Mujeres en el Frente

Mujeres en el Frente is number 1 on Sagas and Video familiar, plus 8 on Ficción femenina on Amazon.es - Spain.



Poor House Lane Series

Editions of Poor House Lane Series have been published this month by Canelo, provided with good new covers.

1 -The Girl from Poor House Lane

What lengths will a mother go to in order to protect her son? The first in the historical Poor House Lane sagas The slums of Poor House Lane are no place to bring up a child, and Kate O'Connor struggles to make ends meet when her beloved husband is killed, leaving her a single mother with a baby to support on the meagre hand-outs she gleans from charity. So when the childless Tysons, owners of Kendal's shoe factory, offer to adopt her son, Callum, and employ Kate as his nanny, she seizes the chance to ensure he has a better life. To be so close to her son, yet no longer be his mother, is bittersweet. But Kate is not prepared for the jealousy the new arrangement provokes in Eliot Tyson's brother, Charles, who sees Callum as a direct threat to his inheritance…


2 -The Child from Nowhere

Kate finds herself back in Poor House Lane with some heartrending decisions to be made, not least how to find her missing son. Somehow she must also make a living for herself and help the women being abused by the hated Swainson. But nothing is straightforward, and her sister-in-law Lucy isn't done with her yet…


3 - The Woman from Heartbreak House

The Great War is over and Kate is ready to welcome back Eliot with open arms. But her husband is a changed man. Kate has become used to her independence, and Eliot's return creates tensions both at work and at home, particularly with Kate's son, Callum. It tears Kate apart to see such strife between the two men she loves most. And her sister-in-law seems determined to stir up the animosity in order to benefit her own son. But when tragedy strikes, Kate cannot imagine just how much trouble Lucy's ambition can cause…



Inspiration for Polly's Pride

The idea came from the story of Great Aunt Hannah who, back in the thirties in order to survive through difficult times, sold off all the furniture save for an earthenware bread bin and their bed. The bread bin thereafter held their food, and acted as a table or stool. With the money, she and her husband bought second hand carpets from auctions and better class homes, which they cut up to sell on the local market. They also bought many other items offered, such as small pictures, clocks, jugs and vases, even chamber pots. Anything saleable was grist to the mill for them to survive. Everything would be loaded on to a two-wheeled hand cart and transported home to their rented terraced house.

Carpets in those days were a luxury, most houses in working class areas covering their floors with lino, although kitchens were generally just scrubbed flags, perhaps with a rag rug made from scraps of old clothes. But when they first went into business they did not have the space or the facilities to properly clean the carpets before putting them up for sale. On one occasion Aunt Hannah was showing a carpet to a prospective buyer when a huge cockroach ran across it. Fortunately he didn’t see it as she quickly grabbed the horrible thing in her hand and held it until the customer had paid for the carpet and left. She must have been a tough lady.

They also bought the entire set of carpets from the German ship SS Leviathan which was being scrapped. In order to do that, and having refurnished from the profit made, they sold everything all over again, repeating this process several times. Gradually their hard work paid off and they expanded, renting the shop next door, and later bought property where they began to sell new carpets, as Polly does in the books. Aunt Hannah was such a kind lady that when my parents, who had married early in the war, finally set up home together in 1945 in rented premises as a shoe repairer, living behind the shop, she gave them a brand new carpet as a gift. They treasured this for much of their married life, as they’d only had Dad’s demob money, and otherwise would have been on bare boards.

I often use family stories, suitably adapted and fictionalised. In this case my aunt had a very happy marriage, not suffering the traumas that Polly was forced to endure.

ebooks and paperbacks available on Amazon

Polly’s Pride 

Polly's War


Quarry Bank Mill

We enjoyed a fascinating visit to Quarry Bank Mill at Styal, in Cheshire south of Manchester. 
This house is where children from aged nine lived and worked. There were about 60 girls and 30 boys, each viewed as an apprentice and had to stay for at least 10 years, or then continued working as an adult. They could work on the land as well as in the mill, the latter involving long working hours. They were also educated, fed, suitably treated medically, and slept upstairs two in a bed. Probably more beds than there are today. The conditions for them were reasonably appropriate, but if they ran off they'd be in trouble.

   And the mill was equally fascinating with looms and other details.

Here is a picture of the mill and the home of Samuel Gregg, the wealthy owner
who had a wife and thirteen children

Here are some details given to me by my daughter who works for National Trust.

"On Saturday 25 August, Quarry Bank in Cheshire reopens after a four year transformation project. Quarry Bank was once the site of one of the largest cotton manufacturing businesses in Britain. This £9.4 million transformation project has been supported by National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Fund and thousands of generous donors. It is one of the biggest projects in the Trust's history, as the conservation charity continues its commitment to bring the stories of its places to life.

Over the last three years, new areas of Quarry Bank have been restored and opened to visitors including the mill owners' home, a workers' cottage and a 19th century curvilinear glasshouse in the kitchen garden.

Now, with new facilities, galleries and interpretation in the mill itself, visitors will be able to experience the entire site for the first time. As one of the most complete survivals of an industrial revolution community, Quarry Bank contrasts the cramped living conditions of the mill workers and pauper apprentices with the grandeur of the owners' family home and picturesque gardens.

Joanne Hudson, General Manager at Quarry Bank, said: "This is an exciting moment for us as we invite our visitors to experience the complete story of Quarry Bank. It tells a story of social change and industrial revolution, rich and poor, mill owner and mill worker, the power of nature and the ingenuity of man; of benevolence and exploitation." 

For further details, please visit https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/quarry-bank/features/transforming-the-mill


Our latest cruise

We’ve recently enjoyed a wonderful cruise to Iceland. Absolutely fascinating and the weather managed to stay fairly calm and not too cold. We started with a visit to Hamburg, then on to Alesund, Godafoss, Isafjordur, Reykjavik. Loved seeing thermal springs in Iceland.

And the wonderful waterfalls at Godafoss. Beautiful!

We particularly liked the Sunmore Museum in Alesund in Norway, and going up to the top of a hill to view the harbour and surrounding area. You can have to climb up over 400 steps, but we took a bus. Much easier.

We also enjoyed exploring museums and land etc., in Reykjavik and other places, often using a hop on and hop off bus.

Our final stop was in Faroes, very quiet and remote, with a cloudy sky as we were taken round to emplore it on a coach.

Spending time on the ship, Queen Victoria, attending interesting talks, eating good food, dancing and watching shows, was a delight. Plus having plenty of time to read and relax. We are looking forward to our next cruise in 2019.


2018 RNA Conference

I enjoyed a most interesting conference with RNA this last weekend. The first thing I had to do was take part in a talk about sagas, together with Lizzie Lane, Jean Fullerton and Diane Allen. We all gave some interesting comments on this subject. A saga is generally a multi-generational story, about relationships, a sweeping tale of courage and bravery, pitted against evil. Families lived together in the past, forming close-knit communities. This is something we have lost in the modern world, family members often having to travel far to find work, family break-ups, and partners choosing not to marry at all. I’m sure it was equally difficult back in the old days, but it’s somehow easier to consider such issues back in the nostalgic past. Study the history of the period you choose. The genre should also use a multi-layered viewpoint and a page-turning plot, dealing with universal themes in a small domestic setting, and social history. The setting must be an intrinsic part of the book, a genuine sense of place that we know well and readers can recognise and identify. It’s not simply a question of painting pretty scenery. People love to read about a place they know, but do study the reality of the period involved in your story. I have fortunately written 35 sagas and 11 historicals, which have done well. Always enjoy writing those.

After that we were welcomed by Nicola Cornick, then listened to various talks given by other writers. On Friday evening I was welcomed by the Indie group, having supported them in the past to help them become full members of the RNA. We had a lovely glass of champagne and a good chat. I love to spend time with them and hear about the success of their self-publishing.

On Saturday there were plenty more talks on various subjects, including self-editing, romance, and adding mystery to your history novel. My favourite speaker was Barbara Erskine, interviewed by Nicola. I’ve heard her speak once before and loved her books from her very first one, Lady of Hay, many years ago and lots of others since. We then went on to experience a classic RNA evening meal, provided with a free drink before it. I was seated with a group of my friends, which proved to be delightful, as we kept on chatting till quite late at night.

Then on Sunday my favourite talk was given by Liam Livings and Virginia Heath about sensual love scenes. I generally do try to put some sex into my books, but they gave a reading of a written version that was absolutely hilarious. Such great fun! They then gave us good information and we had time to discuss with each other how to plan such love scenes in our next book. The last talk I heard was given by Patricia Rice, Mary Jo Putney, and Andrea Penrose. All from the US and excellent writers, giving us fascinating details of how they work. Then after lunch it was time to take the train home, which was sad and took quite a while from Leeds. But the whole conference had been excellent. Always good to meet up with old friends as well as remind ourselves how to keep writing.


A View of Characters

Creating characters, their names and making them believable in whatever book I’m writing, is always fascinating. Their appearance and behaviour comes into my head as I write, but I do try to work out in advance what kind of people they are. What is their main characteristic, and their major flaw? Often the two facets are linked. Independence can easily slip into stubborn obstinacy. Everyone has faults and it is these human failings which can bring a character alive for a reader, and explain their motivation for behaving as they do. Their backstory is also important, and how they relate to other people. Mothers do not treat their daughters in the same way as their father, certainly not in Girls of the Great War, but why? She’s a difficult woman who says nothing about her husband. Considering the various problems and viewpoints in a character can help to round them out.

To me, characters always come first. Also, they won’t always perform to my bidding. In Gracie’s Sin, I planned for one of the Timber Girls to have an affair, fearing she’d lost her husband in the war, but she loved him and determinedly remained loyal. Once I know a character thoroughly, who starts to live in my mind, I have to accept who they are and their plan in life. All I have to do is listen to their voice, write down their comments and the rest follows. I know it sounds crazy but that’s how it is. If I try to plot too much in advance, I somehow lose the drive to get the story down.

Though my characters often live in a fictitious village or street, which allows plenty of scope for my imagination about who lives in it and what they do, I put this into as accurate a setting as I can. I enjoy research and spend a great deal of time seeking out those little details to create a sense of reality. I take a great many photographs, draw maps and talk to people who have been involved in the type of industry or lifestyle which I am trying to recreate. I find inspiration and ideas from many sources: family memories, history of the places I’ve lived in such as the beautiful English Lake District and Cornwall. I also interview people, pick up ideas from newspapers, TV, and I have hundreds of books, old magazines, memoirs and documents of all kinds that I squirrel away in case they come in handy one day. A strong sense of place is essential for the kind of sagas and historical fiction I write.

Getting started on a new book takes time. I always have an overview, a beginning, middle and end, although how I will get there takes time for me to decide. I’m not a great plotter and planner. Once I have an idea of the main characters and the premise, I start writing into the mist and see what comes. Usually, by chapter four and five, I know what the next section will be about. When I reach three-quarters of the way, knowing all the characters well, comes the desire to write the book at greater speed, and then to edit, of course. And of course, I do lots of edits and rewrites once the original section is finished.

Extract from Girls of the Great War: 

Chapter One 

Christmas 1916 
Lights dimmed as a man dressed as Pierrot in a bright blue costume and pantaloons, peaked hat and a huge yellow bow beneath his chin, skipped merrily on to the stage singing ‘All the Nice Girls Love a Sailor’. He was quickly joined by a troop of dancing girls. They too were dressed like Pierrots, all of them looking ravishing in a pink costume with a wide frilled collar, long swirling skirt decorated with fluffy bobbles, and a tight-fitting black hat. They were complete visions of beauty who brought forth roars of excited approval from the audience. Pierrot waved his gloved hands at them, the theatre being packed with British and Belgian soldiers who responded with cheers and whistles.
    Cecily smilingly watched from the wings as she loved to do most evenings. A part of her ached to join the singers, something her mother would never agree to. Viewing herself as the star performer she expected her daughters to wait upon her hand, foot and fingers. Not that Cecily believed herself to be a good assistant, being too involved with working as a conductor on the electric trams now that most men were caught up in the war. Her mother disapproved of that. Cecily, however, firmly believed in making her own choices in life.
    Feeling a gentle tap on her shoulder, she found her sister at her side. ‘Her royal highness Queenie requires your assistance,’ Merryn whispered, her pretty freckled face wrapped in a jokey grin. ‘I’ve been dismissed, as she’s engaged in her usual bossy mood.’
    ‘Oh, not again!’ Stifling a sigh, Cecily accompanied Merryn back to the dressing room. Gazing in the mirror she recognised the familiar lack of focus in her mother’s blue eyes, proving she’d again been drinking. Despite seeing herself as a star, Queenie too often felt the need to overcome a sense of stage fright before she performed.
    ‘Merryn has made a total mess of my hair,’ she stuttered in a slurry voice.
    ‘I’m sure she didn’t mean to, Mama,’ Cecily calmly remarked, and reaching for a brush began to divide her mother’s curly blonde hair across the back of her head.
    ‘Never call me by that name. You know how I hate it.’
    She’d chosen to name herself Queenie years ago as she considered it more appropriate for her career than Martha, the name she was born with. And that was what she required her daughters to call her, having no wish to be reminded of her age. Merryn seemed to accept this. Cecily always felt the need to remind her of their true relationship, which irritatingly was not an easy one. She carefully twisted up a small strand of her mother’s hair and clipped it, then tucked the other portions neatly around before pinning them together with a glittering silver hair slide on the top of her head.
    Grabbing a curl, Queenie pulled it down to loop it over her left ear. ‘I’ve no wish for my hair to be all pinned up. Flick some over my ears.’
    ‘I thought you liked to look as neat and tidy as possible, Mama,’ Cecily said.
    ‘No, fluff it out, silly girl. How useless you are.’
    Cecily felt quite inadequate at this job and checked her success or lack of it by viewing her mother in the mirror. She was a slender, attractive woman with a pale complexion, pointed chin and ruby lips frequently curled into a pout, as they were doing now. But she was also vain, conceited, overly dramatic, emotionally unstable, selfish, overbearing and utterly neglectful. Queenie was never an easy woman to please, even when she was stone-cold sober. She was an exhibitionist and a star who demanded a great deal of nurturing and support, a task Merryn was extremely skilled and happy to do, save for when Queenie was completely blotto, as she was now. And having been scolded and dismissed countless times when her mother was drunk, her sister would sit in the corner reading Woman’s Weekly, taking not the slightest interest. Once Queenie sobered up she would happily treat her younger daughter as her favourite child in order to make Cecily feel unwanted, even though she’d done her best to help. Not that she ever felt jealous about this, always eager to act as a surrogate mother towards her beloved sister as Queenie could be equally neglectful of them both, wrapped up in herself and her tours.

Cecily Hanson longs to live life on her own terms—to leave the shadow of her overbearing mother and marry her childhood sweetheart once he returns from the Great War. But when her fiancé is lost at sea, this future is shattered. Looking for meaning again, she decides to perform for the troops in France. 

Life on the front line is both rewarding and terrifying, and Cecily soon finds herself more involved—and more in danger—than she ever thought possible. And her family has followed her to France. Her sister, Merryn, has fallen for a young drummer whose charm hides a dark side, while their mother, Queenie—a faded star of the stage tormented by her own secret heartache—seems set on a path of self-destruction. 

As the war draws to a close and their hopes turn once again to the future, Cecily and Merryn are more determined than ever to unravel the truth about their mother’s past: what has she been hiding from them—and why? 

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