Thursday 15 December 2022

Invaders or refugees?

Ufos, Spaceships, Sci-FiMap Of The World, People, Group

Some people see it as an invasion: lots of desperate families crossing the sea in inadequate boats, people just like us fleeing a war zone or escaping a punishing regime.  

What would you want to happen if you were one of those people?

It’s worth remembering that those people don’t make those decisions lightly. It takes courage to leave your home. You have to take your head out of the sand and face the reality of what is happening. You give up a lot.  You have to be innovative and creative.

Interestingly, where there are a lot of migrants in a community, a lot of patents are granted. They bring new ideas. So maybe even the economic migrants should be welcomed. They all also bring some of their culture and we can learn from them.

As the Holocaust took hold we welcomed just 10,000 children into our country. 10,000 compared with the 6 million who were murdered. We would only accept children as there was a fear that there would be too much resentment if adults came and took up jobs in a world where there was mass unemployment and an economic depression.

I’m only realising now that my two groups of projects actually overlap. Both the Schellberg Cycle and the Peace Child series deal with otherness, xenophobia and getting beyond misunderstandings.

Significantly in the latest Peace Child novel, peace begins to stand a chance as Petri, the incumbent Peace Child, begins to see the apparent invaders as refugees. Their need is so great that they have come aggressively. The aggression is still not right and is not actually needed, but understanding why they need to take refuge on the planet Zandra and why they are so desperate that they have become aggressive is a step towards an eventual harmony.                   

Wednesday 23 November 2022

How we get persuaded into war


War, Soldier, Rifle, Dark, Brave

Does anyone actually really want war? Maybe a few psychopath megalomaniacs do? We often hear the argument that if people refused to fight there would be no war. However, it’s not that simple.

We wouldn’t have expected the Ukrainians just to sit back and do nothing when Russia invaded, would we?

I once had an A-level German student who in his prepared talk for his oral exam argued that women shouldn’t be expected to fight. I played devil’s advocate and pointed out how mothers in the animal kingdom protect their young. So, yes they would fight.

Surely we need defence? And in order to have defence we need trained forces. These same forces can be useful in peace times too: for example, in the recent pandemic, when there are climatic catastrophes and when essential services strike or are overwhelmed.

The argument for being allowed to keep guns is that one has the right to defend one’s home and one’s family.

Sometimes we have to get involved. When Hitler marched into the Sudetenland he was given an ultimatum by our prime minster. We had to follow through with our threat.

We’ve been at war a couple of times in my life time and both times I’ve felt very uncomfortable. 

At the time of the Falklands we lived near a lot of naval families. They felt it all keenly. We knew some of the families of people who died.

The war in Iraq was so divisive.  The United Nations couldn’t agree about it. Many other nations disapproved of our involvement. Maybe it was a good thing that we got rid of Saddam Hussein. Can’t somebody do something similar to Putin? Though I’d like him to be taken alive and made to face up to what he’s done. Where were these weapons of mass destruction? And why did the best prime minister I’d ever known let me down so much? His government as well as taking us into the war abolished compulsory language learning for secondary school children. Language learning may even help to prevent some wars.

What motivates people to start wars? They feel that some injustice has been done even if it’s imagined? Germany did have a rough time after the Great War. Their aggression may be a reaction to this. Putin is looking for some idealised version of Russia. Thatcher was scared of losing some power.  Blair may well have been sincere in his belief in the existence of those terrible weapons and how Hussein might have used them.

And what of weapons of war anyway? They can be atrocious. Look at the gas in the Great War and the Doodlebugs and V2s that Germany invented in World War II. What we did to Hiroshima and Nagasaki was appalling. What’s up next? Even more sophisticated nuclear weapons? Biological weapons? Cyber-attacks?      

What about the men and women who are drawn into the fight? Many volunteered for the Great War out of sense of honour and also because it offered employment. By the time of World War II people were seeing thing more clearly. Conscription was a necessary evil. Now we see war a little differently. Even the professional military would rather be rescuing families from floods and delivering food parcels than dropping bombs. Yet they have the training and it kicks in when they’re in confrontational situations.

It saddens me when one looks at the history of wars that it’s always decisions of politicians, dictators, and world leaders, often older white males, (many argue that Thatcher always behaved like a man) that send younger people to war.

“Make love not war,” was the cry of the woke-Boomer-hippies. This was probably mainly in response to Vietnam. Yet it is too great a love for something, clinging on to a past that we can no longer have, that sometimes provokes those very wars we believe to be the opposite of love.                      

Friday 11 November 2022

The Outsider in the Schellberg Cycle


Roses, Blossoms, Flower, Rose Petals, Fragrance, Plant

Is there in the end actually anywhere a true insider and don’t we always at some time experience ourselves as the other?

There are plenty of examples of “the other” in the Schellberg books.

The House on Schellberg Street

Renate is shocked to find that she is Jewish. She isn’t Jewish enough though to feel comfortable with other Jews and she certainly struggles to feel at home in England. In the end she has to simply accept herself.

The Göddes are not like many other Germans. Hani Gödde in particular cannot be as enthusiastic about the BDM as the other girls.

A school for children with disabilities and learning difficulties continues in the house on Schellberg Street.

Clara’s Story

Clara has to give up being Jewish. She never quite fits into the Gentile world and isn’t 100% attached to Steiner‘s teaching. She shelters what the Nazis would call defective children in her home.  

Girl in a Smart Uniform  

Gisela is at first an enthusiastic member of the Nazi regime. It can’t last however; her stepbrother has Down syndrome and she is a lesbian. She and her partner find sanctuary in the Netherlands but unfortunately there they are seen as being too German.

Face to Face with the Führer

Käthe is unusual; she studies science at university, unheard of for a woman in her day, she is the first woman to get her driving license in Munich and she learns to use a gun.    

The Class Letter

Renate’s former class mates are naïve. They have to face the horror of what the Nazi regime has brought. At the same time however, a gentle feminist rebellion takes place. Each of the girls featured does something a little unusual.

One girl goes to agricultural college and becomes a farmer.

Another becomes an actor and works in an underground theatre satirizing Hitler’s regime.

Twin sisters take over the management of their father’s firm after he died suddenly.

Their former class teacher refuses to teach the Nazi curriculum and has to give up being a teacher.

I Am of This Land

Blond-haired Jewess Helga survives Nazi Germany only to face more prejudice in her new home.  Even as she lived in hiding with other Jews she felt herself to be different.  

Gabriela’s story

She is different from her family anyway.  She is artistic and has Mediterranean looks. She mixes with artists and musicians.  And she joins the German resistance.


There is so much “otherness” here that the “other” becomes the normal. Is there something to be learnt about how we respond to the strange? Should we not welcome the novelty of it rather than fear it? Isn’t it our fear that leads to division?         


Tuesday 25 October 2022

Introducing Gabriela and a new way of working

Portrait, Woman, People, Expression

Gabriela is the aunt of one of the girls who appears in book five. She is quite mysterious and seems to have some extra insights into what is going on in the war. She develops a very close relationship with her niece Anika. They have a love of the arts in common.

Gabriela is substantially different form Anika’s very practical mother. She is a dreamer and develops a love for art, music and theatre. She becomes involved with the German resistance but remains on the edge of it.

This time I’m working in a slightly different way.  I’m currently busy writing my next instalment of a YA SF book. However, I’ve started a notebook about this story. I’m finding odd moments to work on it a little:  

·         Sitting in cafes

·         On journeys

·         Holidays

I’ve spent time looking at:

  • An overview of her life
  • Meeting with Hans Dinkerman, a mysterious figure but who is also working in publishing as she does. He is her main contact to the Resistance.
  • Her relationship with her sister
  • How her love for the arts develops.

Many more items will be added to that list.

I unpick each of the threads and trace a story arc of development.  I write a short scene for each point on that arc.  

This is an interesting way of working. I hope by the time I’m ready to start on the story proper I will have a notebook filled with snippets. I’m suspect that not all of the snippets will make their way into he novel and there is even the possibility that none of them will appear. One thing is certain though: by the time I start writing I shall know this character thoroughly.   

Wednesday 14 September 2022

Drafts 14, 15 and 16 - does it ever end?

 Mistakes, Editing, School, Red Ink

There's always something else 

Draft 14 Kill off Your Darlings

This is where you get rid of the purple prose and the scenes that stick out like a sore thumb because they’re written in a different register.  Fortunately I didn’t find too much as I worked my way through.

Draft 15 Overall flow

This means reading out loud.  We used to have a cat and she was quite useful. If she walked away bored it probably meant my voice had become monotonous and that in turn meant I was bored with what I was reading. If I were bored surely the reader would be too?  

It is really good to read out loud.  You notice typos, missing words and extra words you’ve probably not noticed in any other edit. You also notice whether you’ve used pronouns too much or too little to replace proper nouns. You will find the odd awkward phrase. You will also notice in this edit more than in any other where you have the right balance of shorter and longer sentences.  Does the text scan well?

Draft 16 Presentation

I now compile my work with Scrivener. So now I’m working on a Word document. Scrivener sometimes misses extra spaces, missing spaces and duplicated words. Word picks up a few more spelling oddities – for example the blue line showing you that you’ve a word that’s spelt correctly but not for this meaning or that ought  to by hyphenated or written as two words and of course also where two words should be written as one. .

I’m tidying up the titles as well. Each chapter tittle should say Chapter X: place time. I’m only giving months, not days. If more than one place occurs in a chapter, I’m naming it after the main one. So, although Jamie is in Llangwm for some of one chapter it is called “Willow Farm” as about two thirds of the chapter is taken up by her interview at the farm.      


Even at this late stage I’ve noticed a few extra things:

There was some inconsistency in how many interviews Jamie had had for farm work, I’ve now settled on four.

Helga’s Aryan lover Eberhard helps them a lot as she and her friends hide under the town centre.  We only see a little of this. I realise I need to bring in more.     


What does your editing process look like? 


Sunday 4 September 2022



Defiance, Defy, Oppose, Disobey, Stop

As you may have seen form an earlier post I have just finished reading a book that involved three British girls in some form of resistance and a fourth in map work. One girl was involved as a double agent spying on Nazi sympathisers in Britain, another worked directly with the French Resistance and a third was involved in SOE.  

There is the Resistance, the French resistance of which we have probably all heard.

There was also the German resistance.  It actually existed as early as 1933. The Church resisted and some people associated with various churches also hid Jewish people. People such as these figure in the Schellberg novels. Attempts to assassinate Hitler were made in 1939 and 1943. And Käthe Edler may have also managed it if she’d thought quickly enough.  Students formed the White Rose Association from spring of 1942. They distributed flyers protesting about the Nazi regime. Jews themselves protested in the Rosenstrasse march in spring 1943. There is now a museum dedicated to this. You can read all about it here.

There is also a gentler form of resistance in that people didn’t quite comply.  Hans Edler always said “Heil Edler” instead of “Heil Hitler”. Renate’s teachers kept her safe for a while.  Several people kept Jews safe.  Again they figure in the Schellberg cycle.

How are we currently doing on resistance? What are we resisting? Personally I’m horrified at the attempted meddling with human rights.

Are there currently any Russian people resisting what is happening in the Ukraine?