Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Kindle Surprise

Just had to write a few lines for my previous historical novel EAST END ANGEL as Amazon Kindle are promoting the book for a couple of weeks. Since I'm an avid reader now on a Kindle and the price is much more affordable for readers, it's a lovely Crimbo surprise! 
June 1941, Isle of Dogs, London.
In the dark days following the Blitz, happiness visits young Pearl Jenkins as she celebrates her marriage to Jim Nesbitt.
But what should be a joyful occasion is marred when a fight breaks out between Jim and Ricky Winters, an unwelcome visitor from Pearl’s past. And to Pearl’s horror, the new beau of her wayward younger sister Ruby.
Increasingly uneasy at staying at home when other men are off fighting for their country, Jim enlists, leaving Pearl at home – alone, pregnant, and at Ricky’s mercy… .
Together, Pearl and Ruby must bring up baby Cynthia while struggling to make ends meet and dodge the doodlebugs. And all the time, Pearl must hide the dark secret she harbours, one which would tear the two sisters apart as well as her marriage.
Then tragedy strikes both on the home front and in the trenches and Pearl is forced to fight like never before to keep her family safe.

Also taking this opportunity to wish everyone on the blog a really happy Christmas and a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year. Love CarolRx

Monday, 12 December 2011

Lancashire markets

Lancashire to me means the warmth and good humour of the people, their laughter and song, and how they always bounce back with a joke when times are hard. It’s the blast of the mill hooter, my Gran singing Thou Shalt Not Want in chapel three times of a Sunday, then wondering what she could find for tea. It’s the smell of hot pie and peas, leather in my father’s shoe shop, soot and smoke from the old mill chimneys. It’s the crumbly delight of Lancashire cheese, the banter on Accrington market. It’s the wild beauty of open, wind-swept moorland where I could play all day damming brooks and climbing trees, picnicking on a jam butty and a bottle of pop and nobody worried. It’s skipping games and scraped knees, ice lollies, cobbled streets and chip butties. It’s my childhood. It’s what made me who I am.

And so I was inspired to write my Manchester sagas, this wonderful city representing the capital of the world to me when I was small. And Champion Street Market, a series of six books set in the 1950s around a market in Castlefield, Manchester. I based my fictional market on Campfield Market, situated between Tonman Street and Dumville Street, a large market hall which also had an outside market all around it.

There were food shops, pork butchers with red polonies hanging up, biscuit stalls where you could buy a bag of broken biscuits for sixpence; a milliner who sold bits and pieces with which to trim your hat.

On the outside market there would be stalls selling rolls of lino which the man would slap to make a noise and attract people. One auctioned pots and would juggle and drop one if no one was paying attention. Once he had a crowd around him he’d say: ‘Look at this beautiful plate. It’s exquisite. Just like the pattern on our Lizzie’s garters.’ He was a showman, keen to make his audience laugh. He’d offer his pots at a ridiculous price, then beat down the price to sell.

And then there were the sweet stalls, the ice cream parlour where you could choose to have raspberry syrup or chocolate sauce and other delights on your ice cream. Originally these were sold in a licking glass before the advent of wafers and cornets.

One man sold old uniforms and badges. He was a bit deaf and didn’t like kids hanging around his stall, suspecting they were after nicking some of his treasures. Another old soldier would sell matches and boot laces from a tray. Kids used to help the stall holders pack away and stack up their stalls, hoping to earn a penny which would buy them a piping hot cup of Vimto.

The Maypole Dairy sold marg, butter, bacon and milk etc. The Flat Iron market sold second-hand clothes. And there was a little fairground as well. Lascars, or Indian seamen, sometimes called ‘coolie johnnies’ worked there. And there was a wonderful cheese stall which would give you a taster before you decided which to buy.

Markets have remained a strong tradition in Lancashire, and I still love browsing on them.

Using these memories I devised a cast of characters from Belle Garside, a fancy piece who runs the market café, to Aunty Dot who took in foster children, Winnie Watkins who pokes her nose into everybody’s business, and Barry Holmes who gets more than he bargains for when he starts a boys’ boxing club. The series begins with Putting On The Style.


Dena loves her Saturday job at Belle Garside’s market café, and her ready smile makes her a universal favourite. She is soon in thrall to Belle’s two sons; good looking, exciting and dangerous but fate has other plans in store. When her younger brother is killed by a gang of young thugs Dena is taken into care. Later, when she returns to her beloved market, she valiantly tries to rebuild her life. Only when it is far too late does Dena begin to ask herself the terrifying question: has she fallen in love with her brother’s killer?

Available on special offer on Kindle here:


When Patsy talks her way into a job on their Champion Street market millinery stall, the Higginson sisters get more than they bargained for. Coping with a rebellious teenager is far from easy. Riddled with insecurities, Patsy’s impudence and chirpy personality win her enemies as well as new friends. And her determination to solve the riddle of her own past soon starts to unravel secrets Annie and Clara would much rather keep hidden.


Available on special offer on Kindle Here:


Working on her busy flower stall in Champion Street Market, Betty has lots of opportunities to observe her customers, and to speculate on their lives. Sam regularly buys bouquets for his wife, Judy, so why does she always look so worn out and miserable? Leo comes every week for flowers for his mother, but has never bought so much as a rosebud for his elegant wife. Betty’s own husband went off long ago, so is it any wonder if she and her daughter, Lynda, have such a dim view of men? But all that is about to change…

Available on special offer on Kindle here:

Covers by Samantha Groom
And these are but a few of the characters you’ll come to know and hopefully love.
The other three titles will follow in the new year.

What they say:
‘The new series will be greeted with joy by the thousands of women who enjoy her books.’ Evening Mail


‘You can’t put a price on Freda Lightfoot’s stories from Manchester’s 1950s Champion Street Market. They bubble with enough life and colour to brighten up the dreariest day and they have characters you can easily take to your heart.’
The Northern Echo

‘Romance doesn’t come sweeter than this tale of love and chocolate set in the grimy streets of 1950s Manchester.’
Lancashire Evening Post 

Best wishes,
Freda

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Tall Poppies.


Severn House
ISBN:9780727881366
December release in hardcover.

One Woman - Two loves.England 1918

If it's not enough that a girl from a good background is forced to work as a maid, Livia Carr is then violated by the master of the house and becomes pregnant. Her only course is to marry the son of the house. Richard Sangster is an invalid, a world war one hero. He is not expected to live, and he offers Livia and the child legitimacy, as well has his name and estate. Livia grows to love Richard, but even though it's expected, his death comes as a great blow to her. Into the breach steps Livia's first love, and Richard's closest friend, surgeon, Denton Elliot. But will he desert Livia when the secret of the child's parentage is revealed to him. . .?

Note from Author.

When I came up with the idea of a woman who loved two men equally, I was a bit dubious that I could pull it off, and still create reader empathy with my two leading men. I was also worried that making one of them an invalid might be going a step too far - and wondered, would I capture them as authentic as men with their own point of view? I'm assured that I did. In the words of my editor, who is a man, "I thought this was a wonderful story that keeps you gripped until the very last pages – very glad there was a happy ending after so much strife!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Old, but not out!

A lovely write up about two of my earlier books, Kitty McKenzie and it's sequel. It's so lovely to see when someone enjoys my stories!
http://aussiebookreviews.aussieblogs.com.au/2011/11/08/anne-whitfield-kitty-mckenzie-and-kitty-mckenzies-land-review-by-kelly-mclean/




Suddenly left as the head of the family, Kitty McKenzie must find her inner strength to keep her family together against the odds. Evicted from their resplendent home in the fashionable part of York after her parents’ deaths, Kitty must fight the legacy of bankruptcy and homelessness to secure a home for her and her siblings.
Through sheer willpower and determination she grabs opportunities with both hands from working on a clothes and rag stall in the market to creating a teashop for the wealthy. Her road to happiness is fraught with obstacles of hardship and despair, but she refuses to let her dream of a better life for her family die. She soon learns that love and loyalty brings its own reward.
 
Kitty McKenzie path has taken her from the slums of York to the inhospitable bush of colonial Australia. Yet, when she believes her dreams will never be attained, she is shown that sometimes life can be even better than what you wish for.
1866.
Kitty McKenzie is gifted land in the far north of New South Wales. Life at the northern property is full of hardships as she learns how to become a successful landowner.
However, Kitty’s strength of will and belief in herself gives her the courage most women of her time never realize they have. A decided thorn in her side is the arrogant and patronizing Miles Grayson, owner of the adjourning run. He wants her gone so he can have her land, but he wants her even more.

Available in paperback and Kindle from all Amazon sites.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

A Remembrance Memory

"We hung by our eyelids" my dad wrote, after surviving the Sicily landings during World War 2. His small LCI's prepared to release the waiting troops to the shore as the ships, little corks of crafts, bounced on choppy seas. The men inside these metal boxes were prepared to give their lives for King and Country and it was these scenes I drew on when I wrote CONNIE OF KETTLE STREET my third historical novel. I'm now writing my tenth and IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER reflects on the Great War and its repercussions. Released in time for Remembrance Day, it has a very timely birth. But each book, in some way or other has touched on the issues of world conflict. And I'm sure many other authors here too, can say the same. We're still engaged in conflicts of all kinds, so the stories of courage and loyalty are never-ending for the human race and which give us, as writers, powerful images to work with. I think our genre of writing is flourishing, despite the current negative aspects of publishing. So this Sunday I shall be remembering all you guys, the scribes and story-tellers who record for posterity the history of our lands in fiction, for today's hungry market and the generations of readers to come. Love to you all, CarolRx

Saturday, 15 October 2011

The humble apron

Do our daughters, I wonder, appreciate the value and history of the humble apron? My gran wore one of the overall variety, a floral wrapover that completely covered her dress, and she thought little of the frilly version my mother wore. Yet they both served the same purpose, or rather multi-purpose.


The principal use of both was primarily to protect the dress they wore underneath, because they had very few of those and many aprons. It was also far easier to wash aprons than dresses, particularly at a time when fancy washing machines were in short supply.





But an apron had many other uses. It served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven, or to place a hot apple pie to cool on the window sill. It was perfect for drying children’s tears, rubbing clean a dirty face, or for a child to hide behind when confronted by strangers. It could be knelt on while scrubbing a step, and it was surprising how much furniture an apron could dust in a matter of seconds if unexpected company suddenly called, or how quickly it could vanish and leave Mum looking clean as a new pin.


Within the mysteries of its pocket could be found a boiled sweet, a few pegs for the washing line, a handkerchief for a child’s runny nose, a hair grip, scissors, and a bit of string in case something should need tying up or ‘fettling’ as my gran would say.

An apron often came in useful when a bag or basket wasn’t to hand. It could be used for carrying eggs from the hen coup, or vegetables picked from the garden. Logs and kindling would be brought into the kitchen in that apron, and after the peas had been shelled sitting on a stool at the kitchen door, it would carry out the hulls to the compost heap.




Mum would use it to wipe a perspiring brow as she bent over the hot fire or cooker, to wipe her hands on if called unexpectedly to the door. And when the weather turned cold she’d wrap it around her arms while she stood on the doorstep enjoying a bit of crack with a neighbour.






And on top of all this, it could also be seen as a sex symbol, as shown in the Lucille Ball picture.


Our daughters, not to mention ‘elf and safety’, would surely have a fit at the thought of all the germs that no doubt could be found upon that apron. But I don't think I ever caught anything infectious from any of them, only a great deal of love.

To Take Her Pride by Anne Brear

Recently I received the cover for my next historical novel, To Take Her Pride, which is set in Victorian Yorkshire and is due out in March 2012 under my new pen name of Anne Brear!
Blurb:
1898 Yorkshire.
 Aurora Pettigrew has it all, a loving family, a nice home, a comfortable life. She’s waiting for the right man to offer her marriage, and the man for her is Reid Sinclair, heir to the Sinclair fortune and the love of her life.
 But, Reid’s mother, Julia, is against the match and her ruthlessness unearths a family secret that will tear Aurora’s world apart.
 Unwilling to bring shame on her family and needing answers to the allegations brought to light by Reid’s mother, Aurora begins a long journey away from home. She leaves behind all that is familiar and safe to enter a world of mean streets and poor working class.
 Living in the tenements of York, surrounded by people of a class she’d never mixed with before, Aurora struggles to come to terms with the way her life has changed. By chance, she reconnects with a man from her past and before he leaves with the army to war in South Africa, he offers her security through marriage.
 Aurora knows she should be happy, but the memory of her love for Reid threatens her future.
 When tragedy strikes, can Aurora find the strength to accept her life and forget the past? 

More details coming soon....

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Changing Times

Changing Times

I always think of historical as 1900 and earlier, and certainly not within my living memory, even if the years are flying by far to quickly. Yet even yesterday was history.
Recently I have been re-reading the books I first wrote as a published author and uploading them on Amazon and Smashwords.With advice from Freda Lightfoot and Chris Longmuir). They were light romances published by Robert Hale. They were never intended to be historical but already there have been so many new developments since the 1980's. As an example my firt three books were written by hand and then typed on my portable typewriter - using plenty of Tippex I might add, as I was not a typist. Then along came the Amstrad computer - bought for me to do the farm accounts. It had a a word processor and I thought it was
magic. I wrote my fourth romance novel in a quarter of the time but how the details in the content have changed, already classed as history by
youngsters.
As an example there were no mobile phones at that time. If there had been my plot would not have worked. Writers find a way of getting round problems so I suppose I could have made the excuse of no reception once or twice - but not all of the time. Today even school children have mobile phones and can be instantly in contact.
Another novel has a query about the identity of the boy'd father. Although DNA was discovered in 1953 it is only in fairly recent times that an ordinary member of the public would, or could, insist on DNA testing to prove he was the father. It would have spoiled the first half of my plot entirely.
The word processor encouraged me to attempt a much longer novel - my first historical saga called Fairlyden. I went on to write three more in that series. So much as I love historical novels I shall always be grateful for modern developments which have made life easier. Whether we like it or not. Books to download do seem to be growing in number. There are a lot of pros and cons but the debate is not a topic for this parituclar forum at - least not until it becomes part of history.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Flogged in the First World War

October - a very exciting time of year for me! IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER, my eighth novel is set in 1919. There is, of course, a central romance between my heroine, Birdie Connor and her shop-keeper sweetheart. But Birdie's loyalties are tested when brother Frank, veteran soldier and accused deserter, escapes from prison. The idea for this story comes from the experiences I knew my grandfather had in the First World War. He was an infantry man in Belgium, judged to be a deserter, tied to the wheel of a gun-carriage and flogged. Many men were not strong enough to survive these merciless crimes of war. By a miracle, my grandfather did. Though unsurprisingly, he returned to Britain, a changed man. After his death in the fifties, my Nan was free to talk about his experiences. Many men couldn't bear to discuss what had happened to them for the stigma was shameful. And Granddad was no exception. But the truth was, the terrifying shelling and poisonous mustard gas had caused Granddad - and other young boys some only fifteen and sixteen who had lied about their ages to enlist - to become separated from their unit. Granddad was made an example of; a very successful strategy for the army as the shell-shocked and walking-wounded were classified as cowards if they were unable to perform their duty to King and country. I was a very small child during the last part of Granddad's life. He was racked by coughs and found breathing exhausting. This tall, gaunt, haunted-eyed man with whispered words and heart-felt pauses, tucked a few boiled sweets into a small brown paper bag for me every Saturday. I remember his long, artistic, gentle fingers curling over the paper as though it was something very precious. He did this right up to the end and there was something in his expression that bound me to him in a very special way. So IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER expresses all I have learned about brave men who have been labelled cowards - and the support of their families who deal with post-traumatic stress syndrome. We have a name for it now, but in those days many  just said, "Pull up your socks and get on with it". Birdie Connor ( like my Nan and aunties), is a fighter. She won't back down and she believes in her man. It's stirring stuff and I'm so glad I was, at last, able to write it!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Downton Abbey and In the Bleak Midwinter

Lesley Nicol and Sophie McShera, who play the splendid Mrs Patmore and daffy maid, Daisy, are part of a sub-plot in the much-mooted and popular costume drama, Downton Abbey, showing currently on ITV. A young nephew of Mrs Patmore's has been recorded as dead without much other information given to the grieving relatives. This theme is also the mainstay of my own novel, IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER, published October 13th   and my most challenging work so far. This hard-core theme deals with the repercussions of a young man, shot for cowardice by his own side, rather than dying a hero on the front line. In Mrs Patmore's words, what could be worse than death? Without a doubt, it was cowardice. A white feather was given to individuals who were thought to have reneged on their duty or failed to turn up for certain death at the army recruiting office. Similarly, when the troops found themselves waging battle with the enemy whilst experiencing shell-shock, effects from the mustard gas, and horrific injuries that made them vulnerable victims of warfare, such was the feeling between 1914 - 1918, that many young men were shot or imprisoned by their own ranks. Very often too, they were only boys of fifteen and sixteen, having disguised their ages to answer the call of their country. Downton Abbey has included this as a sub-plot involving Mrs Patmore, the cook, but in my own story, I bring the injustice, fear and desperation of my heroine's brother Frank, into the heart of the novel. His imprisonment for cowardice provokes  my heroine, Birdie Connor, into challenging the British judicial system. Not a common thing to do in those days, even for an aristocratic family, as we see in the TV drama. Birdie is an East Ender and working class. At twenty-one she's on the brink of marriage to her sweetheart and a happy future after the war. She risks all this in her fight to prove Frank's innocence. She absolutely refuses to be beaten by her own fears and the pulling together of ranks in Whitehall. My story was drawn from what happened in real life to my grandfather, an infantry man in the First World War, lashed to the gun wheel, flogged mercilessly and accused of desertion. He survived miraculously, but many like him didn't. I dedicated this book to the Buffs, my father-in-law's brave regiment. I hope that Downton Abbey reminds us of how proud we should be of any man attempting to fight for his country - for just "showing up" to put his life on the line, as so many of our troops have done and are still doing in contemporary times and indeed, over the long, and hard-won decades of history.     

Friday, 16 September 2011

The House of Women: new review


THE HOUSE OF WOMEN
Anne Whitfield, Knox Robinson, 2011, £12.99, pb, 381pp, 9780956790187
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The House of Women is a poignant, very readable novel of life in Victorian England, which is set in Leeds at the height of the Victorian era in 1870. The moving story follows the life of Grace Woodruff, the eldest of seven daughters, who has to assume responsibility for her sisters and their vast estate.

Grace has put aside her own broken heart, as she is rejected by her first love, in order to keep the family together. Her mother has withdrawn to her rooms, and Grace becomes the buffer between her sisters and their violent, tyrannical father. Grace struggles to keep the family together through a compelling story which is woven with violence, alcoholism and out-of-wedlock pregnancies, rejection, illness and impoverishment.

Although there is betrayal, hatred and lies, there is also love. The rich, colourful, complex characters bring this family saga to life. It is beautifully written with a very strong heroine who, even when the rest of the family are pulling her in many ways, tries to stay strong, although there is the odd slip along the way. As the story unfolds we meet an admirer for Grace, the butler, and a shift foreman is also smitten with her. Grace really wants to have her own family, and when the possibility of love comes along, Grace must decide if she should give up the responsibility of the House of Women and take her own chance of happiness.

The challenges Grace faces with twists and turns along the way make this book a great read. It has the reader hooked from page one, keeps the reader guessing and is difficult to put down once started. An excellent book, highly recommended.

Barbara Goldie 
Historical Novels Review (August, 2011)


Purchase from Amazon USA
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=anne+whitfield&x=0&y=0
Purchase from Amazon UK
http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=anne+whitfield&x=13&y=21




Saturday, 10 September 2011

How and what do we write? Most of us reply in generic terms initially, for instance, non-fiction, fiction, historical, novels, sagas, family dramas, crime, thrillers, fantasy, sci-fi and lately with ebooks, there is a great deal of genre mixing, something traditional publishers once discouraged. But now, if it’s a good story and the book will sell well, who cares quite so much about its label? As we’ve moved along the technical route, people have shorter spans of attention and want to get to the nitty-gritty as fast as possible. People want page-turners and we need to make our novels exciting from the very start. I write with an emphasis on dialogue as that's the way my brain works. My East End “inner” voice springs from my childhood, growing up amongst colourful, no-holds-barred, dynamic, lyrical, unforgettable cockneys who to this day, live in my mind as fiercely as they did when I was a child and a teenager. And so, once I am in the vortex of writing, I hear nothing but their voices and I know it’s my job to record them as honestly as I possibly can. Perhaps the voices do come from a collective unconscious linked to my own emotional focus. But whatever it is, the words flow onto the keyboard. Not that I haven’t given the plotting a great deal of thought beforehand. But, for me, the real writing comes in the voices and those special words that come in the guise of characters, those chosen words that sometimes reflect the entire story. For instance, does anyone remember the film, WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND with Alan Bates and Hayley Mills? Bates (the man) is found sheltering in the barn by a young girl who gets the fright of her life as he appears. Do you recall the two words he utters that dominate the rest of the movie? In fact, they ARE the movie. Such a classic! Such a gift to us, as writers! Go to Utube for a flashback!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Finding Inspiration


I am often asked how I get the ideas for my books. The answer is anywhere and everywhere: from books, newspapers, things I've experienced, stories people tell me.
For instance, just after WW2, my mother worked in a home for unmarried mothers. The girls (some of them very young) were taken there a few weeks before the birth to have their babies who were then taken away for adoption. A week or two later they were sent home and expected to get on with their lives as if nothing had happened.
That story stuck in my mind. I couldn’t help wondering how the poor mothers must have felt. Could that be a basis for a story? What if my heroine was married to a serviceman who was away fighting in France in the Great War? What if she fell in love with someone else? What if he, too, was sent away to France, leaving her pregnant? That would have been the ultimate disgrace in those times. What if her parents insisted on having the child adopted? How would she feel? How would she cope? I asked myself what kind of life would this baby have? What would her adoptive parents be like? Rich or poor? Would she be cared for and loved? Would she be told the story of her birth or would it be kept a secret from her? What if the real mother does find her daughter again, how would she feel? What could she do about it? In answering those questions I had The Summer House.

On the other hand, The Fountain was inspired by a competition run by my local newspaper some time before to design a new fountain to go on the market square. It resulted in hundreds of entries, some well drawn, others scribbled on the backs of envelopes. None of them was ever used, except by me as inspiration. I set it between the wars when it was easier for unscrupulous public servants to get away with corruption. If my heroine was married to such a one, how would she react? Would she support him or would she rebel?

The Kirilov Star was the result of my fascination with the Russian Revolution and the fate of the aristocracy, particularly the story of the possible survival of Grand Duchess Anastasia, (since disproved), but supposing my heroine did survive and was brought out of Russia as a child to be adopted and brought up in England? How strong would her Russian roots be? Would they be strong enough to make her abandon a comfortable life to go in search of them?

The Stubble Field also came about from two books I had been reading: The Workhouse by Norman Longmate and The Railway Navvies by Terry Coleman. I asked myself what it must be have been like to be forced into the workhouse where husbands were separated from wives, brothers from sisters and what happened to the children when they went out into the world? Did they ever see their siblings again? The hard lives of the navvies fascinated me: all those miles and miles of railway lines built with nothing but shovels and strong muscles. Together they gave me my story.
The book is long out of print, but recently I have put my toe in the water of e-publishing and now renamed A Line Through Chevington, it is once again on sale as an e-book, together with its sequel Promises and Pie Crusts.
http://www.marynichols.co.uk  

Saturday, 20 August 2011

The bobbin makers of Grizedale Forest



Stott Park bobbin mill is most definitely worth a visit for anyone who wants to see a living piece of history. Tucked away in the Grizedale Forest in a most beautiful setting, the bobbin makers carried out their sometimes dangerous craft with diligence. The moment I visited I knew I had to write about it.


The late Bill Hogarth spent hours taking me through Grizedale Forest teaching me the tricks of his trade on coppicing, making hurdles and swill baskets. Stan Crabtree and Bill Grant also enlightened and entertained me on the skills of forestry.
Even the charcoal maker patiently explained his craft to me.

Most of all I loved the evening I spent with the ‘Bobbin Girls’ themselves Eileen Thompson, Joyce Wilson and Pat Hogarth regaled me with their yarns and the wonderful tricks they played on each other in the bobbin mill. How they would put a mouse in a friend’s bait box (lunch) which meant there would be little left of the poor girl’s sandwiches. Mice were a common pest among the wood shavings. They also painstakingly described all that was involved in the making of bobbins, a skill I would not wish to try considering the hidden difficulties and dangers. Bobbin makers are well known for being a digit short. Fortunately, Eileen, Joyce and Pat still have all of theirs.


The Bobbin Girls is one of my favourite historical sagas, now available as an ebook on Amazon Kindle. It was a joy to revisit it for editing purposes, as I’d largely forgotten it.

And is there a romance in this book? Of course.

Alena Townsen, a fiery tomboy from a large, happy family, wants nothing more than to spend the rest of her life with her childhood friend, Rob, the only son of James Hollinthwaite, a wealthy landowner. Hollinthwaite, however, has other ideas and when he forces the two to part Rob is sent away to school while Alena must start work in the local bobbin mill. Life is hard and her love for Rob severely tested. Torn between two men, her indecision is heightened by the knowledge of a tragic secret. Dolly Sutton has problems of a more intimate nature, while shy and unassuming, Sandra Myers finds herself an unlikely campaigner against Hollinthwaite’s destructive plans for the village when he ruthlessly sacks the man she loves. This is a moving tale of thwarted young love, and trust me, you will like the ending.

The Bobbin Girls. Now available in the Kindle Store:

Monday, 8 August 2011

RIP: Jean Saunders

I was very sorry to hear of author Jean Saunders's death last week. A prolific author of many fiction, non-fiction books and short stories, Jean was also known by her pen names: ROWENA SUMMERS, RACHEL MOORE, JEAN INNES, SALLY BLAKE and JODI NICOL. Although many a saga author, Jean also wrote crime (published by Robert Hale, a UK library publisher) and the odd erotica story.

For more about Jean you can visit her website: http://www.jeansaunders.net/



Some of the books Jean wrote:





Friday, 22 July 2011

"You Know What I Mean 'Arry?"


Such a lot has happened on the writing scene lately! Anne has told us that last month we had 1,627 visits to this blog. Way to go, girls! Since I last posted, Anna Jacobs, Gwen Kirkwood and Freda Lightfoot have all written their news, including the sad notification Iain Blair better known as Emma, died on July 3rd, leaving behind him a legacy of great stories. This year we also lost Gilda O’Neill, a prolific writer of stories about the East End of London, my neck of the woods, though Gilda’s turf was Poplar, whilst I’m more Millwall and Cubitt Town. My family are costermongers, dockers, bird fanciers, dodgy dealers, marketers and shop-keepers. The Isle of Dogs is a horseshoe of land jutting out into the River Thames, comprising West India Docks, Millwall Docks, Blackwall Basin and South Dock basin. The island was once so poor, Gilda’s Poplar was regarded as posh. She’d laugh at that! On the island, no one ever had new clothes, shoes or furniture. Everything was begged, borrowed or stolen. And then of course, there were the markets. But even these sometimes, were regarded as rip-offs. The Isle of Dogs was the Luftwaffe’s first port of call in World War 2. It was the docks the planes went after, but Mum’s house was razed to the ground. My Nan and aunties finally fled the Doodlebugs, the eternal brick dust, the night and day catastrophes and deaths, depleting almost every family on the island. Mum survived the night of the worst raid. She didn’t like the Anderson or the underground, so she hid under the table. The front door of our house blew in and met the back door, then Mum got out before the whole lot caved in. Granddad was blown off his bike and into the docks, but he was a strong swimmer. Dad shimmied down from the control box on his crane, ran through the foot tunnel from Greenwich, and stood staring at our terrace in Chapel House Street. My Nan and aunties had survived. Mind you, they left pretty quick, bundling aboard a bus to Oxfordshire. The little they had was left behind and for the next six months they were shuttled around the country. Mum returned to the island to wait for Dad’s call-up. When the buff envelope came, she refused to let him go. I wouldn’t mess with my mum now, at 92, and I don’t think Dad fancied it much then. But he had aspirations. He was a good man, an intelligent one. And he did his tour of duty for the next five years. Goodness only knows how he survived. But he did. So, no need for me to wonder what I should write about, then? And now, well, the world is changing again and I’m still here to be part of it. What a privilege! This time, it’s the Digital tsunami! So exciting! All of us are in awe of Freda (Lightfoot) – who has paved the way for self-publishing digitally. And much to our surprise, we can hear the bombs dropping in the publishing world. Writers are confident enough now to take more control of our futures. Rejections? What the heck! We’ll publish ourselves! Not quite the Blitz, but then, some elements seem familiar – the human spirit is so resourceful – and brave! In a great fighter’s words, “You know what I mean ‘Arry?” Yes, I think we do!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Beyond the Sunset



My husband and I were born in the UK, emigrated to Australia thirty years ago but love to return to the UK regularly. We still love both countries, just can’t cope with the UK winters.
The first time my husband suggested us buying a summer home in the UK and spending more time here, I shuddered and said no way, too much extra work. After all, I’ve got writing to do.
But I caved in, and I’m really glad I did. It’s been hard work setting up a two-country lifestyle, but the stimulation of our new life has made story ideas well up in greater numbers than ever before.
It’s no problem setting up the office equipment, but I worried about my huge collection of research books. How was I going to manage without those for my historical novels? The answer is, I plan ahead very carefully and do all my main and preliminary research in Australia. Then I use the living research in both countries – buildings, museums, people, the beautiful countryside, research books that don’t make it overseas.
Another thing has happened: with more exposure to people unfamiliar with Australia, I think I understand more about ‘showing’ them Australian history in my stories and I think that’s improved my stories. I hope so, anyway!
I’ve just had a series published set in Western Australia in the 1860s. (Farewell to Lancashire, Beyond the Sunset, Destiny’s Path) England was a busy industrial country in that decade, with railways connecting not only main cities, but small towns and villages too. Western Australia, physically as big as Europe, had a population of only 30,000 and no railways at all.I’ve also written a series of Wiltshire sagas, beginning with Cherry Tree Lane and Elm Tree Road

A set back in publishing

Oh dear, it is ages since I contributed so my apologies. I can't say that my sagas are exactly historical since the fourth book in my present "Home" series has reached the 1970's - maybe that is historical to younger members!
Also my publisher was Severn House and they have refused to take it since Amanda Stewart, my editor, left. However it is to be published by Robert Hale. I am also struggling to put some of my older sagas on line, with the help of Freda's guidelines, but I have not quite managed it yet.

Mention of the late Emma Blair reminded me of one of his novels set in Jersey during the German invasion. Half Hidden was the title and I really enjoyed it. He does not wrap up the truth or flinch from the sorrow, or human failings.

VICTORIAN MISSES.





Victorian Misses - Janet Woods

A friend stated that young women did not go out without a chaperone in Victorian Britain. These general sorts of statements don’t sit all that well with me, and this is why. Queen Victoria reigned for over 60 years, and over that time the world changed and progressed considerably.

I’ve written several books set in the “Victorian age.” “Hearts of Gold” started almost at the end of Victoria’s reign in the late 1890s. The heroine was a brat from the goldfields, sent to England by her mentor. My current release, “Lady Lightfingers" is also set in the “Victorian age” but fifty years earlier, and in the London slums. “A Dorset Girl” saga was set in the 1830s, earlier still. What did they have in common? Very little, except the heroines were not members of the privileged classes. Each book was researched separately for the period within that age, to make it authentic to its particular time.

Did the Victorians write books of etiquette for the majority of working class women? I doubt it. Most books of manners were designed for those who could afford to indulge in it. Fashion catalogues display silks and satin gowns, accessories such as kid gloves, fans and hats all through the period. Victorian ladies didn’t all wear hooped crinolines. Skirts got wider as Victoria's reign progressed then narrowed down and grew bustles, which were lost as the Edwardians indulged in a more elegant style. The same economics that applied then,apply now. The majority of lower middle class young women couldn’t afford designer wear, or chaperones . . . or even underwear come to that. It stands to reason that they couldn’t afford several changes of outfit, but might have a special one kept for Sunday best, weddings and funerals.

In 1891 women were told that, legally, they could no longer be forced to live with a man if they didn’t want to. This was a two-edged sword. Divorce brought scandal with it for the female, and usually loss of her children. Without income, often the alternative was to starve to death or take up prostitution.

Even Queen Victoria must have regarded herself as her husband’s chattel, for she was reported as saying, from her lofty position of top hen in her glittering henhouse – thus setting back the women's movement by a number of years, I imagine – “Let women be what God intended, a helpmate for her man, but with totally different duties and values.” With total respect, I wonder how she knew what He intended, and would she have said the same, had she been one of the 1,740,000 female domestic servants in England struggling to stay alive? Many maids in Victoria’s time took the occasional man to bed for supplemental income. They were called dollymops . . . very apt.
Victoria and Albert produced nine offspring, I believe. Of course, Queen Victoria never had to make ends meet, and (bless her) I wouldn’t like to have lived her life.

My mother’s child-raising wisdom came from clichéd and sometimes cutting little proverbs from her Victorian upbringing. I’ve been careful not to pass them on to my own. “Children should be seen and not heard. Spare the rod and spoil the child. You’ve made your bed, now you must lie on it. Pride goes before a fall . . . etc.”

Thank goodness we reach a point in life where we can think and reason for ourselves, and wonder at some of the tosh we accepted as wisdom. Unfortunately those wisdoms weren’t tosh to them. They were a necessary part of discipline. Mostly it was rule by fear, though that in its turn taught us respect. I was scared of anything with an official feel or a uniform attached to it – policemen, teachers, parents, priests, soldiers, bus conductors and fatherly lectures all signified authority. It didn’t stop me rebelling, even though one of my teachers was a reincarnation of Sweeny Todd, except she used a ruler instead of a razor.

So, our characters should be true to life, too. They should be encouraged to step out of the rule book and live their own lives. Over the sixty-year span that was the “Victorian Age” women weren’t all laced tightly into corsets, either metaphorically or literally). If we wrap historical characters in rigid rules, manners and clichés they’ll come across as cardboard, or at the very least, clones.

When I look at the “Victorian age” it has lots to commend it. On the industrial front, there were engineering breakthroughs, sewerage disposal was improved and railways networked. There was a certain amount of hypocrisy too – child labour, wars, forced immigration and starvation. But nothing was static. Advances were made in industry, medical and moral mores – too many keep up with. Bear in mind that change didn’t happen in all parts of England at the same time. The rural south trailed behind the industrialized north. So while some people enjoyed the luxury of train travel another part of the country might still be bumping around the countryside in a wagon.

Unless you can travel back through time it’s impossible to know how people actually acted or spoke in the past. Sure, they wrote letters, essays and books, and yes, I imagine somebody wrote a rule book. Writing is a more formal way of expression than speech. We all act differently when we’re on public view, but relax at home. When we write we don’t stutter or hum and har on the page. We don’t have people interrupting and turning our train of thought to something else, we don’t use body language to help people understand meaning, like we do face to face. We stick to the point.

Women wouldn’t have gone out without a chaperone? Some women, perhaps. But not the working classes.

Remember the early TV ads, where the lady of the house wore stilettos, make-up, beehive hairdos and false eyelashes, when they cleaned the oven with greasy goop? Did we all dress like that to clean the house in? Nuff said!

Friday, 8 July 2011

R.I.P. Iain/Emma Blair

Most historical saga readers won't know of the name Iain Blair, but they do know of Emma Blair, the author of over 30 saga novels. Sadly Iain Blair died on July 3rd, leaving behind him a legacy of great stories.


From his website:

Iain wrote a number of plays for theatre and television and then naturally progressed to book writing. At first he tried writing thrillers without much success. Then he completed a saga Where No Man Cries and that's when Emma Blair was born. His publishers decided he'd sell far more books simply by being published as a woman. 

"I was given absolutely no choice in the matter.  They'd decided on a sex change and even the name. So that was that. Emma I became and Emma I've stayed," says Iain. "Many people ask me what kind of person Emma is. Well she's probably about late forties, a bit of a tough cookie and had a certain amount of personal tragedy which is why she writes with such passion."



I've read several of his books and enjoyed them very much. Like all good saga authors he was able to take the reader back to a time when life was different to what we know of now.

With his passing, another saga author has gone.

 To read more about Iain Blair visit his website:
http://emma-blair.com/content/view/33/37/

Monday, 20 June 2011

Suffragettes

My latest title, Angels at War, out this month in paperback, is the sequel to House of Angels, although the story will stand alone. Again this book is set in the Lake District, partly in the beautiful Kentmere Valley around the time of the First World War It’s a beautiful quiet corner of England which hasn’t changed much since. The nearest village is Staveley, situated between Kendal and Windermere, and the hills can offer some of the best walking the Lakes. Here is picture to tempt you to visit.




But this book is also about suffragettes. The suffragette movement in Great Britain was focused around Manchester as that is where Emeline Pankhurst and her family lived. The general election of 1905 brought it to the attention of the wider nation when Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenny interrupted Sir Edward’s speech with the cry: ‘Will the Liberal Government give votes to women?’

They were charged with assault and arrested. The women further shocked the world by refusing to pay the shilling fine, and were consequently thrown in jail. Never before had English suffragists resorted to violence, but it was the start of a long campaign. Their headquarters were transferred from Manchester to London and by 1908, and now dubbed the suffragettes, they were marching through London, interrupting MP’s speeches, assaulting policemen who attempted to arrest them, chaining themselves to fences, even sending letter bombs and breaking the windows of department stores and shops in Bond Street. They went on hunger-strikes while incarcerated, brutalised in what became known as the ‘Cat and Mouse Act.’ This ‘war’ did not end until 1928 when women were finally granted the vote in equal terms with men. They showed enormous courage and tenacity, were prepared to make any sacrifice to achieve their ends.

Livia is one such woman. She is fiercely independent – a ‘modern’ woman in her eyes, and having suffered at the hands of a brutal father, she is reluctant to give up her independence and subject herself to the control of any male. She dreams of bringing back to life the neglected drapery business, but standing in her way is the wealthy and determined Matthew Grayson who has been appointed to oversee the restoration of the business. His infuriating stubbornness clashes with Livia’s tenacity and the pair get off to a bad start. She then joins the Suffragette Movement which puts further strain on her relationship with Jack, the other man in her life, who she has promised to marry one day.

I’ve written about suffragettes before, as the subject fascinates me. How passionate these women must have felt to put their lives at risk in the way they did. Here is a description from the book of the force feeding ritual.

Excerpt:

This morning when the cell door banged open, instead of the tempting tray of food brought to plague them, came a small, stocky man with side whiskers and a mole on his chin. The wardress shook Livia awake.

‘Get up girl, the doctor needs to examine you. We can’t have you die on us for lack of food.’
There followed a humiliating examination in which she was again poked and prodded, a stethoscope held to her chest, her pulse taken. When he was done he turned to the wardress and gave a nod. The wardress smiled, as if he’d said something to please her. ‘If you will not eat of your own accord, then we must find a way to make you.

There were four of them now crowding into the cell, huge Amazonian women with muscles on them like all-in wrestlers, and they brought with them such a bewildering assortment of equipment that even Mercy paled.

‘Dear lord, they’re going to force feed us.’

They dealt with Mercy first. She fought like a tiger while Livia cried and begged them to stop, and finally sobbed her heart out as her protests were ignored. The four women held Mercy down, shoved in the tube and poured the liquid mixture into her stomach. When they were done they dropped her limp body back on the bed.

Then it was Livia’s turn.

She tried to run but there was no escape. They picked her up bodily and strapped her into a chair by her wrists, ankles and thighs, then tied a sheet under her chin. The sour breath and stale sweat of the women’s armpits made her want to vomit; their heavy breasts suffocating her as they held her down. The wardress was panting with the effort of trying to force open her mouth, while another woman held her nose closed. Livia did her utmost to resist, heart racing, teeth clenched, but she could scarcely breathe.

Then she felt the cold taste of metal slide between her lips. The implement, whatever it was, cut into her gums as the wardress attempted to prise them open. Livia tried to jerk her head away but it was held firmly by one of the women standing behind her. Once again pictures flashed into her mind of the tower room at Angel House, the place where her father had carried out unspeakable tortures upon the three sisters, bullying one in order to control the other.

Livia hadn’t been able to escape then, and she couldn’t now.

The constant stabbing at her gums and teeth was every bit as painful as having one drawn. The steel probe scraped against her gums, and Livia tasted the iron saltiness of her own blood, felt it trickle down her throat. She heard the rasp of a screw, felt the inexorable pressure of a lever. Either she opened her teeth beneath the unrelenting pressure of the steel instrument, or they would shatter. That’s if she didn’t die of suffocation first.

As Livia snatched at a breath a tube was instantly shoved down into her stomach. ‘Gocha!’ the woman cried in triumph.

It scraped down her dry throat, causing the muscles to convulse. Then the screw, or lever, whatever it was, jammed firmly between her teeth so that she could resist no more as a curdled mix of milk and egg was poured into her.

Livia felt as if she were choking, as if her entire body were filling up with the liquid and drowning her. When the tube was finally pulled out, the whole mess seemed to explode out of her, spraying the clean aprons and hard, unyielding faces of her assailants. They were furious and flung her on to the hard bed, gathered up their equipment and left her blessedly in peace, stinking of sour milk and vomit.

Angels at War, published by Allison & Busby - now released.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

The Thrill of Seeing the Cover for the First Time

I’ve just received the cover artwork of this year’s novel IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER and it looks stunning. A girl in a blue coat stares pensively from this cover, soldiers in the background returning from the Great War and street urchins following them. I must say that every time I see the cover of each book for the first time, I am blown away. But this one is really breathtaking and my thanks go to the Simon & Schuster team who made it possible. I also have a few lines at the top from Jean Fullerton, a wonderful East End author, who like myself, specializes in East End novels. On the back page, there’s a note for Dilly Court and Katie Flynn fans, who might like to read another gripping story written in the same genre. So from now until October it’s my job to profile my book to a loyal core readership and those new to the Rivers books. Here’s what Amazon has to say about IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER. (Hardcover August, Paperback October)

“Winter 1919. Two months after the Armistice that ended the Great War, and life in London's East End is slowly returning to normal. But for 25-year-old Birdie Connor the battle is only just beginning. Frank, Birdie's older brother, has been sent to prison for deserting his army post whilst fighting in Belgium, and the shame heaped on the Connor family by their neighbours is unrelenting. Wilfred, Birdie's widowed father, has disowned Frank and vows that he will never set eyes on his son again, but Birdie cannot believe that her brother is guilty So when Frank escapes from prison and comes to find Birdie in secret, she promises to help him and is determined to prove his innocence. But little does she realise that she is exposing herself to danger as Frank gets himself deeper and deeper into trouble with the so-called friends he met in prison. Helped by the Connors' lodger, the handsome Harry Chambers, will Birdie be able to find the proof that Frank needs in time to reconcile him to their frail father before it is too late? And can she build a future to keep herself and her younger brother, Patrick, safe?

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Just released! The House of Women

I'm so excited that my historical novel, The House of Women, is now released.

Blurb

    Leeds. 1870. Lonely and brokenhearted, Grace Woodruff fights for her sisters’ rights to happiness while sacrificing any chance for her own.
   The eldest of seven daughters, Grace is the core of strength around which the unhappy members of the Woodruff family revolve. As her disenchanted mother withdraws to her rooms, Grace must act as a buffer between her violent, ambitious father and the sisters who depend upon her. Rejected by her first love and facing a spinster’s future, she struggles to hold the broken family together through her father’s infidelity, one sister’s alcoholism, and another’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy by an unsuitable match.
   Caring for an illegitimate half-brother affords Grace an escape, though short-lived. Forced home by illness and burdened with dwindling finances, Grace faces fresh anguish –and murder– when her first love returns to wreck havoc in her life.  All is not lost, however. In the midst of tragedy, the fires of her heart are rekindled by another. Will the possibility of true love lead Grace to relinquish her responsibilities in the house of women and embrace her own right to happiness?

Excerpt

Grace blinked to clear her frozen mind as her mother and Verity climbed the staircase. If Verity was here then was William here too? Movement at the door caused Grace to close her eyes. She couldn’t bring herself to open them and see the one man she’d longed for since she was sixteen.
        ‘Miss Woodruff?’ Doyle inquired at her shoulder.
        Startled, she spun to face him, but she was blind to him, blind to everything but the sensation of having William here. Crazily, she wondered if she would swoon like a maiden aunt.
        Doyle’s hand reached out, but he quickly tucked it behind his back. ‘What is it, Miss Woodruff?’
       Grace swallowed, feeling the fine hairs on her arms and nape prickle. He is here.
       'Good evening, Grace.’
       At the sound of William’s deep velvety voice, her heart stopped beating, only to start again at a rapid pace. Her stomach clenched and her legs felt unable to support her anymore. Slowly, she swivelled to gaze into William’s blue-green eyes and knew she was lost again. William smiled his captivating smile. He had aged, no, matured since their last meeting. He looked leaner, but broader in the shoulders. There was an aura about him, something that females of any age wanted. He made all other men around him seem insignificant. A magnetism, a mystical air surrounded him, catching Grace in its clutches once more.

Order The House of Women from Amazon.com, or The Book Depository, which has free postage and currently on discount.
http://www.bookdepository.com/House-Women-Anne-Whitfield/9780956790187

 For more information about me or my books, please visit my website.
http://www.annewhitfield.com

Friday, 3 June 2011

LADY LIGHTFINGERS



LADY LIGHTFINGERS
Janet Woods
Severn House
Hardcover release UK 30th June.

Celia Laws has a past to be ashamed of – by necessity, living in the London slums and on the wrong side of the law. Notably, by perfecting the art of being a pick-pocket, whilst at the same time, trying not to disappoint her mother, who is battling the odds trying to keep her daughter respectable .

After her mother dies she attracts the attention of budding lawyer, Charles Curtis, who offers her a fortune to part with her innocence. Celia takes the money and runs.
Taken in by her aunt, she makes a new life for herself.

But her past comes back to haunt her in the form of Charles Curtis, who doesn't recognize the beautiful young woman as the ragged waif from the London slums he once tried to buy. They fall in love, and the background Celia has been so careful to hide begins to unravel as her conscience begins to plague her.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

More good digital news for us...

Wonderful authors like our own Freda Lightfoot have paved the way for authors wanting to join the digital platform of ebooks. I'm blogging on this because it's been a few weeks of great esurprises,with the trade news assuring us that ebook sales are accelerating. Ebooks are here to stay and by the looks of it, may well become the most interesting topic of web discussion, including our own specialized arena of historical fiction. We may not even have to call it historical soon, for the tags to our work are changing too as a new and hungry readership wades in to confirm the wonderful news. Although Maureen Lee isn't a member here, what a fabulous writer she is! And this week launched her very own ebook, self-published, a departure from her normal genre of saga to a thriller called DUSK. Each morning there seems to be news of a new digital triumph, with sales of ebooks both in this country and abroad contesting those of paperbacks and hardbacks. All my online digests burst with ebook headlines. Ereader statistics prove this exciting new world is open to everyone who wants a piece of the digital action. Many authors are going it alone, without publishers, and achieving great success. They look to people like J.A Konrath, Barry Eisler and our own amazing authors like Linda Gillard and Freda and any number of us here on this forum, published by mainstream publishers and indeed, ourselves. How exciting are these times! If we feel our rejected novel should be published then it can be! Linda Gillard’s wonderful novel HOUSE OF SILENCE was rejected by mainstream publishers and so she decided to turn it into an ebook. Just a few weeks after she uploaded it, HOS hit the top of the ebook charts and stayed there. So the way is open to us all, if we are of a mind. I bought a Kindle at the beginning of the year and can’t imagine life without it. Somehow I read more, enjoy more, and love the computerized voice that allows me to rest my eyes or use my earphones as a welcome alternative to reading. The “little grey slate” as it’s known, is a miracle of invention for all ages, together with its brothers of different makes, shapes and sizes. It's such a tremendous time to be alive - and for historical writers the best!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Free historical short story

 
My historical short story, A New Dawn, is now available for FREE on my publisher's website.
Burb
Escaping a brutal father, Briony runs to James, the man she loves.
With his family’s blessing, they marry and prepare for a new life in a new country – America.
A wedding gift of two tickets to travel on an ocean liner is a wonderful surprise.
Full of anticipation and hope, they set sail.
Only, fate has sent them a challenge that tests, not just their strength and love, but their very survival.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Love With a Capital L


On this special Eve, a sincere wish of good luck to every wedding couple, for marriage is still held by many to be the formula for happiness. Authors write about romance because their belief in Love is strong. At the heart of a cracking good Love Story, there is the couple who defy all obstacles to achieve their desire to be with one another eternally. The royal wedding this year sheds enchantment over our TV screens and flows out to the world, through the lens of the cameras. It's a moment in time, for Love and Lovers, captured in history for all to remember. My husband painted this picture for me when we married. It told of a midsummer Love and our dream of marrying under a canopy of trees in a bluebell wood or perhaps at Huddlesbury Head on the sea shore, late on a summer's night. Luckily our Love survived without nature's enchantment - or perhaps because of it. So here's to Love and Lovers everywhere, and may they all be blessed with eternal magic, because we all know it's Love (with a capital L) that makes us all truly eternal!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Dead easy...right?

Many moons ago, in the land that time forgot, when lost in thrall to my very first attempt with M&B historicals, I read Mary Wibberley, a dedicated Mills & Boon author who wrote a How To book, that surely must be a classic. To mention her name now still gives me the goose bumps; the anticipation, excitement, hope and youth all mixed together in a heady cocktail of oh-how-much-I-want to be published! Along with her marvellous advice, came the 13 rules of how romance/plot/character should evolve. I wonder if anyone else remembers them? If my memory serves me well (which could be in doubt) they went something like this;

13 step structure for romance plots

1. Heroines social identity is destroyed

2. She reacts antagonistically to hero.

3. Hero responds ambiguously to her.

4. She interprets this as sexual interest.

5. She responds to his behaviour with anger or coldness

6. Hero retaliates by punishing her

7. They are physically and/or emotionally separated

8. Hero treats heroine tenderly

9. She responds warmly to his act of tenderness

10. She reinterprets his ambiguous behaviour as the product of previous hurt

11. Hero proposes his love for/demonstrates his unwavering commitment to heroine with a supreme act of tenderness.

12. Heroine responds sexually and emotionally

13. Her identity is restored.

Hmm, pretty straightforward, I thought (then). Let's have a bash. 2011, and I'm not quite so certain!

Monday, 4 April 2011

Worth the cost: Researching

For any historical author, and most contemporary set writers, too, researching has to be done to make the book read as authentic as possible.
The smallest item can seem suddenly very interesting, and also extremely difficult to find the history about! Hours can be spent pouring over library books and the Internet searching for the right answer. We tear our hair out wondering if a certain item was invented and widely used in our period, etc. it can be terribly frightening, but also very rewarding when we do find the correct answer. I think it is very important for historical authors to get the period they write – right! However, that said, we are only human and we make mistakes no matter how hard we try not to. We can’t know everything (although we like to think we do) and that’s where different types of researching comes into it.


Sometimes, if we are lucky, we can travel to the places we set our books. Visiting castles, manor houses, streets and landscapes all help us to ‘see’ the place as our characters do. Of course over the years places and buildings change, but we have imaginations, good ones as writers do, and we can see how it would look through our characters’ eyes. taking numerous photos of one building, hill, village or street becomes common place for a writer.


Aside from traveling to a place, we can use our TVs and watch documentaries and movies to help set the mood. One of the best DVDs I have for my research is a walking guide to places around the Calder valley and Hebden Bridge area of West Yorkshire. Thankfully, I have been to that area myself, but if I hadn't just by watching the dvd I could see the steepness of the walks, the hills, etc, and that information would help write the book.






Research books are one of my favourite expenses. There is nothing like buying a large research book filled with interesting information and beautiful pictures to capture my imagination. I can never have enough of them. I sigh over them like some women sigh over a gorgeous pair of Jimmy Choo shoes or a Gucci handbag. Tragic, I know. But I don't want the cure.