on the writing & reading trail

Latest novel – Future Hope

Latest novel – Future Hope

Future Hope

Future Hope

Future Hope is Winfreda Donald’s third novel in The Long Shadows Series. The story continues to trace the separate lives of Freya and Alexander. Once more their paths cross in unusual circumstances – this time in Kruger National Park. They resolve to clear up the mysterious events that led to their parting some seventeen years previously – after Freya completes her humanitarian aid mission in southern Sudan. Will their lives change as the clock tips over on New Year’s Eve 1999 into the current century?

Future Hope is currently available as an e-book from major online booksellers and will be published in paperback format at the end of February.




Today’s blog guest is Sara Delaval who recently published her first novel Cicadas in Summer. Congratulations Sara and thank you for visiting today.

Sara's first novel

Sara’s first novel

Where did you grow up Sara – and what brought you to Australia?

I was born and grew up in London, having survived a boarding school designed on Dickensian lines. What I remember most is being cold all the time. Summers were very short and heating everywhere was inadequate and I dreamed of living somewhere warm and sunny. So a girlfriend and I decided to join the ten pound poms and emigrate. After all, we could always come back and settle down later… I didn’t know then that you can never go back.

I’ve told some of that story in a mini-memoir for my family. It was great to have my memory jogged about the ‘old days’.

When did you first start writing?



As a young child I used to scribble stories in an exercise book at school, which I gave to my mother when I returned home on holidays. She would laugh indulgently and read them out loud, and even then, they sounded bad! But it didn’t stop me. My imagination was the happiest place in my life – only when lost in a book, or writing stories was I able to switch off from reality and create a world I’d like to live in. Typewriters helped later, but it was the word processing on computers which made it a whole lot easier, eventually.

What would you say are the main influences on your writing?

As a teenager I loved history and gobbled up historical novels, and books on travel – even cookery books. In fact, I just loved reading and all the books I have read during my life have influenced my writing in different ways. Now I lean more towards mysteries, detective novels and stories with adventure. I’d have to say that “life” in all its forms, has influenced my writing, things I have seen and done, my career, people I have met and of course, my own family.

How much does the story of Cicadas in Summer owe to your own experience?

Everything! Before I retired, my job was helping disadvantaged people and families. I managed a “social housing” service, and met all sorts of clients. It taught me a lot about how some people survive – just! The expression “how the other half live” was coined for these people, many of whom struggled all their lives. It was sometimes frustrating but I met many wonderful people and “Cicadas in Summer”, which isn’t a true story in any way, is based on my experiences. A sort of “What if?”

What is your writing process?

I’m ashamed to say – what process? I am not nearly disciplined enough and I know it. I’d like to be able to say that I shut myself in my office between the hours of X and Y – but I have never been able to do that. “Family” issues intervene, but I am trying…

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

Refer above! Also, one of the main delights in my life is cooking, so a lot of time is spent shopping, preparing and cooking food, plus I have a house to look after, family, friends I need to keep in touch with, books to read, etc . etc.

What do you read for pleasure?

I’m one of those people who can read several books at once – depending on my mood. These days I love detective stories, political thrillers, adventure stories by writers like Clive Cussler, Dan Brown and Matthew Reilly, plus the odd romance for a change. I have a study full of books and can never get rid of any – only add to them; and I go to the library regularly to find new writers to read.

Do you have other writing projects in progress?

I thought you’d never ask! Of course I do. I am writing my second novel, as yet untitled, based on a theme of domestic violence (another experience learned in my job). A beautiful model marries a handsome man, but all is not as it seems and he gradually becomes more violent and controlling…

I have said how I love to cook, well I am also planning a “recipe memoir”, bringing together many of the lovely recipes I have kept through my life and sharing them, along with stories of people I have met. This is something I have wanted to do for years and I’m finally getting around to it.

Sara Delaval

Sara Delaval

You can find Sara’s book on Feedaread (http://bit.ly/17eKHL2), Amazon (http://amzn.to/1vNPkrF) and all popular online bookstores. Happy reading.

Thank you Sara for telling us your story. I look forward to reading your next novel, and turning the pages of that personal recipe book.




Sara Delaval’s first book has just been released. It is currently available through Feedaread.com and will shortly be available through most online booksellers.

Cicadas In Summer

In Brisbane, single parent Kate Anderson, 34, drops her two youngsters at school before a routine visit to Lisa, an emergency housing client. A Queenslander, social worker Kate has rebuilt her life after divorce and enjoys her work supporting disadvantaged people. After being first to witness the gory scene following the brutal murder of Lisa and her children, Kate turns to her close-knit family for support. She meets Jack, her brother’s solicitor friend and gratefully accepts his help, as the horrors multiply to engulf her. Suddenly and inexplicably, as she tries to piece the mystery together, Kate becomes the target of a prowler and telephone threats. Determined to find out why this is happening and feeling that the police are missing something, she ignores all warnings of risk to herself. Jack’s assistance becomes increasingly important and although romantic entanglements are out of the question, Kate finds herself strongly attracted to him. Events escalate with another killing and when Kate’s own precious children are kidnapped the stakes reach a new level. With the help of the police the children are rescued. Then when Prue, a work colleague disappears, Kate becomes bait to catch the killer.
Author Nene Davies

Author Nene Davies


It is my privilege and pleasure to welcome guest author Nene Davies back to my blog.

Nene, it’s a while since you guest-blogged about your writing. I know you have a couple of activities in the pipeline and a few successes behind you. Let’s start with what’s new. Please tell us your latest news.

Firstly, I’m excited to say that Distance is now available in paperback! Much as I loved having an e-book published, there is nothing quite like a real live book-book. I’m touched at how warmly this new version has been received and I’m currently in the throes of contacting various booksellers to see if anyone would like to stock it! I have a signing day booked, with Dymocks of Carindale Queensland, on 7th June 2014 and have started to approach other bookstores too. Marketing and self-promotion are rather uncomfortable yet necessary hats that authors need to wear in order to spread the word!

Distance as paperback

Distance as paperback

I’ve finished writing the Distance sequel and I’m hoping to get that published within the next few months. This book is called Further and there will be a third in the series, with the working title of Surfacing. I’ve made a start on Book 3, but to be honest I haven’t really delved into the heart of the story as yet. I’m looking forward to getting back into it!

Why did you choose FeedARead as your publisher?

An author friend recommended Feedaread to me, as she has had tremendous success with publishing two of her novels with them. I am absolutely delighted with the paperback version of Distance and really impressed with Feedaread as a whole. Any queries have been answered promptly, the site is easy to navigate and informative and the actual book is of very high quality.

For the bookshelf

For the bookshelf

What was the most challenging part about getting your book into print?

Without doubt, for me the most challenging part was the formatting as that’s definitely not my forte! However, now that the book is actually published, I’m thrilled with how it looks.

When I reviewed your e-book Distance, I felt an itch to know what happened next for the Richardson family. At that time did you have a second instalment in mind?

Yes, I felt that there was more of the Richardson family story to come and I wanted to focus on middle child Jacob, and grandmother, Helen in particular. The third book will have more to do with the youngest child, Becky. Distance followed the family’s adventures and struggles as they set about emigrating across the world and dealt with the challenges of leaving loved ones behind. Further explores the impact that dementia can have on a close-knit family, set against the backdrop of teenage boundary-testing, finding one’s feet in a new country, keeping a marriage alive – and everything in between.

The story in Distance, although about the fictional Richardsons, called on your own family’s experiences of migration to an extent. Does Further follow a similar path?

In some ways it does, yes. My own Mum had vascular dementia for the last few years of her life and we tried to find ways of dealing with what could sometimes be very worrying and unusual behaviours. However, Nana Helen’s storyline in Further isn’t a true-life account and neither are the ups and downs of teenager Jacob. As with Distance, I wrote the story from the viewpoint of ‘what if?’

How far along are you with the second volume?

The manuscript is complete and I’m now editing. I have my wonderful writer friends to thank for their honest critiques and insightful comments which are helping me to keep up the pace and flow of the story within a realistic framework. I’m stoked with how it’s looking already!

Would you think of giving a title to the series? Any ideas?

A name would be terrific, but I haven’t come up with one yet!

Completing two novels and having a third on the way within a couple of years is quite an achievement. As I know you have an eventful family and social life, I’m wondering how you manage to fit it all in.

I have always wanted to write. Being able to put ‘author’ in my passport as my occupation has been a long-held dream and it is only in the last few years that I’ve had the time and space to knuckle down and write that novel! I treat writing like a job. I ‘go to work’ in my little office and don’t allow myself to become distracted with things going on in the house around me. Afternoons are my writing time and I’m extremely fortunate to have an amazingly supportive family.

Creative marketing

Creative marketing

Many thanks to Nene for sharing her experiences. Please join me in wishing her a big success when she publishes Further, the second book of the series. I look forward to including it on my bookshelf very soon.

You can find Nene’s blog on her website http://www.nenedavies.com and her book on Amazon http://amzn.to/1jzE0Wd. Distance is also stocked by all major online booksellers.





Go to:




for full details of the Feedaread Competition To Win A Bloomsbury Editor Critique of your opening chapter.
Entrants are also welcome to publish through FeedARead. See the details on site by clicking Author Feedback on the top menu to view author feedback on paperback publishing with FeedARead.
I recommend it.

How to enter the competition. Entrants must join the site and read a 6 page extract from each of the 5 books listed and answer a question about each. All nationalities are welcome to enter. 

The winner will be chosen at random from entrants who answer all the questions correctly. The prize is a critique for their opening chapters from a Bloomsbury editor. Closing date for entries is 31st March, results announced by end of third week of April 2014.

One of the extracts is from Winfreda Donald’s first book in The Long Shadows Series – Past Imperfect.

Good luck to all who enter. 



Editing – Future Hope

The chapter starts here

The chapter starts here


Since the beginning of the year I’ve been editing Book Three in the Long Shadows Series. It is titled Future Hope. For family reasons progress has been slow but I made a few leaps forward last week and am now working on Chapter Nine which takes place in Amsterdam.

As it is two years since the original writing for this chapter was done, it is no surprise that I made many changes – tightened the wording, eliminated repetition and found ways to show rather than tell.

Amsterdam is the international headquarters of the fictional aid organisation with which Freya, the protagonist has been volunteering – Global Emergency Medical Aid (GEMA).

Freya is back in Amsterdam, on a personal visit this time. She waits in Centraal Station to meet Hanne, a university academic and long-time friend of her most recent employer in Australia. Freya’s stay with Hanne leads to two apparently innocuous encounters that will have unexpected outcomes – for Freya, her family and two friends. Could Fate be on Freya’s side at last?

An extract

The following extract shows how the first encounter began:

Freya followed Hanne along a corridor to her office, impressed by the strings of qualifications under the names on the doors and their impressive titles.

When a distinguished white-haired man walking towards them stood aside so they could pass freely, Hanne stopped as well. “Freya, meet my Danish colleague, Professor Nils Bjornsen from Copenhagen. We’re collaborating on a paper about homelessness in both of our capital cities. I’ll miss him when we’re done.”

Feeling awkward because of the Professor’s frank gaze on her face, Freya lowered her eyes and gently withdrew her hand from his over-long clasp.

 Then he simply said, “Pleased to meet you,” and moved on.

Hanne called after him, “Cheers Nils, I’m off to show Freya round the campus.” To Freya she said, “You’ve made a conquest. He looks quite flustered.”

Freya passed off the moment, reluctant to admit uneasiness with his scrutiny.

A video

Amsterdam is a vibrant place. I hope you enjoy the video which shows how people get around the city and offers passing views of the canals. I visited briefly a few years ago and would love to return to explore more fully.



Writing and critiquing



Writers Group meeting

Our Writers Group meeting where we critique one chapter of each other’s work takes place on the first Friday of each month. It is always an interesting exercise but sometimes the breakthroughs are truly exciting. Today felt special.

It was a delight to find that after a longish break the writing of one member was back to full-bore quality. The struggles she acknowledged with the effort to regain impetus and multiple rewrites paid off – they were not apparent to us. Although she is writing to an audience in another culture, having teens in her household authenticates the interactions between friends, acquaintances and genders in that age group. Every scene sparks. When she’s done, I predict the first agent or publisher to receive the manuscript will be sold straight away.

And because of her daily lived experience her critique of another member’s chapter on teen misbehaviour was so penetrating. The rest of us, now distant from that involvement applauded the small tweaks she suggested that will shift a great chapter to an exceptional one.

I am amazed at every meeting at how differently each of us sees segments of the stories and the mix of issues we pick up on – so valuable in representing the responses of a cross-section of readers.

All of us wanted one author to add depth to anecdotes by incorporating more personal details about lead-in decisions, emotional reactions to events and interesting historical details to cajole readers to feel more involved.

My chapter, about a quarter-way through the third book in The Long Shadows Series is set in wintry Edinburgh. I was grateful for all suggestions to increase the drama of a brother and sister interaction over a family mystery. Also important were promptings to refresh readers on carry-over details from previous books – such helpful reminders. The characters are so clear in my mind I sometimes forget that a new reader (or even someone who has read the previous material) might welcome a recap.

Today’s specialness was the forward leap of the member who has been battling for several years to write the harrowing interpersonal memoir through the final stages of a sister’s terminal disease. After several years she has found the key and is now able to visit the emotional trauma of their experiences with such power and insight. It is wonderful work.

Two members were unable to attend so that’s all for today. Exhilarated when we left.

Nostalgic video

Do have a look at this wonderful video with aerial views of Edinburgh in early winter – music worth a listen as well. Nostalgic for me – I lived there while at Uni long ago.

You can skip the ad if you want to. Enjoy.

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