May 2016

Letters from Elsewhere

Ten years on, today’s visitor, Sloane Harper, shares a letter to her daughter. Sloane is brought by Crooked Cat author, Astrid Arditi.

My darling Rose,

18 ! Such an important birthday…

You are now considered an adult even though to me, you’ll always be my sweet little girl with a maturity beyond her years. I can still feel your tiny arms wrapped around my neck, your baby smell in the morning when you slept in my bed.

And we did have many sleepovers, didn’t we? Sometimes I felt that you and your sister, sleeping peacefully close to me, were a life raft in the vast ocean that had become my bed when your dad left. You kept me anchored, saved me from drowning in despair.

I remember the smile you put bravely on when he left. For me. Pretending you were ok, shielding your little sister from what happened at home, always coming up with new games to amuse her. Your were so young and you must have felt it was so unfair.

I need you to believe me when I say I tried to keep our family whole for you, for Poppy. But sometimes things don’t turn out as we planned, another difficult lesson from adulthood you had to learn too early. Please remember though, sometimes the twists and turns of Fate happen for a good reason. Even when life looks bleak, there is sunshine beyond the clouds and holding onto hope will get you through the storm. I learned so many invaluable lessons after your father left me. About myself mostly. And I met Ethan, the love of my life. Never saw this one coming…


But I diverge, I’m not writing this letter to talk about my love story but instead yours. Or those that await you. You’re a woman now. Something else that took me by surprise. It was long coming but it still feels too soon.

As you step into womanhood, I can’t shield you from everything, no matter how much I wish I could. There will be heartbreaks, disillusions, lessons learned the hard way. These are all part of life and you shouldn’t shy away from them. If they happen, that means you’re trying, you’re trusting, you’re living your life to the fullest and I desire nothing else for you.

One thing you should remember always. Something I’d loved my mother had taught me.

You are wonderful. Qualities and flaws, you should embrace them all because they make you, YOU, and YOU are exceptional. I’m not saying you shouldn’t strive to better yourself, this is a life work, but never ever change for someone else, no matter how worthy you might find them. You are deserving of love, exactly as you are, and the men that will love you will be the luckiest. Don’t let anyone take you down or make you feel anything less than precious. Everyone woman is unique, extraordinary, strong.

To me you’re all this and more, because you’re my daughter, and the love I have for you is limitless.

I’ll be here to pick you up, kiss your tears, but will always send you back on your way. You needn’t be so serious anymore, your sister and I are ok. 


Live and bloom my sweet Rose, and a very happy birthday.

Love, always

Mom xx

About A Cunning Plan

Astrid Arditi - A Cunning PlanDetermined to put her family back together, Sloane Harper stalks her ex husband and his annoyingly stunning mistress, Kate. But she’s not the only one. Handsome IRS agent Ethan Cunning is surveying them too, but not for the same reasons. He is attempting to nail Kate’s playboy boss.

Ethan and Sloane decide to help each other, which sends Sloane’s wobbly life spinning out of control. She’ll have to face danger, humiliation, and scariest of all, the dating scene, to lure her daughters’ father home.

Losing control was the best thing to happen to Sloane… until it turned lethal.

Buy links:

About Astrid Arditi

Astrid ArditiAstrid Arditi was born from a French father and Swedish mother. She lived in Paris and Rome before moving to London with her husband and daughter back in 2013.

After dabbling in journalism, interning at Glamour magazine, and teaching kindergarten, Arditi returned to her first love: writing.

She now splits her time between raising her kids (a brand new baby boy just joined the family) and making up stories.

A Cunning Plan is Arditi’s first published work.

Contact Info:

Letters from Elsewhere

Hindsight leads me to think that today’s guest is either exceptionally brave or plain stupid. But it’s only 1940. David Klein doesn’t know what we know today.

Letter from David Klein – war journalist – to Adolf Hitler 1940
(translated from the original German to English)

Lieber Herr Hitler!

I understand that the racial policy of Nazi Germany is based on a specific racist doctrine asserting the superiority of the Aryan race, based on scientific legitimacy.

I am very keen to know, Herr Hitler:  did you ever study Genealogy?

Having recently returned from Germany, I am very interested in your family background.  I understand that your father, Alois, was born in 1837 but was registered as an illegitimate child with no father’s name listed. I know that your grandmother, Maria Schicklgruber (‘sump digger’ in English), worked in the home of a wealthy Jewish family, so could it be that a son in that household got your grandmother pregnant?

In case you didn’t see it in 1933, the London Daily Mirror published a picture of a gravestone in a Jewish cemetery in Bucharest inscribed with some Hebrew characters and the name Hitler. Now I come to think of it, you must have heard this story because clearly you were worried enough to change the Nazi law defining Jewishness to exclude Jesus Christ and yourself! Re the former: you obviously didn’t want to alienate the good Christian society by even suggesting that their Lord could have been ‘tainted’ in any way by not being of Aryan descent. Was Jesus Christ then not born Jewish? What of Joseph and Mary, his parents? 

This leads me to ask: if Christ’s birth-religion is denied in Nazi law, what of your own? Since returning to England, I have attempted to study your Nazi law on this very topic but am confused. According to your rules, who exactly is defined as a Jew? Just the other day I read in a Nazi paper that anything from full Jewish background to 18 Jewish blood defines a Jew;  other German papers, apparently in total panic, urged 116 Jewish blood. Finally, I read that the decision was made for three or four Jewish grandparents to define Jewishness; two or one rendered a person a Mischlinge (someone with both Aryan and Jewish blood.)  Can I repeat that Herr Hitler?  One Jewish grandparent renders a person a Mischlinge.  When will you, yourself, then, be reporting for the next train to the nearest ghetto or concentration camp?

Yours most sincerely,

David Klein

LamplightNote from Olga Swan, May 2016

In 2010, the British paper The Daily Telegraph reported that a study had been conducted in which saliva samples were collected from 39 of Hitler’s known relatives to test their DNA origins and found that Hitler may have had Jewish origins. The paper reported: “A chromosome called Haplogroup E1b1b1 which showed up in [the Hitler] samples is rare in Western Europe and is most commonly found in the Berbers of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia as well as among Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews … Haplogroup E1b1b1, which accounts for approximately 18 to 20 per cent of Ashkenazi and 8.6 per cent to 30 per cent of Sephardic Y-chromosomes, appears to be one of the major founding lineages of the Jewish population.

About Olga Swan’s books

VichyssoiseVichyssoise – Book 2 in the David Klein war-reporter series, set in Vichy France, now available to buy from wherever you live:

Lamplight – Book 1 in the David Klein war-reporter series – now available to buy from wherever you live:

3rd Degree Murder available to buy:

Or check out Olga’s amazon page:

Also, check out Gillian’s amazon page for her children’s literature. A great gift for them:

Read her weekly Sunday blog about life in France, and her occasional Wednesday blog about international writing:


Many thanks to Roland Clarke, who has nominated me for


the Liebster Award. I have a lot of respect for Roland. He set himself an amazingly difficult theme from the A to Z challenge and still managed to complete it. I learned a lot about him from his answers to the Liebster Award questions.

I received this award once before, a long time ago. I don’t remember it being so difficult then. I shall attempt to complete all the  tasks.

Rules of the Liebster Award

  • Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog in your post.
  • Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”.
  • Answer 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.
  • Provide 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have a less than 1000 followers. [Some claim that this is a flexible rule, so I’m ignoring it.]
  • Create a new list of questions for the nominees to answer.
  • List these rules in your post (copy and paste from here). Once you have written and published it, you then have to:
    Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster Award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!).

11 Questions Roland Set Me

  1. Do you have goals for your blog? What are they?
    I want to continue to connect with people through the blog. I want to explain more about entities that are often misunderstood: me, social anxiety, Israel and more. If readers of my blog also buy my novel, I won’t complain.
  2. Do you have a blogging schedule?
    The series Letters from Elsewhere appears every Friday morning. Other posts appear whenever.
  3. I can hardly resist a blogging challenge. Do you participate in many?
    I try to keep away from them, but the A to Z challenge tugs at me every year. Blogging challenges have a lot of uses, but my main task is to write and publish novels.
  4. What is your favourite way to interact with other bloggers?
    There are lots of ways to interact. What I like best is when an online friend becomes an offline (face-to-face) friend.
  5. What is your own personal favourite of your own blog posts, and why?
    I’ve been blogging for seven years and have posted 679 posts (including this one). I’ve narrowed my favourites down to one month: January 2010. Any of those six posts could be my favourite.
  6. What kind of blogs do you like to read the most?
    Humour (of the sort I enjoy), stories, interesting facts. I enjoy many kinds of blogs, but tend to skim long posts due to a lack of time. (I didn’t choose the length of this post.)
  7. Where would you most like to visit?
    I’d most like to visit faraway friends, including those in Canada and Australia.
  8. If you could have any kind of pet, what would it be?
    We had a cat for about ten years and enjoyed that. But we don’t particularly want another pet.
  9. If you could choose to live in another time, when would you choose?
    I don’t think we’ve ever had it so good.
  10. Would you change your chosen career path?
    Being a writer? No! The previous jobs? No. They provided good experience and they paid fairly well. They were also mostly enjoyable for most of the time.
  11. Do you have a favourite book that you re-read?
    No. There are books I’ve loved, but I have a long list of books to be read and I don’t read quickly.

11 Random Things About Myself

  1. I love milk chocolate filled with orange-flavoured cream.
  2. Of all the countries I’ve visited, Egypt is the most impressive. I wish I could go back.
  3. I have never skied and I don’t intend to.
  4. I have an A-level in Music, Grade 8 in piano and Grade 6 in violin. (But don’t ask me to play anything now.)
  5. I was about fifty when I realised that what happened to me at school is called bullying.
  6. I was born in London, but spent the first eighteen months of my life in a boarding school near Wallingford. I wish we could have stayed there.
  7. If you don’t know the difference between “its” and “it’s”, you might cause me to tear out my hair.
  8. I have a few grey hairs and I don’t care. (But I know I’m lucky in that regard.)
  9. I like multi-coloured flowers.
  10. I’ve only ever written one poem that doesn’t rhyme.
  11. I find it hard to think of random things. I’m not a random person.


I Nominate

Only if you want to do this. There’s no compulsion.

  • Carol @ My Writing Journal, who managed to make her A to Z posts about writing interesting, even to someone who’s read a lot of writing posts.
  • Jennifer @ Tales from the Notepad, marine biologist, amateur historian and now an author, too.
  • Ailsa @ The Bingergread Cottage, author, yarn-freak, teddy-orphanage matron, motorbike rider, shaman, …
  • Any other blogger who wants to take up the challenge. (I will add you to this list.)

Questions for Nominated Bloggers

  1. How old is your blog?
  2. What’s your main reason for blogging?
  3. Does your blog have a theme/themes?
  4. Do you have a blogging schedule?
  5. Which sort of posts gets the most comments/views?
  6. Which is your personal favourite of all your blog posts?
  7. Do you write many guest posts? Why?
  8. Do you host many guests on your blog? Why?
  9. Have you/would you post self-made videos on your blog? Why?
  10. What was your greatest blogging failure and what did you learn from that?
  11. What about your proudest blogging achievement?

Again, thank you, Roland for including me in your list of nominees and many thanks to all the lovely bloggers out there.

Letters from Elsewhere

Nik Morton introduces my guest today – another fascinating individual.

In the middle of 2005, I received a communication from a Spanish man, Leon Cazador. He wrote in English and this is it.

Dear Mr Morton

Forgive me for approaching you like this, but I was intrigued by your book Pain Wears No Mask, which is purportedly a novel. Yet the first person narrative suggests otherwise. I thought you captured the voice of Sister Rose perfectly. I feel you could do the same for me, too.

         Let me begin by saying that my allegiance is split because I’m half-English and half-Spanish. Mother had a whirlwind romance with a Spanish waiter but happily it didn’t end when the holiday was over. The waiter pursued her to England and they were married.

         I was born in Spain and I have a married sister, Pilar, and an older brother, Juan, who is an officer in the Guardia Civil. You may wonder why I am contacting you. Well, I am a private investigator and sometimes I operate in disguise under several aliases, among them Carlos Ortiz Santos, my little tribute to the fabled fictional character, Simon Templar.

         As a consequence of dealing with the authorities and criminals, I have observed in my two home countries the gradual deterioration of effective law enforcement and the disintegration of respect. My name translated into English is ‘Lion Hunter’. The Spanish sounds less pretentious, I think.

         When I was growing up in England, I never imagined there would be no-go areas in those great cities, places where the shadow of light falls on streets and minds. At weekends, some sections of many towns seem to be under siege.

         Now that I have returned to live in Spain, I find that it is not so bad here, though I must admits that there have been many changes over the last thirty years, most of them good, yet some to be deplored. It is heartening to see that family cohesion is still strong in most areas, but even that age-old stability is under threat. Yet, some urbanizaciones more resemble towns on the frontier of the Old West, where mayors can be bought, where lawlessness is endemic and civilised behaviour has barely a foothold. Even so, most nights you can walk the streets and feel safe here in Spain.

         As Spain’s conscription didn’t cease until 2001, I decided to jump rather than be pushed and joined the Army, graduating as an Artillery Lieutenant. About a year later, I joined the Spanish Foreign Legion’s Special Operations Company (Bandera de operaciones especiales de la legión) and was trained in the United States at Fort Bragg, where I built up my knowledge about clandestine activities and weapons. Some months afterwards, I was recruited into the CESID (Centro Superior de Informacion de la Defensa), which later became the CNI (Centro Nacional de Inteligencia). Unlike most Western democracies, Spain runs a single intelligence organisation to handle both domestic and foreign risks.

         I am one of those fortunate individuals capable of learning a foreign language with ease: I grew up bilingual, speaking English and Spanish, and soon learned Portuguese, French, German, Arabic, Chinese, and basic Japanese. Part of my intelligence gathering entailed my transfer to the Spanish Embassy in Washington, D.C. There, I met several useful contacts in the intelligence community, and at the close of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan I embarked on a number of secret missions to that blighted land with CIA operatives. By the time the Soviet withdrawal was a reality, I was transferred to the Spanish Embassy in Tokyo, liaising with both intelligence and police organisations. Secret work followed in China, the Gulf and Yugoslavia.

         A year after witnessing the atrocity of the Twin Towers while stationed with the United Nations, I returned to civilian life and set up a private investigation firm. During periods of leave and while stationed in Spain, I established a useful network of contacts in law enforcement, notably the Guardia Civil. One of my early cases resulted in me becoming financially set for life, so now I conduct my crusade against villains of all shades, and in the process attempt to save the unwary from the clutches of conmen, rogues and crooks.

         To begin with, I would like to relate to you several of my private eye cases, changing names as appropriate, of course. Perhaps at a later date I might be able to go into some detail about certain clandestine operations. Would you be interested in meeting me with a view to writing about these cases as fiction ‘in my own words’?

         I remain,

         Yours truly

         Leon Cazador

Sadly, Pain Wears No Mask is out of print now. Needless to say, I couldn’t miss the meeting. Señor Cazador is a remarkable individual and I have since transcribed 22 of his cases in the collection Spanish Eye. He also appears in the ‘Avenging Cat’ novels, Catalyst and Catacomb. He continues to supply me with information that I am gathering for additional short stories and at least one novel.


NikMortonNik Morton has been writing for over 50 years. He has sold over 120 short stories, even more articles, and had 21 books published in several genres. His latest publications are the second and third novels in the ‘Avenging Cat’ series, Catacomb and Cataclysm from Crooked Cat.


Spanish Eye

Spanish Eye.

…These stories are humorous, insightful and sometimes tragic. Leon Cazador is not afraid to bring the bad men to justice, and so help to restore the balance in this world. Beautifully written with a simple and uncluttered style which draws you in to the heart of the story. Highly recommended!

– Laura Graham, actress, author of Down a Tuscan Alley

 …While reading these exciting stories I experienced a myriad of emotions. I laughed, cried, and became incensed. I cheered and clapped, but most of all I felt a confirmation of universal values.

– E.B. Sullivan, author of Different Hearts


Letters from ElsewhereSorry this post is late. To make up for it, I have two guests today, writing to each other.

February 1916

Dear Rose,

How ignorant we were. We thought we were so clever. We’ve been on the move such a lot but we marched in to this village to join the hardened troops at last. So full of optimism were we. Despite minor incidents and losing one or two brave fellows we are, at last, nearing the thick of it.

Stupidly we marched in broad day light with bands playing and officers astride horses. Jerry let us have it and one Captain was thrown clean across the road. I won’t go into too much detail, Rose, but suffice it to say that we were lucky so many of the shells were duds. There could have been carnage. We are still amateurs at this but learning fast.

One youngster is doing a field punishment No.1 for falling out of the march in without permission. Now he is tied by his wrists to the wheel of a travelling field kitchen with his arms out-stretched. He is crying and his nose is running. Rose it is like a crucifixion. It’s so horrible. He argued with the CO which didn’t help his cause. I said I needed to discipline my men but I can’t accept this is a positive image for them. It generates fear not respect.

Perhaps I should not be telling you these things. If you would rather I didn’t, please say. It helps me to unburden my thoughts and I sense you have the strength to understand, Rose. I cannot write thus to my mother. In the main I am doing my brave duty for King and Country and other times are quiet and dull.

When next you write, tell me of the countryside around our home with your artist’s eye. Describe the scents and sounds in the lane. Let me know of your work at Lady Margaret’s and tell me what interests you, dear Rose. Everything is brown and grey here. Your letters cheer me and let me know all is well in the world somewhere.

Your friend,


March 1916

Dear Michael,

I was so pleased to receive your letter but I hope sincerely that you take no unnecessary risk whilst doing your duty, of which you can be very proud. Please tell me the truth of what you are doing, though and how you feel. I am not your mother who needs protecting from truths, nor your sweetheart for whom you need to sound brave and courageous. I am your good friend and I have strength to help you shoulder whatever this war sends you.

I have included this tiny talisman. He is a ‘Fumsup Touch Wud’. As you see his little arms raise to touch his wooden head. If you look closely he has a four-leaved clover on his forehead and the words ‘Touch Wud’ on the back of his head. The wings on his ankles are to speed you home with safety. He is yours for the duration.

The weather here is cold and grey but I wrapped up and walked along the lane to the little shop for Mama. The fields are many shades of brown with just one here and there full of tiny green shoots of promise. I imagine it is winter wheat or barley but it heralds the spring which surely will come.

I heard and owl last night. It was a female calling as it seemed to say t-wit and not t-woo. It kept me awake for a while and I lay wondering about you and what you are doing. Do you ever hear a bird sing in your grey landscape?

I am sure you want to know that Delphi is well and so is Izzy. Our life has not changed significantly. We sew and knit for our boys abroad. Delphi is involved in a local group who bake each week and the proceeds of their labours are sent to France, to our own Manchester lads. Perhaps you will receive a box from them soon.

Keep safe, Michael. God bless you and your chums.

Your good friend,


About Flowers of Flanders

Flowers of Flanders Cover SMALL AVATARThis drama is set before and during the First World War.

Rose rivals her beautiful, mercurial sister for Michael’s love but calculated lies and misunderstandings alter the young peoples’ course. War breaks out and Michael is as eager as the others to go. Maybe Rose will settle for second best with Thom even though she cannot get Michael out of her soul. Does a man need the grace of serenity to rediscover his own or is it frivolity and seduction he craves when he has been through the darkest places of war? Michael’s experiences in the trenches gradually alter his perceptions.

This is a story about deceit and loyalties, complex relationships and loves developing from youth to adulthood during a cataclysmic time in history.

Flowers of Flanders on Amazon.

About Ros Rendle

RosHaving worked as a head teacher, Ros has been used to writing policy documents, essays and stories to which young children enjoyed listening. Now she has taken up the much greater challenge of writing fiction for adults. She writes both historical sagas and contemporary romance; perfect for lying by a warm summer pool or curling up with on a cosy sofa. Her books are thoroughly and accurately researched. Flowers of Flanders is her third book.

Ros is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Historical Novelists’ Society.

She has lived in France for ten years but has recently moved back to the UK with her husband and dogs. Ros has two daughters and four grand-daughters, with whom she shares many heartwarming activities.

Letters from Elsewhere will be late this week, due to a mix-up – all my fault. Hopefully, it will appear tomorrow or the next day. Sorry about that.

You might have noticed I went a bit crazy during April, posting weird stories in which each sentence began with the chosen letter of the day. This was my choice of a theme for the 2016 A to Z Challenge.

If you missed any of my stories, here are the links:


This was my 6th A to Z Challenge. The previous ones were:

  • 2011 – Writing and social anxiety-related posts
  • 2012 – Places in Jerusalem
  • 2013 – Memoir writing
  • 2014 – Posts linking authors
  • 2015 – Writing historical fiction

A to Z Reflections Post

How did it go this year?

Very well, I think. I thoroughly enjoyed the month. Fortunately I had all my A to Z stories ready in advance. I’d even chosen a picture to accompany each one.

Even so, I couldn’t spend all my time blogging, and so I wasn’t able to visit as many blogs as I’d have liked. These are the ones I visited:

Thank you to everyone who visited, liked and commented on my posts. If I were giving a prize, it would go to Cathy Thomas-Bryant, who gave me so much support and praise.

A special thank you to the organisers of the challenge. They worked hard to make it possible. Here they are.

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