Tuesday, 30 September 2014

REVIEW-Dying In The Wool by Frances Brody


Take one quiet Yorkshire village, Bridgestead is a peaceful spot: a babbling brook, rolling hills and a working mill at its heart. Pretty and remote, nothing exceptional happens.
Until the day that Master of the Mill Joshua Braithwaite goes missing in dramatic circumstances, never to be heard of again.
Now Joshua's daughter is getting married and wants one last attempt at finding her father. Has he run off with his mistress, or was he murdered for his mounting coffers?
And Kate Shackleton, amateur sleuth extraordinaire!
Kate Shackleton has always loved solving puzzles. So who better to get to the bottom of Joshua's mysterious disappearance? But as Kate taps into the lives of the Bridgestead dwellers, she opens cracks that some would kill to keep closed.


As a fan of Historical Cosy Mysteries, and an author of my own series, I admit I bought this book to see how the experts did it.  I wasn’t disappointed as the writing style is beautifully done, smooth and full of images, while the characters have quirks and faults which make each of them well rounded and intriguing.

The reason for Kate Shackleton’s interest in sleuthing professionally is understandable – her husband was missing believe killed in action five years before. As an independent widow in a position to choose how she lives her life in an age when women were still expected to be led by the nose – by a man – Kate is outwardly strong and runs around in a motor car, much to the approbation of those she meets. For her part, Kate is emotionally damaged and has not discovered how or why she ought to let go of her husband as there is a tiny voice telling her he may still be out there, somewhere. I really liked her.

The author’s research into running a textile mill in 1920’s Yorkshire is masterful, and she comes down on just the right side of info dumps in her descriptions, the attitudes to the owners and the way they treated their workforce.

Kate also takes on an assistant, an ex-policeman of whom she isn’t sure, but who proves a valuable asset in her investigations. He also grows to like him as he treats her as a professional colleague not an empty-headed woman.

There were a couple of details I found unusual, in that even taking into account the ‘surplus women’ left over after the First World War, would the wealthy socialite Tabitha Braithwaite really marry a man ten years younger, who was a boy scout when his fiancĂ©e was tending the wounded as a VAD? Hmm, not sure about that one.

Kate's methods are very practical, in that her interest in photography doubles as a way of collecting evidence, but just when a second body turns up in suspicious circumstances, Kate takes herself off for a week to attend a family dinner which, for me, dragged the story down just when it was picking up pace.

Kate’s friends aren’t quite as loyal of forbearing as she is, and the aptly named Tabby, turns on her when the investigation appears to be going in a direction she doesn’t like. Kate comes close to death at one point and the ungrateful girl revokes Kate’s invitation to her wedding.

The plot is very complicated, and interspersed with flashbacks to 1916, a device used to show what motivated the other characters as the story is told in Kate’s PoV. The reader needs to pay attention or vital nuances will be missed, which is where I found the flashbacks distracting and felt the story was strong enough without the additional characters putting in their own penn’orth.

Saying that, I fully intend to read the other five books in this series. Ms Brody’s narrative is easy to read, nostalgic and so English.  I hate to admit it but I recognised some of the idioms, i.e a 'tanner' was still being called that when I was a nipper. Oh dear.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Writing Path Blog Tour

Lisa Yarde, amazing Historical Author and friend, invited me to participate in IC Publishing's writing path blog tour - thank you, Lisa. Please check out her answers to the tour questions. As I'm composing mine, I'm actually in the spot where most of my writing endeavours take place, next to the corner window of my bedroom complete with cluttered desk and PC. The clutter is necessary; it's how I write. Speaking of writing....

1. How do you start your writing projects?
I am writing a series of historical cozy mysteries set during the early Edwardian period in England. I have my core characters organised so need to create a murder that requires solving by my main character, Flora Maguire. I tend to trawl through old newspaper reports until I find either a report that can be adapted to suit my story, or an event that happened at the time which can impact it, although I don’t change recorded history, I just embellish it something that might have happened. My latest novel mentions the Serbian Murders of 1903.

2. How do you continue your writing process?
I am an inveterate ‘Planner’ so the next step once an outline exists, is to summarise what happens in each scene, including dialogue, where the clues are scattered, how the scene moves into the next part and what Flora’s own thought processes as new information is revealed and how she handles it.

The story may change from conception to completion – Flora tends to tell me when the next action I have planned for her doesn’t feel right. She acts on impulse sometimes and I have to change tack to let her go with it, or the story becomes too stilted.

3. How do you finish your writing project?
Once I have a first draft mapped out, I submit each chapter to my critique group. This is a set of authors whom I have come to know over a period of several years. I trust their judgement and if they tell me a chapter isn’t working for them – I listen. They have saved me a lot of wasted time writing uninteresting prose and forced me back to the beginning on more than one occasion.

After a rewrite, or maybe two – I submit the manuscript to my agent, who reads it through and if she thinks it would suit one of the publishers she is working with, she submits the manuscript. 

Sometimes a publisher will ask for re-writes, which I am always happy to do, but even then the final result may be rejected. My writing is quite individual, and sometimes, like in Royalist Rebel, readers don’t like my main character.  The heroine was a real person and in that case, I  believe I was true to her character.  With my ‘cozies’ I need to make Flora Maguire, engaging, likeable and a person readers care about and someone they would like to follow through her own life.

4. Include one challenge or additional tip that our collective communities could help with or benefit from.

In this one I agree with Lisa when she says - Publish. The world of literature has undergone a massive change since the innovation of the Internet and because everyone with a computer can, theoretically, produce a book. Or should I say start a book, only a certain type of person can complete one.

There is a lot of dross out there, even more so now with the relative ease of self-publishing – however if you are determined to see your work in print, make it the best you can be. Learn your craft, draft and re-draft, and then hire an editor.

Take their advice, no matter how painful, you can learn from it.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Release Day-The Rebel's Daughter

Release Day for The Rebel’s Daughter

Helena Woulfe, the daughter of a wealthy Exeter nobleman leads a privileged life, however, when rebellion sweeps the West Country, her family is caught in its grip. After Monmouth’s bloody defeat in battle at Sedgemoor, Helena sets off for Somerset to find the three missing members of her family.
With the Woulfe estate confiscated by the crown, Helena and her younger brother Henry hope the anonymity of the capital city will be more forgiving to the children of a convicted rebel. However, Helena finds her search for security and respectability in London are threatened by someone who wishes harm to a traitor's daughter.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Cozy Book Contract

It's official - and with grateful thanks to my lovely agent Kate Nash, I now have a signed contract, with real joined up writing and everything - from Robert Hale for my Edwardian Cozy featuring the intrepid governess, Flora Maguire - watch this space for the title and cover art.

I would also like thank the Historical Fiction Critique Group for reading and making sense of my messy first draft. Be warned, those of you who know me – and who write blogs - I shall be campaigning soon for volunteers to join me in a blog tour announcing the release, so if you would like to volunteer before I bombard your inbox with frantic pleas to participate, I welcome all-comers.

Here’s some Blurb to give an idea of what the novel is about

Flora Maguire is travelling home on board the SS Minneapolis with her charge, Eddy, Viscount Trent, when she finds the body of a man at the bottom of a companionway. The ship's doctor and the captain are reluctant to accept there is a murderer on board and the death is pronounced an accident, but Flora is not convinced, though unsure with whom she can share her misgivings. After a whispered threat, a burglary, a near drowning during a storm and a second murder, the hunt is now on for a killer.

Time is running out as the Minneapolis approaches the English coast. Will Flora be able to protect Eddy as well as herself, and discover who the murderer is? Is her burgeoning relationship with the handsome Bunny Harrington only a shipboard dalliance, or something more?

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