Loose-knickered, Murdering Thieves!

I was a bit taken aback, some years ago, when my mother uttered those words. What shocked me was that she was blackening the name of her family – my family. I’d been aware of family stories ever since I was knee-high to a gnat, but to hear her confirm my fears, or should I say hopes, was sobering. Grandma was tight-lipped: one didn’t speak of past scandals, or present ones for that matter, though she did once, probably after a gin, confide in me that she couldn’t take her younger sister, Nell, anywhere – take her into a restaurant and she’d come out with the cutlery stuffed up her sleeves.

To say Mother’s family was colourful would be an understatement. Grandma’s father was an alcoholic who beat his wife, a character used to great effect in The Dandelion Clock, my WW1 novel inspired by Grandad’s exploits in Egypt.

And why hopes of past family scandals? Partly the fecundity of a young mind eager to imagine the past, and then later as a writer. What a wealth of inspiration my family have provided.

Take Grandad’s Aunt Sarah. She was deported to Australia for ‘sleeping with the soldiers in the park’. The park alluded to could surely only have been Boughton House, near the village of Warkton, Northamptonshire, where the family lived. The 6th Duke of Buccleuch was known to have connections with yeomanry regiments, so is it possible the soldiers trained on the Boughton estate? I’ve used this possibility, drawn from one snippet of information about my great aunt, to set the beginning of The Dandelion Clock, in and around Boughton House, a place around which I spent many happy childhood years. (Aunt Sarah later found her way home and lived out the rest of her life in Warkton. She never married.)

And then there’s the distant relative purported to have murdered a gamekeeper. All the while I was growing  up, this story intrigued me, but I had no idea if it was true.  Grandma must have known the truth of the matter, but she never confirmed it. It wasn’t until my mother died that I began, belatedly, to look into my family history, and what I discovered forms the basis of my historical trilogy ‘For Their Country’s Good.’

Grandma’s great uncle, Jem Underwood, had indeed killed a gamekeeper. Also involved were his two cousins, William Downing and Joseph Bedford. Months of research uncovered committal proceedings, trial transcripts, newspaper articles about the crime and trial, convict lists on the prison hulk, Stirling Castle in Portsmouth harbour, passenger lists on the convict ship Tortoise for 1841, and convict behaviour records, as well as marriage permissions and death records. It transpired that the three boys, only in their early twenties, had killed John Dunkley, gamekeeper to Lord Northampton, of Castle Ashby, after he had taken a pot shot at one of them.

All three were convicted of ‘very aggravated manslaughter’ and transported to Van Diemen’s Land for life. At a time when children as young as eight were transported for stealing a length of ribbon, they got off very lightly. But for their lawyer pleaded killing in ‘hot blood’ rather than premeditated murder, they could well have been hung, and there my tale and theirs would have ended.

They lived out their lives in Van Diemen’s Land, married, had families and all lived to old age, something most men of their class didn’t do in England at that time – in England the average age for a labourer was 40: Jem lived to 93.

My tale recreates the murder from historical documents and imagines what might have led up to it and how life might have been after it. It imagines the families and sweethearts left behind, the trial and tribulations of men packed like sardines ‘tween-decks’ on a convict ship and their lives in Van Diemen’s Land. It imagines Jem’s sweetheart’s desperate attempts to be reunited with her lost love and the sacrifices she might have made. It sets their struggles amid the hardships and lack of rights of the lower classes, especially women, in Victorian England and amid the pioneering spirit of the convict labourers who founded the colonies of Van Diemen’s Land and Australia.

Through writing this story, fictional though much of it is, I feel closer to my roots, my ancestry, and I’ve learnt a huge amount about class inequality and the lack of women’s rights in Victorian England and its colonies. Black sheep or not, loose-knickered murdering thieves though they may have been, I’d like to thank them all for inspiring my writing, and in return, I like to think I have given them some small measure of immortality.

‘For Their County’s Good’ Book One – begin the journey.

ODS front cover 400px FINAL 14.4.17 RFbadge

The Dandelion Clock – Coming 2018. Follow my WordPress page for updates.

The Dandelion Clock large 9x6


Book Review – The Salby series …

I loved both these books. I’m looking forward to number three in the series.


It is with great pleasure I present my review of Salby Evolution, the second book in the Salby Eco/Zombie thriller series/trilogy. In addition to this latest review, I’ve also included my review of the first book in the series towards the end of this post for those readers intrigued enough to want to read book 1 first (highly recommended, you won’t be disappointed!). First though, a little about the author himself  …

IanD4IanpicIan D Moore, as well as being a fellow author, blogger, and book IASDpicreviewer is also an Admin and one of the founding members of the IASD Indie Author Support and Discussion group and website:



As well as this, his second novel in the Salby Eco/Zombie thriller series, Ian D. Youre Not Alone 3d inamge (1)Moore was also the instrumental force in bringing together a multitude of Indie Authors from around the world when back in 2015 he put the call out for…

View original post 1,653 more words

Strong women – top 10 tips

strong wwomen

Readers love strong heroines and writers understand why. They make for good characters in compelling tales. Authors like strong heroines because they can live out a fantasy life overcoming their own weaknesses and fears. We put our heroines through hell, give them guilt complexes and seemingly insurmountable odds, and they react in ways we wouldn’t normally dream of reacting ourselves because reality gets in the way. It’s only women like Florence Nightingale or Amelia Earhart who do extraordinary things, not us. But isn’t there a little Florence and Amelia in all of us?

In fiction, reality is suspended, and we can explore our inner selves and think what would we like to do in this circumstance, what would be a strong thing to do?

So what makes a strong woman – in essence, all women are strong, we’re all Florence Nightingales and Amelia Earharts in our own way. We have to be to carry and bear children, to raise them, nurture them, nurse and love them, to watch our menfolk march to war and carry on,  but aren’t we all plagued by doubts and feelings of inadequacy no matter how capable we appear on the outside?

I think one of the hardest life lessons I learned was to accept who I am and be happy in my own skin, and it took years. In fact, it was only after researching my family history and seeing the same problems rearing their heads from generation to generation that I realised none of who I am is my fault. I was born this way, as my parents and their parents were born this way. They were who they were and I am who I am, and I now live with that happily. I have learned to like myself, to allow myself to be loved and to love. None of this came naturally, as those of you who struggle with this will understand.

It’s very easy to be thin-skinned and be upset by negative comments. Learning to like yourself is a bit like Pilates or Yoga, you strengthen your inner core and become resilient to criticism. Others opinions of you are less important when you have that inner resilience and self-love. And I don’t mean being Narcissistic, I mean a quiet strength that comes from knowing you’re an okay person. Not perfect, who is – we all have our faults, we all are who we are, though we change as we grow – but you’re doing the best you can for the person you are now, and no-one can ask more of you than that. That doesn’t mean you ignore others opinions. It means you consider them and take on board positive criticism that you feel might improve you in some way and therefore make you stronger. It’s a matter of bending, not snapping. Being flexible, not rigid.

That seems to contradict being bloody-minded and stubborn, but these traits come from inner strength and resilience, holding your ground, being decisive, and not from outer influences trying to break you. Determination, never giving up, is a key ingredient in my life. I get knocked down and I pick myself up again, and to date I have a 100% success rate at surviving. I am stubborn, annoyingly so sometimes, but if you’re stubborn too, a word of advice: try picking your battles. It helps.

One of the things that has helped me strengthen my inner emotional core is learning to paint. If you can find something you enjoy doing, a new skill, and spend time honing that skill, the rewards are two-fold. One, you get enjoyment from learning and exploring something new. Two, you achieve something you didn’t know you could do, and that’s very good for your feeling of self-worth. If it can be a physical skill, like dancing, Yoga, Pilates, or tennis, then the physical strength you gain is a huge bolster to your mental and psychological inner strength and produces endorphins, which help fight illness, and serotonin, which lifts mood. Try it: it really helps. Aerobics is a great serotonin maker – you’ll be knackered but positively bouncing inside.

We all struggle from time to time. It isn’t weakness to ask for help. It takes strength and courage to confide in another person, to open  up, to lay bear your soul. Poets write poems, painters splash their souls onto their canvasses, and writers do it through their writing: writers invent strong women.

Kiya, in ‘Where Hope Dares’ was raped and kidnapped, torn from her family and taken over the High Atlas Mountains by her abuser. There were times when she wanted to die, but she kept going, one step at a time, in the hope of rescue.

Alana, in ‘The Silence of the Stones’ struggled with loving a child of rape, and for a while she lost her way, but she threw her hopes and guilt into her new future and never gave up her hopes of reuniting with her lost past.

Miriam, in ‘Touching the Wire’ was an inspiration to me. Deported to Auschwitz, and losing her entire family to the gas chamber, she of all my heroines had just cause to curl in a ball and die, but she fought for life, found love, and died with the same courage she showed in life.

Ella, in ‘For Their Country’s Good’ was maybe the most determined of my heroines. When the man she loves is transported for life to the far side of the world, she stops at nothing to follow him. She makes sacrifices no normal woman would make, surely… Would we?

And finally Florrie, in ‘The Dandelion Clock’ is everyone’s grandmother, a young woman struggling to keep together a home and family during The Great War. An ordinary woman like you and me, doing ordinary things with quiet fortitude. A strong woman. This novel will be published in 2018

So that’s my two penny worth, for what it’s worth, but for one thing. Smile. People like to be around happy people. Smiling actually increases endorphins and serotonin as well, which make you feel healthier and happier, which makes you feel stronger.

Be a strong woman. Love yourself, be happy in your own skin, love and let yourself be loved, be determined, stubborn, learn a new skill, accept criticism, ask for help, have faith in yourself, and while you’re doing all this and vacuuming the kids, changing the cat and putting out the baby – smile!

See Previews of Kiya, Alana, Miriam, and Ella’s stories



Where Hope Dares – FREE OFFER

WHD mosaic tweet copy


Kiya, a young healer is kidnapped to fulfil an ancient prophecy, but prophecy is dangerous. Raphel, her storyteller husband sets out on a 1000-mile journey across the High Atlas Mountains to rescue her from a brutal high priest of a religious sect bent on war. Raphel’s only aid is Abe, an enigmatic pedlar, who has his own secret agenda. Who can Raphel and Kiya trust – friend or foe?

‘Holy cow! This is one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read. Rebecca Bryn is an author of considerable talent.’ – Amazon review quote.

The Sickening Waste that is Professional Sport.

Frank Parker's author site

Consider this:the amount payed to the players at Manchester’s 2 Premier League clubs is roughly the same as the total wage and salary bill of that city’s 6 hospitals*. I repeat, the amount paid to the players. It does not include the manager’s salary, nor any of the other staff employed by the club – coaches, physios, groundsmen, admin, marketers, etc. The hospitals’ figure, however, covers all 13,000 employees, from the highest paid consultant to the porters.

The total for the five Premier League clubs with the highest player wage bills is close on £1 billion.

It makes me wonder if the British public care more about sport in general, and football in particular, than they do about their beloved NHS.

I also think it very strange that people who demand “their country back”, and complain that they are being “over-run by immigrants”, nevertheless find it acceptable…

View original post 472 more words

What chance did she have of following her heart? Sneak peek.

SNEAK PEEK EXCERPT FROM ON DIFFERENT SHORES – Book One of FOR THEIR COUNTRY’S GOOD. It’s England, 1841, Jem has been transported to Van Diemen’s Land and Ella, pregnant and penniless, is desperate to follow him…cornfield with Jem and Ella ghosted, faded outer 

Back at her lodgings, she gathered together what wealth she had: the silver-backed mirror her mother had given her, a second-hand silver card-case she’d bought having once naively thought to use it for her calling cards, the cameo Harry had given her that had belonged to his grandmother. She stared at them hopelessly. Her landlord would be wanting his rent today, and this was all she had to offer him.

She descended the stairs and knocked at his door. It opened, and a tall gentleman stared down at her. She took a deep breath. ‘Mr Jessop. I wonder if I might have a word with you?’

He smiled. ‘Mrs Weston, come in. How can I help you?’

She refused the seat he offered and held out her mirror, cameo and card case. ‘I was robbed today. My money was stolen. I can’t pay for my room. This is all I have.’

He frowned. ‘You want me to sell them for you?’

‘If you could take them as rent…’

‘They’re not worth much. Maybe a week’s rent.’ He stared pointedly at her bulge. ‘How will you pay after that with a baby at your breast? And how will you eat?’

She shook her head. ‘I don’t know. Maybe you could find it in your heart…’

‘I can’t afford to keep you and a baby, even if I wanted to. Don’t you have family? What about your husband?’

‘My family are in Bath. My husband… I came here looking for him.’

Mr Jessop’s eyebrows rose in question. ‘He left you, alone and pregnant?’

‘He…’ There was nothing to gain by lying. ‘He’s on Stirling Castle.’

‘He’s a sailor?’ Her landlord’s eyes opened wider. ‘Stirling Castle… isn’t that the prison hulk? He’s a convict?’

She clutched at the back of a chair. Her head hurt where she’d hit it when she’d fallen, and a twinge in her stomach made her gasp. ‘He was sentenced to be transported. I tried to find out about an assisted passage, so I can follow him, but convict’s wives don’t qualify for help. And because I’m only his common-law wife, still married to someone else, I can’t go with him on the convict ship like legal wives.’

‘From what I’ve heard, you wouldn’t want to, and certainly not with a young baby. If you want my advice, go home to your family.’

‘I don’t have the fare.’ Another twinge cramped her stomach. ‘Anyway, I don’t think I’m fit to travel.’

Mr Jessop handed her back her mirror and card case. ‘You can stay tonight, but you’ll need care while you birth… I can’t afford to pay a midwife, either.’ He pursed his lips. ‘Your best course of action is to throw yourself onto the mercy of the parish.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘There’s a poorhouse in Stoke Damerel, not far from here. Duke Street. I suggest you approach them first thing in the morning. They’ll look after you and your baby.’

‘But the poorhouse…’ Her mother had told her of her grandmother’s last years. A shudder ran down her spine. ‘My grandmother died in the poorhouse.’

‘It’s your best option, Mrs Weston, if you don’t have a husband who will provide for you.’

She nodded. Much as she hated the idea of charity, she had a baby to consider, and she had a feeling she would birth early. ‘It will only be for a while. I’ll find work, eventually and be independent again.’ She flopped into the chair she’d refused and held her head in her hands. ‘Am I ever going to be able to follow Jem? Am I stupid to even try?’

Mr Jessop patted her shoulder. ‘Love is a powerful support, but your child will need you more than your man does.’

She palmed aside a tear. What chance was there of following her heart, now?

Want to read from the beginning? Click here.

Lock up your wife and beat her – women’s rights back in the day

On International Women’s Day, I’m reminded of the research I undertook while writing ‘For Their Country’s Good’, an historical series about a young poacher exiled for life for killing one of Lord Northampton’s gamekeepers. He left behind a common-law wife pregnant and penniless who was determined not to be left behind. It was researching her plight more than his that uncovered shocking truths about the lives of women in Victorian England.

I hadn’t intended to write a book that highlighted the lack of women’s rights, but that lack was such an inescapable and integral part of the story that it became inevitable. Once given in marriage, often as a political or social pawn, a woman legally owned nothing – everything she may have owned before marriage became the property of her husband. Even her children belonged to her husband, and she had no rights over them.  She could be legally imprisoned, beaten, and raped – indeed rape in marriage  was legal until 1991.

While a man was socially applauded for the number of his mistresses, and his wife was expected to accept it, if a woman strayed just once, she could be set aside with no means of support, denied access to her children, and refused permission to remarry. A husband’s revenge for being deserted or cuckolded was such that many women stayed in violent and loveless marriages rather than lose everything, including her children. Divorce was unheard of for all but the peerage, and was seen as a crime against God. Indeed, it was the church that actually promoted this inequality between the sexes, church courts having the say rather than civil courts in marital issues. The laws of marriage and property rights were made by men for men. A man could be looked down on for beating a horse but was virtually encouraged to beat godliness into his wife.

Women’s rights have come a long way since the 1840s, which is when ‘For Their Country’s Good’ is set, but women still have to fight for equality in the workplace and for acceptance as equals. Even when I was a young woman, men were expected to sow their wild oats, but girls were expected to be virgins. I was never quite sure how that hypocrisy was supposed to work! And I was paid half of my male counterparts for doing the same job in banking, and yes, it did rankle.

Men and women are not the same, not equals in every respect: I’d be the first to say that. We have different strengths and weaknesses, different temperaments, and mindsets, and our lives dance to different hormones and rhythms, but we complement one another, help and support one another, sometimes frustrate the hell out of one another, and are two sides of the same coin. It is important that we value one another.

Whether you’re a women’s libber or a woman hater, bear in mind the deprivations that spawned  woman’s fight for equality and the courage that fight has taken.  There are cultures where women are still treated as chattels and barely human. We must be ever wary that human rights, rights and freedoms for both men and women, are not eroded while we sleep.

Book One of ‘For Their Country’s Good’

FTCG coomp maybe our love is not meant to be