Sunday, December 23, 2007


Severn House
1st March 08

In Edinburgh, Kenna Mackenzie is cheated out of her inheritance by her brother-in-law. When she refuses to marry Rory Challenor – the Scottish Laird picked out for her – the stubborn Kenna finds herself on the streets with only the clothes she stands up in. She survives for a while, but as winter sets in she becomes desperatately ill.

A widowed English doctor rescues her – but Dominic Sterne considers Kenna to be a street woman, despite his growing feelings towards her. When he leaves to take up a new position in the South of England, Kenna is broken-hearted.

When Kenna returns home, it’s to discover she has no choice but to accept the laird’s proposal. Although the man has a certain charisma, she discovers he has family problems as well as entanglements.

In the meantime, Dominic has realized his mistake and has returned to Edinburgh to look for Kenna . . .

Monday, December 10, 2007

Fallen Angel

It was nearly midnight when Gabriella landed in a snowdrift in Millie Perkins’ garden.
Millie was in bed, propped against her pillows sipping Irish coffee. The bedroom was as cosy as an oven, tucked as it was under the thatched roof. The bed-head was against the brick chimney that carried the heat up from the kitchen range below. If it hadn’t been for her tabby cat, who curled against her stomach, purring and kneading threads from the eiderdown and making a good book-stand for one of the Mills and Boon romances she was fond of reading - Millie wouldn‘t have heard a thing.
Leonardo lifted his head and meowed a complaint. As a result, the book fell sideways to the floor in the middle of a rather crucial scene, where the hero was about to declare his love - and slid under the chest of drawers. Leonardo kept on staring towards the chintz-curtained windows, his hair ridging along his back like one of the hairy caterpillars who appeared in the spring to devour her lettuces.
Millie admitted to a twinge of alarm as she rose from her bed and slid into the sheepskin slippers her daughter had given her for Christmas. It had been naughty of her to open the gift in advance, but as she could tell from the shape of the parcel exactly what was in it - well, she didn’t see any point in waiting.
Not that there was anyone to tell her off. She’d be spending this Christmas alone. Her beloved granddaughter had gone into labour early, so neither could be with her. Millie was thrilled to think her first great-grandchild would be born on Christmas Day, though - and they’d rearranged the celebration for New Year, instead.
Twitching the curtains open a chink she peered out into the garden. Leonardo leapt on to the window sill and pawed the chink wider so his head would fit through it and he could satisfy his own curiosity.
For a moment Millie didn’t see anything, especially what she was looking for, the tell-tale footsteps in the snow to signal an intruder. She took a moment to admire the scene. It was so Christmassy, with snow plastered on the tree branches like icing sparkling on a cake. It had been ages since they’d had a white Christmas. It seemed fitting somehow, when her great grandchild was due to be born. It also reminded her of her childhood, when Christmas cards were magical concoctions of stage coaches, robins, angels and sparkle dust.
“Good, grief!” she exclaimed when snow flurried up from the drift. A small winged creature crawled out from a hole and sneezed, sending a shower of golden sparks shooting upwards. When they settled Millie saw that the creature glowed. It seemed to be injured as it crawled across the snow, dragging its wing behind it.
Leonardo growled deep in his throat, rear ended himself swiftly to the floor and took refuge under the bed. His yellow eyes glared out from the darkness like alarmed lanterns.
“Don’t be such a cowardly custard,” Millie said, and reaching for her glasses, exclaimed, “I do believe it’s a fairy!” She’d never expected to see a real fairy and felt rather excited about it. What a wonderful tale she’d have to tell to her great grandchild.
Still, she decided on caution, picking up the wooden spoon as she shuffled past the Christmas tree with its coloured lights and tinsel, and the gaily wrapped parcels underneath.
The night cold was bitter after the warmth of the cottage. Her breath puffed out in a cloud of vapour. She shivered, pulling her beanie down round her ears and drawing her shawl a little tighter when the church clock in the village struck twelve.
The creature was a cute little thing, the size of a small doll. She had bedraggled blond curls and feathery wings, and if she hadn’t had such a peevish expression on her face she would have been quite pretty.
“Don’t just stand there,” she snapped. “If I don’t get warm soon, I’ll perish.”
Millie eyed the thin shift the fairy wore. “You do seem unsuitably dressed for winter.” She lifted her gently from the ground and into her shawl. “You must let me look after you.”
“Not too tight, one of my wings is already damaged. If it doesn’t heal I won’t be able to get there in time for the birth.” The creature looked glum for a few seconds. “Then I’ll have some explaining to do.”
Millie retraced her steps, securing the door behind them. She placed her small charge on the kitchen table then pulled up a chair and stared at her. She remembered the story of sleeping beauty. “I hope you’re one of the good fairies.”
The creature put her hands on her hips and sizzled with red sparks. “Fairy!” she snorted, stamping a bare foot. “My name’s Gabriella and I happen to be an angel, one of the cherub types. I’m in a hurry, so if you’re going to help me let’s get on with it. Oh dear.” Her temper evaporated. “I miscalculated badly. If I don’t get there on time the baby will have no soul and I’ll be disgraced. She began to look around her in panic. “Have you seen my soul bag? I had it in my hand when I hit the tree branches.”
Thoughts of snuggling back into her bed fled Millie’s mind. “If you don’t mind me saying, you don’t seem ... well ... competent enough for such an important task.”
“It’s my first assignment since my exam,” Gabriella said miserably. “If I fail, they’ll send me back into the nursery, and it will be an eternity before I can attempt to graduate. This is my second attempt. Last time I gave the wrong soul to the wrong child. They wouldn’t take the fact that I suffer from dyslexia into account.”
Millie had no idea what dyslexia was, but hoped it wasn’t infectious. “Goodness, that seems a bit harsh.”
“This time I have to succeed, or die in the attempt.”
Millie felt quite sorry for her. “I expect your bag’s still in the snowdrift, dear. I’ll go and look for it, then perhaps I can sew your wing back on for you.”
The bag was lying in a puddle of melted ice near the gate. It pulsated with blue and white light. Warm to the touch, Millie felt quite calmed by it.
“It’s a wonderful little soul,” Gabriella explained when she went back in. “This colour is rare and they’re in high demand. The baby will be equipped to become a healer - if its body survives the birth and if the soul doesn’t run out of energy. It should enter the host body before birth, really, but there’s a bit of leeway.”
Millie felt hopeful as she remembered her own great-grandchild. “My granddaughter is in labour at the moment.”
Gabriella smiled slightly. Taking a bit of paper from her pocket she squinted at it and said with great importance. “This soul is for a baby called Mary Saint.” She clapped a tiny hand over her rosebud mouth. “Forget I said that.”
Millie tried to forget it as she sewed the wing back into place with the neat hemming stitches she learned as a child - but she couldn’t help being a bit envious because the rare healing soul wasn’t destined for her great-grandchild. The operation must have hurt Gabriella, but she didn’t make a sound, which was rather brave of her, Millie thought. She appeared exhausted afterwards.
“I’ll have a short rest, then I must try and finish my journey. The child should be born about six am.”
Millie made Gabriella a cosy bed in one of her new sheepskin slippers. She kept watched over her, mainly because Leonardo had come downstairs, and was very interested in what the slipper contained. He had that look in his eye - the one he got when he thought he was still young and stalked birds.
“If anything happens to that angel I’ll throw you out in the snow,” she warned, and he jumped on her lap and rubbed his chin against hers and purred because he knew she’d do no such thing, and he’d got what he was after, anyway - her undivided attention.
Just after six the phone rang. Millie snatched it up. As expected, it was her daughter. “The baby’s a boy. He’s very tiny and the doctor doesn’t think he’ll survive.” Tears sprang to Millie’s eyes. “They’ve transferred them to Saint Mary’s, they’ve got a specialist baby unit there.”
Millie’s eyes snapped open. “Saint Mary’s!” It had to be more than a coincidence. “You mustn’t give up hope,” she said, trying not to sound too excited. “It’s Christmas, a time when miracles happen.”
She gently shook Gabriella awake. The angel wasn’t very responsive. Her eyes were dull and she was trembling. “I’m afraid I’ve caught an infection of some sort. I’m too sick to fly.”
A very strange idea formed in Millie’s head, one she wouldn’t have acted on under different circumstances. “Oh, you won’t have to fly. I have transport.”
She’d kept Frank’s old motor bike shiny and clean, but hadn’t been able to bring herself to part with it. Now and again she kick-started it, and until five years ago had ridden it to classic vehicle shows. She just hoped she could still remember how to drive the thing - her reflexes weren’t exactly what they used to be.
The leather flying jacket, hat and goggles - which had once belonged to her husband, and had flown all over Europe in a Spitfire during world war two - fit her with room to spare. Frank would have a fit if he knew what she was up to. Perhaps he did, though. Sometimes, he unexpectedly dropped by the cottage for a chat.
“Frank,” she said out loud, when she was pushing the heavy bike out of the garage. “You’d better help me with this thing. Our great-grandson’s life is at stake.”
The motor bike kick-started after a couple of backfires, which left sooty black rings in the snow. Millie let the engine run for a while, gazing down at Gabriella, tucked into the depths of the side-car in her sheepskin bed. The angel had lost some of her glow.
Millie ran her hand over the bike’s tank, remembering the summer days of her marriage, when she and Frank had toured the countryside on it. They’d had a wonderful fifty years together. She still missed Frank, even though he’d been gone for several years. These days, marriage didn’t seem to matter much. Millie couldn’t understand why people were reluctant to make a commitment to each other when they were in love - she couldn’t understand it at all.
The handlebars wobbled as she put the bike into gear and moved off in a cloud of smoke. But by the time she’d cleared the village - waving to an astonished vicar who was walking his dog before the early service - she’d gained a little confidence.
The roads were clear of snow, and the traffic was light. The dawn was cold, the air crisp. Soon, Millie’s fingers and feet were numb and her cheeks were glowing scarlet from the cold like a couple of ripe plums.
Behind the curtains of the houses she passed, she imagined children waking to excitedly delve into Christmas stockings. Turkeys would be stuffed and fitted into ovens, port decanted, carols sung and brandy flamed on Christmas puddings decorated with sprigs of holly.
Smoke curled up from chimneys. She waved to everyone she saw, shouting out, “Merry Christmas.” Bursting with seasonal cheer she drove into the hospital grounds and parked her vehicle in a space reserved for the hospital administrator, a Mr Merryweather. It was a name which conjured up a jolly, plump face smiling with benevolence.
Millie had a moment of doubt about Gabriella, who appeared quite spiritless. “Are you all right, my dear? You seem to have run out of sparkle.”
Gabriella gave her a wan smile. “The soul has lost a bit of its lustre. I’m trying to conserve the strength I have left. We should say good-bye now, Mrs Perkins. Don’t let anyone see you when you go to the nursery. Someone might try and stop you.”
“Oh, I thought you’d be spending Christmas with me, to recuperate before your journey home?”
“It’s impossible now, I’m afraid.”
When Millie realised why it was already too late. She’d sleuthed her way into the nursery and was gazing down at her tiny grandson. Born a month early, he was wired up to an extraordinary machine which bleeped rather erratically. He wore a little blue beanie on his head, which was rather sweet, and which brought a lump to her throat. He was totally captivating, and resembled her late husband, Frank, right down to his skinny, wrinkled legs.
She sensed Frank beside her now. “He’s going to make it, you know.”
“Yes, I know, Frank.” She’d seen the miracle herself, the almost imperceptible stream of life that had rippled through his body when Gabriella had anointed him with the soul. The light had grown too bright for her eyes and she’d closed them for a moment.
When she’d opened them again the angel had gone. Millie hoped the silent prayer she’d said for her would reach the right ears.
She and Frank kept watch together as the erratic bleeping of the baby’s heart strengthened. A nurse bustled in, her eyes intent on the monitor. She didn’t seem to notice her and went out again. Then, one tiny clenched fist waved in the air. The baby’s skinny legs quivered and stretched. His eyes opened and she thought she caught a glimpse of Gabriella.
“Thank you, Gabriella,” she said, and smiled.
It was a long journey back, but the cottage was warm and welcoming. Leonardo had become bored with his own company and had knocked a few coloured balls off the lower branches of the tree to amuse himself. She poured herself a well deserved glass of sherry, and was in the process of hanging the balls back on the branches when a laugh tinkled from somewhere above her.
“Gabriella?” She stopped what she was doing and stared at the top of the tree. In place of the dusty fairy Frank had won at the fun-fair several years before, was a tiny glowing angel. It twisted and turned in prisms of light. “Gracious!” she said and stared suspiciously into her glass.
The vicar dropped by later. She sensed he was as alone as she, so she invited him for lunch. She told him about Gabriella, showing him the sheepskin slipper, slightly luminous now, and the angel on top of the Christmas tree as evidence. He didn’t laugh at her, just told her she must be very special to have seen an angel, then went on to ask her about the motor bike.
She told the vicar all about her life with Frank, and allowed him to ride the bike up and down the road. He looked dashing on it. She thought she might bequeath it to him in her will.
She drank rather a lot of sherry that afternoon. So did the vicar - for his voice was slurred at the evening service, which didn’t really matter because most of the congregation had slurred voices as well. So, “While shepherds watched their flocks by night,” irreverently became, “While leopards washed their socks so bright,” it was sung with a great deal of gusto and laughter.
Millie began to giggle. The vicar smiled broadly at everyone, and when the carol was over he said he’d been inspired by the faith of one of his parishioners. He preached a fine sermon about Christmas miracles and angels who watched over newly born babes.
Her daughter rang her later in the evening, and she was jubilant. “The baby’s going to be fine, the specialist said. They’re going to call him Francis after dad, and Samantha and Joe have decided to get married. Isn’t that wonderful?”
“Wonderful indeed,” Millie said, knowing nothing else could surprise her this Christmas. As she said to Frank a little later, when she was having one of her private chats with him.
“Who would have imagined a fallen angel would land in my garden at Christmas?”

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Christmas Lists

The nearest it gets to Christmas, the longer my list of things to do seems to grow. Life gets muddled. I’ve been gradually addressing my Christmas cards, overseas ones first. Halfway through the list I forgot to cross the names off, and my helpful husband posted the already addressed cards. Now some people will be getting two because I can’t remember where I stopped on the list.

Since I last wrote I attended an awards luncheon for the West Australian Society of Women Writers. It’s always fun to get together with other writers, and the luncheon was no exception. The Christmassy lunch was expertly cooked and served by a team of young hospitality students, who are offered hands-on cooking experience at an aged pensioners centre, which is an early part of their training as chefs. News items about teenagers are often sad or detrimental to young people as a whole, so it’s good to be reminded that most young folk are decent, hard working citizens that their parents can be proud of. They just never get into the papers. The students at the Roy Edinger centre in Perth are no exception.

At the moment I’m preparing for my departure from Western Australia for England the day after boxing day. Finding warm clothes to wear is a problem, especially as I’m going from one extreme to the other. This visit is to celebrate my mothers 100th birthday, otherwise I wouldn’t be going to a cold climate in January. My mother (photograph above) was the middle child of a family of twelve siblings, the daughter of a fisherman. What an achievement to reach a century in age, imagine the changes that have taken place in that time. She is well looked after by my sister Daphne and her husband Edgar.

The tree is up, the lights are on. I may or may not blog again until after I’m back from my trip. It depends on how long my list, and I want to put some mileage on the book I’ve just started to write. Before Christmas I have a family party for 22, plus a luncheon for five for an English based writer friend who’s doing the reverse trip to mine (we cross paths for one day). So in case I don’t blog until January. A HAPPY CHRISTMAS AND A WONDERFUL NEW YEAR TO ALL!!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Edge of Regret

As I said a little while ago, my latest novel EDGE OF REGRET has been picked up by Severn House UK for March 30th release. The book is set mostly in Scotland. First in the city of Edinburgh with its beautiful architecture, then on to the breathtaking scenery of the Southern uplands.

I reported the news to Publisher’s Lunch and hey presto! The book has already been mentioned on three or four blogs by lovely people I’ve never met, as well as being advertised for ordering on a couple of sites.

I don’t mind telling you that I had great trouble writing EDGE OF REGRET for reasons that will be obvious if you read my last blog. Grey minds don’t always equate to grey writing. Nevertheless, I heaved a sigh of relief when it was accepted. I’m now looking forward to reading it in book form in an improved state of mind. In the meantime I’m getting on with another book, which will be a contemporary novel rather than my more usual historical novel.

This time of year there is always so much to do. We’ll be hosting a family Christmas party of about 22 people halfway through December. At the moment I’ve only bought gifts for the two youngest members of the family, so a marathon shopping spree is coming up. I love watching the kids faces as they open their gifts. It’s such a pleasure.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Helpful writer's sites and medical

Thanks Sandi and Luna for your praise and comments. Helpful sites for writers follow.
In the UK. Jacqui Bennet Bureau Writer's sites. Explore Anne Gracie's site and Paula Roe's site

Over a year ago I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I had no real symptoms, except those that could be easily be attributed to other causes.

The cancer was found quite by accident. I made my usual yearly visit to the optometrist for a check up. My eyesight hadn’t changed, but he was a bit worried about another aspect of my sight, so sent me to the eye specialist. The symptom I had was quite normal, but the eye specialist thought my carotid arteries were a bit soft.

I reported this my GP who duly send me for a Doppler scan. The arteries were okay, but the Doppler picked up some nodules on my thyroid. More films concentrating on my thyroid, showed a rather large nodule on the left side and some tiny ones on the right. Thyroid nodules as you grow older are fairly common, but I was sent to a specialist as a precaution. Tests indicated that it wasn’t cancer. However, the large nodule could have caused trouble, so it was arranged for the left side of my thyroid to be removed. Halfway through the operation a frozen section would be done to double check it wasn’t cancer. When I woke I was assured that no cancer cells were present. I was sent home.

A few days later the specialist rang to say more tests had been done by a suspicious pathologist and two types of cancer had been found. It was straight back in to have the rest of the thyroid removed. Luckily, both cancers were low grade, which was why they’d been hard to detect. But one type has just begun to invade the vascular system, which meant there was a chance it could have spread. A week ago I had radiation treatment, with no ill effects. The resulting follow up scan and tests show that the cancer hasn’t spread, and the likelihood of it reoccurring is highly unlikely.

I’m given to understand that thyroid cancer effects women more than men, so one of the reasons I’m writing about this is to inform women, and to urge them to get their thyroid gland checked, especially if they get unduly fatigued, or go to extremes of body temperature, such as sudden flushes or coldness. Sinus trouble, difficulty swallowing or a voice that soon becomes husky can also indicate thyroid problems, as can weight gain. For me the symptoms closely resembled menopause, which is what I put them down to. All I can say is, thank goodness for a vigilant optometrist who set the whole chain of events in motion.

Friday, October 12, 2007

This 'n' that

Today I’m four K lighter than the last time I blogged. It’s nice to discover that my pants no longer cut into the waist.

This week I’ve been handling entries for a contest. It amazes me how many aspiring writers are unable to properly read the rules of entry. There were entries without the entry fee, without the cover sheet, without the pen name. Only one entry was typewritten and blobbed with white-out, something that used to be fairly standard a few years ago. Nobody is perfect, and the odd mistake will always creep through, even in the best intentioned writer’s work. But doesn’t it stand to reason that a clean, well-presented manuscript that follows competition guidelines will signal that the writer cares. A slapdash and scruffily presented one states the opposite. But the more people who buy computers the more the visual standard of competition entries seem to improve. Love those spell-checkers, don’t you?

This week Severn House UK has accepted my sixth novel with them, and my twenty-first book over all. Oh, Joy! There’s nothing quite as affirming for a novelist as an acceptance. The publisher also contracted me for another book with a May deadline. Writing novels is such an uncertain occupation, and it’s good to know I remain employed as an author through to next year. All I need now is an idea and some inspiration!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Book Reviews

If you think the book jacket is familar, you’re right. It’s been posted on the blog before. But the book has since received three wonderful reviews so I couldn’t resist putting it up again.
I’ve had to edit the reviews to get down to the nitty-gritty, so I hope the reviewers will forgive me for that. And while I’m here, thank you to all the people who write to me. It’s heartening for any writer to learn that their books are being enjoyed by readers.

The Coal Gatherer Top Pick! - Sept 07

Janet Woods sure knows how to cook up a tear jerker. Right from the very start of THE COAL GATHERER I knew that this was going to be a book that I would love. The ending is just superb—I could not have asked for better, and I have decided that I am truly in love with Janet Woods' stories! . . . Kristal Gorman - Romance Reader at Heart.

The Coal Gatherer 4.5 stars - Sept 07

Engrossing, enchanting and written straight from the heart. Janet Woods once again proves herself to be a talented storyteller. Featuring characters so richly drawn that it’s impossible not to care about them, The Coal Gatherer is a novel that is as impossible to put down as it is to forget. Saga addicts will devour Janet Woods’ latest tale in a single sitting . . . Cata Romance - Single titles reviewer - Julie Bonello

The Coal Gatherer

Woods has created an engaging historical novel filled with emotion and starring a memorable heroine . . . American Library Association - Booklist Oct 07 edition.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Do you like limericks?

The week has been productive. At the start, Australian Woman’s Day magazine has accepted a short story called “Julie and Rex”. This will be my 15th story with the magazine over the years. Having the story accepted put me back into short story mode, so I wrote a second short story and entered that for an anthology.

Doing this delayed the completion of my current book. I have at the moment just over two chapters to go to complete the first draft, and have left the heroine locked in the wine cellar in an uncomfortable and dangerous state. It’s back to rescue her today with the hero being heroic.

Do you like Limericks? I think they’re fun to write. Three follow. They won first prize in a limerick competition a few years ago, and this is the first airing they’ve had since.

There once was a farmer named Worgan
Who liked to play Bach on his organ.
His toccata and fugue
Put in bull in the mood,
And his bellows were heard in Glamorgan.

There was an old woman in Dorset
Who couldn’t climb out of her corset.
She struggled and cursed,
But just made things worse
When she got tangled up on the faucet.

An aerobics instructor once said,
“My legs reach the back of my head.”
But she got in a stew
When she swallowed a shoe
And knocked out her tonsils instead.

Janet Woods © 2007

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Blackberry Jam

It’s autumn. Behind the cottage in Brackstone Wood the mosses are cold and velvety to the touch. The air smells of mould, leaf litter and mushrooms.
‘We may be lucky and see goblins,’ Jessie used to tell her granddaughters when they were small.

Chloe is expected on Thursday. The furniture has been polished, the chair covers - faded blue linen - have been cleaned of cat’s hair.
Cat, for that’s the only name he answers to, is chased to the floor by the roaring maw of the vacuum cleaner. Now a ball of frazzled tabby under the telephone table, his tail moves dust back and forth across the floorboards. ‘There, there,’ I soothe, stooping to tickle his chin, and he comes to purr and weave against my ankles.
The cottage is redolent of lavender, beeswax and countless years.
Chloe brings with her a box of exotic orchids. Her eyes dart towards the teapot, a gaiety of pink roses and gold rims.
‘You shouldn’t use that. It’s an antique.’
‘Grandma has always used it. It belonged to her mother.’
‘If it chips it will lose its value?’
‘Not if it still functions as a teapot.’
The initial skirmish over, Chloe looks away to fuss with the orchids. ‘What shall I do with these? I carried them all the way from Singapore.’
‘Arrange them in a vase while I make us some tea. You know where the scullery is.’
The pipes judder and groan as water is forced through them. Through the kitchen window the garden stretches in a glorious riot of colour towards an overgrown blackberry thicket. Its thorny arms droop with the weight of its fruit.
‘The grass needs mowing,’ Chloe says, needing something to criticise.
‘Josh will be here this afternoon. He’ll do it.’
‘You remember Joshua Harrison.’
Chloe flicks a scimitar of dark hair back from her face with a scornful toss of her head. ‘He had a crush on me once. Didn’t he have a sister?’
‘Annie. She married the dairyman. They have a little shop to catch the passing trade and serve cream teas in their conservatory. Grandma sells them blackberry jam.’
Chloe touches the bones of her hips, reassuring herself of their existence. ‘I don’t eat cream. As I recall, Josh never had much ambition.’
I smile at such a notion. ‘He became a doctor.’
Chloe’s long fingers snap the stems of the orchids as she measures them against the brown stone jug used for spring daffodils.
‘That jug is wrong for orchids.’ I fetch a wine carafe bought in the church jumble sale and tell her, ‘Josh is looking forward to meeting you again.’
The exotic beauty of the orchids is out of place in the homely cottage.
‘How’s Richard?’ I ask her.
Silence stretches for a few moments. Richard had driven into their lives in a red sports car. He’d stayed a week, a man so handsome and exciting I could hardly draw a solid breath when I’d looked at him. But he’d come with a price I hadn’t wanted to pay. He’d turned his sights on Chloe. She’d left with him, the dreams in her eyes replaced by a grim reality.
My sister’s suffering shows in her face, so I kiss her cheek. Chloe expects such gestures and allows a pensive sigh to escape. ‘Richard shouts at me, and he has affairs.’ Her voice breaking, Chloe comes into my arms and we hold each other tight.
I wish I didn’t love Chloe quite so much as I murmur, ‘He’s not worth it . . . you’re better off without him.’
‘Oh, I’m not, I’m not!’ she cries, pushing me away. ‘You’ve always been jealous because he picked me instead of you.’
Space thickens between us. The kettle on the hob begins to sing, the lid rattles and steam spouts. The sun moves a fraction, sending a beam of light through the dusty window. Dust motes dance inside it.
‘Remember when grandma used to stir them with her hand and say, “Fairies, girls. Watch them twirl and dance.” ’
As if thinking of the old lady brings her forth a quavering call comes from the sitting room. ‘Has Chloe arrived yet?’
Rump in the air, Cat claws the rag rug into untidy ridges. Soon, he’ll pay his visit to the sitting room. He knows which windowsill the sun will shine on at any given time of day.
‘Why don’t you take grandma the flowers and have a chat with her,’ I suggest. ‘I’ll join you with some tea, shortly.’
Chloe glides off on tortured feet, looking as deceptively delicate as a reed in the wind. Her hair is drawn back, her dark bun tied with a velvet ribbon. Elfin eyes dart this way and that. White chiffon drifts over blushing satin.
‘I’ve brought you some flowers, Grandma,’ Chloe says brightly.
‘How lovely they are, my dear. What are they?’
‘Orchids, they grow like weeds in Singapore.’ I imagine Chloe giving a shrug.
‘It’s wonderful to see you. How pretty you look in that dress.’
‘It’s an old thing I bought in Paris last year.’
My own outfit is sensible, a blue-checked blouse hanging loosely over jeans. Careless curls spring against my smoothing palms.
Cat strolls by, does a pirouette before crabbing sideways on his way to the sitting room.
I tell him, ‘In case you’ve got grand ideas, there’s no room for another prima ballerina in the family. I found that out the hard way.’
‘Is she looking after you properly?’ Chloe whispers as, timing it nicely, Cat slides swiftly through the closing door.
Later, I take the tea tray through, setting it on the table without a flicker of the annoyance I feel. ‘Perhaps you’d like to pour the tea, Chloe.’
‘This teapot is an antique, you should be careful with it, Grandma?’ Chloe points out, taking a firm grasp of the handle.
‘It belonged to my mother.’ Grandma turns away from Chloe to exchange a smile with me. ‘The blackberries need picking if we’re to have some jam this season.’
‘I’ve planned it for this afternoon. Josh will help me. Perhaps Chloe can give us a hand.’
Chloe yawns. ‘I’ll probably take a nap after lunch.’

It’s the afternoon. The air smells of Indian summer and cut grass. French widows, peeling white paint and framed by wisteria, open to the patio, where yellow daisies and purple alyssum grow amongst the cracked grey flagstones.
Grandma is seated on her chair inside the door, a position from where she used to watch us play as children. Song birds flutter down to peck at the crumbs she scatters.
Josh’s voice is quiet against my ear, but there’s an element of anger in it. ‘There’s nothing more I can do for Jessie. She left it too late.’
Tears prick my eyes and he draws me against his chest to kiss the top of my head. Dearest Josh, always my friend. More than that now.
I touch his cheek. ‘Let’s get these damned berries picked. Grandma is determined to make a batch of blackberry jam this year.’
His lips graze gently against mine. ‘I love you,’ he says and my heart melts with the unexpected joy of being told.
‘Hi, Josh.’ Chloe’s voice is husky. Framed by the window, her body gleams in a white leotard and tights. Long, supple thighs support her arms which, in turn, supports her chin. Her hair tumbles darkly and a rose glows red against her cheek.
Josh sucks in a breath.

The cauldron of jam bubbles and spits, an aroma of sugar and fruit fills the house. Glass jars stand to attention, a cane basket holds labels, waxed circles and frilled covers.
Chloe is petulant. ‘I’ve always hated this smell. I think I’ll drop into the surgery. Josh might take me for a spin.’
‘A nice lad, is Josh,’ Grandma says from her vantage point in the rocking chair. Chloe mutters something under her breath as she drifts away in a haze of discontent.
‘You’d better put those jars to warm.’ Jars in the oven . . . watch the pan doesn’t go off the boil . . . don’t burn yourself. Jam coats the back of the spoon.
My fingers stain purple. Grandma tastes my offering and nods. ‘Best jam I ever made.’
Ten minutes later the jars are gowned in their frills.
I haven’t seen grandma so well for a long time. Chloe’s visit has done her good. I’ve never missed a season yet,’ she says. ‘Allow the jars to cool before you move them, my love.’
‘You must be tired. Go back to the sitting room and I’ll bring you a cup of tea.’
She gives me an old-fashioned hug after I’ve helped her up, one usually reserved for arrivals and departures. ‘I’ll have a little nap first. Give mother’s teapot a good scrub, would you? Chloe seems to set quite a store by it. She can take it with her.’
Cat follows grandma into the sitting room. Ten minutes later he returns to offer me a dubious meow.
The sitting room smells of dead orchids.

Richard arrives in the middle of Chloe’s hysterics. She leaps into his embrace, as graceful as a gazelle. ‘I’m so glad you’ve come. I’ve had a dreadful time of it and I’ve missed you so much.’
Richard looks suitably worshipped. ‘I came as soon as I was able,’ he tells her. Pinching her upper arm he shrieks. ‘Oh, my God... flab!’
Chloe pouts.
Richard turns to gaze at me, his smile neon. ‘You resemble Chloe so you must be her sister,’
‘Eve,’ I tell him. ‘We met before, when I was little more than a child.’
‘Ah...yes. Didn’t you dance, too?’
‘She wasn’t good enough and you chose me,’ Chloe snaps. ‘Besides, someone had to stay and look after grandma.’
I grin like an idiot, thankful for small mercies.
‘Is there a will?’ Chloe suddenly demands to know.
‘Grandma had nothing to leave.’
The elfin eyes harden. ‘The cottage must be worth a bit.’
‘She sold it, long ago.’
‘Sold it? To whom? What did gran do with the money?’
Telling her will be sweet. ‘Josh bought the cottage so grandma could pay for your dancing expenses over the years.’
Chloe goes quiet.
‘Your sister and I will live here when we marry,’ Josh tells her, then grins self-consciously.
I always knew his proposal wouldn’t be romantic, but my smile tells him he’s worked it out to our mutual satisfaction.
I remember the teapot and sense an opportune time to hand it to the simmering Chloe. ‘Grandma wanted you to have this. Take some blackberry jam with you too, if you like.’
‘You know I hate blackberry jam. The stuff is so bloody provincial.’
‘Up to you, of course. I’m going for a walk up through the woods. Coming, anyone?’
The only taker is Josh, who fetches my jacket from the hook by the door.
There’s a crash just after we leave, as if the teapot has been thrown at the wall - as if Chloe discovered that removing the stains had revealed the crack in the spout.
I’m going to miss the old teapot.

It’s a glorious autumn. Leaves rustle in the breeze, drift down from the trees and crunch under our feet. The undergrowth is peppered with glowing chestnuts. Then we are out in the open. Ahead of us is a stretch of shining sea where gulls wheel on silver wings.
My eulogy is short. ‘Thank you for the home you made for me, and for Chloe. Enjoy your wings, Grandma. I’ll miss you.’
Her ashes are sent journeying on the wind.
Josh takes my hand in his. ‘Perhaps she’ll make it to New York in time for the ballet season.’
‘I hope she returns in time for our wedding.’ I kiss his cheek, loving him as he draws me into his arms. ‘I do love you, Josh. Let’s go back home.’
‘Scones and blackberry jam for tea?’ he says, and smiles when I nod.

Friday, September 7, 2007

An up and down week

It’s been an up and down week. To start with I had a flurry of lovely letters from readers, which meant I had just as many to write in return. Luckily, the letters are usually brief and to the point. Readers letters seem to come in bunches rather than being evenly spaced. Usually they’re pleasant and complimentary. I’ve only had two that haven’t been, and one of those was downright insulting and rude. It’s tempting to be rude in reply when it’s clear people have set out to provoke you. I don’t see the point of giving strangers the satisfaction of getting what they’re aiming for - a slanging match. I’ve got better things to do with my time. On Tuesday I started my writing day by spilling a cup of tea into my keyboard and over the desk. Three days later it’s dried out and in good working order again. I had a two short story acceptances this week, one for inclusion in an anthology the other for a popular womens' magazine. I’ve also written another short story this week, instead of getting on with my novel, which I temporarily abandoned when I ran into a problem. I find that if I do something else in the meantime my brain will come up with a solution, as it has on this occasion. I like writing short stories, so writing two one after the other was a nice little feast. But now it’s back to my novel.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Cleaning the office

September already. Here in Australia we’ve just gone into spring, and the plane trees in the area where I live are beginning to grow their leaves, which at the moment are a tender and delicate shade of green. As befitting spring, this week I’ve learned that there’s to be a welcome addition to our extended family.

Yesterday I reached the three-quarter mark of the book I’m working on. It has the working title of “Amber Rose”, after the main character - though that might change. Three-quarters is an important milestone. The first quarter of a book is fairly easy to write when you are racing ahead to establish plot, motivation, and getting to know your characters. The second quarter is slightly slower, when secondary characters and subplots are being introduced, as well as the main plot being carried forward. Then comes the third quarter. This is where the writing tends to fall flat if it’s going to. I really slow down at his stage and sometimes it becomes a chore to find ways to keep the excitement up. So this is where I finished yesterday. Poised on top of the hill.
Now I’m going to have a short rest to get my second wind. Since it’s fathers day here, I’ll leave my dusty cave at the end of the house and become a human being and welcome my family when they come to visit dad. Then tomorrow (and Monday has always been my favourite day) I’ll start the race downhill to the finish, weaving the subplots together, solving the conflicts and tying all the ends together, slotting everything together like a jigsaw puzzle.
After that I’ll deflate with a sigh of relief, look round my office and see the dust that’s accumulated during the writing of this book. Then I’ll don my domestic goddess hat, pick up my duster and set to work, cleaning up after the last lot of imaginary visitors and getting ready to welcome the next.
Odd, but I can’t seem to set to and clean my office when I’m writing a book. Likewise I can’t start a new book until my office is clean and tidy.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Again this week I’ve done work outside of my office, travelling to the Katherine Susannah Prichard writing centre in Greenmount, which is a 35 minute drive from where I live. Odd to think that I’ve been writing for 20 years and have never visited this little country cottage where one of Australia’s most famous writers used to live. There, I addressed a creative writing class, where my book BROKEN JOURNEY was dissected and discussed. Amazing how 3 hours can pass so quickly in pleasant company.

BROKEN JOURNEY, which was released early this year by Severn House UK is basically a love story between Jilly and Alec. It begins in 1944 towards the end of the second world war, when the main characters are children. From there it weaves the journey their lives take over 40 years, a journey where their friendship being threatened by distance, and the love that grows when they’re brought together again. Threaded through is the trauma of the birth of Jilly’s first child, who she was forced to give up for adoption, and the subsequent reunion that eventually takes place. Booklist, the journal of the American Library Association, reviewed it thus: “Woods gives readers a sweet and gentle story about lonely souls overcoming adversity.”

Thursday, August 16, 2007

It’s been an interesting week. Last weekend I was one of the resident authors on the Romance Writers of Australia, online conference. It was busy in the chat room, with writing questions being fired at me from near and far. Hard to keep up with them, let alone answer them with any great wisdom or thought. It was good fun though, and it was nice to catch up with fellow writers online - especially those who couldn’t attend the “real” conference in Melbourne, where there was a line up of romance writing stars like Jennifer Crusie and Anne Stuart.

Since then I’ve been scrambling to get going with my current book, which is a historical romance, catch up with answering readers letters, and with friends.
Yesterday I had lunch with former critique partners Wendy Evans, who was a journalist before she took up fiction writing, and Sharon Milburn, Sharon writes in the regency genre, and has two books published. Her latest is published by Cerridwen Press, is titled CAPTAIN’S LADY and is gathering a plethora of good reviews. I can personally recommend this book, which is available online from Book Depository postage free to anywhere in the world, at the moment.

Thursday, August 9, 2007


Hi, I’m Janet Woods. I was born and raised in Dorset UK. I’m a novelist and I live in Western Australia. This blog is to mostly showcase my latest books, but I hope to chat now and again about anything that takes my fancy.

I usually alternate between saga and historical romance. Both showcased books are sagas. One set in Dorset, the other near West Hartlepool in Durham, where my mother was born. I wrote the “The Coal Gatherer” as a tribute to her for her upcoming 100th birthday early in the new year.

My previous publications can be found on my web site:

The Convict’s Woman
Janet Woods
Simon & Schuster - Pocket Books
ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-0253-1
ISBN-10: 1-4165-0253-X
August 07: £6.99

The Convict’s Woman.

Framed for a crime he didn’t commit and sentenced to seven years’ transportation, former stable lad Seb Cornish returns to his Dorset home with old scores to settle. Above all, he seeks revenge against the young girl who unwittingly betrayed him all those years before.

Amanda Lapsly is now a beautiful young woman, but impoverished and without protection. Her vulnerability attracts Seb. To obtain the vengeance he seeks, he must win her trust - and her hand in marriage. But Amanda has already been promised to one man – while her heart belongs to another.

Will Amanda fall for Seb’s trap? Three men desire her - but only one can offer her unconditional love. Will she make the right choice?

The Coal Gatherer

Janet Woods
Severn House Ltd
ISBN: 987-0-7278-6546-5
Price: £18.99
Aug 30th 07

This is an engrossing saga set in the North East of Victorian England. As the sixth of Mary Ingram’s surviving children, Calandra - known as Callie - determines from an early age that she will not follow in her beloved mother’s footsteps. Married into a fisherman’s family near Hartlepool, Mary’s life is one of hard work, unrelenting poverty and narrow horizons.

One day, whilst gathering sea coal at the water’s edge, Callie meet Patricia Lazurus and her brother James. Though their backgrounds are very different - the Lazurus children’s great-uncle, with whom they are staying, is a lawyer - a friendship is forged that will last for ever. When Great-Uncle Harold offers Callie the post of companion to Patricia, it is the first step in her journey to a better life...and lasting love.