over the country.

Isobel defies everyone’s expectations by becoming a land girl. Bound by a promise to a dying woman, she struggles to break free and follow her heart.
I\’ll keep you posted when it\’s fully published!

Cooking a book #

Writing HQ has temporarily decamped to the dining room. So many notes and files have been accumulated for Ivy now that it became necessary to spread them all out and reorganise. In researching anything to do with the Second World War, it\’s impossible to avoid plumbing the shocking depths of man\’s inhumanity to man (particularly in viewing the scenes of the Nazi death camps) but also total heroism in the sacrifice of so many lives to win the peace for future generations. We are very lucky. However, it\’s been fascinating piecing the drama together and, even though the outcome, seen in hindsight, wasn\’t in doubt, there were moments of high tension in its replay during crucial times when you can see no-one knew how things would turn out. It is truly humbling to learn what the combatants of that fierce conflict went through and only hope I can do them justice in my next two books.
Lottie, Cassandra Flintock-Smythe\’s eldest daughter, is deeply embroiled in this war but her story is emerging through the chaos. She\’s impressing me as a character, and hopefully, readers will love her too, when the story is finished. The other characters in \’Willow\’, Isobel, Al and young Lily, all have their own parts to play in this epic battle and I\’m enjoying listening to them as I guide them, not always willingly, towards the destiny already carved out for them. Ah, the power of the pen!
 Hopefully, publishing will happen later this year, when \’Woodbine\’ will probably be released at the same time as \’Ivy\’. In essence, they are two parts of the same whole and should be read together. It\’s a little strange, as a writer, not to publish when a book is completed, as Woodbine is, but the details may change a little as Ivy develops, and further fact-checking may need retrospective correction.
\’Willow\’  (only 99p for the kindle copy) is out now. It\’s only a little book but it introduces the characters of Woodbine and Ivy as children and bridges the gap between the generations of the first three books in \’The Katherine Wheel Series\’ and the two to come, \’Woodbine\’ and \’Ivy\’, which will conclude it.

1,110 ratings and reviews gained for #Daffodils!

Woke up this morning to find that, as well as the previous 547 reviews for Daffodils, nearly five hundred more ratings have been added to the mix in both the US and the UK. The average score remains at 4.4 out of 5 stars overall – not bad out of 1,110 verdicts!
Willow, a short novella and book four of The Katherine Wheel Series, has recently been published with both Woodbine and Ivy to follow in the new year. This will bring the total of books in the saga to six.
Daffodils is currently #free.

Daffodils #FREE for now!Daffodils