I’m excited: The Scarlet Key is out soon

A scarlet key
A bittersweet secret
A corpse with cryptic tattoos

9780994170019-TEMPLATE.inddWhen an envelope with a key and address lands on his newsroom desk, Seth VerBeek is thrust into a thrilling new crime adventure. The reporter’s challenge is to identify the body of a tattooed lady. Why and how did she die? Above all, he must live up to his reputation: Seth VerBeek will know what to do.

The cast of unforgettable characters includes a psychic tattooist, a greyhound trainer, a retired art teacher with an outrageous plan, and a personal handyman who fixes matters of the heart. Each character’s story unfolds like a slow striptease. Layers of subterfuge come off one by one until all is laid bare.

The Scarlet Key is a page-turner that tackles themes of positive ageing, finding love, psychic healing, forgiveness, and end-of-life choices.

Get your copy as an ebook from all good online booksellers.

Buy a paperback in Australia from Terranova Publications.

Posted in Brisbane, cat lovers, cats, cooking, Crime mystery, ebooks, enthanasia, Fiction, greyhound, Romance, self-discovery, Tattoo, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Gone Girl’: a ripping good page-turner

Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Easy-to-read psychological thriller about married people behaving badly. Domestic noir at its darkest and most intriguing. Both characters of this one-time partnership are highly-flawed and headed towards self-destruction. But they are also clever and conniving. The theme of puzzles and riddles is woven throughout the book, adding twists to the twists and turns. Tried-and-true techniques of the genre are employed to compel you to read on. For example, the short sharp chapters mostly end with a cliff-hanger. Here are some classics:
‘Something bad was about to happen. My wife was being clever again.’
And this:
‘He opens his wallet and pulls out two twenty-dollar bills. Presses them gently in my hand. “There you are,” he says indulgently. I wonder then if I have made a very big mistake.’
Who could resist just one more chapter?

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The Tattoo Collectors: Film & Fiction

Fascinating material about tattoos and the people who collect them by Dr Gemma Angel, academic and tattoo researcher.

Life & 6 Months

When I was a child, my favourite Roald Dahl story was Skin, a macabre tale about an old tattooist named Drioli, who has a magnificent work of art tattooed on his back by the famous painter Chaïm Soutine. One day he happens upon an exhibition of the dead artist’s work in a fancy Paris gallery, and recalling the tattoo on his back, he decides to go inside and take a closer look. Having fallen on hard times and now reduced to begging for a living, he is not welcome amongst the wealthy art patrons – until he reveals the original artwork permanently inked into his skin. The gallery owner immediately offers him a large sum of money for the tattoo: “But how,” Drioli asks, “can I possibly sell it?”

The gallery owner suggests that he have the tattoo removed by skin graft operation, and offers to pay a handsome…

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‘Snow Drop’, a new short story by Debbie Terranova

New release – out 18 June 2016


A cracking short story about finding yourself and falling in love with Old Blue Eyes.

Emily Williams gives up her job and moves to a small coastal town to finish a manuscript and discover herself. She finds more than she bargained for when an adorable bundle of fur decides to adopt her. The cat, which she calls ‘Frankie’ after Old Blue Eyes (Frank Sinatra), brings trouble with a capital T.

Purrfect for cat lovers.

Pre-order  from your favourite ebook retailer, eg Smashwords, kobo, iBooks, Amazon.

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When adoption meant forever

'The Telegraph' Monday 31 August 1903, BrisbaneIf Australia’s forced adoption practices of the 1950s to the 1970s were questionable, what happened around the turn of the twentieth century was utterly mind-blowing.

I have just finished reading a meticulously-researched account of so-called adoptions in the 1880s by law professor Annie Cossins. The Baby Farmers focusses on the shocking case of Sarah and John Makin of Sydney, who made their living from the misfortunes of young women who had babies out of wedlock. The Makins’s sordid activities – the murder and burial of no less than 13 illegitimate babies in the backyards of the houses they rented – resulted in a death sentence for John and life imprisonment for Sarah.

Apart from the specifics of the Makin case, the book provides enlightenment about the bad old days of the colony, when women had babies by the dozen (due to no means of contraception barring abstinence). There was never enough money or food for a growing family and sexually transmitted diseases were rife.

The jaw-dropper for me was the high infant mortality rate. Infant deaths were so common that when a baby died, no-one questioned what happened. The entire matter was swept under the carpet. It was no wonder children died in droves. Vaccinations were yet to be invented and diseases such as diphtheria, whooping cough, scarlet fever, measles and influenza swept unchecked through communities. Babies who weren’t breast-fed were given an infant formula that consisted of watered-down Nestlé’s sweetened condensed milk.

In the 1880s, the birth and death of a child was not necessarily registered by its parents. There was no regulation of adoptions or fostering arrangements either. Pregnant women (married or not) received little or no medical care and babies were commonly born in private residences with the assistance of another woman as midwife.

Babies born out of wedlock were truly regarded as ‘bastards’. An unmarried mother had no choice but to dispose of the baby in whichever way she could afford. Amongst the newspaper ads for scrap metal, dogs, horses, and plumbing work were requests to take illegitimate babies. The ads were curiously worded, often referring to a ‘kind Lady’ and payment of a ‘premium’.

According to Annie Cossins, the ads were written in code to reflect the wishes of the mother and the baby farmer. If a one-off payment – a ‘premium’ – was offered together with the word ‘adopt’, this meant that the transaction was permanent. Some unmarried mothers hoped an occasional visit would be part of the adoption plan or else they might elect to pay a weekly fee for the ‘kind Lady’ to care for their infant in the hope of retrieving it at a later date.

In reality the ‘premium’ – generally a few pounds sterling – was a fee to dispose of the child. Most baby farmers took in more children than they could possibly care for. The babies soon died of disease, malnutrition or neglect, paving the way for the baby farmer to take yet more children. In the case of the Makins, the infants’ bodies were wrapped in cloth and buried in the backyard of the houses they rented. Needless to say, the couple moved frequently, not only to avoid paying rent but also to escape the awful smell.

At the end of her book, Annie Cossins sums up the sad state of affairs in words I couldn’t hope to improve. Here is what she wrote.

Sarah’s and John’s crimes were also the crimes of a society that condoned infanticide while, paradoxically, stigmatising unmarried mothers. The legal status of an illegitimate child was described as ‘filius nullius’, child of no-one, which sums up the legal and social reality of those times. Since these children had no legal status, it is hardly surprising they had little or no social value. Life was cheap for illegitimate babies. Baby farmers provided an unsavoury but necessary service that filled the vacuum left wide open by government policies, the market economy and the limited assistance available through charitable organisations.

Sometimes we need to look back to see just how far we’ve come.

Posted in adoptee, adoption, Baby Farm, forced adoption, non-fiction, pregnancy, teen pregnancy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Relinquished, Returned, Rejected by Jackee Ashwin

Relinquished, Returned, RejectedA true and very personal story about becoming a mother, losing one baby to forced adoption and another to stillbirth, then years later reconnecting with your adult son and making tough life decisions.
Despite the difficult subject matter, Jackee Ashwin has told her story in an easy-to-read straightforward style that pulls no punches.
By the end, those who have not experienced the trauma of losing a newborn will have some understanding, while those who have will feel they are not in it alone.
A strongly-written, genuine account of what it was like to have been part of the ‘stolen white generation’. In Jackee’s own words, ‘If I can help one other person come to terms with what happened, writing my book will have been worth it.’

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Posted in adoptee, adoption, book reviews, forced adoption, indie publishing, memoir, non-fiction, pregnancy, self-discovery, stillbirth, stolen generation, teen pregnancy | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Qs for author Nene Davies

neneMy guest author today is the vivacious Nene Davies, author of the ‘Distance’ series. Besides writing novels, she is an avid blogger and Facebook contributor.

Her blog, which focuses on interviews of people in the writing and creative space, has the intriguing name ‘Six Peas‘.

In keeping with her play on words, I’ve set her the task of answering five Qs.

Q1: The opening sentence of ‘Distance’ is: One of the saddest things in the world must be to get to the end of your life and wish you’d done things differently. How much of the novel reflects your own experience?

In 2002 I emigrated to Australia from Pembrokeshire, Wales with my husband and three children. We were extremely fortunate in that the whole thing went very smoothly, but by far the hardest thing we did, was leaving family and friends behind, in particular my mum. Understandably, Mum didn’t want us to move twelve thousand miles away and didn’t feel that at her age, it was something she could contemplate herself, but she would never have tried to stop us from realising our dream. She wished us nothing but the absolute best and came to Queensland on holiday, four times. Like us, Mum fell in love with the place to the point where she was even considering moving here for good. However, she became very sick and sadly passed away before we were able to make that happen.

Distance_High_res_cover [10334731]When I started writing ‘Distance’ I thought about the what ifs?

What if Mum had been so distraught at the thought of us emigrating, that I was unable to leave her? What if I didn’t have a fabulous brother and sister-in-law who looked after Mum once we had left and she became ill? What if the guilt of leaving a devastated parent behind consumed me to the point of destroying my marriage?

I have had a tremendous amount of feedback from readers who are able to relate to my protagonist’s dilemma, her feelings of inadequacy, guilt, sorrow and disappointment. It doesn’t have to be a move to the other side of the world; simply moving to another state or town can be incredibly tough on family relationships.

So I would say that while the story does have its feet in truth and most of the locations described in the books are real, I have considered many things that could have gone wrong and given all these challenges to my fictional family.

Q2: How long did it take to write the Distance series and what were your greatest challenges?

Five years ago, we moved from Brisbane to Melbourne for twelve months, with my husband’s job. Our children had grown up and left home so it was just the two of us in our small apartment in the middle of the city. I realised that I now had the time and opportunity to write the book that had been simmering in my mind for some time.Further_2747 [10334732]

I completed ‘Distance’ over that year, writing chapters out in longhand at a cafe down the road from our apartment each morning and then typing everything up on the computer at home in the afternoons. The following year, when we had moved back to Brisbane, I wrote the sequel ‘Further’ over a number of months and then last year I completed the final book in the series, ‘Surfacing.’

I would say that for me, the greatest challenge of writing a book is the editing! I’m not a fan. I love to write, but editing is something that I know needs to be done, but it’s not something I enjoy.

Q3: What are the most important attributes for being a successful writer?

Oooh, well perhaps the ability to self-motivate and to write every single day. I think it’s vitally important to keep that writing muscle toned, as otherwise it’s easy to get flabby! I consider writing my job (and count my blessings every day that my job is also my passion) and I go to work in my office at home. It’s no good being distracted by things going on in the house. Being your own boss is fantastic, but it might be tempting to leave work early sometimes! I’d never get anything finished if I didn’t put my work head on, so when I sit at my desk to write, I’m not thinking about anything else.

SURFACING FRONT COVER [10334733]Q4: You are fab at doing your own publicity. What words of advice can you share?

Well first of all – thank you! One of the hardest things for me to overcome has been to get over feeling awkward about promotion. To be honest, it’s not where I feel most comfortable, but I realise that it’s very important to get over that, in order to spread the word about my work. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of social media sites out there so I think it’s probably a good idea to choose just a couple and post to those regularly, rather than spreading oneself too thin by trying to run around all over the internet. Social media can be a real time-thief so my suggestion would be for authors to be quite strict about planning out their publicity as it can sometimes take you away from actually writing!

Some authors much prefer to have a helping hand with publicity, rather than shouldering it all on their own. My daughter Sarah has a business, Big Plans, which offers exactly this kind of help and looks after all my profile pics, book trailers and a lot of my content for social media, though over time I’ve learned to quite enjoy online marketing and regularly post to social media, too. I also take part in book signings, library author panels, interviews and so on – and these are always great fun to do.

Q5: What can you tell me about your current work in progress?

Redhanded is all about drugs, cheating, murder and firemen. And, unlike The Distance Series, has absolutely no connection with my own life! I loved writing Isobel’s story over the series, but decided that it might be fun to really challenge myself and write something that’s about a million miles out of my comfort zone. I’m about halfway through writing the first draft and I have to say – it’s rather liberating and great fun!  I’m delving into dark and unfamiliar places (and I sincerely hope nobody checks out my Google search history!) – but I would say that ultimately, Redhanded is a love story. It will be published later this year.

The Distance series is available as ebooks from Amazon or check out Nene’s website.

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