Olive Miriam Johnson

At last I have finished writing the memoir about my maternal grandmother.

Had I written this book fifty years ago, it would have been far more revealing. Olive, my maternal grandmother and Nanna as she was known to the close family, was alive and could have answered many of my questions in the blink of an eye. My great uncles Archie and Bob could have helped fill in missing details, and my mother was there to tell me about her early life in Great Yarmouth.

Fifty years on, that golden window of opportunity to discover more about the person who probably influenced my life the most, has been missed. There is nobody left to ask.

Although when I started my research I had little knowledge of my maternal ancestry, a few facts had become vivid memories. They may have been vivid, but I soon discovered they were not necessarily accurate. Of most help was a small and battered brown suitcase, probably a century old, containing a few documents and photographs accumulated after Olive’s death in the late 1970s and the untimely passing of my mother in 1982.

Inside the suitcase, which had rested in our loft for longer than I can remember, were two old address books, a birthday book (these were fairly common through the first half of the twentieth century but lost their popularity to cheap throwaway diaries), and an autograph book dating back to the First World War. Also inside were various receipts, some photographs (including one of my great grandmother stuck onto wood so it would stand up by itself), wills and certificates of births, marriages and deaths.  At the bottom of the case was a poignant document that entitled Olive a burial plot in Caister Cemetery alongside her first husband.

Researching and writing this account of Nanna’s life, and touching on the lives of her close relatives, triggered lots of memories for me which were long forgotten. It also brought to light a few incidents, some happy and others quite tragic, that I was not aware of and believe that my mother probably didn’t know about either.

Sadly, there are no close family members left to share the memories with, but at least the record is there for posterity and serves to keep memories of Nanna alive.

If anyone would like to read it, the book is available in e-Book format from Amazon here.

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Thirty months on…

There’s a good chance that anyone following my blog will have given up any hope of an update by now, but after two and bit years I have decided to go for a Big Clean-up of my blog site.

Prior to posting this update, I will have removed some of the tabs. Book Reviews has gone, and so has Probate DIY. Neither of these have been updated for almost ten years! The old probate diary is still in print though, and also available as an e-book here.

It has been far too long to cover everything that has been blog-worthy since my previous post, so I won’t even try. There are a couple of highlights though!

After nearly two years of painstaking research, I finished my grandfather’s memoir. It turned out be quite a substantial piece of family history, covering his ancestors back two generations, his three brothers and sister, and significant events in his life between 1885 and 1971. The book is on Amazon here.

Over a year ago I completed the MA in Creative Writing with the OU. If anyone tells you an OU degree is ‘easy’, don’t believe a word of it! I now have four OU qualifications, and although each course of study was immensely enjoyable, they all turned out to be a significant challenge. My brain is getting old!

four certificates

Writing-wise, I like to try my hand at quite different things. My latest fiction book is a short farce – about a quarter the length of a full novel. I found it incredibly difficult to write, mostly because of the need to intertwine the plots, characters, mistaken identities and slightly strange situations in a way that everything comes together at the end. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and I probably won’t write another, but it was an interesting experience! It is free to read with Kindle Unlimited, or 99p should you feel like splashing out! If you want to take a look, it is here. Please let me know what you think, and maybe leave a review on Amazon.

Which brings me neatly to the book website. I have updated it along with this blog, so if you would like to know more about my books then please take a look here.

cadebooks website

I really shouldn’t leave it so long before the next update, but…

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Fifteen Months Later…

It has been a busy year and a quarter, mostly taken up with Part 1 of the MA in Creative Writing. That is the best excuse I can come up with for not having posted here since June 2016. The MA is supposed to be a part time module, but I found I was spending pretty much all my ‘up in the study’ hours reading, writing, researching and completing activities and assignments. On average it was taking about twenty hours each week, and to my horror, it was reported that Part 2 would stretch participants much more than the first half!

Some of Part 1 focused on levelling topics, to bring all the students into line. I found that a little frustrating because it repeated some of the module material from the advanced creative writing undergraduate course which I had already completed for the BA(Hons). Luckily, the work was given a different perspective because there was far less ‘teaching’ and much more ‘independent study’.

Part 1 finished with submission of a 4000 word short story and a 1000 word reflective commentary  back in May, and surprisingly mine attracted a better mark than the average of the assignments through the year. I hadn’t expected that, and had I not messed up one of the assignments because the reader/tutor didn’t ‘get’ a plot twist, I could have made a pass with distinction. But a merit is fine, and considering I would never have dreamed ten years ago of working at MA level, I’d have been chuffed with a bare pass.

Completing the first part of the MA brings a bonus of entitlement to a Postgraduate Certificate in Humanities. And here it is!


Part 2 has just begun, and they weren’t kidding when they said it would be tougher. The activities (which come in about three each week) require a deep understanding of the teaching texts, as well as targeted independent research. For instance, I’d never heard of parataxis and hypotaxis before now (OK, I know all of you will have done, obviously!), and have spent most of this afternoon trying out writing styles using those techniques. The first marked assignment is due in six weeks, so we’re already heading at full speed for that deadline…


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Twelve Dozen Limericks Free to Download

The Kindle version of my latest book Twelve Dozen Limericks is available to download for free from Amazon from 24th – 26th June. There’s nothing to lose, so if you enjoy light humorous verse why not give it a try and add it to your Kindle library?  Click here!

five books

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Self Publishing One Year On – Has it been worth it?

It’s just over a year since I took the plunge and published my local history book about Whomerley Wood Moat in Stevenage, and since then have made four more available to the book buying public.  Five paperbacks in a year, each one quite different. Probate – A Personal Journey is a diarised account of events during carrying out probate on my late mother-in-law’s estate. Three Courses is an anthology of twenty five short stories, Thinking in the Cloud is a compilation of thirty five poems and Twelve Dozen Limericks is, well, what it says it is! The limericks were written over a period of about three months, and to be honest I was lucky to get to 144 without running out of inspiration!

book covers - all five

The cost of self-publishing the books was quite low, the biggest expense being the purchase of a wedge of ISBNs. It is only possible to buy a minimum of ten, and that was a whopping £144. Apart from the monetary cost, there was also the time spent in preparation for publication. Having said that, it needn’t be a huge commitment.  For instance, for the Limericks book I decided to take advantage of a free shipping offer from Lulu which only lasted two days, uploaded the text and the covers on a Sunday afternoon, received the print copy for checking on the Tuesday morning and the print book was available for distribution that evening. From my computer to worldwide publication in two days!  Mind you, the text was already laid out and proof read many times over, and the covers were ready to go before I started with Lulu.

I chose Lulu as the Print on Demand house, mostly because of the transparency of their publishing process and because they are free to use. Their profits come from the sale of your books, rather than setting them up. Actually, they are not quite free, because once you have your book uploaded and ready to go, you have to purchase an author print copy to approve before Lulu will release your work to the world. That still wasn’t big bucks though, and the print cost of the book was mostly overshadowed by the shipping charge. It’s worth mentioning that Lulu are happy to provide a free ISBN when you publish through them. It’s a matter of personal choice, but I didn’t want Lulu to be the named publisher of my books, preferring to use my own imprint Cade Books.

My sales expectations were not high, mostly because I wasn’t planning to spend a lot of time and money publicising the books, but sales to date have hit almost 200. To think that all those people bought a piece of my writing and some even came back for more is quite a thrill. The best seller out of the print copies has been the local history book ‘Whomerley Wood Moat’, with 93 copies sold, and the ‘Probate – A Personal Journey’ book is second with 54 sales. It’s interesting that of the Kindle sales, the ‘probate’ book stands far ahead of all the others with 28 downloads purchased out of a total of 40 for all the books.

Although ‘self-publishing’ means you get to do much of the book distribution yourself, Lulu has been responsible for distributing over a quarter of the print books sold. All of those purchased from Amazon or in a bookshop have been supplied directly by Lulu. Kindle downloads are made direct from Amazon of course, but almost half of the copies sold have been ordered directly from me either by email or using my eBay selling page. This is what the distribution percentages look like.


So, was it worth doing? The answer to that is a definite ‘Yes’. I realise that compared to best-selling authors, my contribution to the book market is very small beer, but seeing my local history book for sale in the local museum, and others sitting on the shelves at our town library and available on Amazon makes me break out in a huge grin!

Take a look at the Cade Books tab at the top of my blog if you’d like to find out more about the books.


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Twelve Dozen Limericks – Now available!

Lulu ‘print on demand’ is truly amazing! I finished editing my little book of 144 brand new limericks on Sunday afternoon, and spent an hour and a bit uploading it to Lulu. The most difficult part was remembering how to transfer the cover design into their pre-defined formats, but even that didn’t take too long. So Sunday evening I pressed the ‘go’ button, and ordered a proof copy or few, which you have to buy and then check over before Lulu will send the book for retail distribution. Look at what arrived in the post this morning, Tuesday.  From uploading the book to the print copies dropping on the door mat took only about 36 hours!

five books

The book printed exactly how I expected it to, so it is now approved for distribution. It will be a while before Amazon have a print copy, but it’s for sale already as a Kindle download for 99p here, and the print copies are also available on eBay for £4.99 with free UK p&p from philsbookshop. If you have Kindle Unlimited you can download it now for free! All the buying options are under the Cade Books tab at the top of this page.

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MA Creative Writing – Open University

After many years of planning, and being turned off and on again a number of times, the OU are offering an MA in Creative Writing (F71). The first module commences in October 2016 and lasts until June 2017. Registration opened yesterday, and closes 15th September (subject to places still being available). Over the years there have been quite a few shows of encouragement to the OU to present this, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it fills up quite quickly.

Regrettably it isn’t possible to see the syllabus for the entire course, because it comprises two modules spread over 2 or more years and only details of the first part (A802) are currently released. However, the description of what will be studied in Part 1 looks very interesting indeed, and I believe the bulk of the second part will be to produce a ‘substantial piece of work to a professional standard’, probably the writing equivalent of a thesis.

This MA is going to be difficult for me to resist. As regular readers of this irregular blog will know, I was awarded a first class BA (Hons) at the end of 2014, with a Dip in Literature and Creative Writing on the way. Since then I’ve self-published four books in a range of genres (see them here), and have almost completed a fifth which is a collection of 144 freshly written limericks! An MA in Creative Writing would be a natural step forward.

However, there are a couple of negatives in this for me. First the cost. Although the first module is ‘only’ £1920, it is also only 60 of the 180 credits needed for the MA. A simple calculation indicates that the second module (120 credits) is going to more expensive, probably in the region of double. That’s a huge investment for someone who is studying for enjoyment. The second negative is really one of self-belief. Am I up to postgraduate study? For instance, my short term memory isn’t great and I’m not sure I’ll be able to retain the amount of information likely to be thrown in my direction!

More information about the MA can be found here on the OU website, and I have created a Facebook support group for the MA which only has me in it so far, and that can be found here.

screenshot.1374If you’re interested in getting involved, do please join the group!

The bottom line is that I reserved a place on the Part 1 module just before Christmas and have until 24th March to register for real. That’s about six weeks from now. I probably shall go ahead, but it will be one day when I’m feeling more confident than I am today!

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Limericks – More!

The limericks are coming along, and it’s time to take a breath or two. I hit the magic number of 144 last night, so now have the ‘Gross of Limericks’ I had targeted for the little book collection. Actually, that sounds horrible, ‘a gross’ of anything. Maybe a ‘dozen dozen’ would be better!

gross picture
Taking a quick look back at the earlier ones, I can see there is much work to be done to them before they see the light of day. Also, some of them are simply a little too rude to publish unless I make it an adult book, and I don’t want it to be that. So the bottom line is that there are still more to write to make up for those that will feel the pain of my red pen!

I’m not sure whether this is a good thing, but I began to wonder about including some themed limericks, ones which run on from one to the next. Actually I did write a set of four about a witch who had used up all of her spells, and it seemed to work quite well.

A witch from the city of Wells
One day found she had run out of spells
Feeling down in the doldrums
She checked all her cauldrons
And one had the evilest of smells…

I won’t share the next three ‘verses’ otherwise it’ll spoil the surprise. Maybe I’ll try a couple more themed sets and see what comes out!

So, what next? First create an index of professions, names and places used for the limericks to check there are as few repeats as possible. It should be possible to make some simple changes to remedy that. Then check that each one rhymes and scans well. This is probably more important for a limerick than for a ‘normal’ poem, where inconsistent rhythm can more easily be tolerated. At the same time I can throw out the ones too ‘near the mark’, and any that don’t quite hit the spot. A limerick doesn’t necessarily have to be funny, of course, but it surely has to amuse. Finally I will need to write a few more to make the number back up to 144.

And in the meantime, what about the book cover? Oh well, can’t do everything at once!
Want one final taster?

A conjuror from Devon named Rick
Had a brilliant idea for a trick
He would take a cream tea
Wave his wand and count three
And turn the scone into a chick.

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I had never taken limericks particularly seriously, and apart from the old school-time favourites (There once was a man from Kent… etc), cannot recall any of note.
But then I wrote a limerick to include on a Christmas card to an ex-work colleague, and the next time we caught up he went into raptures about it. However, I’m not sure whether it was the fact that I personalised his card, or the virtues or otherwise of the limerick itself.
No matter, it got me thinking. A limerick is a short story. Generally it opens with defining a character, then the second line sets the scene. In the third and fourth lines something usually happens, and the closing line offers a dénouement of sorts. They don’t all work like that, of course, but by and large they do contain all the components needed to tell a tale.

Next project then: A book of limericks !

There once was a gardener from Leeds
Spent all of the Spring setting seeds
He forgot fertiliser
And was none the wiser
’til all he got back were some weeds.

There must have been zillions of limericks written over the years, and it will be interesting to see if any of mine are a repeat of ones that already exist. How? I’m not sure, but running them all through one of the on-line plagiarism sites would be a start. I did that with all my OU assignments before submitting them, just in case!

An artist who painted in Louth
Held his brushes secure in his mouth
He fell on his face
Brushes vanished sans trace
Until one of them came out down south.

Well, that’s two of them drafted, and I’m reckoning on a gross, so 142 limericks to go !


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Thinking in the Cloud Poetry Book

thinking in the cloud covers 3 front

I hope you like the collection of my poetry I’ve chosen for this new book. Most of them are freshly written and cover a wide range of subjects which are close to my heart. Some follow a strict poetic form, but I get a warm naughty feeling when I break the rules so there is plenty of that. Also tucked inside the collection of thirty nine poems is some free verse, comic rhymes, and a rap and of course the title poem – Thinking in the Cloud. Click on the Cade Books tab above to see how you can get a copy!

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