Winfreda Donald

Literature & Fiction

Author Profile

Winfreda  Donald

Winfreda turned to writing in retirement, after a long career in the helping professions followed by many years working in public sector environments in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Australia. Fiction is her joy as a writer using the pen-name of Winfreda Donald. Her reading is wide-ranging with a preference for family-oriented stories, some adventure, historical fiction, biography and works around the lives of authors and the art and science of creativity. Time with family and friends is treasured.


Present Tense

Literature & Fiction

Book Two of Long Shadows series: Lost love, new love, and lingering secrets from World War II still affect Freya as she adjusts to marriage and her return to Australia following thirteen years in Scotland. After a spate of complicated family matters resolve, she embarks on a risky challenge as an aid volunteer during a period of extreme famine in Africa. Emotionally scarred she leaves on furlough to recover in Wester Ross and to seek peace over her recent fateful connection with her first love.

Book Bubbles from Present Tense

Identity seekers

Freya and her humanitarian aid volunteer friend Mani are getting to know each other. They both have family stories to pursue - significant parts of Freya's family history are missing because of WWII. Mani is an orphan, like Freya's father. In the Long Shadows series I wanted to explore the issues of identity and found so many ways through which peoples' lives feel incomplete - for example, because of lack of or distortion of information. This underlying theme of identity follows Freya wherever she goes - on her own behalf and that of others.

A question about the past

Freya and Mani, a nurse and doctor, volunteers with Global Emergency Medical Aid (GEMA) are in Amsterdam. They met during a grueling medevac flight from Nairobi while caring for a desperately sick colleague. Between debrief sessions at GEMA headquarters they attempt to relax and are gradually becoming friends. Over a meal there is mutual curiosity about their backgrounds that later leads to exploring why they volunteered for humanitarian aid work.

Malaria - hazard of medical aid work

In Sudan, Dutch aid worker Dora was desperately ill with cerebral malaria. Against all odds, in the midst of serious unrest and security issues surrounding the clinic where she worked, a medical evacuation to Amsterdam was arranged. Dora's colleague Freya, and Mani an Australian doctor working in Kenya, supervised her during the flight. They worried for Dora's survival until her transfer to specialist hospital care. Now friends as well as colleagues, Freya and Mani visit Dora between debriefing sessions with their Global Emergency Medical Aid (GEMA) headquarters staff. By coincidence both have completed their current missions and have plans to spend time in Scotland.

Amsterdam and there (southern Sudan)

Recent news tells of ongoing humanitarian issues in South Sudan. It is 1998 in the excerpt. Volunteer Freya and her medical colleague Mani have just cared for a colleague (Dora) who was evacuated from Sudan to Amsterdam as an emergency. To thank them, Dora's fiance treated Freya and Mani to a special meal.In the midst of opulence Freya is overtaken by sadness for the displaced persons and refugees they've left behind, especially the malnourished babies. Political change has not brought peace to the south.

Future Hope

Literature & Fiction

Book Three of Long Shadows series: In 1998, Freya travels to the rugged north-west of the Scotland, seeking emotional healing after a stressful volunteering mission in famine-affected southern Sudan. As her health and energy are restored she receives a strange prophecy that guides her to discover family connections through new friendships and a journal penned by her Irish grandfather’s cousin. Fate turns in her favour as she travels to Holland and Denmark and South Africa before returning to Sudan. Against all odds, there is another bitter-sweet encounter with her first love. He is married – she knows there is no future – but they are able to clear past misunderstandings. Will their next meeting paint a different future?

Book Bubbles from Future Hope

Respite in Kruger National Park

Freya is between medical aid missions in southern Sudan. She jumped at the opportunity to spend time with her previous boss and a Dutch academic friend with family in South Africa and to experience a different African life away from violence and famine. The inspiration for the interlude was triggered by reading about the life and experiences of a ranger family in Kruger National Park and it fitted with other events about to unfold involving elephant conservation research. It is always a mystery to me how long ago information coalesces to shape a story.

Unravelling the past?

Freya's need to uncover both the opaque family history on her mother's side and a reason for her grandmother's secrecy about her life takes her to Eilean Donan Castle. As part of my research for the story, the Castle visit was a highlight. I was so entranced by its location and history that it ended up shaping the plot in ways I had not foreseen. One of the advantages of allowing a story-line to evolve. In this extract Freya develops a theory for her grandmother's bitterness. In following scenes, a chance meeting in the castle cafe leads Freya deeper into the story of her Scots grandparents' lives.

Introducing the characters

Chapter One of the third book of The Long Shadows Series: I was aiming for a seamless introduction for the three characters who are prominent in the early part of the novel and wanted to include relevant backstory for readers who may not have read the previous books. Freya, exhausted at the end of her first aid mission to Africa had slept for two days on arrival at her friend Molly's house in Edinburgh. On the third morning, by the time she rises, Molly and Mani (also aid volunteers) have finished breakfast. Setting the catch-up over a meal feels symbolic as all three had known hunger during the famine times.

Birth in a storm (from the Prologue of Future Hope

Around 1960 I was in Kyle of Lochalsh before there was a bridge link to Skye. In pouring rain on a Saturday night in the lead up to twelve midnight, hundreds of tourists were stranded in cars in Kyle in high season. With no accommodation available and no shops open, the police did their best to persuade reluctant locals to open their homes, particularly for those with babies. That incident fueled this excerpt scene and the Prologue more broadly, where it is 1918 in Kyle. Midwife Morag who has the second sight has safely delivered baby Agnes who becomes Freya Dunbar's grandmother in the 1960s. With the Doctor marooned on Skye it was well there were no birth complications.

MISCELLANY: Where is home and other stories

Literature & Fiction

Seven short stories: A dying mother battles to secure a daughter’s inheritance. The daughter of another family seeks peace as her mother’s dementia escalates. A grandmother makes an astonishing decision. Events lead a young woman to doubt the youthful, emotional connection she had with her vibrant grandmother. An elusive memory frustrates a mother of twins. An elderly lady gets the better of a young couple. Suddenly a child’s future is under threat. Hopefully the story situations will resonate ― because of familiarity, or because there’s a sense of that’s what it can be like for some people, or because I never thought of that or because of unfinished business.

Book Bubbles from MISCELLANY: Where is home and other stories

Early life sets a pattern

The excerpt is from the short story 'Where is home'. A mother with Alzheimer's Disease is nearing the end of her life. Through the dementia she experiences a moment of clarity to voice a need to find her way 'home'. The story blends that heart-searing moment for the daughter with her own mundane search for a new home.

Child's accident / mother's nightmare

Mothers agonise when their children hurt or are sick. But sometimes that is just the beginning of a series of unwelcome revelations. This story is a total fiction that found a voice some years after I read an article about how science can confirm or deny family membership.

Being beholden is a no, no

From the story 'Unintended consequences' To Florrie, blindness was of no consequence as long as she had a little help here and there. Being estranged from family, she tended to be over-thankful for assistance from strangers. Perhaps there was an element of not wanting to leave too much for the unhelpful relatives. We did not know the story, but there certainly was one. Some day I might dream up a long tale to explore what dissension might leave an old lady unsupported by kin. The sad thing is there was another such in the same street.

A false assumption

This excerpt is from the story titled 'There are more things'. There once was a patient who tested my memory and some of the circumstances in the story are real. I did meet the woman in a shop years after she was in hospital. And it was more than a decade later, during a quiet meditation that I realised who she was. I did not see her again but the incident remained buried and eventually clamoured to be told. The rest of the story is a mix of fiction and other facts drawn from different times.

Grandmothers are special

Refers to the story in the Miscellany collection titled Memory rings true Although this is a fiction, a number of the incidents reflect real life events. The grandmother is very like the special person I remember from childhood. The green sapphire ring exists.I sometimes wear it still. And the vision I had of grandmother during a reiki session did happen, and was the trigger to weave a wider family tale into a minor mystery.

Challenges never end

Re 'Errant Hearts': Several years ago I read a compelling article about older women who make unexpected life choices and their reasons for doing so. I stored it away - thinking it would be woven into a fiction some day. After introducing Gloria and her daughter Janice I just let the action evolve, unsure how it would lead to the ending I'd envisaged. This is the result. An unusual outcome, but I could see it happening in real life as it had for the women in that stored-away article.

Outside the norm

Excerpt from Memory Rings True: In this story about a ring, my Grandma plays a special part and I've woven her uniqueness through the fictional sections. Not all parts are true but they could have been. Several of the incidents happened almost like they are told even though very differently separated in time. There was a ring. There was a reiki session and Grandma did appear to me as I've recounted in the tale. A singular and very dear lady.

Dementia - thief of life

Remembrance is triggered by today's date - several days ahead of what would have been my parents' eightieth wedding anniversary. Dad died young and Mum was left. This story is a fiction based on a few nuggets of fact that draw on the saddening times that families meet with Alzheimer's disease. I've heard similar things often from others. But the moment of awareness and question that is told in this short story was real and left a powerful emotional mark. Mum died a few weeks later. I hope that peace enfolded her in her new home without delay.

Not so far from the truth

A short story titled Pantomime: An old lady admitted to hospital realises the seriousness of her illness. She is determined to secure the fate of her fur coat. Although the story has some basis in a sad and compelling real incident, the telling of it is clothed in a cocoon of fiction and humour, with some small insights into the lighter side of hospital life - the annual staff-organised pantomime.

Past Imperfect

Literature & Fiction

Past Imperfect is the first book in The Long Shadows series; a story of five generations through the twentieth century. World War II has left emotional scars in both the Dunbar and Marcou families who migrated to Australia from Scotland and Macedonia. This novel: When family circumstances separate teenage Freya Dunbar from her soul mate Alexander Marcou, they make the best of being in different hemispheres. Unaware of the betrayal gathering under their radar, Freya becomes a nurse and midwife in Scotland. In Australia, Alexander trains as a teacher and pilot. As they plan for a future together their lives change in unexpected ways, leaving them grieving and bereft. But life goes on.

Book Bubbles from Past Imperfect

Sisters at odds

Freya's mother Claire and sister Ness are visiting Glasgow. Claire has expressed concern about Ness's behaviour to Freya, saying she has no influence with her any longer. When the sisters take a late night walk, Freya realises that Ness's drug taking and promiscuity could later cause regrets. As the relationship between the sisters is an uneasy one, Freya doubts that Ness will take anything she can say seriously.

Letters are not enough

After several years of being 12,000 miles apart, Alexander and Freya are finding it harder to communicate. Both are stressed and short of time as they near the end of their studies. The frequency of their correspondence is reducing. As Alexander reflects on the content of Freya's earlier letters, his mood lifts. Whilst able to cherish the depth of their mutual understanding, sadness stings as there is no sign of an early reunion. Neither of them could predict what the future holds.

Alexander's grandmother

This excerpt illustrates a stark difference in Marcou family dynamics compared with the Dunbars and partly explains later decisions and choices made by Alexander and Freya. The young people are half a world apart while Freya cares for Agnes, her sick grandmother in Scotland. Alexander feels sympathy for loving and compassionate Freya, knowing her misery about the hostility of her grandmother. He grieves over the circumstances that separate him from Freya and the life she is subjected to, while his everyday life at university and flight training remains uninterrupted. He values his strong bond with his own grandmother Vesna and her advice.

Fated decision

Ever since she was a tot, Freya had helped to hold the family together through her mother's general health problems and severe depression. At eighteen, she was ready to spread her wings and explore her relationship with Alexander in far-away Brisbane while she trained as a nurse. When her father asked Freya to once again spare her mother any risk she allowed her commonsense to subdue a premonition. It had never been hard before to help her mother - now it was. But she did agree to travel to Glasgow, persuading herself her fears were unfounded. Even with her reservations she could never have predicted what followed.

Experiencing the Australian bush

This excerpt incident happens after a group of young ones have spent the day hiking, and climbing one of the mountains in the Glasshouse group in Queensland's Sunshine Coast hinterland. I fondly remember camping trips as a teenager to beaches and the bush - with family or chaperoned with groups of friends. Many authors build intense personal experience into their fiction. And so it is in this case. It felt right that Freya's connection with Alexander would be strengthened in this special place.

Connections can be mysterious

Chapter One of Past Imperfect shows the first meeting of the two main characters. And the almost instantaneous connection that happens between Alexander and Freya. This mysterious alchemy is a recurring thread through the highs and lows of their separations and encounters over many years. So many things could explain a special mutual recognition.

Prologue for Past Imperfect

The prologue introduces one of the families involved in the saga but does not name them. It makes clear the two major settings - Australia and Scotland - and that there are relationship issues between the generations. The girl in focus in the story appears to have a vision that disturbs her even though she later does not fully remember the details, but is left with unease about her grandmother that lasts for her lifetime.

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