Leaving home…

With all that Europe is doing to help the current wave of forced migration, this is a reminder of how communities came together in difficult times…

Outset Publishing

One of the saddest aspects of life for families during World War 2 must surely have been when little children had to be evacuated to towns and villages far from home. Of course, it was all done with good intention – to protect their lives from the enemy bombing that threatened larger towns and cities.

But such heartbreak must have been endured when mothers had to wave goodbye to a son or daughter, some as young as four or five years old.

At the beginning of the war hundreds of children from London descended on Hastings as it was thought to be safer than being in the city. But then, during 1940, the south coast became the focus of enemy fire. And so thousands of children were sent away from home to the countryside.

But it wasn’t all bad…the families who took in them in were warm and welcoming and…

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Life is nothing without books

Even in the midst of war, books remain a salve to the soul…

Outset Publishing

A corner in the library, Canadian Soldiers College, Seaford, Sussex, England – NARA – American Library Association

As I continue to research life in Hastings during World War 2 I’m discovering such a fascinating mixture of happy and sad.

It was clear that the link between Canada and Great Britain was strong – Canada being the ‘oldest dominion in the British Empire’. Right from the beginning of the war Canada helped by sending supplies, weapons and food. Many pilots came over to Britain on their own initiative, providing critical support during the Battle of Britain.

Hundreds of thousands of Canadian soldiers did their training in the army barracks in Aldershot, Hampshire and then went on to be an important part of the defence of southern England when the heavy German bombing started during 1940.

But the photo above shows just how vital the three Rs are, even in the midst…

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Sharing is caring

When Easter is just around the corner, imagining the extent of food rationing during the 1940s certainly concentrates the mind!

Outset Publishing

Here’s evidence of the most amazing camaraderie that existed during the war years. When food rations were tight and chocolate would have been the most special treat – imagine the generosity of a British soldier who gave his chocolate ration to a Dutch civilian during the liberation of the Netherlands.

Chocolate from British military rations World War II, handed to a Dutch civilian by a British soldier during the liberation of the Netherlands and preserved as a precious gift. Photographed in the collection of the National Liberation Museum 1944-1945, the Netherlands. 

Back at home food rationing that was introduced in January 1940 continued until well after the war had ended. Eggs were a real treat, with dried egg the only alternative – so anyone who was lucky enough to keep chickens could live like virtual royalty!

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Make do and mend

The first of several posts as I research family life during the long years of the Second World War.

Outset Publishing

As I continue the research for my forthcoming World War 2 novel I am discovering just what it was like back then. While the young men went to war, all those left behind wanted to do their very best to contribute to the war effort.

There were many government campaigns, each one encouraging everyone to do their bit. It’s hard to imagine now, but from June 1941 until 1949, buying new clothes was rationed in Britain. Everyone was issued with clothing coupons. The government urged people to repair, reuse and reimagine their existing clothes – refashioning coats into skirts, collars of shirts turned to extend their life, cutting the top from a summer dress to make into a blouse. Evenings would often be spent unravelling the wool from an old jumper, only to knit it again into something new.

It’s ‘making do and mending’ that we find Fred and Phyllis…

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Being a friend at Christmas!

Today, I am joined by local writer, Carol Thomas, who writes for both adults and children.

Published by Ruby Fiction, an imprint of the award-winning publisher Choc Lit, Carol’s contemporary romance novels have relatable heroines whose stories are layered with emotion, sprinkled with laughter and topped with irresistible male leads. While her children’s books have irresistibly cute, generally furry characters, young children can relate to.

It’s been an unusual year, Carol, how have recent events affected your writing?

Unfortunately, due to bookshop closures, the release of my novel Maybe Baby in paperback has been put back until next year. It is still available as an ebook and in audio so not a big deal, but you know how us writers like to hold, smell and gaze lovingly at our paperbacks.

Other than that, I have been fortunate in that I have been able to get on and complete two projects while home-schooling three of my children.

I was delighted to finish my latest novel and send it off to my publisher. While I know some writers were struggling to get words written, the final part of this really flew for me. I think this was partly due to discovering a new rhythm for writing. Where I normally try to force words out during school hours, I was writing from about three to seven o’clock each evening – a time that is usually filled with school pick-ups, getting tea ready and running the children to various clubs. It seemed to work well.

I am also thrilled to say, I have finally illustrated my children’s book, Being a Friend at Christmas. I wrote the story well over a year ago but hadn’t had time to finish it until lockdown. In this time, I found drawing quite therapeutic, and it was something I could do while supervising my children with work.

I know you have recently released Being a Friend, please tell us a little more about it:

Yes, unlike my novels that are traditionally published and need a six month lead in, my children’s books are self-published and so once prepared and edited can go straight out into the world. Aimed at under-sevens, Being a Friend at Christmas is the second in my Little Pup series of books (though each can be read and enjoyed independently).

In this story, Little Pup is looking forward to his first Christmas in his new home. But he also remembers the dogs he has left behind in the shelter. He has a plan to ensure they have a happy Christmas too but needs Father Christmas’ help to make his wish come true.

It sounds a heartwarming Christmas read. As you won’t be able to take it into schools and nurseries to promote it this year, have you managed to work out any alternative ways to connect with readers?

It is a shame, but I was fortunate, as I am a teacher, I managed to scrape in a visit to the reception classes of the school I work in just before lockdown. It was lovely to share the first in the Little Pup series of books, and to work with the children, seeing their enthusiasm for the story and the characters was wonderful.

Little Pup’s looking forward to Christmas 
and he knows just how lucky he’s been
because some dogs are still in shelters, 
a warm home and best friend yet a dream. 
Hoping a small gift of kindness, 
will help them feel loved, not alone, 
Little Pup has a wish that might come true, 
when Father Christmas visits his home!

I also arranged an author talk for our year sixes via Skype with local author Lexi Rees (who writes for 7-11-year-olds), and that worked very well. I think that is something I will take inspiration from moving forward. I am more than happy to chat to schools and nurseries in this way, or for (supervised) children to get in touch and share their reading experience with me.

At the end of the first Little Pup book, children were asked to name the puppy. It was wonderful to hear the names chosen. In Being a Friend at Christmas, Little Pup asks readers to make their own Christmas wish, and I hope some of those will be shared with me too. I can be contacted via my website: https://www.carol-thomas.co.uk/contact-me/

That’s great and I wish you every success with Being a Friend at Christmas and hope to see your novel, Maybe Baby, on bookshop shelves next year!

Carol’s Little Pup books will make ideal stocking fillers for all young dog lovers.

About Being a Friend at Christmas (Little Pup book #2):

“A lovingly illustrated, and beautifully written, Christmas story you’ll want to share again and again!”

View the book trailer: https://youtu.be/q8Yhj7AfwPE Purchase link: http://getbook.at/BAFAmazon

Also, by Carol Thomas: Finding a Friend (Little Pup book #1).

When Little Pup finds himself at the shelter,

he doesn’t know quite what to do.

Big dogs all around, feeling lost and alone,

Little Pup needs a friend… but who?

“A delightfully written and wonderfully illustrated picture book, with a heart warming’ tail’ of friendship.”

View the book trailer: https://youtu.be/66ypEpoNTd8 Purchase link: http://getbook.at/FAFAmazon

About the author:

Carol Thomas lives on the coast in West Sussex with her husband, four children, guinea pig, two hamsters and lively Labrador. She has been a playgroup supervisor and has taught in primary schools for just over twenty years – but we don’t mention that as it makes her feel old!

Find out more about books by Carol Thomas by visiting her:

Gunvor Johansson Kickstarts a brand new novel

I am pleased to welcome Gunvor Johansson to my blog today to talk about her brand new novel, The House by the Lake.  I will hand over to Gunvor to tell you more…

My name is Gunvor Johansson and I have finished my first adult novel, which has taken me about three years. Mind you, I haven’t worked on it every day and I have also written two children’s books at the same time. 

The House by the Lake is a supernatural drama with a two-tier timeline, Cumbria in 1902 and Bristol in 2005. I am launching a Kickstarter, which is a crowd-funding event, but also good publicity and a useful marketing tool.  The event was launched on 7 March and you can read more about it in this Facebook post.

The Kickstarter link is bit.ly/House-by-the-Lake  which will take you directly to the site. (You can also go to: http://www.kickstarter.com and search for ‘The House by the Lake’.)

The Kickstarter will run for 20 days and I will update it daily with extracts from the book.  If you are able to support it by sharing and liking the posts, that would be great. I know it’s a big ask, but every little helps!  Thank you so much!

The House by the Lake

Ellen, a young business woman, is compelled to visit the Lake District, drawn by the mysterious pull of a house depicted in a painting. A transformation takes place and she becomes Lenora, a woman who lived at the turn of the twentieth century. Fascinated and intrigued, Ellen begins to lead a double life; as Lenora in 1902 and as herself in Bristol in 2005.

When Ellen returns to her life in Bristol, she retains the memory of what has taken place at Lakeside House. She becomes obsessed with Lenora and wants to spend as much time at Lakeside House as possible. She is sure that she has been sent to help, but she cannot work out how.

Ellen is forced to see this through to the end; to find out what has brought her to this house and why. This is not what she believes it to be; the reason is far more sinister…

Loyalty, love, desire, sex and greed are the main ingredients in this tale.

About the author

Gunvor Johansson was born in the north of Sweden and grew up with spectacular displays of northern lights in winter, and midnight sun in summer. In her late teens she came to England and her first year was spent in Guildford, where she studied English. Her intention was to stay for a year, but still here she now lives on the south coast, near Chichester.  She is also the author of six children’s books and The House by the Lake is her first adult novel.

Writing a trilogy

Firstly, thank you to Isabella for inviting me over to her blog during my ‘Chindi Author of the Week’ which happens to coincide with publication of my second novel, The Coal Miner’s Son.

Why write a trilogy? Well, there are a couple of reasons really.

  • As a writer I don’t want to say goodbye to my characters.
  • If readers love your characters then they too want more.

I felt such a loss when finishing my debut novel, House of Grace, that I decided to continue the story. I was glad I did because I soon discovered that my readers were invested too.

Writing a trilogy isn’t easy though. For instance, the writer needs to keep track of characters. How old are they? What colour eyes, hair, etc do they have?’ When are their birthdays? What were their names?

The Coal Miner’s Son was no exception to the above and I’m perhaps not as organised as some writers because I know a lot of writers use Scrivener which I believe has Notice Boards to pin certain details. Writer friends have told me how valuable this is, and it is on my list to learn, whenever I get a moment, but that moment hasn’t arrived yet. I therefore tend to have everything written down in a notebook with the more frequent details required pinned to my PC using a computer sticky note. But sometimes that isn’t enough and I have to wade through my manuscripts to see, for example, what a character with a small role was called.

My final book in the trilogy is ‘The Granville Legacy’ although by the time I get to publication I may have changed its name. However for now, that’s the title and I hope it stands. I’m halfway through this third book and I not only have to flit through House of Grace but The Coal Miner’s Son too, to ensure I get the correct details.

There was one instance where I brought a character from House of Grace into book 3. Because she was not in the Coal Miner’s Son, I had misremembered her name as Jessica only to discover (thankfully I checked) that in House of Grace she was Rebecca. It’s little things like this that the writer needs to be conscious of because there will be a sharp reader out there who will remember this character, despite only being featured for a few lines in the first book.

Ending the trilogy.

Although the story will have concluded at the end of the trilogy, the ‘House of Grace’ series will have not. There is the potential to write standalone novels or novellas to develop characters in the series who don’t have much of a voice and the reader doesn’t get a chance to find out these characters’ stories. For instance, Charlotte Cunningham who makes her first appearance in House of Grace and returns in ‘The Granville Legacy’ has her own story to tell. Also because the ‘House of Grace’ trilogy is a family saga the series can go on indefinitely with stories about the different generations. So ‘House of Grace’ is going to be around for a while.

Once again thank you to Isabella.

The Coal Miner’s Son

After tragedy hits the small coal mining village of Wintermore, nine-year-old miner’s son, George, is sent to Granville Hall to live with his titled grandparents. Caught up in a web of treachery and deceit, George grows up believing his mother sold him. He’s determined to make her pay, but at what cost? Is he strong enough to rebel?

Will George ever learn to forgive?

Step back into the 60s and follow George as he struggles with bereavement, rejection and a kidnapping that changes his life forever. Resistance is George’s only hope.

My books can be found on Amazon at the links below

House of Grace

The Coal Miner’s Son

Books may also be ordered at any reputable bookstore or from your local library by quoting ISBN numbers

ISBN 9780995710702 – House of Grace        

ISBN 9780995710719 – The Coal Miner’s Son

About Patricia M Osborne

Patricia M Osborne is married with grown-up children and grandchildren. She was born in Liverpool but now lives in West Sussex. In 2019 she graduated with an MA in Creative Writing (University of Brighton).

Patricia writes novels, poetry and short fiction, and has been published in various literary magazines and anthologies. Her first poetry pamphlet ‘Taxus Baccata’ is to be published by Hedgehog Poetry Press during 2020.

She has a successful blog at Patriciamosbornewriter.com where she features other writers and poets. When Patricia isn’t working on her own writing, she enjoys sharing her knowledge, acting as a mentor to fellow writers and as an online poetry tutor with Writers’ Bureau.

The Coal Miner’s Son is the second book in the House of Grace trilogy.

All about Clara Benson

Back in September 2019 I had the opportunity for an exclusive interview with the best-selling cozy mystery author, Clara Benson. For those who are not familiar with Clara’s crime mysteries, then you will find plenty to explore here…but first let’s see what Clara had to say…

 Welcome, Clara, what inspired you to write crime mysteries?

I’ve been a huge reader of them since childhood, starting from Enid Blyton, then moving onto Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys and finally to Agatha Christie et al. But when it came to writing my own first novel I didn’t even consider doing a mystery, as I was certain I didn’t have the right sort of mind for it—mine works in an “A to C via B” sort of way, but to write a good mystery I think you need a brain that’s more like “A to C via W and 2.7!” But then I also remembered the old adage “write what you want to read,” and I wanted to read a mystery, so I wrote a mystery! (I’m still working on the W and 2.7.)

You have developed two series – the Angela Marchmont Mysteries and the Freddy Pilkington-Soames Adventures. Have you enjoyed writing one series more than the other?

I love both my main characters, but the Angela books were certainly easier to write, as I had a lot of momentum, which carried me through ten books very quickly – plus I had the blithely insane confidence of the inexperienced writer, because I wasn’t aware of just how much I didn’t know! Now I’m a lot more experienced and feel more pressure to step up the quality, and that’s slowed me down quite a bit. I hope it’s resulting in better books, though.

Book 5 in the Freddy Pilkington-Soames series – find out more here.

Your novels are set in England in the 1920s and 1930s – how did you approach your research for the stories?

I read a few history books covering the period, and did a lot of perusing of back issues from the Times Digital Archive and other original sources. But I think I got most of my “feel” for the period just from reading mysteries written at the time. I pay a lot of attention to the language I use – ie, I really try not to use anachronisms or modern idioms. If I have any doubt about a phrase I look it up in the Oxford English Dictionary and if I can’t find an earliest date for it I will tend to leave it out.
 What genre of books do you like reading and who is your favourite author?

Obviously I’m a big mystery fan, and I’ve read hundreds if not thousands of them over the years. But I’ve dabbled with most genres at one time or another—romance, fantasy, historical, literary, classics. I don’t have a lot of time for reading these days, and I couldn’t possibly choose a favourite author, but the authors I tend to return to when I want to switch off are all the Golden Age mystery writers. I’m reworking my way gradually through the Miss Silver novels by Patricia Wentworth at the moment.

Many thanks to Clara – it’s great to gain some insight into the mind of another crime mystery author!

Creative Writing Skills for children

I’m thrilled to welcome Lexi Rees to my website today. Lexi is passionate about encouraging children to write – whatever their ability – and she has just published a brilliant new activity book to do just that. So, without further ado, I will hand you over to Lexi…

Thanks so much Isabel for inviting me onto your blog to chat about writing, and more specifically, the journey behind my creative writing workbook, Creative Writing Skills: over 70 fun activities for children.

Discover the secrets to becoming an amazing author.

  • Find your creative spark
  • Grow your skills and confidence
  • Have more fun with your writing

Packed with top tips, this awesome workbook has everything you need to know about creating colourful characters, perfect plots, dynamite dialogue, and lots more.

This originally started out as a quick little project, just a few PDF documents knocked up on Canva that I would share when I ran creative writing workshops. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised there was a huge gap in the market for a structured approach to creative writing for children, and Creative Writing Skills was born. Oh, and it’s “over 70 fun activities” because every time I counted them, I got a different answer as some of the sections have multiple activities and I could never quite make up my mind on how best to treat them, so I gave up!

Like every author, I have shelves of “How to” guides which I’ve used to improve my writing skills. If you’re interested my personal favourites are Stephen King’s On Writing and Jessica Brody’s Save The Cat Writes A Novel, both of which I regularly recommend to other writers. But I couldn’t find an equivalent for children. Of course there were dozens of educational guides focussing on grammar or comprehension skills, and then there are a great selection of books packed from start to finish with story prompts, but there was nothing that gave a child-friendly structured approach to creative writing, as if they were writing a book. And given the world is full of budding young authors, this struck me as bizarre.

Once I started planning the book, the other thing that I really wanted to do was to make it accessible for the more reluctant writer too, so within each section there are drawing activities and games. These aren’t obviously about writing but they do still develop creative writing skills – I like to think of it as “stealth education”! Also, the activities build on each other and the final activity in each chapter is more challenging.

Whilst I’m based in the UK, I’ve had a great response internationally to the workbook, including from non-English speakers. Because the activities can be used for a wide range of writing abilities, they are perfectly suited to supporting students who are learning English, as well as native speakers.

I’ve had numerous requests for other versions, including a version for older children (actually several GCSE students have used the workbook as it is and found it helpful, but the illustrations and examples could be adapted to a YA audience) and also for a pocket-sized activity book for when children are out and about, plus I’m working on a few other ideas – watch this space!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the workbook as much as I enjoyed creating it, and happy writing everyone!


Lexi Rees was born in Scotland but now lives down south. She writes action-packed adventures and workbooks for children. 

The Relic Hunters #1, Eternal Seas, was awarded a “loved by” badge from LoveReading4Kids and is currently long-listed for a Chanticleer award. The sequel, Wild Sky, is out on the 28th November. 

Lexi is passionate about developing a love of reading and writing in children and, as well as her Creative Writing Skills workbook, she has an active programme of school visits and other events, is a Book PenPal for three primary schools, and runs a free online #kidsclub and newsletter, which includes book recommendations and creative writing activities.

In her spare time, she’s a keen crafter and spends a considerable amount of time trying not to fall off horses or boats.

And to celebrate the launch of her new workbook, Lexi is offering this fun giveaway – a chance to win a copy of Eternal Seas and Wild Sky, the action packed fantasy adventure books for 7-11 year olds. (UK – choice of signed paperbacks or ebooks) (International entrants – ebooks only) Only available from 24th November until 19th December -= so don’t delay! https://kingsumo.com/g/dpaovz/the-relic-hunters-giveaway

You can get in touch with Lexi via:

Agatha Christie and Janie Juke!

In 1969 there was a young librarian who discovered that all the Agatha Christie novels she had read throughout her childhood could now be put to good use. Read on to find out more…

Who is Janie Juke?

Janie Juke is a young librarian, living in the fictional Sussex seaside town of Tamarisk Bay in the late 1960s.

The great thing about being a librarian is not only being able to read all the books you could ever want, but also that you are at the heart of the community.  With people forever popping in and out of the library van, Janie is in the very best place to excel at her other little sideline – as an amateur sleuth!

Since she was a young teenager Janie has had a passion for Agatha Christie novels.  As a result, she is a devoted fan of Hercule Poirot.  Now she is having a chance to put all she has learned from him to the test.

In the first book in the Sussex Crime mystery series, The Tapestry Bag, Janie’s good friend Zara goes missing.  When the police appear to be doing little to find Zara, Janie makes it her mission to track her down.  Zara’s boyfriend, Joel, has been killed in a hit and run accident and Zara goes missing on the one-year anniversary of his death.  As Janie explores the strange circumstances of Zara’s disappearance, she starts to question the truth about Joel’s death.  She turns to Agatha Christie’s crime novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, to help her untangle the web of lies and deceit.

Having shown her skills at investigating, Janie takes on her first case for a client in the second book in the series, Lost PropertyHugh Furness is prepared to pay Janie a handsome amount of money to help him find an old friend, who he hasn’t seen for more than twenty years.  This time Janie enlists the help of her friend and local journalist, Libby Frobisher and between they track down clues and piece together the facts.  Hugh Furness was an RAF pilot in the Second World War and Janie soon discovers that it is the past that holds the key to the present.

Janie’s father, Philip, offers her solid support, acting as a brilliant sounding board as she works through her theories and conjectures.  And in the third book in the series, The Invisible Case, Janie is getting used to being a mum, with her baby just two months old.  In this story we meet Philip’s sister, Jessica who has been travelling around Europe for the last nine years and now is returning from Italy, with a friend in tow.  Mysteries surround Luigi, a moody newcomer to Tamarisk Bay, and within days of his arrival there is a shocking death.

Janie’s new role as a first-time mum doesn’t deter her from seeking out the truth and in true Hercule Poirot fashion she is determined to chase down every clue.  When you are investigating crime, the police are bound to be keeping a watchful eye on your every move.  Janie first met Detective Sergeant Bright in The Tapestry Bag, and dealt with him again in Lost Property, but in The Invisible Case, they have a few verbal sparring sessions.  Frank Bright can’t decide whether Janie is a useful ally, or an annoying splinter that he just can’t extricate.

This blog post is one of a series, which has led up to Agatha Christie’s birthday and national #cozymysteryday on 15th September, as I enjoy the opportunity to be Chindi’s ‘Author of the week’.  Chindi is a network of authors, both traditionally and independently published, based largely in West Sussex.   Between us we publish a wide range of books, from historical and crime fiction to romance and children’s books, from humour to self-help. 

If you would like to know more about the great Queen of Crime and help to celebrate Agatha Christie’s birthday, then look back at the other blog posts in the series:

Offers galore

As a present to you, on Agatha’s behalf, I am pleased to announce that the first book in my Sussex Crime series – The Tapestry Bag – is available on Kindle for just £0.99p and completely free with Kindle Unlimited – grab it while you can!

And there’s more! Receive the FREE Sussex Crime novella, Divided we Fall when you sign up to receive my newsletter, with cozy mystery news and views, exclusive author interviews, special offers and so much more. Just click here.