Saturday, 29 June 2013

Hints for the beginning writer

If you are at the start of your writing career, these hints can be a help. If you are experienced, you will have long since devised your own methods, but all the same, it might be of interest to see how other authors do it.

I wrote a dozen full length books before ‘Not a Man,’  none of which will be published. It added up to well over two million words. The writing I’d done before that was in the form of essays for university subjects. They always had a strictly limited word count, and at the end, there had to be a bibliography.  So when I started writing fiction, it was with a sparse style, almost completely lacking in description. And when I wrote ‘the end,’  I immediately started thinking of a bibliography. It took a while to be able to relax and start filling in the structure to make a better ‘furnished’ book.

My next mistake was to get too verbose. I began to be carried away with the details of minor characters. It didn’t really matter when I was writing only for myself, but that is something I still have to beware of – one cannot become too involved with minor characters without losing your reader.

And the more concrete things that should have been obvious:

1. You will laugh, but I forgot that men have to shave. You cannot have a man an unconscious prisoner for a few weeks, and expect him to finally escape clean-shaven.

2. People get older. If someone is sixty in Book 1, twenty years later in Book 4, they will be eighty.

3. If a character has a dog that is always with him, you have to remember that where he is, the dog will be too. Pets are bit of a nuisance sometimes – they can really get in the way.


In an early story, an old lady died. Unfortunately, two chapters later, she was merely retired.

To avoid this, the obvious thing to do is to read your novel through again and again, finding the errors. But also, maintain a detailed reference list of characters, and as you write your story, make sure and note the dates. It does not have to be in the actual story, of course, but you should know. It helps with continuity, it helps that you remember it is now spring or autumn depending where you have set your novel, and it means that you do not write as if life was a never-ending weekend. School or work have to come in there somewhere (sadly.)  
It would be embarrassing to accidentally leave a date where it shouldn’t be, so I put a distinctive word before the note of the date – eg. ‘banana, Saturday, 9th October, 2010,’  and then make sure to do a search for that word before finishing off.  ‘Pizza’ is for when I’m editing and it marks where I am up to. So all bananas and pizzas removed before publication – unless they actually do figure in the storyline. 


Choice of names:

It is vitally important not to confuse people, so try and have the names of your main characters as simple as possible so they get remembered, and as different from each other as you can manage. And while in real life, there could be Anne Green, Anne Brown and Ann Black all in the same office, don’t do that in a novel. There’s no need, and again, you’ll confuse your reader. All names different. (In my opinion. You can disagree, of course, but this is my blog, so I get to say what I think.)

Be on guard against using the same names again and again. In my fourth Penwinnard novel, I had the primary character with the name ‘Lachlan,’ but then I remembered that Lachlan was an important character in Penn 2, and what is more, he is likely to become important again in Penwinnard 5. So now, my character is Steven, and I expect that he will stay Steven.

Jeremy is another important character, but he might have a name change because he is to become a good friend of Jimmy, and readers are likely to confuse the two. It is better to make sure that names are as different as they need to be to make life as easy as possible for the reader.

Devising a name that indicates something of the personality of the character:

For all of us, a particular name comes with its connotations. Some of it is due to our own past knowledge of ‘Mandys,’ for instance, or ‘Freds,’  and some is because of the depiction of people with these names in fiction or even history. Some is probably because of the sound of the name – some sounds are melodious, some abrupt.

I used to regard choosing a name that is an indication of a character's personality as something to avoid. It is not like this in real life. A ‘Skye’ sounds like she should be beautiful and maybe rich, but is quite likely to be plain and very ordinary.

I’ve changed my mind about this. Writing a story is about making the reader see what you see.  It is about communication, so no available tool should be ignored. A character in my Penwinnard stories is ‘Martin Sanders.’  He sounds a bit wishy-washy and so he is. ‘Ian MacKender’ is the boss, and to my mind, sounds more like a boss should be. (He is a very good boss.) 
In  'Not a Man',  Shuki had several names before I settled on that one.  And even then he was nearly changed again when my son peered over my shoulder and called him 'Shucky.' 
No, no, he is Shoo-kee. Shuki.


There are also names you can think of that sound like the person should be a proper idiot, but I’ll leave you to think of those names – I don’t want to insult too many people.
(Sorry all you real Martin Sanders.)

Are you writing a series? Or even a series of stories that are each supposed to be complete in itself?

Then it is not a bad idea to write the next in the series before publishing the one before. That way, if there are adjustments that need to be made, then you can still do it. For instance, I have gone back to change the age of a boy, and also, in one case, a history.


And something that almost every romance writer does, and I do not agree with.

They forget about bodily functions. How often have I read about the beautiful heroine being nurse to the handsome man who has ‘a fever.’  She gives him tender loving care, wipes the sweat from his brow, maybe even from his muscular chest, but does she ever change the stinking sheets when he’s soiled himself?

Well, no, sick people don’t do that in fiction. From the first, I decided that I would not pretend that an unconscious person never wets or dirties the sheets. Sickness is not pretty or romantic. No need to dwell on it, of course.


More hints that a beginning writer might find useful:

When using a computer, you can choose the colour of your script. I make use of different colours for different characters. It makes it easy to scan back through and find a particular place.

It is also useful in dialogue. It is easy to wind up with one character saying two things in a row,  instead of alternating with the other. So if it’s a long conversation, just start each person’s remark with a characteristic colour.

Sometimes you need to take parts out, sometimes whole scenes that you really liked. You don't want to sacrifice it. So have a place you put ‘deleted scenes’  and then, if you need it again, it is there. It  hurts a lot less than merely deleting it, even when, nine times out of ten, you never look at it again.


Examples from my own writing:

Notes as you write:

2182 words
1st Monday in September is 6th September, Steven and Jeremy arrived Monday, 2nd August, 2010, 
The wedding: 11.00 am,  Saturday, 25th September.
Banana: Monday, 27th September

Chapter 11

It was Monday evening. Ian was in his own lounge-room, watching the local news on TV. He’d known that a TV crew had been filming at the wedding, but had assumed they’d gone quite quickly. No-one had told him that they’d wandered around for nearly an hour, almost to the time the wedding party had emerged from the church. He alerted when he saw the news item, smiled when he saw the early pictures of Lionel and Katy, but frowned when the camera strayed to several of the older boys. They were in the distance, and a little fuzzy, but to any who knew them, easily identifiable. It was a good thing that he’d arranged to get Bob out of the way, but still, he was not the only boy whose whereabouts was not supposed to be known to their parents or to their abusers. He decided to give the news channel a thorough blast in the morning. This was most definitely not as agreed.
Black happens to be Ian's colour, green is Bob's, blue is Steven's.

A portion of my reference list:

Dallas Landen.   Turned 15 September 2009., arrived June 04,  aged 11.   black-haired,  small for his age,  half-starved,  very timid.   Very loud whistle.  At 14,  he is of low status among the boys,  proud to be a “Winnard’  and sometimes asked to help look after the new boys.   Father still in gaol for child abuse.  Father used to tell him that God would punish him dreadfully.  Was in a large London institution prior to Penwinnard, came when he was 11.  Mother was Philipino. Book 3, noted that he was an excellent swimmer.  At 15, he started shooting up to become tall.

In July 2009,  he met an aunt called Sue Dunne  (nee Landen)    widow.  Dallas said,  “This is only the third time I’ve had a visitor.  It’s an aunt I’d never heard of when I was young.  She didn’t like my father  -  that was her brother  -  and so she never came near.”         “They’re still in prison,  aren’t they?”   “My father is.  My mother’s out,  but Donna says she’s not allowed to come near.”  “Did you have any brothers or sisters?”             “Three,  but they all died when they were little.  I only remember one,  and then one day someone said it was cot death and it happens sometimes.  I remember Father saying it was God’s judgement,  but I think it was probably because they didn’t feed it.”  This is Aunt Sue,  aged 60,  2010,

Penn 3. ‘Dallas’s father had found his second wife in the Philippines. His first wife had left him after just three weeks.’ Tattoo, June 2010

Barry Zahedi.   Turned 15 early November, 2009,  Arabic heritage, Lebanese. born in the UK.   Arrived late August 2009, from Van Dyke Boys’ Home,  in Newcastle, three months Juvy before that. tough boy ‘Barry had a shaven head, tattoos and a ring through an eyebrow, big for his age.  Lived with his father, who was a habitual crim. mother left him when he was 12, whereabouts unknown. (murdered?)  ‘Barry Zahedi. He’s fourteen, and was in Juvenile Detention for three months after stealing a car. It was not his first offense. He was released three weeks ago to the Van Dyke Home for boys in Newcastle. He’s been in and out of homes for the last three years, a father still alive, but always in trouble, three times in prison, with a new trial coming up for assault and theft. I want to get the boy right away from him.”  Tattoo, June 2010

Leon Wippeart ,  turned 15 October 2009, arrived mid October 2009, left August 2010, to relatives, not much warning. slimy type, light-fingered, a bedwetter for a time. Spoke well, and had reasonable manners.   Has relatives living in Plymouth. Shares a room with Dallas, and have become close friends, Tattoo, June 2010

And I have no idea if anyone will find these notes of help, but I quite enjoy my blog, regardless.


To find my books, look on online sellers such as Smashwords or Amazon.












Sunday, 23 June 2013

The Shell

The Special Shell.

An excerpt from Penwinnard 4, 
                   not yet named and still in progress

Not long later, they were in the room used by Dallas, tall, black hair, slightly oriental features. Jimmy said, “Dall, can you show Steve your special shell please? And I’ll tell him.”
"The shell?” Dallas said.  He picked up a large shell from his desk and handed it to Steven, who handled it carefully, but couldn’t see that an old shell was anything special.

Jimmy said, “See, it’s all scarred and it’s got old broken shells stuck to it, and yet it got very big and it lived a long time. I’ve never seen a shell that big around here before.”

Steven studied it and handed it back. “So?”

Dallas showed him, “See, there’s been creatures bore through the shell here, and they’ve left tracks. And here it’s just a little bit broken. And there’s lots of barnacles on it and some of them are broken with sharp edges. It’s like us, you see? We’re all scarred and some of us have awful memories, some of us maybe have nightmares or we’re scared when we shouldn’t be. We’re not perfect, but the animal that lived in this shell, it grew very big and tough in spite of everything.”

Steven took it back again and studied it, running a hand gently over a sharp edge. He asked, “Dallas, what happened to Bob? I said something and he got really shitty and now he’ll scarcely look at me.”

 Author page on Amazon:

and on Smashwords   (where they're $1.99 instead of $2.99) 

Thursday, 20 June 2013

'I bought a jeep' - the cleverest ad on TV

On Australian TV, one of the most clever ads I've ever seen has made an appearance.  There are at least three versions.

1. At home, husband comes home from work and asks casually what she chose.  Wife replies in voice of pleased achievement, 'I bought a jeep.' He queries and she repeats.  He is looking at her with surprised admiration -  'You bought a jeep!'

2. A kid at school, opening his lunch-box, mentions to his mate that his mum bought a jeep. The other kid double-checks and then stands up and shouts it out to those around as if it was some great achievement - 'Harry's mum bought a jeep!' 

3. An operating theatre.  Surgeon mentions to his assistant that his wife bought a jeep. The assistant stops and stares, 'She bought a jeep!'  His expression shows that he thinks it some amazing achievement.  Surgeon replies 'It's not brain surgery, she bought a jeep!'

There are a couple of others.  In each case, there is not the slightest attempt to justify the decision, not the slightest attempt to say why the jeep might be suitable for the purpose, and not the slightest attempt to say why the decision to buy a jeep rather than anything else is an achievement that invites pleased admiration.  Just the words used in different scenes and the swirling movement of music and showing the jeep.

Now a big 4 wheel drive is good for towing caravans, and it is good when the drive to the farm-house is boggy. It is good for those who like to tackle rough country - or to pretend that they do.  But it is quite unsuitable for running around a city, and sometimes very difficult to park in the space allocated in some carparks. It is not a practical choice for most people. So what do the ad people decide?  Skip that bit - just pretend, and it will be fixed in people's mind that buying a jeep is somehow an achievement.

Very, very clever.

This is a picture of a truck - almost as impractical as a jeep to get around town.

But as the blog refuses to allow me to upload new pictures, I thought I'd just ask you to pretend that it is a jeep. 

The dog is Lassie, a farm dog who lived around 50 years ago.

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Sunday, 16 June 2013

Governor Bligh, Gough Whitlam, Pauline Hanson and Julia Gillard.

The most shameful things that have occurred in Australian politics. 

I am not counting the eternal squabbles, minor cheats of travel allowance, and drunken MPs. These are the big things - the four most shameful events that have happened in Australian politics since 1778.

1.  1808, way back when the colony was young. Corruption was rife, the New South Wales Army Corps were making themselves rich, and the currency was rum. Governor William Bligh tried to bring order, but instead there was what came to be known as  the 'Rum Rebellion.'  Bligh was deposed and taken as a prisoner, leaving the army officers in control, to continue to make themselves rich at the expense of everyone else. The Army Corps was under the command of Major George Johnston, working closely with John Macarthur. History remembers Macarthur as a great man rather than a troublesome bully who did everything he could to undermine fair government. 

2. 1975.  Labor was in government with a hostile Senate, who blocked supply (of money that is.)  The Governor-General, John Kerr, dismissed Gough Whitlam's Labor Government and put an unelected Liberal government in its place. Malcolm Fraser became Prime Minister.  Australian citizens had not even realised that he had that power - he was viewed as just a figurehead -  a remnant of the time that Australia was a colony rather than a democracy. 

The 'Dismissal' as it was called, would not have been so shameful if the governor had merely called an election. But putting an unelected government in power - that was unforgivable.

Many, many years later, Fraser admitted that he was surprised that it had worked. He said that if he'd been in power and the positions reversed, he would simply have refused to listen to Kerr. 

3. 2003. Pauline Hanson - Australia's second political prisoner. (William Bligh was the first and the only other one that I know of.) Hanson started an immensely popular 'Australia Party.' Members of the self-named 'Intelligentsia'  called her ignorant and racist. She was taken before the Race Tribunal at one point, but they had to concede that saying that Aboriginals should be treated in the same way as anyone else was not racist.

The major parties opposed this upstart with everything they had. Her policies were ridiculed, (even though some were later adopted)  and she was mocked for her speech, and because she ran a fish and chip shop (betraying some inherent snobbery of politicians.)  After her first unexpected success, when elections came again,  all the major parties conspired to put her last on the preference list, (preferences are very important in Australian voting.)  The result was that it was almost impossible for her to get enough votes to win a seat. 

BUT the most shameful thing is that her Australian Party was deemed to be somehow illegal, and she was sentenced to a term of imprisonment. It was in Queensland, which apparently had some very poor judges at the time. The conviction was later overturned, but not before Hanson suffered the enormous indignity of some months in prison.

2013:  And now, the repeated and personal vilification of Julia Gillard, our first (and last?)  female Prime Minister.  Tony Abbot (leader of the Opposition) 'happened' to be standing in front of a placard which labelled her 'bitch.' She has been criticised for having no children. Vicious 'jokes' are spread by email, Facebook and Twitter. It has become fashionable to hate her. Even those I'd previously regarded as having a lot of sense have joined the bandwagon. There is a facebook page -  'Australia's
Worst Prime Minister'  which appears to be dedicated to personal attacks against her. A radio 'shock-jock' asked her whether  her partner was gay because he was a hair-dresser.  The question was condemned on all sides, but probably the Opposition was pleased - now the seed has been planted and the ranks of the homophobic can be added to her detractors.

There are certainly things she has done that I disagree with, but nothing she has done warrants this vitriol.

It is an absolute disgrace that the woman is being treated like this, and I honour her for the dignity and courage with which she has borne it.

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Thursday, 13 June 2013

Authors, agents, publishers and little gods.

A note to begin with:  For some reason, BlogSpot has become very difficult to work with, changing the position of things, the size of the writing, the type of font, all apparently very much at random.  Try to ignore the awkwardness of the positioning of some of the elements, and simply read what I have to say.

Authors, agents, publishers and little gods.

Authors have to learn to accept rejection. We are all told that, and we learn to live with rejection slips, learn to live with criticism of what we have put our hearts and minds into creating. We become desperate for publication, for acceptance, and to see our precious book in our own hands - real - something to feel and touch and admire. It is why a whole industry has grown up around taking money from yet-to-be-published authors.

Agents, on the other hand, find themselves in enormous demand. They sit back and every now and then, tell those lowly authors exactly the form of submission letter that just might gain their attention. Do something the tiniest bit wrong - or maybe not wrong, but something they don't like - and it will be rejected. Even that name - 'submission' - like you're crawling on your belly to some god.

And then publishers.  Ah, they know best, don't they?  They know what sells, what title to use for the product, and whether the plot should be changed to what they think will sell. That the author should have a say?  Ludicrous.  And usually, the author is too overwhelmed to think they've been picked up by a major publisher that they will do what they're told, few daring to raise their voices in protest.

Small independent publishers. Some of those can be the worst of all. They can be even like a cult, where the 'publisher' is the god, and his stable of authors become something like disciples, ready to turn on anyone who does not join in the chorus of praise for the great god Publisher. 

But that is just a few. Many small independents are good, doing the best for their authors. And probably many agents respect their authors, maybe even thinking them as almost as much to be respected as themselves. The big publishers?  Are some of those good?  Well, since I've heard that a new author gets dumped if they're not an immediate success, I doubt it.

'Submitting.'  In the dictionary, 'submit' is defined as 'yield to another's authority or control, surrender' as well as 'present for consideration or acceptance.' I think most agents and publishers fully expect the first definition.

Here are just two sites giving submission requirements (no, not literally on your knees, just figuratively.)  There are numerous others. There are even people charging authors to write a 'killer' submission letter.  There was one arrogant agent who did a blog post listing all the utterly trivial reasons why she might reject a manuscript. (I think I remember it as a 'she')

This one lists requirements, but they all seem sensible enough. It is still quite clear who is the one on top and who is the one that has to ‘submit.’

Another one. Learn all these requirements, and you’ll have your poor brain overloaded.  What a shame that agents can’t just look to see if it’s a good book!

Well,  too bad. 

Some of us do not choose to worship at the feet of agents or publishers. It is the self-publishing revolution.   There is new light, a dawning of empowerment for authors.

Createspace or Lulu can make your paperbacks or hardcovers at minimal cost.
Smashwords or Kobo or Amazon and a half dozen others can enable your ebook to be available online, usually at no cost at all. 

So here are some self-published books that are doing just fine, thank you, without an agent, without a publisher, and no need to crawl to anyone.

Recently self-published.
    I wrote about this book in a previous blog post.
     It is not only an extremely good book,
     but it is an important book,
     something that everyone should read.

The blurb:
When eleven-year-old Meggie's feckless Dad doesn't pay the coal man and they have no hot water she takes matters into her own hands. With her younger brother, Jack, she sets off to find the free coal she knows can be found in the pit heaps opposite their village. When she and Jack return home from their adventure, she's punished. Does she still love her dad? She’s not so sure and when she has to make a choice between going to live with her grandparents at their newsagent’s shop in Newcastle so she can go to the grammar school or staying in Shippon and going to the local secondary school she decides to leave home.
She soon finds herself in an ever bigger mess. Billy Fish and The Codmother are ripping off Meggie's grandparents. With her new friend, paperboy Dave Spedding, she tries to help, but finds herself trapped in a dangerous situation.
My review of Meggie Blackthorn.

Meggie is such a great character - spirited, courageous and clever. She is so easy to relate to, and one can't help but want to share her journey toward adulthood. A 5-star read. 

My review of  'Dragon Slayer Three.'

Things I particularly liked about the story of Rimsey, her battles and her victories:
*I like that she is a girl, scorned by her peers, and yet she is intelligent, courageous and above all, triumphant.
*I love the breathless speed of the fight scenes, and I like that she wins each battle. (Well, the story would have to end if she lost)
*I liked what she said once - that in her profession, there was no such thing as a partial win. It was either a win or no more dragon slayer.
*I liked the pragmatism with which she treats a needed death - when told that her enemy would not forgive her, she says: "I know he won't. But neither will he learn from it. You should have let me kill him. I'll have to eventually. Pass your plate, supper's ready."
*I like the fact that when the nun tried to lay a guilt trip on her for killing the man, she disregards it - She looked down at Berenice. "But for me, hate isn't a burden. It's a tool of the trade." She flicked the reins and drove out, without looking back.

Things I didn't like? Well, nothing really. Purchasers should be aware that these stories are only short, 12,000 words for Dragon 2 and around 15,000 words for Dragon 3.
And I suppose they're really meant for children. That didn't stop this mature adult thoroughly enjoying them.
Happily 5 stars for Rimsey, her stories and her author.


The story of Mikey, who rashly accepts a drink from a stranger, and his life is never the same again. The sequel to this book of 'Paying the Piper.' I cannot recommend these two highly enough.

The blurb: 
Tom Kendall, a down to earth private detective, is asked to investigate the death of a young newspaper reporter. The evidence shows quite clearly that it was an accident: a simple, dreadful accident. That is the finding of the coroner and the local police. Furthermore, there were two witnesses. They saw the whole thing. But was it an accident, or was it something more sinister? Against a backdrop of a viral epidemic slowly spreading from Central America, a simple case soon places Kendall up against one of the largest drug companies in the country.
(Although a Standalone novel, it is also the Third in a Series featuring Tom Kendall private detective)
John Holt uses a small publisher known as Phoenix. He has several published titles. 

The Blurb:
Dark, stunning and mysterious, Shades of Gray breaks through the barriers of modern writing and revitalizes the vampire genre for a new generation. Unlike modern, feeble vampire stories directed at teenagers and Hollywood, Shades of Gray takes us back to a time when vampires were still deadly creatures of the night and love knew no bounds. With the same dedication to the true vampire genre that authors such as Stephen King (Salem's Lot) and Anne Rice (Queen of the Damned) write with, Joleene Naylor, in her first book, Shades of Gray, has captured the very essence of their darkness, the depths of their emotions, and reminded us of the horrifying reality of what it means to be a vampire.

Lisa Hinsley is one of those authors who self-published to begin with,  but now, some of her best books have been picked up by a publisher. It demonstrates that there are a lot of very good books among the ranks of self-publishers.

The blurb:  Abe Finchley is a damaged man, an orphan with no roots and no family ties. When he finally meets the woman he has been looking for all his life, he finds not just love and passion, but a dark and violent family history that spans generations into humanity’s deepest past.
Eve is the woman of his dreams; but dream is just another word for nightmare, and Abe knows all about those. Amidst a confused web of lies and secrets, Abe is trying to discover who he is and make sense of what he may become. More than just his future and his new-found love is at stake. When he discovers that he has a brother, a man bound by divine destiny to kill him, Abe is going to have to make a difficult choice. A choice that might redeem the world. A choice that just might destroy it.
A Darker Moon is a dark, psychological fantasy. A mythical tale of light and shadow and the unlit places where it is best not to shine even the dimmest light.





'If Only I Could Talk' is the first self-published book that I purchased once I came to make some online author acquaintances.
I love this book.
'If Only I Could Talk' by Tony Lewis

The Shuki Series and the Penwinnard Stories, are, of course, my own. To me, they are beautiful, and with more 5-star reviews than anything else,  I am satisfied that readers are enjoying them.


It is no longer necessary to 'submit.'
So instead? 
And little gods?  Why, authors of course. Who else can make a world, people it with the characters we invent, and then have really bad things happen to the ones we don't like? 
We, the authors, are gods.  Some of those agents and publishers only think they are.

Look for my books on Smashwords, on Amazon or on other online retailers.


Monday, 10 June 2013

'Anca's Story' by Seffina Desforges

'Anca's Story' by Seffina Desforges.  This is a story of the Holocaust of World War 2.

 The blurb:

Dare you read Anca's Story?

Three young children smuggle themselves into Auschwitz in search for their parents.

If you're looking for werewolves, vampires and faeries and paranormal fantasy, try somewhere else. The only wolf in this story is very real, and the only connection with vampires is the distant Transylvanian mountains in Romania, where this story begins.

If you're looking for light-reading where they all live happily ever after then again, try somewhere else.

If you want serious, no-holds-barred literary fiction set against the background of real historic events, then this is for you.

Saffina Desforges made her name writing hard-hitting crime fiction.

This book is about that most horrific crime of all: genocide.

Some reviews: 

Format:Kindle Edition

After just finishing Anca's story, I am sat heartbroken, not because this story is real, it is of course fiction, but for the fact that the Holocaust happened. This is a story of determination, courage and love of 3 children from 2 different backgrounds, although the story is fiction the Holocaust wasn't, and to read about it and the suffering that happened to many was heart wrenching. The book is beautifully written, with extremely likeable characters. It is not a book I would normally choose but I have been blown away by how powerful a story it is. Well done Saffina Desforges... as I said before... Blown away.


By Ginnette Hargreaves-Lees (Bracknell, Berkshire, United Kingdom) -

 Ought to be compulsory reading in schools.
The book opens with the Survivor being mocked by an uninterested young person, but as Anca tells her story, respect for her incredible survival and moving on, after the war, is felt.
Movingly told.'

My review:  5 stars

A fictional story about a real and terrible event - an event that seems too awful to be true and yet it is.

Anca is 12, her brother, Nicholae, is 6. Elone is 9. The children were separated from their parents on the way to a labour camp (actually Auschwitz, a death camp) and were left to cope alone. Elone and her family were Jews, though Anca's family was not. It was not only Jews that wound up in the Nazi death camps.

I do have criticisms of this story - that the language was often unnatural, and the author has a liking for obscure words - words that are not even in a normal size dictionary. For instance: a ‘bicephalous moon’ and 'I crawled reptant.’  Unnatural language: for instance: 'as they partook their evening repast’ instead of ‘as they ate dinner'  and  ‘we were soon benighted’ instead of ‘night came.’  

I wonder if English is a second language for the author, as the English is totally accurate, but in a way that a native to the language is unlikely to use.

My other criticism was that it was farfetched, the events unlikely in the extreme. Anca was twice rescued in the nick of time, just when she was being killed?  And her utter stupidity when she voluntarily entered a 'labour camp' even after witnessing a mass murder of Jews. 

But that part can be partially explained - there were so few who survived the Holocaust, and each survivor's story is probably just as unlikely.

But still - 5 stars. This was an incredible story that kept my interest from start to finish. It brought history to life. This is a very good book. I recommend it.

From the author (actually one of the author partnership known as Seffina Desforges)

Anca's Story was written with the imminent WWII anniversaries in mind. 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz and the end of WWII in 2015, and the 75th anniversary in 2020. Not for commercial reasons (we really didn't expect this to sell anywhere near as well as it has) but because these anniversaries will be the last major commemorations when there will still be people alive who lived through the events, hence the choice to have Anca herself narrate the story. The title itself was deliberately low key, and we opted not to make the main character a Jew to remind everyone the Holocaust was much more than just anti-Semitism gone mad. although of course the wonderful Elone is there to make sure that side of the story is heard.

In answer to my criticism of the unnatural language:  The choice was deliberate. The narrator, Anca, is very much an English as second language person. There were probably very few native-English speakers in the concentration camps, and Anca's generation would have learned and spoken English in such a fashion

For the author's profile, and details of other books, follow the link below/



Other books by Selfina Desforges:

Saffina Desforges took the British Kindle market by storm with their debut, controversial psycho-sexual thriller, 'Sugar & Spice'.

'Sugar & Spice' is available on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble and itunes, Waterstones and Tescoebooks, as well as Scrollmotion, Diesel and Kobo.

The paperback version of 'Sugar & Spice' is also available on Amazon in English and French.

It has sold close to a quarter of a million copies.
'Sugar & Spice' is set across the UK, against the background of Britain's fragmented criminal justice system, with the key protagonists the mother and partner of a murdered child.


Look for my books on Smashwords, on Amazon or on other online retailers.