Friday 30 April 2021

A-Z Blogging Challenge - Z is for Zack

To complete my A-Z blogs, here’s a teaser from my recently completed novel ‘Family Secrets’ (I’ve no idea yet when/if it will be published – so watch this space!)

Seamstress Betsy Roberts meets John Hughes, a mariner with the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, on a Liverpool street one freezing January night in 1844. Attraction sparks between them, but neither is aware of the huge obstacle in the way of their courtship.

John is the son of Dottie Hughes nee Butler, and Betsy’s mother is shocked when Betsy tells her that John wishes to court her. She explains the reason:

‘Listen, Betsy, you must never tell your pa I’ve told you this, but you need to know so you’ll understand. You’re right about him not liking sailors—’

Betsy sighed. ‘Aye, because he always says they’re only interested in getting drunk or seducing young girls, but they’re not all like that, are they?’

‘No, but hear me out, will you?’ Sarah took a few seconds to compose herself. ‘Your pa had a younger sister he was very fond of. There was only about a year between them. Eliza, she was called. Anyhow, she fell in love with a sailor, but as soon as he got her in the family way, he abandoned her. Poor Eliza was so ashamed of bringing disgrace to her family, she – well, there’s no easy way of saying this, but she jumped into the Salthouse Dock and drowned. She was only seventeen.’

Betsy’s face creased in dismay. ‘Oh, Mam, how awful. No wonder Pa is so bitter about sailors.’

‘You want to know what makes it worse? The sailor was Dottie’s brother, John’s uncle.’

Her mouth agape, Betsy stared at her mother. ‘No, surely not!’

‘Yes, Zack Butler. I never met him because it happened before I married your pa, and Zack went off to Australia. But that’s why your pa won’t say a good word about sailors, and why he’s refused to speak to any of the Butler family ever again.’

Not an ideal scenario for Betsy and John’s courtship, is it? How can her father ever accept the nephew of the man who caused his sister’s death?

I've no front cover to show you yet, but here's a picture of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company boat, Ben-my-Chree, which John (my g-g-grandfather) captained in the 1850s.

Well, that’s the end of the A-Z Blogging Challenge for this year. I hope you’ve enjoyed my posts!


Thursday 29 April 2021

A-Z Blogging Challenge - Y is for Youngsters

Several of my novels feature youngsters i.e. children under 10.

In Changing the Future, single mum Lisa has a four-year-old son Nicky, who gets quite a surprise when he eventually learns who his father is.

Veterinary surgeon Luke Sullivan, in Irish Intrigue, has two young children, Melissa aged 6 and Toby aged 4. His wife left him when Toby was a baby but now she has married a rich American, she is trying to claim custody – so Luke has a fight on his hands. Melissa also manages to ‘sneak’ into three other novels! In Irish Deceptions, she is one of the dancers in Ellie’s ‘dream team’ in the school musical show; in Irish Secrets, she finds the evidence which leads to the identity of a criminal gang leader, and in Irish Shadows, she tells Liam about the runaway horse she has seen in Clifden. Quite a busy young lady!

Dan Nicholas, in Irish Deceptions, has ten-year-old twin nieces, Grace and Leah, his brother’s daughters. Dan is trying to keep his real identity a secret, so it’s quite some time before Ellie realises the twins in her dancing class are related to him.

The ‘youngster’ in Irish Secrets is the baby, who grew up to become Kara’s mother. When Kara eventually manages to trace Margaret, the baby’s mother, she learns of her heartbreak when Margaret was forced to give up her baby for adoption.

Here is Margaret’s description of what happened:

“When Aileen was ten months old, I was summoned to Reverend Mother’s office, and she said I had to sign some papers. I knew what they were, because the other girls told me, and I refused. She said, You must sign, and I begged her to let Aileen stay with me. By this time I was down on my knees, crying, but she pulled me up by my hair, pushed the pen into my hand, and said, Sign it, girl.”

Kara winced. “She must have been completely heartless.”

“Indeed she was. She went on about me having to be punished for the sin I had committed, but, of course, that was drummed into us from the minute we set foot in the home. We were moral degenerates who could not be allowed to keep our children. Then came the ultimate emotional blackmail, about how selfish I would be to condemn my child to a life of poverty and deprivation, instead of letting her go to a family who would give her far more than I could.” Margaret shook her head. “I couldn’t argue against that, because it was true. I had no job and nowhere to live, and so I signed the papers.”

“And was that the day when Aileen was taken away?”

Margaret’s face creased. “It was. I ran up the two flights of stairs to the nursery, although I could hardly see through my tears, and as I got to the door, Sister Ursula came out carrying Aileen. While I was in the Reverend Mother’s room, they’d dressed her in a lovely pale blue coat and bonnet, with white socks and little blue shoes—things I’d never seen before, and she held out her arms to me and smiled and said Mama. Sister Ursula let me hold her for a minute, and I was crying as I hugged her and kissed her. I kept whispering, I love you, I love you, please remember I love you. Then another nun came to the door, and she held me from behind, pinned me by both my arms, while Sister Ursula took Aileen from me and set off down the stairs. I struggled, even elbowed the nun’s bosom, and managed to break free but by that time they’d reached the bottom of the stairs, and the last I saw of Aileen was a wee glimpse before they turned into the corridor. Then I fell on the floor in a heap and broke my heart.”

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Wednesday 28 April 2021

A-Z Blogging Challenge - X is for Xtras

Again, not an easy letter when you’re trying to feature names of people and places in your novels. I don’t have any Xerxes, Xanders or Xanadus, so today’s blog is about Xtra characters (and thanks to Carol for this suggestion!)

By extra characters, I don’t mean the secondary characters who you know will be an essential part of the story from the start, like the main character’s best friend, or boss, or some relative. In this case, I’m talking about the ‘extra’ characters who sometimes sneak in and take you by surprise – like Wasim, my Nile-singing boatman in ‘Her Only Option’ (see yesterday’s post)

When I start writing a new novel, I usually have what I call a ‘vague idea’ in my mind. I know where and when the story starts, I (sometimes) have a fair idea where it will end, but as I write, the story takes on a life of its own, and various characters ‘appear’, each with their own contribution.

There are several of these in ‘Irish Inheritance’.

In earlier posts, I told you about two ‘extra’ characters, Peter Stones and Tom Keating. Both had small but important roles in this story, and both appeared in later books in the series.

Another extra character was Maeve O’Connor. The Dublin lawyer who is dealing with Helena Keating’s estate calls Guy to tell him that Maeve, a friend of Helena, would like to meet them and has some information she would like to share. At that point, I had to stop and think what information Maeve was going to give my characters, and in fact she proved to be a useful addition – especially at the end of the story when she … but no, that would be a spoiler!

Suzie was another character who played a bigger role than I anticipated. To begin with she was simply a name i.e. Guy’s ex, an American actress who had left him with a somewhat jaundiced view of actresses. I definitely did not anticipate Guy rushing off to Los Angeles to rescue Suzie when he discovered she was homeless and penniless! Neither did Jenna who, needless to say, wasn’t happy and assumed she had been dumped. But I did enjoy working out the small, but necessary, side-track into Suzie’s story.

Brendan O’Casey was the art expert from Galway, who came to value the 19th century portrait at Mist Na Mara. Guy was not impressed, especially when the painting was valued at far less than he had anticipated. But was Mr. O’Casey who he claimed to be? Again, this was part of the story that I didn’t anticipate when I first started writing it!

And of course there was Steve, who was the assistant manager at the hotel where Jenna’s friend Charley was organising a theme night event. But you’ll have to read Irish Intrigue, Book 2 in the Mist Na Mara series, to find out what happened to Charley and Steve.

These ‘extra’ characters are one of the main reasons I am a ‘pantser’ (i.e writing by the seat of my pants!) and not a plotter. To me, plotting in advance is a sterile exercise which doesn’t spark my imagination. I need to be ‘in there’, living the story with my characters and letting them develop it. I know the ‘plotters’ won’t agree with me – but there is no right or wrong way to write a story, and I know what works for me! 

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Tuesday 27 April 2021

A-Z Blogging Challenge - W is for Wasim

Late one night (because that’s when I often write!), I was up to Chapter 3 of my story set in Egypt. Ross has invited Neve to visit one of the Pharaohs’ tombs in the Valley of the Kings. I needed to get them across the Nile from where the cruise ships are moored at Luxor, and thought they would simply take one of the motorboats that go back and forth across the river, and off they’d go into the Valley.

Instead, I wrote this:

At the end of the gangplank, Ross turned and held out his hand to help her onto the uneven stone steps. His touch sent delicious tingles to her nerve-endings. Part of her wished she could leave her hand within his firm grasp. Instead, self-consciously, she withdrew it when they reached the quayside path.

“How are we getting across to the West Bank?” she asked.

“I always use the same private motorboat. Elvis should be moored along here.”

“Elvis? Is that the name of the boat?”

Ross laughed. “No, the boat owner. His real name’s Wasim, but he sings Elvis songs all the time—and I do mean all the time.”

When they reached the white motorboat with its green awning, Neve grinned at the name on the bow: Heartbreak Hotel.

Ross shook hands with a slim Egyptian whose dark hair was gelled into Elvis’s unmistakable quiff. “So what are you going to sing for Neve this afternoon, Elvis?”

The young man considered for a moment. “I think I have good song for Miss Neve.”

He helped her onto the boat, and she sat on the cushioned bench at one side, facing Ross. Wasim gunned the engine into life and turned the motorboat towards the West Bank. Then he started to sing Elvis’s “Teddy Bear”.

She smiled at Ross. “I’ve never been serenaded on a Nile crossing before.”

He grinned back. “There’s a first time for everything.”

Her heart raced, and she drew in a deep breath to steady herself. This was stupid. Just because he had a captivating smile was no reason for her to react like some love-struck teenager. She had to control her unwanted response to his male attractiveness before she made a complete fool of herself.

When Wasim finished the song, she applauded. “That was great. You really do sound like Elvis.”

Ross laughed. “Oh, now he’s your friend for life.”

Wasim brought the boat parallel to the stone quay on the West Bank. “Shukran, Miss Neve. I try to get job at hotel as Elvis singer but no one want me.” He turned to Ross. “What time for return, Mister Ross?”

“Five o’clock, Elvis, no later. Neve’s ship sails at six.”

“I be here.”

I think it was at this point that I stopped and blinked, and actually said out loud, “Where on earth has he come from?” I had no intention of creating a Nile boatman who sang Elvis songs, but there he was! He kept popping up in the story as a minor character, and in the end, I liked him so much, I decided to give him a larger role in solving the mystery that formed the main sub-plot – or maybe he’d already decided that, and was simply waiting for me to find out his later role in the story!


Neve Dalton loves her job as a tour guide on a River Nile cruise ship as much as she values her independence. She isn’t ready to settle down with her Egyptian boyfriend, despite his repeated proposals and his father’s desire to see him married.

Nor is she ready to meet Ross McAllister, a compelling and fascinating archaeologist. She struggles against her growing attraction to him until she can no longer ignore what her heart is telling her.

When she starts receiving cryptic messages, and Ross’s work in the famous Valley of the Kings is threatened, Neve has to make a heart-breaking and life-changing decision which she feels is her only option.

Can they discover whose enmity is forcing them apart before it’s too late?

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Monday 26 April 2021

A-Z Blogging Challenge - V is for Valley of the Kings

 As a history teacher for over 25 years, I taught modules about Ancient Egypt to various age groups, and usually included the amazing discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb with all its treasures. In the early 1990s, I saw many of these in the museum in Cairo, but a visit to the famous Valley of the Kings remained on my bucket list for another twenty years. In the autumn of 2010 (only about 3 months before the ‘Arab Spring’ led to protests, unrest and violence in Egypt), a friend and I booked a Nile cruise from Luxor to Aswan.

On the first day, my dream of visiting the Valley of the Kings finally came true, and exceeded all my expectations (which were already pretty high!). Not only the amazing splendour of the tombs of the Pharaohs with all their wall paintings, but also walking down the steps into Tutankhamen’s tomb, and finally standing in the tomb itself.

I knew then that I would have to write a story set in Egypt. During the rest of the cruise, different ideas flitted through my mind. At the end of the week, I was relaxing on the sundeck of our cruise ship and idly wondering whether it would be possible to vault across the short gap between our ship and the one moored next to it. Not that I had any intention of trying, you understand! But what if my hero and heroine were on different cruise ships and first met by the rails of the sundecks? However, at the end of the 5 or 7 day cruise they would go home, so I needed find a way of basing them both in Egypt. In that case, how about a cruise ship tour guide, and an archaeologist working in the Valley of the Kings?

On a flight from Luxor to Cairo, I read an article in the flight magazine about an archaeologist who had explored a hidden tunnel leading from the burial chamber of one of the Pharaohs' tombs in the Valley – and decided something similar would be the perfect scenario for 'my' archaeologist.

Thus my novel was ‘born’ – but of course, that was only the beginning. A lot more thinking was necessary to sort out the complications and conflicts that would threaten to tear my characters apart!


Neve Dalton loves her job as a tour guide on a River Nile cruise ship as much as she values her independence. She isn’t ready to settle down with her Egyptian boyfriend, despite his repeated proposals and his father’s desire to see him married.

Nor is she ready to meet Ross McAllister, a compelling and fascinating archaeologist. She struggles against her growing attraction to him until she can no longer ignore what her heart is telling her.

When she starts receiving cryptic messages, and Ross’s work in the famous Valley of the Kings is threatened, Neve has to make a heart-breaking and life-changing decision which she feels is her only option.

Can they discover whose enmity is forcing them apart before it’s too late?

All my books are available from 

Saturday 24 April 2021

A-Z Blogging Challenge - U is for Uncle

Not the easiest letter, mainly because I can’t find any names or places beginning with U in my novels. However, with a bit of lateral thinking, I finally found a sub-plot concerning an uncle and nephew!

In Irish Shadows, all Rose Finlay knows is that her great-grandfather fell out with his cousins because of something that happened during the Irish Civil War in the 1920s.

Seemingly unconnected (to begin with) is a family story told by Tom Keating (see yesterday’s post) about how his grandfather Michael Keating and another man planned to blow up a railway bridge not far from Clifden in 1922. However, a few hours before the intended act of sabotage, Michael was arrested, and later claimed he had been betrayed by someone called Joe.

Rose discovers her great-grandfather was Joseph O’Malley, and is shocked to discover from a report dating from November 1922 that “Captain Edward Andrews said he had received information from Private Joseph O’Malley, which implicated Michael Keating in a plot to blow up the railway bridge at Athry Lough on the night of the 20th.”

More research shows her that Joseph O’Malley was, in fact, the son of Michael Keating’s sister. In other words, Joseph had betrayed his own uncle, who as a result was jailed in Galway for six months.

In the words of one of the Keating family: “The rest of the family never forgave Joe O’Malley for squealing to the authorities about his Uncle Michael.” Another member of the family also says: “If anyone showed up now saying they were related to Joseph O’Malley, I doubt they’d get a very friendly reception from us.”

But did Joe O’Malley betray his uncle – or did he save his life?

You’ll have to read Irish Shadows to find out! 

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Friday 23 April 2021

A-Z Blogging Challenge - T is for Tom

Tom Keating is another ‘recurring’ character in my Mist Na Mara novels, and features in nearly all of them.

In Irish Inheritance, Jenna and Guy have inherited a house near Clifden in Connemara from a woman named Helena Keating, who had been born in County Galway in 1920. They discover that Mist Na Mara house was left to Helena by her father William Keating. This leads them to visit Tom Keating, an elderly man living in Clifden, who gives them more clues about William and the Keating family.

Tom also gets a mention in Irish Intrigue when he takes his dog to the veterinary clinic, but he has a bigger role in Irish Deceptions. When Finny (see my F post) stops attending school, and it becomes apparent he and his mother have left the house where they were living, Ellie discovers he is still walking Tom’s dog every morning. She arranges to visit Tom early one morning, but Finny runs off when he sees her there, so she is no wiser about where he and his mother have moved to.

In Irish Shadows, Tom has another significant role to play when he puts an end to a family feud which began during the Irish Civil War in the 1920s. Last but not least, in Irish Echoes, it turns out that Tom’s ancestor, Padraig Keating, originally came from Kilcreggan, one of the villages which was abandoned during the Potato Famine in the 1840s and whose location has remained unknown until Elliot finally manages to trace it.

Little did I realise when Tom Keating first appeared in Irish Inheritance that he would insist on appearing in my other novels!

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