Where do you get your ideas from? Is a common question asked of authors. My answer is, my ideas always stem from my characters. Where do my characters come from? The answer to that question is various sources, including old photographs. Here’s an example of a nurse in the Spanish Civil War. I don’t know her name or background, but her strong features immediately spoke to me and just by studying the picture a fictional character, Lise Lazard, took shape. You can read about Lise in Branches, book two in The Olive Tree, A Spanish Civil War Saga. Available soon 🙂
I write, therefore I am…
In September 1953, sugar rationing in Britain finally came to an end. The wartime government introduced it in January 1940. A weekly sugar ration ranged from 8oz to 16oz per week.
Where to collect your ration if you lived in Birmingham. Maybe we’ll see similar Brexit inspired posters in the new year.
Station IX, which developed weapons and gadgets for SOE agents, created a small motorcycle called the Welbike. Although 3,641 bikes were produced they were rarely employed by the SOE. Instead they were issued to the 1st and 6th Airborne Divisions who used them during the Anzio and Normandy landings. The Welbike also featured at Arnhem during Operation Market Garden.
Bulgarian joke. Red Bull gives you wings. Vodka gives you 4×4 🤣
One for the album. Operation Zigzag has entered the Brazilian chart alongside John le Carre, Tom Clancy and Stieg Larsson 🙂
Eve at #1 for the first time 🙂
I’m reading A Moment of War, Laurie Lee’s lyrical account of his time in the Spanish Civil War.
“Eulalia turned and smiled at me brilliantly, showing her tongue, her face cracking open like a brown snake’s egg hatching.”
Vertigo, what vertigo?! Acrobats do their thing on top of the Empire State Building, 1934.
A lovely weekend for my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series, #1 in America and Britain, and now in Australia 🙂
No ill effects!
Easy to swallow!
The solution you’ve been waiting for, sanitised tape worms!
October 1944, the Allies cross the Belgium-Germany border and prepare to write the closing chapters of World War II with the defeat of Hitler’s brand of fascism.
My article about SOE agent Odette Sansom is on page 24 of this month’s Seaside News 🙂
“We all have our time machines, don’t we. Those that take us back are memories…And those that carry us forward, are dreams.” – H.G. Wells, 21 September 1866.
19 September 1944. Dutch residents of Velp welcome British Sherman tanks of 30 Corps as they advance towards Grave and Nijmegen.
From The People’s Collection Wales. A common sight in the Victorian era and first half of the twentieth century, housewives scrubbing their front doorsteps.
A clean doorstep was regarded as a badge of pride.
Pictured, Mrs Blodwen Williams of Ynys-y-bŵl during the 1930s.
This week in 1946, filmmakers from twenty-one nations arrived in Cannes, an already-glamorous resort on the French riviera, and presented their films to their peers, establishing the Cannes Film Festival.
My Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series has entered the top five. We will start promoting the series during the autumn so I’m hoping it will attract more readers. From my point of view, it’s a great series to research and write.
Views from the Bwlch this week.
Health and Safety takes a holiday. Painting the Eiffel Tower in 1932.
Pictured in 1942, the long wave radio transmitter at Criggion Radio Station, mid-Wales. The centre was vital to British communications during the Second World War.
I’m researching songs of the Spanish Civil War. This is A Las Barricadas, To The Barricades, a rousing call to arms based on Whirlwinds of Danger, Warszawianka, a Polish song.
Eileen Nearne who, along with her sister Jacqueline, served in France as an SOE agent. After transmitting over one hundred messages, Eileen was captured by the Gestapo. However, she escaped. Read her remarkable story here https://hannah-howe.com/eves-war/eileen-nearne/
The Rance in Dinan. Eve was in Dinan this week, in Operation Broadsword, book three in my Eve’s War series. She is trying to get rid of a million francs, which is proving surprisingly difficult.
The print copies of Operation Locksmith have arrived 🙂
Café Society, Paris 1925.
I’m eclectic. Which one are you?
My latest translation, the German version of Operation Zigzag, book one in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series. Great to see that readers in Germany are also downloading the English version.
The streets of London, 1930. The car on the right is a Burney, made by Streamline Cars Ltd and designed by Dennis Burney in 1927.
A walk through the woods this week, Craig yr Aber, Glamorgan.
First Officer Maureen Dunlop was a ferry pilot for the Air Transport Auxiliary. The women of the ATA transported newly manufactured aircraft from factories to aerodromes throughout Britain. She was trained to fly 38 types of aircraft, including Spitfires, Mustangs, Typhoons and bombers.
Four ‘It Girls’ dressed for an evening out, 1927.
I’m a Surrealist. How about you?
Excited to see that Operation Broadsword, book three in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series, is ranked #32 as a hot new release. The book will be published in November 🙂
Heroines of the SOE
On 21 June 1944, 2,000 Nazi soldiers attacked a pocket of the French Resistance. During the battle, Anne-Marie distributed hand-grenades and buried incriminating documents in a cave under a church. She also collected SOE money and took it with her as the Resistance withdrew from the village.
“But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; tread softly because you tread on my dreams.” – W B Yeats
I enjoyed the movie Lucie Aubrac this week and would place it in my top ten. I love the Continental style of filmmaking where the camera lingers on a scene and facial expressions say more than words. Some of the linking scenes were dialogue and music free, yet the story flowed effortlessly.
Lucie Aubrac is a French movie and I viewed it in its native language. I find that subtitles draw you into a story and make it more compelling. It’s a true story and I knew the outcome. All the same, the movie is gripping from the opening dramatic scene to its heartfelt conclusion.
A fitting cinematic tribute to a remarkable woman.
One of my favourite actresses, Eva Marie Saint, was 96 on 4th July 2020. Happy birthday and thank you for your wonderful films.
A record-breaking sales day for my books and Sam’s Song at #1 for the ninth time. Difficult to get excited with so much going on in the world, but many thanks to everyone who supports my books.
The birth of speech. And it all went downhill from there 🙂
René Descartes as Nostradamus?!
Of course, he actually said, “Cogito, ergo sum.” – “I think, therefore I am.”
One for the album. Nice to see my latest Sam Smith Mystery, Looking for Rosanna Mee, alongside Ian Rankin in the Hot 💯. We will publish Looking for Rosanna Mee in September.
I see my new keyboard is well equipped for the modern age…
Bicycle-taxis, Paris, spring 1945. Research for my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series.
This week in 1932, the Great Depression in America reached its lowest point. After the 1929 Wall Street Crash, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell. Disaster followed for investors, alongside further declines in consumption, production and employment.
Also interesting on this front page: ‘State Plans to Roundup Tax Dodgers’. And, ‘Jury Believes Her Story’. I’m intrigued to know what her story entailed.
Written in the 1970s, the lyrics are still highly relevant today.
An inspiration for my Eve’s War series, Nancy Wake was one of the most remarkable women of World War II. Born in New Zealand and brought up in Australia, she married a Frenchman and became a leading figure in the Marseille Resistance. In 1943, she joined the SOE and was heavily involved in the liberation of France.
This DVD arrived from New Zealand today and I’m looking forward to watching it.
An in-depth article about Nancy Wake will appear on my website in the near future.
Don’t believe everything you hear. Don’t believe everything you see. This is a stationary image.
Some ideas to lift your mood. Try to achieve at least three a day.
Resistance Couples – Hélène and Philippe Viannay
Hélène Victoria Mordkovitch was born on 12 July 1917 in Paris after her Russian parents had emigrated to the city in 1908.
A brilliant student, Hélène attended the Sorbonne where she studied geography. There, in September 1940, she met her future husband, Philippe Viannay, a philosophy student seeking a certificate in geography.
Opposed to the Nazi occupation of France, the couple decided not to escape to London. Instead they created an underground newspaper,Défense de la France, publishing the first issue on 14 July 1941. The journal took its motto from Blaise Pascal, “I only believe stories told by those witnesses who are willing to have their throats cut.”
Despite the dangers of producing an underground newspaper, Défense de la France remained in production until the Liberation in August 1944. By that time the newspaper regularly reached half a million readers, the largest circulation of the whole clandestine press.
Hélène and Philippe married in 1942. Their first child, Pierre, was born the following year while the couple were on the run from the Gestapo. Along with the newspaper, Hélène also organised the mass production of false identity papers for Frenchmen resisting deportation to the forced labour camps in Germany.
In 1944, Hélène joined the Ronquerolles Maquis, a Resistance group led by Philippe. After her husband was injured, Hélène coordinated the group and participated in the liberation of France.
After the war, the Viannays created the Centre for the Training of Journalists (Centre de Formation des Journalistes) in Paris, which continues to this day. In 1947, they also founded Les Glénans (Le Centre nautique des Glénans), which initially served as a convalescent centre for deportees and battle-weary résistants. Hélène managed the association from 1954 until her retirement in 1979.
The Canadian journalist Caitlin Kelly, who studied with Philippe Viannay at the Centre in Paris, later described him as “the most inspiring man I’ve ever met.”
In 1991, Hélène participated in the creation of thePrix Philippe Viannay-Défense de la France, a prize awarded annually to works promoting resistance to Nazism in France and elsewhere in Europe.
My personal top ten this week with Mind Games making the biggest leap up the charts.
The proof copy of Snow in August, which arrived this week.
Authors take two basic approaches to long-running series. 1. The lead characters remain exactly the same (Columbo is a good example of this). 2. The lead characters develop over time. My Sam Smith Mystery Series slots into the second category.
Looking for Rosanna Mee, book seventeen in the series, will see a development of Faye’s character. Sam will narrate, but Faye will lead the investigation. This will also be an ‘Alan story’ with the psychological aspect well to the fore.
Looking for Rosanna Mee will be available for pre-order shortly and the book will be published later this year.
I’m writing The Olive Tree, A Spanish Civil War Saga. In book one, Roots, Prince Nicolas Esteban invites author Naomi Parker to dinner. What should she wear? She decides on this dress by Madeleine Vionnet.
Recently, I enjoyed Dangerous Crossing, a 1953 film noir mystery, on DVD. Directed by Joseph M. Newman and starring Jeanne Crain and Michael Rennie, the movie was based on the 1943 play Cabin B-13 by John Dickson Carr.
The plot centres on the gaslighting of Jeanne Crain’s character as she embarks upon a honeymoon cruise.
A low-budget movie devoid of special effects, Dangerous Crossing relies on strong characterisation and a genuinely suspenseful plot.
Jeanne Crain is an attractive heroine who features in almost every scene while Michael Rennie lends solid support. To see the best of Jeanne Crain, however, I recommend Leave Her to Heaven where she excels in her trademark ‘girl next door’ role.
Research Makes Writing Easier
In Eve’s War, Guy Samson, my male SOE agent, is loosely based on three people. Guy has a Welsh mother and French father, but these people did not have that background.
While researching the area where my SOE agents will operate, Brittany, I discovered another agent, Andre Hue, who had a Welsh mother and French father. This coincidence completes the circle and makes Guy’s character much stronger. And strong characters make the task of writing so much easier.
I completed the storyboarding for Operation Locksmith this week, fifteen A3 pages of squiggles. In Operation Locksmith, Eve, Guy and Mimi train to become SOE agents, but is there a traitor in the camp?
Meanwhile, it’s lovely to see that Operation Zigzag is keeping company with Robert Ludlum’s Bourne series 🙂
Maureen Patricia ‘Paddy’ O’Sullivan was born in Dublin on 3 January 1918 the daughter of journalist John Aloysius O’Sullivan (1873–1949) and Johanna Repen (1889–1919), who died when Paddy was only 15 months old.
At the age of seven Paddy was sent to live with an aunt in Belgium where she attended a convent school in Cortrai. At the beginning of the war she worked as a nurse in Highgate Hospital, London. She joined the WAAF on 7 July 1941 as an Aircraft Handler General Duties, and was later promoted to Section Officer. Her SOE report lists that her hobbies included reading, psychology and walking.
Paddy’s trainers had mixed views of her. She could be stubborn and prone to temper. However, others regarded her as kind-hearted and able.
As a member of the SOE, Paddy parachuted into Limoges on 23 March 1944. Falling through the fog, she landed heavily, sustaining a concussion. She awoke to find a cow breathing on her face. Later, she said that the two million francs strapped to her back, money to fund SOE and Resistance activities, saved her life.
As Micheline Marcelle Simonet, Paddy’s cover story revealed that she was a ‘dame de compagnie’ of a doctor in Paris. She was taking one month’s leave to look for a lost Belgian parent in Creuse. Her documents, including a letter from the doctor, were good. However, the month-long limitation was a strange decision by the SOE because the intention was for Paddy to remain in the area for considerably longer than that. In the event, she changed her cover story and became the friend of a school-teacher’s wife – the school-teacher was a leader of the local Resistance.
On one occasion, Paddy was stopped by the Gestapo while transporting her wireless, which was hidden in a suitcase. In passable German, she flirted with the officer, made a ‘date’ for the following evening, then escaped, the suitcase forgotten by the lusting officer.
After noble and brave service, Paddy returned to Britain on 5 October 1944.