Sunday, December 18, 2011


It's a while since I wrote some of these romantic shorts stories, and publishing a collection of them wasn't really feasible - until electronic publishing came along.

I had fun choosing which stories would go into the collection. Those picked were stories I thought were truly romantic, as well as being a bit on the adventurous side, they also suited all age groups. Oddly - because I haven't had a dog own me for several years, I also noticed that dogs feature as secondary characters in many of my stories. So these stories will suit dog lovers, as well. Oh yes, and there's a dolphin called Dora for music lovers . . .

With that little teaser I'll wish everyone a terrific Christmas, and get back to my editing.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Runner up in the SWW,WA Bronze Quill award for poetry

I'm a novelist and short story writer. I rarely write poetry, and know nothing about structure or poetical terms. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of poems I've written. Problems I come across is never being able to judge whether my poetry efforts are actually finished, since the more I look, the more words and phrases I find to replace another word or phrase with. And what does a poet do with a poem after it's written? My small store of verse is lurking in my poetry file, never to see the light of day again. I entered this one in a competition. There were one-hundred other entries, and my offering became the runner-up. There was an amount of money and a certificate. And then, there was the judge, a successful and deservedly respected poet in his own right. He saw something in my entry that worked for him as a poem. Last, but not least there is space on my blog . . .

Twelve months in an English village

1) I went there in the summer.

Waves of wheat, waves of water
Undulate and curl over the child,
A naked creature unashamed in hat
Sunshade and smoothed zinc balm.
She attracts a crust of sand grains, like
Sunday’s rhubarb crumble and cream.
Wasps in stripes drink cola and
Sharpen stingers in sugar.
Crabs swell inside their carapaces.
Boats slice the sea and cast sails wide
To capture the fuel in the wind
And follow the ferries to France.

2) It feels like autumn now

Soggy, the forest floor disturbs
Aromas of decay and mushrooms.
Above, fall wears drifts of metallic colours,
Brass, copper, gold, and bronze
Hazelnuts slide from shells and spiral
Blackberries plump drip and prick
Days shrink into contemplation as
Earth meditates to slow each heartbeat.
Like squirrels we scurry to store.
Apples lie in the attic, nuts nudge
Shoulders in jars, plums stew in syrup
And mice nibble in the grain.

3) So this is what winter is like?

The mist swallows the thatch
An apple tree tangled and gnarled
Splays naked limbs against a wall
Splashed with gaudy lichen.
Orange and red berries kiss pearls
Of mistletoe, holly stabs the air
Lies in wait for the draughts to stir and
Scratches fingernails against shutters
To mark the haunting hours.
The captive is offered no comfort by the firelight.
The remains of the hibernation rarely stirs
But the slap of the sea on shore is a frenzy.

4) A spring thing happens!

The pines have an over-abundance of sap.
Streams of slow, seeping amber captures a gnat
And congeals. It claims a maiden’s finger
Or presses a golden toffee against her breast.
Beneath the bridge the water scurries
And froths. Such a carry-on of drakes
Parading their territory like battleships,
Lady ducks are imprisoned by egg clutches.
Speckled troutlings dart in dappled light
Buds unfold into lambent country dancers,
A fiesta against a sky drenched in lapis lazuli
To celebrate a fruitful copulation.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Daughter of Darkness

History of this novel.

(Warning - blatant Promo!)

1996. In manuscript form, Daughter of Darkness took third place in a national competition run by Australian Women’s Day/Random House.

2001. “Daughter of Darkness” was published in hardcover by Robert Hale Ltd. UK, and mainly for libraries distribution.

2002. It won the mainstream section in the Australian, Romantic Book of the year Award.

2002 – 2010. It was read by library patrons, and gathered dust. A copy was listed as “lost” in a New Zealand library. I was a bit chuffed to think someone might have liked it enough to steal it . . . but, then, perhaps they wanted it for a doorstop! I never checked back to discover if it had turned up.

2010. Toot de la toot! I got the rights back, blew the dust off, and to my surprise, went international.

Belgrave House USA transformed it into an ebook. Then Brazilian publisher, Nova Cultural picked it up and translated it into Portuguese. Shades of Carmen Miranda! (She wore hats made of baskets of fruit and shook her hips like crazy) Can’t remember her? Well okay . . . you can probably look her up.

To move on . . . shortly, another English version of “Daughter of Darkness” will be released by large print publisher, Magna. Hopefully, the latter will replenish dwindling library stocks, as well as New Zealand doorstops.

Now we have the latest version, in downloadable audio form, and recently released by IAMBIK of Canada. I got to pick the reader from voice auditions, and chose Tadhg Hynes, who has a lovely Irish lilt to his voice. I think the rest of him is invisible, since I can only find a photograph of his glasses, and suspect he may be a leprechaun.

Anyway, here’s a plug for my Canadian version, which can be downloaded very cheaply from iambic . . . I love the cover. It makes me want to sing Wagner! Don’t worry; I’ll spare you that little treat! Instead, I’ll say hello to my Canadian readers. I know I have a few, since I get letters from them now and again.

About this book.

Set around 1750 in Dorset, DAUGHTER OF DARKNESS is the story of Willow Givanchy, daughter of a reputed witch and a corrupt Marquess.

A marriage is arranged, and Gerard Lytton is tricked into becoming the groom to the reluctant bride.

This is a slightly gothic tale, but not horror driven. It’s a story-driven romance. A raven appears . . . deaths follow. Against all odds, Willow and her husband fall in love.

Try it! Listen to the exerpt . . .

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Filha das Trevas

One of my early books (Daughter of Darkness, in English) has recently been translated into Portuguese by NOVA CULTURAL. This is a first translation for me after 24 years of writing. I'm pleased with this cover so I'm showing it off. Not only is the model gorgeous, the colour of her hair and eyes matches those of my heroine exactly.

I can just imagine her occupying Willow's shoes

Friday, September 30, 2011

PS. Tall Poppies.

Sorry . . . I forgot to say that TALL POPPIES is published by Severn House and will be officially available on 29th December 2011


One Woman - Two loves.England 1918

If it's not enough that a girl from a good background is forced to work as a maid, Livia Carr is then violated by the master of the house and becomes pregnant. Her only course is to marry the son of the house. Richard Sangster is an invalid, a world war one hero. He is not expected to live, and he offers Livia and the child legitimacy, as well has his name and estate. Livia grows to love Richard, but even though it's expected, his death comes as a great blow to her. Into the breach steps Livia's first love, and Richard's closest friend, surgeon, Denton Elliot. But will he desert Livia when the secret of the child's parentage is revealed to him. . .?

Note from Author.

When I came up with the idea of a woman who loved two men equally, I was a bit dubious that I could pull it off, and still create reader empathy with my two leading men. I was also worried that making one of them an invalid might be going a step too far - and wondered, would I capture them as authentic as men with their own point of view? I'm assured that I did. In the words of my editor, who is a man, "I thought this was a wonderful story that keeps you gripped until the very last pages – very glad there was a happy ending after so much strife!

Monday, September 26, 2011



RRAH's THOUGHTS AND PONDERINGS: www. romancereaders at Top Pick!

Celia Jane Laws is only fifteen years-old, yet she’s had to shoulder so much through her young life, and that is what gives this young woman her strength. Life in the slums of London is not what she wants, and it’s not what she’s willing to accept; to that end, she will do almost anything it takes to pull herself and her family out of it.

The journey she takes is one of determination, and the combination of her skill and proficiency, which earns her the moniker of Lady Lightfingers, along with her quick wit, you’ll root her on and rejoice in her triumph.

Along the way, Ms. Woods introduces us to some characters that are unforgettable, like Alice Laws, Celia’s mother, who fights the good fight and, against all odds, teaches her daughter that morals are never to be abandoned.

Then there's Thomas Hambert, a man that out of the goodness of his heart, takes an interest in a bright and curious mind of a child-woman who lifts his watch, and is determined to help her reach her full potential. James Kent, Thomas’ nephew, is a young man with great prospects of his own, and someone that is full of doubts in regards to the ‘beggar girl’ that his uncle is determined to help; he, likewise, is determined to make sure Thomas is not taken advantage of. There's Johnny Archer, a boy with nothing to his name but a small cart who ‘attaches’ himself to Celia and grows on us while he does the same to her!

And last, but not least, we have Charles Curtis, a young and arrogant man that offers a madam of a whore house a substantial amount of money for Celia’s services, and sets into motion events that would teach him a thing or two about redemption, love, and sacrifice.

If you love authors such as Carla Kelly, Georgette Heyer, and that incomparable of them all, Jane Austen, you will love LADY LIGHTFINGERS. The romance of it more than makes up for the lack of sensuality and heat that you might be looking for, and I highly recommended this story of pure love.

Melanie Friedman

Copyright © 2001-2011 Romance Reader at Heart

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

LADY LIGHTFINGERS - Booklist review.

Review – Lady Lightfingers.
Although Celia Laws is only a teenager, she is a proficient pickpocket supplementing her family's meagre earnings in order to survive in the slums of mid-nineteenth-century London. Her mother is from a respectable family, but she was abandoned while pregnant by her husband, and forced out of the family home by a conniving stepmother. Even in their reduced circumstances, however, she did teach her daughter how to read. One of Celia's more daring escapades involves Charles Curtis. He perceives the beauty hidden by rags and dirt, and longs to know the identity of this light-fingered thief. He offers a large sum of money to a local madam to out her, but her search induces Celia to runaway to relatives in Dorset. Her sweet Aunt Harriet tries to make Celia into a proper young woman, but her past, and the determined Charles Curtis, catch up to her. The ever-popular Woods offers her avid readers a lovely and thoughtful historical romance that delves into poverty and injustice, as well as the power of attraction. Triumphant! Booklist, September 15, 2011

Friday, August 12, 2011

Red Dog

With the film of Red Dog now topical, I remembered a poem I wrote when we lived in the Pilbara, and it won a local competition. I'd had contact with Red several times previous to that, when he was a local legend. A year after Red died there was a competition to remember him by, run by the local newspaper. I've dug out my winning entry from my archives, and have edited it a little. I'm not the greatest poet on earth (or anything near it!) But anyway, I hope anyone who reads it, enjoys it.

Red Dog.

A dog stood at the pearly gates, it made a fearful din.
“I know my master’s in there, mate, so you’d better let me in.
For years I’ve roamed the Pilbara, from inland to the shore
When finally I found his trail it led me to your door.

In every man I’ve found a friend, you know the nor’west breed.
They’d lift me up when I was down and give a dog a feed.
God bless the truckies in the heat, they gave me rides to save my feet.
I had a banker and a vet . . . a place to doss at in the wet.

I’m done with travelling in the west, I’m weary and in need of rest.
But I think it would be grand if I could lick my old mate’s hand.”

So Red Dog found his place at last – he left the great nor’west.
His legend merges with the past, part of the Pilbara’s best.

Red are the sunsets, red the rocks, red the dust that coats the docks.
Red’s the dog that left his spoor in the Pilbara dust and iron ore.

(Janet Woods © 1981 revised 2011)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Paper Doll

Review: Paper Doll – Janet Woods
"An exciting tale of forbidden passion, family secrets and cruel betrayals, Paper Doll is a vivid tale set during the 1920s sure to go down a treat with fans of historical fiction."

As the much-loved only daughter of a rich widower, Julia Howard is used to having her every whim and desire indulged by a father who worships the ground she walks on. Julia’s life is one constant whirl of high society parties and excessive shopping, but the cosseted socialite is unaware of the financial difficulties which her father is in. The toy manufacturing business that has been in the Howard family for generations is experiencing some financial difficulties, but Julia’s father is not ready to relinquish the reins of the company. He will fight tooth and nail to keep the business afloat, so he hires Dr. Martin Lee-Trafford to hopefully turn the family’s fortunes around.

Julia is less than impressed with her father’s choice of manager. For one thing, Dr. Lee-Trafford has got no experience when it comes to running a successful business; and secondly, capricious Julia finds her father’s newest employee to be a conventional stuffed shirt who is old beyond his years. The family’s financial problems, however, have certainly not affected Julia’s social life – or her desire to lose her virginity. However, when Julia’s plans to surrender her virginity go awry, she is relieved to be rescued by suave, sophisticated and charismatic businessman Latham Miller.

Latham Miller had dragged himself out of the gutter and become one of the richest men in England. Now in his forties, Latham is looking forward to settling down and he has fixed his sights firmly on Julia Howard – and on her father’s ailing business. Latham always gets what he wants, and even though initially Julia is opposed to the idea of marrying a man who is so much older than her, when tragedy strikes, lonely Julia finds herself turning to Latham. Accepting his marriage proposal seems like the sensible solution, but the married bliss that Julia had planned fails to materialize…

Latham has got no intention of remaining faithful. Betrayed, humiliated and dejected, Julia turns to her only friend, Martin. Julia quickly realizes that beneath Martin’s aloof exterior lies a kind, caring and gentle man. Julia has now fallen head over heels in love with Martin, but how can the two of them ever hope to have a future together when Julia is wed to another?

One of the genre’s most consistent writers, award-winning author Janet Woods has once again penned another winner with Paper Doll. A wonderfully written and immensely vivid romantic tale, Paper Doll is a gripping tale of sacrifice, redemption and second chances that is sure to hold readers spellbound.
As always, Janet Woods’ creates superb characters that leap off the pages and the heroine of Paper Doll, Julia Howard, is certainly no exception. It is a testament to Janet Woods’ extraordinary storytelling prowess that she managed to transform Julia from a spoilt and cosseted heiress into a strong, sensitive and sensible woman the reader could relate to and cheer for. I also liked the depth and nuances that she gave to other characters, such as Martin Lee Trafford, Latham Miller and Julia’s friend, Irene.An exceptional tale from a true mistress of the genre, Paper Doll is another triumph for the wonderful Janet Woods!

Julie Bonello - Single Titles - * * * *

Paper Doll is about to be released in trade paperback, and is available online from the usual bookshops for £10.00

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Historicals Never Die 2

Not long after I published my last post, my latest e novel from Belgrave House went online and is now available from.

Blurb . . . To prevent the loss of his estate in a wager, Remy St Cyres agrees to abduct and wed the first woman who comes through the inn door. Fleur Russell is that woman. And, her reputation ruined, her brothers—who half kill her abductor—insist on marriage. The son of a Spaniard, Remy is recruited as a spy in England’s war with Spain. A tale of betrayal, revenge and untimely love… Georgian Historical Romance by Janet Woods; originally published by Robert Hale [UK]

Friday, July 15, 2011

Historical Novels Never Die.

Historical novels never die.

As soon as a book is published there is a reaction from family and friends, convinced the author has become an instant millionaire. Some do, but alas . . . not many, and not this author. Writing is not a rags-to-riches occupation for most. When told the truth, non-writers often give a lift of the eyebrow, and a pull-the-other-leg-it’s-got-bells-on, expression.

It’s true. Some talented people do zoom up the ladder to instant fame and fortune, but other, often equally talented people don’t, especially with a first book. Many people who have stories to tell give up too soon. Others plod on.

When my first historical novel was published about 12 years ago I was delighted beyond measure. In manuscript form DAUGHTER OF DARKNESS, which is Georgian Gothic in nature, had been a runner up in a competition run by a women’s magazine. The book was published by a library book publisher a year or so later, one specializing in producing hard-covers. Dollar signs flashed before my eyes.

It was, in fact, the first step on a very long ladder, one whose heights I haven’t scaled yet. As an unknown writer – at its best – my book would have sold about three hundred copies, I imagine. As my first book baby, I saw no fault in this well-produced and attractive hardcover, which turned out to be the first of many.

In 2002 DAUGHTER won the R*by award, which, for those not in the know, is the competition run by the Romance Writers of Australia, for their published writers. This organization is of benefit for anyone writing romance based novels, whether mainstream or genre, well published, or a noviciate. However, I’m not here to plug the RWAus - which at the time of writing is celebrating it’s first twenty years of existence though I do urge budding authors to join one or more of the many writers organizations and E lists available to them in different countries since their aim is your aim – to get you into print through various means.

So . . . back to the progress of one lone book. After it breathed its last gasp on the initial publisher run, the manuscript sat on my shelf, neglected and unread. From time to time a library patron would writes to remind me of its existence, and I’d drag my first born out of its cobwebby corner to gaze upon it with a twinge of pride. Oddly, the female on the cover of the original hardcover version is the image of my middle daughter.

One of the benefits of historical novels is that the contents never die (unless the files corrupt, but that’s another issue altogether!) History never changes - never dates. You never have to re-edit to bring a past era up to date. You never have to add a mobile phone, a computer, a deodorant, a telephone, or alter the length of a hem.

I’ve since applied and received the rights back to what was, to all intents and purposes several dead and forgotten books, though I had to wait over a year from my first request. They are in the process of being resurrected as an E book under a different cover, and have begun to earn their keep at Belgrave House. I’ve also sold other rights to my long neglected first book.

As well as the E book, DAUGHTER OF DARKNESS will soon be available from the Canadian Publisher on audio downloads, IAMBIK. At the moment it’s still being recorded; by a gentleman called Tadgh Hynes. (I’m not quite sure how to pronounce that first name; at a guess, it might be Tayg.) I was invited to audition the voices and pick the reader I preferred. Tadgh Hynes has a lovely Irish-accented voice that’s easy on the ear, and my book has a touch of Ireland stirred in so they’re a good match, I think.

Added to this audio book is the sale of Portuguese language rights to a Brazilian publisher, and more recently, an offer to produce it in large print from Magna. DAUGHTER OF DARKNESS is beginning to earn again after a twelve-year hiatus. And the book will go into libraries to boost the numbers, where it will earn Public Lending Rights while it still exists in hardcover print form.

By exploiting the work as best you can, the earnings will accumulate over time. Although it might not make you an instant millionaire, it can add up to a useful sum over time.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Victorian Misses

Victorian Misses.

Young women did not go out without a chaperone in Victorian Britain.These general sorts of statements don’t sit well with me, and this is why. Queen Victoria reigned for over 60 years, and over that time the world changed and progressed considerably.

I’ve written several books set in the “Victorian age.” “Hearts of Gold” started almost at the end of Victoria’s reign in the late 1890s. The heroine was a brat from the goldfields, sent to England by her mentor. My next release, “Lady Lightfingers” (30/6/11) is also set in the “Victorian age” but fifty years earlier in the 1850s, and in the London slums. “A Dorset Girl” saga was set in the 1830s, earlier still. What did they have in common? Very little, except the heroines were not members of the privileged classes. Each book was researched separately for the period within that age, to make it authentic to its particular time.

Did they write the books of etiquette for the majority of working class women? I doubt it. Most books of manners were designed for those who could afford to indulge in it. Fashion catalogues display silks and satin gowns, accessories such as kid gloves, fans and hats all through the period. Victorian ladies didn’t all wear hooped crinolines, but one of my heroines did use a discarded one as a sunshade for her child. The same economics that applied then, apply now. The majority of lower middle class young women couldn’t afford designer wear, or chaperones . . . or even underwear come to that. It stands to reason that they couldn’t afford several changes of outfit, but might have a special one kept for Sunday best, weddings and funerals.

In 1891 women were told that, legally, they could no longer be forced to live with a man if they didn’t want to. This was a two-edged sword. Divorce brought scandal with it for the female, and usually loss of her children. Without income, often the alternative was to starve to death or take up prostitution.

Even Queen Victoria must have regarded herself as her husband’s chattel, for she was reported as saying, from her lofty position of top hen in her glittering henhouse – thus setting back the women's movement by a number of years, I imagine – “Let women be what God intended, a helpmate for her man, but with totally different duties and values.” With total respect, I wonder how she know what He intended, and would she have said the same, had she been one of the 1,740,000 female domestic servants in England struggling to stay alive? Many maids in Victoria’s time took the occasional man to bed for supplemental income. They were called dollymops . . . very apt.
Victoria and Albert produced nine offspring, I believe. Of course, Queen Victoria never had to make ends meet, and, bless her . . . I wouldn’t like to have lived her life.

My mother’s child-raising wisdom came from clichéd and sometimes cutting little Victorian proverb from her Victorian upbringing. I’ve been careful not to pass them on to my own. “Children should be seen and not heard. Spare the rod and spoil the child. You’ve made your bed, now you must lie on it. Pride goes before a fall . . . etc.”

Thank goodness we reach a point in life where we can think and reason for ourselves, and wonder at some of the tosh we accepted as wisdom. Unfortunately those wisdoms weren’t tosh to them. They were a necessary part of discipline. Mostly it was rule by fear in my childhood. I was scared of anything with an official feel or a uniform attached to it – policemen, teachers, parents, priests, soldiers, bus conductors and fatherly lectures all signified authority. It didn’t stop me rebelling, even though one of my teachers was a reincarnation of Sweeny Todd, except she used a ruler instead of a razor.

So, our characters should be true to life, too. They should be encouraged to step out of the rule book and live their own lives. Over the sixty-year span that was the “Victorian Age” women weren’t all laced tightly into corsets (I mean that metaphorically as well as literally). If we wrap characters in rigid rules, manners and clichés they’ll come across as cardboard, or at the very least, clones.

When I look at the “Victorian age” it has lots to commend it. On the industrial front, there were engineering breakthroughs, sewerage disposal was improved and railways networked. There was a certain amount of hypocrisy too – child labour, wars, forced immigration and starvation. But nothing was static. Advances were made in industry, medical and moral mores – too many keep up with. Bear in mind that change didn’t happen in all parts of England at the same time. The rural south trailed behind the industrialized north. So while some people enjoyed the luxury of train travel another part of the country might still be bumping around the countryside in a wagon.

Unless you can travel back through time it’s impossible to know how people actually acted or spoke in the past. Sure, they wrote letters, essays and books, and sure . . . somebody wrote a rule book. Writing is a more formal way of expression than speech is. We all act differently when we’re on public view, but relax at home. When we write we don’t stutter or hum and har on the page. We don’t have people interrupting and turning our train of thought to something else, we don’t use body language to help people understand meaning, like we do face to face. We stick to the point.

Women wouldn’t have gone out without a chaperone? Some women, perhaps.

Remember the early TV ads, where the lady of the house wore stilettos, make-up, beehive hairdos and false eyelashes, when they cleaned the oven with greasy goop? Did we all dress like that to clean the house in? Nuff said!

Friday, April 1, 2011


Severn House publishes books in several genres. Romance, ancient and modern. Saga. General fiction and Crime – in fact they have just launched a new line Crème de la Crime. I imagine you think this blog is a plug for Severn House as well as my book. Well, yes, it is. But why not when they publish my work, and have done so for some time? I’m proud to find myself in the company of well-known and best selling authors.

Of the twenty-eight books I’ve had published, LADY LIGHTFINGERS is my thirteenth publication with Severn House. It will be released in hardcover in June, and is available now for pre-order. LADY LIGHTFINGERS has a Dickensian feel in the location and story line, I've been told. As always, it has the traditional happy ending my readers have come to expect. I’ll let the blurb speak for itself. And yes . . . the lovely cover does reflect the story, since the gold watch and key features in the early pages of the book.

Severn House UK
Release date. June 30th 2011
ISBN: 978072788056

Raised in the slums in 1850s London, Celia Laws is a rarity, an educated young woman whose creative skills have attracted notice. But with family to care for, circumstances have driven her to pickpocketing. In Celia’s harsh world, it’s a small step from picking pockets to prostitution. When a young man offers her a fortune in return for spending a week with him, she takes the money and runs – to a spinster aunt in Dorset.

Aunt Harriet takes pity on her young relatives, and she offers them a home and opportunities. But Celia’s conscience will not allow her to forget the money she stole, nor can she bring herself to spend it. A chance encounter with Charles Curtis, the young lawyer she deceived – and eventually comes to admire – brings her face to face with her past and thrusts her into an uncertain future.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Family

My Family.

Spiked perhaps by the TV programme “Who do you think you are?” I’ve recently developed an interest in discovering my ancestors. This is because we migrated to Australia from England over four decades ago, and it will give my children and those who come after, a back-story of family history.

Seeking out deceased relatives hasn’t become an obsession with me yet, but the more I uncover the more my curiosity is piqued, and the more the feeling of kinship with those who have departed grows.

Nothing remarkable has turned up yet. Both sides of the family I’ve managed to unearth so far were housekeepers, domestic gardeners, cattle dealers, brick-makers, chauffeurs, laundry-maids, fishermen and mothers.

And goodness, were they mothers! These women did it tough, with five, nine or even a dozen kids being a fairly normal brood ¬– and the offspring being thinned out by disease, just as normal. Life is short when measured in decades, and it makes me wonder what humanity is all about sometimes. But this is the stuff historical sagas are made of, especially those that cross generations.

I always knew my “down south” paternal grandfather was a chauffeur. I have photographs of him in his uniform at the wheel of a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost. The copy of the County of London driving licence I have for him is dated 10th April 1911, and is valid for a year. However, by digging a little deeper I discovered he was a coachman before he drove a car, something I didn’t know. I’m in awe of anyone who can stay on a horse, let alone drive a team perhaps, and with a carriage attached.

My “up north” grandfather on the maternal side owned two fishing boats and he and his sons fished the North Sea. With a family of about eleven children to feed and clothe, life must have been extremely hard and dangerous. When I met him he also had an allotment.

Despite their humble occupations, there is pathos to be discovered . . . an uncle who died in the battle of Jutland at the tender age of 17. He was a boy seaman HMS Invincible his first ship. Imagine how excited and proud he must have been when he stepped on board for the first time. Then there are several infants in various churchyards who died of God knows what.

As for my other uncles, I found a little bald patch in the research for two of them. Then I remembered talk of Irish in the family. A bit of probing and I discovered they’d been born in Ireland, for I found them as infants on the Irish Census. And that was probably when and where grandfather used his coachman skills.

I’ve done my share of menial jobs like being a cleaning lady, a waitress, a shop assistant, wife, and mother to four – and at one time I followed a family trait of chauffeuring people around by being a taxi driver.
Now I’m an author . . . a saga writer, and that’s what I’d rather be remembered for – my creative input rather than my practical skills.

Snooping into the lives of the ancestors has given me lots of ideas for novels. I wonder . . . will a fall of the genetic dice produce a set of DNA similar enough to mine to create another author? Then again, there might already be one out there that I haven’t found. I guess I’ll just remain the odd one out on the family tree until I discover different.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Once a perfect daughter, who inspired her toy manufacturer father to create a paper doll in her likeness, Julia loses her fiancé in WWI. With no plans for the future, she gads about with a fast crowd, much to her father's dismay.

An older business acquaintance of her father's, Latham Miller, saves her from a cruel trick, but there is something about Latham that disturbs Julia. He asks her to marry him, and she is reluctant to say yes. Instead, she is intrigued by her father's new manager, Martin Lee-Trafford, a doctor during the war who had a breakdown and returned home.

But when her father becomes ill and asks Julia to marry Latham, she dutifully obeys. Latham turns into a different man after marriage, determined to do whatever he wants with whomever he wants, so Julia starts an affair with Martin.

Woods tells a tale of the tumultuous, roaring twenties filled with glamour and sex, a wild ride that will leave readers breathless and ultimately triumphant.
--Booklist, February 1st, 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

Audio books

It's not often that audio books get an airing on my blog. I don't know why, when most of my books are available from ISIS Soundings in audio form, as well as print. So this is to introduce my two latest books, 'Salting the Wound' which is read by Gordon Griffin. Gordon is a new reader for me. I'm quite looking forward to hearing a man read my work. It will be a change. The sequel,'Straw in the Wind' is read by Patience Tomlinson, a reader I'm familiar with, since she's read some of my earlier books.

People have asked me if I listen to my own work being read. Yes, I do. The readers bring a fresh eye to your work, and although the characters might not appear to be interpreted as you wrote them, the fresh slant on them is interesting.

Each disc lasts about an hour, and the whole book takes up approximately 8 discs.
For those of you who walk on a treadmill for exercise (as I do), this is an ideal way of "reading a book" especially when using headphones.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Benedict's Bride.

Benedict's Bride by Janet Woods (ebook)

Amber Rose Hartford’s grandfather made her dowry dependent on her marrying Viscount Costain. Though unaware of this condition, Benedict accepts it for more than one reason. He rescues Amber from her disreputable cousin Patrick, but before they can marry she is abducted. A large ransom is paid but Amber is not released. Benedict must rescue her again—and convince her of his honorable intentions. Historical Romance by Janet Woods; originally published by Belgrave House

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Stripping Characters Bare

This is not about undressing them, though it is handy for historical authors to know what’s worn underneath the period woman’s skirt, Whether it be Amelia’s Bloomer's bloomers, Victorian divided drawers, the 1920s combinations, sexy wartime camiknickers or no knickers at all.

Men and woman have strapped themselves into various uncomfortable supports, bustles and shape-changing devices in an attempt to meet the fashion of the day, but prior to the Victorians, who also put pantalettes on the legs of a piano stool - wearing no underwear was more common than not. Hmmm . . . can you actually wear no underwear? I'll leave that one for you to ponder on. I wonder though, why were Victorian gentlemen so turned on by piano stool legs, that they had to be kept hidden from him?

So what is this blog about? It’s about investing emotion into characters, getting down to their bare essential and endowing them with characteristics that will appeal to readers.

What does does your heroine look like? Yes, you can use a character who is of average height, and has brown hair and blue eyes. Most readers are ordinary people, and can relate to the standard. So be careful to endow characters with a touch of the commonplace.

Remember that a person can change. Love will make the pheromones fly! The skin will glow, the eyes shine, the smile become more spontaneous. As always, the adage applies. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." In one sense that means that the eyes light up like a set of headlights, when one's beloved comes into view. But being desired, or desiring another, always makes a character look, appear and act more attractively.

All this can be shown to the reader as it happens, by putting yourself in the character's skin and using the senses of smell, touch, sight, hearing and taste. If the characters come with all the beauties and graces described up front and already installed, then how do you improve on it?

Body language can convey feeling instantly. A look over a shoulder, a gaze avoided, a smile exchanged or a squeeze of the hand, or just the way a glance slants . . . on a woman's breast, into her eyes or upon her lips can say a lot. So can the two finger salute when she says no!

In your own writing (and I still catch myself doing it too, but hey, that's what editing is for) how often do you start a sentence with: She had the feeling she was naked when he looked at her? She felt as if her heart was going to fly? She felt a smile creep across her mouth? This is wishy-washy and passive telling. It is much more active to put: His glance stripped her bare. Her heart flew from her chest. A smile crept across her mouth.

Emotionally . . . if you want a character readers can relate to, you have to have to give your characters a depth of feeling. What they say, do, feel or think should be reflected in your characters, thoughts and deeds, right from the very beginning.

Telling the reader a character is arrogant means nothing. Show the character being arrogant, then show him with a weakness, however small, to make him likeable. Perhaps he could acknowledge his own arrogance.

Be consistent with showing positives. Have your heroine do little kindnesses, and think kind thoughts. If she sees a beggar in the street let her give him a coin. If you have a spirited heroine, make sure her nature doesn't become shrewish in the cause to prove herself. There is a big difference between having a spirited heroine and a nasty one. Learn how to give and take. Use wit rather than spit!

I could go on and on with this subject, but I won't. I'll just go back to the Victorian piano stool. Its frills hide the solid support structure – the bare essentials of its creation. It didn't just arrive. It came from somewhere, and was once part of a tree.

So did your character. She arrives naked – a standard person without baggage or memory, waiting to be given an identity and brought to life. She has a zip down her back. Open it. Get inside and walk over to the mirror while you get used to your new skin. Now . . . begin your creation.

Start by giving her an identity, a past. She has family, a school, sport and profession. She has hopes and fears, feelings and ambition.

One last word. Be sensitive to your character's needs. Feel the emotion, walk in their skin. Go on then, it's not that hard. No wait . . . come back, you're naked! How about you put a few clothes on first . . .