Mastodon The Writing Desk: May 2014

31 May 2014

Book Launch: Atonement for Emily Adams by Susan Lawrence

New on Amazon US and Amazon UK

When Emily Adams hits and kills ten-year-old Isaiah Nelson with her car, she is overwhelmed with remorse. Knowing she cannot undo this tragedy, Emily hopes to atone for Isaiah’s death with good deeds and community service. 

However, the more she does, the more her life falls apart. With her job on the line, her volunteer efforts fruitless, and her marriage in jeopardy, the final blow comes when Isaiah’s grieving parents file a wrongful death suit. For them, this will be justice and closure, but for Emily this is final proof she will never be forgiven. Not by Isaiah’s parents—not by God. Where do you turn when “I’m sorry” isn’t enough? 

All author's proceeds go to Pour International, a non-profit agency, for the building of an abandoned baby home in Swaziland.  For more information about Pour International go to

This story will wring your heart, but the satisfying resolution will leave you smiling. Yvonne Anderson, Author of The Story in the Stars, 2012 ACFW Carol Award Finalist

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About the Author

Susan Lawrence taught elementary school for 26 years before hanging up her chalkboard to write and speak. Atonement for Emily Adams is her first novel. Susan lives in the woods of Iowa with her husband and yellow Lab, Annie E.  Susan has 3 children and 7 grandchildren who love to hear her stories. You can find out more on her website at and on Twitter @susanrlawrence

24 May 2014

Book Review: The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK

What book would you take on a holiday to a remote cottage in the English Lake District?  I chose The Time Traveller’s wife by Audrey Niffenegger for several reasons. I’ve been fascinated by the idea of time travel since reading H. G. Wells’ TheTime Machine as a child. I have also been avoiding seeing the film version of The Time Traveller’s wife, as I wanted to approach the book without knowing how it ends. I was also interested to see a first novel that became an international best seller.

It turned out to be perfect holiday reading, with short, episodic chapters that could easily be read between walks in the hills. It is also one of those great books that keep you wondering about the small details, skilfully dropped into the story, that you just know are going to be hugely significant later on. I used the idea of switching point of view from husband to wife in my second novel, The Shell, without realising this was what Audrey did to such good effect. It is a great plot device, as you get two stories for the price of one and keeps up the pace, as you want to see the other person’s take on events.

I’ll not spoil the book for anyone by giving away the ending but there was a point when it could have ended quite happily. I could see there was still a way to go and correctly guessed that it would descend into the darker novel hinted at in the opening chapters. Original, and engaging, this is really a story of the power of unconditional love. Highly recommended even for people who don’t usually go for time travel books. Now I’m going to look for the film on DVD!

16 May 2014

New Book Launch: Black Dragon by Richard Turner

New Thriller on Amazon UK and Amazon US

1945 – with the Soviets preparing to invade Japan’s northern islands, a top-secret military installation rushes to erase any sign that it ever existed. Only they aren’t through enough and a secret from the past returns to threaten the present.

Present day, a routine close protection assignment for former special operations soldier Ryan Mitchell and his team suddenly turns deadly. Drawn into a lethal game in which the balance of power in the world hangs by a thread, Mitchel races to stop shadowy forces and their murderous agenda before all is lost. From war-torn Japan, to Mongolia, to Texas the fight for survival is on.

About The Author

Richard Turner proudly served in the Canadian Army for more than thirty years. Starting his career as a private and finishing it off as a senior officer, he considers himself fortunate to have lived and worked all across Canada. He had numerous overseas deployments that took him to many varied locations throughout the world, including: Germany, Cyprus, Croatia, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, Egypt, Israel and finally two tours of Afghanistan. Wanting to try something new, he now spends his time writing.

Visit Richard's blog and follow him on Twitter @RichardTurner_1

15 May 2014

Discovering Literature - the British Library’s literary treasures, online

Discovering Literature brings together, for the first time, a wealth of the British Library’s greatest literary treasures, including numerous original manuscripts, first editions and rare illustrations. A wealth of original sources span the Romantic and Victorian periods, alongside historical material such as newspapers, diaries, letters, photographs, and maps.

William Blake’s notebook, childhood writings of the Brontë sisters, the manuscript of the Preface to Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, and an early draft of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest are just some of the unique collections available on the site.
Discovering Literature features over 8000 pages of collection items and explores more than 20 authors through 165 newly-commissioned articles, 25 short documentary films, and 30 lesson plans. More than 60 experts have contributed interpretation, enriching the website with contemporary research. Works from the Romantic and Victorian periods form the first phase of a wider project to digitise other literary eras, including the 20th century.  Visit to find out more.

14 May 2014

WARWICK book trailer

Sir Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, the 'kingmaker' is the wealthiest noble in 15th century England. He fights on both sides in what have become known as ‘the Wars of the Roses’ and turns privateer, daring to take on the might of the Spanish fleet.
The friend of kings, he is the sworn enemy of Queen Margaret of Anjou. Then, in an amazing change of heart, why does he risk everything to fight for her cause?
In the first and only novel to ever show events from his point of view, you can experience his life of adventure, power and influence at the heart of one of the most dangerous times in the history of England.
Available Now in Paperback and eBook on Amazon UK and Amazon US

13 May 2014

New Book Review: King’s Crusade by AD Starrling

Winner of the Action/Adventure category of the Next Generation Indie Book Awards 2014, the exciting, action-packed follow-up to Soul Meaning and the second instalment in the award winning supernatural thriller series Seventeen.

Available in eBook and paperback on AmazonUK and AmazonUS

You know it’s a great story when you find yourself wondering when they are going to make it into a blockbuster movie. The second book in AD Starrling’s Seventeen series is a roller-coaster ride fantasy thriller that will keep you guessing to the end.   Think ‘Tomb Raider meets Dan Brown’ and add superhero invulnerability.  An ancient sect is plotting the downfall of civilization and we travel from the desert mountains of Egypt to the heart of Rome as all attempts to stop them are thwarted.
Beautiful warrior Alexa King is fortunate in that she can completely recover from her wounds by the next chapter, as she gets into plenty of scrapes with her accomplice  Zachary Jackson, a genius archaeology professor. Amazingly, she seems to have given little thought to her mysterious background until it really matters. Fortunately, Alexa also discovers her human side.

Now I’m looking forward to reading the next one!

About the Author

AD Starrling was born on the island of Mauritius and came to the UK at the age of twenty to study medicine. After five years earning her MD and another five years working all hours as a Paediatrician, she decided it was time for a change and returned to her first love, writing.

Released in July 2012, SOUL MEANING was the first in the award-winning supernatural thriller series SEVENTEEN. The second, KING’S CRUSADE, was released in May 2013. The third novel, GREENE’S CALLING, is scheduled for publication June 2014. She lives in Warwickshire in the West Midlands, where she is busy writing the next instalment in the series. She still practises medicine.  AD Starrling is her pen name. Visit her website  and find her on Facebook and Twitter @ADStarrling

12 May 2014

Tips For A Long Term Writing Career And Writing Historical Fiction

Colin Falconer
Colin Falconer is the international bestselling author of over 40 books translated into 23 languages, drawn from many periods of history.

Starting in advertising as a copywriter because his early manuscripts didn't get published, Colin moved into scriptwriting for TV and other freelance work for magazines. After one article helped him get an agent, he started writing novels.

Does writing get easier after 40 books? Colin talks about his experiences to New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Joanna Penn:

See Colin's website for more information about his books at  and follow him on Twitter @colin_falconer.  Joanna Penn's website is and Joanna is on Twitter @thecreativepenn

11 May 2014

Guest Post by By Mari Christie “Research, research, research!”

The first time I executed formal research, I was five (dinosaurs). I wrote my first survey when I was 15 (religious experiences). In adulthood, I was the undergrad who wrote 75-page papers for 10-page assignments, just to fit in every—single—fact. I have out-archived historians, out-queried librarians, out-argued shoddy PhDs, even out-classed professors. I have taught research, evaluated, edited, and organized it. I can use a card catalog as easily as a search engine.

Research is innate to me. Primary, secondary. Practical, theoretical. Qualitative, quantitative. This has made me a walking encyclopedia of useless information. And no better at writing fiction. What has made me a better writer is finding my fiction research process.

I love historical novels set in an inviolable world, but not so much when I can’t locate the fictional plot. If I wanted that, I would pick up a history book and read about real life, which I’ve heard, anecdotally, is probably stranger than fiction. I also love old-fashioned characters in plausible plotlines who drag me by the throat into yesteryear. But too often, blatant inaccuracy and too-modern voice tosses me out of the adventure.

The balance between fiction and fact is the essence of the genre. The Ken Folletts and James Micheners of the world create the most accurate, but imaginative, worlds without sacrificing character or plot. I, however, do not aspire to be Follett or Michener. Conversely, the writer whose character travels across Europe by rail in 1815 works, inadequately, on the other end of the spectrum, and I will not aspire to failure.

Historical shortfalls aren’t always a feature of description or setting: not always a “white wedding” before Queen Victoria. Not always a teddy bear before Roosevelt. Mistakes happen in dialogue: No native of Brooklyn ever said, “You look like a tap-hackled toss pot.” Errors happen in the narrative voice: clothes do not “bespeak” anything in 1956. No one is “affrighted” in 2014. A “sennight” just never occurs weekly anymore.

For me, characters first explain the story. Here, research begins, always for quick answers (Etymology of “electric.” Men’s hats in 1790. Senate passage of the Thirteenth Amendment.). Eventually, I comb my first draft for places where additional detail will require larger context.  (Daily life of a housekeeper. History of transportation in Europe. British colonization of India.) Third, I find primary sources, no more than two or three—diaries or letters or transcripts—and pick out “minutiae” to add judiciously. (Food at a Civil War wedding. Trim on a Regency bonnet. Tenth-grade coursework in 1915.)

Last but not least, my historical fact checker seeks out anomalies. Like the structure of a book, the voice of the characters, the order of plot points, historical accuracy and detail is entirely at the discretion of the writer, as is the process of research. Given my unfortunate tendency toward every—single—fact, if I didn’t follow this basic formula—if I began by reading 50 books on my time period—I would end with a history tome, not a plotted novel. If I ignored the details altogether in favor of character and plot, I would lose anyone who appreciates times gone by; in other words, my entire audience.

Mari Christie

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About the Author

Mari Christie is a professional writer, editor, and graphic designer in Denver, Colorado, whose creative work includes three mainstream historical fiction novels, one Regency romance, and innumerable poems. In the early 90s, she was responsible for the first weekly poetry slams in Denver and Charleston, South Carolina, and held positions at a wide variety of local and regional newspapers and magazines, including The Denver Post, Focus on Denver, Charleston’s Free Time, and New ReView Magazine. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Writing, summa cum laude and With Distinction, from the University of Colorado Denver. She has acted as an advocate for poetry and creative expression her entire adult life. Visit her website and find her on Twitter @mchristieauthor

10 May 2014

New Book Review: The Queen’s Exiles by Barbara Kyle

1572. Europe is in turmoil. A vengeful faction of exiled English Catholics is plotting to overthrow Queen Elizabeth and install her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne. In the Netherlands, the streets are red with the blood of those who dare to oppose the brutal Spanish occupation...

Available for pre-order now on AmazonUK and AmazonUS

Canadian historical fiction author Barbara Kyle’s experience really shines through in the sixth of her Thornleigh Saga series, The Queen’s Exiles.  Set in the Spanish occupied Netherlands, we follow the adventures of our hero and heroine as they attempt an audaciously daring rescue of Lord Thornleigh’s children. We are drawn into a meticulously researched world of Dutch underground fighters, known as the ‘Brethren,’ who fight on against seemingly impossible odds.

Barbara has a talent for ‘cliffhanger’ chapter endings that keep you reading. In turns exciting, poignant, chilling and romantic, I particularly liked the way the true life and mysterious ‘Sea Beggars’ – seafaring rebels and buccaneers - are woven into the fictional narrative.  I knew little of the Dutch revolt against Spanish rule but it makes a great backdrop for a good old-fashioned adventure story.  

About the Author

Before becoming an author Barbara Kyle enjoyed a twenty-year acting career in television, film, and stage productions in Canada and the U.S. Barbara and her husband live in Ontario, where she presents  workshops and master classes for writers and talks about Tudor history.  Her Thornleigh Saga novels – Blood Between Queens, The Queen’s Gamble, The Queen’s Captive, The King’s Daughter and The Queen’s Lady – follow an English family’s rise through three Tudor reigns during which they make hard choices about loyalty, allegiance, family, and love. Barbara also writes contemporary thrillers and over 425,000 copies of her books have been sold in seven countries.  More information is at her website and you can find her on Twitter at @BKyleAuthor

9 May 2014

The challenge of writing historical fiction

A recent reviewer of my latest historical fiction novel, WARWICK, commented that, ‘This needed to be three times its current length in my view to do justice to the subject matter’. I am tempted to agree, although the job of a historical fiction author is to be selective, for the reader’s sake?

I remember wondering if there was a reason I was the first to tackle the life of such a complex character as Richard Neville, also known as the ‘kingmaker’. I read widely about the Wars of the Roses and the social and political fashions of fifteenth century England, both fiction and non-fiction. I lay awake at night wondering how much detail to include as my draft progressed. I cut and cut again during the editing process. One beta reader wanted more ‘blood and guts’ and another wanted less.

Baron Edward Bulwer Lytton
(Image credit Wikimedia Commons) 
This dilemma is nothing new, of course. Baron Edward Bulwer Lytton was an English novelist, poet, playwright and politician who wrote several bestselling novels (and famously coined the phrases ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’. He helpfully commented in 1843 that:

'Unquestionably, fiction, when aspiring to something higher than mere romance, does not pervert, but elucidate facts. He who employs it worthily must, like a biographer, study the time and the characters he selects, with a minute and earnest diligence which the general historian, whose range extends over centuries, can scarcely be expected to bestow upon the things and the men of a single epoch. His descriptions should fill up with colour and detail the cold outlines of the rapid chronicler; and in spite of all that has been argued by pseudo-critics, the very fancy which urged and animated his theme should necessarily tend to increase the reader's practical and familiar acquaintance with the habits, the motives, and the modes of thought which constitute the true idiosyncrasy of an age. More than all, to fiction is permitted that liberal use of analogical hypothesis which is denied to history, and which, if sobered by research, and enlightened by that knowledge of mankind (without which fiction can neither harm nor profit, for it becomes unreadable), tends to clear up much that were otherwise obscure, and to solve the disputes and difficulties of contradictory evidence by the philosophy of the human heart.'

8 May 2014

2014 Global eBook Market Trends and Developments

In discussion with Belgian author Bob Van Laerhoven recently, I was reminded how diverse the European eBook marketplace is, with eBooks yet to have much impact in The Netherlands and Belgium.

Trends in the global eBook market are changing rapidly, however, so the Spring 2014 update of the Global eBook Report makes interesting reading.

The new report aims to present the latest data, with comparisons and analysis of the development of eBook markets across Europe and the US. There are interesting pointers of new and emerging markets, as well as a useful analysis of the diverse eBook pricing strategies in markets across Europe, and an overview of key activities of global players, particularly Amazon, with estimated market shares in the main markets.

Among the many possibilities is that, as with mobile phones, digital eBooks will enable developing countries to ‘leap-frog’ the path taken by more established book markets, without the publishing industry, agents and booksellers acting as ‘gatekeepers’. The report considers eBbook markets have been driven very much by best-selling titles from either the largest publishing groups or from a small number highly successful self-published authors (with some controversy about respective market share).

There are several thought-provoking ideas in the report, including that the potential of eBooks has yet to be fully realised, as development is still in its early stages. The result could be the emergence of something completely different from marketing printed books through digital channels.

The report is written by Rüdiger Wischenbart, with Carlo Carrenho (Brazil), Javier Celaya (Spain), Veronika Licher (China), Miha Kovac (Central and East Europe) and Vinutha Mallya (India).

Download the full report free from

Many consumers in India are buying books online and fast moving to consumption of content on devices? How is the publishing industry in India looking at these trends? What is the role of e-books in India? Caroline Newbury, Head of Marketing and Publicity at Random House India shares her observations on consumer trends in India for the publishing industry and her outlook for online marketing in India in 2014:

7 May 2014

A Tribute to Leslie Thomas, British Author, 1931 - 2014

One of my favourite authors, Leslie Thomas, best known for his novel The Virgin Soldiers, died today aged 83.  

Leslie Thomas's father was drowned when his ship was torpedoed in 1943. His mother died soon afterwards from cancer, so Leslie and his younger brother, Roy found themselves in a Dr. Barnardo's Home in Newport, south Wales, an experience memorably described many years later in his first autobiography This Time Next Week.

Leslie had a successful career as a Fleet Street reporter before he began writing novels. In 2004 he was awarded an OBE for services to literature. His first novel, The VirginSoldiers, was inspired by Leslie Thomas' national service in Malaya and describes the exploits of British soldiers based in the Far East. He went on to write a further thirty successful novels, as well as travel books and his second biography In My Wildest Dreams, published in 1984. During his lifetime his international books sales were more than fourteen million.

I will remember Leslie Thomas for his great sense of humour and talent for weaving the details of his life into some of my all-time favourite novels. 

6 May 2014

Guest Post ~ Writing for Children by Jacqueline Beard

A fantasy story set in a fascinating world that draws you in - I finished the book in one day! Can't wait for the next one”  (Amazon 5 star review

New in paperback and ebook on Amazon UK and Amazon US

“You must write for children in the same way as you do for adults, only better” Maxim Gorky

It took several days to decide what to write for this guest piece.  Why is writing for children different to writing for adults?  Does one set off with the intention of writing for children – or is it determined another way?

Children see easily through weak plot lines or poor characterisation.  They have no time for stories that preach or talk down to them.  It is essential that children’s stories are well-written.  But that is equally true about stories written for adults, so what makes someone decide to write a children’s book instead?

“Adults are only obsolete children” Dr Seuss, One fish, two fish

Many great writers became children’s writers because of close relationships with their own children.  Lord of the Rings writer J R R Tolkein started his writing career by penning illustrated letters to his children in the guise of Santa Claus.  His great novel The Hobbit developed when he found an empty space in an exam paper he was marking and felt compelled to fill it.  He wrote, “In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit.” He used this sentence as the basis of a story which he re-told to his children, growing the story as he went along. 

Both Kenneth Grahame and A A Milne had sons who inspired their writing.  Grahame’s son Alistair, otherwise known as ‘mouse’ was born with a visual impairment. Grahame made up stories throughout Alistair’s childhood, developing the characters in Wind in the Willows we know and love today.  It is believed he created Mr Toad to teach young ‘mouse’ the difference between right and wrong.

A A Milne’s son Christopher Robin Milne was the inspiration behind Winnie the Pooh and the House at Pooh Corner.  Piglet, Eyeore and many of the other animal characters were imagined from young Christopher’s stuffed toys.

As Madeleine L’Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time says,

“You have to write the book that wants to be written.  And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

Beau Garnie & the Invisimin Mine evolved during a walk on the local common with my young son Alex.  We imagined racing hares, moving mushrooms, intellectual rats and a tiny race of people trying to survive in a magical world low on resources.  The idea was conceived with Alex’s help; he was crucial to the plot development, gave endless critiques, boosted my flagging morale and would not let me give up.  The book could not have existed without him.  It is a children’s book written by someone who was once a child in cahoots with someone who is still a child (although steaming rapidly towards teenager-hood). 

Like the writers above, I didn’t specifically set out to write for children.  It just happened by being around them. 

“I don’t write for children.  I write.  And somebody says, that’s for children.”  Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild things are.

Jacqueline Beard

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About the Author

Jacqueline Beard is an English writer and genealogist living in Gloucestershirem, UK, with her husband, son and Border terrier where she spends much of her time dog walking through the glorious Cotswolds.  When not writing or researching her extensive family tree, Jacqui can be found gardening, or reading.  Jacqui loves dogs, computers and good quality chocolate but is a lousy cook. Visit Jacqueline's blog at and find her on Twitter @Jacquibwriter 

5 May 2014

Book Launch: Baudelaire's Revenge, by Bob Van Laerhoven

Everyone is guilty of something - 
the only mystery is, to what degree?

Winner of the Hercule Poirot Prize for best crime novel of the year

“An intense historical crime thriller. The intricate plot, menacing atmosphere, and rich evocations of period Paris have undeniable power.” (Publishers Weekly)

Set in besieged Paris in 1870, Baudelaire’s Revenge  presents a compellingly engaging view of Paris  on the eve of the Franco-Prussian war. The poor are living in misery and the working classes are growing desperate but the intellectuals and aristocrats are avidly pursuing their debaucheries. An artistic killer is embellishing his obscene handiwork with verses of “Les Fleurs du Mal”. This bizarre case appeals to the dissolute sensibility of Commissioner Paul Lefèvre, whose own twin passions are poetry and women of 'sinister unpredictability and uncivilized morals.'
Published for the first time in English, this  gritty, detail-rich historical mystery novel involves the reader in a subtle narrative web. Belgian author Bob Van Laerhoven weaves in some of this historical period's favourite supernatural elements - magic, exotic poisons, séances and ghosts - to create an eerie, fin-de-siècle atmosphere.
New on Amazon US and Amazon UK

Visit Bob's Website  and find him on Twitter @bobvanlaerhoven 

4 May 2014

Book Launch: Half The World by Corri van de Stege

A gripping and unique account by a foreigner living through the turbulence of revolution and the emergence
of the Islamic Republic of Iran 

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

What was it like to live in Isfahan as the foreign wife of an Iranian University professor in the run up to and during the revolution of 1979, when the Shah was overthrown and Khomeini created the Islamic Republic of Iran? Corri van de Stege a Dutch national lived, studied and worked in London for eight years, married her Iranian boyfriend and moved with him to Isfahan early in 1977. 

Initially suffering from homesickness for London she adapts and makes new friends amongst the community of ‘foreign wives’ and becomes a teacher at the British Council. But then she finds herself in the middle of a revolution in an alien country with her husband and baby son, without internet, social media or even a telephone in her house, and where television and radio broadcasts are censored so you never know what is true and what is gossip. 

The author evokes the stark contrast between the everyday life on the campus and the escalation of violence both across the country and in Isfahan, the town where she lives. She worries about the increasing demonstrations of hatred against foreigners, in particular Americans, and the English language. You feel the tension grow between friends and colleagues who will have to decide whether they can live in an Islamic Republic, their unease aggravated by increasing uncertainty about what will happen to the American hostages held in Tehran. 

Follow the author on Twitter @corrivandestege 

2 May 2014

Daphne du Maurier’s Writing Habits

Daphne du Maurier working at her
Underwood typewriter, 1944
I was watching the BBC’s much maligned (for ‘incoherent mumbling’) dramatization of Daphne du Maurier’s  Jamaica Inn recently when I realised I knew very little about the author. I have enjoyed lunch at Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor and even kayaked ‘Frenchman’s Creek’ on the Helford River, so it was interesting to learn about how Daphne approached her writing.
Daphne du Maurier  was born in London in May 1907 and was still writing at her death in 1989. Educated by private tutors in Paris, she published her first short stories at the age of twenty-one. Her publisher encouraged her to write a novel, which became The Loving Spirit in 1931. She was made a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1952 and became a Dame of the British Empire in 1969. In 1977 she won the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award. As well as Jamaica Inn, Hitchcock directed film versions of The Birds and Rebecca.  Film versions were also made of many of her other books, including Frenchman's Creek, Hungry Hill, and My Cousin Rachel, which starred Richard Burton and Olivia de Havilland.

Often dismissed (to her intense annoyance) as a ‘romance’ author, her work is finally receiving critical attention and her entire output was reprinted in 2003. The Daphne du Maurier Festival of Arts and Literature has been held at Fowey, Cornwall, every year since 1997 and forms part of the Fowey Festival from 10th to 17th May 2014.

Writing Habits

Her initial ideas were jotted down in pencil in small blue exercise books before being extensively re-drafted at one of her many typewriters. Her family decided to place the archive at The University of Exeter in 2001, where the ‘Rebecca Notebook’  was re-discovered. Facing a plagiarism challenge from writer Edwina MacDonald, who claimed the Hitchcock film of Rebecca relied heavily on her own work, Blind Windows, Daphne Du Maurier successfully defended her work by producing the notebook as evidence.
Interestingly, her notes entitled ‘The rough start of Rebecca’ have a different opening line ‘I do not think we will ever live in England again - that much is certain,’ instead of the now famous line ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again ...’. The typed copy of the Rebecca manuscript also reveals her approach to re-drafting, with many spelling mistakes and Du Maurier's own numerous corrections.

In an interview Daphne du Maurier once mentioned that her favourite writing place was a gardener's hut, where, she said, ‘I'd sit for hours on end, chain-smoking, chewing mints and tapping away at my typewriter.’ She also describes writing Rebecca ‘sitting on the window seat of the living room, typewriter propped up on the table before me.’

Like many writers, she needed a set routine before she could enjoy the peace of mind she needed to write. Servants helped to take care of the ‘disorder’ of family life, although in the war years she had to do much more herself and said, of her daughter. ‘I chuck her a doll to play with and rush to the privacy of a room alone and hammer upon my typewriter at Frenchman’s Creek, my new book, and I am lucky if I get a page written.’

Much of her early work seems to have been typed on an American Oliver Model 11, manufactured in Chicago, Illinois. The Oliver was notable as the first effective ‘visible print’ typewriter, with text clearly visible to the typist as it was entered. Her Oliver 11 is displayed in the museum at the Jamaica Inn - and in 1996 starred with her on a British postage stamp.

Her later work was done on her Underwood Standard Portable Typewriter, which was later replaced by a top of the range Olivetti. Fox’s Glacier Mints were her favourite ‘writing sweets’, usually kept in a small dish next to her typewriter. 

Writing Style

Daphne du Maurier once famously said, 'I can't say I really like people, perhaps that's why I always preferred to create my own.'  Over the course of twenty-nine novels and dozens of short stories she was more interested in the balance of power between men and women, particularly in marriage, rather than romantic love stories.

Never fixed in one genre or writing style, her work ranged from Rebecca (which has been called the first major Gothic romance of the 20th century), to biographies, historical fiction and horror stories, plays, short stories, science fiction, family histories and a mystery. Having been described as ‘the favourite novelist of put-upon wives around the world’ the re-discovery of a her short story ‘The Doll’  shows how diverse her legacy is, as it tells the story of a young man who discovers the girl he loves (called Rebecca) won’t accept his advances because she has a life-size mechanical male doll. It was written in the 1920's and published in 1937 in a compilation of rejected stories called The Editor Regrets. The Doll was re-published by Virago in 2011. I think Daphne would have been very pleased.

Other posts about the habits of famous writers:

1 May 2014

Guest Post by Charles Ray: The Buffalo Soldier Series is Born

'Ride along with the Buffalo Soldiers as they face death, danger
and discrimination on the western frontier'

New on Amazon US and Amazon UK

A few years ago, during a conversation with some young people who worked for me, I discovered that they were completely misinformed about American  history as it relates to the settlement of the American west. Like many people who get their history from popular media, they were of the opinion that the cowboys and cavalry of the Old West were all Caucasian. Imagine their shock when I pointed out to them that ten percent of the soldiers who came riding to the rescue of the pioneers or ranchers were African-American, and that during the period after the Civil War, African-American cavalry and infantry served in all areas west of the Mississippi, including the Dakota Territory – and as far north as Alaska – and were among the first units to secure our national parks.

After that conversation, I decided to expand my writing portfolio from mystery and fantasy to historical fiction. I began researching to fill in the weak areas of my own knowledge, and started mapping out a series of stories of the Buffalo Soldiers – the nickname given to the African-American soldiers by the Native Americans they fought against, because their hair resembled the curly hair of the buffalo, an animal that was revered in their culture.

During my research, I learned a few things that even I – a history nerd – didn’t know. For instance, the cavalry didn’t as a rule use the Winchester repeating rifle. Instead, the army procured the cheaper and sturdier single shot Springfield carbine. In addition to fighting the warring Indian tribes, the cavalry also helped local law enforcement catch outlaws and maintain order. They built roads – the first roads in Yosemite National Park were built by the Buffalo Soldiers, helped survey territory and make maps, and built or rebuilt the forts in which they lived. They often spent days in the saddle while on patrol, going from scorching temperatures in the lowlands during the day to almost freezing cold in the mountains at night.

Because people seem to dislike reading history, I decided to fictionalize the stories. I keep the history as accurate as possible, and occasionally insert an actual historical figure, such as Col. Edwin Hatch, the first commander of the Ninth Cavalry, with fictionalized encounters or conversations. The central character is Ben Carter, a former slave who walked from his East Texas home to New Orleans to enlist when he learned the army was taking black soldiers. In the first book, Trial by Fire, Ben, a sergeant when the series opens, is put in charge of a small detachment that is fighting a bunch of Comanche renegades. We follow Ben Carter and his men through a series of adventures in each book – one main mission, such as peacekeeping, per book – and see how he matures over time. I try to make sure the equipment and weapons are accurate, and use research and my own 20 years of military experience to make the tactics and manoeuvres as historically accurate as possible.

In the most recent of the series, Battle at Dead Man’s Gulch, Ben and his men come to the rescue of a group of white cavalrymen from the Sixth Cavalry who are pinned down by attacking Apache warriors. Incidents like this happened frequently as army units moved across the territories in pursuit of renegades who fled the reservations to which the Native Americans were consigned.

The stories are mainly about the African-American soldiers, but I try to show the Native American perspective as well, In addition, I include a diverse collection of characters, white, Asian, and Hispanic, because the west was, popular media notwithstanding, a diverse place. Because I want the books to be accessible to younger readers, I avoid sex scenes – of course, this series is also categorized as western, and we all now there’s no sex in westerns – and I keep profanity to a bare minimum. In fact, I often use euphemisms to indicate profanity. I know that’s not authentic, but it is fiction, and like I said, I want parents to be comfortable allowing teens to read these books.

I treat the question of race relations directly – sometimes using words that some might find offensive, but always in context, and never more than necessary to show character motivation or set up a conflict for a character.

This series started as a labor of love. I never expected it to catch on. The first four in the series did okay, but they were no barn burners. Then I published Renegade, a story about a mission to capture a group of Apache renegades making a run for the north. I did the cover art for it – as I do for all of them – but, instead of realistic art, I did a semi-abstract painting. To my surprise, the first weekend after it appeared for Kindle on Amazon, I sold 800 copies. Afterwards, people started buying the first four. None of the others in the series have quite beaten that record, but there has been a relatively steady stream of readers who have discovered the Buffalo Soldiers, and based on unsolicited reviews on Amazon, love them.

There is, I believe, a lesson to be learned here. If you love a subject, and are truly interested in it, you can do a good job of writing about it. It also proves that history can be made interesting.

Charles Ray

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About The Author

Charles Ray from North Potomac, Maryland, won a National Sunday school short story writing contest when he was around 13 and has been writing ever since. Even during his long military service he wrote for national newspapers and
magazines. Charles now devotes his time to writing, art, photography, and public speaking on leadership and international affairs. For more about his work and interests, see his blogs at:
on Twittter @charlieray45
and his Amazon author page