Returning to the Valleys and Relics of the Past

Francesca looks back to the past, at some artifacts that would have been around in World War 1

As some of you might already have gathered, my second Valleys book, War in the Valleys is out in a couple of days. Writing it has brought to mind some relics of that era that I have stored in my bedroom drawers and in a box left for the children by their paternal great grandmother, that would have been around in the First World War.

First, there’s one of the lovely brooches my grandmother-in-law, Betty, gave me, back in the 1990s. The gold hallmark dates it at 1907, four years before Betty was born, and some research suggests it was a very popular design of the time. I know it belonged to her mother, Elizabeth, so I wonder if her father, Robert, bought it for her.

Another of the brooches, a silver Mizpah brooch, dates back even further, to 1889. Has anyone come across a Mizpah brooch before? The word ‘Mizpah’ is from the Bible and apparently means ‘watchtower’. The brooches became popular in the Victorian era, exchanged between lovers or good friends who were due to spend some time apart. As you can imagine, their popularity increased once more during the First World War. The age of it makes we wonder if it belonged to Betty’s grandmother, Hannah.

In Heartbreak in the Valleys and War in the Valleys, Elizabeth Meredith or her mother, Margaret, would possibly have been the only women in the village  able to afford the gold brooch. Most of the other characters, Violet Jones in particular, would have struggled to afford either. In fact, if Violet had owned one, she’d likely have sold it, as she did some of her furniture, to make ends meet. Working four days a week at the mine, sorting, coal from rock, would only have earned her around ten shillings and sixpence a week.

The items I found that all my characters would have had are the pre-decimal coins. Among them, the oldest coins are three Victorian pennies dated 1895, 1897 and 1898. Next are the three George V coins: a halfpenny dated 1911, a penny dated 1918 and a farthing, also dated 1918. Old coins like this have a particular smell, which I can only describe as sweaty metallic, with a bit of dank thrown in. It’s fascinating to consider how many hands they’ve been through. If each could have its journey mapped out, I’m sure it would make a fascinating tale. Although they ended up on Tyneside, maybe somewhere along the way they passed through the Rhymney Valley, where my characters lived. We’ll never know!

 

War in the Valleys is out on the 25th November and is currently on special offer at 99p on Kindle for a limited period.

Heartbreak in the Valleys, the first in the series, is also on offer at 99p on Kindle and Kobo, again for a limited period.

Links

War in the Valleys: amzn.to/2HxbDhT

 Heartbreak in the Valleys:

Amazon: amzn.to/2XUSTyB

Kobo:  https://bit.ly/3flinf1

 

Do come and find me on social media and have a natter:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FrancescaCapaldiAuthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/FCapaldiBurgess

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/francesca.capaldi.burgess/

 

War in the Valleys: Blog Tour and a Bargain!

Francesca shares the dates for the upcoming blog tour for War in the Valleys

Only five more days and it’ll be publication day for War in the Valleys. This is a sequel to Heartbreak in the Valleys, where we get to hear Violet’s story.

Do pop into the blogs if you have time and say hello.

And there’s a nice little treat as well, as Heartbreak in the Valleys  is now down to 99p on Kindle and Kobo, so you can catch up on the first instalment.

War in the Valleys  is available for pre-order on

Amazon

Kobo

Apple

And also for downloads by reviewers and bloggers on NetGalley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Welcoming Jean Fullerton with a Ration Book Christmas Kiss

As  the pre-Christmas activities begin, we welcome Jean Fullerton to tell us about her settings, characters and her writing day

Hello Jean, and welcome back to Write Minds. First of all, can you give us an insight into your main character in A Ration Book Christmas Kiss?

My main character is Michael Brogan who we first met in a Ration Book Childhood. He’s 12-years-old and we meet him a few weeks before Christmas at school. The local girls’ school has been bombed and they come to join Michael and his classmates for the last few weeks of term.

Do you see yourself in any of your characters?

I am the heroine in all of my books even though they are in their twenties and I’m considerably older. However, I do have to confess, although I have all my own teeth the character nearest to me in age at least if not, straight talking is the matriarch of the Brogan family, Queenie.

Tell us about your setting and why you chose it?

It’s not so much that I choose the setting for my books as the setting chooses me. I come from East London originally and all my family’s history is in those overcrowded streets of Stepney, Shadwell and Wapping so it seems natural as the area is in my blood to set all my books, be they Victorian or 20th century fiction in East London

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on a secret East London writing project at the moment, but I’ll be starting the last of my Ration Book Series, A Ration Book Victory in January 2021.

Your secret project sounds intriguing, Jean! Tell us about your writing day.

I’m not an early riser so after a couple of cups of tea, breakfast and a read of the paper I usually get to my desk about 9.30. Unless I’m dashing towards a deadline, I spend the first half of the morning doing admin and posting on social media. I kick off the day’s writing about 11ish for a couple of hours until lunch then I’m back at my desk again for a solid four hours in the afternoon.

I take a break to have dinner then toddle up again for an hour at about seven after which I spend the rest of the evening with my feet up in front of the TV with the Hero@Home.  I average about 1500-2000 words a day, sometimes more but I’m a steady writer rather than a fast one as I need thinking time as well.

Of course, that’s not every day as I do have days out with family and friends as well as meeting my agent and editors and writerly events. However, I always take my laptop when I’m traveling and as 120k words won’t write themselves, I often do a few hundred words on the train up and back from London.  I have to keep an eye on my diary as I do try to have at least 4 or 5 working days each week. As I say. 120k words won’t write themselves.

Do you have a favourite writing place?

My office upstairs in the Rectory as it’s my own space with all my research books at hand.

Where do your ideas come from?

Who knows? But thank goodness they do. Truthfully, it can be a picture or an image. However, as I’m writing to a contract rather than as the fancy takes me, I focus on the period or event to trigger my imagination.

What does success look like to you?

Well the money’s nice but success to me is an inbox with lots of lovely letters from readers who love my books.

Describe your perfect day.

See my writing day above

If you could tell your younger self anything what would it be?

Don’t worry about the dyslexia and get writing now!

Good advice, Jean! Other than writing what else do you love to do?

I know it’s a cliché but next to my writing I love being with my husband, three daughters and eight grandchildren.

Thanks for coming to talk to us, Jean, and the very best of luck with the book.

 

A Ration Book Christmas Kiss

When the local girls’ school gets bombed out in December of 1942, Michael Brogan and his friends are forced to share classes with the young ladies of Stepney Green. And when Michael meets Jane in one of those lessons, he knows it’s the best thing that has ever happened to him. He may only be 12, but he’ll love Jane forever.

Unsure of Jane’s feelings, Michael decides to ask her to his church Christmas dance. But Jane’s father has other ideas, and so does the Luftwaffe. As the bombs rain down on London’s East End, Michael starts to wonder if he will ever get the chance to prove his love. Will this be the year he gets a Christmas kiss?

Available on Amazon 

About Jean Fullerton

Jean Fullerton is the author of sixteen novels all set in East London where she was born. She worked as a district nurse in East London for over twenty-five years and is now a full-time author.

She is a qualified District and Queen’s nurse who has spent most of her working life in the East End of London, first as a Sister in charge of a team, and then as a District Nurse tutor.

She has won multiple awards and all her books are set in her native East London.  Her latest novella, A RATION BOOK CHRISTMAS KISS, is the fifth in her East London WW2 Ration Book series featuring the lively Brogan family.

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Welcoming Guest Author Nicola Pryce, Talking Cornwall and Research

Nicola Pryce has popped in today to tell us about her love of Cornwall and her Cornish novels

Hello Nicola, and welcome to Write Minds. First off, do you see yourself in any of your characters?

This reminds me of how I used to read Pride and Prejudice through the eyes of Elizabeth but I’m now so definitely Mrs Bennet! I love my older lady characters and though I would love the elegance, grace, wit, and forcefulness of my very exacting French dressmaker, Madame Merrick, I feel I’m much more like Mrs Pengelly, the boat builder’s wife whom she employs. Unfortunately, I’m not like Mrs Munroe, her talented cook who bakes prize winning pastry – but I’m working on it.

Tell us about your setting and why you chose it?

My books are set in Fowey on the south coast of Cornwall, though I call it Fosse. We’ve been sailing into Fowey for twenty-five years and I love the town and its surrounds. The two opposing towns, Fowey and Polruan, guard the river mouth and are both quintessential Cornish harbours with lanes that rise steeply from the quayside and houses huddling together against the fierce winter gales. Some of my books are set in Falmouth, Truro, Bodmin, the Moor, and the River Fal where we also sail. The Cornish Lady is set in Trelissick House and A Cornish Betrothal in Trerice.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I love the research aspect of writing historical novels. I usually have a theme I want to explore. Each book centers round different aspects of the history in Cornwall, 1793-1800 and a lot of my information is gleaned from academic papers or books written specifically about the subject. We are so lucky having google at our fingertips! However I can’t get my head into my characters until I can prove something happened at exactly the time I want it to happen, to a group of people I want to represent, in a specific place, at a specific time. That gives me the authority I need. For example, in A Cornish Betrothal, I have a lady herbalist, a young physician, and others on the infirmary committee which has been called to raise funds and approve the design of the New Infirmary in Truro. Imagine my delight when I found the actual minutes of the committee meeting held in 1790 in the Records Office in Truro. All the records and archives are now housed in Kresen Kernow in Redruth and I have enormous fun making sure I have proof of what I’m going to include in my books. It’s not always easy to read some of the handwriting though, even armed with a huge magnifying glass.

But how long to research? I could honestly spend too long, so I try to curtail myself. Probably, on average, I will spend three months researching, seven months writing, and two months catching up with the cobwebs and the weeds.

Do you have a favourite writing place?

Believe it or not, I’ve written each of my books in a different place. Once I’ve finished writing a book, it’s as if I have to move on. I just can’t write another in the same place. It’s very strange. I wrote my first book at the kitchen table, my second at  the dining room table. The third was written in my daughter’s bedroom and the fourth in my son’s. By the time I was writing my fifth book my grandchildren were older so I could move the cot out of the back bedroom to make an office. Now, writing my sixth, I’ve turned my desk to face the opposite wall and that seems to have done the trick. Any more books and we’ll have to move house. And no, my new office is never usually this tidy!

What do you find the most difficult part of writing process?

Not the idea of the story, nor the characters; not the planning nor the research, but actually putting the words onto the page in the right order! I seem to be terribly slow and often re-write whole pages several times. They say you shouldn’t edit while you’re writing but I feel compelled to do so. My favourite bit of writing is editing which is why I can’t resist it. I suppose one good thing about doing that is that when I finally write The End it’s almost ready to go to my agent. Oven ready, as Mrs Munroe would say.

Other than writing what else do you love to do?

Did I mention my grandchildren? I love nothing more than sewing, gardening, and messing about in my kitchen. I particularly enjoy walking coastal paths and visiting National Trust houses. I love reading though if I’m writing I find it hard to have another voice in my head. I’m very much looking forward to my Christmas present which I understand is going to be a doll’s house to make and furnish.

Thank you so much, Francesca and Elaine for inviting me onto your lovely blog. I’ve so enjoyed answering your questions. The history and inspiration behind my books can be found on my website  https://nicolapryce.co.uk/ . My latest novel, A Cornish Betrothal, is published this November

 

 A Cornish Proposal

Cornwall, 1798.

Eighteen months have passed since Midshipman Edmund Melville was declared missing, presumed dead, and Amelia Carew has mended her heart and fallen in love with a young physician, Luke Bohenna. But, on her twenty-fifth birthday, Amelia suddenly receives a letter from Edmund announcing his imminent return. In a state of shock, devastated that she now loves Luke so passionately, she is torn between the two.

When Edmund returns, it is clear that his time away has changed him – he wears scars both mental and physical. Amelia, however, is determined to nurse him back to health and honour his heroic actions in the Navy by renouncing Luke.

But soon, Amelia begins to question what really happened to Edmund while he was missing. As the threads of truth slip through her fingers, she doesn’t know who to turn to: Edmund, or Luke?

Available on Amazon

 

About Nicola Pryce

Nicola Pryce trained as a nurse at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. She loves literature and history and has an Open University degree in Humanities. She’s a qualified adult literacy support volunteer and lives with her husband in the Blackdown Hills in Somerset. She and her husband love sailing and together they sail the south coast of Cornwall in search of adventure. If she’s not writing or gardening, you’ll find her scrubbing decks.

Pengelly’s Daughter is her first novel, then The Captain’s Girl, The Cornish Dressmaker, and The Cornish Lady. A Cornish Betrothal will be published in November.

Nicola is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Historical Writers’ Association.

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Remembering Rosemary Goodacre and her new novel, Until We Can Forgive

It’s three weeks now since we were saddened to hear of the death of our friend and fellow author, Rosemary Goodacre

Rosemary had been ill but was recovering and looking forward to the release of the third novel in her Derwent Chronicles series, Until We Can Forgive. She was busy getting started on her blog tour questions, when she was sadly taken from us. Here we recall times we’ve spent with Rosemary, and take a look at her latest novel.

 

 

 

 

Francesca: I first met Rosemary in an Adult Education class for creative writing, run by Elaine Everest, back in 2006. We’d been in various classes together since that time, as well as both attending Writers’ Holiday weeks and many Romantic Novelist Association events. Often she wrote things that were a little different, like a novel she was working on several years ago that involved chemistry classes and poisonings!

She was a well informed and cultured woman, with knowledge of foreign languages, yet never blew her own trumpet. She was great fun at social events. I recall the last RNA conference we were at, one evening, sitting around our flat’s kitchen table, playing a game which involved singing various songs, and Rosemary joining in as enthusiastically as the rest of us (I dare say a little alcohol was involved!). She will be sorely missed by me, and there’ll be a Rosemary-shaped hole in our group of friends for evermore.

Elaine: I first met Rosemary at The Write Place in 2012. I will always remember Rosemary as a well read and intelligent person. Her interests were quite diverse, as indeed was her reading. I know she loved playing bridge, going to the theatre and having some more unusual holidays. However, she also had a scatty side to her unassuming nature. She was a lovely lady that would never want to offend anyone and was also someone you couldn’t get cross with.

When we were travelling to Romantic Novelist’s Association events together, like the conferences, she was often waiting for everyone in the wrong place. We all worried about losing her when we were going anywhere as a group. I remember arranging to meet her just inside the doorway of a summer party we were both attending and I waited for sometime before I was told she was already upstairs. She was very apologetic when she realised but it was just another moment where you just thought ‘that’s Rosemary’, she didn’t have a malicious bone in her whole body.

I will miss her more than words can say, as I’m sure everyone who knew her will.

Until We Can Forgive

Spring 1919: WW1 is over and a fragile peace has descended over the country. Now living in Cambridge with husband EdmondAmy Derwent is settling into her new life as wife and mother to little Beth. But the shadow of the Great War looms large, particularly as the injuries Edmond sustained at Ypres still take their toll on him today.

Edmond’s cousin, Vicky, has now grown into a fine young woman, eager to help her
country. Throwing off her privileged background to train as a nurse, she spends her days tending to the many soldiers still suffering the after-effects of their time on the battlefield.

Meeting Maxim Duclos, a young Frenchman who has arrived in Larchbury, fills her heart with joy – but when it is discovered that Maxim may be hiding the truth about his past, Vicky is faced with an impossible choice. Follow her heart’s desire and risk her family’s disapproval or keep her family – but deny herself the chance of true love?

The war may be over, but Edmond, Amy and Vicky must all face a new battle, finding their own peace in a country wounded by loss.

Available on Kindle and paperback at:

Amazon

Kobo

The first two books of the Derwent Chronicles:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Available here:

Until We Meet Again

Until the War is Over

Follow the rest of Rosemary’s tour:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time for Tea with Elaine Everest and the Teashop Girls

Today we say hello once again to Elaine Everest, talking about the latest Teashop Girls book, World War 2 and her characters

 

Hello Elaine, and welcome back to the blog with your second ‘Teashop’ novel.

Thank you for hosting me on your blog and being part of the blog tour for Christmas with the Teashop Girls.

You often mention the lovely Forties’ clothes that your characters are wearing. Do you like Forties’ fashion, and where does your research for it come from?

I do like fashions from the forties as despite rationing women always dressed smartly and made the most of what they had. I enjoy reading about women’s clothing from that time and have quite a collection of books, magazines and newspaper cuttings that I refer to – everything from couture designs down to home dressmaking and make do and mend. I even refer to my collection of Woolworths staff magazines. The New Bond is an invaluable source for fashion ideas. I spend far too long reading these publications.

There are a lot of details about Ben’s mill business in the East End, along with the docks. It’s almost like you’ve walked around it yourself. Where did the details come from? Were there photographs of the area to study?

Being born and brought up close to the Thames in Erith I grew up watching life on the river and knowing people who worked in the docks. Dockland wasn’t just in London. When I decided that Ben’s family business required the shipping of grain from Canada, I started to research how the docks worked during the war. I was able to watch Pathe News as well as look at images of that time. I was also fortunate that some of my relatives lived close to Tower Bridge which meant that at time we’d go along the Thames and see the old warehouse that still remained after the devastation of the Blitz. Even in the sixties there was still much to see before the buildings started to be turned into expensive apartments. News reports told of ships containing grain being sunk during the relentless bombing on the first day of the Blitz. I used much of this in my story.

The air raids come thick and fast in the book, set in 1940 as it is. Was it really as bad as that?
1940 was the year the air raids started in earnest after the ‘phoney war’. I pride myself in never inventing an air raid that didn’t exist. My plots have to fit around what happened during the war, and at times I wish there had been something happening in the area where the book is set. For the people of Ramsgate, it was truly horrendous, but thankfully they had the famous Ramsgate tunnels in which to take shelter. It is said that no resident of the town was more than ten minutes from a tunnel entrance. It was the foresight of own mayor, Alderman A. B. C. Kempe, with the backing of the borough council that permission was granted and work on the tunnels began in March 1939 saving thousands of lives.

Anya is an interesting character, fleeing from Poland as she did. Where did you get the idea for her, and her husband Henio?

When Anya popped into my mind it was a gift. She appears in the opening of The Teashop Girls when Flora comes to her rescue with young boys stoning her for being a German. I wanted to show how people in WW2 reacted to anyone with a foreign accent and assume they are the enemy. The invasion of Poland started our involvement in WW2 and for me the Polish have a special place in my heart. Our current resident freeloader, Henry, is a Polish Lowland Sheepdog and through exhibiting him and belonging to breed clubs I got to know some lovely Polish people both online and in person and wanted to depict them in my stories. As for Anya’s husband, Henio – his name is Polish for Henry, so yet again I manged to feed one of my dog’s names into a book.

Some pretty nasty characters pop up in the book (we won’t give away who!). Do you prefer to write about the nice guys or the bad guys?

I love a nasty character! At times it can be quite therapeutic to write a nasty character and see how the main characters react to the person. I do like my Nippies as they are plucky women and tend to fight back when the baddies appear.

Who’s your favourite character in the book?

I do like Mildred as she is a character that calls a spade a spade, come to that so does Anya! In Christmas with the Teashop Girls I have developed Lady Diana’s story and had such fun with her I had to be careful she didn’t take over the book.

We’ve had two outings with the Teashop Girls now. Can we look forward to any more?

I hope we can return to Thanet one day to continue with stories about the Nippies. I would like to tell more of Anya’s story and follow the residents of Ramsgate through the remainder of WW2. In fact, I’ve just purchased a Polish cookery book, and that alone has given me ideas …

What can your readers look forward to next?

Both my books for 2021 are now filed with my publisher. I’m excited to be able to tell Ruby (from the Woolworths Girls series) story of her younger days in A Mother Forever which is on sale in January, for the hardback version, and March for paperback/audio/digital etc. The story starts in 1905 when Ruby moved into her new home in Alexandra Road with such hopes for the future. I hope readers enjoy finding out about Ruby’s early life.
Pre order details here 

Thank you very much for popping in, Elaine, and the best of luck with Christmas with the Teashop Girls.

Christmas with the Teashop Girls

It’s late 1940 and the war feels closer to home than ever for Rose Neville and her staff at the Lyon’s Teashop in Margate. The worry of rationing hangs overhead as the Nippies do their best to provide a happy smile and a hot cup of tea for their customers. When a bombing raid targets the Kent coastline, Lyon’s is badly hit, throwing the future of the cafe into jeopardy.

The light in Rose’s life is her dashing fiancé Captain Ben Hargreaves and she’s busy planning their Christmas Eve wedding. But she must also plan to take two new stepdaughters into her life and get on the right side of her wealthy mother-in-law, Lady Diana. Is Rose ready to become a mother?

When Rose’s half-sister Eileen makes contact, it seems that Rose’s dreams of having a sibling are coming true at long last. But her friends begin to suspect that she’s hiding something… As the wedding draws near, the bombings intensify, putting everything and everyone Rose loves in danger. Only one thing is for sure: it will be a Christmas she never forgets . . .

 Available on Amazon

About Elaine Everest

Elaine Everest is from North West Kent and she grew up listening to stories of the war years in her home town of Erith, which features in her bestselling Woolworths Girls series. A former journalist, and author of nonfiction books for dog owners, Elaine has written over sixty short stories for the women’s magazine market. When she isn’t writing, Elaine runs The Write Place creative writing school in Hextable, Kent. She lives with her husband, Michael and sheepdog Henry. You can find out more about Elaine on Twitter @ElaineEverest or Facebook /elaine.everest

Read more about Elaine and Christmas with the Teashop Girls by catching up with her tour:

Welcoming Guest Author Judith Barrow

We welcome Judith Barrow today, talking about her research and settings

Hello Judith, and welcome to the blog. First of all, could we ask what kind of research you do?

Writing historical family sagas necessitates a lot of research. It’s what I enjoy. It’s fun discovering the fashions of an era, the hairstyles and cosmetics. The toys, the games that occupied the children tell a lot about the times. Mostly I research late nineteenth and early twentieth century when children had less time to play; childhood often ended before the age of twelve, with chores and work to bring in money for the family. I researched the kind of employment given to them, unbelievable in this days and age. And it has made me see how far society has changed when it comes to the houses built: from terraces to high-rise flats to housing estates. And how there are differences in the furniture, the ways people cooked, the food, the way clothes were washed. How life was lived.

The Haworth Trilogy

But of course, there is also the background to those lives, the environments: the state of the towns, the countryside, the country I’m researching. And that’s when politics play a huge part in the lives of the characters that have formed in my mind. Because I mostly write about early twentieth century, I’ve explored the time of two major world wars, of smaller but no less dangerous conflicts between maybe two or three countries, of internal strife in Britain, in Ireland. And, trying to understand the effects on populations, on ordinary people, I read as many memoirs I can find and, so often, when I read about life in the past, I realise that little has changed in the human psyche. Emotions don’t change; we react to situations, to others’ actions, in much the same way now as they did in the past, depending on our own personalities. On our own memories.

Often these memoirs are the hardest to read. It’s difficult not to feel, to empathise with the emotions of the women who fought and suffered for the right to vote, the soldiers in the trenches and battlefields, the women left behind to worry, to fill in the gaps in the workplace and to run a home, with the despair of unemployment and despair. But then there are also the success stories, of overcoming all the odds, of adventures, of peace and fulfilment to lift the spirits.

Tell us about your settings and why you chose them?

My books are mostly set between a fictional Yorkshire town and a fictional place in Wales because I feel the closest affinity to both areas. I grew up in a village on the edge of the Pennines and have lived in West Wales for the past forty years.

For me, the settings are a character in themselves.

Glen Mill

The setting which was the inspiration for my earlier work, the Haworth trilogy, was Glen Mill, one of the first POW camp to be opened in Britain. It was a disused cotton mill, built in 1903, that ceased production in 1938. At a time when all-purpose built camps were being used by the armed forces and there was no money available for POW build, Glen Mill was chosen for various reasons: it wasn’t near any military installations or seaports and it was far from the south and east of Britain, it was large and it was enclosed by a railway, a road and two mill reservoirs.

The earliest occupants were German merchant seamen caught in Allied ports at the outbreak of war. Within months Russian volunteers who had been captured fighting for the Germans in France were brought there as well. According to records they were badly behaved and ill-disciplined. So there were lots of fights. But, when German paratroopers (a branch of the Luftwaffe) arrived they imposed a Nazi-type regime within the camp and controlled the Russians. Later in the war the prisoners elected a Lagerführer; a camp leader who ruled the inner workings of the camp and the camp commanders had to deal with them.

Prequel to the Howarth series

The more I read about Glen Mill the more I thought about the total bleakness of it and the lives of the men there.  And I knew I wanted to write about that. But I also wanted there to be hope, to imagine that something good could have come out of their situation.

Which is why I introduced Mary Haworth, the protagonist of the trilogy. All POW camps had to house a hospital to care for the prisoners. Mary is a civilian nurse. I was originally informed that only Alexandra nurses could work in the hospitals but, through research, I discovered that there was one civilian nurse, so I decided there could be another: Mary. Haworth.

Thank you for dropping by, Judith, and the best of luck with all your books

Judith’s latest book is The Memory

Mother and daughter tied together by shame and secrecy, love and hate.

I wait by the bed. I move into her line of vision and it’s as though we’re watching one another, my mother and me; two women – trapped.

Today has been a long time coming. Irene sits at her mother’s side waiting for the right moment, for the point at which she will know she is doing the right thing by Rose.

Rose was Irene’s little sister, an unwanted embarrassment to their mother Lilian but a treasure to Irene. Rose died thirty years ago, when she was eight, and nobody has talked about the circumstances of her death since. But Irene knows what she saw. Over the course of 24 hours their moving and tragic story is revealed – a story of love and duty, betrayal and loss – as Irene rediscovers the past and finds hope for the future.

Buying links etc:

Amazon.co.uk  

Amazon.com 

Honno  

Goodreads 

BookBub  

NetGalley 

About Judith Barrow

Although I was born and brought up in a small village on the edge of the Pennine moors in Yorkshire, England. for the last forty years I’ve lived with my husband and family near the coast in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, UK, a gloriously beautiful place. I’ve written all my life and have had short stories, poems, plays, reviews and articles published throughout the British Isles. I had the first of my trilogy, Pattern of Shadows, published in 2010, the sequel, Changing Patterns, in 2013 and the last, Living in the Shadows in 2015. The prequel, A Hundred Tiny Threads was published in  2017. The Memory was published in March 2020. My next book, The Heart Stone is due to be published in February 2021.  I have an MA in Creative Writing, B.A. (Hons.) in Literature, and a Diploma in Drama and Script Writing. I work as an interviewer of authors for an online TV company; Showboat tv. I am also a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council’s Lifelong Learning Programme and give talks and run private workshops on all genres.

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From The Home Front To The Far East…

Francesca and Elaine are pleased to welcome Jean Moran to the blog to talk about her novel Summer of the Three Pagodas

Hello Jean, and welcome to Write Minds. Normally you write sagas set in the UK. What made you decide on a change of setting? 

I wrote this in a bid to have a change from Home Front sagas and set the story of both the first book, Tears of the Dragon, and this one, Summer of the Three Pagodas, in the Far East, a less used theatre of war. They’re both far grittier and violent than my books written as Lizzie Lane and so in a bid not to confuse readers, I became Jean Moran.

The main character in both books is Doctor Rowena Rossiter. In the first book she has the ill luck to be in Hong Kong when the Japanese invade and to have an opium baron obsessed with controlling her life. Luckily she’d also met the love of her life, Connor O’Connor, owner of a bar in Kowloon.

In this second book, fearing that Kim, the opium lord, has found her and is threatening to harm her daughter, Dawn, she takes the offer of a job in an hospital run by nuns in Korea. The offer is made to her by an American officer who, she gradually finds out, has his own reasons for sending her there.

Within months she finds herself caught up in the Korean War. This time the invaders are soldiers of the DPRK, Democratic Republic of Korea, Chinese communists.

Rowena is a woman of principle and strong character – I suppose a bit of me is in her. I’m told I’m strong and tend to hit the ground running. Rowena is like that too. She is also selfless in helping others and even though her daughter is with her, she refuses to leave her patients when Connor comes to her rescue. Her responsibilities take priority. 

Like many others trapped in Korea she endures a death march that meanders through the interior through tree covered mountains where the air is crisp and snow still clusters in deep ravines. There’s little to eat and people die of hunger and exhaustion. Others are killed by their captors, including one of the nuns.

The title Summer of the Three Pagodas reflects something that happened back in WW2. Three Pagodas Pass was where the slave labour on the Burma ‘Death’ Railway were finally freed following the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

Summer is the name of a victim of this war, given by her dying mother.

Research for stories set in WW2 are comparatively easy compared to the Korean War, especially when it came to the plight of civilians. To this end a record I found written by the Carmelite nuns was invaluable.

I dithered about sending it off to the publisher, asking myself the same questions I always do: is it flawed? Have I dropped a huge faux pas that both the commissioning editor and copy editor will see and I haven’t? The doubt is always there; does it read as well as you think it does? Being close to a project can fool you into thinking it could be better. All would be writers should bear this in mind.

Luckily I received nothing but praise.

Where to next?

I would have liked to write another book in the series making it a trilogy, perhaps even a quartet. I’d already chosen the titles; Night Train to Bangkok, (a prelude to the Vietnam War and set in Thailand), and Sayonara Saigon – set in the Vietnam War.

Covid19 threw in a curved ball so I had to rethink. My thoughts turned to an idea that had been brewing for some time – a series set around the Bristol tobacco factories. This would be real home front stuff and therefore it suited for me to return to the pseudonym Lizzie Lane – so that’s what I did. The Tobacco Girls by Lizzie Lane comes out in January.

I’m a waste not, want not person, so perhaps I would have been quite at home in WW2 – making coats from blankets, knitting hats and handbags and cutting up old tyres to glue to the bottom of my worn out shoes. I would have survived, and that’s what the women that feature in my books are doing be it home front or abroad in more violent scenarios – they’re surviving.

Thank you for taking the time out to tell us about your writing, Jean.

 

Summer of the Three Pagodas

HONG KONG, 1950.

Now the war is over, Dr Rowena Rossiter is ready to plan a new life with her great love, Connor O’Connor. But before they can, bad news arrives.

A female doctor is urgently needed in Seoul and the powers that be want Rowena to go. She refuses – until rumours begin to swirl about the sinister, beautiful man who held her captive during the war.

They say he may still be alive and looking for her. By comparison, Korea on the brink of war seems safer, but will Rowena ever truly be able to escape the shadows of her violent past?

A brilliantly exotic saga set in post-war Hong Kong and Korea, where Dr Rowena Rossiter longs to follow her heart, and her love, but the shadows of a violent past threaten to engulf her.

Summer of the Three Pagodas is published by Head of Zeus and available on Amazon

JEAN MORAN

Jean Moran was born and raised in Bristol where she took many office jobs, none of which excited her. She was, she decided, always a square peg in a round hole.

After having over fifty books published, she thinks she may at last have come to where she should be. All she worries about now is that somebody might find out that she doesn’t really consider writing ‘real’ work. She loves what she does.

Of those fifty books, a number written as Lizzie Lane have entered the top thirty bestselling paperbacks and the Heatseekers Chart. She’s been translated into a number of languages and hopes to write in a few other genres before finally shutting the lid of her laptop.

Besides writing, she’s also lived on a sailing yacht in the Med for four years, bred and showed Irish Red Setters and developed many properties moving every four years – the boat seemed a sensible option. It moved by itself without all the hassle of removal vans.

Green, Green Grass Of Home…

Francesca and Elaine are thrilled to bits to welcome Angela Johnson to our blog to talk about her debut novel, Arianwen.

ARIANWEN is set in my native West Wales, a place of gentle hills and valleys and a beautiful coastline, which is an integral part of my mental landscape. We are formed by the experiences of childhood, and the music of the language and the stories I heard in a small, and not very private, community were all relevant in the formation of my story.

The novel roams over the old kingdom of Dyfed: Ceredigion, North Pembrokeshire, and Carmarthenshire. My protagonist, Arianwen, grew up in a woollen mill set in a deep valley, which is based on a  real place I knew and visited as a child, a place of tall trees and the persistent sound of running water, and, a recurring motif in the novel, the wheel turning in the power of the water, a strange creaking whirr which remains with me still.

For a child it was a most magical place to visit, and even now, many years after, I can smell the dankness from the stream, hear its silver music, and see the trees, verdant in spring, and their strange balletic movements in autumn storms. The old mill creaked as you walked through it, but there was nothing Gothically terrifying about it. For me it was a place of benedictions.

Arianwen’s adult life is in another village, whose topography is very different from that of her home, a place of  wide spaces, closer to the sea, and more open to the weather than the enclosed valley of her childhood, a place of bleating lambs in spring and heather and gorse in late summer.

I am Welsh speaking and the rhythms of the language form the person that I am, even though I spent many years working as an English teacher in the Home Counties.

Most of the novel is set at a time when Welsh was the main language of the neighbourhoods I portray. The villages are much changed, prettified, less Welsh, less rural in character. Something has been irretrievably lost.

I chose this setting because I wanted to write for the first time at any length, about the places and the people who moulded me, my work, mainly, being set in England where I have lived most of my life.

It is also a tribute to all those agricultural workers on both sides of my family whose lives were hard and unrelenting and whose love of their few acres destroyed them.

Alas, I don’t have a favourite writing place. My writing place is a place of compromise and pragmatism. My computer and I, occupy a dull corner of my dining room while my husband occupies a rather pleasant, if chaotic study overlooking the garden. I stare at a blank wall and one solitary picture of a Lady’s Slipper Orchid. There is no obvious symbolism to the Lady’s Slipper, although if I think about it long enough I shall find one.

I am easily distracted, so there is no radio, no music, only in the background the vapid hum of suburbia. This place is blank, the pale green wall, the light comes from the window to my left. It is a writing place, which suits me well.

I’m a great believer in sustenance for writers, yes, food and drink helps, especially the odd glass of chilled Sauvignon, but we also need sustenance for the mind, and that means getting away from the computer and living a life. I like going out for coffee with friends, a bit of gossip, and, on my own, a rewarding listen to others’ conversation. Even the banal can be fascinating.

Before lockdown, I used to enjoy swimming, the most solitary of occupations, meditative, stimulating, and the perfect exercise for thinking about narrative development and character delineation.

I like walking and looking, observation is fundamental for the writer, simple things like the shape and colour of a leaf, the sheen on a horse’s back, and the silly hopping of a crow, and just this week, I passed a decrepit cottage with weeds growing out of the chimney, bit clichéd, but, outside was parked an ancient car which had once been red, and is now completely overgrown with rampant vegetation. Such possibilities there.

I love travelling to exotic countries. I have watched birds all over the world, and in this country on winter days on the North Kent marshes, huge flocks of lapwings and marsh harriers low over the banks of the Thames, and in the summer I enjoy looking for wild orchids with my in house orchid expert and love to see the strange beauty of these small flowers. And I love reading the papers, one particular one, but I won’t divulge which one.

The book I’m working on now is a return to West Wales, this time to my beloved Ceredigion and its lovely coastline of small coves and cliffs, and one particular one which I have always loved, a small beach overlooked by a tall cliff and a tiny ancient white church, a place where peregrines fly and choughs hop around the car park.

My protagonist lives near here, and she is a very different character from Arianwen, a professional woman, not this time a teacher, a woman who has never conformed, who looks at the world as a battle place and challenges it.

Her life has always focused on independence, on doing exactly what she wants to do, but gradually she is drawn by the various characters who impinge on her life with their various need, into a different kind of caring from that which was demanded of her in her professional life.

Thank you for chatting to us Angela. it’s lovely to get an insight into your novel.

Arianwen

Born in a hidden valley in West Wales during the first half of the 20th century, Arianwen is one of the blessed to whom life comes easily. Hers is an ordinary life, similar to the lives we all live, filled with the small pleasures that help us bear life’s tragedies, in the hope that things will get better again.

But, in a fast changing world, Arianwen must learn the hard way. It is endurance that will see her through real adversity.

Elegantly written, with an understated humour, and a lyricism that reflects the natural rhythms of the Welsh language, Arianwen is a captivating portrait of one woman who represents us all.

Published by Black Bee Books and available on:

Amazon

Waterstones

About Angela Johnson

Angela Johnson was born in West Wales and is a Welsh speaker. Her work is often inspired by the Welsh countryside, the characters she knew in childhood and the tales they told.

In a previous incarnation she was an English teacher, and taught in a number of schools in the South East of England. She then studied creative writing at the University of Kent. Her novel Harriet and her Women was shortlisted for the Impress Prize for Fiction, and she has won the Poetry Prize at the Folkestone Arts Festival.

She lives in Kent, enjoys travelling to look at birds and plants in exotic places, and is a passionate environmentalist, and, latterly, is spending too much time fulminating about politics.

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Do you have a dream?

Elaine is looking at our dreams and ambitions ahead of the publication of her novel The West End  Girls on Thursday.

The novel is set in World War One London. The main character, Annie, in The West End Girls had a childhood dream, that wouldn’t go away, but it didn’t match what her parents wanted for her. Annie had to decide how far she would go for it. As they say nothing comes for free. She needed the support of her friends, and a wake up call, to give her the push she needed to move forward with it.

Dreams and ambitions come in many forms; they can be for you, your family, and friends or for the people of the world.

Do you have a dream? Can you share what would motivate you to try to achieve it? Can you tell people what it is? Are there people in your life that would support you if they knew about it? That support may not be directly helping with your ambition, it might be to do the ironing or other tasks to free up your time. Is it something you can put the building blocks in place for when you’re ready to take the risk of going for it?

My ambition for as long as I can remember was to write, but life got in the way of it that is until about ten years ago. I was in my fifties then and I suddenly realised that time was running away from me. So with the support of my family I started to attend classes to learn, that was in 2012.

I also watch a poet on YouTube, Prince Ea. His poem, Everybody Dies But Not Everybody Lives, struck a very powerful cord within me and I would definitely recommend listening to it. I will add the link at the bottom of the post. I haven’t listened to all his posts so I’m only talking about this particularly poem. It made me realise I don’t want to be a ‘Kinda’ person; which is what he talks about. I wanted to at least try to achieve my dream so whenever I got down I listened to the poem again and received the much-needed boost.

Reaching your dream can be a wonderful thing, a massive feeling of achievement, but sometimes it’s not always as we imagined it would be. It took me six years to achieve my dream, it was a compromise on my original one but I’m more than happy with it.

Good luck with whatever you wish to do in life, just make sure you live it.

You Tube: Prince Ea – Everybody Dies But Not Everybody Lives

Amazon: The West End Girls

Growing up on a farm in the country, Annie Cradwell has always dreamt of singing on stage. So when she hears her friend Joyce has a room to spare in London, she sets off with best friend Rose for an adventure beyond anything they could have imagined. 

In London, Annie and Rose stumble into jobs at the Lyceum Theatre. Being a dresser to capricious star Kitty Smythe wasn’t exactly what Annie had in mind. But then the musical director, Matthew Harris, offers her singing lessons. And Annie starts to wonder – could this be her chance? Or is it all too good to be true? 

With the threat of war in the air, everything is uncertain. Is there a place for hopes and dreams when so much is at stake? 

Annie, Rose and Joyce are three girls with very different dreams – but the same great friendship. 

Elaine’s New Photo

Author Bio

Elaine Roberts had a dream to write for a living. She completed her first novel in her twenties and received her first very nice rejection. Life then got in the way again until she picked it up again in 2010. She joined a creative writing class, The Write Place, in 2012 and shortly afterwards had her first short story published. Elaine is very proud of The Foyles Bookshop Girls saga trilogy, which her late husband encouraged her to write. She, and her extended family, live in and around Dartford, Kent and her home is always busy with children, grandchildren, grand dogs and cats visiting.