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Blog Tour – ‘The Street Orphans’ by Mary Wood

Having totally loved Mary Wood’s previous novel, I am over the moon to be taking part in this blog tour.  ‘The Street Orphans’ was published yesterday the 17th May 2018 in paperback and as an eBook by Pan Books.  I am so looking forward to reading this book.

I have something very special for all of you today.  Yes, you can exclusively read the first chapter of ‘The Street Orphans’.  First though, here’s what its about.

 

Book Blurb

The Street Orphans is an emotional story set in 1850s Lancashire, from Mary Wood, the author of In Their Mother’s Footsteps and Brighter Days Ahead.

Born with a club foot in a remote village in the Pennines, Ruth is feared and ridiculed by her superstitious neighbours who see her affliction as a sign of witchcraft. When her father is killed in an accident and her family evicted from their cottage, she hopes to leave her old life behind, to start afresh in the Blackburn cotton mills. But tragedy strikes once again, setting in motion a chain of events that will unravel her family’s lives.

Their fate is in the hands of the Earl of Harrogate, and his betrothed, Lady Katrina. But more sinister is the scheming Marcia, Lady Katrina’s jealous sister. Impossible dreams beset Ruth from the moment she meets the Earl. Dreams that lead her to hope that he will save her from the terrible fate that awaits those accused of witchcraft. Dreams that one day her destiny and the Earl’s will be entwined.

 

Extract

1

Ruth Dovecote

 

A Shattered Family

‘Eeh, Ruth, will you hurry yourself ? It’s nigh on nightfall and we’ve to find shelter.’

‘Ma, I can’t. You go on. I’ll rest awhile and catch up later. Leave a message at the inn when you find somewhere  to bed down, so that I know where to find you.’ Shouting her answer to her ma sapped more of her strength than Ruth could spare, as she battled against the strong, bitter January wind that whistled around the mountainous hills of Bowland.

Ruth’s one good leg wobbled. Thinking she was going to topple over, she leaned heavily on her crutch. Her underarm burned as the crutch rasped against her armpit. Despair threatened  to  engulf  her.  The  weight  of  her  club  foot seemed to become heavier with every mile they walked – and they had trundled many miles these last days.

Turned out of their tied cottage on a remote farm within days of their da taking his last breath, Ruth, her ma and her four siblings had now reached the narrow high-peak road of Lythe Fell on their way to Blackburn.

It had been an accident that had taken their da. A strong man, he’d been to market in the nearby small town of Pradley, which lay topside of Slaidburn, north of the Forest of Bowland. He’d stopped at an old well on the edge of the town to haul up a bucket of water for the old horse pulling his cart. The sides of the well had collapsed, taking him thirty feet into the ground. He’d been in freezing-cold water up to his neck for two days before the rescue workers brought him to the surface. With many bones broken and pneumonia setting in, he’d stood little chance.

Their da’s boss, a rich landowner, hadn’t considered the grief that her ma and Ruth and her siblings were suffering, or the plight the family would now be in. Within an hour of Da dying, the agent for the estate had served notice on them to quit their cottage and had ordered them to leave within twenty-four hours of the funeral. They had no money and had been left with just the clothes they stood up in, plus an old pram. The undertaker had taken everything they owned, in payment for their da’s burial.

Ma had a cousin in Blackburn who she thought might help them. When she’d last heard from him, two years since, he’d told her how the town was flourishing with the rise of the cotton-mill industry. This held the hope that Ma and the lads and Amy could get taken on at one of the mills. Ruth’s task would be to care for them all and look after Elsie. It all sounded good, if very different from the life they had led so far, and Ruth wasn’t without her worries as to how it would all work out. But she knew they would never be able to find the kind of work on the land that they were used to. Farm work paid little to the menfolk, and nothing for the labour of women and young ’uns, who were expected to work as part of the deal to gain a cottage with the job.

They had taken few rests as they walked during the day-light hours in the unforgiving weather conditions, and had had to keep to the highway, because of Ruth’s difficulties. The road was little more than a track, and it stretched their journey by many more miles than going over the top would have done. At night they had huddled together and bedded down amongst the bracken.

By nightfall this day they hoped to reach Clitheroe, as Ma thought it was within ten miles now. There, they planned to beg some shelter and food, as the last of the bread and preserves  that Ma had packed  for their trip had run out the night before. Hunger and cold slowed their progress – Ruth’s more than that of the others, as her affliction, already a hindrance to her, worsened with the effort of walking such a long distance.

Looking up, she saw that her ma was three hundred yards ahead of her. Behind her ma trailed her sister, Amy, her curly hair frizzed even more than usual by the way the wind had played with it. Amy hated it and thought Ruth lucky to have long, dark hair. Amy’s wouldn’t grow long; it became too tangled and Ma had to cut it. It reminded Ruth of a bowl of soapsuds all bubbled up, and though Amy wouldn’t have it, it set off her pretty face and huge dark eyes. At fifteen years of age, Amy was younger than Ruth by three years. No one would take her and Amy for sisters, if they didn’t know them to be. There was nothing about them that resembled the other.

Amy held the hand of four-year-old Elsie, a delicate child, who was slow to learn new skills. Seth, fourteen and a bit, and ten months younger than Amy, and George, just nine months younger than Seth, were up in front. Seth pushed the pram that had carried them all as bairns, and which was still needed for Elsie as she tired easily.

Two handsome lads, Seth and George looked very much alike and had the same appearance as Ruth, with their dark complexions, black hair and shining blue eyes. They were different in character, though. Seth had a gentle nature and preferred to reason problems out rather than argue his point. He tended to be shy and rarely put himself forward. George, though quick to lose his temper with people, had a wonder- ful way with animals; in contrast to his short fuse, he also had a good sense of humour and at times was so funny with his antics that he’d have you wetting yourself.

The  five  of  them  were  the  only  survivors  of  the  ten children Ma had birthed; one of these children, and two miscarriages, accounted for the gap in age between Ruth and her first three siblings. Twin boys and another two girls had died between George’s birth and Elsie’s. Ruth had helped at the delivery of all of them, from Amy down, and still felt the pain of their loss.

‘By, lass, I can’t go on without you. I—’ The howl of the wind took away Ma’s words as she stepped  off the grass verge to walk back towards Ruth.

Ruth opened her mouth to urge her ma to go on once more, but fear changed  what she was about to say. ‘Ma! Look out, Ma!’

The coach had come from nowhere. The horses reared. Ma cowered. Her body fell to the ground. The hooves of the startled animals  pounded down on her.  The screams of terrified children and the whinnying of the stallions filled the space around Ruth. Her own scream strangled in her throat. Horror held her as if she’d been turned to stone, but then desperation moved her body and urged her forward.

‘Ma . . . Naw, Ma!’

All around her went into slow motion, and it seemed she had to claw her way through invisible barriers as she tried to hasten. When at last she neared them, the horses swayed. Their hooves lost their grip on the muddied road and the carriage went onto its left wheel, before banging down onto its right. The violent motion catapulted the driver from his seat and over the cliff. His holler held the knowledge of his own imminent death. The carriage didn’t right itself, and the crashing and splintering of its wooden structure drowned out the sound of the desperate driver.

A face appeared at the window of what was left of the carriage: a lad, his hair curled tightly to his head, his eyes holding a look of terror. Mud splattered Ruth as one of the horses tried to keep its grip, but the animal lost the battle and slid over the edge, pulling the coach almost upside down. The face disappeared. The three horses remaining on sturdy ground reared against the weight of the one dangling below. Steam rushed from their nostrils. The whites of their eyes glared their own terror and compounded Ruth’s horror. Finding her voice, she shouted orders. ‘Amy, come and help me. Seth, George, get Ma away.’

Leaning her weight onto her crutch, Ruth stretched her body to enable her to reach the handle of the door.  It resisted her pulling it open. ‘Amy, climb up. See if anyone is alive.’

‘But, our ma? Eeh, Ruth, Ma’s—’

‘Leave Ma to the lads. They’ll take care of her. We must help those in the carriage afore it goes over the edge. Hurry, lass.’ Ruth’s heart didn’t encourage her to take these actions – it wanted her to go to her ma – but something in her knew it was already too late and, if she didn’t help the occupants of the carriage, it would be so for them, too.

‘Get up, Amy, lass, go on. That’s reet. Can you see if anyone’s alive?’

‘Aye,  there  is, Ruth.  A young  man,  but  I’m  not  sure about the lady. She looks dead. She – she’s bleeding from a cut on her head.’

‘Tell the lad to climb out. Tell him!’ Turning, Ruth saw Seth and George standing over the tangled, unmoving body of  their ma.  Her heart clamoured with despair at what she knew to be the truth, but she had to save the lad in the carriage.  She couldn’t  let him die. ‘Seth, George  – here, quick! Amy, come down and let me lean on you. Seth, take me crutch, and you and George climb up with it to the window. Get the young man to take hold of the crutch, then pull him out. Go on, me lads, let sommat good come out of today.’

It didn’t take long to get the young man out, but he’d not let them think they couldn’t save his mother.

‘Please try. Mama is breathing. She is alive!’

‘We can’t. I’m sorry – there’s nowt we can do, as she ain’t able to help us. She’s unconscious.  We wouldn’t manage. It’s impossible.’

‘Do it, or I’ll have you all up for murder, you scum! What were you doing on the highway anyway? You caused this. You should keep yourselves to the bridle paths.’

Ruth felt her anger rising, but common sense stopped her from giving full rein to her temper. What she’d thought of as a lad, because of how small he was, she could now see was a man of around twenty-five years of age. He was in shock and was reacting as all toffs would. Though she needed to take heed of what he said, as he could have them all sent down if he wished – hanged even.

But how could she get the woman out of the swaying cab, with the horses still pulling in all directions, and the whole lot likely to go over the edge of the cliff at any moment?

‘I’ll unleash the horses, Ruth. I knows how to do it. I learned that time when our da’s boss made me work with his stablehand for a while.’

‘But they’ll kick you to death, Seth.’

‘I’ll help.’ George chipping in with this comment offered Ruth some relief from her fear for Seth.  George  would be able to calm the animals. His confidence helped, as he instructed, ‘Come on, Seth, get between the back of the horses and the carriage. I’ll try to soothe them.’

Before the lads could act, the toff spoke. ‘Unleash the one hanging over the side first. It cannot be saved, and its weight is a danger.’

‘Aye, Sir, that is me plan.’ Seth touched the brim of his cap in a mock-salute.

‘“My Lord” – not “Sir”! You are addressing the Earl of Harrogate.’

Ruth clenched her fist. The ungrateful devil! And them with their ma lying dead, not ten feet away. He showed no compassion. Her glance over to her ma’s body showed her the pitiful scene of Amy sobbing and Elsie looking bewil- dered and afraid, her wide eyes staring at the raging horses. Their plight undid Ruth. Hatred for this man, and all he stood for, trembled through her and spat from her before she could stop it: ‘You’re nowt to us. Us “scum” don’t recognize the likes of you toffs. We should have left you to rot in hell!’

His hand sliced her face. His foot kicked her crutch away from her. The mud, though wet and squelchy, didn’t cushion her fall, but slapped hard against her,  knocking the breath from her.

‘You’ll  pay for that, cripple.  You’ll  pay  dearly.’  Rage puffed his face, making  him appear ugly and evil. As he turned from her, his hand went inside his jacket. Ruth’s fear intensified at the sight of the pistol that he now brandished towards her brothers, as they made as if to charge at him. The click of the gun as he cocked it, ready to fire, resounded around Ruth. The Earl’s voice shook with anger and fear.

‘Get back! Get those horses under control – now.’

Ruth knew the threat from the Earl was real. Though she hadn’t seen him load his pistol, he could have done so before starting his journey, as these toffs were always afraid of coming across robbers.  Terrified of what the impetuous George might do, and of the consequences for him, she drew in a painful breath. ‘Naw! George, leave it. Go with Seth, see to the horses.’

George did as she bade him, and within moments his uncanny knack with animals showed in the way they became calm.

Seth freed the dangling horse, but despite the shouted commands of the young man, he didn’t unleash the others; instead he listened to George, who was telling him to leave them, as he wanted to try and drive them forward, to pull the remains of the carriage gradually from the edge and out of danger. Ruth closed her eyes, praying that he would suc- ceed.

The scraping noise told her something was happening. When she dared to look, she saw with relief that George had accomplished what he’d set out to do. But her relief was short-lived, as the searing tragedy of her ma’s plight came to her. Dragging herself along the ground, Ruth reached the grass verge where her ma lay and looked into the unseeing, once-beautiful eyes. ‘Oh, Ma . . . Ma!’

Elsie’s wails penetrated Ruth’s grief. Reaching for her and Amy, she held them close, but the Earl’s voice brought her attention back to what was happening behind her.

‘You there, get over here and help my mother!’

Picking up her crutch, the Earl threw it towards her. Ruth crouched over her sisters, afraid the hurtling crutch would hit them, but it sailed right over them. Gathering her wits, she spoke as calmly as she could. ‘Amy, lass, pass me crutch to me and help me up. Don’t be afraid. We’ve to do as he bids. We’ll see to Ma later.’

‘Is – is she . . . ?’

‘Aye, lass. Ma’s gone.’ She said this as though she were talking about something else, as neither her ma’s death, nor the crying of her sisters, touched her in the way it should have done. It was as if she’d been taken out of her own body and put inside one that shielded her from all that could hurt her. But then it had to be so. Somehow she had to be strong for them all.

With Amy’s help, Ruth managed to get up and hobble over to where the Earl’s mother lay on a rug on the ground. It surprised Ruth to see that the lady wasn’t as old as she’d first assumed, and she realized that she must have been very young when she birthed the Earl.

‘Do something!’

Ruth stared down the barrel of the gun, saw the Earl’s finger on the trigger. Sweat dripped off his face.

‘Ruth!’

‘Stay back, George, lad, it’s all right.’

On  George’s  movement  towards  her,  the  Earl  turned swiftly and aimed his gun. ‘Do as she says, urchin.’

Ruth held her breath. George froze. The Earl turned, his gun once more pointing  at Ruth. ‘I’ve heard it said that cripples like you have powers. Well, use them now. The likes of you were hanged for being witches in the past, and still should be, in my opinion.’

‘I’m naw witch, M’Lord.’

‘Oh?  And  you’ll  be telling  me next  that  your  brother there is not a sorcerer, when only such a one could have calmed those horses. I would be within my rights to shoot you all, and have a mind to do so.’ The weak sun, which gave no warmth, reflected on the barrel of the Earl’s gun as he trained it on George. ‘And us within spitting distance of Pendle Hill, where they hanged a whole bunch of your kind a couple of centuries ago.’

His words filled Ruth with the fear of the time when people in Pradley  had whispered about her having evil powers, and that she should be sent away. It had been after one lad had been teasing  her.  Losing her temper, she’d turned on him, telling him no good would come to him. The lad had fallen ill just afterwards and, in his delirium, had screamed her name in terror. The atmosphere had darkened from that day, as many gave her a wide berth. Some even spat in her path. What this man had just said about Pendle Hill deepened her fear. Please, God, save us; save me brothers and our Amy and me little Elsie. Don’t let this devil of a man kill them.

‘Get on with it or they will all die.’

Ruth’s fear turned to terror, as she saw the gun was now pointed at Elsie. The child had no concept of the danger she was in, as she ran over to Seth. The movement spooked the Earl. A crack resounded through the valley, echoing off the hills.

Amy screamed. Ruth’s heart banged against her ribs. But then relief flooded through her as she saw that no one was hurt.

The Earl smiled as he reloaded his gun. ‘Just to show you that I mean what I say.’

Bending over as best she could, Ruth touched the lady’s forehead. She stirred.

‘See! It is as I said – you are a witch! You only had to touch her and—’

Pushing back her hair, which had come loose from the ribbon Ma had tied in it, Ruth looked up at him and saw him properly  for  the  first  time.  ‘Puny’ was  how  she’d label him. His bones jutted from hollow cheeks, his lips were feminine in their fullness, and she could see that his hair hung  in  false  curls  held  with  pins, some of which had escaped and now looked hideous. The depths of his black eyes held terror for her and, in that moment, she knew she was damned if his mother lived, and yet damned if she didn’t.

The thought came to her that this would be the fate of her sisters and brothers as well. With this, her anger – fuelled by fear for herself and her siblings – caused her to grab her crutch and swing it with all her might. Catching the back of the Earl’s knees, her blow floored him. Lunging  towards him on all fours, Ruth scrambled across him, holding his body down with her weight. Her eyes glimpsed his pistol, now loosened from his grip. Grabbing it, she mustered all her strength and smashed it across his head.

The gaping, bloodied gash on his forehead shocked her back to reality. Gasping for breath, she stared in horror as the Earl’s head rolled to one side, as if independent of his neck. His breath gasped from him in a rasping, gurgling sound. He didn’t draw it back in. Oh God! No. No . . . I’ve killed him!

‘Ruth! God, Ruth, lass, what have you don

‘I didn’t mean to kill him, Seth. I didn’t. I just wanted to knock him out, so we could get away.’

A moan caught their attention. The lady moved her head, but didn’t open her eyes.

‘What’re we going to do?’ Seth’s whisper held tears. His fear spurred Ruth into action. Pulling her crutch towards her and grabbing the piece of ribbon she’d lost from her hair – a precious memento now, as her ma had won it when the fair had visited – she put her hand out to Seth, who helped her up.

A flash of memory  came to her, as she held onto the ribbon – her ma’s words: ‘I’m choosing you over Amy or Elsie for the ribbon, lass, as it will help to keep you cool, to have your hair tied back. Never cut your hair, our lass. It is your crowning glory. Look at it: it reaches your waist. It suits your beautiful oval face and complements  your blue eyes. You need it to distract people from your affliction, and to let folk see as you’re a bonny lass, despite that foot of yours.’

Shaking the tear-jerking recollection from her, Ruth brought her attention back to their current situation. ‘Seth, you and George get the Earl’s body back into the coach. Hurry, afore his ma comes round proper. Put him in a pos- ition that he would likely be in if he’d been killed in the accident. Go on, me lads.’

Hobbling over to the lady, Ruth placed herself between her and the carriage, because although the lady had sunk back into deep unconsciousness once more, Ruth felt afraid that she might still open her eyes and see what they were doing.

‘Amy, lass, bring Elsie to me, and then get sommat to disturb the mud to hide the trail of the lads dragging the body. A stick or something will do.’

‘But, our Ruth, anyone’ll know as he were out of the carriage afore he died. He’ll be covered in mud, and there’s mud on his boots.’

Fear of the truth of what Amy said stopped Ruth in her tracks for a moment. When a solution came to her, she knew George wouldn’t be in favour of it, but their situation was desperate – hers above all, as now the noose would be her certain fate.

‘We have to attach the horses again and drive them over the cliff to take the—’

‘Naw!’

George’s  horrified  gasp  showed  Ruth  the  enormity  of what she’d proposed, and she knew she wouldn’t be able to achieve it.

‘We have to do sommat to cover up what really happened, George. We have to.’

‘I think I knaw what we could do, our Ruth.’

Ruth didn’t dismiss Amy. The lass had a clever brain. She could even read and write, and she’d only had the miller’s lad to teach her what he’d learned in school.

‘We could just push the seating area of the carriage over the edge, with the Earl inside. Then, when he’s found, the state of him will give no clue to him having left the carriage before he died. And it won’t be too heavy for us to shift, now that it is detached from where the trunks are stored. We could say as we’d managed to get the lady out, but then had to unleash the horses as they were in danger of shoving the rest over the cliff. But just as we did so, the lightest part of the carriage went over, with the unconscious man still in it.’

‘Yes, that could have happened. You’re reet, lass. By, Ma allus said as you were the brains of the family, our Amy. Reet, me lads, that’s what we’ll do – just as Amy says – and I can help, if I get me back against it.’

‘Naw, you shield the lady’s view, Ruth, just in case. And mind our Elsie an’ all. Me and the lads’ll manage. We’re strong.’

Ruth did as Amy suggested. She knew her own strength was limited and would more than likely be a hindrance. It wasn’t just her foot that was crippled, as the bottom of her spine also had a curve in it. Though it wasn’t much of one and it didn’t bend her over, unless she was tired, like now, the curvature did cause her pain almost beyond endurance at times. She held Elsie to her, and the crashing sound of the carriage against the rocks undid her. Her body trembled. The dry sockets of her eyes filled with tears as the full impact of their plight hit her. She looked in fear at the lady, but she hadn’t moved. The thought came to her: God, what now? What now?

There was no doubt in Ruth’s mind that they had to take the lady down to Clitheroe and get help for her, but what trouble would that bring down upon them? The fear this caused increased the shaking in her body.

 

~~~~~

Did you enjoy this extract?  If so, ‘The Street Orphans’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Street-Orphans-Mary-Wood-ebook/dp/B0796YKFT6/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1526581100&sr=1-1

 

About Mary Wood

Born in Maidstone, Kent, in 1945, the thirteenth child of fifteen children, Mary’s family settled in Leicestershire after the war ended.

Mary married young and now, after 54 years of happy marriage, four children, 12 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren, Mary and her husband live in Blackpool during the summer and Spain during the winter – a place that Mary calls, ‘her writing retreat’.

After many jobs from cleaning to catering, all chosen to fit in with bringing up her family, and boost the family money-pot, Mary ended her 9 – 5 working days as a Probation Service Officer, a job that showed her another side to life, and which influences her writing, bringing a realism and grittiness to her novels

Mary first put pen to paper, in 1989, but it wasn’t until 2010 that she finally found some success by self-publishing on kindle.

Being spotted by an editor at Pan Macmillan in 2013, finally saw Mary reach her publishing dream.

When not writing, Mary enjoys family time, reading, eating out, and gardening. One of her favourite pastimes is interacting with her readers.

 

Links

Website – https://www.authormarywood.com/

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/HistoricalNovels

Twitter – https://twitter.com/Authormary

 

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Blog Tour – ‘Friends and Traitors’ by John Lawton

‘Friends and Traitors’, the latest book in the Inspector Troy series, was published on the 5th April 2018 by Grove Press and is available in hardback, paperback and as an eBook.  I was invited to take part in this blog tour by Ayo Onatade.  I have an extract for all of you, but first here’s what the book is about.

 

Book Blurb

It is 1958. Chief Superintendent Frederick Troy of Scotland Yard, newly promoted after good service during Nikita Khrushchev’s visit to Britain, is not looking forward to a Continental trip with his older brother, Rod. Rod was too vain to celebrate being fifty so instead takes his entire family on ‘the Grand Tour’ for his fifty-first birthday: Paris, Siena, Florence, Vienna, Amsterdam. Restaurants, galleries and concert halls. But Frederick Troy never gets to Amsterdam.

After a concert in Vienna he is approached by an old friend whom he has not seen for years – Guy Burgess, a spy for the Soviets, who says something extraordinary: ‘I want to come home.’ Troy dumps the problem on MI5 who send an agent to debrief Burgess – but when the man is gunned down only yards from the embassy, the whole plan unravels with alarming speed and Troy finds himself a suspect.

As he fights to prove his innocence, Troy discovers that Burgess is not the only ghost who has returned to haunt him…

 

Extract

It was past midnight when Burgess staggered to the door.

“What say we meet over Christmas?”

“Fraid not, Guy.  I’m leaving for Berlin as soon as I can get a flight.  The air corridor is rather crowded at the moment as you may imagine.”

“Berlin?  What’s in Berlin?”

Troy was never going to answer that.

Burgess stood in the doorway looking up at a clear, cold winter sky.

“No raid tonight.  Makes a change.”

“The war’s been over three years, Guy.”

He twitched.  Shook his head as through trying to dislodge an insect from his hair.

“Eh?  What?  Bloody hell, so it has.  Must be more pissed than I thought.  Who’d ever have thought we’d end up missing the war?  Hot war …cold war …that’s a joke …this isn’t a cold war …it’s a lukewarm egg custard of a war.”

Burgess trundled off down the yard towards St. Martin’s Lane, to the corner where Ruby the Prostitute had stood until a matter of weeks ago–unsteady on his feet, happy as a newt.

If there really had been a raid on, Troy would have left him on the sofa under an eiderdown rather than booting him out on a cold December night.  But there wasn’t.  There might never be again, and Troy saw no reason to take him in.

As Burgess turned the corner Troy wondered if, this time, he might actually have seen the last of him.

~~~~~

Has this extract left you wanting to read more?  ‘Friends and Traitors’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Friends-Traitors-Inspector-Troy-Lawton-ebook/dp/B0777X752S/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1523382631&sr=1-1

 

About John Lawton

John Lawton is the director of over forty television programs, author of a dozen screenplays, several children’s books, seven Inspector Troy novels and two standalones. Lawton’s work has earned him comparisons to John le Carré and Alan Furst. Lawton lives in a remote hilltop village in Derbyshire.

 

Guest Post by Sheila Myers

I am delighted to welcome Sheila Myers back to my blog.  Her latest novel, ‘The Night is Done’, the third book in the Durant Family Saga was published in paperback and as an eBook last year.

Sheila has written a wonderful guest post about research which I really hope you enjoy reading.

 

Enough Already! When do Historical Fiction Authors Climb out of the Research Rabbit Hole?

By Sheila Myers

 

I was recently interviewed on the History Author Show podcast about the Durant Family Saga, and the interviewer asked me a question that had me stumped:

If you could fill any gap about this fascinating family after three novels, what would you choose?

Of course, there’s more I could have uncovered about the Durants to extend my trilogy into a series. I had been receiving emails from extended family members who were reading my books and blog, offering me tidbits of information, leads to follow, contact information of descendants with interesting histories of their own. But for me, enough was enough. I’d spent five years of my life researching this famous family from the Gilded Age. I had traveled to several libraries and museums on the east coast of the U.S., visited the Isle of Wight in England, and all on my own dime.

At some point authors of historical fiction rely on conjecture, the lens we use to offer our interpretation of events given the information we have on hand. Indeed, at the end of the trilogy, I have one of the narrators, a historian, remark:

I’m sure that in the future, someone will come along and find gaps in my research. It’s the historian’s curse. Our job is to sift through the tall tales and determine what’s worth including and what’s best left as fodder for others to chew on. The truth is found in the abyss of the unknown.

If my readers believe it’s me, the author saying these words, they aren’t far off. I put myself in the head of the narrator, a historian, tracking down and interviewing an elderly member of the Durant family, and by the time I was done writing the last book in the trilogy, it was how I felt. But still… there’s one piece of information waiting for somebody to get their hands on: a civil court case between William and his wife Janet, thrown out by the judge in 1898. News reports at the time included juicy testimonials from servants and friends about cruelty and adultery (the only two ways to obtain a divorce back then). The record is ensconced in an uncatalogued collection at the New York University Library. I tried, but I couldn’t get access, which was unfortunate because it was a precursor to the divorce case between two of my main characters. (I was able to find the final case and unseal it after 100 years of sitting in a Manhattan Court old records division).

Historical fiction is fascinating because we read it to discover history in an interesting, entertaining fashion. Authors of this genre are all too aware that some research could take up a lifetime and if we wait for all the facts to be known, the stories would never get written. This is especially true as libraries and museums digitize their collections making them more accessible to the public.

For example, Green Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, NY is now digitizing the biographies of the 560,000 people buried there (there is a saying that there are more dead than live people in Brooklyn because of all of the cemeteries). Since 2009, the staff and volunteers at Green Wood have been digitizing the archives: family trees, last will and testaments, and family correspondence. In fact, the characters of my story, the Durant family, have a mausoleum at Green Wood. I took a picture of the Durant mausoleum on a visit to Green Wood and used it for my cover of the last book in the Durant Family Saga trilogy titled: The Night is Done. The title is from a Kipling poem called The Dawn Wind:

At two o’clock in the morning, if you open your window and listen,
You will hear the feet of the Wind that is going to call the sun.
And the trees in the shadow rustle and the trees in the moonlight glisten,
And though it is deep, dark night, you feel that the night is done.   

And when I finally hit ‘the end’ on the last book in the trilogy, so was I.

 

~~~~~

 

Book Blurb

William and Ella Durant, heirs to a bygone fortune, are recounting the events that led to the Durant family downfall during the Gilded Age. In 1931 William returns to visit the estate he once possessed in the Adirondacks to speak with the current owner, copper magnate Harold Hochschild, who is writing a history of the region and wants to include a biography of William. Simultaneously, Ella is visiting with an old family friend and former lover, Poultney Bigelow, journalist with Harpers Magazine, who talks her into telling her own story. William recounts the height of his glory, after his father’s death in 1885 when he takes control of the Adirondack railroad assets, travels the world in his yacht and dines with future kings. However, his fortune takes a turn during the Financial Panic of 1893 and amid accusations of adultery and cruelty. Ella’s tale begins when she returned from living abroad to launch a lawsuit against her brother for her fair share of the Durant inheritance. The court provides a stage for the siblings to tear each other’s reputation apart: William for his devious business practices and failure to steward the Durant land holdings, and Ella for her unconventional lifestyle. Based on actual events, and historic figures, The Night is Done is a tale about the life altering power of revenge, greed and passion.

‘The Night is Done’ can be purchased from:-

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Night-Done-Durant-Family-Saga-ebook/dp/B074WG1QTG/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1523183149&sr=1-5 

Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/Night-Done-Durant-Family-Saga-ebook/dp/B074WG1QTG/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1523250881&sr=1-1&keywords=the+night+is+done+by+sheila+myers

 

About Sheila Myers

Sheila Myers is an Associate Professor at a community college in Upstate NY. Her Durant Family Saga is available at all major online retailers. Visit her website for more information.

 

Links

Amazon Page – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sheila-Myers/e/B00K2YTA0A/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_5?qid=1523250997&sr=1-5

Twitter – https://twitter.com/SheilaMMyers

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/sheila.myers.526

 

Guest Post by Renita D’Silva

I am delighted to welcome Renita D’Silva to my blog today.  Back in 2014 I reviewed her book, ‘The Stolen Girl’ which you can read here:-

https://aloverofbooks.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/the-stolen-girl-by-renita-dsilva/

Renita continues to write amazing novels and her latest book, ‘A Daughter’s Courage’ was recently published as an eBook and in paperback at the end of May by Bookouture.  Renita has written a wonderful guest post for my blog which I hope you all enjoy reading as much as I did.

 

My Writing Journey

I love reading stories, writing stories, listening to stories.

I wrote my first ‘book’, a ten page poem titled ‘Mother’, when I was seven. Then life got in the way, as it does: growing up, work, marriage, children. When my daughter started nursery, and with my son already in school, I was free for a few hours to indulge my dream. I enrolled in an Adult Education Creative Writing Course and started writing stories that I actually shared with other people instead of just inventing them in the privacy of my head. I discovered that my stories were liked, a few of them got published in magazines and anthologies and won competitions and that gave me the encouragement to start writing a novel.

My debut, ‘Monsoon Memories’ is about journeys. The journey to forgiveness and acceptance. The journey of discovery, the unearthing of a secret that has been slumbering for more than a decade.

Monsoon Memories was rejected multiple times for a variety of reasons and sometimes for no discernible reason at all, as none accompanied the rejection letter. After each rejection, I would set the book aside, having decided to forgo writing. But after a few weeks, the urge to try one more time would assert itself and I would dig up my manuscript, work on it and send it off again. This pattern continued until the magical February morning when Bookouture said yes!

Since then I have published six books with Bookouture and I am currently working on my seventh. The stories themselves are made up, a product of my imagination, but the descriptions of places are gleaned from my memories of the village in India where I grew up and its surroundings.

I am riveted by the interactions, feuds, secrets, lies and intense bonds prevalent among families. The complex ties between family members seem rife with hurt, hate, so many seething emotions, so much love and angst and anger and grudges nurtured over the years. This is what I explore in my books.

I think India is such a melting pot of cultures, prejudices and attitudes, a place where narrow mindedness and superstition mingle with generosity and kindness – that you cannot show one side without showing the other. The people are as warm as they are bigoted, as small minded as they are caring. I aim to depict India in all its glory-with all its faults as well as its virtues, but all the same, I try never to forget that my main aim is to tell a story.

I write about Indian women and explore how they face the constrictions of a restrictive culture while at the same time stretching their wings, how they define themselves in a world that tends to impose stifling limitations upon them, how they try and find themselves, constraints notwithstanding.

The complicated dynamics of relationships, whether within families or cultures or religions or states or countries – that is what all the stories I love share in common.

What I love about writing is how a bud of an idea, a spark overheard from somewhere, a snippet of a news item on TV, will take root in my mind and over time germinate and grow into a story that wants to be told.

My stories are all fictitious as are the places I set them in – although the descriptions of these places are drawn from my own memories of India. When reading back what I have written, sometimes I do find an echo of a childhood memory, make the odd connection, but my characters’ stories are distinct from my own.

I love words and the English language. I am constantly amazed by how twenty six letters can combine to produce stark and stunning prose that spellbinds a reader.

I love epistolary novels and each of my books has contained some form of epistolary narrative. I love how a story emerges through letters and how letters allow for the outpouring of feelings that wouldn’t necessarily be spoken out loud.

Modern day life is such that we are continually questing – for the meaning of our existence, for happiness, for material things. We are on a pursuit of peace, on the hunt for spiritual fulfilment. I try to explore that in my stories. Also, as a displaced person myself, having been brought up in India and now living in the UK, in my books, I like to explore the idea of roots, what they mean to individuals and to people as a whole.

In my books, I want there to be an element of mystery but I try not to let it overpower the book, take it over. I want it, not to detract from the story, but to complement it, adding flavour to the book. Like the food that is such an integral part of my books, I try to work them to this recipe: a soupcon of mystery, a dash of action, a touch of adventure, a tablespoon of forgiveness and a teaspoon of racial tension, a pinch of romance and a sprinkling of laughter, seasoned liberally with emotion and a good helping of love.

I think a little bit of every author is in every story he or she tells.

In my books, I explore themes of duty, forgiveness and identity, the conflict between generations, the pressure of a closed society and what ‘going home’ entails – themes that are close to my heart.

 

About Renita D’Silva

Renita D’Silva loves stories, both reading and creating them. Her short stories have been published in ‘The View from Here’, ‘Bartleby Snopes’, ‘this zine’, ‘Platinum Page’, ‘Paragraph Planet’ among others and have been nominated for the ‘Pushcart’ prize and the ‘Best of the Net’ anthology. She is the author of ‘Monsoon Memories’,’The Forgotten Daughter’, ‘The Stolen Girl’, ‘A Sister’s Promise’, ‘A Mother’s Secret’ and ‘A Daughter’s Courage’.

 

Links

Sign up to be the first to hear about Renita’s new releases here: http://bit.ly/RdSilvabooks

(Just cut and paste the link into your browser. Renita promises not to share your e-mail and she’ll only contact you when a new book is out!)

‘A Daughter’s Courage’ is available to buy from Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Daughters-Courage-utterly-heartbreaking-secrets-ebook/dp/B06XCZ9B4P/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1502045788&sr=1-5

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

Twitter: @RenitaDSilva

Website: http://renitadsilva.com/

Email: Renitadsilvabooks@gmail.com

Hannah Fielding’s FAN-tastic Fiesta

Hannah Fielding’s ‘Andalucian Nights Trilogy’ has recently been released as a single edition.  To celebrate, Hannah is holding a FAN-tastic fiesta this month and you have the chance to win a beautiful Spanish fan or a book.  First off though here is some information about ‘The Andalucian Nights Trilogy’.

 

Book Blurb

The award-winning epic Andalucían Nights Trilogy sweeps the reader from the wild landscapes of Spain in the 1950s, through a history of dangerous liaisons and revenge dramas, to a modern world of undercover missions and buried secrets. Romantic, exotic and deeply compelling, and featuring a memorable cast of characters, including a passionate young gypsy, a troubled young writer and an estranged family, The Andalucían Nights Trilogy is a romantic treat waiting to be discovered.

Purchase link: https://www.amazon.com/Andalucian-Nights-Trilogy-Award-winning-Romantic-ebook/dp/B06XKZ2XKC/

 

Competition

Six very lucky people have the chance to win a prize in this competition.  They are:-

1 x paperback copy of ‘Indiscretion’
1 x paperback copy of ‘Masquerade’
1 x paperback copy of ‘Legacy’
3 x a Spanish fan

To enter click on this link Rafflecopter Giveaway

Entry is open to all and the competition closes on the 15th August 2017.

 

About Hannah Fielding

Hannah Fielding is an incurable romantic. The seeds for her writing career were sown in early childhood, spent in Egypt, when she came to an agreement with her governess Zula: for each fairy story Zula told, Hannah would invent and relate one of her own. Years later – following a degree in French literature, several years of travelling in Europe, falling in love with an Englishman, the arrival of two beautiful children and a career in property development – Hannah decided after so many years of yearning to write that the time was now. Today, she lives the dream: writing full time at her homes in Kent, England, and the South of France, where she dreams up romances overlooking breath-taking views of the Mediterranean.

Hannah is a multi-award-winning novelist, and to date she has published five novels: Burning Embers, ‘romance like Hollywood used to make’, set in Kenya; The Echoes of Love, ‘an epic love story that is beautifully told’, set in Italy; and the Andalucian Nights Trilogy – Indiscretion, Masquerade and Legacy – her fieriest novels yet, set in sunny, sultry Spain.

You can find Hannah online at:-

Website: www.hannahfielding.net

Twitter: https://twitter.com/fieldinghannah

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Hannah-Fielding-Author-Page-340558735991910/

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5333898.Hannah_Fielding

Blog Tour – ‘The Companion’ by Sarah Dunnakey

‘The Companion’ is Sarah Dunnakey’s debut novel. It was published in hardback and as an eBook on the 27th July 2017 by Orion Books. I am thrilled to be taking part in this blog tour for which I was kindly sent a copy of the book to review.

Set in Yorkshire from 1932 onwards, Billy Shaw has spent the first twelve years of his life living in a palace. Potter’s Pleasure Palace is the best entertainment venue there. His ma runs the tea rooms and Billy is looking forward to becoming Mr Potter’s assistant when he’s a bit older. But Mr Potter has other plans and Billy soon finds himself going up to the High Hob on the moors to be a companion to Jasper Harper who is a wild and very unpredictable young man. Jasper lives with his mother Edie and Uncle Charles who are brother and sister authors. For four years the boys are mostly inseparable but when Charles and Edie are found dead, apparently having committed suicide, Billy has already left with the intention of starting a new life in London.

Almost a century later, Anna Sallis, the newly appointed custodian of Ackerdean Mill, formerly the Palace, arrives. She begins to sort through the chaotic archives of the Mill, the Palace and the Harper siblings and it is left to her to unravel the knots and discover the truth. Just what will she find out?

I firstly want to mention the cover which I absolutely love. The design and the colours are beautiful and it caught my eye straight away. I really liked the sound of ‘The Companion’ and was looking forward to reading it. This book was right up my street and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I literally could have read it forever. I loved Sarah Dunnakey’s style of writing. The story is set in two different timelines, 1932 onwards and the present day and is narrated by Billy and Anna.

I so enjoyed reading Billy’s story. I wish I could have been there exploring the moors. I liked Billy but I didn’t really warm so much to Jasper. I also really liked Anna and I felt that in a short time she did so much for the community. Some things were maybe best left in the past though, but all the same it was interesting seeing what Anna discovered.

Although Anna’s story is set in the present day I do feel it would have been better if the chapters had been headed up with the year and not just the months. There could also have been a map at the beginning of the book.

I really hope there will be more from Sarah Dunnakey. A great first novel and one I recommend.

I give this book 5 out of 5.

 

About Sarah Dunnakey

When she’s not writing fiction, Sarah writes and verifies questions and answers for a variety of TV quiz shows including Mastermind, University Challenge and Pointless. She has an honours degree in History and has previously worked as a librarian, an education officer in a Victorian cemetery and an oral history interviewer.

Sarah has won or been shortlisted in several short story competitions and her work has been published in anthologies and broadcast on Radio 4. In 2014 she won a Northern Writer’s Award, from New Writing North after submitting part of The Companion. She lives with her husband and daughter in West Yorkshire on the edge of the Pennine Moors.

 

Links

‘The Companion’ is available to buy from Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Companion-Sarah-Dunnakey/1409168557/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1501612303&sr=1-1

Twitter – @SarahDeeWrites

 

Guest Post by Imogen Matthews

I have the lovely Imogen Matthews on my blog today with a guest post.  Imogen recently had her novel, ‘The Hidden Village’ published by Amsterdam Publishers.

~~~~~

I’ve been writing novels and stories for the past 15 years after trying my hand at a couple of creative writing courses. My first course was in memoir writing, because I didn’t believe I had it in me to write fiction. I soon learnt that writing is writing and that even when you put down your own experiences you embellish the facts. It’s not possible to remember events and conversations accurately from years ago. Reimagining brings history alive.

With this realisation, I tentatively moved onto short stories and was soon gripped by characters, plot, story arc etc. There was one particular story I’d written that I began to wonder, “what happens next?” So I continued writing and writing until I had a novel. After lots of edits and critiquing I published Run Away on Amazon. I was an author!

Once again, I was left with the feeling that there was another story to be told, so I wrote the sequel to Run Away, called The Perfume Muse.

However, simmering away in the recesses of my mind was the idea for a new book, one that would be quite different from the romantic fiction I’d published.

It started when I was on holiday with my family in the Veluwe woods in Holland. We were cycling down a favourite route when I noticed a memorial stone I hadn’t seen before. It described how in these very woods at this spot, a village had been built consisting of huts, many underground, to provide shelter for Jews in hiding from the Germans. It had only been possible because of the goodwill of certain individuals living in the local community who oversaw its construction and selflessly provided provisions, medicines etc to the many persecuted living there. Three huts had been reconstructed and were almost invisible to passers-by. They were dark, dank and pokey. I found it almost impossible to imagine how so many had remained undetected for so long -what could the conditions have been like for them living in such gloomy underground dwellings?

I didn’t want to write a history book, but ideas for characters and plotlines began to build in my head. I needed to undertake research to ensure the accuracy of my story, even though it is a work of fiction. I found invaluable material in a book written by a Dutchman, who had been fortunate enough to interview survivors and gather photos and diagrams of the village. Meanwhile, I spent time with my mother, writing down her wartime stories, which provided such rich context.

It took me several years writing and editing my story. I wanted to publish this book under my real name as it’s so personal to me. Finding someone to publish it was the hard part and I experienced the usual rejections from agents and publishers, until I came across a publishing house based in the Netherlands. They immediately “got” my story and were incredibly enthusiastic about representing me because they believed it was a story that very few people would have known about.

The Hidden Village has become so much more than a work of fiction. For me, it’s about bringing alive stories from the past and introducing them to new generations so that they will never be forgotten.

 

About Imogen Matthews

Imogen lives in Oxford and is the author of two romantic fiction novels which she wrote under the pen name of Alex Johnson. The Hidden Village is her first historical novel set in WW2 Holland. Imogen’s interest in Holland’s past has come through the vivid stories her Dutch mother used to recount about her experiences in WW2, when her family were reduced to eating tulip bulbs because there was no food left.

Since 1990, Imogen has regularly visited Holland with her family for cycling holidays and it was here that she discovered the story of the hidden village. Together with her mother’s experiences, this was a story Imogen felt compelled to tell.

 

‘The Hidden Village’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hidden-Village-Imogen-Matthews-ebook/dp/B071HY4RMC/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1499793955&sr=1-1&keywords=imogen+matthews

Follow Imogen on Twitter – @ImogenMatthews3

 

‘The Wild Air’ by Rebecca Mascull

Earlier this month, Rebecca Mascull had a book launch for her new book, ‘The Wild Air’ which was published on the 4th May 2017 by Hodder & Stoughton. The event took place at Waterstones Piccadilly, London, which as I’m sure many of you will know is absolutely huge. Rebecca ran a competition on social media giving people the chance to win an invitation to her book launch. I adored her last book, ‘Song of the Sea Maid’ and had high hopes for ‘The Wild Air’ too so I entered. I was delighted when Rebecca chose me as one of the winners.

The book launch went really well. Lots of people turned up and Rebecca’s lovely mum did labels for everyone which I thought was really sweet. Rebecca is as nice as I imagined her to be and her daughter is adorable and must have been so proud of her mum. There were drinks, canapes and cakes aplenty.

Louisa Treger hosted the event and asked Rebecca several questions about ‘The Wild Air’. Rebecca then told us how she went up in a plane as part of her research and introduced us to Rob Millinship the pilot who was of great assistance to her whilst she was writing the book.

It really was a great evening and it was a privilege to be there.

Thanks Rebecca. xx

 

My Review

I was delighted when I found out that Rebecca Mascull had a new book coming out and was very kindly sent a proof copy of ‘The Wild Air’ to review.

It’s 1909 in Edwardian England. Aeroplanes are a new and magical invention and female pilots are almost unheard of.

When shy Della Dobbs meets her mother’s aunt little does she realise that her life is about to change forever. Great Auntie Betty has returned home from living in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, across whose windswept dunes the Wright Brothers tested their historic flying machines. Della spends hours listening to Auntie Betty’s tales and finds that she is fascinated and wants to learn more. She decides that she wants to learn how to fly and Betty is determined to help her as much as she can. But the Great War is coming and it threatens to destroy everything and everyone in Della’s path.

Wow! I loved everything about ‘The Wild Air’ including the cover. Rebecca Mascull writes historical fiction and she does it very well indeed. I really took my time with this book as I wanted to savour it from start to finish. So much was packed into each and every chapter. I came away feeling as if I had learnt loads. The descriptions throughout were truly wonderful. I could almost see Della flying the aeroplanes.

Rebecca always has a lead female character in her books, each of them a heroine in their own right. I warmed to Della straightaway. She was a very determined young lady and I just knew that she would follow her heart and do what was right for her. In those days women pilots were frowned upon. Della ran into a few difficulties whilst flying and could easily have given up her dream, but she tended to brush things off and carry on regardless. When the Great War started it of course had a huge impact on Della and her family, but out of it actually came quite a lot of good too.

I adored Auntie Betty and wouldn’t have minded sitting and listening to her tales myself. It seems she came along at just the right time. Who knows where Della would be otherwise.

At the end of the book Rebecca has written a very interesting and detailed Author’s Note. If you read ‘The Wild Air’ do remember not to miss this section out as it gives you a lot of insight into the research undertaken and what it involved.

‘The Wild Air’ is a truly remarkable story and is a must read for fans of historical fiction. I will treasure my signed hardback copy.

I give this book 5 out of 5.

 

About Rebecca Mascull

Rebecca Mascull is the author of THE VISITORS and SONG OF THE SEA MAID. She has previously worked in education, has a Masters in Writing and lives by the sea in the east of England. Visit her website rebeccamascull.tumblr.com.

 

‘The Wild Air’ is available to buy from Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wild-Air-Rebecca-Mascull/dp/1473604435/ref=sr_1_1_twi_har_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1496259354&sr=1-1&keywords=the+wild+air

 

Guest Post by Andrew Smith

I’m delighted to welcome Andrew Smith back to my blog for this event.  Last year his book, ‘The Speech’ was published and it has been doing well.  Andrew has written a guest post.

 

WRITING POLITICAL HISTORICAL FICTION IN THE AGE OF ‘POST-TRUTH’

You’d think that when M.P. Harold Wilson, who was destined to become Prime Minister, patted me on my six-year-old head, he may have endowed me with an instant interest in politics. But the truth is I was a disappointment to my parents, staunch Labour supporters at the time, who’d placed me in front of Wilson at a Labour Party event. As I grew older it was painfully obvious to everybody that I had no interest whatsoever in political debate. Later, as I watched my fellow art students campaign and demonstrate, I couldn’t understand the point of making such a fuss. I was a spoilt recipient of the considerable benefits of a post-war welfare state. What reason was there for me to protest? It wasn’t until the draconian days of Margaret Thatcher, when the country became more polarised than ever, that my interest was aroused. And then it was less about policies and more about individuals. Thatcher in particular fascinated me. I wondered about a person who could inflict obvious harm on so many — miners and their families in particular, but others too — with absolutely no apparent regret, or any attempt to compensate. As politicians came and went, it was their personalities that interested me, more than any particular policy or platform.

In 2012 I found myself looking around for a subject for a second novel. My first had had an actual event at its centre — the internment of Italian men living in Britain during World War II. I’d enjoyed writing imaginary characters whose lives were immeasurably altered by that dark episode in Britain’s history. I was hoping for a similar phenomena around which to build a story worthy of a full-length novel. Then, one day, listening to a particularly bigoted and racist speech by a UKIP member — perhaps Nigel Farage — the name Enoch Powell popped into my head. I remembered the brouhaha Powell had caused when he gave his so-called Rivers of Blood speech back in 1968, when I was a student. I felt the excitement every writer wishes for when a light bulb turns on in one’s head. The late 1960s was certainly a defining time, and one with which I was familiar. And if I’ve had any small-p political zeal at all, it’s been in defence of the victimization of the less fortunate, hence my interest in the cruel internment of innocent British Italians in my first novel — the objects of UKIP’s and Powell’s racist rhetoric also had my heartfelt sympathy. The elements were all present for a project tailor-made for me.

I spent the following months researching everything I could find that concerned Enoch Powell. I poured over two comprehensive biographies, numerous newspaper and magazine articles, TV and radio interviews, documentaries, several books and academic papers on the Rivers of Blood speech, Powell’s own papers stored in Churchill College, Cambridge, and various other ephemera about him and his family. And, perhaps most valuable of all, I talked to the few surviving people who’d actually known Powell.

I remember distinctly a moment during my research when the thought occurred to me that, whatever I eventually wrote, I had a duty to do Enoch Powell justice — flawed and prejudiced as he obviously was. My resolve to portray him in an unbiased and accurate manner may have come when I began to have intimations of the complexity of his character. When, for example, I learnt that he’d voted to decriminalise homosexuality. Or when he voted to abolish capital punishment. Or maybe it was simply when I learnt from various sources, his own writing included, what a solitary and pressured childhood he’d had. The sense of journalistic fairness I experienced may well derive from my time working for a newsmagazine for which I was art director. I well remember the endless debates at editorial meetings about what could and couldn’t be reported. There were huge efforts to ensure that whatever was published was true, fair, and as unbiased as possible. The exact opposite, it seems, to the policies of some publications today, in the age of so-called ‘post-truth.’ But most of all, I realised that it was vital to make Enoch Powell — as one ought to do for any character in a novel — as fully-formed, rounded, and complete as possible.

I believe this to be true of all aspects in any historical fiction, particularly political historical fiction. And what historical fiction is not, in some shape or form, political? Successful historical fiction takes a vast amount of research coupled with a burning desire to accurately portray whatever era and individuals appear. I certainly strived to do this in The Speech — for the 1960s, for the imaginary characters who represent the population of the time, and for Enoch Powell.

 

Links

‘The Speech’ is available from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/the-speech/

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Speech-gripping-historical-thriller/dp/1911129511/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1489314980&sr=1-1

Twitter – @andrewaxiom

 

Extract from ‘Spanish Crossings’ by John Simmons

Following on from my interview with John Simmons, I now have an exclusive extract from his book, ‘Spanish Crossings’.

 

Book Blurb

Spanish Crossings is an epic tale of love, politics and conflict, with the yearning but elusive possibility of redemption. A woman’s life has been cast in shadow by her connection to the Spanish Civil War. We meet Lorna in 1937 as she falls in love with Harry, a member of the International Brigade who had been at Guernica when it was bombed. Harry is then killed in the fighting and Lorna fears she might have lost her best chance of happiness. Can she fill the void created by Harry’s death by helping the child refugees of the conflict?

She finds a particular connection to one boy, Pepe, and as he grows up below the radar of the authorities in England their lives become increasingly intertwined. But can Lorna rely on Pepe as he remains deeply pulled towards the homeland and family that have been placed beyond his reach? Coming through the war, then the post-war rebuilding, Lorna and Pepe’s relationship will be tested by their tragic and emotive history.

 

Extract

Extract from ‘Spanish Crossings’

 

Interview with John Simmons

I’m delighted to welcome John Simmons back to my blog.  His  new book, ‘Spanish Crossings’ will be out next month.  I asked John some questions.

 

Your new book sounds wonderful. Can you tell me a bit about ‘Spanish Crossings’ please.

It’s my second novel – ‘Leaves’ was my first. Some readers remarked about ‘Leaves’ that it was a historical novel – set in 1970 – and that surprised me. But I think it gave me the courage to attempt something more genuinely historical, so ‘Spanish Crossings’ is set before, during and after the Second World War. Its main background is the Spanish Civil War and the true but little-known story of the 4000 Basque children who were refugees from that conflict in 1937. History always has a contemporary relevance.

But it’s not a history book, it’s a story. And as a story there is a main character, Lorna, who is a young woman in the 1930s engaged in the politics of that time. The novel is her story and it’s about conflict and love against that historical background. I hope – and early readers confirm – that it’s a gripping story with a somewhat chequered but intriguing relationship at its heart.

 

Where did you get the idea for this book?

I had gone to Spain to run a Dark Angels writing course. I dreamt the line “Mother declared herself happy” – the first time such a thing has happened to me. I liked the line and continued writing that day in Seville. Going from café to café, bench to bench, it grew into a story that is now the novel’s Prologue and it created the main character and theme. It showed that I had been thinking about some family history.

My daughter Jessie – named after my mother – is the family researcher. She’s always been interested in family stories, perhaps particularly about my mother and father whom she never met (they died while I was relatively young). We had photographs of my mum with refugee children during the Spanish Civil War, and of a Spanish boy my mum and dad had ‘adopted’ at the time. I only knew his name was Jesús and that he had returned to Bilbao in 1938.

Jessie gave me a book called ‘Only for three months’ (by Adrian Bell) that told the story of the Spanish children who had come over on a boat called the Habana in 1937, soon after the bombing of Guernica by German airplanes. Guernica became famous for its brutality and for Picasso’s response in one of his most famous paintings. So the combination of family and world history developed the idea for the book, and once I started working on it, it took hold of me.

 

Did you have to do research and what did it entail?

It started with the reading of that book ‘Only for three months’, and a number of plotlines came from that. I read a lot around the subject and the period. I also found the art and photographs of the time helped me really enter the period. One photographer – Wolfgang Suschitsky, himself a 1930s refugee from fascism – was particularly inspirational (one of his photographs is on the front cover).

The other vital research was to do with place. There are three main settings: London, Guernica and the French border town of Hendaye. I grew up in central London so the London settings came naturally, but it was still fascinating to walk the streets featured and imagine them in an earlier period. I visited Bilbao and Guernica in northern Spain and that helped me get a proper feel, though obviously they are much changed. Visiting Hendaye was probably the most directly inspirational because it has a particular geography that plays an important part in the story. I could look across the estuary towards Spain, just a couple of miles away, and write on the spot.

 

How long did it take you to write?

I wrote what is now the Prologue on that Dark Angels course in September 2014. And finished writing the novel in April 2016. So two years with further editing time.

 

What is your usual writing routine?

My routine is not to have a routine. I’m not one of these writers who starts at 6, say, and works through to lunchtime every day – then plays tennis in the afternoon. My life is not like that because I work as a writer and consultant in the world of business and brands. My paid work in those areas subsidises my personal, fictional work. So I fit my own writing in when and where I can.

Actually my one really established writing habit is to always spend Friday evenings locked away – nowadays in my converted loft at home – and write as late as the spirit moves me. It used to be till the early hours – nowadays I stop before midnight.

 

I think it would be wonderful if some of the characters from your book came alive. What would be your reaction if that happened?

It has happened. These characters are real for me. I also have the strange experience with this novel of my family history. My mum and dad are definitely not characters in the novel but I found myself writing scenes where they might have been present. It might sound spooky or sentimental – but it was an important aspect of the writing experience with this book.

 

What are you planning to write next?

When I finished ‘Spanish Crossings’ I felt bereft – the story and characters I’d lived with had moved out of my head. So I needed to fill it with another story and new characters. I almost forced that to happen one Friday night, writing a series of short pieces set during the First World War. That gave me a range of characters and the characters suggested stories that could be linked.

What has emerged is a novel in progress called ‘The Good Messenger’. It’s set before and after the First World War; the first part has a nine-year-old boy as its central character, the final part shows him grown up in the 1920s and reconnecting with some of the characters from the pre-war period. I’m probably two-thirds (about 60.000 words) through the first draft.

 

You’ve had an interesting career by the looks of it. Can you tell me a bit about your Dark Angels workshops?

I was a director of Interbrand until 2003 (‘the world’s leading brand agency’). I insisted that language – the way companies communicate through words – needed to be part of branding. So I established a discipline to focus on that, and started writing books about ‘how to write more powerfully for brands’. One of those books was called ‘Dark Angels’, and this also became a training programme in ‘creative writing for business’. Three books make up the Dark Angels Trilogy and these have now been published in new editions by Urbane.

I’ve been running these Dark Angels courses for more than a dozen years now, for most of that time with two Scottish writers (Stuart Delves and Jamie Jauncey) and now with a wider group of associates, including writer/trainers in the USA, Ireland and the Antipodes. We go to remote and beautiful places – the Scottish highlands, Andalucian national park, coast of Cornwall, rural Ireland – and work with writers intensively on creative exercises. It’s great fun. People who ‘graduate’ tell me that it’s a life-transforming experience. www.dark-angels.org.uk

 

What are your thoughts on social media?

It’s the world we live in now. When the most powerful man in the world seems addicted to Twitter, you can’t ignore its influence. So I’m regularly on Twitter @JNSim, less regularly on Facebook, and I enjoy Instagram because I love photography and make no claims for any ability in that area.

More recently I’ve discovered more of the background to my Spanish story and the events of that time via Twitter. I was followed by a number of Spanish/Basque people and they have been enormously helpful in uncovering previously unknown aspects of that history. Including some of what happened to Jesùs Iguaran Aramburu after he returned to Spain.

 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I’ve always loved theatre and football. I’ve been lucky to combine these passions with my writing work. With my son Matt I wrote a book about our team, the Arsenal, and I’ve worked on the brands of a number of theatrical institutions such as the National Theatre, the Globe and the Old Vic.

 

What do you prefer – hardbacks or paperbacks?

I’ve always loved the book as a physical object, the look, feel and smell of a new book. The hardback has more of that tactile, sensuous appeal but I probably prefer to read paperbacks simply because I read while travelling, and a paperback is so easy to carry around and read on the tube, train etc. But I do believe all books are beautiful, collectible objects – I had to create my loft largely because I’d run out of shelf space for all the books. Books do furnish a room.

 

Describe your life in three words

Observing, listening, writing.

 

Links

26 Fruits Website – www.26fruits.co.uk/blog

Dark Angels Website – www.dark-angels.org.uk

Co-founder of www.26.org.uk

Twitter – @JNSim

Interview with Justin Sheedy

author-picture

I would like to introduce you all to Justin Sheedy.  For a while now my husband has been following him on social media and has expressed an interest in reading his books and I must admit that I am rather tempted by them too.  I wanted to interview Justin and was really pleased when he agreed to one.

 

Firstly, can you tell me a bit about the types of books you write please?

I write in two distinct styles: Firstly my make-you-laugh-and-cry portraits of childhood, teenage & growing up in 1970s & 80s Australia, “Goodbye Crackernight” & “Memoirs of a Go-Go Dancer”. (Yes, my first job out of school.) These two books have been warmly received by readers as they’re not just My story but OUR story, a mirror to US.

goodbye-crackernight

memoirs-of-a-go-go-dancer-by-justin-sheedy

Secondly, my more serious World War Two historical fictions, “Nor the Years Condemn”, “Ghosts of the Empire”, and my just-published “No Greater Love”. Bringing to life the stunning true saga of Australian, British and Commonwealth pilots and aircrew in World War Two, though hyper-accurate to the true history, I’ve written them as historical fictions so as to engage readers with the shining young characters who made the true history, the loss of such shining young characters rendering my stories the true anti-war portraits I intended them to be.

nor-the-years-condemn

ghosts-of-the-empire

no-greater-love-by-justin-sheedy

 

What made you decide to write about World War Two?

Well, imagine your grandfather, when he was 21, was a real-life young superman loved & respected by all around him. Then he volunteered to fight against the worst evil imaginable, crossed the earth to do it, fought against it in the most exciting way possible and WON, only to end up an old man surrounded by the forever 21-year-old ghosts of all his friends. And it’s all true. How could one NOT want to write a story about that?

 

Did you have to do much research?

A massive amount. Reading, documentaries, online research, emailing museums & local councils particularly in the UK as that’s where my war stories are chiefly set. And people can be so enthusiastically helpful. Just for example, for “Nor the Years Condemn”, book 1 in my trilogy, the local council of Callander in Scotland emailed me mile-by-mile maps of the area between Loch Leven and Loch Lubnaig so my Australian pilot’s first (training) flight in a Spitfire would be as accurate as possible, tearing around the summit of Ben Ledi then super low up Loch Lubnaig though the forest of Strathyre. Their final note, “The RAF jets do it to this day!” was just one of those wonderful conincidences. I also interviewed about 5 Australian WWII veterans, pilots & aircrew who at 90+ looked 70+ as they were basically Olympian/Formula 1 calibre young men back in the day. And so modest! One flew a Kittyhawk fighter and apologised to me that he had not been in an actual dog-fight, only in ground attack. I almost fell off my chair.

 

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

Well, one gets more efficient with each book one writes but my most recent, “No Greater Love”, a 360+ page novel, took me a year and a half.

 

What are you working on now?

A novella entitled “Other People’s Wars” which will be a free ebook as a promotional tool for my war trilogy. For release at the end of this year, it will feature starring characters and key themes from my trilogy. Importantly though, each book in the trilogy stands on its own, written to be read in any order; parallel adventures in the same mighty saga.

 

Do you have a favourite place where you go to write?

I’m ALWAYS writing in my head. Can’t help it. No matter where I am.

 

Would you like to see any of your books made into a film and if so, which actors/actresses would you like to play the parts?

It’s my dream & holy grail. If I had a dime for every time people have vowed my books should be movies, I’d be rich.  And the question of which actors/actresses might play the parts has long fascinated me. The tricky thing is that, if cast accurately re age, they’d all have to be 21 as that was the average age of fighter pilots in World War II. (The ‘old man’ of the squadron was 25!) It’s key to my war stories: they’re heroic, tragic portraits of shining Youth. Though I assume in this cinema day & age they’d have “star” 30-somethings playing the roles not 21-year-old newcomers. For my latest book, “No Greater Love”, for its main character, Spitfire pilot rough-diamond Aussie Colin Stone (“Stoney”), when writing I always thought of a young Bryan Brown, a beloved Australian actor, as he was in the 1979 classic, “Breaker Morant”.

 

How important is social media to you?

Oh it’s essential. For ongoing publicity for my books, book-signing events and reviews. It is, in fact, the very reason I have the privilege of taking part in this interview as you & I got in contact through Facebook.

 

What’s your advice for anyone wanting to write their first book?

Come up with a brilliant idea then re-write it 20 times until your book ends up the book it Deserves to be.

 

Do you think you’ll ever come to the UK to do book signings?

I would very, very dearly love to. Before I can, however, my books must be able to be stocked on the shelves of the Waterstones bookstore chain. This is being wrangled by my Australian book distribution company as I write this. (At the moment my books are only available as print-on-demand paperbacks from Waterstones online which is wonderful but my goal is to be signing books in Waterstones Piccadilly.)

 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love reading, classic TV & movies, comedy, music, pop culture & aviation, also historical documentaries, Mediterranean cooking, white wine, skiing, mountains and snow.

 

Who are your favourite authors?

So many but in the context of my ‘growing up’ stories, Clive James, Roald Dahl, Bill Bryson, for my war stories, Ken Follett & Roald Dahl once again (“Going Solo” possibly my favourite book of all time), Kate Grenville, Tim Winton & Peter Carey for their emotive Australian historical fictions.

 

About Justin Sheedy

Justin Sheedy had his first book, “Goodbye Crackernight”, published in 2009, a comic memoir of growing up in 1970s Australia, back in a long-lost era when a child’s proudest possession was not a Playstation but a second-hand bike. “Goodbye Crackernight” was so warmly received by Australian readers that it secured Justin a place on the program of the prestigious Byron Bay Writers’ Festival 2010.

In 2012 Justin released “Nor the Years Condemn”, an historical fiction based on the stunning true story of the young Australian fighter pilots of World War Two. A tale as exhilaratingly heroic as it is tragic, “Nor the Years Condemn” is a portrait of shining young men destined never to grow old, and of those who do: the survivors ‘condemned by the years’, and to their memory of friends who remain forever young.

In 2013 he released “Ghosts of the Empire”, Book 2 in his “Nor the Years Condemn” series, and to Rave Reviews.

In 2014 he released “Memoirs of a Go-Go Dancer”, his long-awaited sequel to “Goodbye Crackernight”. “Memoirs of a Go-Go Dancer” is Justin’s rock & roll portrait of teenage in the 1980s under the threat of nuclear annihilation before he ever kissed a girl. Rave Reviews have once again flooded in.

Justin has just released his 5th book, “No Greater Love”, Part 3 in his “Nor the Years Condemn” trilogy. After a sell-out book-launch at Australia’s premier bookstore, the iconic Dymocks George Street Sydney, rave reviews for “No Greater Love” have already been received – see at the book’s Amazon listing along with Amazon 5-Star ratings.

Justin’s books are available in Kindle & paperback at Amazon, Dymocks bookstores, Waterstones & Barnes and Noble Online, The Book Depository and via ALL bookstores. Justin relishes signing copies of his books at regular bookstore events and would love to hear from you at his Facebook pages, on Twitter or at his blog, Crackernight.com. He lives in Sydney, Australia.

 

Book Links

Amazon / Amazon UK / Waterstones online / Barnes & Noble online / The Book Depository / Dymocks bookstores across Australia.

 

Cover Reveal – ‘Occupying Love’ by Marilyn Chapman

Book Cover

This is the wonderful cover for ‘Occupying Love’ by Marilyn Chapman which is out on the 24th June.  Read on for more information.

 

Book Blurb

With the Nazis poised to invade Guernsey in World War Two, feisty student Lydia Le Page returns home to rescue her parents, but as she arrives the harbour is bombed and she’s trapped on the island as the German Military Occupation begins.

Two very different men enter her life: Martin Martell, the handsome but mysterious rector of Torteval Church and Major Otto Kruger, the ruthless German Kommandant, who soon falls under her spell.

When Martin disappears Lydia discovers a secret from her past that threatens her whole future. Will she be able to keep it from the enemy? Or is it too late?  This is a story about love, loss and the unique identity that makes us who we are.

 

Background to ‘Occupying Love’

Guernsey-born journalist Marilyn Chapman read almost every novel written about the Occupation of the Channel Islands, but none sounded quite like the stories her grandparents told her as a child.

Marilyn, who now lives on the Lancashire coast, learnt about life under German rule when Guernsey was occupied by Hitler’s troops in World War Two, and the memories have always stayed with her. The result is Occupying Love which she describes as ‘a fictional account of love, loss, bravery and heartbreak, as well as defiance and hope.’

‘My grandmother refused to acknowledge the German soldiers and even hid cheese in the stair rods at her home, rather than let the food be taken,’ says Marilyn. Eventually the couple’s home was requisitioned by the Germans but they never gave up hope that the island as they knew it would survive.’

Marilyn began her career as a reporter on the Blackpool Evening Gazette, later freelancing for national newspapers and magazines.

Her debut novel Baggy Pants and Bootees was published in 2014 giving her the confidence to finally follow her dream.

 

‘Occupying Love’ is available to pre-order from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Occupying-Love-Marilyn-Chapman-ebook/dp/B01H0MCYA4/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1466078531&sr=1-1&keywords=occupying+love

 

Cover Reveal – ‘The Secret Wife’ by Gill Paul

Book Cover

I am thrilled to be taking part in this cover reveal and what a beauty it is.  ‘The Secret Wife’ is being published on the 25th August 2016 as an eBook and in paperback by Avon.  Read on to find out more about this book.

 

Book Blurb

A Russian grand duchess and an English journalist. Linked by one of the world’s greatest mysteries . . .

1914

Russia is on the brink of collapse, and the Romanov family faces a terrifyingly uncertain future. Grand Duchess Tatiana has fallen in love with injured cavalry officer Dmitri, but events take a catastrophic turn, placing their romance – and their lives – in danger . . .

2016

Kitty Fisher escapes to her great-grandfather’s remote cabin in America, after a devastating revelation forces her to flee London. There, on the shores of Lake Akanabee, she discovers the spectacular jewelled pendant that will lead her to an extraordinary, long-buried family secret . . .

Haunting, moving and beautifully written, The Secret Wife effortlessly crosses centuries, as past merges with present in an unforgettable story of love, loss and resilience.

 

‘The Secret Wife’ can be pre-ordered from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Secret-Wife-Gill-Paul-ebook/dp/B01D4O804G/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1463326605&sr=1-3&keywords=the+secret+wife

 

Blog Tour – ‘The Trouble with Seduction’ by Victoria Hanlen

Tour Banner

‘The Trouble with Seduction’ was published on the 25th April 2016 by Carina UK.  Today it is my turn on this blog tour.  Read on for my review.

This story is set in London, England, 1855.  Sarah, Lady Strathford, twice widowed and still fairly young is ready for a little bit of harmless fun, preferably with a man of her own age with and someone who she can have an adventure with.  That’s not too much to ask for is it!

Her hopes are raised when the very dashing, roguish and rather baffling Mr Cornelius Ravenhill appears.  As Sarah soon discovers though he is not the gentleman he seems and she finds herself battling against the corrupt and harsh world around her which threatens to destroy everything precious to her.  Will her seduction at the hands of Mr Ravenhill prove to be her saviour or was she better off on her own?

As most of you probably know by now I really enjoy historical fiction.  I liked the sound of ‘The Trouble with Seduction’ so was more than happy to give it a go.  The blurb is at the front of the eBook, something I think is ever so useful.  It’s very handy especially if like me you have loads of books on your e-reader and can’t remember what it’s about.

I thought this to be a very enjoyable read with an extremely complicated plot which keeps you guessing as to what really happened.  The author has an eye for detail and I loved reading about Strathford Hall and all its grandeur.  It made me wish I was there exploring it and searching out secret rooms and hidden passages.  Sarah Strathford’s late husband, Edward, the Earl of Strathford was an inventor.  He had created many wonderful things including some rather saucy sex toys.

There were a number of characters some of whom were very unsavoury indeed.  I took an instant dislike to Lumsley.  Sarah was one of my favourites though.  She had been through so much and her real problems were only just beginning.  I thought Sarah to be a very kind person.  She had set up a charity where children and adults came with their problems for help and to be educated.  I also really liked Damen.  I don’t want to give too much away but he was good for her even though he wasn’t who she thought he was.  He went about things in a bit of an underhand way but had his reasons.

Whilst reading this novel I came across a lovemaking scene that had been split between two chapters which was slightly off putting.  I personally felt that it should have all taken place in the same chapter.  There was also a fair bit of violence in this book but don’t let that put you off.  If you’re a fan of historical fiction then I would say that ‘The Trouble with Seduction’ is worth reading.

I give this book 4 out of 5.

 

About Victoria Hanlen

Author Picture

Award winning, historical romance author, VICTORIA HANLEN, has worked at a wide range of jobs, from fashion, to corporate business, to treading the boards of stage and professional opera. A lifelong writer, she once put her skills to use in PR and advertising. But her favorite form of writing is stories with happily-ever-afters.

Additionally, she likes to bake (especially pies), paint (especially barns with cows), and take photographs (especially of sunsets and critters) Victoria and her husband live in rural New England surrounded by a host of wildlife.

 

Links

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29538610-the-trouble-with-seduction?from_search=true&search_version=service

Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01ARSC5O8/ref=x_gr_w_bb?ie=UTF8&tag=x_gr_w_bb_uk-21&linkCode=as2&camp=1634&creative=6738

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Victoria-Hanlen-Books-1611094709107251/?fref=ts

Twitter – https://twitter.com/VictoriaHanlen

Website – https://t.co/GgwQxl2FSx

 

Competition

There’s a chance to win a £15 Amazon Giftcard.  To enter just click on this link – Rafflecopter Giveaway

 

Blog Tour – ‘Song of the Sea Maid’ by Rebecca Mascull

Blog Tour Poster

‘Song of the Sea Maid’ is Rebecca Mascull’s second novel.  It was published in paperback by Hodder & Stoughton on the 11th February 2016.  I was asked if I would like to take part in the blog tour and as I really liked the sound of this book and I love historical fiction I was delighted to.

This story is set in the 18th century.  Dawnay Price has had a hard childhood so far.  Living on the streets of London, she is then taken to an orphanage where she stays for many years.  Dawnay is a very bright child and wants to learn as much as possible.  Luckily she gets the chance to be educated and this opens up many avenues for her. A woman of science, she is a natural philosopher.

Dawnay is determined not to let her background stand in the way of what she wants to achieve.  In an era where women very rarely travel alone, she sets sail aboard The Prospect to the beautiful Iberian Peninsula in Portugal to develop her theories.  Having fought hard against convention, Dawnay is determined to put her career above all else.  Yet as war approaches she finds herself divided by feelings she cannot control.

I have already read some great books so far this year but this was one absolutely amazing and fascinating story.  I loved ‘Song of the Sea Maid’.  Totally engrossed, it was difficult to put this book down.  You can tell that Rebecca Mascull has done a lot of research.  With wonderful descriptions throughout I could actually imagine what it must have been like on board The Prospect and picture the islets.  I also really like the cover of this book, it’s been so cleverly designed.

I thoroughly enjoyed following Dawnay Price’s journey.  I liked how the reader is given an insight into her life from the beginning.  That’s very important I think for a story like this.  Dawnay was a very determined and brave young lady.  It wasn’t always plain sailing for her and she witnessed lots of tragedy and destruction, but somehow Dawnay carried on.  She was a real trooper!  For me she will probably be one of my favourite fictional characters of all time.

‘Song of the Sea Maid’ is not a story I’ll forget and it is definitely going on my list of my favourite ever books.  Well done on writing such a brilliant story, Rebecca.  I really can’t wait to read your next novel.

I give this book 5 out of 5.

 

‘Song of the Sea Maid’ is available to buy on Amazon – http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1473604370?keywords=song%20of%20the%20sea%20maid&qid=1455451771&ref_=sr_1_1&s=books&sr=1-1

 

Social Media Links for Rebecca Mascull

http://rebeccamascull.tumblr.com/

https://twitter.com/rebeccamascull

https://www.facebook.com/RebeccaMascull

https://www.facebook.com/becca.mascull

http://uk.pinterest.com/rebeccamascull/

https://instagram.com/rebeccamascull/

 

Blog Tour – ‘Blood and Roses’ by Catherine Hokin

Blood and Roses Blog Tour

It’s my turn on this wonderful blog tour today.  The lovely Catherine Hokin has written a guest post, but first I want to tell you all about Catherine’s book launch which I attended last week with my husband.

The ‘Blood and Roses’ launch took place on Wednesday 13th January 2016 at Daunt Books in Holland Park Avenue, London.  Not having been to many book events I was really looking forward to it.  We arrived at the bookshop whereupon we were greeted by Catherine who recognised me first.  She had the most amazing shoes on.  Soon the place started to fill up with people all there to support Catherine.  The wine was poured out and the mingling began.  It was a great atmosphere.

Soon after, Catherine started off by answering some fascinating questions.  This gave people a very good idea about what ‘Blood and Roses’ was about.  She then read a couple of extracts from her book which I’m sure made everyone want to buy it.  Afterwards, people queued up to have their copies signed, followed by more wine and mingling.

Here is a picture of me with Catherin Hokin.

Book Launch Picture

It was a fantastic night and we went home feeling really happy.

Now follows Catherine Hokin’s guest post and an extract from ‘Blood and Roses’.

 

~~~~~

TELLING STORIES FROM THE PAST TO THE PRESENT

One of my strongest memories as a child is discovering, for the first time, a book on my own. The Chronicles of Narnia: not something my teacher had read, or my parents, but a world that uncovered itself, as I thought, just for me – a wonderful secret world of the imagination where the characters had the voices I spun in my head and the back-stories I happily wove when I couldn’t stretch reading time any further into the night. The power of stories has never left me and I still have a reading pile that threatens severe concussion to anyone walking too close.

When I realised I wanted to tell stories myself, it was also natural to look back to another lifelong passion: history. What is history if not stories? Because I write short stories that are contemporary and rather twisted and a blog that is also contemporary and, I hope, quite funny, I frequently get asked why I chose historical fiction for my debut novel. The short answer? People.

Whatever time frame you choose, people lived and loved just as we do today. War, disease, loss, political decisions that sweep people into conflicts not of their making are as familiar to us as our fifteenth century counterparts – the mechanisms available for response change but the challenges don’t. For me the study of history helps us to see what is eternal, it is the re-imagining of events that fiction allows that then creates a bridge to new perspectives and voices. This is particularly important for women whose characters and opinions are often far too silent in the pages of the text books.

And that is where Margaret of Anjou comes in: an intriguing, powerful woman too often filtered down to us through hostile voices or melodramatic portrayals courtesy of Shakespeare. She is being re-evaluated to an extent but she is still rarely centre-stage. I wanted to re-imagine her from a woman’s perspective and from a mother’s – there has been so much written about Margaret’s relationship with her son but never from the point of view of what it is like for a strong woman to raise a man in challenging times and then let him go. My son was 17 when I started this project – the age Margaret’s son was when he died – and I have to admit I drew on our relationship a lot, to the point where he went very white at the death scene!

The people of the past: us with different technology and none more so than Margaret.  A fascinating, complex, infuriating woman – look around, you probably know her…

 

Extract

Towton 1461

I thought I knew everything about battles; I thought I knew everything that they could be, that I had witnessed all the horrors a battlefield can deliver. I knew nothing.

It was such a hard winter: even in February the snows were still falling heavily from a sky that seemed to have been leaden for weeks. There was no thaw, no break as the Lancastrian army moved away from London towards the North, avoiding York by a matter of days as he swept his forces down into the City. And what a reception their stony hearts gave him. Margaret knew that the messengers who brought the description of his triumphal entry expected her to scream and rail; she was simply too exhausted, too out-played. All the times she had used tricks and tableaux to win sympathy and support or to make the story of her family far greater than it was. She was a novice compared to York and his advisors.

He knows so well how Londoners love the look of a king and he gives them everything they could have dreamed of and more.

She sat in silence, her stomach churning, as she listened to the messengers fight to keep the awe from their voices as they described how York rode in splendour through gates now flung open with abandon and wreathed in flowers to greet a golden god on his huge charger, and how the people cheered themselves hoarse at his coming.

No matter he is as vicious in battle as any commander of mine; no matter the soldiers they welcome with smiles and wine could be just as dangerous as mine. They do not see it. They see the showman and love him for it.

Every man who stood before her elaborated on the tale. They were almost breathless by the time they described the great rally York held on the 1st of March, with food for all and work forgotten, and the triumphal procession he made to St Paul’s, the solemn ceremony that followed it a few days later; a coronation in all but name. She listened in mounting dismay but could not stop herself asking for every tiny detail. How he had the City Criers summon the people in great crowds. How he had long lists of Henry’s failings read out by Bourchier, resplendent in his Archbishop’s robes and matched them to equally long lists of his own virtues, these loudly declaimed by George Neville, York’s handsome Chancellor. And again at the Cathedral: the same charade of the strong man versus the weak but this time with York’s great royal lineage spelled out so even the simplest commoner could catch it and scream for joy at this King of miracles they were offered.

My efforts were like a child playing make-believe with a paper crown compared to this.

And all through the telling, the same refrain: what a difference to his father’s poor misguided efforts. This York could not have thrust the crown away even as pretence, the people would have forced it on him. It was all so perfectly done. Everyone applauded the title of Edward IV, looked at the furred robes, saw the sceptre and the crown, attended the lavish banquet and truly thought they had witnessed a coronation when it could be no such thing. Margaret could not match him, she knew it: all she had was a hollow-eyed man, his crown a mockery on his empty head, and a child who would be snatched from her if she stayed still too long.

She could not capture hearts but, in that at least, she and Richard of York had been evenly matched. Now she faced a gilded paragon of nineteen with a laugh as loud as a lion’s roar and a golden mane to match, framing a face that made even the matrons around her go giddy. Put a crown and an ermine on him and it was as though she was pitted against a storybook hero to defend a cause that seemed suddenly to have no more weight than a butterfly’s wing.

And yet I cannot stop. I cannot accept defeat. I cannot let him win.

She was afraid, her advisors were afraid: to continue meant war, war to the death, slaughter unleashed. And to stop? To surrender? That was fear of a worse kind, fear that caught at Margaret’s throat and kept her without any rest, turning over the same questions night after night. What usurper would ever allow another anointed king to live? What usurper would ever allow a child who would become the focus of every rebellion and discontent and misguided plot to live? War might be a death-sentence for them all but surrender was a death-warrant for her son.

 

About Catherine Hokin

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Catherine is a Glasgow-based author with a degree in History from Manchester University. After years of talking about it, she finally started writing seriously about 3 years ago, researching and writing her debut novel, Blood and Roseswhich will be published in January 2016 by Yolk Publishing. The novel tells the story of Margaret of Anjou and her pivotal role in the Wars of the Roses, exploring the relationship between Margaret and her son and her part in shaping the course of the bloody political rivalry of the fifteenth century. About a year ago, Catherine also started writing short stories – she was recently 3rd prize winner in the 2015 West Sussex Writers Short Story Competition and a finalist in the Scottish Arts Club 2015 Short Story Competition. She regularly blogs as Heroine Chic, casting a historical, and often hysterical, eye over women in history, popular culture and life in general.

 

Social media links:

https://www.catherinehokin.com/

http://catherinehokin.blogspot.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/cathokin/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Twitter @cathokin

‘Blood and Roses’ is available to buy from Amazon: http://amzn.to/1MIvm2T

 

 

Blog Tour – ‘Electric Shadows of Shanghai’ by Clare Kane

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‘The Electric Shadows of Shanghai’ was published in December 2015 as an eBook by Watchword, the digital imprint of Impress Books.   I am very pleased to be participating in this blog tour for which Clare Kane has written a guest post.  But first you’ll be wanting to find out what this book is about.

 

Book Blurb

It’s 1931 and British diplomat William Graves and his wife, Amelia, are flung headfirst into the enticing, neon-lit streets of Shanghai. As Will helps to maintain the fragile peace between China and Japan, Amelia, alone in a foreign city, seeks solace with a Russian ballet troupe that are more than they seem. Whispers of protest, revolt, even war, buzz through the city as Will is tasked with rooting out Communist propaganda that could push tensions over the edge into war. But the city’s streets hold other intoxicating allures. Will falls into a deep obsession with Feifei, a beautiful silent film star, who is desperate to escape the volatile city and sees Will as her only chance at freedom. As Amelia starts to sense Will’s betrayal and the personal and the political begin to blur, will they lose themselves in the electric shadows of Shanghai?

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Guest Post

Rediscovering the lost glamour of Shanghai cinema

In March 1935, an actress’ funeral brought thousands of women to Shanghai’s streets, snaking through the city in a mourning procession several miles long. Some were so moved by the actress’ death they took their own lives in her honour. The actress, Ruan Lingyu, had cemented a special place in the city’s heart through her career of silent movies featuring dazzling leading ladies, doomed romances and family feuds compelling enough to challenge Hollywood’s reign over cinema.

Shanghai’s Golden Age of cinema is little remembered these days: the proletarian cinema of the Mao years, the worldwide success of Jackie Chan and the sparkling consumerist sheen of modern Chinese cinema have painted over the celluloid evidence of Shanghai’s time as the Paris of the East. But back in the 1920s and 1930s Shanghai was the pulsing heart of Chinese cinema, producing original, classy cinema featuring devastatingly charismatic actors so popular that, at least in Ruan’s case, their deaths sparked city-wide grief.

It all started with Hollywood – just like today, China was a major market for American movies in the early 20th century. Films would be released just shortly after their U.S. premieres and crowds flocked to Shanghai’s cinemas to watch the likes of Mae West light up the screens. Then in the 1920s a crop of Chinese-run studios started to produce Hollywood-style features with a Shanghai slant. Stars were billed as equivalents to their Hollywood peers: Ruan Lingyu was China’s Greta Garbo. Actresses played a key role in shaking up conservative forces, encouraging metropolitan women to throw off their sartorial shackles by bobbing their hair and wearing qipaos slit to the thigh. The actress’ curled hair and red lips featured on magazine covers and in ads for everything from champagne to cold cream.

Many of them had life stories worthy of one of their gritty but glamorous characters. Zhou Xuan, a singer and actress whose perfectly arranged features adorn countless tourist prints, was an orphan who attempted suicide and was eventually committed to an asylum. Ruan Lingyu, born into poverty and later impregnated by the son of the rich family her maid mother served, starred in a series of socially-minded films before committing suicide at just twenty-four. She left a note blaming the gossip-hungry press for her desperation.

Following the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931 Shanghai movies diverted from the Hollywood model to become a vehicle of protest. Directors didn’t shy away from social reality, telling tales of poverty and prostitution from Shanghai’s streets. At its peak, the glittering lights of Shanghai even attracted Madame Mao, who starred in a number of films under her stage name Blue Apple.

A quick YouTube search will bring up films such as New Women, Street Angel and The Goddess. These films lift the lid on Shanghai’s neon-lit years of vice, war and glamour. But even better, Shanghai’s glorious celluloid history is still hidden in pockets around the city. The Cathay cinema, first opened in 1932, boasts a brilliant Art Deco exterior, even if the inside has lost much of its charm. It’s easy to miss the Zhejiang cinema near Fuzhou Lu, but this building, designed by Hungarian architect Laszlo Hudec, is worth a second look.

The Shanghai Film Museum on Caoxi Bei Lu brings Shanghai’s dazzling cinematic history to life through photographs, costumes and memorabilia. The exhibits go right up to the current day, but it’s easy to get caught up in the Golden Age. There is also the Shanghai Film Park, a much newer addition to the city’s movie history, which boasts a mock-up of Nanjing Road in the 1930s. And on Duolun Lu in Hongkou you’ll find the Old Film Cafe where the classics are sometimes screened.

A walk down the Bund, eyes trained away from the 21st century splendour of the Pudong skyline, can convince you that Shanghai’s roaring 20s never ended. But if the Shanghai winter proves too chilly for all this exploration, the sofa isn’t a bad place to rediscover the city’s faded glamour. From classic 1930s’ flick Shanghai Express to 2010 thriller Shanghai starring John Cusack and Gong Li and the slow-moving, elegant sweep of Old Shanghai that is The White Countess, Hollywood has tried to capture the magic of the city several times over. But Chinese cinema still does it better. A remake of Dangerous Liaisons set in 1930s Shanghai and starring Zhang Ziyi is a feast of stiff-necked qipaos, glinting chandeliers and unbearable sexual tension. Lust, Caution, based on the story by Shanghai writer Eileen Chang, combines passion with politics in a dangerous, sexually charged and cruel film about Japanese-controlled Shanghai.

Chang herself said between memory and reality there were “awkward discrepancies” and no doubt 1930s’ Shanghai looks more glamorous on the big screen than it did from the Bund. But a glimpse into the city’s film archive might just illuminate how it came to be the Shanghai we know now, or at the very least reveal exactly what Marlene Dietrich meant when she purred: “It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily.”

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About Clare Kane

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Clare Kane studied Chinese at the University of Oxford. Following this she worked as a financial journalist for Reuters in London and Madrid. She is a Fellow at marketing communications group WPP and currently based in Shanghai, where she writes about culture, travel and Chinese history in her spare time.

 

Links

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28243630-electric-shadows-of-shanghai?from_search=true&search_version=

Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ebooks-Electric-Shadows-Shanghai-Clare-Kane-ebook/dp/B0198GMZR2/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1450799497&sr=1-1&keywords=electric+shadows+of+shanghai

 

Social Media

#ElectricShadows
@ImpressBooks1
@Watchword_eLit
Instagram: impressbooks
@clare_kane 

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Guest Post by Sheila Myers

Sheila Myers is the author of two novels: Ephemeral Summer (2014) and Imaginary Brightness: a Durant Family Saga (2015). She is currently working on the second in the trilogy for the Durant family saga which will be out in 2016. Myers is an Associate Professor at a community college in upstate New York where she teaches environmental science.

Sheila has written a very interesting guest post for my blog about the use of diaries for historical fiction.

 

What Diaries Don’t Reveal Can Be Just as Important as What they Do

I’ve been reading other people’s diaries. They’re dead so I doubt they mind. Yes, reading the thoughts and daily activities of people that lived over a century ago has become one of my passions as I conduct research for my historical fiction.

What I’ve learned from the process of reading diaries, both published and unpublished, is I can find out about familial relationships and events by what is not written, as much as from what is written in them. Small clues start to pop out and build up to the point where I find patterns that lead me to speculate. For example, I’ve been reading the summer camp diaries of two families closely connected to one of my main characters in the family saga I am writing. In both, I found patterns where my character, William, is conspicuously absent during the summer months.

Diaries left behind by his in-laws mention he was in New York City for weeks one summer in 1895. Just a passing mention: Mr. Durant is in New York City for the month of August. This was the summer that he separated from his wife. And then three years later, in 1898, the year they were finally divorced, he is absent again. Reading through the diaries of one of his good friends whom he hunted with on a regular basis, I found that there is very little mention of William in 1898, only his mother, who lived at the time in their summer home. Again, he stayed in New York City.

For the sake of propriety, neither author of the diaries mention why William stayed away from his summer home in the Adirondacks those summers. I’d have to conjecture. Was he ashamed? Mired in lawyer fees and unable to vacation? Didn’t want to run into his ex-wife or children? Who really knows?

Most of the diaries I have read reveal day-to-day activities of the people writing them, but some of these lead me to research other larger-world events. One example is a small paper clipping cut out and glued to the diary about the yellow haze that was hanging over the Adirondack Mountains for days. The diary entry mentions that the ladies’ skirts were covered in ash on the boat ride back from church one Sunday. When I looked up the date of the newspaper clipping (1885) I came across numerous articles about the forest fires that were ravaging the northern forests and causing air quality problems as far away as New York City. The haze was so thick in New York City at one point boats could not navigate in the harbour.

Small tidbits about the people revealed in diaries can help shape a character in my writing. In one passage, the diarist relates how one of the locals still believes the earth is flat and that the oceans have an outlet (nobody has discovered them yet). What a great character to write about. If he believes this still in 1898, what else could I have him talking about in dialogue?

And then there are scenes A small three sentence passage in a diary can become a 2,000 word scene in fiction. I found one notebook from a guide in the Adirondacks and in it he talks about a conversation he had with one of my characters. In this discussion, Dr. Durant (who was one of the men responsible for building the transcontinental railroad line) tells a tale of paying the Pawnee Indians $25.00 each for the scalps of Sioux Indians. Again, this small tidbit of information is steeped in historical relevance; it is up to me to place it into context in the story with a scene.

 

To learn more about Sheila Myer’s work and research visit her website – http://www.wwdurantstory.com/

 

Book Launch – ‘The House of York’ by Terry Tyler

The House of York - Cover

The lovely Terry Tyler is back with yet another book.  ‘The House of York’ has just been published and it sounds like another great read.

 

Book Blurb

The House of York ~ a contemporary family drama, spanning the years 1993 – 2014.

Widowed single mum, Lisa Grey, and wealthy businessman, Elias York, are young and madly in love.  A recipe for happiness?  But Lisa is marrying into a complicated family.  Her new sister-in-law doesn’t want to know her.   Middle brother Gabriel’s marriage suffers under a cloud of infidelity and gambling debts, while the youngest, Richard, keeps his dark secrets well hidden—and his wife suffers in silence.

Lisa and her mother are bonded by their powerful intuition, but dare not voice their fears about York Towers—or certain members of the family….

Love and loss, abduction, incestuous desires and murderous intent form the basis of this compelling saga in which horrors float just beneath the surface, to bring forth a shocking outcome.

History lovers may be interested to know that The House of York is loosely based on events during the era of the Wars of the Roses.

 

‘The House of York’ is available to buy now on:-

Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B016WNEEQO?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Amazon US – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B016WNEEQO?keywords=terry%20tyler&qid=1445404449&ref_=sr_1_7&s=books&sr=1-7

 

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