25 March 2013


As we all know, writing a book involves more than the writing process.  It also involves research.  I can only speak for myself here but my research starts before I write a word and goes on intermittently throughout my writing process.

Visiting the Setting(s)

Initially, I like to go to see the settings I plan to use.  I take photographs, get a feel for the place in general, the people who inhabit the area, the sounds, smells etc.  If there are shops I go shopping, if there are coffee shops, I stop to have a brew while I people watch.

Using the web

We’re lucky today to have the web where we can generally find what we want in seconds.  But beware that you don’t get side-tracked, and/or spend so much time surfing around that you don’t get any writing done.  I’m guilty.

Visiting the library

I have to admit that these days, I don’t use the library for research as much as I did in the past, but I still frequent the place from time to time.  There again, it’s so easy for me to meander off into the fiction shelves and get lost for hours!

The Bird Gallery
Visiting and communicating with people who have similar occupations etc., to your characters.

This is a particularly interesting and delightful way to do research.  I remember while I was researching The Celtic Dagger, I decided to visit the Australian Museum because it was one of the main settings.  As it turned out, I spent the whole day there, not only checking out The Bird Gallery which is what I’d gone to see, but also an Egyptian mummy took my interest as well as some bony dinosaurs.  But I think the best part of the day was speaking to the museum staff who were a treat to meet and so helpful.

Experience what your characters might experience

Another form that research can take, is experiencing what your character(s) experience.  I did this by taking the train journey that I’d planned for my character, Esme Timmins, in Once Upon A Lie.  She travels from her home in Waverton to Kings Cross on a Saturday morning in the middle of summer, so I decided to do this journey myself on a Saturday morning and in summer.  A bit over the top, you think?  Maybe, but it helped me to describe what Esme saw and felt.

Rushcutters Bay
And it was, after all, on the way to Once Upon A Lie's murder scene at Rushcutters Bay on Sydney Harbour.  If one is writing a murder mystery, you just have to visit the crime scene.  This, of course, leads to lunch at the yacht club and a rather enjoyable afternoon.  Who said research was a dull pastime!

I’m sure there are many more ways to do research for a book.  What are yours?  Please share them with us.

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18 March 2013


by Barbara Erskine

Set on the banks of the river Deben in Suffolk, River of Destiny will take you to three different eras.  You'll be plunged into the Ango-Saxon/Viking world of 865AD, find yourself next in 1865 Victorian times in Suffolk, before surfacing in present day Suffolk.

Ken and Zoe, the present day characters, have moved from London to a barn conversion in Suffolk on the banks of the river Deben, where sailing is so accessible.  The barn that Ken and Zoe move into is one of three barn conversions that in Victorian times, were part of a manor house's home farm.  A place where Dan and his wife Susan lived as servants.  And where, one thousand years before that, Eric and Edith lived in an Anglo-Saxon village.

Through the eons of time, connections are felt and seen.  The mist over the river, the ghost Viking ship, the sound of horses in the barn.  If you enjoy a bit of spookiness, mystery, romance,  history and crime, I'm sure you'll enjoy River of Destiny.

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11 March 2013


After swearing I would never depart from the paperback format as I happily ran my duster over the spines of  my beloved books that fill the growing number of bookcases in my home, I have finally succumbed and entered the eBook world.

This doesn't mean, of course, that I'll never buy another paperback because I will.  Just not as many. 

These are the benefits I've found:
  • My Kindle is great to take with me when I go away on holiday or to the hairdresser.
  • I can receive any book I want to read in 60 seconds.
  • I can organise my books into categories on my Kindle screen.
  • I won't need to buy as many bookcases.
  • eBooks are cheaper than paperbacks, plus there's no postage cost.
  • I can take hundreds of books away with me on holiday.
  • Links are sometimes added to the eBook.
  • I can change the font size.

These are the drawbacks:
  • I can't see how long the chapter I'm reading is.
  • There's not always a Contents list.
  • I like to hold a real book in my hands when I'm reading.
  • I like collecting all the books my favourite authors have written.
What do you think?  Have you plunged into the eBook world and, if so, what has been your experience?

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4 March 2013


I tend to do a good deal of sitting in my occupation so I do like to at least start my day on the move.  Especially, when I'm going to spend my day editing a manuscript.  Not only does getting outside help me sort out plot glitches in my mind, but it can be a source of inspiration in fixing them.

This morning as the sun comes up, I'm off to the lake for my change of scene.

Mr and Mrs Black Swan with their two little swans

These black swans seem to think I've brought breakfast, but they'll be disappointed because all I have is my camera.
If I'm not careful, I'll get carried away taking pictures and forget to go home to edit! 

 So between the swans, ducks, not to mention the scenery as well as the people I meet on the way, it's time to head home to another day at my desk where I'm reading, for the umpteenth time, Once Upon A Lie. 

It can get a bit waring when you've read something over and over again.  I feel like I could recite all 60,000 words.  Nevertheless, it's necessary to read and re-read your work because each time you do, you'll find things that need attention.  Of course, with each read through there will be fewer of those glitches - hopefully.

So, what do I look for when weeding my manuscript garden?

  • Words and/or expressions that I've used far too often - this is where the "find" button comes in handy.   For me that is the word "moment", according to my daughter.  My most stringent critic! 
  • Clunky sentences.  Did I write that? 
  • A couple of sub-plots too many.  You don't want your readers reaching for the aspirin bottle.
  • Grammar.
  • The right word choices.
  • Too much detail or too little detail.
  • Dialogue scenes.  Is it clear who is speaking?
  • Check the pace.  It needs to be not too slow, but not too fast either.  I sound like one of the 3 bears.
  • Have all my characters been introduced or at least mentioned in the first 20-30 pages?
  • Are all plots and sub-plots tied up and all questions answered by the end of the book?    
Of course, you could go on editing forever because you will always find something you can tweak, so beware.  Know when it's time to stop.  And then what, you ask?

You send it away to a professional assessor to weed your manuscript with a fresh eye!

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