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Saturday, 25 April 2015

Here's 'hop'ing you like the new book!

What are you writing next? is  a question I'm often asked.   So it's great to be nominated for the Work in Progress Blog Hop to talk about my second historical novel 'Occupying Love.'

What is it about?  I have tried to sum it up in one sentence:

In Nazi-occupied Guernsey during World War Two a young college student falls in love with the mysterious leader of the local Resistance, is coerced into sleeping with the German Kommandant and loses everything she holds dear before the shocking truth about her birth finally threatens to destroy her.

 The nomination comes from author Heather Burnside (pictured below)  who introduced me to the mysterious world of crime thrillers.

Diane Nov 14

Heather, who writes a vey successful blog and lively newsletter, is the author of SLUR, a crime thriller set in 1980s Manchester, about two young women who have been wrongly accused of murder. The main character, Julie, is subjected to insults and accusations, and believes that everyone has turned against her. This drives her to despair, and she sinks into a deep depression. When her friends reveal that they may have found the real killer she reaches a turning point and begins to fight to maintain her innocence. But she underestimates just how difficult it will be to prove a vicious murderer guilty especially when the police remain unconvinced.

The book is available from Amazon in both Kindle and print versions and you can find out more at:

Heather has also published a multi-genre selection of short stories called Crime, Conflict and Consequences, which will be followed by another crime thriller in summer/autumn 2015 - the sequel to SLUR.
 The rules to the blog hop are: Link back to the person who nominated you.
Write a little about and give the first few lines of the first three chapters from your WIP.
Nominate some other writers to do the same. So here goes...  
Occupying Love
Marilyn Chapman
 Chapter One
 The shock of that day never left her; it invaded her dreams and shadowed her waking moments.She could see herself now, carrying an old brown suitcase down the ship’s gangplank, her chocolate brown hair tousled by the fresh Guernsey breeze. In the year since Lydia had left the island nothing, it seemed, had changed. Fishing boats rocked from side to side, slapping waves against the harbour walls and yacht sails shimmered in the early evening sun, fine wisps of cloud skittering across the skies like pockets of hand-stitched lace.  (cont)

Chapter Two 
‘Mama - it’s me - let me in.’
Emily Le Page threw open the door, howling with a mixture of fear and delight.  ‘Lydia, my poor child, you look awful.’ She hugged her daughter to her.  ‘Why on earth are you here?'
‘I heard the Germans were about to invade.  I needed to know you were all right. Lydia’s eyes scanned the room. ‘Where’s Papa?  Has he…. has he gone to the docks?’
‘No, not tonight.  He wasn’t feeling well.   He heard the commotion and went out to check on the greenhouses.’
‘Thank God for that. I thought he’d been killed.’
Chapter Three
Emily Le Page stared at the headline on the Guernsey Star. She always read it from cover to cover and tonight was no exception.  German Officer Saves Guernsey Child from Fire! “Heroic Rescue,” says Kommandant.’
Heroic rescue? It didn’t make sense.  Could this really be the enemy? Just a few days ago Hitler’s soldiers had taken over the island and no-one had a clue what to expect.  Murder, rape, bombs and torture were the legacy of the Nazis in Europe and here they were trying to make friends!
A gust of wind shook the sash window and Emily shivered.  She cast her eyes round the familiar room with its carved oak furniture and sweeping bay windows. An unspeakable tragedy had brought them to this house, yet she had known more happiness within these walls then she ever thought possible. Built of pink granite on a cliff overlooking Saints Bay, ‘Sea Breeze’ was visible on a clear day many miles from shore.  Behind the house stood a small orchard of apples, pears and plums and beyond that lay the greenhouses where her husband spent his working days. (to be continued)
Rather than nominate individual bloggers I would like to ask other authors to join in and tell us about their next novel. Good luck!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

My word is my pond, sorry, bond...

A long-standing  friend of mine has just bought a house  more than sixty miles away from her job. She's thrilled about the new 'chez-moi' but worried about the commuting.

How will you make the transition? I texted  the other day, in between  emails and overdue edits.

'How will I make the train station?' she replied. 'I'm not quite decrepit yet...'.

We both laughed in an LOL kind way.  Such misunderstandings  happen every day. But I sometimes wonder how the mighty Shakespeare might have felt faced with the same situation. Or Graham Greene for that matter, or Ernest Hemingway ( who was known to have a difficult nature at the best of times.) Would their combined writerly genius have stood up to the test of text?  Or auto-correct. Or any of the myriad inventions these days that are aimed at 'improving' our spelling and grammar.

Computers could  write novels! screeched a newspaper heading the other day with enough resonance to make the publishing world take note.  Of course they could.  But could they write a good novel?
'It’s not hard to tell a story. It’s hard to tell good stories,'  Tom Meltzer re-quoted in The Guardian recently. 'How do you get a computer to understand what good means?'

But back to the auto-correct. Even those of us who don't while away our time at the keyboard all day must  have shouted No - that's not what I meant...'   to the smug-looking screen as it churns out gobbledegook in the name of progress.  Must we  be told how to write?

I think my five-year-old granddaughter has the right idea:before she speaks, or puts pen to paper, she listens to her teacher. I sent everyone an Easter card,' she told me recently. 'But Miss Jones says yours is an original, not a duplicate.'  Maybe she just likes big words. Or else she's been reading Hemingway.

Title Wave's photo.
I reproduce this with thanks to my friend and grammar expert Wendy Guilbert for bringing it to my attention.


Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Men have the Monopoly? Not so, say Mary and Magie

The Makers of Monopoly have been criticised for ignoring  the real inventor of the game - an early feminist - in a new book to be published this week.

 Mary Pilon, author of The Monopolists, insists that everyone's favourite board game was actually  invented in 1904 by  *Elizabeth Magie, and not by Charles Darrow, an unemployed salesman from Atlantic city who  has always taken the credit.

Product Details
Photograph courtesy of

According to The Times today, Eliabeth Magie designed The Landlord's Game which featured a square board with markings for properties, utilities and a corner labelled "Go to Jail.'  Her intention, it seems, was to teach the perils of capitalism, though she did create a variation in which players could pursue a monopoly.

'Pilon's book states that Darrow encountered The Landlord's Game in 1932 when Quaker enthusiasts  augmented the rental properties with Atlantic City street names.  Parker Brothers bought the rights to Darrow's game in 1935 and later purchased Magie's patent for $500. Interestingly, the official history of Monopoly distributed by Hasbro does not mention her at all.

A spokesman for Hasbro said: "While Elizabeth Magie  may have helped to inspire the game, the we know it today was designed by Charles Darrow.'

What do you think?

*Born 1n 1896, Magie was the daughter of an Illinois newspaper publisher. She worked as  a stenographer and later as a newspaper reporter herself.

The Monopolists -Obsession, Fury, and the  Scandal behind the world's Favorite Board Game is published on April 9 2015 by Bloomsbury USA.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

This is not an April Fool (if you know what I mean, like)

Would you like  to hear something awesome? 

The author of the latest Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage hates some of the 250 new entries he has included such as challenging, issue and, you've guessed it, awesome, all of which are classified as clich├ęs.

Even worse, says Jeremy Butterfield,  is the word like in a sentence when used as verbal punctuation.  'Many people below the age of 25.... seem incapable of constructing a single affirmative sentence without at least one 'like in it,' he says in The Times this week.

His entry for 'achingly' features a jibe at "superficial and gushy journalists" who use the word to describe someone's attempt to be hip, rather than something that causes actual pain.  And as for people who drop their aitches - well that's another story.

Whether he likes it or not, language is changing all the time and a dictionary without the latest 'in' words would surely not be complete.

I  still have my school version of Fowler's Dictionary but perhaps it's time I got the updated version? 
Published this week by Oxford University Press the book is available here


Sunday, 22 March 2015


Caitlin Moran, The Times Columnist of the year, can be very contentious. She can also be clever, canny and  openly supportive of  campaigns she believes in. In this weekend's Times magazine supplement she writes vividly about the fight to save  London's Soho from extinction - in words I  wish I had written myself:

'Where do you go, and what do you do, when you go to Paris, New York, Berlin or Dublin?' she asks. You don't just go to a place; you travel to see if you can see other times, too:you go to the old parts, to hunt echoes and ghosts.

'You look for footsteps and fingerprints of Bowie, Dickens, Gainsbourg, Joyce - the thrill of being able to stand on a doorstep and say, 'This is the doorstep they would have used. They came here for a reason and I have, too. This place (Soho) is a matrix, a melody, a curation - a carefully constructed and unique thing - known across the world. To change too much of it is for it to cease to exist.'

 Modern and forward-thinking as she is, Caitlin Moran believes that too much change would be a disaster for the metropolis and ultimately for mankind, especially when it  'blow(s )away those tiny streets of Soho - the sticky  basements, coffee houses, guitar shops and furtive corners...... and replace(s) them all with a new plan:executive flats and office space rendered in uniform International Architecture.

'If Soho goes,' she concludes, 'there is truly nothing left in this city that can't be sold.'

Any Londoners out there? What do you think?

Talking of the past, I'd like to congratulate Sharon Bradshaw on the publication of her debut novel The Monk Who Cast A Spell.

  Durstan, a 17 year old 8th century Monk at the Monastery on Iona, falls in love with Ailan, becomes involved with Beth when he thinks he has lost her, then is injured in a Viking raid. He doubts his Christian belief because of the magic of the old Gods whom people still worship in 794AD.....

 Follow the link to find out more:

The Monk Who Cast a Spell

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Very Courageous - the only woman to win the VICTORIA CROSS

Elizabeth Webber Harris is the only woman to ever be 'awarded' the Victoria Cross
Elizabeth Webber Harris
(Photo courtesy of the Daily Mail

This story caught my eye yesterday as I trawled through the  largely depressing news in a variety of daily newspapers, mainly because it had something good to say about war. And about women.


  Mrs Elizabeth Harris, pictured above,  is the only woman ever to be awarded the Victoria Cross - the  highest military honour in Britain - for bravery on the frontline.  A replica of her gold cross will be displayed in the Imperial War Museum next month in celebration of International Women' Day, which was held last Sunday

A lone woman serving alongside the Bengal Fusilier in Peshawar, Nurse Harris  was said to have 'saved more lives with her tender consolations than a surgeon did with his medicines.'
 Born in Kent in 1834,  Elizabeth married Webber Harris, a captain in the 2nd Bengal Fusiliers (later renamed the 104th.)  In 1869, the newly promoted Major General Harris took the regiment to Peshawar on India's North West frontier. The following year cholera swept through the country and by August many of the soldiers were seriously ill.
Many soldiers and their families had died from the disease and Mrs Harris  accompanied them to a temporary camp in the country.  Now in her mid thirties she spent three months 'nursing the sick and  keeping up their spirits' in the baking Indian countryside. One night she was attacked by two tribesmen who seized her horse in an incident she modestly described as 'alarming.'
On reading this story, historians  and feminists alike will realise that women were officially ineligible to receive the Victoria Cross until  1921.  But her regiment were so struck by her 'indomitable pluck' that, after gaining special permission from Queen Victoria, they had a replica gold VC made for her.
 A journalist in June 1921 wrote 'throughout their trying time in the isolation camp Mrs Harris remained with the regiment and it was largely owing to her indefatigable exertions that the losses of the regiment were not infinitely heavier than they were.'
Interestingly,  no woman has been awarded the honour since.  Isn't it time that changed?


Wednesday, 4 March 2015

A cure for Writer's Back

Three years ago when I'd injured my back I wrote a blog  entitled Why is my nickname Froggy?
My Writer's Back is, well, back so I thought I'd post it here again. It still makes me laugh ....

' I'm always being asked why my nickname is Froggy. (No it's nothing to do with the bulging eyes or the fact that I' m hard to get hold of.)  I could tell you the story but then you may fall asleep and then you would never get to see the strange collection of frogs that I keep hidden (or not so hidden) round the house and garden.( Mr GA is kindly taking the photos for me at the moment, so that's a bottle of his favourite red I owe him) . Please do concentrate, fellow bloggers,  I said favourite red, not off his head, though the latter is probably more accurate after looking after  me  for what seems like months now.

Anyway, it's not as if I'm any trouble to look after.  Once up in the morning (it only takes a couple of hours) and happily settled on the sofa (sitting not permitted, on doctor's orders, this is my spine we're talking about) I then compile a list of things for my wonderful partner to do for the day. I won't enlighten you on this, either, as it's almost as long as the frog story) and then we discuss in which order I, sorry,  we, think the things should be done.

Between clearing the breakfast dishes, cleaning, ironing and collecting prescriptions, he checks that I have written the right amount of words each day and records this along with the hourly medication which I'm sure he would over-prescribe if only he had the courage. Anyway, it doesn't take him long to pick up all the things I have dropped on the floor (pens, paper, reference books, Thessoorus (never could spell that word - I thought it was a prehistoric animal till I was around 12) and then prepare my lunch.

It's annoying, isn't it, now that Spring is here that insides of the windows look smeared in the sunshine and he does so hate me looking through smeared windows. Fortunately, he's a very patient man (which reminds me - why does the recorded message at our local medical centre say "please be patient" - what else do they think we are?) so he usually gets to do his own thing round about three o'clock.

I just called out for him (I've mislaid the hand bell I used to use) and then the phone went and it was my (former) friend.  She said she'd heard he'd gone back-backing in France (in search of grenouilles probably) and had left a message that he didn't want to be disturbed... Oh well, at least I won't be lonely.... animals (unlike humans) never let you down.'

And this is the one that started it all ...

N.B The above is on loan from my very special friend Lesley Davison in memory of Patricia Simister

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Born too late?

My mother always said I was born too late. Not too late for her, you understand, but too late for me. I have always been fascinated by the past and am never happier than when surrounded by the relics of another age...

Is it possible that I  have lived before? When I was little more than five-years-old my Mum took me to Newarke Museum in New Walk, Leicester, where I wandered into an authentic Victorian street setting complete with cobblestones and carefully reproduced shops. Fascinated, I scrambled over the low perimeter fence and stepped into the cobbler's shop.

Looking at the  man in flat cap and shirt sleeves working on an old last, I failed to notice the security man who appeared out of nowhere. 'Hey, you, little girl,' he shouted,  'Can't you read?' pointing at the sign that said 'No Admittance Beyond this point.'

Of course I could read - I'd been doing that since I before I started school - and I could certainly hear. He didn't need to shout. But I didn't say this out loud. Instead, I continued to stare in wonderment at the spectacle in front of me. 'I think I've been here before'  I replied.

Of course you've been here before,' he retorted. ' We have thousands of visitors every year, but the majority of them, I'm glad to say, obey the rules.' With that he picked me up by the scruff of my neck and deposited me back on the cobblestones.

'Can I go in one of the other shops?' I asked, innocently, determined to remain in this wonderful place for as long as possible.

'Ah, there you are,' my mother ran towards us, clearly out of breath.' I was just about to report you missing. What on earth were you thinking of?'

I was thinking of a time when horses and carts roamed the streets and women dressed in floor-sweeping skirts  like the queen, but somehow I knew this wasn't the right answer.

And that was the beginning of my love affair with the past.

Victorian Cobbled Street,
Newarke Museum, New Walk, Leicester

Image courtesy of

Thursday, 12 February 2015


While celebrities attended the Berlin premiere of Fifty Shades of Grey last night,  a mystery  middle-aged British woman was busy emulating the book's success.

The woman, from Wellington Women's Institute in  Somerset, forsook  the more usual Jam and Jerusalem  to pen an erotic short story along the lines of E L James' raunchy best seller.

According to The Times newspaper the short story,  published in a charity anthology,  has been 'described as filth by both delighted and appalled readers.' 

Retired writer  Bridget Hodges who set up the WI writing group -  called Monumental  Women's Ink after the town's monument -  wanted members to try a different style or genre every month. 'When Fifty Shades came out we talked about it quite a bit,' said the sixty-three year old. 'We thought we would all have a go.  Some didn't seem very keen. It's not for the faint-hearted.'

Titled 'The Conquering Gibraltarian Adonis' the  three- page story, about a husband's return after a long period working abroad, is preceded by a warning to those who may be of a delicate disposition.

One such person is WI member Enid Ray who told her local weekly newspaper 'One does not expect such smut from a group involved in the WI. I was wholly shocked when I read this section. I can't believe they had the nerve to print it.'

The author, according to Mrs Hodges, has asked to remain anonymous - because 'her gran would be furious!'

Meanwhile, the £4 book, a selection of poetry and fiction,  has sold  three quarters of the 200 printed to raise money for cancer treatment at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton.

After today's headlines,  no doubt that they will be needing a reprint very soon. What do you think?