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.


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 Heartbreak in the Valleys:




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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




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 . 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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