Journal from a neglected war

Concentration camps, barbed wire, machine-guns, guerrilla warfare, scorched earth tactics. The words could come from any journal of the Second World War. The names of some of the participants are also familiar: Winston Churchill, Kitchener, Sir John French, Mahatma Gandhi. Yet these names and men were involved in a much earlier conflict, one in which the world’s major global power fought against two tiny independent republics.

By 1899 Britain had painted her red empire across a quarter of the globe. From Canada to Cape Town, Antigua to Auckland, the multi-crossed Union flag flapped in pride. Victoria, the Queen-Empress cast her maternal gaze across the sea-lanes; slavery was nearly non-existent, trade was free and piracy squashed while her Royal Navy dominated the seas.  Yet not everybody wished to exchange national independence for imperial security and in one corner of Africa the Boer republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State fought back against British attempts to annex them into the Empire.

This is not the place to argue the rights – if any – and wrongs of the annexation. This blog will look at the experiences of one of the British soldiers, Private Robert Brown of the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders, who fought in the initial stages of what proved to be a long, costly but ultimately victorious war.

Robert Brown came from a mining background in Fife, although many of his family were from Midlothian, south of Edinburgh. In common with the majority of Scottish private soldiers he was young, unmarried and fairly carefree. Unlike most men from the ranks he left a journal of his experiences.

After leaving their barracks in Ireland, they settled down in the troopship ‘some passing the time playing the cards, others draughts. . . twice a week we had a smoking concert also a boxing competition.’ Boxing was one of the methods by which the army was trained; it also helped the men maintain fitness levels and remove any frustrations.

Arriving on the 17th November 1899 after a three week voyage, they immediately ‘entrained. . . for De Aar. We got a harty send off from the natives at Cape Town. . . arrived at De Aar at 5 AM on the 19 November . . . After staying here for 7 days the order came for us to entrain for Orange River a welcome order for us we were beginning to think we were not going to see any fighting at all.’

The soldiers of Queen Victoria’s Army were always keen to get into action. Professional fighting men, they seemed to like to fight. Arriving at Orange River ‘we again took the train for Belmont. On the road up we saw the battlefield of Belmont and the smell from it was sickening.’

Belmont was one of the early minor British victories.

Joining the Highland Brigade of Methuen’s Division ‘it was 10 PM and the night was very dark. . .got to our ground where we piled arms and lay down after we had a drink of tea. We only had our Great coats so we had to make the best of it.’

Next morning, 28th November the Argyles were wakened at three in the morning and marched straight into the Battle of Modder River. ‘To se the way we advanced you would have thought we were having a field day in Aldershot. The men were chatting away to one another as if nothing was going on. I think the first think that brought us to our senses was a Boer shell bursting over our heads. . . the Boers seemed to have the range for we were being picked off one by one it was pittyfull to hear the wounded crying for stretchers and water.’

The British took cover for a number of hours. ‘After lying there for two or three hours more we got the order to cross the line and try and flank them. . . managed to turn the enemy’s flank and I must say when we got down to the river I was thankfull my lips were parched and my tongue was swollen. I was glad to dip my head into the water regardless of the bullets that was flying about. . . but the enemy soon scattered when we got over the river. . . we had been engaged about 14 hours – we lost 131 killed and wounded.’

The Boers withdrew and the British claimed a victory. ‘We had been starved for 2 day. . .we commandeered all the pigs and hens. . . it was great fun to see the highlanders running after the pigs and hens. . . I was surprised to se how light hearted we all were . . . but a soldier is well named as absent minded beggar.’

On the thundery night of the 10th December the Highland Brigade marched to attack the entrenched Boers at Magersfontein.’Everything went in our favour untill we got within about 150 yards from the trenches. . .there was a flash and report of a rifle and before we had time to realise what had happened it seemed as if hell had burst upon us.’

Faced with a fusillade of rifle fire from some thousands of the best marksmen in the world, the brigade went to ground. ‘An officer. . .was running about with no helmet I think he must have gone mad for he ordered 12 of us to advance along with him but we had not gone 50 yards when we had to turn back bearing 6 dead and wounded. . .the officer being among them we formed a fireing line. . .and advanced again.’

Once again the British lay before massed Boer riflemen. ‘We crept up to them within about 300 yards then we charged. I could not explain what sort of feeling came over me I think it was a half mad sort of feeling. . .I saw a Boer aiming at me. . .I don’t know how he missed me but I assure you I did not miss him. I managed to get him as he was turning to get out of the trench with my bayonet I shall never forget the look that was in that mans eyes.. .there was none of them escaped.’

Magersfontein was a defeat. ‘The poor Black Watch returned with only 600 men out of 1100 and the Seaforths had 380 killed and wounded. My regiment had 350 killed. . .the question was who was to blame I think that question could be answered.’

Major-General Hector, ‘Fighting Mac’ MacDonald took over the brigade. The son of a crofter, he had risen by sheer bravery from the ranks.

After a victory at Koodesberg the brigade ‘envaded the Free State. . .the road was bad and our waggons were breaking down . . .the watter also was very scarce. . . all felt done up but we just had to stick it.’

On the 18th February they were again in battle, this time at Paardeberg, where the Boers were in a waggon laager. ‘We were ordered to join the fireing line. . .we were very lucky we only got 20 knocked over. . .both my right hand man and left hand man were knocked over.’

On the 19th ‘the Boers put up the white flag to surrender so our Regiment was told off to go down to. . . take over the prisoners.’ However ‘we had only gone about 500 yards when the Boers started to fire at us. . .it had only been one of the many trichous tricks.’ On the 22nd  ‘I had the pleasure of seeing our officers shareing the same hardships as ourselves.’ So the class system was alive, well and resented in Queen Victoria’s army. ‘About 8 Am 28th we had the pleasure of seeing Conge and about 4000 men surrender.’

After the victory of Paardeberg Private Brown marched with the Argyles as the British pushed the organised Boer army northward. He saw further action at Poplar Grove, Dryfontein and the Waterworks before he fell sick with ‘dysentry and enteric fever.’ In the 8th General Hospital he commented that ‘the men were dyeing like sheep. . .an average of 40 per day. . . I knew nothing for 7 days but after that . . .was sent down to Cape Town. I must give the highest praise to the Colert people on the road down. They treated us splendid. . .it showed how loyal they were to their Queen.’

Sent back to Great Britain, Brown did not fully recover until August. The final words in his journal were ‘I can say I am fit and ready to go out and fight for my country again if required.’

He was not required to.




Posted in Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders, Battles,, Black Watch, Boer War, history, life experience, military, Military history, Queen Victoria's Wars, Scotland, South Africa, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This week in Scottish History

01 June 1831: 

While accompanying his uncle, John Ross, on an expedition to find the North West Passage, Sir James Clark Ross sledged across the Arctic ice and on this day he found the magnetic North Pole and claimed it for King William.

01 June 1679:

Battle of Drumclog, George Hamilton and William Cleland led a force of Covenanters to defeat a body of Life Guards and dragoons under John Graham of Claverhouse

01 June 1936

Clyde built Queen Mary sailed on her maiden transatlantic voyage. Within two years she would become the undisputed holder of the ‘Blue Riband’ for the fastest round trip across the Atlantic.


02 June 1398: 

Prince Henry St Clair, said to have landed in Nova Scotia from Orkney


03 June 1726:

James Hutton was born in Edinburgh. His book, A Theory of the Earth, which emphasises the igneous origin of many rocks, is the basis of modern geology.


04 June 1717:

Duke of Atholl captured Rob Roy MacGregor

04 June 1818:

 First recorded inter-club golf match – between Edinburgh Burgess Golfing Society and Bruntsfield Links Golf Club.



05 June 1723:

Adam Smith baptised in his birthplace of Kirkcaldy. He was the world’s leading economist with his Wealth of Nations the first masterpiece in political economy. He was also professor of logic and of moral philosophy at Glasgow.

05 June 1866:

John McDouall Stuart, Australian explorer died in London.



07 June 1811:

Sir James Young Simpson was born in Bathgate. After studying medicine at Edinburgh, he was a professor of midwifery. As such on January 1847 he pioneered ether as an anaesthetic during childbirth. After personal experiments, he discovered chloroform in November 1847 and argued for its use. He won his case when Queen Victoria employed it during the birth of Leopold in 1853.

07 June 1329:

King Robert Bruce died at Cardross. When news of his death spread, it was said that even knights wept bitterly, drove their fists together and tore their clothes like madmen.

07 June 1906:

Lusitania, 35200 tons, launched on Clyde

08 June 1940:

Italy declared war on Great Britain and mobs attacked Italian shops and businesses across Scotland.

08 June 1138:

Scots defeat English at the battle of Clitheroe

12 June 1997:

Residents of Eigg purchase the island from the previous owner, the German Marlin Eckhard Maruma. It was the first time in history that the tenants had been able to buy the island on which they live. The islanders raised £1.5 million, mainly through an Internet campaign. Much of the money came from a single anonymous donation.

12 June 1843:

 Sir David Gill, first astronomer to measure stellar parallax born in Aberdeen


13 June 1337: 

English army abandon their siege of Dunbar Castle. Agnes, Countess of March, had defended it for a number of weeks.

13 June 1819
The Strathnaver Clearances began on the Sutherland estates – families were given 30 minutes to remove their belongings before their cottages were set on fire.

13 June 1831:

Birth of James Clerk Maxwell, first Professor of Experimental Physics at Cambridge University, he created electromagnetic theory of light.

14 June 2003:

Kingusie win Camanadh cup for 8th time in row; also won their 18th successive league title that year and are labeled ‘the most succussful sporting team in the world’

14 June 1946:

John Logie Baird, inventor of the first television, died.

15 June 1919:

Glasgow born Arthur Whitten Brown and the Englishman Jack Alcock became the first men to fly non stop across the Atlantic.

17 June 1823:

Charles Mackintosh patented a waterproof cloth for raincoats

17 June 1867:

Joseph Lister performed the first surgery under aseptic conditions, on his sister Isabella, at Glasgow infirmary

18 June 1815:

Sergeant Ewart captured the French Ensign as Scots play crucial part in the Allied victory of Battle of Waterloo.
19 June 1306:

The battle of Methven took place shortly after the coronation of Robert Bruce. Finding the Earl of Pembroke behind the walls of Perth, Bruce invited him to come out and fight the following day, but Pembroke replied that he did not fight on a Sunday. Bruce withdrew to his camp at Methven, where Pembroke attacked before dawn on the Sunday. The English captured Thomas Randolph, Bruce’s nephew, Alexander Fraser and other prominent nobles. They hanged many of the Scottish prisoners while Bruce escaped with 500 of the survivors.

19 June 1937:

Sir J. M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan died.

June 20 1810:

Worlds first savings bank established, the parish bank friendly society of Ruthwell, by the Reverend Henry Duncan

20 June 1723:

Adam Ferguson, philosopher, historian, “Father of Sociology” born Logierait, Perthshire.

21 June 1919:

German officers scuttle the High Seas Fleet in Scapa Floe as a protest against the Versailles peace treaty.

21 June 1796 Scottish explorer Mungo Park reached the source of the river Niger in Africa.


 22 June 1861:

William Braidwood, Edinburgh Firemaster and head of the worlds first municipal fire brigade killed in London

23 June 1637:

There was a riot in St Giles Church, Edinburgh when Dean Hannay of Edinburgh attempted to read the revised, Episcopal Service Book. A crowd of women shouted ‘Beastly Belly God,’ ‘Wolf!’ and ‘Crafty fox!’ and threw stools and Bibles at the Dean’s head. The women also attacked the Archbishop of St Andrews. They objected to King Charles trying to Anglify the Scottish Church. Tradition has named the ringleader of the riot as a kailwife named Jenny Geddes. If true, then Geddes struck the first blow in the civil wars that were to involve all four nations of Britain.

23/24 June 1314:

Battle of Bannockburn. This battle was fought between King Robert I of Scotland and Edward II of England. It was one of the most significant Scottish victories of the war of independence as the English, with around 20,000 men marched to relieve the siege of Stirling Castle. King Robert, with 5000 Scots, met them at Bannockburn in a two-day battle. In the first day the king distinguished himself by defeating an English knight in single combat while the Scottish schiltroms pushed back the English cavalry. In the second day the Scots foot advanced, pushing back the English army. ‘On them, they fail!’, shouted the Scots. Keith the Marischal scattered the English archers, their most dangerous arm.


25 June 1799:  
David Douglas, explorer and botanist, born at Scone, Perthshire. In addition to the Douglas Fir, he brought back to Europe lupins, phlox, penstemmon, sunflowers, clarkia, Californian poppy, mimulus, flowering currant, rose of sharon and mahonia. J

25 June 1971:

Lord Boyd Orr, biologist and Nobel Prize Winner, died

25 June 1876:
Seven Scots in the US 7th Cavalry with General Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn

25 June 25 1891: 
The first Sherlock Holmes story by Edinburgh-born author Arthur Conan Doyle was published in the “Strand” magazine, triggering the success of the stories.

26 June 1695:

Darien Company formed to set up a Scottish colony in what is now Panama.


29 June 1308:

Battle of Buittle Castle. Edward Bruce defeated English and traitor Galwegians led by former Guardian of Scotland Ingram de Umfraville and Aymer St John.






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First dig in Kirkwall since 1978 starts today

This gallery contains 2 photos.

Archaeology Orkney Discovering Hidden Kirkwall. The Kirkwall Townscape Heritage Initiative Archaeology Programme. Excavation in RBS Garden Archaeologists from The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute team will be commencing the excavation today. The site in the RBS gardens … Continue reading

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Two Underground Finds in One Day…

This gallery contains 7 photos.

Archaeology Orkney Quite by chance, an Iron Age underground building and a Victorian rubbish-heap has been discovered in Orkney. An exciting discovery was made in Orkney at the weekend. A previously unknown subterranean structure, either a souterrain or a ‘well’, … Continue reading

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This week in Scottish history

01 May 1455

Battle of Arkinholm, near Langholm, Dumfriesshire: The Laird of Johnstone led a royal to victory over the rebellious Douglases. Johnstone sent the severed head of Archibald Douglas, Earl of Moray as a trophy to the king.

01 May 1690

Battle of Haughs of Cromdale; Colonel Sir Thomas Livingstone, King William’s General, defeated the Jacobite army commanded by General Buchan. The Jacobites were mainly Macleans, Macdonalds, Camerons, Macphersons and Grants of Glenmoriston.

01 May 1707

Formation of UK parliament.

 01 May 1873

David Livingstone, explorer and missionary, died in Africa


02 May 1568

Queen Mary escaped from Lochleven Castle

02 May 1933
The story of the Loch Ness Monster first appeared in the press, starting off a long-running debate on whether or not some unknown animal or fish inhabits the murky depths of the loch.
03 May 1557

John Knox began the Reformation in Scotland

04 May 1328

English ratify Treaty of Edinburgh at Northampton, formally conceding defeat to Scotland in the First War of Independence

05 May 1758

James Taylor born – he developed the steamboat engine

06 May  1941

Luftwaffe’s last major bombing attack on Clyde: 280 killed in Greenock

07 May 17467

Glasgow Fire Brigade began when the Fire Insurance Society suggested a regular fire brigade of 24 able men under Robert Gray. They had strong leather caps with the Glasgow coat of arms on them, trained four days a year and were paid 5/- annually, plus money for each fire.

08 May 1701 

Scottish-born pirate Captain William Kidd tried for piracy at London’s Old Bailey. He was hanged on 23 May.

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Our land of Palestine

This is a very short blog to announce that theKindle version of my latest Creativia book, Our Land of Palestine is on sale price of 99 pence or 99 cents for the next few days.


It’s the year 1915, and the British and Ottoman Empires are locked in a deadly struggle in the Middle East.

Commander of a unit of irregular horse, Major Andrew Selkirk lands on the coast of Palestine to retrieve a spy named Abraham. With the enigmatic Rachel as his translator, Selkirk discovers that the Turks have captured Abraham and finds himself involved in a power struggle, as both the Germans and Ottomans hope to bring Afghanistan and Persia to war against Great Britain.

Fighting a personal feud with a vengeful German, Selkirk leads his men across strife-torn Palestine, a land that everybody seems to claim as their own.

The link is:



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Old King Cole and the Catholic Church

Are children still taught the old nursery rhymes? I know we were: Mary Mary, quite contrary, which was a sixteenth century political commentary on Mary, Queen of Scots, perhaps, Ring a ring of roses, which harked back to the days of the plague, and Old King Cole being his merry old soul.

Now Old King Cole was an interesting one that shows just how far back in time these old childhood rhymes stretch. It is unknown exactly who this cheery old monarch was, but as the nursery rhyme first surfaced in print in 1708, the words suit that period. There has been speculation that the original was a cloth merchant from Reading named Cole-brook, or  a Celtic prince who created Colchester. Sir Walter Scott, inveterate collector of historical facts, lore and oddities, thought Cole may have been the father of  Finn MacCool, a giant figure in pre-Christian Gaelic folklore.

Naturally documentary evidence is lacking. That is not surprising for in 1708 much of the population was illiterate, even in Scotland and more so in England, where the first written version appeared.Oral history, however has a knack of surviving the centuries, passed down in the form of stories and verse: such as Old King Cole.

There was a King Coel who was known as Coel Hen – Coel the Old – who was a British or Welsh king at a time the Romans were recoiling from Britannia and the island was facing waves of Saxon invaders. There are various versions of the tale, but one states that Cole was the progenitor of several dynasties in the old Welsh North. Now, as Welsh is the Old English term for a foreigner, meaning a British  or non- English speaking person (remembering that the Saxons and Angles were Germanic/English speaking invaders from the continent), then the old Welsh north would be the northern British kingdoms: Rheged, Gododdin or Strathclyde. Rheged was situated around the Solway Firth, Gododdin based on Edinburgh and Lothian and Strathclyde approximately in the Glasgow and Ayrshire area.

If we take this to be true, then Coel Hen, old King Cole, would have ruled in what is now South West Scotland. A tenuous but interesting legend has the Ayrshire area of Kyle named after him.

After the defeat of a British army at Catraeth, possibly Catterick in Yorkshire around 600 AD, the victorious Anglo-Saxons, progenitors of the English, occupied what is now south-eastern Scotland and pressed westward. To escape these warlike pagans, there are legends of a British move southward to what is now Wales, with the Britons taking their culture with them. To add to the interest, a poem about the Battle of Catraeth includes a mention of Arthur, who may have been a captain of these Northern Britons fighting the Germanic hordes.

All well and good, but is any of this relevant to modern life, apart from explaining some of the folk movement within Britain and having a vague relevance to an old nursery rhyme. Well, there is a persistent Welsh-language legend that speaks openly of Coel Hen, Coel the Old, who was the ancestor of another Coel, the father of St Helena and therefore the grandfather of the Roman Emperor Constantine who Christianised the Roman Empire and therefore could be deemed the father of the Roman Catholic Church.  That would give the birth of the Roman Catholic church a strong Scottish-British connection. We do know that the father of Constantine lived in York  and campaigned north of Hadrian’s Wall. What was to stop him picking up a local wife? Many soldiers did. After all, Pontius Pilate’s mother was said to have come from Perthshire, (I used that legend in my novel, Powerstone) so why not Constantine’s mum as well?

So there we have it. A very fragile legend that links a nursery rhyme to Scotland and the birth of the Roman Catholic Church. As Michael never said: ‘not many people know that’.
















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Palestine: the forgotten campaign

When we think of the First World War, various images come to mind, and various names haunt the fringes of our collective memory. We may see the hellish mud of Passchendaele, or the gas clouds of Second Ypres, or remember the Somme, with 30,000 British casualties in the first hour of a battle that lasted five months. We may think of the 150,000 Scottish dead, or the Glasgow women protesting against the landlords who put up their rent while their men were dying in their thousands. Yet it is unlikely that many of us think of the other campaigns that were fought, where fewer soldiers fought but the results were perhaps more long-lasting and have major repercussions in the world we live in today.

As well as fighting the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires, Great Britain was battling the Ottoman Empire. Although the part played by the Anzacs in Gallipoli has been commemorated in  film and story, the British were also there, in larger numbers, and that was only one campaign in the effort to remove the Ottomans – the Turks – from the war. On the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, the British, Australia and Imperial forces survived an early Ottoman thrust at the Suez Canal to counter attack and eventually push the Ottomans out of the entire area.

It was a campaign that lasted years and saw a mixture of modern and ancient military techniques. There were cavalry charges and aircraft; machine guns, artillery and sabres; Arabs on camel back and the Royal Navy, international intrigue and spies. It was during this war that the Jewish secret service was born, and Scottish regiments crossed the Jordan.

NO 2 Pictures from Israel 315

It was here that Lawrence of Arabia was instrumental in raising an army of Arabs who waged a guerilla war with the Ottoman Turks in return for a promise of a land of their own. It was here that various British and French government officials promised similar lands to the Jews, whose agents helped the British with information in 1916.

This war deserves to be better remembered, so I wrote my own book based here. It s a work of fiction based in 1915 and touches on the international dimensions of a war that seems to have been pushed to the fringes of memory, although it may well have been the most important campaign of the First World War.






Posted in 1915, Arabs, Australia, Black Watch, First World War, freedom, history, Hope, Israel, Jerusalem, League of Nations, Middle East, military, Military history, Palestine, publishing, Scotland, Syria, Uncategorized, War, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Guest Today: Stevie Turner

I am honoured to have Stevie Turner as a guest on my blog today. As you may already know, Stevie is a much acclaimed writer who has won a string of awards. You may not know that an excerpt from her latest book ‘Repent at Leisure’ has been shortlisted for the Escalator Writing Competition, with the winner to be announced on the 20th of April. Good luck with that, Stevie.


  1. You have written since an early age. Do you know why?


Not really, it was just something I wanted to do.  I kept diaries from about the age of 6 or 7 in which I wrote little stories, and when I won an inter-schools’ writing competition at age 11 it spurred me on further.  Mum always encouraged me to read and write, and I inherited her love of words and books.


  1. Does your environment influence what you write?


I live in lovely countryside where I can disappear down footpaths with not another soul about.  I often think up plots while I’m walking, so I can say that Suffolk scenery is good for the soul and excellent for thinking!


  1. Please tell us about the type of books you write?


Although I’m a daydreamer, I’m also a realist.  My plots must be based on reality, because unfortunately fantasy doesn’t interest me at all.  I like to make my characters and plots believable, and then add in a bit of psychology and humour.


  1. Does your reading influence your writing?


Yes, because the kind of books I like to read are women’s fiction, chick-lit, and especially books about relationships with alternating POV’s.  I also like psychological thrillers and suspense novels. Books I’ve enjoyed recently are ‘Girl on a Train’ by Paula Harding, ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn, ‘The Magpies’ by Mark Edwards, and ‘A Mersey Killing’ by Creativia’s Brian L. Porter.


  1. It is possible that some people reading this may not have read your work. Could you describe your latest book, please?

‘Repent at Leisure’ is written in alternating POV’s, and has just been published.  Paul McAdam’s drink was spiked at a nightclub, and he wakes up to find a strange woman in his bed, Cat Taylor, who gradually worms her way into his life.  However, Paul then meets the woman he wants to marry, Anita Fairfax, and he tells Cat that their relationship is over.  When Cat is found dead Paul is suspected of the murder, but there is no evidence at all to suggest he was the killer.  Anita falls in love with Paul and they marry, but finds that she cannot stop thinking about Cat…..


  1. And what spurred you to write this?


Nothing in particular.  The plot just formed in my head, probably while I was climbing over a stile.


  1. 7. Many of your books focus on the darker side of relationships. Is there anything from your own life that influences this interest?

I married a lovely man, but we both had no idea that he was born with an addictive personality.  This unfortunate trait came to light some years ago and we had a terrible time as he came to terms with this fact and admitted he had problems which were ruining our marriage.  Happily now our lives are back on an even keel.

  1. Is there are particular branch of relationships that you would avoid writing about?


Ha ha, I think I’ve covered it all in my books – child abuse, mid-life crises, mother-in-law problems, addictions, controlling partners.  It’s all there written as tastefully as I could make it, but tempered with a little bit of humour here and there and my own insight into these conditions.


  1. Do you think that dynamics of relationships have altered in your lifetime?


Just a little bit!!  I have the epitome of a Fifties’ housewife in my mind, tied to the kitchen sink, with one or two babies tugging at her apron, and dependent on her husband’s wages, little more than a servant.  Then came along the contraceptive pill in the Sixties.  Women suddenly had freedom from unwanted pregnancies, they could go out to work, and could act like men.  The ladette culture grew to the point it is today.  This may be good for the woman, but it’s not good for family life.  However, each woman now has the freedom to choose to be a Fifties’ housewife, a ladette, or hopefully something in between, and that ’s good.


  1. Do any of your family feature in your books, either openly or covertly?


Some of the troubles I went through with my husband are featured in The Porn Detective, but quite a lot of it is made up. Readers would have to work out truth from fiction for themselves!  Also I’ve suffered from the daughter-in-law syndrome for years, which gives one good ammunition for a story and an abiding urge never to inflict said syndrome on my own two daughters-in-law.


  1. You have written an impressive number of books and have won a number of awards: do you think that such rewards encourage writers in general?


Yes, I think it’s a good idea to enter competitions.  Any award won can be added to your book cover, and this means potentially more sales.  It certainly happened to me as far as ‘A House Without Windows’ is concerned.


  1. What type of research do you do before you write? Or do you research as the book progresses?


I research as I go along, if there’s something I’m not sure about.  A lot of my work is based on personal experience or stories I’ve heard from others, and so for some books I didn’t need to do any research at all.


  1. 13. How do you find inspiration for your writing?

As I said before, some of it I’ve lived through.  However, for my book ‘A House Without Windows’ I found inspiration through a news item on TV.  Walks in the countryside are good for thinking up plots.

  1. What are your thoughts on literary agents?


Ha ha!  That’s a good one!  They have this ‘list’ which nobody’s book ever seems to fit.  However, funnily enough they do seem to make exceptions for celebrities.  When I first started out writing I thought it was absolutely imperative to acquire an agent.  I don’t think that way anymore.


  1. You write for Creativia publishing: why did you choose to go with that company?


Sahara Foley recommended them to me.  I looked them up on Google and was impressed by their marketing Street Team.  Also Miika always answers emails very quickly, which is good, and books don’t take months and months to be published.


  1. Do you have plans to alter your style or the type of writing? Or are you fixed in what you do?


I think I may write another suspense story, as ‘A House Without Windows’ turned out to be my best seller.  I also like writing humorous, light-hearted fiction


  1. Tell me about your article writing? [that is a sneaky one!]


Ooh, you naughty boy (wags a finger)!  I don’t write many articles, but one I did write for a national newspaper was considered too controversial to print.  It was written back in the 1990’s and was based on two disturbing facts: (a) some of the questions my son was asked in his GCSE Science exam, and (b) some exam questions for 16 – 19 year olds that I read with my own eyes when I worked as an exams clerk in a college.  One particular question still shocks me today.


  1. Did motherhood change your outlook to writing?


Yes, it stopped me writing altogether.  I only took it up again when the boys had flown the nest.  What with working and looking after them, my life was full enough.


  1. Marketing is the bane of a writer’s life: how do you market your work?


I set up automatic tweets on Tweet Jukebox, enter my writing into competitions, promote my books and writing on WordPress: , on my own website: , and on Facebook:   , and for the first time am attending a signing event in Manchester this year.  Read about the event on my Amazon author page and see if you want to come along:


  1. What are you writing at the moment?

I’ve just finished a book of 17 short stories ‘Life’, which deals with significant life events.  Now it’s time to read through them and find any glaring errors


To see more about Stevie, have a look at this site:


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Hi Folks:

I have never had a guest blogger before, so I thought I would start with a good one!

For those of you who have not yet discovered her, Sally Laughlin is from the USA. Her last book Fly Toward Death is a fact-based novel about the female fighter pilots who fought for the USSR against the Nazis. Brilliant stuff!

The Beginning of a Being a Writer


Sally Ann Laughlin

What makes a person want to write, to tell a story, whether it be fact or fiction?  For every writer there is a different reason why they write, but we all have one thing in common we are storytellers.

My journey into writing was a very difficult one.  Let me take you back to my early-childhood memories.  I loved reading and would walk a mile to the public library, in all kinds of weather, to take out books.  Worlds of adventure and awe awaited every page I turned.  Filling my world with books made life a lot easier for me.

I was the middle child, two older sisters and a younger brother and sister.  The two older sisters didn’t want me tagging along and the same with the two younger siblings.  So, basically, I was a loner.

Back in the 1950’s we lived in a Catholic, all-white neighborhood.  So here I am, a Protestant, skinny, big-eyed girl in a predominately Catholic neighborhood.   The Catholic children were told not to play with me. It baffled me, because I didn’t care what religion someone was – it was my first experience into the sad world of the prejudice. Hmm, anyway, I’m still a loner.

Okay, back to my elementary years.  This was my second experience into the awful world of prejudice. I was ostracized by my classmates when a young, black girl, Shirley, came into our school.  I befriended her, and immediately I was an outcast. She left after a short time, but I was never accepted by my classmates again.   During those lonely years, I befriend the different, the troubled (had no idea at that age just how troubled some of them really were), but mostly I was alone.

Across the street from our house, in the inner city of Cleveland, was a small, wooded area down a little hill.  At the bottom of the hill was a polluted pond nestled in against the over grown weeds, bushes, and trees.  It was my haven, my retreat from the world above. It was a world where I had true friends, imaginary as they were, they were mine.

A large, square, rusted bucket sat on the edge of the pond. I found a large stick and used it to push my “ship” across the oil slicked water. It is there where I felt the most alive as I pushed my ship through the dank waters.  It became my world where no one could change or alter it – except me.  It is there where I envisioned elves, pirates, Robin Hood and all kinds of wonderful adventures.

We moved when I was sixteen from that house, and my forest.   I was thrust into a school with kids who wanted nothing to do with a newcomer.  Again, a loner – nothing new – but I had no oasis to escape from it this time.  A few months later, I skipped school and took a bus back to the old neighborhood to walk through my forest again.  My heart was racing, because now I knew how to get back to my pond, and I could come back anytime I wanted.

I hurried down the hill.  Strange, I thought. I don’t remember this path having all of these briars poking and pulling at my coat.  I finally reached my beloved pond.  I saw the old rusty bucket and raced toward it. Now I can glide across my “lake” once again.  Did my friends the Elves, pirates and Robin Hood miss me?  I sorely missed them.

The bucket was pulled from the water and sitting on the shore.  When I looked inside I was startled, someone poked a large hole in the bottom of the bucket.   I looked at the colorful oil slick that covered the polluted pond and the rusty bucket as if seeing it for the first time.  I sat on the shore, at the edge of the water, and cried.  I never went back again.

The Cleveland public schools were not the best education a child could get.  A couple of teachers stumbled into the classroom intoxicated, others just didn’t seem to care to teach.  There may have been some great teachers, but I was one of the unfortunate children who never had a good teacher.

When we moved to the suburbs of Cleveland, my luck didn’t change.  Teachers would use my writing papers as an example of what not to do.  One particular teacher would read my paper out loud and then tear it verbally to shreds.  However, after class a couple of kids would tell me they loved my story – because it wasn’t boring like the rest.

It wasn’t until years and years later that the stories in my head were almost screaming at me to get out and be heard.

So, in my later years I began writing.  My first four books were fantasy books – yep – my elves and pirates finally were freed.  And, being the true friends who they are – they forgave me for not telling their stories sooner.



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