30.5.18

How I came to be a writer.

I longed to become a writer but this was considered rather an exotic ambition so my parents encouraged me to get an education first. No one in my family had ever stayed on for further education before, so I was elected to blaze the trail. I qualified as a primary teacher and worked for a number of years. I married in 1969 and a few years later we moved to the Lake District with our two daughters. I then ran a bookshop for ten years and secretly wrote late in the night.

Later, when I sold my bookshop, I tried anything and everything. Short stories, serials, a children’s novel, picture scripts and a few Mills & Boon contemporaries, although I gained more rejection slips than cheques. The aim was to send material out faster than it came back, which wasn’t easy. We had a brilliant postal service and all the rejections would come bouncing back with remarkable speed. But at last the day came when I sold my first short story to D.C.Thompson. It was a red letter day indeed. That was also the name of the magazine, now defunct. Following this breakthrough I seemed to develop the knack for I went on to sell many more stories. With renewed confidence I tried again for Mills & Boon, this time with a historical, Madeiran Legacy, which was accepted. I wrote five historical romances as Marion Carr for Mills & Boon which greatly taught me my craft. Only later did I have sufficient confidence to try for the mainstream fiction market, selling my first saga, Luckpenny Land, to Hodder & Stoughton in 1993 on a three book contract.

I was fortunate back in 2010 to get the rights of many of my backlist reverted from a couple of publishers. Hearing about ebooks in the US I set out to learn how to produce them, finally achieved that and regularly self-published some. Sales began quite slowly, which didn’t trouble me as I was also writing for another publisher. But once Kindles arrived in the UK in Christmas 2011, I must say my sales shot up surprisingly well and I was amazed by my success. As a consequence in 2013, I was contacted by Amazon Lake Union for an interview, then later offered a contract by them. My first book with them, The Amber Keeper, soon sold over a hundred thousand, and has now sold more. Such a thrill. Selling ebooks is now much higher for me than print books. My second book was Forgotten Women, which is also doing quite well. Now comes publication of Girls of the Great War, which I loved writing too. This book was such fun to write, if sad and heartbreaking when Cecily lost the love of her life. She was concerned for herself, and also for her sister Merryn, who was engrossed with a young man Cecily did not approve of. He was not an easy young man.

Excerpt from Girls of the Great War: 

Later that afternoon Merryn eagerly hurried over to the Palace Theatre just a short distance away. The young drummer was fully engaged in rehearsal, the bandleader constantly hammering his baton to stop the musicians playing while he issued more instructions to them. She knew she would have to wait a while before he was free, so taking a seat she watched him. He was a cheerful young man with reddish hair, soft grey eyes that were constantly alight behind his spectacles, a slightly gap-toothed smile and a chiselled chin. Being a bit of a joker, Johnny Wilcox was great fun. When finally he was allowed a break, Merryn offered to buy him an afternoon tea at a nearby café.
     ‘There’s something I’d like to discuss with you over a little tiffin,’ she said with a smile.
     ‘That sounds good,’ he grinned, his expression filled with curiosity.
     As they sat enjoying tea and biscuits, Merryn told him of her sister’s plan to create a small concert party and entertain the troops in France.
     He looked a little taken aback. ‘Blimey, that’ll be a challenge. I wouldn’t want anything dreadful to happen to either of you two girls.’
     ‘I don’t think we’ll be anywhere near the front line where the fighting is going on. We just plan to entertain the soldiers at their bases. I know you appreciated how Cecily discovered her talent to sing. Oh, and by the way, I can play an accordion.’
     He gave another wide grin. ‘What a brick you are, a real sport. As you know, I play drums and cymbals, so can I come too?’
     Merryn blinked in surprise, amazed by this instant offer, having fully expected she’d need to persuade him. ‘You most certainly can. I was about to ask if you’d be interested, as we’d welcome your support. I doubt there’ll be any wages paid since we’ll be volunteers fed and accommodated by the army.’
     He creased his lips into a pout then gave a little smirk. ‘I’ll do my best to accept that fact. You’re a girl with great talent, as is Cecily. I’d love to work with you both.’
     The weather being sunny he walked with her to the beach, talking about the music they loved to play and how long it had taken each of them to learn these skills. ‘I’ve been playing drums all my life, ever since Dad bought me one for Christmas when I was ten. It kept me sane when I was suffering his loss.’
     ‘Oh, how dreadful. How did that happen? I know very little about your past.’
     ‘I was born in Barnsley in Yorkshire; part of a working class family who became even poorer after Dad was tragically killed in a mining accident. Such bloody bad luck. Following his death my mam worked as a cleaner, earning barely enough money to feed her six children, all of them younger than me. I eventually was able to help by getting myself a job playing my drum kit at a local pub. I was so thrilled with Dad’s present that I was determined to improve it and learn how to play well. Thankfully I succeeded.’
     ‘Good for you, Johnny, I’m glad to hear that. My father sadly drowned in the Thames when we were quite young, although how that happened has never been explained to us and we have little memory of him. Queenie refuses to say anything on the subject, not even explain why her marriage went wrong.’
     ‘My mam didn’t talk much about her early life either. Far too distressing for her.’
     Merryn decided that they had a great deal in common and could be well suited to work together, both being musicians. ‘I’m delighted to hear that you wish to join our team.’
     ‘Why would I not, when you’re so attractive?’
     Merryn rolled her eyes in amusement, having no belief in her own looks. She saw herself as quite plain, a little too round and simply practical, interested mainly in fashion, sewing, make-up and hairstyles. Cecily had always been the pretty one with talent and plenty of young men falling for her, whereas she’d never found a boy who really took a shine to her. Merryn adored her sister and felt quite proud of her famous mother too, readily willing to deal with Queenie’s problems. His next words startled her out of those thoughts.
     ‘Can I give you a little kiss of thanks,’ Johnny murmured.
     ‘I’m not sure that would be a good idea,’ she stuttered. He was a most pleasant young man, if a little flirtatious.
     ‘I must confess that I’ve always felt the need for more closeness between us.’ Taking hold of her hand he gave it a gentle little kiss.


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? 

Amazon UK

Amazon US

22.5.18

Publication of my latest book


I was very fortunate back in 2010 to get the rights of many of my backlist reverted from a couple of publishers. Hearing about ebooks in the US I set out to learn how to produce them, finally achieved that and regularly self-published some. Sales began quite slowly, which didn’t trouble me as I was also writing for another publisher. But once Kindles arrived in the UK in Christmas 2011, I must say my sales shot up surprisingly well and I was amazed by my success. As a consequence in 2013, I was contacted by Amazon Lake Union for an interview, then later offered a contract by them. My first book with them, The Amber Keeper, soon sold over a hundred thousand, and has now sold more. Such a thrill. Selling ebooks is now much higher for me than print books. My second book was Forgotten Women, which is also doing quite well.

Now comes publication of Girls of the Great War, which I loved writing too. I was always supported by my parents, but Cecily in this story had enormous problems with her mother. And there was no sign of her father, which was a great worry to her and her sister Merryn. Queenie was a most difficult woman, refusing to speak of him. She also greatly objected to her boyfriend and plan not to marry a rich man. Her attitude did not please Cecily at all, particularly as the love of her life was currently involved in the war. And when she lost him, she very much wished to perform for soldiers in the Great War

Extract from Girls of the Great War:
Ewan Godolphin was tall and athletic with powerful shoulders and long lean legs, dark brown eyes and gloriously good looking. His face had appeared a little more rugged and tired than usual, as a consequence of all he was suffering in this war. His expression was still filled with warmth, compassion and love. Once he’d returned to his battalion Cecily continued to write to him most days and received regular letters in response. There were periods when she heard nothing at all from him in ages, as had been the case recently. A quiver of fear would rustle through her until his next letter arrived.
    ‘That boy has little hope of ever earning a decent living,’ Queenie sternly announced. ‘And do not assume for one moment that I will supply you with the necessary funds if you do marry him. I have quite enough expenses, not least dealing with the upkeep of this fine mansion house. You need a man with money and status who can provide you with a wonderful life.’
    The irritating thing was that she seemed perfectly content for Merryn to remain at home as her carer, while constantly urging Cecily to marry a rich man with whom she could live her life elsewhere. She’d no intention of obeying such ridiculous instructions, while Merryn was most keen to marry.
    ‘Happiness in marriage is not about money,’ she remarked dismissively, giving a little chuckle in the hope of lightening her mother’s temper. ‘I really have no wish to be a domesticated, stay-at-home wife with a man I don’t love. I fully intend to live the kind of life that suits me. Ewan is not against my working for a living and proud of the job I do for the electric trams. It’s not quite what I would have chosen to do, but with this war on, I feel it’s right to do my bit. I accept it won’t be easy to find more interesting employment once it is over, or earn sufficient money, particularly as women do not get equal pay let alone the right to vote. That could change with time, and I’ll find something that appeals to me.’
    ‘Why would you? A young woman’s job should end once she marries.’
    Cecily groaned. ‘You sound so Victorian, Mama.’
    ‘Nonsense! Once a woman is married, she must devote herself to being a good wife and mother. I mistakenly did not do that.’
    ‘How brave of you to admit that, Mama. What was it you did wrong?’ Cecily asked, surprised to hear her confess this fault.
    ‘There were times when I felt as if life was treating me like a piece of rubbish. I encountered endless problems, not least the lack of love from my husband. I have no wish to remember his dismissive attitude towards me. You should do what is right and proper in order to find happiness and prosperity.’
    Cecily had constantly asked questions about what sort of a man her father was and why he had left them and tragically drowned, receiving no response. Both girls felt bereft at losing a father over whom they had very little memory. There was no point in harassing her further on this subject. ‘Please don’t assume that because your marriage failed, mine will too. Ewan and I are happy together and will make a success of it. If you made the wrong choice of husband, do tell me why?’
    Giving a frown Queenie again turned away, avoiding meeting her enquiring gaze. ‘Your father was not an easy man and I was most thankful to see the back of him.’
    ‘If that is the case, why do I still find you crying for him sometimes, even in your nightmares?’
    ‘I’m not weeping for him or longing for his return. I’m merely furious at the mess he made of my life, which is why I advise you to ensure yours is better. When I was young I was entirely naïve and dreamed of a perfect marriage. Nothing worked out quite as I’d hoped. Dean ruined my life and I was left feeling in desperate need of love and care. As a consequence, I am extremely thankful for my success on stage and have no desire to discuss this issue further, with you or anyone.’
    Cecily stifled a sigh. Was that because her mother had little patience with other people’s points of view, being obsessed with her own opinions and insisting upon complete control of her life? She suspected Queenie might have acquired the art of adjusting her life story by making up false tales in order to avoid revealing certain heart-rending facts. Cecily found it so frustrating that she refused to confide in them about what went wrong with her marriage, and whether their father had suffered an accident or killed himself.


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? 

Amazon UK

Amazon US

1.5.18

Extract from - Girls of the Great War

Prologue 1894 


She was running as fast as her legs could carry her, rocks constantly tripping her up, and a blanket of trees towering around so that she could barely see where she was going. The sound of heavy feet pounded behind, filling her with panic. Was he chasing her again? Would she be captured? Breathless with fear she ran all the faster, knowing what would happen if she did not escape. She could feel her heart hammering, tension freezing every limb. Then pain rattled through her back with merciless precision. She felt utterly powerless and vulnerable, petrified of what might happen. 
     A hand tapped her cheek and she jerked awake in panic.
     ‘Wake up, Martha, it’s time for breakfast.’
     Staring into her mother’s eyes, the young girl gave a small sigh of relief. So this had been yet another nightmare, a trauma she suffered from constantly. The emotion attached to it always cloaked her in absolute terror. At least she had managed to sleep a little last night, which was never easy. Tension would mount within her whenever she went to bed, no longer a relaxing time. Now pain and fear escalated through her once more and she cried out in agony.
    It seemed that having spent nearly five months virtually locked away in her room, she was now about to give birth, although she had only just turned seventeen.
     A part of her longed to vanish into oblivion, to disappear back into the world she’d once enjoyed, not least her happy and privileged childhood. Why had that all gone wrong after her beloved father died? Would she now die? Many women did when suffering this traumatic event. Would the good Lord take her to heaven? Her soul having no real attachment to Him, it was doubtful He would trust in her innocence and accept her. Nor did her mother, who’d made it clear she didn’t believe a word her daughter said. She no longer viewed her as respectable and had offered no sympathy or support, declaring that no one must ever learn of her condition.
     Martha gazed up at the window, her blue eyes glittering with desolation. How she ached to catch a glimpse of the sun, the cliffs and the sea. Oh, and how she missed her life. Her mind flicked back to the young man she’d once grown fond of. He was most handsome, dressed in baggy trousers, and lived in one of the fisherman’s huts. Whenever he wasn’t away at sea working in smacks and yawls to catch fish, he’d be in a local pub eating, drinking or gambling. He also spent much of his time sitting by the harbour mending nets. They’d sometimes listen to the band down on the bay along with crowds of spectators, or watch a concert and dancing. Claiming he adored her, he’d give her sweet kisses and had her name tattooed on to his arm. Then one day, when she’d excitedly hurried to meet him, as usual, he’d told her he was off to America in search of a new life, having become bored with fishing. She’d felt utterly devastated. He was so charming and helpful over her family problems that she was almost falling in love with him. How she missed him, but if he were still around why would he ever agree to marry her?
     Now water suddenly flushed out of her and the sound of her screaming echoed around the room, bouncing against the shutters that blocked the window. Over the next several hours she sank into more agony with no doctor or midwife around to help, only Enid her maid and of course Mama. Whenever another bolt of merciless pain struck, she struggled to sit up in a bid to resist it, only to be pushed back down by her scolding mother.
     Finally, something solid slid out of her, leaving her breathless and exhausted. She felt hands pressing upon her belly and more stuff flopped out, including blood that soaked the bed sheets. Then she found herself being briskly washed, wiped, stripped and dressed by the maid, making her feel like a piece of dirt. Not a single word had been spoken to her, save for orders to push hard and stop screaming. And no comfort offered.
     Whatever child had been delivered was now swept up into her mother’s arms and she marched away, slamming the door behind her. Martha gave a small sob of distress aware she’d been informed the baby would instantly be given away for adoption. She certainly would not be allowed to keep it. If only her life could return to normal but the harsh, uncaring attitude of her mother proved that would never happen.
     It came to her then that with the agony of her imprisonment and this birth finally over, she had no desire to stay here any longer. In order to maintain her safety, she needed to go as far away from here as possible, and change her name. The time had come for her to leave home and build a new life for herself. Then she’d find herself a husband and become respectable again.

A section of 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.
     There came a rap on the door. ‘Three minutes on stage please,’ called a voice.
     ‘You should have a drink of water,’ Cecily quietly suggested. ‘It might help to mobilise your voice and cool you down.’
     ‘How dare you say such a thing! My voice is fine,’ Queenie snapped.
     Reaching for a jug, Cecily poured a glass and placed it on the table. ‘Do take a sip to improve it, Mama.’
     Filled with her usual tantrum she snatched the jug and tossed the water over her daughter’s head. Then she swept the glass of water, a box of make-up, brushes, jars of cream and all other items off the dressing table onto the floor, swirled around and marched away.
     Grabbing a towel, Merryn rushed over to pat Cecily’s damp hair and face.
     ‘Don’t worry, it’ll soon dry off,’ Cecily said, rolling her eyes in droll humour. ‘Come on, we need to make sure Mama calms down and performs well.’
     Giving a wry smile, Merryn nodded, and they both scurried after her.


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? 

Published 22 May 2018

Amazon UK

Amazon US