28 February 2022

Book Review: The Ship Asunder: A Maritime History of Britain in Eleven Vessels, by Tom Nancollas


Available for pre-order from

If Britain's maritime history were embodied in a single ship, she would have a prehistoric prow, a mast plucked from a Victorian steamship, the hull of a modest fishing vessel, the propeller of an ocean liner and an anchor made of stone. We might call her Asunder, and, fantastical though she is, we could in fact find her today, scattered in fragments across the country's creeks and coastlines.

This meandering journey through Britain’s maritime heritage is rich with anecdotes and snippets of history. Although Tom Nancollas follows the stories of eleven relics of important ships. I was expecting more about each ship, but as Tom Nancollas points out, 

“at the heart of this book is an absence, for ships are definingly perishable things. Sea washes, wears, squishes their hulls. Wind pulls, pushes prises apart structural members or hull coverings. Salt abrades, corrodes, dissolves until a ship may scarcely be identifiable. This is not just a story of ships’ live, but of their afterlives too.” 

There are many ‘detours’ and no sense of urgency. We pause to visit Spike Milligan’s ‘Celtic’ grave in Winchelsea, and the ornate chair, allegedly made from the timbers of Drake’s Golden Hinde. 

I enjoyed the historical details, such as how the Romans would cut the prow from captured enemy ships, then use it as a platform from which to deliver victory speeches - the origin of the ‘rostrum’ sill loved by orators today.

Tom Nancollas has an engaging and relaxed style, and this is a book I’m sure I’ll return to, and makes an ideal gift for anyone with an interest in maritime history. Recommended.

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Born in Gloucester in 1988, Tom Nancollas is a writer and building conservationist based in London. After university, he joined English Heritage to work on church repair grants before moving on to the City of London and its historic townscape. Of Cornish ancestry, Tom maintained a love of seascapes during his work in the capital and became fascinated with offshore rock lighthouses, which were the subject of his critically acclaimed first book, Seashaken Houses, published in 2018.

27 February 2022

The Disturbing Story of Queen Catherine Parr's Tomb


Detail of the Catherine Parr Mausoleum in St. Mary's Chapel,
Sudeley Castle (Wikimndia Commons)

Queen Catherine Parr’s impressive tomb at Sudeley Castle is not original, and the story of how her remains were treated over the centuries is literally disturbing.

After Catherine died on the 5th of September, 1548, most likely from a post-partum fever, aged thirty-six. Her funeral took place in St Mary's Chapel at Sudeley Castle two days later. Lady Jane Grey was the chief mourner, and it was recorded as the first Protestant funeral held in English. Her lead coffin was inscribed, ‘KP. Here lyeth Queen Katheryne Wife to Kinge Henry the VIII and The wife of Thomas Lord of Sudely high Adm of Englond And ynkle to Kyng Edward VI.’

In January, 1643, Sudeley Castle was used as a headquarters by King Charles I, and the castle and chapel were destroyed by the parliamentarians in 1649. It is noted that they dug up the graves, and the location of Queen Catherine’s tomb was lost.

A search was carried out in the ruined chapel in 1782, and the daughter of a Mr Brooks, who was present at the discovery, noted the actions of Joseph Lucas, who lived in the outer castle::

“In the summer of the year 1782 the earth in which Qu. K. Par lay interned was removed, and at the depth of about two feet (or very little more) her leaden coffin or coffin was found quite whole. Mr Lucas had the curiosity to rip up the top of the coffin, expecting to discover within it only the bones of the deceased, but to his great surprise found the whole body wrapped in seer cloth linen, entire and uncorrupted. His unwarranted curiosity led him to make an incision through the seer cloth which covered one of the arms of the corpse, the flesh of which wat the time was white and moist. I was very much displeased at the forwardness of Mr Lucas, who of his own hand opened the coffin. It would have been quite sufficient to have found it; and then to have made a report of it to Lord Rivers or myself.”

In 1783 Catherine Parr’s coffin was opened again, and it was noted that. ‘Shoes were on the feet, which were very small, while all the Queen’s proportions were “extremely delicate". Traces of beauty were still perceptible in her features and her long hair was of burnished gold’. 

Illustration of the opening of Catherine Parr's coffin in 1782. 
From the Annals of Winchcombe & Sudeley, 1877
(Wikimedia Commons)

Her coffin was subsequently reopened by curious visitors many times, and in 1792, vandals broke into the coffin. It is said they were drunk and abused the corpse, pulled off its hair, knocking out the teeth, and stabbing an iron bar several times through the torso. Joseph Lucas reinterred her coffin in a hidden, walled grave. 

The last time the coffin was opened was in 1817, when the local rector decided to move it to the crypt under the chapel. When (unnecessarily) opening the coffin this final time it was found the queen’s body had become a skeleton, and much of the coffin was filled with ivy.

During these various openings of the coffin, fragments of Catherine’s dress and locks of her hair were collected Some of these items are on display at Sudeley Castle, but one lock of hair, purporting to have been taken from the queen's body, was sold by public auction in 2008.

In 1861, the chapel was fully restored, and Catherine Parr’s coffin was moved to its final resting place, in a spacious vault to the left of the chancel window., under a canopied neo-Gothic tomb designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott. The magnificent, full-sized marble figure sculpted by John Birnie Philip bears little resemblance to any of the surviving portraits of the queen, but I think she would have been pleased with it..

Tony Riches

26 February 2022

How to use Photofunia To Create Content For Social Media

Busy writers don't have time for complicated image editing or creating  picture effects for their books, so if you’re looking for a quick and professional picture effects online service, then PhotoFunia could be the  solution.


With PhotoFunia you can edit photos online for free in a matter of seconds resulting in high quality photo collages.


I've seen an increase in likes and RT's on Twitter for some of the more creative effects, so it's worth a few minutes, costs nothing and can be used on any social media.


Tony Riches

25 February 2022

Book review: The Bridge of Sand, by by John James


New from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Britain, 80AD: The Island stands as one of the farthest outposts of the Roman Empire – a misty, mysterious land of wild weather 
and sudden death.

On one level this is a classic tale of the Roman invasion of Britain. Juvenal, a regimental commander, and our first-person narrator, leads his small army of men though a hostile landscape to find the legendary ‘bridge of sand’ that is said to lead to Ireland, the island of plenty.

This book soon becomes a thought-provoking study of how our religious beliefs and superstitions shape our expectations and view of the world. Commander Juneval is also a poet. We see the strangeness of his enemies through his eyes, and the uncharted land he travels through becomes the mystical playground of his many Gods.

The woods become mysterious ‘jungles’, Druids are magicians, conjuring deadly mists, and the most feared adversaries are the vengeful British women, who bang on their pots and pans in a grim warning. In any other book such things would be amusing, or even ridiculous, yet the author lends them a sinister quality.

I liked the lyrical prose, and the fascinating details of the life of a Roman soldier on a long march. The supporting cast are convincing and well-rounded, and although the ending was predictable, this is a fresh and innovative approach to telling the story of the Romans conquest of Britain.

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Dr. John James is an Australian architect, builder, farmer, transpersonal therapist and medieval historian with a passion for discovery. For 30 years he has been searching to understand the workings of the human psyche, and for the origins of the Gothic style. In the latter pursuit he became a world authority on Chartres cathedral, and is currently producing a nine-volume thesaurus on early gothic in France. He has received many awards for this. In therapy he founded the Crucible Centre in the mountains west of Sydney described in his book "The Great Field."  Find out more at John's website http://www.johnjames.com.au/ 



24 February 2022

Historical Fiction Spotlight: The Scribe (The Two Daggers, Book 1) by Elizabeth R. Andersen


Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

All Henri of Maron wanted was to stay with his family on his country estate, surrounded by lemon groves and safety. 

But in 13th century Palestine, when noble-born boys are raised to fight for the Holy Land, young Henri will be sent to live and train among men who hate him for what he is: a French nobleman of an Arab mother. 

Robbed of his humanity and steeped in cruelty, his encounters with a slave soldier, a former pickpocket, and a kindly scribe will force Henri to confront his own beliefs and behaviors. Will Henri maintain the status quo in order to fit into a society that doesn’t want him, or will fate intervene first?

The first book in The Two Daggers series, The Scribe takes readers on a sweeping adventure through the years and months that lead up to the infamous Siege of Acre in 1291 CE and delves into the psyches of three young people caught up in the wave of history.

# # #

About the Author

Elizabeth R. Andersen spent many years of her life as a journalist, independent fashion designer, and tech employee, there have always been two consistent loves in her life: writing and history. She finally decided to do something about this and put them both together. Elizabeth lives in the Seattle area with her long-suffering husband and young son. On the weekends she usually hikes in the stunning Cascade mountains to hide from people and dream up new plotlines and characters. Elizabeth is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Alliance of Independent Authors. Find out more at her website https://www.elizabethrandersen.com/  and find Elizabeth on Facebook and Twitter @E_R_A_writes

22 February 2022

What can we learn about #Writing from Mills and Boon?


(Wikimedia Commons)

BBC4’s excellent ‘Timeshift’ series asks the question ‘What happens when a literary novelist tries to write popular romantic fiction?' Originally shown in 2008 to mark 100 years of romance publishers Mills and Boon, literary novelist Stella Duffy took on the challenge of writing for them.

I’ve never read a Mills and Boon book, but watched from curiosity. Whatever you think of them, Mills and Boon are among the biggest names in the business, with a book sold somewhere in the world every few seconds. They also welcome submissions from new authors, but only choose twenty (on a good year) from two to three thousand submitted. 

Programmes about the craft of writing are rare, and this one offers an insight into the art of romantic fiction  - and the frustration of writing to meet such specific requirements. I also found many of the writing tips discussed were applicable to other genres, and I enjoyed seeing the would-be authors having to read their first drafts aloud.

Mills & Boon Editor, Maddie Rowe says, ‘What really makes a Mills & Boon book is a ruthless, powerful and arrogant hero, a ‘feisty’ heroine who can hold her own with him, and really intense emotional conflict based on passion. After you’ve got those three things going on, you can put them within any of our sub-genres.’

I was intrigued by the readers interviewed in the programme, one of whom estimated spending over twenty thousand pounds on Mills & Boon books. The writing workshop (in Tuscany) is presented by one of the top Mills & Boon authors, Sharon Kendrick, a USA Today bestselling author with sales of over 27 million books.

Her advice is to always write with integrity, as where authors fail is when they write what they think people want to read. It was also good to hear her critiques of the first drafts, and her emphasis of the value of getting straight into dialogue, which brings a scene to life in a way that narrative never can.

‘How to Write a Mills and Boon’ is available on iPlayer here: 

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00ff170/timeshift-how-to-write-a-mills-and-boon

Tony Riches

(See Stella Duffy's Blog post about the original programme here: https://stelladuffy.blog/2009/01/01/the-mills-and-boon-doc/ )

21 February 2022

Special Guest Interview with Brad Hanson, Author of The Secret Eye


Available from Amazon US and Amazon UK

Charlie Brand, barely 17, enters World War II where he protects the fleet from Japanese threats in this new novel about the history of radar in World War II.

I'm pleased to welcome author Brad Hanson to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

The Secret Eye is the story about a young man, only 17, who feels compelled to join the US Navy following the attack on Pearl Harbor and becomes the best Radar Operator in the US Pacific Fleet.  In Japan, a young man, prompted by signs from his ancestors, joins his military after the glorious attack on Pearl Harbor to follow in his father’s footsteps and bring honor to his family.  Through a series of events, he becomes the Kamikaze pilot who attacks the USS Lexington in November of 1941.

Both men join World War 2 for different reasons.  Charlie Brand feels a calling from God to do something bigger than himself while Hadaki Yamatsumi, seeking the counsel of his ancestors, receives a sign directing his decision.  Hadaki chooses to join his military despite the possibility his family could lose everything if he is killed in battle.

The two men are thrust onto a collision course with destiny where only one man will survive.  Charlie, the protector of his carrier, the USS Lexington, through a secret technology allowing him to “see” over the horizon and Hadaki, a man seeking to capture the vision of honor and glory given to him on Mount Fuji by his ancestors.

The Secret Eye explores the military strategy of Japan and the United States as they battle for dominance over the Pacific Theater.   Admiral Yamamoto directs the Japanese military strategy against the best strategic military minds and technology the United States can produce.  The development of superior Radar technology proves a deciding factor in the war turning the tide for a struggling America.  But Japan pins its hopes of victory on one more weapon, one so destructive it will cause more United States naval deaths than all previous naval battles combined, the Kamikaze.

The Secret Eye uncovers the ancient mythological origins creating the Kamikaze and its use during World War 2.  How does Radar affect the outcome of these attacks and how does America finally devise a countermeasure to this deadly military strategy?

When men go to war, they leave behind loved ones desperate for news of their safety.  Romantic relationships are strained or strengthened as the wages of war are counted in the letters notifying families their son or husband will not return home.  Untold acts of bravery save thousands through the loss of a few brave men.  The Secret Eye chronicles the human side of war, honoring the memory of our greatest generation.

What is your preferred writing routine?

My full-time job is working for a fortune 100 technology company, so I write only on weekends and vacations.  Writing in the Historical Fiction genre, I used the arch of history to guide the story line, inserting my characters to explain the military strategy and technology used by each side.

I researched well known historical figures and gave them voice through their dialog.  I would listen, if possible, to the speaking cadence of a character and craft dialog that would remind the reader of the historical figure.  For example, many recordings still survive of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and they guided me while writing his dialog.  Try to imagine Roosevelt say these words.

“Gentlemen,” began Roosevelt, “these are tragic days we are in with much grievous news to endure. However, I am confident that we will soon turn the tide of this horrible war and drive our enemies into submission. The American people are sturdy, and we have proven we can fight if the cause is just. Japan attacked us, and the American people want justice. You, the men of the Joint Chiefs, will be the weight behind the spear that will guide and direct our forces to victory. Your vision and planning will light our path to victory.”

Instead of researching every part of the Pacific Theater during World War 2, I chose to break the war down into major sections.  The development in England of Radar and the Cavity Magnetron and how the United States mass produced the technology, pre-World War 2 preparations by Japan and the United States, and each major battle from the attack on Pearl Harbor to the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  As a natural procrastinator, breaking down the story into manageable sections reduced the anxiety I felt tackling the entirety of World War 2.

After researching a section, I would sit down to write about a battle sequence or important technology.  Using character dialog to describe technology or the environment of the scene, prevented overly dense text blocks enhancing the readability and enjoyment for my reader.  Using short chapters, five to six pages, progressed the story forward enticing the reader to continue.  Switching scenes (chapters) between the Japanese and United States perspective helped the reader understand the motivations and decisions of each side, creating a complete understanding of the Pacific Theater.

Through the backstory of Charlie and Hadaki, I was able to give context to the decisions and motivations of each character.  Humanizing both men, the reader could dispassionately follow their role in this historical drama while creating empathy for each man as he experiences loss through life changing decisions.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Without passion for your characters and their story, you cannot create a world your readers want to experience.  Careful research of your characters and their place in history is essential to spinning a story that will motivate your readers to “pull” on the thread of the story through your book.  Developing characters with real life problems and decisions helps the reader relate to their predicament within the story.

The hardest part of writing a book is starting. But before you can start, you need to have a strong premise for your story.  Over the years, I heard many stories from my real-life Charlie, the man who inspired Charlie Brand, describing his time on the USS Lexington, especially the Kamikaze attack.  My Charlie was just another navy man no one had ever heard of before.  But how interesting a story would it be if we looked at two men from each side of the war and followed their journey until the attack on the USS Lexington?  Now that is a premise I could write about!

Consistency is the key to being successful in a writing career.  You must find a consistent time to write and stick to it.  Nothing will derail you from your goal of completing a manuscript faster than deviating from a consistent writing schedule.  This does not mean you have to write every day or every week for a specific time.  Time to refresh is just as important as your time writing.  Give yourself time to let the story marinate in your mind.  My regular Saturday routine consisted of buying donuts and driving around the rural areas surrounding my home.  Driving was where my story crystalized before me, presenting the details I would later put to paper.  Find something that prepares you write.

Finally, if this is not fun for you, then you may be writing the wrong story.  I craved the time when I could write but be wary of burnout.  The grind of writing and counting the number of completed pages can wear you down to inaction.  You will have days where the writing is difficult, and you may not produce what you feel is required.  Allow yourself some grace on those days and your inspiration will soon return.  Do not crave the ending of your book, let your book dictate its own ending.  Listen closely and you will know when to say, the end.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

Even though the genre of Historical Fiction has a smaller readership base, once you help your core readers find your book, they will reward you with strong sales.  Researching your target readership market is the key to getting awareness of your book.  Work with bloggers who feature your genre and give interviews wherever you can.  Remember, you are the only person who will market your book, even if you pay for their services.

Your ability to gain awareness of your book is directly proportional to the amount of money you can spend.  Most independent authors do not have $60,000 for a radio advertising campaign so plan your strategy to match your budget.  Selling your book is a marathon, not a sprint.  A lesson I continue to learn three months after the launch of my book.  Always plan your way to success.

I found an incredible amount of information at https://blog.bookbaby.com.  This information is free and guest bloggers share their experiences and tips to successfully meet your marketing goals.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

While America tried to resolve the oil embargo with Japan just before December 7th, 1941, Japan secretly left port to the north headed for their attack assembly coordinates.  All the time, America believed a training exercise would keep the Japanese fleet in port for the next three months.  With the range limitations of Radar at that time, the Japanese fleet avoided normal shipping lanes, arriving undetected in early December.

Listening stations close to Japan, intercepted radio traffic making the British and Americans believe the deception so expertly planned and executed.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

Any time a character experience immense loss, I feel the emotions of the characters.  I know I have it right when I begin to cry while completing a scene.  While writing the attack on the USS Lexington by the Hadaki, the Kamikaze, both of my main character experienced profound loss.  Hadaki realizes his actions will have lasting consequences for his family and questions his decision joining the Kamikazes.  Charlie is within 30 feet from the impact zone, waiting for his best friend to arrive in their compartment.  He is only feet from safety when Hadaki hits the Lexington.  This is not the first time Charlie experiences loss, and this attack nearly kills his spirit to live.

Being emotionally connected to your characters helps you imagine how your writing will affect your reader.  If you are affected by your writing, so too will your reader.

What are you planning to write next?

I am beginning the research for my next book.  I would like to continue the Charlie Brand character or maybe follow a storyline from his son Chuck.  I am unclear if I will continue in the Historical Fiction genre and may switch to a spy themed book.  Either way, I have many plots to explore with this family.

Brad Hanson

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About the Author

Brad Hanson loves military history which prompted his desire to write this story. Inspired by experiences shared by a family member and those of our Greatest Generation, Brad is proud to bring this story to readers everywhere. When not working on writing projects, he works for a fortune 100 company as an operational leader of technology programs. He is an avid woodworker and golfer and has two grown children. He and his wife share their Texas home with their British Shorthair cats. Find out more at Brad's website https://www.bradhanson.net/ and find him on Facebook and Twitter @bhansonauthor

Giveaway Enter to win a copy of The Secret Eye by Brad Hanson! The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on March 4th. You must be 18 or older to enter.


Special Guest Post by Fiona Forsyth, Author of The Third Daughter


Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Rome, 68 BCE: Julius Caesar begins his controversial career in government. At the same time, a third daughter, Tertulla, is born to the Junius family on the Palatine Hill. Tertulla grows up under the guidance of her brother, Marcus Brutus, and her mother Servilia. When Tertulla discovers that her mother is Caesar's mistress, she begins to wonder who her father might be.Frustratingly, she has 
more questions than answers.

Writing “The Third Daughter”

Roman women are an interesting bunch.

When I was down the rabbit-hole of research, I came across a list of women who lived to great ages in Rome. Livia was there, poisoning people cheerfully (allegedly) up the age of 87, and here was Cicero’s ex-wife Terentia, living until the age of 101, and even marrying Sallust (allegedly) which must been one of the more cheerless relationships around. In this list I also came across a woman called Junia Tertia, and she was defined by two things: her family and her death in 22CE.

She was named Junia after her father (Decimus Junius Silanus) and Tertia - the third one - to distinguish her from her sisters Junia, and Junilla. All over Rome, when a family had a third daughter, they ran out of naming options. There must have been a lot of Tertias, a lot of “Oh no, not another girl” children, always in third place. 

This Tertia seems to have risen above her inauspicious start though - look at what the historian Tacitus takes time out from Emperor-bashing to write about her:

In the sixty-fourth year after Philippi died Junia, niece of Cato, wife of Cassius, sister of Brutus. Her will was the subject of popular gossip because although she was rich and made bequests to many, she left nothing to the Emperor Tiberius. He graciously made no matter of this and allowed all the usual rites to be held, along with a speech from the Speakers’ Platform. The funeral images of twenty illustrious families were in the processions, and Brutus and Cassius, because their images were not present, outshone them.” (Translated and abridged from the original by me)

Sixty-four years after the Battle of Philippi, the battle in which her husband died, Junia must have been nearing the age of 90 or more. We don’t know exactly when she was born, but it was probably in the late 70s to early 60s BCE, making her about 26-30 years old when her husband died. She never remarried, in an age where women nearly always did, and that alone is worth noting.

Tacitus is clearly awed by her relations - she was niece to Cato the Younger, the great enemy of Caesar and the grumpiest man in Rome, famous for not wearing a tunic under his toga. Her brother was Brutus, yes, that Brutus, the one who lead the gang of Liberators who assassinated Caesar. Her husband was Cassius, who also was high-up in that conspiracy. 

And yet, Tacitus does not mention someone particularly important: Junia’s mother was Servilia, Julius Caesar’s mistress. That brought me up. Here was a list of anti-Caesar, Republic-loving Romans, but was it possible that their womenfolk may not have been entirely supportive? What did Servilia think when her son and son-in-law killed her lover of (possibly) twenty years? And did Servilia’s daughter agree that Cassius and Brutus had been right to do what they did?

Next, I focused on the fact that Tacitus says that Junia had been rich when she died. How had she managed to hang on to her wealth through the troubled years after Caesar’s death? These years were dominated by the rather nasty and self-elected Triumvirate of Mark Antony, Lepidus (or “who?” as he is better known) and Gaius “My mum gave me a note to excuse me from battle” Octavian (later the emperor Augustus).

The three had notoriously grabbed land and money wherever they could, killing friends and relations to get rich. Junia’s husband had been proscribed, meaning that his wealth was confiscated by the Triumvirate. Had Junia Tertia managed to save some of her wealth? Or had her mother and her two sisters, safely married to men who were in with the Triumvirate, supported her? 

Next came the question of Junia’s will. Not many people snubbed the Emperor Tiberius, even in their last wills, and this is certainly why Tacitus, who is hostile to the Emperor, mentions her. I decided that she must have been feisty. And a funeral oration from the Speakers’ Platform, bang in the middle of Rome? How many women were allowed that? 

Finally, Junia was related to everyone who was anyone, mainly through her mother. Her funeral procession would have been an event. Actors were often hired to wear lifelike masks of distinguished ancestors at Roman funeral, but Junia’s family did not dare have people pretending to be Brutus and Cassius in her procession. Even in 22CE, they did not want to be associated with Caesar’s assassins.

This paragraph by Tacitus started off my interest in Junia, third daughter of Servilia and Decimus Junius Silanus. Each person on this earth has their own set of experiences which informs their lives and makes each of them unique. I reckoned that, given the information in that paragraph, Junia must have been extraordinary as well.

Junia Tertia appears in very few other sources that I could find, but the most poignant was from Cicero. He was writing to his friend Atticus in May 44 BCE, when he expresses his sadness about Tertulla (he sweetly uses this pet name, which means “Little Tertia”). It appears that less than two months after the Ides of March in which her brother and husband killed her mother’s lover, Junia miscarried. 

Given that Cassius left Italy in July or August and we have no information that would lead us to believe that she went with him, this was almost certainly Junia’s last chance of having a child by her husband. There is no evidence that she had a child with Cassius before then. Of course, lack of evidence does not mean that she had no children at all: but her sisters’ children can be traced. Surely if Junia and Cassius had any children who lived to maturity, it would have been mentioned. Cassius’ son who was probably by a marriage prior to Junia is assumed to have died early when he drops out of the sources after 44 BCE.

Out of these scraps, these probable and possible “facts”, The Third Daughter was born. My version of Junia Tertia is arrogant, sometimes careless of others, tough and loyal to her family. But she never knows if she is valued. You see – she is the third daughter.

Fiona Forsyth

# # #

About the Author

Fiona Forsyth studied Classics at Oxford before teaching for twenty-five years at The Manchester Grammar School. She is currently living in Qatar, where she writes poetry and historical novels. Find out more at Fiona's website fionaforsythauthor.co.uk and find her on Twitter @for_fi

20 February 2022

Book Review ~ The Puppet Maker's Daughter: A startling and emotional WWII novel by Karla M. Jay


Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Hungary 1944. The war comes late to Budapest. Nineteen-year-old Marika, forced out of nursing school, believes she and her Jewish family will remain safe, even as Nazi soldiers fill their cobbled streets. With Russians to their east, the Allies to their west, everyone assumes the war is nearly over. Her father, once a prominent engineer, returns to his passion for puppet making. Soon, she is pulled into the resistance to rescue orphans and displaced Jews while keeping her family one step ahead of Eichmann’s extermination plans.

This book made me sit up and think about the power of historical fiction. As well as giving a voice to those who can no longer tell their stories, we can travel back in time to hear the sounds and smells - and even experience harrowing events, and the horrors of times and places which should never be forgotten.

This is rarely more important than in the city of Budapest of 1944. Karla M Jay pointes out in her author’s note that the Jews of Hungary almost made it. In only nine months they went from living under what were known as ‘restrictive regulations’ to wholesale mass deportation and the murder of 565,000 men women and children.

The opening line is ‘The Germans have arrived’, and our knowledge of the inevitable lurks in the background as we follow the lives of an apparently unremarkable family. The narrator, nineteen-year-old trainee nurse, Marika, sums up their situation in her chilling realisation, ‘The war may be living at our lives eating away at our freedoms, but now it’s found us. If we don’t leave this city, it will surely devour us all.’

Like most people, my knowledge of what actually happened in Budapest was limited to a few stark facts, which is why this book needs to be read by everyone.

Tony Riches

# # #

About the Author

Karla M. Jay is the award-winning author of When We Were Brave and It Happened in Silence. She has wanted to write books since she was seven. Originally from the east coast, she makes her home in Salt Lake City. Over the years she has written in several different genres, ranging from humor to noir, but currently is focused on historical fiction. When she's not writing, she's reading, gardening, playing with her dog, or traveling to new places to try to find a story that has never been told. Find out more at Karla's website https://www.karlajay.com/ and find her on Facebook and Twitter @KarlaMJay1

19 February 2022

Special Guest Interview with Catherine Arthur, Author of King Oak


Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

The Common, 1780 George Hogtrough is risking his neck. 

When his friend lures him into the murky world of smuggling, unexpected events unfold. Fearful of destitution, his wife Molly turns to drink, and her attention soon wanders towards her husband’s hated brother. Jesse is everything George is not – sober, hardworking, God-fearing. Should George discover her eye has strayed all hell will break loose.

I'm pleased to welcome author Catherine Arthur to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

King Oak is my debut novel and was self-published in June 2021. It’s set in 1780, on the edge of the vast Ashtead Common in Surrey. We first meet Molly Hogtrough, heavily pregnant and relying on cheap gin to get her through the day, while her husband George is plotting something nefarious which he is desperate to keep from her. 

You know what it’s like when you’ve had a few (or maybe not!), the tongue wriggles loose and all sorts of stuff you wouldn’t normally say just slips out. For George, this could mean the difference between life and the noose, so he is torn between keeping Molly sweet and out of the way by providing her with flasks of her tipple, but also not being able to confide in her. The tale twists and turns, with all the main characters connected in some way to the King Oak, an ancient veteran tree which lies deep within the forest.

King Oak is the first in a series, in which we meet the Hogtrough family and the wider community of the small hamlet of Woodfield. 

Inspiration

The idea evolved while I was researching my family tree. I lived in Ashtead for the first five years of my life, near the pond. I clearly remember looking out across the water towards Woodfield, an area of scrub and low trees at the edge of the Common. It seemed enormous and mysterious back then. As I delved deeper into the history of my family, I was surprised to find that the hamlet running down the side of the scrubland was home to several of my ancestors. 

These large families lived cramped into tiny cottages, the menfolk working as agricultural labourers on farms thereabouts. Their names were recorded in the records of the local church. Marriages, baptisms, and burials show just how close the community was, for the same surnames appear from the late 1780s until the coming of the railway, which cut Woodfield in two in 1859. 

In the midst of the industrial revolution and with Ashtead’s station on their doorstep, many people from Woodfield got on the train and left: for the coal depots of Croydon, the suburbs of a mill town, London, Lancashire and beyond. Some of them escaped the poverty of the land, but others found the new world did not provide a better life. For Woodfield though, it meant the separation of a close-knit group of families. Most of the ancient local names had disappeared from the church register within a few short years. 

With this history in mind, an idea evolved to chart the growing connections between the families, their struggles and triumphs, love affairs and arguments, until the railway tore them all apart. 

I chose the Hogtrough family because their real-life story contains the beginnings of some very strange tales, but rarely any endings. What actually happened is lost to time and so I aim to give those stories closure, albeit imagined. 

What is your preferred writing routine?

In an ideal world, I would get up early, turn on my PC, gaze out of the window at the wonderful view, and the creativity would begin to flow. 

In reality, I write when I can. I haven’t given up my day job - I run a small English language school in Switzerland - so writing happens between lessons, at weekends, and in the summer, early in the morning. I’m not very good at early mornings when it’s dark! 

The biggest hindrance is that my writing is set in the 1780s. When you are deep in that world the modern day falls away. The whirr and buzz of electrical appliances, passing tractors and diesel mowers fades out, and the sights and sounds of the 18th century come to the fore. When I’m at the inn; the smell of a spit-roast pig, cheap ale, tobacco and wood smoke. With Molly in her yard; the slosh of washing in a tub, the demands of her ancient grandmother, a waft of vegetable stew bubbling over the hearth indoors. 

And then … suddenly I’m jolted back into the 21st century and driving down the road to the school. It’s a strange contrast, and quite often I don’t start writing (when I probably should) because I find it difficult to be dragged out of the flow and back to ‘reality’. I like to have a good few hours ahead of me, and that’s when I find I work best.

What advice do you have for new writers?

Keep going! It took me five years to write King Oak, and there were long periods when I didn’t write a thing. When it was nearly finished, I gave it to a friend who inspired me to complete it. That motivation was crucial. I’m not sure I would ever have finished if she hadn’t said ‘I love it!’. Be careful of doing that too soon though. Make sure you’re happy with what you give out, not a rough draft. Polish it up as much as you can first. 

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research?

I picked a date out of thin air - 7th June 1780 – for the beginning of the book. When I looked at what was happening in England at that time, I found that The Gordon Riots were in full swing in London, just 25 miles away from Ashtead Common, and so I brought that event into the story. The riots touch the characters and their plans, and things unfold differently because of what was happening half a days’ ride up the road.  

Another interesting find was when I chanced upon a House of Commons Journal for 1782. The members of the house were discussing the importance of rebuilding the old bridges in Surrey, which were all in a sorry state. They sited an example of an accident at Leatherhead which had occurred a couple of years before, and so I documented this incident as it occurred in my imagination, of course. Something similar really happened, but once again, the details have been long lost.

What are you planning to write next?

Book Two of the series is well underway. All the books will be stand-alone novels, but at the end of King Oak, some characters’ stories were left a little up in the air. The second book will continue those tales as we find out what happens to them the following year. It’s set in September 1781, when celebrations for the 20th Anniversary of the Coronation of King George III were held, and the Michaelmas Fayre at the end of the month, was a kind of elaborate harvest festival. It was one of the ‘quarter days’, when men and servants were hired, rents paid and debts settled, and disputes were resolved so they did not linger on. Whether this is possible for any of my characters, well, we shall have to see. 

Catherine Arthur

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About the Author

Catherine Arthur was born in Surrey, although most of her childhood was spent in East Sussex. She now lives in a farmhouse in Switzerland. Her interests include history, old maps, and local tales and traditions, among many other things. It was her delve into genealogy which provided the inspiration for her first novel, King Oak. The story follows the fortunes, and misfortunes, of a family living on the edge of a vast common, and how events at the King Oak shape their lives. During research into the way people lived at the end of the 18th century, she gained immense respect for the skills our ancestors possessed, which are now all but lost, and a deep gratitude for the ease of modern living.  Find out more at Catherine's website https://catherinearthur.com/ and find her on Facebook and Twitter @CatArthurian

17 February 2022

Special Guest Interview with Linda Huber, Author of Pact of Silence


Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

A fresh start for a new life. Newly pregnant, Emma is startled when her husband Luke announces they’re swapping homes with his parents, but the rural idyll where Luke grew up is a great place to start their family. Yet Luke’s manner suggests something odd is afoot, something that Emma can’t quite fathom.

I'm pleased to welcome one of my favourite authors, Lind Huber, to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

Pact of Silence is about family secrets. In the prologue, sixteen-year-old Marie leaves her beloved home on the Isle of Skye to run away with her boyfriend Euan, taking a secret with her (and it’s not what you think!). Chapter one starts a generation later in York, with Luke, Marie and Euan’s son, telling his wife Emma that they’re going to swap houses with his parents, who live in a nearby village. He doesn’t give a reason, and that’s because of another secret. Emma agrees to move but also starts to investigate – and discovers something terrible.

As well as worrying about Luke’s past, city-girl Emma has to come to terms with life in a small country village. This isn’t made easier when she realises theirs isn’t the only family with a secret; in fact, half the village seem to have a share in it. And nobody’s talking.

What is your preferred writing routine?

I always write at my desk, and the best way for me is to clear a couple of hours at a time to concentrate fully on my text. I’ll never be one of those writers who can bash the keyboard in trains and cafés – too distracting! Generally, I mix bouts of writing with social media and all the other things that have to be fitted into the day, and I try to be away from the pc by seven in the evening. My day job – teaching English - is only a few hours a week now, so I’m lucky to have plenty of time to write in.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

When your book is finished and you’ve done all you can to improve it, invest in a good editor. For a first book, this can really improve your chances of it being successful. After that, be open to all publishing options. There are so many out there nowadays, so do some research about them all. Also important is to get a good start on social media before your first book is published. That’s the bit I didn’t do, and I regretted it when my book came out.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

I like Twitter – tweets and retweets about the books all help to spread the word and get my book covers seen by as many people as possible. It’s all about creating awareness. Local book events are good too. Some of my books are self-published, and for them I run paid advertising three or four times a month. The hardest part is striking a balance between writing and social media.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

I “drove” on Google Street View all the way from Dunvegan in the north of the Isle of Skye to the ferry port at Kyleakin. (The prologue took place before the bridge was built.) I’ve been to Skye, but I’d forgotten how lovely it is. “Seeing” it again like that made me more sympathetic towards Marie and her predicament in leaving her island home. 

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

That’s not easy to answer without giving too much away! It was when Emma discovered what the terrible secret was. I’ve had my share of ups and downs in life, but it was almost impossible to work out how a young woman would feel when she realised that the family she married into, most especially her own husband, had kept her in the dark about something so huge. A mixture of grief, horror, pity, betrayal… and what I would have done in her place, I have no idea. Of all my books, Pact of Silence was far and away the toughest to write. I didn’t set out to write the story it became, but stories develop their own dynamic, and this one took a very dark turn. I still look at it there on my bookshelf and think, wow – how did that happen?

What are you planning to write next?

I’m working on another suspense novel, now finished at first draft so I have lots of lovely editing ahead of me. I also have a feel-good fiction project. A few years ago, I wrote a series of feel-good novellas, and I’m now expanding them into full-length novels. They’re set here in Switzerland, and are centred round a hotel on the banks of Lake Constance. They’re not rom-com, just books about people and relationships and problems and travelling – writing them makes a lovely contrast to writing suspense.

Linda Huber
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About the Author

Linda Huber grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, but went to work in Switzerland for a year aged twenty-two, and has lived there ever since. Her day jobs have included working as a physiotherapist in hospitals and schools for handicapped children, and teaching English in a medieval castle. Linda’s writing career began in the nineties, when she had over fifty feel-good short stories published in women’s magazines. Today, she has eleven psychological suspense novels published, the latest two by Hobeck Books. Her newest project is a series of feel-good novels set in her home area on the banks of Lake Constance in N.E. Switzerland. She really appreciates having the views admired by her characters right on her own doorstep! Find out more at Linda's website https://lindahuber.net/ and find her on Facebook and Twitter @LindaHuber19

Historical Fiction Spotlight - Son of Mercia (The Eagle of Mercia Chronicles) by MJ Porter


New from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Tamworth, Mercia AD825: The once-mighty kingdom of Mercia is in perilous danger.

Their King, Beornwulf lies dead and years of bitter in-fighting between the nobles, and cross border wars have left Mercia exposed to her enemies.

King Ecgberht of Wessex senses now is the time for his warriors to strike and exact his long-awaited bloody revenge on Mercia.

King Wiglaf, has claimed his right to rule Mercia, but can he unite a disparate Kingdom against the might of Wessex who are braying for blood and land?

Can King Wiglaf keep the dragons at bay or is Mercia doomed to disappear beneath the wings of the Wessex wyvern?

Can anyone save Mercia from destruction?

'Immediate and personal... MJ Porter recounts a sensitive, reluctant hero's coming-of-age within a Dark Age realm riven by chaos and conflict' ~ Bestselling author Matthew Harffy

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About the Author

MJ Porter is the author of many historical novels set predominantly in Seventh to Eleventh-Century England, and in Viking Age Denmark. Raised in the shadow of a building that was be-lieved to house the bones of long-dead Kings of Mercia, meant that the author's writing destiny was set. MJ Porter has also written two twentieth-century mysteries. Find out more at https://www.mjporterauthor.com/ and Twitter @coloursofunison

16 February 2022

Special Guest Interview With Catherine Meyrick, Author of The Bridled Tongue


Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

England 1586: Alyce Bradley has few choices when her father decides it is time she marry as many refuse to see her as other than the girl she once was—unruly, outspoken and close to her grandmother, a woman suspected of witchcraft.

Today I'm pleased to welcome author Catherine Meyrick:

Please tell us about your latest book

The Bridled Tongue begins in 1586 and follows the life of Alyce Bradley, the daughter of a wealthy Norwich mercer, as she adjusts to an arranged marriage to a privateer, Thomas Granville. This is not a marriage she particularly wishes for but one she has agreed to because she believes she has no other options. It shows the way she grows into her role of manor wife and the dangers she faces not only from her husband’s enemies but her own past when long buried resentments are stirred to life along with old slanders concerning her relationship with her grandmother, thought by some to be a witch. The backdrop is the threat of immanent invasion by the Spanish in 1588.

It is a standalone novel and while the major characters are fictional, they do rub shoulders with some historical personages. The timeline and background are as accurate as I could make them. Alyce is an intelligent but reasonably conventional young woman of the middling sort and while she questions why life cannot offer her more opportunities and why the same standards are not expected of men as of women, she ultimately accepts her society’s rules and expectations. 

By making my characters conventional, I hoped to show something of the reality of lives in the past, the lack of freedom that women, and men as well, had in determining their own lives and even their choice of spouse. I also wanted to look at the way gossip and slander can spiral out of control and the effect on women’s relationships when they are valued mainly for their ability to produce healthy children.

Inspiration

The spark, many years ago, was my own experience as the subject of gossip. What struck me was the way a minor incident or slip of the tongue can be twisted, embellished and shaped into something else altogether. It is a most uncomfortable experience and I tried to get it out of my system by writing a poem called ‘the coven’.  I entered it in a poetry competition run by the Tuggerah branch of the Fellowship of Australian Writers. It won first prize in the free verse section of their Joan Johnson Poetry Award. As well as a monetary prize, I received a small trophy of which I am inordinately proud – not being a sporty type, it is my only trophy.

The poem didn’t manage to quite exorcise the experience and I started thinking of how dangerous it could be in other times, particularly if that gossip resulted in something like an accusation of witchcraft where normal evidential rules were set aside and the most dubious hearsay evidence could be enough to bring a person to the gallows.

Research

Like any historical novel, an immense amount of research was involved in writing The Bridled Tongue. As the novel is set in the same decade as Forsaking All Other, my previous novel, I was able to draw on my previous reading and the research I had done, not only to ensure that the story fitted into the historical timeline but that the details of clothing, housing and the minutiae of daily life were correct and especially that the characters were presented as people of their time, not modern people in period dress.

I based Alyce’s role at Ashthorpe, a fictional manor in Northhamptonshire, partly on Margaret, Lady Hoby (1571-1633), author of the earliest known diary written by a woman in English, who was almost an exemplar of the pious, sober and industrious gentlewoman of this period. Her diary provides a glimpse the busy domestic life of a woman managing a large household and estate, often in her husband’s absence. 

It also gives a strong sense of the breadth of skills possessed by women in these positions, from entertaining guests, sewing and preserving foods to pulling hemp, weighing and dying wool and spinning as well as distilling medicinal salves and tinctures and providing medical care for the household and tenants, keeping the accounts, managing the wider farm and playing a role in keeping the Manor Court, sometimes even when her husband was at home. Many women, no doubt, found a sense of purpose managing such large enterprises.

Ashthorpe itself owed much to the Old Manor House at Glapthorn, Northamptonshire, leased by John Johnson, a draper and wool stapler, in 1544. The manor house’s surroundings included a formal knot garden, a kitchen garden, a fish pool with pike, perch and bream, and orchards of cherries, plums, and medlars and a walnut grove. 

We know a great deal about the life of John Johnson and his wife Sabine Saunders at Glapthorn because John became bankrupt in March 1553 and his papers and account books were forwarded to the Privy Council and so have survived, allowing us a glimpse not only of the business but the personal life of a Tudor merchant family. Barbara Winchester (1924-1963) transcribed the Johnson letters as part of her PhD thesis in 1953. Volume 1 of her thesis, modified for general readers and published as Tudor Family Portrait in 1955, was also invaluable in giving me a sense of the daily life of a manor wife in the sixteenth century.

This sort of research is relatively straightforward but gaining a sense of place is critically important to historical fiction, it is where our characters live and breathe. When I first started writing The Bridled Tongue, I had never left Australia, so it was a bit of the challenge. I began reading everything I could lay my hands on about the history of Norwich where part of the story is set, including travellers’ descriptions of their visits in later periods. 

I pored over contemporary maps, but they are often not as helpful as they could be and are more ‘picture maps’ than accurate cartography. In William Cuningham’s 1558 map, not only are a number of churches missing but also the important public building, the Guildhall. I looked at drawings of the buildings and made use of online interactive 360-degree panoramas of the modern city. Fortunately, in 2016, I was able to visit Norwich during my first trip to the northern hemisphere. 

I walked around Elm Hill, with its cobbled streets and Tudor buildings, imagining how Alyce would have felt in this place, trying to strip away the changes of the last four hundred and thirty years. I didn’t get to go inside the Guildhall but found an interactive panorama of its interior – the Mayor’s Court is still set out and furnished as a Tudor courtroom.

Norwich Castle was probably my biggest research challenge. The visit to Norwich gave me a strong sense of Norwich Castle as an imposing presence in the city. By the late sixteenth century, Norwich Castle was used as a prison, and one of my characters was imprisoned there. Although originally built as a royal palace, in 1220 it began to be used as a prison for felons and debtors and is believed to have been used as a gaol for state prisoners during the reign of Henry III. In 1345, it became the county gaol for Norfolk when Edward III gave it up as a royal palace. The castle then slowly fell into disrepair. The towers had begun to decay by the sixteenth century and part of the roof of the keep had fallen in. The earliest clear image I could find of the exterior was a drawing from 1662, 80 years after the setting of my novel.


Norwich Castle, 1662

The interior of the castle had changed so much over the centuries that even visiting the dungeons, I found it difficult to get a real sense of what it was like as a prison. While most histories of the castle provide detail of the early period and presumed arrangement of the interior, the later period up to the 1770s is glided over. 

Through the magic of Google Books, I found a 1796 article published in Archaeologia: Or Miscellaneous Tracts Relating to Antiquity by William Wilkins, Norwich architect, classical scholar and archaeologist who later designed the new prison at the Castle. In it he said, ‘The inside of the castle has been so much altered, from having been long used as a county gaol, that little can be said, or even conjectured, of the original plan, and the various uses of the rooms.’ If they had no idea at the end of the eighteenth century, what hope did I have? I took that as licence to give up my search and fill in the gaps with a, hopefully, informed imagination.

But I could not imagine the Tudors, with their strong sense of a God-given hierarchy, being content with wealthy, well-born prisoners being consigned to dilapidated cells with the common sort, no matter what their crime. Serendipity came to my rescue. When looking for something else, I stumbled across a booklet called Notes Concerning Norwich Castle written before 1728 by John Kirkpatrick, the Norwich antiquary. Kirkpatrick’s notes do not describe the inner arrangement of the castle but he does mention speaking with an elderly woman, Mrs Burrows , an ‘old inhabitant of St. John’s Timberhill parish’ whose father ‘kept the county gaol for several years, and dwelt in the house called the Golden ball, where the better sort of prisoners who had money, lodged then, and not in the Castle (as had before been used in the house which is on the other side of the lane, opposite to the Ball, which was therefore called the old gaol)’.  It is quite conceivable that this was the situation in the sixteenth century as well. This was the only mention I could find of the ‘Golden ball’ house so it was time to put imagination to work again.

Compared to this, researching witchcraft accusations and trials was simple. Several books were invaluable in providing understanding and structure before I looked at the many contemporary pamphlets available online. These include among many, many others Gregory Durston’s Crimen Exceptum: The English Witch Prosecution in Context (2019) and Witchcraft and Witch Trials: a History of English Witchcraft and its Legal Perspectives, 1542 to 1736 (2000), Barbara Rosen’s Witchcraft in England, 1558-1618 (1991) and James Sharpe’s Instruments of Darkness: Witchcraft in Early Modern England (1996). For the legal process at the time, I relied on Sir Thomas Smith’s De Republica Anglorum (1583, 1982 edn.). In all this I have been truly fortunate that the State Library of Victoria provides the ordinary person online access from home to a massive range of academic journals and the National Library of Australia access to Early English Books Online.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

This is quite trivial but earrings do not really seem to have been a thing for most of the sixteenth century in England. I was in the revision stage for The Bridled Tongue when I read a blog post that said that Elizabethan women did not wear earrings. Sheer panic set in. In the novel a particularly lovely pair of earrings and a carcanet are given as a gift and both Alyce and her sister wear earrings regularly. If the blog post was correct, I would have to remove them.

Following my moments of panic, I spent an afternoon searching for images of sixteenth century women hopefully wearing earrings so that I could ignore what I had read. There are plenty of images of women wearing earrings throughout the sixteenth century but up until the last couple of decades these are mainly pictures from Spain and Italy. The only woman I could find wearing them in England in the 1570s was Mary, Queen of Scots. 


Elizabeth 1 (Kirchner portrait 1580)

In the early part of Elizabeth’s reign, it is impossible to tell if they were worn because of the coifs and caps and ear-high ruffs. From the 1580s, before earrings appear with any frequency, there are images of women wearing baubles in their hair near the ears. By the end of the 1590s earrings are common but not ubiquitous.

I looked at sixteenth century Englishmen’s ears too and was surprised to find them disappointingly unadorned for most of the century. I found one portrait from the late 1570s with an earring (Sir George Gill of Wyddial Hall, Hertfordshire), one from the 1580s (a 1588 portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh sporting a lovely pair of pearls in one ear) and several from the early 1590s but, mostly, the peacocks of Elizabeth’s age have naked ears, even Robert Dudley. As my story is set in the mid to late 1580s, I decided that the women’s earrings could stay because, at a stretch, I could argue that they were growing in popularity through the 1580s but I did a purge of any mention of baubles hanging from men’s ears.

What are you planning to write next?

With my next novel, due out at the end of April, I have stepped away from the Elizabethans and have written about Hobart, Tasmania between 1878 and 1885. Cold Blows the Wind is based on a period in the lives of my paternal great-great-grandparents, Ellen Thompson and Harry Woods. It is the result of my own genealogical research as their story was basically unknown until I uncovered it through my family history digging ten to fifteen years ago. 

They were both the children of convicts transported to Van Diemen’s Land and like so many men and women in the nineteenth century, lacking money and influence, their lives were precarious and they did not have much use for the middle-class virtues we see as ‘Victorian’. At this time Hobart was a vibrant town drawing people from every corner of the earth where, because of the recent past, a person’s history wasn’t closely questioned. The story touches on such issues as secrets, family ties, poverty, and the struggles of unmarried mothers. 

I am hoping to show just how hard life was for these people, women in particular. Cold Blows the Wind is not a romance but it is a story of love – a mother’s love for her children, a woman’s love for her family and, those most troublesome loves of all, for the men in her life. It is a story of the enduring strength of the human spirit.

After that, I will probably stay close to home with my writing. I am contemplating something set in my own suburb in the aftermath of World War 1. While, in some ways Cold Blows the Wind has been the most difficult thing I have ever written, I have enjoyed writing in the type of Australian English spoken by my grandfather who was born in 1887. I also haven’t had to worry about working out which season is when, what the weather is like or where the sun sits in the sky.

Catherine Meyrick
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About the Author

Catherine Meyrick is an Australian writer of romantic historical fiction. Until recently she worked as a customer service librarian at her local library. She has a Master of Arts in history and is also an obsessive genealogist. Find out more at Catherine’s website https://catherinemeyrick.com/ and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @cameyrick1.