“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison
This is how I started writing and why I write.
My latest translation, the Spanish version of Snow in August, available soon 🙂
My latest audiobook. We hope to complete production next week 🙂
“In books we never find anything but ourselves. Strangely enough, that always gives us great pleasure, and we say the author is a genius.” – Thomas Mann
You mean, I’m not a genius?! 🤣
“Some cry with tears, others with thoughts.” – Octavio Paz
Picture: On the Green Bank, Sanary, 1911 – Henri Lebasque
A statue problem, solved. From 1949.
This week is refugee week. My country, Wales, has a proud history of welcoming refugees. This picture shows the children at Cambria House, Caerleon, Basque refugees from the Spanish Civil War.
Sandra Puhl translated my Ann’s War series into German and I’m delighted that she has agreed to translate my Eve’s War series. One of the joys of writing is working with creative people.
Art as therapy.
A crochet panel produced by George Preece following a life-changing accident at Abercynon Colliery in 1909.
George was involved in a transport accident which resulted in the loss of both legs. Unable to work again, he spent his time making the crochet panel, and other items from old food tins.
I enjoyed this film this week. During the first half, I thought the hero and heroine were too flippant for the subject matter. However, a tragic incident at the halfway mark changed the mood and the various strands came together to produce a suspenseful conclusion. Not a classic, but a good variation on the POW theme.
Brittany, 16 August 1944. Members of the FFI (French Forces of the Interior). Their uniforms show the French flag with the Free French emblem, the Cross of Lorraine.
By mid-August 1944 the Nazis were in full retreat and these women were contemplating the liberation of Paris, which arrived after a week-long battle, 19 August to 25 August.
Approximately twenty percent of the FFI were women. Many fought alongside their husbands, including Cécile Rol-Tanguy, Lucie Aubrac, Paulette Kriegel-Valrimont, Hélène Viannay, Cletta Mayer and Marie-Hélène Lefaucheux. They organised acts of sabotage, wrote and distributed newspapers, and freed many from Nazi concentration camps. Indeed, Marie-Hélène Postel-Vinay rescued Pierre Lefaucheux from a Gestapo prison camp. The couple subsequently married.
An iconic photograph from the Spanish Civil War. This is Marina Ginestà i Coloma, born in Toulouse on 29 January 1919 after her family had emigrated to France from Spain.
Aged eleven, Marina returned to Spain, to Barcelona, with her parents, who were tailors. When the Spanish Civil War broke out she served as a translator and reporter.
This picture was taken by Juan Guzman on 21 July 1936 when Marina was seventeen years old. The location is the rooftop of the Hotel Colón in Barcelona.
In 1952, Marina married a Belgian diplomat. She moved to Paris in 1978 and died there on 6th January 2014.
It’s an amazing fact that the vast majority of the female Resistance fighters I have researched lived well into their nineties.
My article about SOE heroine Jacqueline Nearne is on page 16 of the Seaside News. Lots of other interesting features included too.
The Longest Day contains many remarkable pieces of filmmaking, but from a technical point of view this scene is the highlight.
Sara Ginaite-Rubinson was born in Kaunas on 17 March 1924. She was a schoolgirl in 1941 when the Nazis invaded Lithuania, killing three of her uncles and imprisoning her and the surviving members of her family.
While imprisioned in the Kovno Ghetto, Sara met Misha Rubinson, whom she later married. During the winter of 1943-44 the couple escaped and established a Resistance group. Twice, she returned to the ghetto to help others escape.
In 1944, Sara and Misha participated in the liberation of the Vilnius and Kaunas ghettos, freeing Sara’s sister and niece among many others.
After the war, Sara became a professor of political economics at Vilnius University. She also wrote an award-winning book, Resistance and Survival: The Jewish Community in Kaunas, 1941–1944.
Sara died on 2 April 2018, yet another remarkable Resistance fighter who lived well into her nineties.
* * *
Every year in France the locals collect sand from Omaha Beach, where the Americans lost 2,400 lives on D-Day, and use it to fill in the letters on the tombstones of the fallen.
“In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.” – Pico Iyer
Roots, book one in The Olive Tree: A Spanish Civil War Saga is published on 6.6.2020 and I’m delighted to say that the book is a top forty hot new release in Britain 🙂
My song of the week. Three years gone in the heart of Spain, He brings home a quiet pain, He’ll never be that young again, There was always the Cause
Local views this week around Sger and Kenfig.
This week, Betrayal, book one in my Ann’s War Mystery Series, reached #1 on Amazon’s literature chart for the tenth time 🙂
The cover for Colette: A Schoolteacher’s War, a companion novel to my Eve’s War series. Colette is about a schoolteacher who becomes involved with the French Resistance in the lead up to D-Day.
A stone walked into my consulting room looking very depressed.
“Take a seat,” I said. “How can I help you?”
“I’m lacking in self-esteem,” the stone said. “I’m lacking in confidence.”
“Don’t worry,” I said, “we can address those issues. But before we do, tell me, what are your long-term aims?”
“Well,” the stone sighed, “I just wish I could be a little bolder…”
The Connections eMagazine Reader’s Choice Award is open to all independently published authors and their work. This is an annual award. The winners will be featured in the August issues of the magazine. Authors can be nominated by anyone who has read the novel. See our website for details.
The Pearl Witherington Story, Part Three, as told by her official SOE record.
Pearl’s second assignment, in Portsmouth, was more successful than her first. In this assignment, as Patricia Winter, she had to discover details about the town and recruit possible members of her network. In France this task carried great risks because of potential informers and collaborators. Pearl’s cover story – she had had a row with her ‘boyfriend ‘ was deemed unsatisfactory. In general the SOE training course was detailed and thorough, but it does seem light in regard to the practical assignments.
26.8.1943. Pearl received a negative report. The assessor described her as possessing ‘average intelligence’, ‘slow’, ‘cautious’ and ‘shy’.
I don’t think Pearl would have disagreed with any of those assessments. However, it is worth recalling her background.
Pearl’s father, an alcoholic, died when she was young while her mother had health issues. As the eldest child, Pearl ran the family home from an early age. She was denied schooling until her teenage years. This upbringing certainly shaped her personality. In the field, however, her cautious character proved an asset because it helped her to survive. Indeed, Pearl’s childhood was all about scrambling and surviving, and those real-life experiences served her well as an agent.
The assessor also considered that Pearl was not leadership material. In that assessment he made a mistake because a year later in France Pearl led a Resistance network of 4,000 men, the only woman to attain such a position.
I’m supporting Smashwords’ Authors Give Back campaign where authors offer readers free or discounted books during this difficult time. All my books are discounted and you will also find the list of free titles here
A stalker. a murder, a bevy of marginally odd-ball characters, emotion, violence, and a touch of humor and romance describe the novel.
Sam is in the process of finding herself after a troubled childhood and a brutal, failed marriage. She tries for self-confidence but it slips away when the past comes calling. She is frightened of relationships. However, in the hidden depths of her mind, she is strong. As a PI, she is determined to solve the case.
The author has a breezy style of writing, drawing her characters with a light touch. But it is also serious, intense especially. The main characters are displayed with all their quirks and peccadilloes showing.
Amazon Vine Voice, Five Stars
Published today, here’s one for the album, Snow in August is sitting alongside Dorothy L Sayers as a top thirty hot new release.
From childhood, I’ve always read at least four books at once. I think the reason for this is I’m a fast reader and when I’m enjoying a book I don’t want to race to the end.
At the moment, I’m reading over forty books at once. These books are linked to my research and most of them are chronological therefore I’m reading the timeframes that tie-in with my current stories.
The above is a preamble to say that currently I’m working on four books at once: I’m editing The Olive Tree: Roots and Eve’s War: Operation Zigzag, storyboarding Eve’s War: Operation Locksmith and developing the characters for Looking for Rosanna Mee: Sam Smith Mystery Series book seventeen. All four books will be published this year.
The Olive Tree, a Spanish Civil War Saga is about two women from opposite ends of the social spectrum. Therefore, while impoverished nurse Heini Hopkins collects clothing for the poor people of Spain, aristocratic author Naomi Parker enjoys this menu with Prince Nicolas Esteban.
This is Llancaiach Fawr Manor, a sixteenth century manor house in the heart of the Rhymney Valley. This house is the inspiration for the central location in Looking for Rosanna Mee, Sam Smith Mystery Series book seventeen. Rosanna, a young housebound woman, has disappeared. Where could she be?
The gothic atmosphere of Llancaiach Fawr is highlighted by the four ghosts who are said to haunt the house, including a man in black, a murderer who patrols the perimeter.
Mark Knopfler said that his best songs develop from two ideas that marry at an opportune moment.
I already had an idea for Stormy Weather, Sam Smith Mystery Series book eighteen, and I’ve married that to an article I read this afternoon about a sleazy politician who is exploiting vulnerable people.
Modern British society doesn’t care about its vulnerable people, but Sam does. Expect plenty of fireworks in this one.
Eve’s War Research
A small number of SOE agents arrived in Occupied France over land while others arrived by sea. The vast majority, however, parachuted into the country. What did they take with them? Here’s a basic 24 hour survival pack.
1 packet of plain biscuits 1 block of chocolate 1 sachet of boiled sweets 2 blocks of tea 1 packet of sweet biscuits 1 packet of plain biscuits 1 box of matches 1 roll of toilet paper 1 packet of oatmeal 2 packets of meat broth 2 packets of chewing gum 1 packet of sugar tablets 1 tin of Spam
Agents who were met by the local Resistance often received a warm meal in a farmhouse, but those who jumped ‘blind’ into the wilderness relied on their rations.
Women of Courage Heroines of SOE
Marguerite Diana Frances ‘Peggy’ Knight was born on 19 April 1920 in Paris. She was a member of the Women’s Transport Service before joining the SOE as a courier, a role mainly performed by women.
The daughter of Captain Alfred Rex Knight and his Polish wife, the former Charlotte Beatrice Mary Ditkowski, Peggy was a perfect French speaker and this ability captured the SOE’s attention.
On 11 April 1944, Peggy began her training. The SOE rushed her through the course in two weeks during which time she completed only one practice parachute jump from a static balloon instead of the customary three or four. After training, she landed in Vichy France under the code name Nicole to work for the highly compromised and deeply divided Donkeyman network.
Following D-Day, in June and July 1944, Peggy crossed the battle lines many times, carrying intelligence messages and gathering vital information. She did this by travelling vast distances on her bicycle. She also participated in an attack upon a Nazi military convoy, firing her Sten submachine gun.
Later in 1944, Peggy narrowly escaped capture and executIon when one of her colleagues betrayed her group of resistance fighters to the Nazis. One of thirty people, Peggy fought her way out of a forest through the encirclement.
Roger Bardet, the man responsible for the betrayal, was later arrested, tried and sentenced to death as a collaborator. However, his sentence was commuted and ultimately he was released from prison in 1955.
Her missions complete, Peggy left the SOE in November 1944. In December 1944, she married Sub-Lieutenant Eric Smith of the Royal Navy and gave birth to two sons within two years. Later, she told a local newspaper that her main concern now was ‘getting enough soap during austerity to keep the family clean.’
Highly praised by her masters at the SOE for her bravery and commitment, Peggy settled down to a life of domesticity.