A Peek Into Following Disasters

I’ve always enjoyed ghost stories and have been particularly interested in them during the past few months as I wrote one myself earlier this year. A few weeks ago, I read Following Disasters by Nancy McCabe.

following-disasters-coverHere’s how the publisher describes the novel: “On her twenty-first birthday, Maggie Owen receives an unusual birthday gift: a house. That same day, the house’s owner, her aunt, dies. For three years, Maggie has been fleeing her childhood demons: the deaths of her parents, estrangement from her terminally-ill aunt, and a betrayal by her best friend. But now her career on the road, following natural disasters in temporary insurance claims offices, ends abruptly as Maggie returns home to face her past. But why does the house hold a mysterious spell over her? Why does she have the persistent feeling that her aunt is haunting her? Why did her aunt lie to her about the circumstances of her parents’ deaths? Who is the ghost child that may be hanging around the house? And what’s with the guy next door who seems so hostile toward her? FOLLOWING DISASTERS is tightly woven ghost story that raises questions about legacies and their influence on our choices.”

I found this novel rather slow to get into as the main character, Maggie-Kate is a difficult person to get to know. She almost reluctantly reveals her story as she languishes in the house that she has inherited from her aunt, thinking about her past and reading her aunt’s journals. But the author has deftly created a multi-layered story that is gradually revealed through Maggie-Kate’s memories and her aunt’s writings. The two accounts of the past don’t always match and this compels the reader to keep reading. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that nothing is as straightforward as it might first appear.

As well as the challenging plot, the author has created complex characters, with sometimes conflicting motivations spurring their actions, and they seem more real as a result.

There are tense moments in the story but this isn’t a typical horror story or a ghost story that makes you want to hide under the bedclothes. Rather it’s a thought provoking supernatural tale and I found it intriguing rather than frightening. This story lingered in my mind after I read it and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a story that makes them think.

Readers can learn more about Nancy McCabe by visiting her website and her Facebook and Goodreads pages. Following Disasters is available from Amazon and other online retailers.

following-disasters-authorAbout Nancy McCabe: Following Disasters is Nancy McCabe’s first novel. She has also published four books of creative nonfiction, including Meeting Sophie: A Memoir or Adoption; Crossing the Blue Willow Bridge: A Journey to My Daughter’s Birthplace in China; and From Little Houses to Little Women: Revisiting a Literary Childhood. She is a regular blogger for Ploughshares and has published work in Newsweek, Writers’ Digest, Prairie Schooner, Gulf Coast, Fourth Genre, and other magazines and anthologies. Her work has received a Pushcart and six times made notable lists in Houghton Mifflin Best American anthologies.

Posted in December 2016, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Books Are The Answer

How’s the Christmas preparations going? Are you stressed, tired, fed up or just plain panicked yet? What you may need is ideas for gifts – as well as something for you to enjoy too.


Books are the answer. Why not buy a great book for friends or family and get the eBook version for yourself free or discounted? With the Kindle Matchbook program, you can get a free or discounted eBook if you purchase the paperback.

Can I recommend to you some wartime fiction which are included in the Matchbook programme that you might enjoy? Click the link below to browse this selection of wartime fiction. All the authors listed on the page are members of the Second World War Club on Facebook – a private group for readers who enjoy wartime fiction. Members of the group regularly share photos, memories, and stories, and discuss wartime fiction that they’ve read. I’d like to invite you to check out these books in the link below and, if wartime fiction is your cup of tea, why not join us in the Facebook group too (click the group name above to access it).

HINT: My short story collection, set in WWII Northern Ireland, The Yankee Years Books 1-3, is included in this offer.

Here’s the link to the page where you can find our books (this page will be available until the end of December): http://alexakang.com/home/facebook-second-world-war-club/

I hope this will help you with gift ideas, and maybe the relaxation you need as well.

Happy shopping and reading!

Posted in December 2016, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Semper Sonnet

Today Seth Margolis is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us a bit about his novel, The Semper Sonnet.

Welcome Seth. Let’s get started, shall we?

Tell us about your novel.
SM: In THE SEMPER SONNET, Lee Nicholson, a graduate student in English literature at semper-coverColumbia University in New York, unearths a never-before published sonnet by William Shakespeare. When she reads a portion of the poem on the air, she triggers a series of events, including attacks on her, that convinces her that something in the language of the sonnet, in its allusions and wordplay, is highly threatening to her – and invaluable to others.

The sonnet contains secrets that have been hidden since Elizabethan times, shared by the queen and her doctor, by men who seek the crown and men who seek the world. If the riddles are solved, it could explode what the world knows of the monarchy. Or it could release a pandemic more deadly than the world has ever seen.

Lee’s quest keeps her one step ahead of an international hunt ― from the police who want her for murder, to a group of men who will stop at nothing to end her quest, to a madman who pursues the answers for destructive reasons of his own.

What prompted you to write about this historical era?
I’ve always loved the Tudor period in English history. It’s one of those epochs, like late-18th century America, that seems preternaturally crowded with larger-than-life characters: Henry VIII, Elizabeth, Shakespeare, Sir Walter Raleigh, Thomas Cromwell … and many others. The intersection of history and personal drama was quite intense in 16th century England – catnip for a novelist. So I’d always wanted to write about the period, but through the lens of our own time, and in the context of a suspense novel.

How closely did you stick to the historical facts? If you used them loosely, how did you decide whether to deviate from them?

SM: The events in the novel are invented. But the historical details are based in fact. In deciding how far to deviate from actual facts, I always asked myself if a given plot twist would be plausible to a reader who was at least somewhat versed in Elizabethan history. THE SEMPER SONNET definitely requires the reader to “willingly suspend disbelief.” That famous phrase was coined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who suggested that if a writer could infuse a “human interest and a semblance of truth into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend judgment concerning the implausibility of the narrative.” This is what I tried to do throughout THE SEMPER SONNET, infuse both “human interest” and a “semblance of truth” into an admittedly “fantastic tale.” I’ll let the reader decide if I succeeded.

What research did you do for this book?

SM: I began with a marvelous book, ELIZABETH’S LONDON by Liza Picard. It is so well researched and so energetically written, you can practically smell London in the 16th century. There’s also fascinating information about Elizabethan childbirth, which was very useful.

This book, along with a couple of biographies of Elizabeth and some strategic Googling, gave me the confidence to get started. But, pretty soon I realized that secondary research just didn’t provide what I needed to set scenes in sixteenth and seventeenth century England.  I wanted readers to see, hear and even smell what it was like to live in Elizabeth’s England. So I booked a flight to London.

My first destination was Hatfield, Elizabeth’s childhood home. After a short train ride from London, I walked from the station up the hill to the palace, having made an appointment with Hatfield’s publicity manager. I was able to walk the same walk my current-day character would walk as she investigated the meaning hidden in the sonnet, which gave me invaluable perspective. I was given a private tour of the “old palace,” where Elizabeth was essentially imprisoned by her half-sister, “Bloody” Mary. This is where a pivotal – and invented – scene in my novel occurs, and standing in the great hall gave me the information I needed to write it with confidence.

My second research visit was to Westminster Abbey, specifically Henry VII’s Lady Chapel, considered the last great masterpiece of English medieval architecture. More relevant to my novel, it’s where Elizabeth is entombed. In a great irony of history, her tomb was placed directly on top of her hated half-sister’s. I was planning to set a climactic scene in the Lady Chapel, so I spent several hours there as groups of tourists came and went. I took notes on the architecture, the various memorials lining the walls, the points of access where my characters could enter and leave.

Do you use a mixture of historic figures and invented characters in the novel? Which is more difficult to write? Which to you prefer to write and why?

SM: Elizabeth I figures prominently in the novel. Several figures in her court, including her loyal governess and friend, Kat Astley, are also depicted. The other characters, in particular the queen’s physician, Rufus Hatton, are invented. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but it’s a lot easier and therefore more fun to write about an invented character – you can just make stuff up. Every time I created a bit of dialogue for the queen I worried that one of her legions of contemporary fans would find it implausible or off-tone, somehow. I keep waiting for the angry emails; to date, none have arrived.

In an historical novel you must vividly re-create a place and people in a bygone era. How did you bring the place and people you are writing about to life?
SM: For me, the biggest challenge in writing THE SEMPER SONNET was not so much recreating a bygone era as capturing the “voice” of the 16th Century. I solved it (I hope!) by telling the Tudor portions of the story through a series of letters written by an Elizabethan doctor, Rufus Hatton. Channeling the “good doctor’s” thoughts and words made it much easier to bring what I hope is an authentic tone to the novel.

There often seems to be more scope in historical novels for male characters rather than female characters. Do you prefer to write one sex or the other? And, if so, why?

SM: One of the things that drew me to Elizabethan England was the obvious fact that it was dominated by a woman! Part of the fascination about Elizabeth was her sex, and how she used it to gain and maintain control in a very complex and dangerous court. In THE SEMPER SONNET, I created a modern-day heroine, Lee Nicholson, whose life in most ways is much freer than that of Elizabeth. Though neither wealthy nor powerful, Lee is fully able to pursue a career of her choosing, marry whom she wants or remain single, say and do whatever comes to mind. Five centuries earlier, the most powerful woman on earth could do none of those things. I don’t prefer to write about one sex or the other, but in this case, writing about two women, similar in many ways but separated by 500 years, was irresistible.

Thanks for answering my questions, Seth. Readers can learn more about Seth Margolis by visiting his website. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

The book is available online from the following retailers: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

semper-authorAbout Seth Margolis: He is a writer whose most recent novel, THE SEMPER SONNET, was published on April 19. He is the author of six earlier novels, including LOSING ISAIAH, which was made into a film starring Halle Berry and Jessica Lange.

Seth lives with his wife, Carole, in New York City. They have two grown children, Maggie and Jack. Seth received a BA in English from the University of Rochester and an MBA in marketing from New York University’s Stern School of Business Administration. When not writing fiction, he is a branding consultant for a wide range of companies, primarily in the financial services, technology and pharmaceutical industries. He has written articles for the New York Times and other publications on travel and entertainment.

Posted in December 2016, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


bathtubOn Saturday I attended a writing workshop tutored by Anthony J. Quinn, a Northern Irish crime writer. We spent considerable time discussing how to develop three dimensional characters. One of the interesting suggestions he offered was to give your characters memories.

After the workshop finished, I mulled over the idea in my head. I’ve blogged about it on the Writers Abroad website today. You’ll find my post here.

Posted in November 2016, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Meet the Silver Baron’s Wife

Today I’d like to welcome Donna Baier Stein to Ascroft, eh? to chat about her new novel, The Silver Baron’s Wife.

silver-baron-coverThis is how the publisher, Serving House Books, describes the book: “The Silver Baron’s Wife traces the rags-to-riches-to-rags life of Colorado’s Baby Doe Tabor (Lizzie). This fascinating heroine worked in the silver mines and had two scandalous marriages, one to a philandering opium addict and one to a Senator and silver baron worth $24 million in the late 19th century. A divorcee shunned by Denver society, Lizzie raised two daughters in a villa where 100 peacocks roamed the lawns, entertained Sarah Bernhardt when the actress performed at Tabor’s Opera House, and after her second husband’s death, moved to a one-room shack at the Matchless Mine in Leadville. She lived the last 35 years of her life there, writing down thousands of her dreams and noting visitations of spirits on her calendar. Hers is the tale of a fiercely independent woman who bucked all social expectations by working where 19th century women didn’t work, becoming the key figure in one of the West’s most scandalous love triangles, and, after a devastating stock market crash destroyed Tabor’s vast fortune, living in eccentric isolation at the Matchless Mine. An earlier version of this novel won the PEN/New England Discovery Award in Fiction.”

Welcome Donna. Let’s get down to a few questions, shall we?

Tell us about your novel.

DBS: My novel is based on a historical figure, Baby Doe Tabor, who lived in Colorado in the late 19th, early 20th centuries.  She was in many ways a woman ahead of her time. She worked in the silver mines despite the prevalent superstition that women brought bad luck to miners… was part of one of the West’s most scandalous love triangles… and wrote down thousands of her dreams at a time when, though psychoanalysis was becoming popular in Europe, people were not regularly keeping dream journals. She noted spirit visitations on her wall calendars.

Some people have considered her a female American mystic; others thought she was simply eccentric.  She was also married to one of America’s wealthiest men, silver baron Horace Tabor. There is an American opera written by Douglas Moore called The Ballad of Baby Doe. I wanted to write her story, in first person, to reveal her as someone other than just a mistress and later wife of a wealthy man.

What prompted you to write about this historical figure?

DBS: I first learned about Baby Doe (Lizzie) when I travelled with my parents to Colorado on one of many family vacations. I still own the post cards from that long ago trip. Even as a child I recognized something very special in her life – the contradictions between materialism and spirituality, family ties and loneliness, wealth and poverty.

How closely did you stick to the historical facts? If you used them loosely, how did you decide whether to deviate from them?

DBS: I followed the historical facts fairly closely, though there was such a wealth of material that I had to omit certain events in order to accommodate the narrative arc I’d set for the novel. Originally, and very naively, I assumed that since Lizzie lived such a fascinating life, with so many colorful events, her story would provide an automatic plot structure. The novel begins when she is 12 years old and ends when she is 81. I wanted to follow certain threads – specifically her spiritual search and her accommodation to loss – and so focused on scenes that would best reveal those.

What research did you do for this book?

DBS: I did a lot of research for this book, travelling several times to Leadville, Denver, and the Willard Hotel in Washington DC where Lizzie and Horace Tabor were married. I was irresistibly drawn to the shack where Lizzie spent her last years at the Matchless Mine in Leadville. I photocopied many of her original dream writings, which are now housed in the Colorado Historical Society. I read nonfiction books about her and one novel, which I did not like at all because it so obviously was a male, almost misogynistic, approach to her life. One of my favorite nonfiction books was Madwoman in the Cabin by Judy Nolte-Temple. I also read many books about the early days of Leadville, silver mining, and the political fight between those who backed silver versus gold as the money standard in the U.S.

Do you use a mixture of historic figures and invented characters in the novel. Which is more difficult to write?

DBS: Yes, there is a mixture. Lizzie and her two husbands are historic figures who appear in the novel, as do President Chester Arthur, William Jennings Bryan, and Sarah Bernhardt. There’s even a conversation about Nikola Tesla and Swami Vivekananda. But several important minor characters were imagined. These include Arvilla Bunn, an older woman who befriends Lizzie in her early days at the Dogwood mining camp; Joseph Mooney, an assayer and his family; and Tommy Birdsall, who manages the Matchless Mine. In some ways the made-up characters were easier to write because I had more leeway in writing them.

Which to you prefer to write and why?

DBS: This is hard for me to answer. I loved re-creating a real woman’s life, especially a woman as fascinating as Baby Doe Tabor. It was the real facts of her life that first compelled me to write her story, of course. And I love doing historical research. I love the synchronicities that occur during research—the way stumbling on a small detail can lead to a new direction for the story. I’m finding this to be true again now as I complete a collection of short stories based on lithographs by Thomas Hart Benton, all set in 1920s and 1930s Arkansas and Missouri.

On the other hand, there are constraints you face writing about a historical figure. I couldn’t change the basic structure of Lizzie’s life. I knew that there are enough people out there who are familiar with her story and would object if I veered too far from the facts.

In an historical novel you must vividly re-create a place and people in a bygone era. How did you bring the place and people you are writing about to life?

DBS: It may sound a little mystical, but every time I have visited Leadville and the Matchless Mine I have felt a very special, almost magical, resonance with the place. Lizzie felt alive to me throughout the writing of the book. I almost felt as though I were channeling the story she wanted to tell about her life rather than the story men had earlier told. Doing obsessive research about clothing and food and visiting the actual places that were significant in Lizzie’s story helped me bring those settings to life.

There often seems to be more scope in historical novels for male characters rather than female characters. Do you prefer to write one sex or the other. And, if so, why?

DBS: I LOVED writing from the point of view of a historical female character. I think we need many more books about the women who preceded us. History is by no means constrained to the way men view it or lived it. History includes more than wars and battles. This doesn’t mean that women don’t fight their own wars and battles. But I do believe women experience the world and move through the world in a way that is different from the way men do. It’s important that those experiences and actions be granted equal weight, in fiction and in life.

Thank you for answering my questions, Donna. Lizzie sounds like a fascinating person and character. Good luck with your novel.

Readers can learn more about Donna by visiting her websiteFacebook, Twitter, and Goodreads pages. The Silver Baron’s Wife is available online at: Amazon | Barnes &  Noble

silver-baron-author-imageAbout Donna Baier Stein: She is the author of The Silver Baron’s Wife (PEN/New England Discovery Award), Sympathetic People (Iowa Fiction Award Finalist and 2015 IndieBook Awards Finalist), and Sometimes You Sense the Difference. She founded and publishes Tiferet Journal. She has received a Scholarship from Bread Loaf, a Fellowship from the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars, three Pushcart nominations, and prizes from the Allen Ginsberg Awards and elsewhere. Her writing has appeared in Ascent, Beloit Poetry Journal, Poet Lore, Prairie Schooner, Virginia Quarterly Review, Puerto del Sol, Writer’s Digest, as well as in anthologies from Simon & Schuster and The Spirit That Moves Us Press. She is currently completing a new collection of stories based on Thomas Hart Benton lithographs.

Donna was also an award-winning copywriter whose clients include Smithsonian, World Wildlife Fund, Citrix, and other non-profit and for-profit organizations.


Posted in November 2016, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Peek Into Pearl Harbor and More


My guest post today is a little unusual – I’ve invited myself to chat with you. Why? I’d like to tell you a bit about Pearl Harbor and More, a recently released short story collection I’ve been involved in writing and producing, and my story in the collection.

This year is the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Pearl Harbor. On 7th December, 1941, a pivotal event took place that changed the face of World War II. Hundreds of Japanese fighter planes carried out a devastating surprise attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

pearl-harbour-finalFew people’s lives were unaffected in some way by that fateful day. The wide-ranging collection of eight stories in Pearl Harbor and More, by our diverse group of authors, who all write wartime fiction, reflects this. Some of the stories are set at Pearl Harbor itself, in other parts of the United States and in Singapore. Other stories take place in Europe: occupied France, Germany and Northern Ireland. They explore the experiences of U.S. servicemen and women, a German Jew, Japanese Americans, a French countess, an Ulster Home Guard, and many others.

You may have guessed that the story about the Ulster Home Guard is my contribution to the collection. Allies After All is set in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland during December 1941. As part of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland had already been at war for more than two years when my story opens. But, it was the same, yet a different, war than the rest of the United Kingdom was waging. Due to the political and religious tensions in the province, some aspects of Northern Ireland’s experience of the war differed greatly from the rest of the United Kingdom. They faced rationing, the fear of invasion by Axis troops and many saw their loved ones go off to fight. Though, because conscription was never introduced, those who joined the armed forces did so voluntarily and the enlistment rate was lower than in some other parts of the UK. But what the province didn’t supply in manpower, they made up for with industrial output. Northern Ireland’s industries supplied ships, aircraft, munitions and cloth for the armed forces.

County Fermanagh, in the west of the province, did its part for the war effort with increased crop yields and milk production for consumption locally and across the Irish Sea in England. Bordering neutral Ireland, the county was in a unique position. The hardships of rationing were offset by a thriving cross border smuggling trade between the two countries. Yet, at the same time, the Unionists in Fermanagh constantly worried about the proximity of the border, fearing that the IRA would sneak across it to attack local targets, sabotage military operations in the county and aide Axis forces to infiltrate the province. Local defence throughout Northern Ireland was overseen by the police rather than the military, in order to employ their local knowledge to prevent anyone with suspected terrorist connections from being accepted into the Local Defence Force, which later became the Ulster Home Guard.

Northern Ireland was also a staging platform for the Allied troops arriving in the United Kingdom to prepare for the invasion of occupied Europe. This included the Americans. Although America was neutral until the attack on Pearl Harbor pushed them into the war, they had already been in Northern Ireland for months, secretly preparing for their entry into the war. The construction of military installations by American civilian contractors, in various places in the United Kingdom, including County Fermanagh, was already well underway by December 1941.

When my story opens, an American mechanic, Art Miller, working for a civilian company on the construction of ammunition storage dump facilities near Ardess, has a memorable first meeting with Robbie Hetherington, a member of the Local Defence Force in County Fermanagh.

Here’s the excerpt from my story:

cow-at-fence     “Art yanked the van’s door open. Despite the crazy angle the vehicle was sitting at, in one quick movement he swung himself out of the driver’s seat onto the bumpy, badly surfaced road. Huh, you’d hardly call it a road; it wasn’t much wider than a sidewalk back home. Nothing like the smooth, straight Route 62 that passed through his hometown in New York State. The highway’s surface might crack in the summer heat, but there sure weren’t any craters in it. This was only fit for donkeys and carts. Guess that was about right around here.

Art ran his hand across the back of his neck and up into his sandy crew cut as he stared at the vehicle. His old man had never let them grow their hair when they were kids, and he still had the same haircut he’d had in grade school. Not that he had a beef with that. He had the hair; now he just needed the uniform. He was ready to answer Uncle Sam’s call.

Well, if he ever got this truck outta the hole he would be. What he could sure use right now would be Popeye to come along and lift that tin can outta there. He wasn’t far outside Ardess village but he hadn’t seen anyone around when he drove through it. The place looked like a ghost town. It was more than a mile back to Kiltierney camp. If he started walking, with any luck, a truck headed for the camp would pass him and he could hitch a ride. He’d get someone to come back and tow him out.

As he turned and started walking away from the vehicle, a young man around his own age wearing a heavy khaki overcoat and field service cap cycled toward him on a sturdy black bicycle.

“Hiya, buddy,” Art said to the cyclist when he stopped beside him.

“Are you abandoning that vehicle in the middle of the road?” the khaki-uniformed man sputtered.

“Well, it ain’t goin’ nowhere. It’s stuck in a hole.”

“You can’t leave it there. It might fall into the wrong hands.”

“Is that so? I don’t see anyone around here. Do you?” Art ran his hand through his hair as he stared at the man. Who is this smart aleck? he thought.

“See here, you certainly can’t leave it there. Spies or terrorists could sneak across the border from Ireland and have it quicker than a fox slips into a henhouse.”

Art raised one eyebrow and snorted. “Yeah? And how do I know you ain’t a Jerry soldier? Who are you, anyway, pal?”

“I’m a Local Defence Volunteer. Let’s see your ID.”

Could this day get any worse? Art really didn’t feel like dealing with this smart aleck right now. He had had it with being pushed around. “Is that a wing of the Boy Scouts?”

Art thought his interrogator looked sore about the wisecrack, but he didn’t care. He just wanted to get that truck out of the hole and get back to camp to finish the repair he’d been working on. If he couldn’t convince the boss to send him home, then he would do his darndest to get this construction project finished lickity-split so he could get outta here.

The uniformed man regarded him stiffly. “It’s the Ulster Special Constabulary.”

“You’re a copper, then?”

“No, Local Defence. Like the Home Guard in England.”

“Oh yeah, I’ve heard of them – aren’t they old guys, soldiers that are over the hill? Marching around with broomsticks.”

“Not in Northern Ireland. We’re part of the police force. And we’re issued Lee–Enfield rifles.”

Art shook his head. The guy looked pretty young to be in some broomstick brigade instead of the army, but what did he care? It was none of his beeswax. Getting this truck out of the hole was. Say, maybe this smart aleck could help him.”

Pearl Harbor and More is available at the following online booksellers: 
Amazon UK  |  Nook  |  iTunes  |  Kobo  |  !Indigo  |  Books2Read

I’d like to thank several bloggers who are also sharing my guest post today and encourage readers to pop over to their blogs too:

Fermanagh Writers 

Manchester Irish Writers

Louise Charles

Amsterdam Oriole

Celtic Ladys Reviews

Queen of All She Reads


Posted in November 2016, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stories of War, Different Yet the Same

As I was flipping through the TV Guide last week, I was surprised to find a listing for a new tv drama, My Mother and Other Strangers, set in Northern Ireland during the Second World War. I’ve been researching and writing stories about the province during that era for several years and I only know a few other writers who are also writing fiction about the province during that period. So I was amazed to suddenly find this new wartime television drama. My initial response to my discovery was somewhat mixed.

My first reaction was to be a bit miffed that the film world had ventured in to what I had almost begun to consider the exclusive territory of a small band of writers. There had only been a few of us, including myself, Alrene Hughes and Anne Doughty, writing about this almost forgotten corner of the war and now someone else was elbowing in.

rsz_snooks_hanging_outThen I became curious. What would this drama be like? So I sat down with a cup of tea and one of my cats sprawled on my knee to watch it. It started out rather slow as the scene was set for the story that would unfold. Some viewers expect non-stop action in their television shows but that’s not the kind of programme it is. The drama reflects the rhythm of life in a rural village, not the bustle of modern life that we are more familiar with. I was pleased by this as I also try to find and portray the rhythm of the era in my stories. After watching the first episode of the programme, I think television viewers who like historical and family sagas will enjoy this show. I’m certainly looking forward to next week’s episode.

yankee-years-ebook-cover-updatedIf you aren’t an historical saga fan, you might say, “Oh no, not another war drama. Don’t we have enough of them already?” My answer would be, no, not like this one. During the Second World War, Northern Ireland fought the same, yet a different, war than the rest of the United Kingdom waged. Due to the political and religious tensions in the province, some aspects of Northern Ireland’s experience of the war differed greatly from the rest of the United Kingdom. They faced rationing, the fear of invasion by Axis troops and many saw their loved ones go off to fight. Though, because conscription was never introduced, those who joined the armed forces did so voluntarily. Unlike other parts of the United Kingdom, they faced the threat of terrorist attacks within the province. The war years in Northern Ireland were complex and multi-faceted, providing a huge number of stories to be told. I hope My Mother and Other Strangers will entertain television audiences and also pique the interest of viewers to delve into other stories about Northern Ireland during the war.

Posted in November 2016, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Visiting Manchester Irish Writers

pearl-harbour-finalToday I visited Manchester Irish Writers’ blog to discuss Northern Ireland’s experience of the Second World War and my short story, Allies After All, in the collection, Pearl Harbor and More, which illustrates one aspect of this experience. My guest post is rather topical as the first episode of a new tv drama, My Mother and Other Strangers, was broadcast on BBC1 last night. It tells the tale of a Catholic village during the war. My story is set in a Protestant community but it’s still very much a story of Northern Ireland’s experience.

If you’d like to read the post pop over to Manchester Irish Writers’ blog.

Posted in November 2016, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Meet the Pearl Harbor and More Authors


In the middle of October I told you that Pearl Harbor and More, a short story collection I’ve been involved in producing was available for pre-order. Well, now it’s available and I’d like to introduce you to my fellow authors who have written stories for the book. For the next couple weeks we’re doing a blog tour, introducing each of the stories in the book and sharing excerpts from them.

pearl-harbour-finalThis year is the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Pearl Harbor. On 7th December, 1941, a pivotal event took place that changed the face of World War II. Hundreds of Japanese fighter planes carried out a devastating surprise attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

Few people’s lives were unaffected in some way by that fateful day. The wide-ranging collection of eight stories in Pearl Harbor and More, by our diverse group of authors, who hail from across the globe and write wartime fiction, reflects this. Some of the stories are set at Pearl Harbor itself, in other parts of the United States and in Singapore. Other stories take place in Europe: occupied France, Germany and Northern Ireland. They are all set in December 1941 and explore the experiences of U.S. servicemen and women, a German Jew, Japanese Americans, a French countess, an Ulster Home Guard, and many others.

We hope readers will enjoy our salute to the people and the events of this momentous era.

Pearl Harbor and More-Stories of WWII: December 1941 is available from the following online ebook booksellers:

Amazon USA  |  Amazon UK  |  Amazon CA  |  Amazon DE  |  Amazon AU

Nook  |  iTunes  |  Kobo  |  !Indigo  |  Books2Read


So now let me introduce the authors of this collection and their stories in the order they appear:

Deadly Liberty by R.V. Doon: Connie Collins, a navy nurse on the hospital ship, USS Solace, takes liberty the day before Pearl Harbor. Her budding romance wilts, an AWOL nurse insists she find a missing baby, and she’s in the harbor when WWII erupts. Under fire, she boards the ship—and witnesses a murder during the red alert chaos. When liberty turns deadly, shipmates become suspects.

About R. V. Doon:

rv-doonR.V. Doon is a book-lover! She writes medical thrillers, cozy mysteries, historical fiction, and dark fantasy thrillers filled with compelling characters that won’t let you forget them after you’ve read ‘The End.’ She hung up her stethoscope and tossed out her scrubs after leaving the hospital setting, but sadly her addiction to caffeine and chocolate remained. Most days she’s anchored at a writing desk, listening to her dogs snore. She currently lives in a haunted and historical city on the Gulf Coast of the United States of America. When she’s not writing or doing research, R.V. relaxes by taking long walks or going sailing.

Connect with R.V. Doon:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon Author Page


The List by Vanessa Couchman: A high-ranking German officer is assassinated in Western France and 50 hostages are shot. Fifty more will be executed if the killers are not handed over. Jewish communist Joseph Mazelier is on the list. Will Countess Ida agree to help him escape?

About Vanessa Couchman:

vanessa-couchmanVanessa Couchman has lived in southern France since 1997 and is a novelist, short story author and freelance writer. Her short stories have been published in numerous anthologies and placed in competitions. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Society of Authors.

Vanessa’s first novel, The House at Zaronza (2014), is set in early 20th-century Corsica and at the Western Front in World War I. A sequel set in World War II and another novel set in 18th-century Corsica are in progress. She also plans to extend ‘The List’ into a full-length novel.

Connect with Vanessa Couchman:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon Author Page


Christmas Eve in the City of Dreams by Alexa Kang: On his last night in New York, a young grifter sets out to turn the table on those who shorted him before he leaves for the draft. Will he win or lose?

About Alexa Kang:

alexa-kangAlexa Kang’s debut series, Rose of Anzio, was first released on Amazon on January 22, 2016. Alexa grew up in New York City, and is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. She has traveled to more than 123 cities, and she loves to explore new places and different cultures. This September, she took a special WWII tour of Southern Italy to visit historical sites of the Allies’ Italian campaign (including the sites where scenes from Rose of Anzio occurred). You can view the albums of her tour on her Facebook Author Page. When not at work, Alexa lives a second life as a novelist. Alexa loves writing larger-than-life romantic tales and hopes to bring you many more.

Connect with Alexa Kang:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon Author Page


Allies After All by Dianne Ascroft: Although their nations are allies, from their first meeting American civilian contractor Art Miller and Local Defence Volunteer, Robbie Hetherington loathe each other. But Northern Ireland is too small a place for such animosity. What will it take to make the two men put aside their enmity and work together?

About Dianne Ascroft:

dascroft-promo-image1Dianne Ascroft is a Canadian writer living in Britain. Since moving to Britain in 1990 she has lived in Scotland and Northern Ireland. She writes historical and contemporary fiction, often with an Irish connection. Her series The Yankee Years is a collection of Short Reads and novels set in World War II–era Northern Ireland. After the Allied troops arrived in this outlying part of Great Britain, life there would never be the same again. The series strives to bring those heady, fleeting years to life again, in thrilling and romantic tales of the era.


Connect with Dianne Ascroft:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Newsletter


Time to Go by Margaret Tanner: A young sailor, who died at Pearl Harbor, finally meets his soulmate on the 75th Anniversary of the battle. Will she be prepared to leave the 21st century, and pass through a portal into the other world with him? Or will they forever remain apart?

About Margaret Tanner:

margaret-tannerMargaret Tanner is an award-winning, multi-published Australian author who writes Historical Romance and Western Romance. She loves delving into the pages of history as she carries out her research and prides herself on being historically correct. No book is too old or tattered for her to trawl through, no museum too dusty or cemetery too overgrown. Her favorite historical periods are the First and Second World Wars. Margaret is married and has three grown sons and two gorgeous little granddaughters. Outside of her family and friends, writing is her passion.


Connect with Margaret Tanner:

Website | Blog | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon Author Page


Turning Point by Marion Kummerow: Eighteen-year-old German Jew Margarete Rosenbaum is about to be sent to a labor camp, when a bomb hits the building she lives in. Emerging from the rubble she’s presented with an unexpected opportunity. But how far is she willing to go to save her life?

About the Marion Kummerow:

marion-kummerovMarion Kummerow was born and raised in Germany, before she set out to “discover the world” and lived in various countries. In 1999 she returned to Germany and settled down in Munich where she’s now living with her family. After dipping her toes into the publishing waters with non-fiction books, she finally tackled the project dear to her heart. UNRELENTING is the story about her grandparents, who belonged to the German resistance and fought against the Nazi regime. It’s a book about resilience, love and the courage to stand up and do the right thing.


Connect with Marion Kummerow:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Amazon Page | Newsletter


I Am An American by Robyn Hobusch Echols: The Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and the next day the president of the United States calls for a declaration of war on Japan and Germany. For the families of two Livingston, California, USA high school seniors, Ellen Okita, a first generation American who lives in the Yamato Colony composed of about 100 families of Japanese descent, and Flo Kaufmann, whose father is a first generation American in his family, the war hits home fast and brings unforeseen changes.

About Robyn Hobusch Echols:

robyn-echolsRobyn currently lives with her husband in California, USA, near the “Gateway to Yosemite.” She is a member of Women Writing the West, and American Night Writers Association. She enjoys any kind of history including family history. When she is not piecing together novel plots, she pieces together quilt blocks. Robyn also write historical western romance under the pen name of Zina Abbott.



Connect with Robyn Hobusch Echols:

Website   |  Facebook   |  Pinterest  |  Goodreads   | 

Twitter  |   Amazon Author Page  Newsletter

Her blogs: Robyn Echols Books   |  Rumours of Wars


A Rude Awakening by Robert A. Kingsley: Singapore, December 1941; the fortress sleeps, believing its own tales of strength and invulnerability. A rigidly class based society throws garden parties and dines sedately, disregarding the slowly growing number of warning signals. Suddenly, the underestimated enemy ferociously attacks and the myth of invincibility is shattered forever.

About Robert Kingsley:

richard-kingsleyRobert Kingsley is a Dutch Canadian author who currently lives in Europe. Since his early youth he has had a keen interest in aviation and its influence on modern history – especially World War II. During his travels all over the globe as a lifelong ICT professional, he has gathered first-hand, local knowledge of many countries and places. He has drawn on this knowledge to write “A Rude Awakening.” He has also published a full-length multipart novel titled The Java Gold, of which The Odyssey and Winds of Fortune are the first volumes. Robert is married and has a son and a daughter. When not busy with his consulting business, he spends a lot of time travelling and doing research for future books.


Connect with Robert A. Kingsley:

Blog | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon Author Page


For readers who love World War I and World War II fiction, come rub elbows with the above authors on the

WORLD WAR TWO CLUB Facebook page.






Posted in November 2016, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Good Supply Of Strings

It never hurts to have more than one string to your bow, as they say – whether you’re bbc-recording-diannean archer or a writer. I write mostly novels and Short Reads (longer short stories). But I also pen the odd poem as well as short narratives – the latter are often funny or reflective. These are handy when I am asked to ‘do a turn’ at a festival or other performance. I don’t think most audiences would sit through a 25,000 word short story…

So, I was all set when BBC Radio Ulster contacted Fermanagh Writers recently and asked us to feature on their programme Time of Our Lives. The presenter, Colm Arbuckle, along with his producer, Owen McFadden, and a sound engineer came to Enniskillen last Wednesday and met us in Blakes of the Hollow pub . We had a fun couple of hours chatting with them and sharing our poems and stories. It was more like a ceilidh than a recording session (but I assure you we were sober when we recorded the programme!). If I hadn’t had a few short pieces up my sleeve, I would have missed this fun. Although my first love is short stories and longer prose, I think I’ll continue to jot down poems and other bits and pieces too when they occur to me. You never know when you’ll find a use for them.

The programme we recorded will be aired on BBC Radio Ulster tomorrow at 2pm.


Fermanagh Writers with BBC presenter, Colm Arbuckle

Posted in November 2016, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment