Follow by Email

Friday, August 9, 2019

Behind the Book Part 2: April in the Back of Beyond

This is the second part in the true stories behind the book, April in the Back of Beyond. Part 1 can be found here:

 Watch the video below for the inside story, or skip below to read it. The video can also be viewed on YouTube at

Throughout April in the Back of Beyond is another story inspired by fact. The main character, Hayley Hunter, is a writer that is researching her family’s history, beginning with her ancestor’s migration to Ulster from Scotland who became involved in O’Doherty’s Rebellion. 

These scenes are based on my creative nonfiction book, Checkmate: Clans and Castles, which was released in 2017 by Drake Valley Press. In Checkmate, my own ancestor, William Neely, arrived in Ulster with William Stewart. Their land bordered on Cahir O’Doherty’s Inishowen Peninsula, separated only by the lough. When Cahir set fire to Derry and began O’Doherty’s Rebellion, it would require my ancestor to make a choice: whether to fight for King James against the uprising or side with the Irish that had lived and ruled that region for over a thousand years. Checkmate was the result of years of painstaking research and I attempted to remain faithful to the facts.

Though the battle of Derry depicted in Checkmate occurred in 1608, it would not be the first and far from the last. The city was rebuilt through London private donations and renamed Londonderry. Today, more than 400 years later, it continues to be a city divided between those loyal to Britain and largely Protestant (unionists or loyalists) versus those fighting for a united Ireland that are largely Catholic (republicans or nationalists). The ideological war between the two factions was originally those loyal to Britain versus those loyal to Ireland, but it became a religious war as well, fueled by zealous ministers and priests. The city is often referred to as the “slash city” Londonderry/Derry because the republican/nationalist Irish do not recognize the name “London” in their city, it having been named Derry centuries earlier, prior to England’s invasion.

During the writing of this book, tensions increased in Ulster—most notably Derry and Belfast. A journalist was killed covering a violent uprising in Derry and several Catholic churches were burned. The increase in violence was attributed to Brexit, which could possibly lead to checkpoints and guard posts between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which had unfairly targeted Catholics in decades before the Good Friday Agreement and the removal of those border walls.

Check out the book trailers below for April in the Back of Beyond and Checkmate: Clans and Castles:

Friday, August 2, 2019

Behind the Book Part 1: April in the Back of Beyond

A couple of weeks ago, I announced the release of my 23rd book, April in the Back of Beyond. In case you missed the blurb, here it is below followed by one of three true stories that inspired the book.

Writer Hayley Hunter has arrived in Ireland to complete a book on Irish history. When she discovers the old carriage house she is renting is haunted, she is determined to uncover the truth behind the burned ruins of a nearby manor house and the abandoned British barracks it overlooks. 

With the assistance of Shay Macgregor, an Irish historian, her quest will take her to 1919 and the Irish War for Independence, exposing the murders of two young men and why their mother, April Crutchley, refuses to leave the back of beyond even in death. 

With a budding romance and the opportunity to begin life anew, Hayley finds her own life is now in jeopardy as she gets closer to a truth the villagers have long sought to bury.

Watch the video below or at for the true story that inspired the book, or continue reading it below the video:

While researching Irish history for a series on my Neely ancestors, I came across the story of two teenage boys who were murdered in Ireland in 1919. Their family had been in the country for generations and by all accounts, they were admired and valued in their original home, but they relocated to a larger estate in what would turn out to be a horrifically fatal mistake.

Unlike their original home where Catholics and Protestants coexisted, their new home was in the middle of a war zone. The Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and RIC Special Forces (better known as the Black and Tans for their mismatched uniforms) were fighting against those campaigning for Irish independence, such as the Fenian Brotherhood and the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), the forerunner of the IRA (Irish Republican Army). Their new home, like the one portrayed in April in the Back of Beyond, overlooked British barracks and when the two teenage boys informed their neighbors they were not allowed to trespass on their property, they were shot and killed and their home burned to the ground.

The story, however, did not end there; it was only the beginning of a nightmare that would culminate in their mother suffering from severe emotional trauma, having tried vainly to save her sons from bleeding to death while their home and all their possessions burned. The true attack was particularly vicious, the shots delivered so they would suffer at least a day before dying; it was so imprinted on my mind as I learned of it that I was unable to replicate the savagery in April in the Back of Beyond out of respect for my readers. The information regarding the sale of their home is accurate as well as their migration to Australia, where the family’s descendants continue to live today.

     I did not feel comfortable placing the home in my book in the same county as the actual events took place, so literary license was used to move the location of the house, carriage house and British barracks. Only the barracks survive today as an abandoned property, a relic of World War I. The names have also been changed for both the victims and the perpetrators as descendants of both are still alive today.

Visit for more information about this newest release, and check back for more of the true stories that inspired this book. Watch the book trailer below: