Best-selling author of all time!

Any guesses as to who is the most read author in the world? Well, according to a recent Wikipaedia article, it is Agatha Christie – who has estimated sales of between two and four billion!  Even beating the bard, William Shakespeare!

Hercule Poirot appeared in 33 of her published ‘whodunits’ – which numbered 85 in total – not forgetting her  numerous short stories.

It’s no surprise then that young librarian,  Janie Juke, has learned so much from the great man that she has become a successful amateur sleuth.  In the fictional Sussex seaside town of Tamarisk Bay, Janie enlists the help of friends and family to solve crimes and mysteries – with her notebook at the ready and Poirot’s advice always on hand.

Agatha Christie was born on 15th September 1890.

And now, to help celebrate the birthday of our wonderful Queen of Crime, you can buy all three books of the Janie Juke trilogy in one compilation.

The Sussex Crime Mysteries is available now for pre-order via Amazon at a special discounted price of £5.99 for just 13 days – don’t delay, the clock is ticking…

Not lost, but abandoned

It was 1986 when Nottinghamshire social worker, Margaret Humphreys, was first contacted by a former child migrant in Australia.  She was asked if she could help track down his family in the UK.  That was just the start of a long journey for Margaret, and for the many individuals and families she has helped since that day.

In 1987 she established the Child Migrants Trust, which continues to do vital work in tracking down families and raising awareness.

Here is an excerpt from the Child Migrants Trust website that explains a little of what the children were subjected to:

‘After being told fanciful tales of travel to the ‘Land of Milk and Honey‘, where children ride to school on horseback, child migrants were sent abroad without passports, social histories or even basic documents such as a full birth certificate. Brothers and sisters were frequently separated for most of their childhood; some were loaded onto trucks for long journeys to remote institutions, only to be put to work as labourers the next day. Many felt an extreme sense of rejection by their family and country of origin. Others felt like characters from Kafka’s novels; their punishment was obvious – exile from their family and homeland – but the nature of their crime was a complete mystery.

The tragic reality for many child migrants was appalling standards of care which fell well below standards found within British institutions. Children as young as seven, sent to institutions in Western Australia, were involved in construction works without basic safety measures. Many were injured in building accidents at an age when they would have been in school if they had remained in the United Kingdom.’

Families were torn apart – many never to find each other again.  In a recent news article (Daily Mirror, 30th August 2018) Rex Wade – one of the last child migrants to be sent to Australia in 1970 – tells his story:

“The whole experience ruined my life. We were treated like slaves. It was wrong and should never have happened.”

These and many other stories inspired me to write The Forgotten Children  – in the hope that it will increase awareness about this terrible period in British history.

The Forgotten Children is available now for pre-order from Amazon and will be published on November 29th.

The Queen of Crime!

On the 15th September 1890 Agatha Christie was born.  She started writing novels  in her early twenties and a hundred years later her books are still being read by millions!

Among those readers is Janie Juke, young librarian and amateur sleuth, whose hero is Hercule Poirot.  Janie has made a name for herself in the sleepy seaside town of Tamarisk Bay, where she uses all she has learned from Poirot to solve crimes and mysteries.

The Janie Juke mysteries are set in Sussex in the late 1960s – when Agatha Christie’s books were already famous the world over.

Now, to help celebrate the birthday of our wonderful Queen of Crime, you can buy the whole Janie Juke trilogy in one compilation.

The Sussex Crime Mysteries is available now for pre-order via Amazon at a special discounted price for just 15 days – don’t delay, the clock is ticking…

Flying high

It seems incredible to think that our Royal Air Force is one hundred years old.   It was back in 1918, on 1 April, when the Royal Air Force first formed as a separate service, independent of the British Army and the Royal Navy.  In fact, it was the first time that any country had formed an entirely separate and independent air force.

We can find out more on the RAF100 dedicated website, which explains:

‘The ‘new’ RAF was the most powerful air force in the world with more than 290,000 personnel and nearly 23,000 aircraft, and fought effectively from April 1 1918 over the Western Front in support of ground forces. General Jan Christian Smuts said of Air Power: ‘There is absolutely no limit to the scale of its future independent war use.’

Of course, we now know that over the course of the next hundred years the RAF were instrumental in helping us to fight and win two world wars.

Of course,  it wasn’t just men who risked their lives – the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF) was also created in 1918, and then in 1939 the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAR) was created.  Service women were heavily involved in operating radar equipment, plotting, navigation and reconnaissance.  

When the armistice was declared on November 11, 1918, everyone hoped they had seen the last of war.  Sadly, it was not to be.  By the time war was declared again in 1939 the RAF had such state-of-the-art planes as Spitfires, Hurricanes, Lancasters and Lysanders.

And it was a Lysander that Hugh Furness flew in my novel, Lost Property.  Hugh is an RAF pilot who also worked with the Special Operations Executive, flying agents into France to help the French resistance.  Such brave folk.  The inspiration for the story told in Lost Property came after my visit to Tangmere Military Aviation Museum, which is near to where I live.  The site of the Museum was originally the air base, RAF Tangmere, famous for its role in the Battle of Britain.  It was the Tangmere wing of Fighter Command that the famous Group Captain Douglas Bader commanded.

So, it was timely that when attending a local charity event, together with other indie authors (Chindi Authors) the Mayor of Chichester expressed interest in the story of Hugh Furness and bought a copy of Lost Property.  The photo here shows Julia Dean, who had organised the event, with book in hand.  Julia’s own novel And I Shall be Healed (writing as JL Dean) also focuses on brave servicemen, as she tells the story of a First World War young army chaplain who is haunted by an unhappy upbringing and a mistake for which he cannot forgive himself.  He struggles to put the past behind him and support the men he has been called to serve.

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Today then, when we see or hear the RAF100 parade and flypast, we have much to be grateful for.  So many young men prepared to risk their lives to keep us safe.

Thank you…

 

 

 

 

 

EARLY ONE MORNING

(by Virginia Baily, published 2015)

A kind friend lent me this novel when he discovered I was interested in learning about what life was like in Italy during the Second World War, as part of the research for the third book in the Janie Juke mystery series.  The perfect about this storyline is that it is set in the very year and region that I had been focused on – Rome, 1943.

This was the year when Italians changed their allegiance and the English went from being their enemies to being their friends.  In truth, I am sure that for average Italian the English were never considered the enemy – but with Mussolini choosing to be pally with Hitler, well, it didn’t bode well.  Then, after a ‘vote of no confidence’ in July 1943 Mussolini was arrested and in October that year Italy declared war on Germany.

Early One Morning captures all of the difficulties of life at that time.  It has a powerful start, with the protagonist, Chiara, saving the life of a young Jewish boy – Daniele – when his family is rounded up by German troops.   As the story unfolds we learn how that single moment has devastating results for Daniele and Chiara for years to come.  We meet Chiara again in the 1970s to discover how she copes when she receives an expected phone call.  A phone call that brings back memories she had hoped to forget.

The tale is beautifully told, well written, and full of detail that helps the reader to see, smell and taste what life was like in Italy in the forties and again in the seventies.  It was during the seventies that I made many of my own trips to Rome, with family and with friends.  My memories of pizza al taglio is perfectly described here:

‘Customers were coming out of the baker’s, clutching pieces of something hot, wrapped in waxed paper, biting into it before they even got out of the door, so irresistibly delicious was it.’

And here, a description of one of Rome’s famous squares:

‘…Piazza Navona, with the three fountains, the water bouncing off the great white statues now and sparkling in the bright midday sunshine.’

All in all, the book was a joy to read and took me back there to that place and that time, without me ever having to leave my house!

 

 

 

Feeling inspired

So much has happened over the last few weeks, all of which has helped to inspire my writing.

First off I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Denmark with my two writing buddies!  Spending hours talking and thinking about books is my idea of heaven, plus we got to see a beautiful country in stunning weather – a dusting of snow on the ground, but bright blue skies and no wind.  Perfect walking and talking weather.

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Returning from all that mental stimulation I was pleased to be able to throw myself into drafting the manuscript for Book 3 in the Janie Juke mystery series.  In Book 3 we meet Janie’s Aunt Jessica, who has been travelling abroad for the last few years.  She is returning from Italy and so my favourite country has once again been in my thoughts.  Just like in Lost Property, Book 3 has references to the Second World War, but getting the period detail correct is critical.

As every author knows, research is a fun part of the writing process, but can often be tricky.  Pinning down the right resource, or finding someone who knows the answers can often prove difficult and time-consuming.  So, I was very grateful to discover that my cousin (who lives in Rome) was able to provide me with wonderful stories, told to her by her parents, who lived through the Second World War.  What’s more, one of her grandchildren has been set the task of interviewing his 90-year-old great-grandmother to find out what she remembers about that time.  I can’t wait to hear the results!

My Italian cousin has proved to be a wonderful support, and not just with the new book. Over the past few weeks she has been steadily translating The Tapestry Bag into Italian! She says it has been a labour of love and she’s been enlisting every member of her family to check the translation.  So, I am hoping that later this year I will be able to publish an Italian edition of The Tapestry Bag, followed (hopefully!) with Italian versions of the other books in the series.

My final boost of inspiration during February is to see my five star reviews on Amazon continuing to increase in number.  There are now SIX for The Tapestry Bag and THREE for Lost Property.  It’s so encouraging to know that readers are enjoying the books and I am really grateful for all the support.

But for now, it is back to my drafting – hopefully it won’t be too long before it’s finished.  I’ll keep you posted!

Spending time with friends

I first met Janie Juke in February 2017.  I was walking my Scottie dog, Hamish, along a Spanish beach and she came into my head.  But back then I didn’t know her name, I didn’t know that she would be a mobile librarian and I hadn’t met any of her family and friends.

Since then Janie has become a friend.  I have discovered a little of her likes and dislikes, her fears and insecurities.  I’ve enjoyed getting to know her dad, Phillip, who is a blind physiotherapist and her husband, Greg, who is her soulmate and stalwart supporter.  But I’ve still got a lot to learn about Janie and about my writing craft.

Anyone who has tried their hand at writing fiction will understand that moment when your character takes on a life of their own.  As an author you think you are in control, but once the words start to appear on the page, you discover that you are not.  Well, that’s how it feels to me.

So far, Janie has had two major adventures.  In The Tapestry Bag, Janie is desperate to track down a friend who has gone missing.  By solving that mystery she realises that she has skills as an amateur sleuth and in the early chapters of Lost Property she is surprised to learn that those skills can earn her money.  Just like many young families in the 1960s (or now, for that matter) any opportunity to bolster their financial coffers is grabbed with both hands.

3D 008 sml

The Janie Juke mystery series is set in the late 1960s.  I have loved the chance to look back at that era when The Beatles were breaking the mould of popular music.  Medical advances were coming thick and fast.  Attitudes were changing to sex, crime, women’s rights and family life.

In Lost Property Janie meets Hugh Furness, a Second World War RAF pilot.  She learns something about life during the Second World War, and the years immediately following it.  Researching this era has given me a taste for it and I’d like to spend a bit more time with Hugh.

So what happens next?  Well, I know there is a lot more I have to learn about Janie and her family and friends.  I’m pretty certain she is going to take me on more adventures and I hope you will come along with me…it’s going to be a busy 2018!