The Perfect Day

Francesca and Elaine are thrilled to have Fenella Miller as our guest on The Write Minds Blog today chatting about her perfect day.

My perfect day would begin after an unbroken night’s sleep, one where I hadn’t had to get up three or four times to take painkillers or go to the loo and hadn’t been woken by my cat pouncing on my feet at four o’clock in the morning. I would have dreamed of riding along a deserted beach with Sean Bean for company. He would be in the persona of Richard Sharpe of course.

Fully rested, showered and dressed I would wander into the garden to listen to the dawn chorus before going inside to prepare a breakfast of croissant and real coffee. For medical reasons I haven’t had coffee or croissant for years.

I would then sit in front of my computer and dictate three thousand words of what is going to be the next bestseller without having once to stop and rummage through a dozen researchbooks to check a fact or three.

I would then drive to my husband’s care home, it would be sunny and warm, he would be waiting in his electrified wheelchair for me to take him for a walk along the promenade and then to a small outside café where he would enjoy a coffee and cake. More often than not it’s raining, he won’t be ready when I turn up and then the foot rests will fall off his wheelchair whilst we are out. Obviously, at the moment all I have is a few minutes face time on weekdays which breaks my heart.

On my return home at around two o’clock I’d have a delicious lunch sitting in the garden in the sunshine. After editing what I’d written the morning, I’d deal with social media where all my posts would be witty and upbeat and all my emails would be full of good news.

There would be cricket to watch on the television and England would be winning – of course – and I’d have a new Bernard Cornwall or Lee Child book to read over supper sitting in the garden once again. My son would ring discuss what we would be doing on our family day together – Sunday. After deadheading and watering, I’d watch television – Chicago Fire, The Good Doctor or The Rookie and head for bed around nine o’clock pleasantly tired and confident I’d not wasted my day.

  • I love to spend time with my husband and family. I also am a cricket fanatic so if England is playing anywhere in the world then I’ll be watching that, usually whilst reading a thriller or historical.
  • The only good thing about my enforced self-isolation is that I’ve got as much time as I want to write. I’ve just written a Regency and sent it for a professional proof read and from start to finish it took twenty-four days. Tomorrow I’ll start the third and final book in my current Regency series, The Reluctant Duke. I’m hoping to have time to write a Christmas Regency before I have to start the next book for my publisher which has to be in on October 11th. Two weeks ago I handed in the first of my new series, Girls in Blue, three stand-alone books about friends working in different sections of the WAAF.
  • Success for me is knowing that thousands of people enjoy reading my books – that I give happiness to so many with what I do. I’ll never be a bestseller, I’m a mid-list author, but I’m happy with that.

Thank you,  Fenella, for sharing your wonderful day with us today.  Read below about Fenella’s final instalment  of the Spitfire Girl series.

All’s fair in love and war for First Officer Ellie as she takes to the skies yet again in the final instalment of Fenella J Miller’s Spitfire Girl series.

1943, White Waltham. 

As Italy surrenders and victory looms on the horizon, Ellie’s doing what she does best – flying. And this time, she’s rising to the sky in four-engined Halifaxes. Determined to keep doing her bit, Ellie’s successes in the airfield mount but so do tensions with her new beau, Squadron Leader Jack Reynolds.

When Ellie and Jack find their dream home, they discover they’ve bought more than they bargained for. With a cellar full of secrets, Jack and Ellie must stand united in the face of mystery, war and loss. And as family circumstance threatens to tear them apart, Ellie and Jack are stronger than ever.

Amazon Link: The Spitfire Girls: Over and Out

BIO
Fenella J Miller was born in the Isle of Man. Her father was a Yorkshire man and her mother the daughter of a Rajah. She has worked as a nanny, cleaner, field worker, hotelier, chef, secondary and primary teacher and is now a full time writer.
She has over fifty Regency romantic adventures published plus four Jane Austen variations, four Victorian sagas and eight WW2 family sagas. She lives in a small village in Essex with her British Shorthair cat. She has two  adult children and three grandchildren.

 

 

Summer by the Seaside in the Seventies

With everyone being confined to home, Francesca gives you an opportunity to escape to the seaside for a short while. And there’s a chance to win a copy of her latest pocket novel.

Last week saw the publication of my latest pocket novel, Desperately Seeking Doreen, set  in Littlehampton in 1972 .  The idea for the novella came from my own teens. In the summer of ’72 I was fourteen-years-old, working the summer holidays in my dad’s restaurant (The Blue Sea in the story), which is under five minutes walk to where my main character, Jackie’s, (imaginary) guest house is situated. A large number of the tall, red brick Victorian houses on South Terrace, opposite the sea, were guest houses. Some still are. Jackie works part time at the funfair, which I don’t name but was in fact owned by Butlins at that time.

Jackie Harris has just moved from Suffolk to Sussex with her parents, who have decided to open up a guest house, the Mare Vista. She’s left her boyfriend, Adrian, behind, so she doubts she’ll stay, wanting mainly to make sure her parents settle in first. Then an interesting guest, artist Scott Grant, comes to stay for a few weeks. But when she discovers he’s not doing much painting and is doing a lot of creeping around, she begins to wonder what his real intentions are…

What do I remember about 1972? Going to the funfair after work with me friends, feather cuts, flares, cheesecloth, platforms, reggae, stomping my feet to Slade records at the Wednesday disco held at the United Services Club and going to my cousin’s shop to buy yet another hit single. Among many other things.

What do you remember of the early 70s?

There’s an opportunity to win a copy of Desperately Seeking Doreen by answering one of two simple questions on my Facebook Author Page. Just click the link and scroll down to the post with the photo of the pocket novel. Good luck!

A few memories of some of the settings from Desperately Seeking Doreen from the late sixties and early seventies… *

View of Pier Road from West Beach with its cafes and the beginning of South Terrace, where Jackie’s guest house is situated.

View along the River Arun to Pier Road. Butlins funfair building, where Jackie works, can be seen on the far right.

West Beach, where Jackie spends a day with her friend Val. They take the small ferry, which is how I used to get there with my friends. (Yes, that’s me!)

The walk along the River Arun to Arundel that Jackie and Scott take. I often took this walk with my parents. That’s me again, with my mum

Jackie and Scott visit Arundel and take a trip round the castle, a popular trip with my family. Elaine and I enjoyed a day out here last year.

Swanbourne Lake in Arundel Park where Jackie and Scott hire a boat.

1972 in the ‘Blue Sea Restaurant’ (actually called The Mediterranean). That’s me on the left and in the middle, my friend Val (sadly missed)

*All photos copyright of Francesca Burgess.

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Jeevani Charika’s publication day for A Convenient Marriage

Taking a look at Jeevani Charika’s new novel, A Convenient Marriage, and thinking about evocative food.

It was the perfect marriage… until they fell in love.

Chaya is a young woman torn between her duty to family and her life in the UK. While her traditional Sri Lankan parents want her to settle down into marriage, what they don’t know is that Chaya has turned away the one true love of her life, Noah, terrified of their disapproval.

Gimhana is hiding his sexuality from his family. It’s easy enough to pretend he’s straight when he lives half a world away in the UK. But it’s getting harder and harder to turn down the potential brides his parents keep finding for him.

When Chaya and Gimhana meet, a marriage of convenience seems like the perfect solution to their problems. Together they have everything – friendship, stability and their parents’ approval. But when both Chaya and Gimhana find themselves falling in love outside of their marriage, they’re left with an impossible decision – risk everything they’ve built together, or finally follow their heart?

Want to read more? Jeevani’s novel is available from 12th November on several platforms, click here to order it.

 

In her novel, one of the ways Gimhana shows he cares is by cooking for Chaya. Jeevani posed the question as to whether there was a food that evoked a particular memory for me.

I’d have to say spaghetti with lamb ragù. As a child, my Italian father would cook the main meal about once a week. He was a good cook, taught by his mother, and his speciality was the spaghetti with ragù. His secret was to simmer the sauce for hours on end. The whole house would be filled with the deep aroma of tomatoes, lamb, onion and garlic. Despite many attempts at cooking the meal myself, I’ve never quite been able to emulate the succulent taste of his wonderful sauce. Maybe one day!

Another food that evokes memories is Welsh cakes, baked by my mother when I was a child, but I’ve already talked about those here.

Do the readers have any foods that evoke memories? Tell us about them below.

Thank you for your question,  Jeevani,and I hope A Convenient Marriage is a great success.

Francesca

Guest Author Rosemary Goodacre On Her Saga, Until We Meet Again

We welcome back writer Rosemary Goodacre, whose World War 1 saga is out today

Hello Rosemary and thank you for visiting the Write Minds blog with your new book Until We Meet Again.

Hello, Francesca and Elaine, thank you for welcoming me to the Write Minds Blog.

What led you to writing about World War 1 as opposed to another period in time?                               

I suppose it was all the media interest as the centenary came up. My grandparents could remember the Great War, yet in many ways it seems like another world.

With the novel being set over a hundred years ago, what kind of research did you have to undertake?                                                                                                                                                   

I read memoirs from the time. There was also a wonderful film called They Shall Not Age, which was reprocessed documentary WWI film with colour added. There was even dialogue, which they had constructed from the original speech, with the help of lipreaders. You could get a vivid impression of the hardship the men actually encountered in the trenches.

How do you come up with characters and are they ever inspired by real people

Sometimes real people give me an idea for a character, though they may need adapting to have the outlook people would have had at the time: for example, at least at the beginning of the war, women had much less freedom. Sometimes a fictional character who was inspired by a real person suddenly takes over and insists on setting off in a different direction!

Which character from the book have you most enjoyed writing?                                       

The hero and heroine, Edmond and Amy, became brave, inspiring people when their world suddenly became so dangerous and challenging. I kept thinking of the men who somehow managed to joke and sing, even in the trenches.

How did you get started in writing?                                                                                                         

I’ve written stories for many years, and sometimes become immersed in entire novels. I started going to classes and gradually became more serious about getting published. The occasional early success with a short story boosted my morale. I like to think I’ve become more professional as the years have passed.

How do you organise your writing day?                                                                                                        I allocate some dedicated writing time so I don’t get bogged down in domestic distractions or too involved in leisure pursuits. I’ll have put together an outline of the story to start with, and done some preliminary research, so I’ll charge ahead with the whole story and then go back to see what needs correcting or improving.

What can your readers look forward to next?                                                                                   

I’m working on a sequel to Until We Meet Again, so I’m hoping Amy and Edmond will be back before long!

We’re so glad you could drop by to talk to us. All the best with Until We Meet Again.

It’s been lovely visiting your site, thank you so much for having me as your guest.

 

Until We Meet Again

The Great War drove them apart – but love kept them together

Summer 1914: Shy young woman, Amy Fletcher, lives a quiet life in Sussex. An office worker, she lives at home, along with her parents and spirited younger brother, Bertie. But her life is transformed when she meets handsome young man, Edmond Derwent, son of one of the wealthiest families in the small town of Larchbury, and student at Cambridge University.

The couple are falling deeply in love when war breaks out and, eager to do his duty for England, Edmond signs up as an officer. The couple plan to be wed, eager to start a new life together – but their happiness is short-lived when Edmond is sent to Flanders to lead his men into battle. Amy trains as a VAD nurse and is soon sent to France, where she sees the true horror of war inflicted on the brave young men sent to fight.

Separated by war, Edmond and Amy share their feelings through emotional letters sent from the front line. But when Edmond is critically wounded at Ypres, their love faces the biggest test of all – can their love stay strong while the world around them is crumbling?

A romantic, emotional saga set in WW1 – readers of Rosie Goodwin, Katie Flynn and Val Wood will be captivated by this story of love.

Until We Meet Again can be purchased on:                                                                                              Amazon                                                                                                                                                                    Apple                                                                                                                                                                                    Kobo

About Rosemary Goodacre                                                                                               

Rosemary Goodacre has previously worked in computing and teaching. She has had short stories published and a novella, A Fortnight is not Enough.

Her father’s family came from continental Europe and she loves travelling.
She enjoys country walking, bridge and classical music. She lives with her husband in Kent, England.

You can find Rosemary on Facebook and Twitter

 

Read more about  Until We Meet Again by following the tour:

Café Life and Ice Cream

Francesca looks at how growing up in cafés between the Fifties and Seventies has influenced her novels, as she continues the series inspired by The Great British Bake Off. And there’s ice cream!

After a day working at the cafe as a teen

All writers are bound to be influenced by their own upbringings, and it’s certainly true of me. The first novel I ever wrote was a YA called Sea Angel. The main character in it was fourteen-year-old Morwen. Although her fortunes and failures weren’t mine, and I didn’t have to live over the place like she did, we naturally had much in common. That included youthful resentment at having to work in the business in our spare time.

I pictured Morwen’s café to look much like our own, even if I did lift it out of Littlehampton and place it in an imaginary Sussex village called Littlebay. Recently it has featured again in both a 1970s pocket novel I’ve written and in a saga I’ve begun set in 1914, where it remains firmly in Littlehampton.

The Mediterranean in the early 60s, circled.

The business in Littlehampton (incongruously called The Mediterranean), was a seaside restaurant serving (in my humble opinion) some of the best fish and chips I’ve ever tasted. It also sold pork and lamb chops, sausages, ham, eggs, spam and spam fritters (remember those?) in different combinations with chips and a choice of beans or peas. There were also ham or cheese salads and roast beef and two veg. Over the years the menu changed little, being what the day trippers desired during the Sixties and Seventies.

View from the Mediterranean of the River Arun

The fish was delivered fresh every day from a local fishmonger. I recall a long-time chef we employed boning the cod and plaice with great skill. There was certainly nothing frozen. The kitchen housed two large fryers into which were melted huge blocks of lard. In the basement was a peeling machine that removed the skins before the potatoes were chipped. This was originally done by a type of guillotine hand slicer, then later on an electric chipper. They were then part fried and kept in an industrial sized fridge in the basement until needed. Twice fried chips before they were even a thing!

For dessert you could choose between peaches and/or ice cream, chocolate gateau, apple pie and cheesecake. We also served up a very nice frothy coffee (in the days before there were myriad variations) and strawberry, chocolate or pineapple milkshakes, made with ice cream.

The Criterion in the early 70s had a name change

Regrettably, there was never time to bake our own cakes, though we did get them delivered from a nice patisserie.  Further back, when my father had The Criterion café in Worthing, there was a time when he made his own ice cream. I never thought to ask Dad what his recipe was, though I do recall him saying it involved large cans of condensed milk.

Me, circa 1959, outside the Criterion.

This café, where I was spent the first three years of my life (especially since we did live over this one), was more a snack based eating establishment. It used to open from nine in the morning till eleven at night, the evenings attracting the café youth culture of the Fifties.

The Criterion featured in a 1950s series I had published in The People’s Friend called Happy Days at the Criterion. It tells of the meeting and romance between Gwen and Renzo, based on how my own parents met and got together.

A busy evening at the Criterion, c1958

Back in the early 90s, I acquired an electric ice cream making machine. I think these days they’re much easier to use, but back then you had to keep adding combinations of salt and ice to the outside layer and the whole process was a real pain. It made me wonder what kind of effort Dad had expended in making it by hand. I persisted with the machine and made many different flavours of ice cream over the decade. One of my favourites has to be brown bread ice cream.

Brown bread ice cream originated in the Georgian era. It seems to have made a bit of a comeback recently, though I first tasted it in a restaurant in Lincoln over thirty years ago. It was this that prompted me to try making my own, once I took possession of my machine.

It’s been many years since I gave up on the contraption, but I still have the recipe for the brown bread ice cream, which I make occasionally now by hand.

Brown Bread Ice Cream

450ml milk
1 vanilla pod or 3 drops of essence
4 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
50g dry brown breadcrumbs
150ml double cream

Ice cream dishes and a tablecloth I kept from the Mediterranean

Put the milk and vanilla into a heavy-based saucepan and bring slowly to the boil. Remove from the heat, cover and stand for ten minutes. Remove vanilla pod and reheat to simmering.

Beat the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until thick and pale yellow. Gradually pour the hot milk into the eggs, stirring continually. Strain into a heavy-based or double saucepan and stir over a gentle heat until the custard thickens enough to cover the back of a spoon. Do not boil. Allow the mixture to cool and place in a freezer for one-and-a-half hours, until mushy.

Gently toast the breadcrumbs under a low grill, turning them to ensure they toast evenly. Put aside to cool.

Beat the cream to form soft peaks. Fold the cream and breadcrumbs into the frozen custard and freeze. Beat the mixture after one hour, then seal and freeze.

Enjoy!

 

The Mediterranean was sold in 1981 and for a time became a  burger bar. It eventually returned to being a fish and chip restaurant called Osca’s. It looks very different to when we had it, but I’m pleased to report that their fish and chips, tried recently by Elaine and me, are excellent and I recommend a visit if you’re in Littlehampton.

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Danger for Daisy

Old School Cooking

It’s Elaine’s turn to be inspired by The Great British Bake Off and write about the food/recipes that can appear in our historical novels.

My Nan

I have been looking at a copy of my Nan’s Radiation Cookery Book, she passed away nearly fifty years ago but her cookery book is still passing on words of wisdom.

It made me wonder if it was the type of cookery book that should still be used today. It starts by explaining some basic terms such as braise, stew, grill, boil, steam, roast and bake. It has measurements and temperatures in the front but before all of that it has pictures of cookers. It made me wonder if anybody would remember their parents, grandparents or even great grandparents using these cookers, which are a far cry from their modern counterpart

The book talks about making stocks and, much to my delight, boiling the bones of a chicken or turkey. This was one of my favourite meals, and one I have done repeatedly for my own children.

Recipe for Chicken Broth curtsey of  The Radiation Cookery Book, 1956 edition.

Ingredients:

My Nan’s Cookbook

The carcase and trimmings of a chicken OR 6 chicken-necks and 2 or 3 giblets
2 pints of water
1oz of rice OR pearl barley
1 onion
1 stick of celery
Salt
6 peppercorns
Blade of mace
1 teaspoonful chopped parsley

Method:

Break up the carcase of the chicken, or if chicken necks and giblets are used, scald and cut them up. Put the pieces into a large saucepan with water, rice or barley (well washed) and the onion, celery, salt, peppercorns and mace. Bring to boiling point, then simmer for 2 hours. Strain and reheat the liquor. Add more seasoning if required and lastly the chopped parsley just before serving.

My own recipe differs slightly because I leave everything in the pan and remove as many of the bones as I can. I add diced potatoes, peas and anything else I can think of, so mine is more like a stew that comes with a health warning about any small bones that might still be in there. Is this something you make, or have made? Did you eat it as a child?  As I said it’s one of my favourite meals.

I thought I would just leave you with a picture of some of the old style cookers from the book. Happy baking.

Welsh Cakes and Childhood

With Bake Off beginning again next week, the Write Minds pair look at food, starting this week with Francesca’s memories of Wales and Welsh cakes. 

With The Great British Bake Off starting again this week (hooray!), Elaine and I have been talking about food. It’s certainly a good way to evoke a period of time in a novel or short story. When I wrote my (yet unpublished) historical novel, Heartbreak in the Valley, set in the Wales in 1915/16, I took some time to research the food eaten and its availability in those years.

One of the popular foods in Wales then, as now, was of course Welsh cakes, also known as bakestones or griddle cakes. My main character, Anwen, makes them during the course of the novel. She tells her mamgu (grandmother), “I’m just preparing some bakestones. I managed to find some flour at the back of the larder not used since Mam’s been ill. Think it’s still alright. I saved some margarine and currants and an egg, and there’s a bit of milk left.” Food was getting scarcer by the end of 1915, so the bakestones would have been quite a treat.

Doris and Gwilym loved a day out with a picnic.

The insertion of this small domestic detail was prompted by my own childhood, as my mum, herself Welsh, often made them when I was a child. Would it be biased to say that they still rate as the best I’ve ever tasted?

Though only five at the time, I recall when she bought the griddle in Cardiff market. We were staying in Merthyr Tydfil with our cousins, Doris and Gwilym, and were visiting Cardiff, where Mum was brought up, for the day. Another memory I have of that holiday is visiting Merthyr market on several occasions. They made and sold Welsh cakes there and the delicious aroma of them used to fill the market. They also sell them in Cardiff market these days and they smell divine, though I don’t recall if they sold them back then.

Cardiff Market (with my grandson walking past!)

When Mum died, thirty-five years ago, I kept that old cast-iron griddle. It had got rusty over the years and eventually I had to buy a new one. It’s not quite the same, with its non-stick surface, but it does the job. I’m now the Welsh cake baker in the family. Making them always takes me back in turn to our 1950s galley kitchen and the markets of Cardiff and Merthyr.

The recipe for Welsh cakes I use

8oz (225g) self-raising flour

4oz (110g) butter

1 egg

Sultanas

A little milk

Griddle (or a heavy

frying pan if you don’t have one)

Rub butter and flour together to make breadcrumbs. Add sugar and sultanas. Add the egg and mix until it forms a ball of dough. A little milk may be needed if it’s too dry.

Roll out dough to around ¼ inch / 5mm and cut with a round fluted cutter.

On the griddle rub butter and get rid of excess. Heat up griddle and place the Welsh cakes on it. Give them a couple of minutes a side, until they’re nicely browned.

Remove from the griddle and dust with caster sugar while warm.

I often add a little mixed spice or cinnamon. These days there are a lot of variations. When I visited Cardiff market with my daughter and grandson a few years back we bought quite a selection including chocolate and lemon!

Enjoy!

There are lots of tasty variations of Welsh cakes here

If you’re visiting Cardiff, the market is well worth a visit: Cardiff Market

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