The HistWriter October Newsletter

This month I reflect on a small writing workshop I’m holding with my local writing group and introduce two writers you may not have heard of:
Cheryl Underhill, a childhood friend, who has compiled her parents’ WW2 correspondence into a fascinating book ‘The Box of Beautiful Letters’ and Rose Cullen, a fellow member of the Irish chapter of the Historical Novel Society, whose debut novel ‘The Lucky Country’ is an epic tale of an Irish family’s emigration to Australia in the 1950s.

All my newsletters are viewable here

Wexford Literary Festival 2021


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Wexford Literary Festival will again be held online this year, from 1st – 4th July 2021, and has attracted an international field of competition entries for the Colm Tóibín International Short Story Award, the Anthony Cronin International Poetry Award, the Billy Roche International Short Play Award, the Eoin Colfer International Children’s Short Story Award, and the Denis Collins Literary Art Award.

A full programme of interviews and spoken word events will include WEXPRESSIONS involving approximately 10 Wexford Women Writers (including me!). This will be a variety of poetry and prose showcasing the variety of women writing in our vibrant county and the unique locations that inspire us. 

Last year I was very fortunate that the Festival’s ‘Meet the Publisher’ Competition, offering an interview with Paula Campbell of Poolbeg Press, led to the publication of my novel ‘Heart of Cruelty’, the first of a three-book contract. Paula is a pleasure to talk to, genuinely enthusiastic about historical fiction, and I have really enjoyed working with Poolbeg and their excellent editor Gaye Shortland. Work on my next book continues!

For more information, look for the Wexford Literary Festival on Twitter or Facebook, or check their website at

Peace Walls: a short story written in 2012


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When I wrote Peace Walls in 2012 I did not foresee peace in Northern Ireland unravelling and hoped that time would bring healing.

Free to read on my website (link), it’s a time shift short story set in Northern Ireland about a fictional sectarian murder and the long term consequences for the people who knew the victim.

The research for this was painful at times, in particular reading ‘Bear in Mind These Dead’ by Susan McKay (link), which is a factual account of some of the victims of the Troubles. The Historical Enquiries Team video on YouTube (link) was also an inspiration, as was Alan M Wilson’s ‘Policing Ireland’s Twisted History’(link).

In 2021 we need more than ever to uphold the ideal of peace. Politicians must get to work. The current difficulties in implementing Brexit have to be solved by negotiation. Walls should not be needed. Let’s reconcile histories and old divisions and work on what we all have in common, for the sake of our young people and their future.

Image: NornIronphotos via Wikipedia: Creative Commons 2.0

The HistWriter April 2021

The April issue of The HistWriter newsletter comes to you from Wexford in Ireland.

This month I look at Wexford’s links to the first invasion of Ireland by the English, and review a trio of novels by Irish historical writers. Susan Lanigan, Patricia O’Reilly and Derville Murphy are all fellow members of the Irish branch of the Historical Novel Society, with whom I’ve ‘found my tribe’.

The HistWriter April 2021



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Now that Britain has severed ties with Europe, I reflect on the origin of their geographical separation, the inspiration for my short story: Doggerland (link).

Doggerland is a submerged area stretching from the east coast of England across to Jutland and the Netherlands. A long time ago this was above sea level and it is thought that around 6500 BC there may have been a tsunami which led to it being inundated and cutting Britain off from the continent of Europe.

We know very little about the Dogger folk but every now and again North Sea trawlers have dredged up an old implement, ancient bones, or some other remnant of that lost Mesolithic civilisation. What else might lie buried under the shifting sands of the seabed?

I wanted to write about a distant people who have left virtually no trace of their existence.  Perhaps some of their language lives on in the accents of East Anglia and of the Netherlands and Jutland.

I imagined the Dogger people as fisherfolk, living amongst wide waterways like the Norfolk Broads. I thought of a man with a dog and a home and a family, but threatened by inundation. Not knowing whether to move, or whether to remain in place and accept whatever fate might bring. 

This is even now a universal dilemma: it belongs to the émigré, to the refugee. It is exactly how my partner and I felt in the UK as we watched the approach of Brexit, so universal that across thousands of years I sense a commonality with that lost people. Eve and I chose to move, and settled in Ireland; we now look back with sorrow, but forward with hope.

Doggerland can be read here (link) and appears in my collection of 20 historical short stories In Other Times (link), available as a free download for subscribers to The HistWriter e-newsletter.


The Scarlet Thread – free short story



In November 1793, Philibert Aspairt went missing. He was the doorkeeper of the Val-de-Grâce hospital during the French Revolution.

His body was not discovered until 1804, 11 years later, in the catacombs of Paris, and was buried where it was found. He must have entered the catacombs via a staircase located in the hospital courtyard. His motives are unknown and the cause of his death was never determined. Aspairt might have been identified by the hospital key ring hanging from his belt.

The above information is from Wikipedia.

My short fiction, ‘The Scarlet Thread’ (link), is an imagination of the events that led to his death.

It’s included with 19 other historical short stories in my free eBook ‘In Other Times, an anthology of 20 historical fiction short stories.

To download your copy and subscribe to the free monthly newsletter ‘The HistWriter’, subscribe below:

At the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month:


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We shall remember them.

Hinky-Dinky Parlay-Voo’ is a free to read short story about the call-up, the media frenzy, and the popular songs of the day – and about the dark reality that lay beyond in the mud of Flanders.

Tree of Knowledge is about the Eastern front – in Mesopotamia, or modern day Iraq.

These stories are included in my free eBook ‘In Other Times’, an anthology of 20 historical fiction short stories.

To download your copy and the free monthly newsletter ‘The HistWriter’, subscribe here:

I also highly recommend Susan Lanigan’s war novels, available via Amazon:

White Feathers

Lucia’s War

And short fiction:

Unfortunate Stars

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