Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Singing Mountain - review

Solstice Publishing - January 2013

 1918 – 1940 Set in the mysterious Welsh mountains, this is the story of Megan a working class girl from a mining town who falls in love with someone far above her. Ignoring tradition and disregarding the advice of her family and friends, Megan weds Ian, the wealthy local landowner. 

Soon Megan is expecting her first child, but the first flush of love begins to be eroded by Ian’s family. When her son is born it seems to Megan that he’s in danger - something she tries to credibly articulate, but without success.  She is labeled hysterical, and unstable. Her husband is torn between wanting to believe her, but is forced to accept the more rational explanation of doctor and family members. Megan is scared of losing Ian’s love, and the son she has borne him, and at times she questions her own sanity.

During her lonely walks in the high country the voice of the mountain calls Megan. Aware of the unusual forces surrounding her she confides in Alun, a gypsy who befriends her. He relates to her the legend of Rhiannan, the White Witch, and she understands she has past issues to resolve before she can find peace in the present. Alun takes her through the circle of stones into the Otherworld. Time is flexible as they move between past and present meeting people they’ve known before. One of them is Wil, with whom Megan shares a deep affinity.

Megan’s marriage settles down as she begins to understand herself, but twenty years later the repercussions of her involvement in the Otherworld come back to haunt her when bad magic comes to threaten everything she loves. Megan has made an enemy that follows her through time - the White Owl. Raked by its poisonous claws Megan’s life is at a low ebb when her beloved son Huw, goes through the stones to seek the help of Rhiannan, The White Witch.

There is nothing contrived about this novel.  A connection is established with the characters early in the story. The author is Welsh-born, and the empathy with her heritage through her characters is strong. The Celtic love of folklore with all its mystery and drama glows through, and the language is evocative of the time and place. The novel deserves its fine cover.  

This is Anne E Summers first published book. She’s made a fine fist of it. The writing is beautifully lyrical and the fantasy element is believable - anchored as it is to Megan’s reality. The dangers encountered in both the Otherworld, and Megan’s present keep the tensions high. The characters captivate, and their stories raise the emotional levels.

A highly entertaining story that lingers in your heart long after you’ve finished reading it.
Janet Woods  * *  * *  *

Sunday, November 4, 2012



London/Dorset. World War 2

This third book in the Tall Poppies - Secrets and Lies trilogy will be released by Severn House, in hardcover, in February 2013. It can be pre-ordered from popular online bookshops, usually at a discount.

 About the book.

Meggie Elliot is a young woman of above average intelligence, and on the brink of adulthood. Living with her aunt and uncle in London at the outbreak of WW2 she’s intent on going to university, then pursuing a career in law. She is encouraged in this by her solicitor – a man she admires a little too much. Too old for her, he lets her know it.

In a burst of patriotism she joins the WRNS to do her bit for the war and is sent to work in a decoding unit. There she meets the dangerously exciting young aristocrat, Nicholas Cowan, whose own war efforts are definitely on the shady side.  Nick sweeps her off her feet.

But Meggie suspects Nick of being the man who burgled her aunt’s home, and to expose him would ruin a lot of lives. Against all reason, Meggie and Nick begin to fall in love . . .

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Touch of Gothic

A Touch of Gothic.

On November 1st the large print version of my Georgian romance, Daughter of Darkness will be released. I started writing this historical romance right at the beginning of my career. In the space of two years it was a major prizewinner in the Women’s Day/Random House competition for an unpublished manuscript, and then, after publication by Robert Hale UK, in 2002 it won the Australian Romantic Book of the year award for mainstream romance.

Before this book was first published I submitted it to eight different publishers, and I edited out 30,000 surplus words on the advice of my agent, the late, and very wise, Bob Tanner, who subsequently sold it.

I never intended for “Daughter of Darkness” to be a Gothic novel, though there was a paranormal thread running through it. The first review on Amazon suggested it was a bit spooky.

Over the years it’s been published in several versions, starting with the Hale hardcover in 2001. Two years ago I began to revive it. Now it’s been E published by Belgrave House in the USA and there has been a Canadian audio version by Iambik, and a Portuguese language version. It’s back to the UK, this time for the release of the hardcover Large Print by Magna.

Once again I’m back with a touch of Gothic in the striking cover. I just love it. Oh those eyes . . .!    

By the way . . . the paperback and film option rights are still available, but although I haven’t attempted to sell them yet I'm open to offers!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Counting blessings

Sometimes it’s hard to find a subject to write about, so to move on to the next blog I decided to count my blessings and write about things that have made me happy in the past few weeks.

One of those things is the weather. Here in the west of Australia in the summer the temperature ranges from hot to extremely so. Winter has just ended, but the thought of putting an extra blanket on the bed and snuggling under it is still a real and pleasurable memory – as were a couple of good storms with some drenching rain.

Another pleasure was being nominated for an award. That is the Alice Award, which is bestowed by the NSW branch of the Society of Women Writers every two years. The award goes to an Australian woman who has made a distinguished and long-term contribution to literature. Only one candidate per state can be nominated. The outcome of the award has yet to be decided. There are other candidates for the award. I’d like to wish them luck, and hope they’re feeling as good about being nominated to represent their state as I am to represent mine. The list of previous recipients of the award are drawn from all walks of academia, and many well-known names are there. Thank you to the committee of the Western Australian branch for the nomination. I feel honoured.

Several lovely letters from readers arrived: from Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Ireland, and from Canada. I do answer them all, but a couple of messages I sent and answer to bounced back . . . so apologies if my answer didn’t get back to you. Thank you all for your best wishes and compliments. Reading your letters is indeed a pleasure.

The fourth pleasure was to open the front door to a ring on the bell a couple of days ago, to find a surprise - my youngest daughter and my eldest granddaughter standing there on the doorstep. They’d flown over from Victoria, a distance of 2727 Ks (1700 miles) to support my middle daughter as she celebrates one of those scary birthdays with a nought on the end. As I write, the birthday girl is unaware that her younger sister and niece are in town. The party is today and it will be a lovely surprise for her, and their brother. Happy birthday Sandra girl!

It’s always a pleasure to finish a novel, and the final book in my “Tall Poppies/ Secrets and Lies,” trilogy is now with my editor and scheduled for publication in February 2013. Its title is I’LL GET BY. As you can probably guess this one has a WW2 setting.

As I’m a very early riser, over the past few weeks I’ve been watching a couple of bright stars move across the sky, sometimes in company of the moon. I don’t know anything about stars except they’re pretty. I do know that this pair gave me a feeling of awe. So clear they were, in a vast, silent, dark sky. It was just one of those moments you experience now and again, an emotional connection between the stars and me. (If that makes sense).

It’s amazing how many blessings there are in life when you stop and think about them. Best wishes to all.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Living history

My own piece of living history passed away last month - my mother who'd reached the grand old age of 105.
            There was a sense of her living forever when she passed the century post, and I stopped expecting her to die. So oddly, the news of her demise came as a bigger shock than I expected.  
            Hilda Harrison was born into a fisherman's family in Seaton Carew, Durham . . . one of 11 children. She was sent to London when she was fourteen, there to become a maid in a block of serviced flats. Most of her wage was sent home to help her parents bring up her younger siblings.
            She met my father, Stanley Targett, in Hyde Park, where he was taking his turn on a soapbox. He was a widower with two young daughters. My mother produced two more daughters (of which I’m the fourth) then my brother came along. It was a marriage of North and South.
            Mum was a hardworking woman, who could turn her hand to everything. As well as knit, sew garments and hook rugs, she did all the wallpapering single-handed, and most of the gardening.
            During the 2nd world war mother used to buy a tray of day old chicks from the market and a couple of baby ducks, which we fed on peelings mixed with bran and tea-leaves. They were raised in the backyard and fattened up for Christmas, then sold to the neighbours, who used to come into the garden and take their pick, feeling their victims’ chests to make sure they got the plumpest one for their money. They were then prepared for the oven.
            My mother grew vegetables, too. While the hens were laying we always had fresh eggs when we were children. The powdered ‘muck” was kept for cooking with. We were never without meat. I learned very early in my life how to kill, pluck and dress a chicken, or skin a rabbit. Not that I’ve ever used that skill since, or even wanted to, but I was less squeamish as a child, when necessity was born of need. And you never know when such skills might be needed again.
            Peter, my younger brother, befriended one of the ducks and turned it into a pet, so he noticed when it went missing. We were eating it for Sunday dinner at the time when he asked where it had gone. We told him it had flown away to live on the pond in a nearby park. From then on I had to take him to the park every so often so he could visit it. He was always able to see “his” duck amongst the others on the pond. He stopped bothering about it when he was old enough to realize that Santa Clause was a lie, as well.
            Generally my mother enjoyed good health, except she was went deaf at the age of about 30. She was lucky in her later years to be given a good home with my sister Daphne, and her husband, where she lived happily for the remainder of her life.
            Much of the history I research now for my novels was a part of my mother’s life - an upbringing in a two bed-roomed terrace with a multitude of siblings, several of whom died, and a multitude of stories to go with it. She helped to lay out those her deceased siblings for the required period, and placed pennies in their eyes to keep them closed.
            Then there was her education at the church school, two world wars, survival of the Spanish flu pandemic and a world monetary depression in between. My mother had an upbringing where hard work and discipline were part of it, and expected (as a child she sold fish door-to-door).
            That work ethic lasted her throughout her life and kept her active.
One of my novels, “The Coal Gatherer,” is based on tales she used to tell of her childhood in Seaton Carew. It was a hard upbringing. I wrote that book for her 100th birthday and dedicated it to her.
            The last time I saw my mother was when I visited the UK for her century. She was proud of receiving a card from the queen, and the cottage was filled with flower tributes. The whole population of the village where she lived with my sister and her husband turned out for her party in the village hall, and she enjoyed all the attention.
            Practical and thrifty to the end, my mother bequeathed her body to further medical science.  Bye mum.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Pandora's Girl

 PANDORA’S GIRL is the book that gave me trouble when the file got moth eaten during transfer from computer to computer. A lot of rewriting went into it, and my favourite book emerged intact once again.

 It’s the story of Pandora - married to an accountant who has affairs, and the mother of two teenage boys. Due to a legacy she decides to change her life, and finds it turned upside down when she learns that a daughter she gave birth to in her teens - supposedly a stillborn - was adopted out.

Family secrets spill over into the present and Pandora begins to unearth them. She sets out to find her daughter, and on the way meets a man she can love unreservedly.

Trinity lives in Australia, where she had a strict upbringing, and escapes from a country town. She meets Bruno who falls in love with her.

 When Trinity learns she’s adopted, she doesn’t want to meet or know her mother. She has what she’s always wanted. A man who loved her and a family in the daughter from his first marriage, and the once she is soon expecting.

Through tragedy, Trinity is restored to her mother when she has nobody left to turn to. She returns to England and there is an uneasy truce before the two women can compromise and understand each.

Available in several formats from Belgrave House

Friday, April 27, 2012

Tale of a book.

This is a tale of a book, it doesn’t matter what it’s called. It was my second published book, had a short run for library distribution and then began to gather dust. This book was always a favourite of mine. It still is.
            With electronic publishing coming into its own, I got the rights back to the book, and placed it with a publisher who republishes out-of-print novels. The file had been through several computer conversions, first on floppy disks, (remember those?) compact disks, and one of those flashdrive thingies that I’ve just learned how to use. They’ve been filed as Claris, Appleworks, and whatever I’ve got now, Microsoft word, I think. I loved my Macs, all four of them. Steam Mac - Power Mac – see through IMAC  in flashy red - Skinny G Mac, and my latest, the apple of my eye, the big, bold and beautiful Mac the knife! Doc X and RTF come into it somewhere - all very confusing.
            My latest Mac has word 2008, with all its bells and whistles, and an inbuilt feature that munches the words off my old files. How did I discover the cannibalistic nature of Mac the knife? Easy. It has a handy little twiddly bit at the bottom of the file that busily counts words, adds and subtracts, and tells you what your numbers are worth from second-to-second, like an enthusiastic gnome of Zurich. A quick glance and I was informed that my original 100,000 file had shrunk to a mere 70,000 in its travels.
            Bookworms! That was my first facetious thought, quickly dispelled because everyone knows the gentle bookworm - although able to devour words in by the dozen, doesn’t keep them after they’ve been digested.  My second thought was a surprised, good gracious! (Oh shit! actually) I’ve been robbed!                          Then I remembered that Mac has a veritable zoo inside it, with leopards, tigers and a paw print called growl, so it wasn’t fair to blame the worm.”
            I’d promised the publisher to flick through the book over last weekend in case it needed a couple of spellings corrected. Hah! famous last words. I’ve just spent a week revising it. There were random sink holes everywhere, in the dialogue, the narrative, single words, paragraphs, whole pages.
            I sat there for a week, hunched over Mac the knife, my eyes darting from screen to hard copy, seeking out the blanks. I was going to compare it to the actual book, but it had one of those spines that were so rigid with glue that to spread the book open would have broken it – besides, the print was too small to read without binoculars. Luckily, I still had the old-fashioned, double-spaced hard copy of the original that had been waiting patiently in the cupboard to be useful again. There were the big words, the big spaces between lines, and the bright red corrections made by hand. Bless you, you old-fashioned hard copy. I can see why editors loved you. Nobody can siphon those little suckers off the page.
            I emerged from that exercise with a hunched back, sore eyes, no fingernails and a stiff neck. I’ve just sent the book off - electronically, of course. The computer has its uses. It made the crossing intact, completing it in 10 seconds, and receiving an answer in 10 minutes.
            Because I still haven’t been able to find the creature that chomped off 30,000 of my words, the thought occurred; could it be that my Mac tried its hand at editing when I wasn’t looking?
             Whatever? I’m just glad I decided to do a thorough job on it before sending the thing off.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Lady Lightfingers review.

Appeared in
 Historical Novels Reviews, Issue 58 (November 2011)
Reviewed by 
Viviane Crystal

Lady Lightfingers
By Janet Woods

Celia Law is the daughter of an Englishwoman who was hoodwinked by the man who fathered Celia and quickly deserted both of them. Although Celia longs to take revenge against him, she is living a life in London in 1850 that requires the conniving skills he possessed. She begs and picks pockets in a crafty style that makes her victims angry but confused by her innocent looks. She is trying very hard not to turn to the life of a prostitute as her mother was forced to do out of dire poverty.
Without spoiling the story, Celia, after her mother’s brutal, untimely death, comes under the wings of one poet/scholar who does much good for the poor. It is he who encourages Celia to continue writing in the book she entitled, Famous Fictional Tales from the London Slums. Celia is then forced to escape the wiles of a woman who extorts money from prostitutes and travels to her aunt’s house, only to find only Aunt Harriet alive and welcoming. Then Celia encounters two men from her past life in London, one who is unsure about her “potential” as a socially acceptable lady and the other who is constantly drawn to her despite his words. Finally, Celia will discover some truths about her origins that will be shocking to characters and readers.
The essence of surviving poverty is not always so easy to define. Janet Woods writes in a Dickensian style but with more of a balance between the light freedom and weighty darkness of that period. Lady Lightfingers is a wonderful story that depicts the social problems of 19th-century English life but also offers a coming of age, historical story that will delight every reader. A fine, fine novel!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Secrets and Lies

Severn House UK
May 25th UK
SECRETS AND LIES – Janet Woods (A sequel to Tall Poppies.)

A destructive secret is guarded by a network of lies . . . until they begin to unravel. 1933. Esmé Carr travels to Australia with her best friend in search of adventure. Left behind is Esmé’s adolescent niece.

Meggie Elliot has an imaginative and independent frame of mind, but there is mystery surrounding her birth – one she intends to unravel, despite her mother’s warnings to leave the past alone. When the truth surfaces it’s not what Meggie wants to hear, and Esmé must reconcile the rift between mother and daughter.

Sunday, February 12, 2012



One of the pleasures in my writing life is the meeting of the Wordwrights critiquing group every month. There are six of us, taking it in turn to act as host to the other five and at each meeting we discuss the work we’d critiqued the previous month. Our monthly aim, of course, is to assess a couple of chapters of each other’s work in progress. This consists of making suggestions for improvement, checking for repeat phrases, weeding out the occasional typo, and praising the good bits, along with munching on a few goodies such as chocolate to create a feeling of well-being. The ultimate aim, of course, is for us to reach a standard where the work in progress can be published. Now and again that happens, and we celebrate with a bottle of bubbly, as well.

So an added pleasure this month was learning that the completed novel of one of our members had been accepted for publication. It’s early days yet, so I’m not going to give away any details, but will post a review for the book here at a later date – and perhaps an interview with her. This will be her first published novel. It’s a beautifully crafted fantasy by a writer with a fertile imagination and a lyrical voice, one who can sustain the story-telling ability and word-power throughout the book.

Another of our writers’ group has a publisher showing an interest in her novel, so we have fingers crossed for a favourable development regarding that one, too.

As for my own news: My next book is called “Secrets and Lies,” which is a sequel to “Tall Poppies.” It will be released in the UK in May, and is available for preorder though the usual online bookstores, and at a considerably lower price than it will be when it’s released. Details to follow when I’ve got them.