Welcome to By the Letter for March 2021, and welcome also to the many new subscribers. I'm very grateful for all your support and working hard to make sure there's something of interest here for everyone.
I feel the main headline should be that spring is springing here in the Forest - mostly! Sammy and I are luxuriating in the sunny days on our walks, occasionally posting photos to Facebook and twitter. Down by the Severn River is a favourite spot, and also happens to be the setting for my current project, some 150 years earlier, when the river was a lot busier than it is today.
Congratulations to the winners, who have been notified. Paperback copies will be sent to them once Keepers is launched. The answer to the question - where is the story set? - is Adelaide (as per the big fat hint on my home page), although the city isn't named in the book. It's where I grew up and my early childhood memories are vivid - some of them make their way into the story.
Here's another photograph, more recent than the book setting. Meeting at the Beehive corner was a common thing to do when I was young. Is it still? Let me know, all you Adelaidians!
Early feedback from readers who have been sent the book ahead of formal publication, is very positive. I was nearly woken at 3 in the morning by one enthusiastic reader and, honestly, with what she had to say, I would have forgiven her. If you are on Goodreads, you can take a look here to see what others have said, and perhaps add it to your Want to Read list. For more about Keepers, take a look at my website here. (And if you would like to be an 'ahead reader', let me know by replying to this email.)
For links to pre-orders (ebooks only at this stage, sorry) click on the image below.
Release date is 2 April - not far away.
In other news, I was thrilled that one of my short stories was shortlisted for a quarterly 'bridge'-themed competition. Always a nice boost!
Canadian poet Jacqueline Belle is producing another of my tales for her YouTube channel, Story Time for Grown Ups. She's already read Dragon Gift, and The Moon's Silver Path, and now it's the turn of Sabrina's Rising - a tale based on the Great Flood of 1607 along these coasts. You can catch up with other stories via this link.
In between, work on my current project, set here in the Forest of Dean, is forging ahead. I have a couple of other plans brewing - more of that when they've brewed a bit longer!
RESEARCH - POST WW2 MIGRANT HOSTELS
In Keepers, my three main characters meet on a migrant camp in 1949. Raine isn't a migrant, but her family has had to move from the country to the city for Pop's medical treatment. Teddy and Alf are fresh from bombed-out East End London. The camp depicted in the story is a mishmash of the ones which existed at the time - and for many years afterwards. South Australia had thirteen camps, scattered across the state. The conditions varied enormously, from good to lying in bed watching rats scurry across the wire netting ceilings hastily installed in converted wool sheds...
Click here or on the image to read the article, which includes memories from British migrants who stayed in the camps. Fascinating stuff. I hope you enjoy it.
(The background image below is of Finsbury hostel, early 1950s.Migration Museum photographic collection, PN05782, Courtesy Olaf Alland)
WRITERS ARE READERS TOO (or should be)
Discerning Grace, Emma Lombard
Something to cheer the day! A rollicking romp of historical fiction as Grace blusters her way from London to the antipodes. This debut release from Emma Lombard is lots of fun, with some darker moments for 'light' relief. For lovers of adventure on the high seas! Read my thoughts on Discerning Gracehere.
Emma is my guest interviewee for April, where she will talk about the book and about her writing journey to this point. As with the book, it's a fun read, as you'd expect!
A PIECE OF WRITING FOR YOU TO ENJOY
As promised, here's another short snippet from Keepers, to whet the appetite! A five minute read...
They caught up with the others just as Maggie was saying, ‘Roller coaster next.’ She pointed to the steel structure rising tall in the middle of the grounds.