Blog

#VJ Day – 75 years of peace

 #VJDay today – when peace broke out across the world after Japan surrendered 75 years ago. Now that is something to celebrate. Many times I felt overwhelmed with the challenge of writing about #WW2 from so many viewpoints but it was an era, a conflict, that had informed my childhood and always fascinated me. Many members of my generation grew up on a diet of war films, bomb-damaged streets and personal histories of veterans and civilians who had lived through those crucial years between 1939 and 1945. Woodbine and Ivy cover those years, and a little bit more. Living vicariously through the experiences of my characters I learned so much about human nature, the insidious creeping evil of occupation by the Nazis in France: the hunger, the fear, and terror of the carpet bombing of Caen in particular where a lot of the story is set. The hardship and the grinding work that went into battling life out on the Home Front was just as enlightening, especially while we are living through the restrictions that Covid-19 has imposed upon our contemporary world. Reviews have been heartening so far and I thank each and every reader who has taken the time and trouble to write one. The Katherine Wheel Series is complete with the publication of Ivy and is my homage to the fallen of #WW2.I can\’t ever hope to do them justice, no-one could, but I\’ve done my best.

https://amzn.to/3dSY9Hh

Woodbine, #FREE today!

Since completing The Katherine Wheel Series with the publication of the sixth and final book, Ivy, I am very pleased with the feedback I\’ve received. Thank you each and everyone who has taken the time and trouble to leave such positive reviews. It means so much when a book like the ones that comprise The Katherine Wheel Series, but especially the latest two, Woodbine and Ivy, involve such vast quantities of research to make the stories authentic. 

\”Well held!\”

My method of writing is to \’live\’ within the narrative; to \’be\’ the characters and to vicariously \’experience\’ the challenges I put them through. While this is truly great fun, like being inside a film, it\’s pretty tiring too! I don\’t mind, I love it, don\’t get me wrong, but it takes some effort. All this makes me appreciate reviews even more and readers might not realise that reviews open doors to competitions, awards and marketing opportunities that would otherwise remain shut so, please, keep them coming!
Today and tomorrow, Woodbine is going out into the world with NO price tag! If you\’ve read it and enjoyed it, please spread the word about this one-off opportunity. 

#FREE TODAY/TOMORROW!

***** \”Another brilliant instalment of this wonderful series, but what a place to leave it! Looking forward to the next book already!\”
Hopefully, other readers will also go on to read the conclusion in Ivy.

\'The Katherine Wheel Series\' is completed with the publication of \'Ivy\'

I\’m really excited (and a bit exhausted!)  to announce that \’The Katherine Wheel Series\’ is now completed by the publication of its sixth and final book, \’Ivy\’.

This series about Katy and Jem Phipps and Cassandra and Douglas Flintock-Smythe has taken me years to write. When I began with Daffodils, way back in about the year 2000, I never expected (or dreamed) that it would generate a six-book saga! But these characters wormed their way into my heart and mind and would not leave me alone and they took me through the interesting aftermath of the \’Great War\’ in Peace Lily and Speedwell. In Willow, Woodbine and Ivy their children took centre stage as they evolved into adults and combatants in the Second World War. Like their parents, their generation became swept up in a global conflict that transcended normal life and put theirs into sharp focus. 
Woodbine and Ivy were originally intended to be one book but, like Topsy, the story grew and grew and had to be split over two volumes. Many readers have written to me after finishing Woodbine, which ends on a cliffhanger, desperate to find out what happens next. Well, I\’m proud to say, you can now!
Ivy completes the series. It\’s a big book, over 500 pages long, and spans the whole of the European theatre of war. The research entailed was an enormous task and, at times, overwhelmed me. However it was also fascinating and, as with World War One, the heroism of its victims was humbling and inspiring. War brings out the worst and the best in people and I hope that none of us is ever tested in that way again. I think that\’s why I find history so interesting. There are many lessons to be learned from the mistakes and adventures of our forebears. One of the main realisations for me was how the Second World War was an inevitable conclusion of the First one. And so it was with Woodbine. I just couldn\’t squeeze in all the drama that unfolds in Ivy into one volume. 
It is my sincere hope that readers will enjoy the surprising conclusion to The Katherine Wheel Series in its final book, Ivy.

5* review of Woodbine by #AnneWilliams, Book Reviewer extraordinaire!

Thrilled with this magnificent review – and comprehensive article on the whole of The Katherine Wheel Series – by the wonderful #AnneWilliams, book reviewer extraordinaire.

In this post, Anne discusses Woodbine, the fifth book in the saga, on the very day I\’m launching the final one, Ivy! More on that later…
In the meantime, I\’m enormously proud to share Anne\’s review of Woodbine here:

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 7 July 2020

Verified Purchase
I was initially a little worried by launching myself into a series with the fifth book: but while I’d obviously missed out on the earlier story and some of the background to the characters (particularly the older ones) and their relationships, I had no difficulty picking up enough of the context and moving on into the story of the next generation. And what a story – it totally swept me away, enthralling in every way with the most wonderful story-telling and the very finest of writing. This is a pretty substantial book at over 400 pages, but other than comfort breaks (when I took my kindle with me!) I didn’t surface for air until I’d read the very last page.

There were a number of elements that made this book one I really loved. I’m often a bit of a pushover for a WW2 setting, but the research that went into this book – the British home front (particularly, but not exclusively, for those used to living more comfortable lives), and the realities for the French population – must have been incredibly extensive, and it’s all wonderfully woven to bring the era so vividly to life. The sense of place throughout is exceptional – Cheadle Manor and its surroundings, the Welsh farming community where Isobel spends time as a land girl, war-torn Paris and the rural community where Lottie finds refuge. The book’s canvas is enormous – but sometimes it’s extraordinarily intimate through your degree of involvement with the fortunes of the three main characters, every one of whom you grow to really care about. And the pacing of the story is perfectly handled – quiet moments alternating with gripping sections when you really can’t read and turn the pages fast enough.

I will mention though that while the book does have an ending, the story doesn’t conclude in this book – we’re still in the midst of wartime, and there’s another book to come, drawing their individual stories and the whole series to a conclusion. I really didn’t mind that – it just made me want to read the next book even more, as I’d become totally invested in these wonderful characters. I’m not a regular reader of “sagas”, and don’t read historical fiction that often either – but from my reading of this single book I could tell that this series was something very special indeed.

(While I might have been just a tad frustrated that I couldn’t read the story through to its conclusion, no-one else will have the same problem – I see that Ivy was published on 1st July and is now available for kindle and in paperback. I’m just trying to carve out some more reading time, because I’m desperate to read on…)

Cover reveal! Ivy is the sixth and final book in The Katherine Wheel Series – out soon!

Ivy concludes The Katherine Wheel Series and in fact, is a continuation of the story begun in Woodbine. Woodbine and Ivy were originally intended to be one book. The title comes from an old country folk song and the lyrics are quoted at the beginning of Woodbine. However, this epic tale grew so large I had to split it into two parts. Lots of readers have contacted me after finishing Woodbine and in search of its partner, Ivy, so I\’m excited to announce that it will be published very soon. 
In the meantime, I\’m proud to reveal the cover, created with the very professional help of  Jane Dixon-Smith of http://www.jd-design.com. Jane worked with me very patiently over many subtle changes and tweaks to the images until we arrived at the final product to our mutual satisfaction. 
The house depicts Cheadle Manor, in Wiltshire, the frequent backdrop to all six books in The Katherine Wheel Series. I always had a very clear vision of the manor as I wrote the books. It isn\’t based on any one particular house that I\’ve seen, more an amalgam of some very beautiful ones I\’ve encountered in Wiltshire over the years I lived there. In my mind\’s eye, it was always clearly like this one on the cover of Ivy, with three stone gables pointing up to the sky and the graceful steps descending from the front door. 
Here is the paperback version with the description of the contents on the back page as a teaser!
Watch this space for an announcement about the publication date.

radio interview

I sound like I have a peg on my nose in this radio chat show! It was a great opportunity and I really enjoyed (most of) the 80s music. Ron and Ian made the whole experience fun and professional. What I hadn\’t reckoned on was talking over my own voice after an eight-second delay. That was truly bizarre. I couldn\’t hear what I was saying currently, only what I had said previously!

Anyway, for those of you interested here\’s the clip. It\’s well over an hour-long, which is great if you want to listen to the music but if you want to catch me spouting about my books I\’m on at 1.23 hours into the clip.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1FRTy_a7y3vl0H0LiCbzcNiVyM5tLT1-1/view

If there are any other authors wanting to go on the show just apply at http://www.chatandspinradio.com

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 www.chatandspinradio.com 
live this Monday night at 8.55 pm. Do tune in and listen or catch up on their facebook page at www.facebook.com/chatandspin 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 http://rxe.me/BPUQAY4 Daffodils