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Posts Tagged ‘World War 1’

Today I’d like to welcome Francesca Capaldi, whose debut, ‘Heartbreak in the Valleys’, has just been released by Hera Books. I wanted to ask Francesca about her inspiration and her writing process – and about writing a saga set in Wales.

 

Can you tell us a little of your writing journey and how you came to write ‘Heartbreak in the Valleys’. Did you always want to set a book in Wales?

I’d wanted to be a writer since I was a child, but didn’t send anything for publication until I joined an adult education class. I started with short story sales. After a while I started writing various novels as well, young adult and contemporary romance, none of which were picked up, although three pocket novels were bought by DC Thomson. One of the contemporary novels was set in Ceredigion, but one agent told me that nobody wanted novels set in Wales! Being half Welsh, it made me more determined that there should be novels set in Wales!

Did you find writing for magazines helping in writing your novels?

On the whole, yes. Writing magazine stories helps you to write concisely and I do think it’s easier to start with them and move to novels rather than do it the other way round. It’s also less daunting to start with short stories. Getting a few accepted for publication gave me the courage to try something longer.

I’m interested to see the story of Idris and Anwen was inspired by your own family history. What drew you to explore your history, and do you feel there is anything we can learn from the time of WW1, particularly in the light of the current global pandemic?

I’ve long been interested in my family history, especially with my parents coming from very different backgrounds (my father was Italian). On the Ancestry site, I discovered my great grandfather’s World War 1 military record and the fact he was medically discharged eight months after he enlisted. The novel started life as a short story, but having had a passion for social history since my degree, I was soon researching the records for other information. And so was born Heartbreak in the Valleys.

I have seen quite a few parallels between the current pandemic and World War 1. Food shortages is an obvious one. People have taken more to growing their own now, as they did then with the allotment schemes. In the early stages of this pandemic, nobody knew how long food shortages would last and how severe the pandemic would get, which is much like the war. The Spanish ‘flu pandemic that started in 1918, has already been used as a parallel in the media, though there were many diseases causing widespread mortality before that. These included tuberculosis (‘consumption’), which three women in my family died of and the diphtheria epidemic of 1914. As awful as this pandemic is, it gives us an idea of what people of the past lived with constantly.

I loved the portrayal of the village community, and particularly all the characters. Did you base the village and its characters on specific places and people you know?

The village, which I call Dorcalon (literally, ‘Heartbreak’), is based almost entirely on Abertysswg in the Rhymney Valley. It’s where my mother and her mother were born, and where my great grandparents lived for thirty-odd years. I’ve taken a few liberties with it, which is why I didn’t want to give it its real name. Although the seed for the story was my great grandfather Hugh’s medical discharge, Idris is not based on him at all. The only real person who appears in the story (apart from mentions of historical people like Lloyd George) is a minor character called Mary Jones. She was my great gran, on the other side of the family from Hugh. Everyone else is a product of my overactive imagination!

How did you go about getting the historical details right, and creating the atmosphere of the world of WW1?

Lots of research and reading. I have several social history books, including accounts written by people living at the time. I trawled the 1911 census for an idea of the makeup of households and family size, job descriptions and places of origin. I read through contemporary local papers for types of social activities, shops, court proceedings and so on. I found several websites about the local pals’ battalion. I also looked at the historical OS maps.

It was interesting seeing the mixing of the different classes as the community pulled together to survive the shortages. Was there any particular story, or part of your research that inspired this part of the novel?

I think it was reading something of the Suffragettes that helped form the character of Elizabeth, the manager’s daughter, who I saw immediately as an enlightened woman of her times. The Suffragettes put their activities to one side during this time to help the war effort and I realised that Elizabeth would be the kind of woman who’d want to make a difference, hence her idea for the allotments.

Can you say what are you writing now?

I haven’t long finished another Valleys book, which is due out in the Autumn. I’m taking the opportunity to create a couple of short stories for magazines – I’ve missed writing them!

Thank you for joining me on the blog, Francesca – and I’m looking forward to the next ‘Valleys’ story already! 

 

Heartbreak in the Valleys

You can purchase a copy of the book HERE

November 1915. For young housemaid, Anwen Rhys, life is hard in the Welsh mining village of Dorcalon, deep in the Rhymney Valley. She cares for her ill mother and beloved younger sister Sara, all while shielding them from her father’s drunken, violent temper. Anwen comforts herself with her love for childhood sweetheart, Idris Hughes, away fighting in the Great War.

Yet when Idris returns, he is a changed man; no longer the innocent boy she loved, he is harder, more distant, quickly breaking off their engagement. And when tragedy once again strikes her family, Anwen’s heart is completely broken.

But when an explosion at the pit brings unimaginable heartache to Dorcalon, Anwen and Idris put their feelings aside to unite their mining community.

In the midst of despair, can Anwen find hope again? And will she ever find the happiness she deserves?

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Publication of

The Ferryman’s Daughter!

The bowl is from Cornwall and as for the apples – well you’ll have to read the book to find out!

Today is publication day for The Ferryman’s Daughter, my very first book for Orion. We may be in lockdown, in an uncertain world, and definitely with no opportunities for wild celebrations, but I’m still wonderfully amazed and excited to see my novel sail out into the world.

I loved the time I spent with Hester, the passionate, independent-minded and determined heroine of The Ferryman’s Daughter. The original inspiration for Hester was Rosa Lewis, who in Victorian times rose from a kitchen maid to cooking for royalty and owning her own hotel and who was also the inspiration for the popular TV drama series ‘The Duchess of Duke Street’, which is still repeated now and again.

But when I was writing my story of resilience and friendship overcoming the uncertainties brought to a community facing

St Ives, in Cornwall, where the story is set

WW1, I never thought how much this would resonate in the lockdown life of a global pandemic. On the other hand, it also feels similar because of the way so many of us have been brought together, and that, for the most part, it’s kindness and solidarity that is getting us through.

So I hope you enjoy the story of Hester, who never gives up on her own dreams, while helping the nurses and volunteers nursing the survivors of the battlefield back to health again. I love that Hester remains doggedly positive, whatever life might throw at her. I’m holding onto that too.

The UK edition is available HERE

The US edition is available HERE

To celebrate publication day, here is the recipe from the book for the most delicious apple cake. Simple but tasty – and the very thing to cheer up life in lockdown.

Jan’s Scrumptious Apple Cake (the inspiration for Hester’s mum’s best apple cake)

250 g butter

225 g caster sugar

3 eggs

Half cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

260 g sifted self-raising flour

2 lemons

 

For decoration:

Two or three eating apples (coxes or russet are best) unpeeled

One lemon

Sugar and water for lemon syrup

 

Preheat oven to 180c/ 350f/gas mark 4. Grease and line a 23cm/ 9inch springform tin.

 

Combine butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Slowly add the eggs, milk and vanilla extract. Fold in the flour and the grated rind of two lemons. Spoon batter into the tin. Slice the apples and arrange until the top of the cake is completely covered. Bake in the middle of the oven for one hour (or until a skewer comes out clean).

Meanwhile, cut thin strips of lemon rind and boil in water and sugar until crystallised. Roll into curls. As the cake cools, make holes with a skewer and pour in the sugar syrup. Decorate the cake with the crystallised lemon peel.

Serve warm or cold, with a generous dollop of clotted cream

 

And the sea is St Ives in Cornwall, where The Ferryman’s Daughter is set. This was a wild and windy day a couple of years ago. I was planning to go back this summer – maybe next year!

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Today I’m delighted to welcome fellow Honno Press author, Pembrokeshire-based Judith Barrow, to the blog. I’ve long been a fan of Judith’s brilliant historical family sagas, the ‘Patterns’ trilogy, which follows the story of the Howarth family. So it’s great to be part of the blog tour for Judith’s latest saga, ‘One Hundred Tiny threads’.

Hello Judith, and welcome to the blog.  ‘One Hundred Tiny Threads’ is a gripping prequel to your ‘Patterns’ trilogy that sets the scene for the stories that go down the generations. What drew you to write a prequel? Was it to delve further into the background of your characters, or was it the time in which ‘100 Tiny Threads’ is set?

I’ve said many times that these two characters wouldn’t leave me alone when I’d finished the trilogy; they wanted to explain themselves; to tell their stories. And I have to admit I didn’t resist too much; the era of the first decades in the twentieth century have fascinated me all my life.

It was the time of the most horrific devastating war; of loss of men and women; something that haunted me for a long time after the first time I saw images and read of it and since I studied the first World War poets.

And, socially, these were the years of dreadful hardships even through the weakening of class divisions that had been so rigid in the past.Then there was the political unrest between the UK and Ireland. My grandparents came from Ireland. My grandfather was a particularly angry man and I never knew why until I was older and I was told of his reluctance – and resistance – to moving to the UK until eventually being persuaded by my grandmother and the fact that he couldn’t get work to feed his ever growing family in the village where they lived. He hated it and, I think, always resented my grandmother. He loved the outdoors and spent much of his working life underground in the coalmines. And he was a strongly political man and a Union leader.

The story of the book is set against dramatic political upheavals. Was there a particular reason that you set part of the book against the background of conflict in Ireland?

I think I partially answered this in your previous question, Juliet but I would like to explain more. When I knew I was going to let Winifred and Bill tell me about their lives I knew I would have to do a lot of research about Ireland at the time that my grandad was a young man because I had the feeling that Bill had been there at the same time. Mind you, it’s no hardship to research; I love and spend hours (more than I should, by the way) researching for my books. Although, for some reason I didn’t have to do as much research for Living in the Shadows set in nineteen sixty-nine – ha-ha!! Sorry, I digress.

The research gave me a greater understanding of the reasons for the fight for Independence. I never knew that the Easter Rebellion had such little support from the rest of Ireland; that it was the execution of fifteen rebel leaders, ordered by General Sir John Maxwell, the Commander of the British troops in Ireland, that turned those leaders into heroes and established Sinn Fein so firmly in the hearts and minds of so many Irish people. Nor did I know an awful lot about the Black and Tans initially. There was violence on both sides but the Black and Tans became notorious for the killing and torturing of men and the burning and looting of property. For a man such as Bill with his unstable childhood, his mostly solitary life and experiences in the first World War, it felt inevitable that, coming out of the uniform of a soldier to unemployment and homelessness, he would succumb to the bribery of ten shillings a week and a familiar home of army barracks; he would join the Black and Tans

I know what you mean about research! That is fascinating. Can I also ask how  you went about your research into the actions of the Suffragettes? Was there a particular reason you were drawn to that side of the story?

I wanted to show that Winifred was a feistier woman when young, even if for such a short while. Growing up under her mother’s thumb she rebelled only in her thoughts. And it took the backing of her new friend, Honora to encourage her to break through the natural reticence and timidity that is shown in Pattern of Shadows. I think, with the loss of the people in her life that believed in the inner person (giving nothing away here!) it became easier for her to acquiesce and accept what she was given as she grew older.

You tell much of the story through the eyes of a complex male character. Did you find it more difficult to get inside his head that inside the head of your female characters? And did you find it difficult to balance the two sides of the story?

It’s never been difficult for me as a writer to get inside the heads of my male characters. I do ‘get on’ with men in real life… (Hmm, perhaps I should rephrase that?). In my working life I mixed mostly with men; I learned to stay quiet and listen to their conversations and how they felt about various subjects. That environment stood me in good stead in many circumstances and I’ve used those emotions to round out even the most difficult of my male characters. And, as I said, I also had a most vocal grandfather. And, by the way, a most difficult father so I had lots of memories to fall back on. As for the mellower, ‘nicer’ side of Bill I have my husband to study (but don’t tell him that). Oh dear it does sound as if I’ve studied men from an empirical slant doesn’t it.

For female characters I’ve used my imagination … well, I’m not going to say I’ve used my friends and their reactions to anything , am I? And, being a woman, it does help me to know how I generally feel about situations – and that can be turned on its head.

Keeping the balance in the story was quite difficult. I hope I succeeded… mostly.

I won’t mention a thing! (I’ve met Judith’s husband, and he’s lovely). I’m glad you’ve got such good research subjects. I liked the way your male characters were rounded human beings rather than heroes or villains, which can be the temptation! Can I also ask ifyou plot your novels in detail, or do you find they evolve as you write them?

Oh, I do try so hard to plot! But usually they evolve as the story continues; either because I realise a character wouldn’t do as I want them to or because a certain thread of the book isn’t working.

Do you have one thing you enjoy (and/or) hate about the editing process?

I enjoy, oh so much, the last draft of the book, when I know it’s the best I can do. Then I hate the editing when I realise it’s not the best I can do and I have to rework and alter until it really is finished.

That made me laugh – I totally agree. That’s the feelings I have too, and we have such really good editors at Honno, who don’t let us get away with a thing! So, I have to ask, what are you planning to write next? Will there be another story connected to the Howarth family?

Well, that’s a question! I have written eight short stories of the minor characters in the trilogy. Two of them are shouting out for me to write about them. But the book I have almost ready to go to the editor is different. It’s still about a family but it’s more contemporary and examines a different aspect of life. Still, I’m not sure I’ve completely left behind the Howarth family.

Thank you, Judith, and happy writing (and editing) – I’m already looking forward to the next book!

If you would like to meet Judith in person, she will be at the Narberth Book Fair on September 23rd.

A Hundred Tiny Threads

You can buy a copy of the novel from Honno Press HERE

And the Kindle edition from Amazon HERE 

You can learn more about Judith and follow her blog HERE

It takes more than just love to make a marriage… It’s 1911 and Winifred Duffy is a determined young woman eager for a life beyond the grocer’s shop counter. The Great War intervenes leaving her facing difficult choices in love and life.

Praise for previous novels in the Howarth family series:
“Not… an ordinary romance but a book that deals with important issues which are still relevant today” Historical Novels Review

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Thank you to everyone who tweeted and retweeted and shared on Facebook about ‘We That are Left’ being in the Kindle Daily Deal.

 

 

Seed cake

 

Thanks to all your support it soon became a ‘mover and shaker’ in the Kindle charts. It reached #31 in the Kindle store and the dizzy heights of #1 in the ‘Family Sagas’ category!

WTAL 1 Family sagas Nov 14 full price

 

So thank you to everyone who downloaded it – and everyone who got the word out there. 🙂

Thinking time

 

 

 

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I am delighted that my WW1 novel ‘We That are Left’ is £0.99 pence in the Kindle Daily Deal today –

But for one day only!

 “We That are Left’ was published by Honno Press in February 2014. It is the story of the brave and resourceful women of the First World War, both at home and on the battlefields of France, and of one woman’s journey of self-discovery from which there is no going back. It is a story of friendship and survival, and includes original recipes and remedies of the time. ‘We That are Left’ was completed with the aid of a Writer’s Bursary from Literature Wales and in March 2014 was Waterstones Wales Book of the Month, Wales Independent Bookshops Book of the Month and Wales National Museums Book of the Month.

‘We That Are Left’

National Museums of Wales Book of the Month small
“August 4th, 1914: It was the day of champagne and raspberries, the day the world changed.”

Elin lives a luxurious but lonely life at Hiram Hall. Her husband Hugo loves her but he has never recovered from the Boer War. Now another war threatens to destroy everything she knows.

With Hugo at the front, and her cousin Alice and friend Mouse working for the war effort, Elin has to learn to run the estate in Cornwall, growing much needed food, sharing her mother’s recipes and making new friends – and enemies. But when Mouse is in danger, Elin must face up to the horrors in France herself.

And when the Great War is finally over, Elin’s battles prove to have only just begun.

The Trailer for ‘We That are Left’

Praise for ‘We That are Left’

You can read the 9/10 review of  ‘A Spoonful of Happy Endings’ here

and Rosie Amber’s five star review here

“powerful and moving”
Trisha Ashley (http://trishaashley.com/)

“‘We That Are Left’ spans the four long, life-changing years of 1914-1918 and beyond, portraying the effects of the war not merely on the novel’s characters but on British society as a whole, capturing the final days of a passing era and way of life. It is beautifully written, wonderfully paced. There is romance, adventure and suspense. And there is, as in Eden’s Garden, quiet contemplation of the themes of grief, loss and loyalty, and of the way in which our past experiences shape our future selves. It is, quite simply, a riveting read.”

Suzy Ceulan Hughes, http://www.gwales.com

“There are few greater delights than a book that draws you in from the very first pages and immediately makes you care about what happens next, that demands your attention in every free moment you can conjure until the end.”
Claire McAlpine, Word by Word (http://clairemca.wordpress.com/)

The legendary WW1 Poppy Seed Cake from an original recipe that you can find in the book. Delicious!

Seed cake

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Thank you to everyone who entered the two competitions to win the signed copies of ‘We That are Left’ as part of the Literary Giveaway Blog Hop.

literarybloghopnovember-1

Phoebe sends her apologies for being late with her part of the draw. She has been feeling a bit delicate due to the fireworks surrounding Bonfire Night here in the UK. It’s raining today so she’s been able to concentrate on the task at hand.

And so the winners are …. (drumroll)

The winner of the Rafflecopter random draw is –  Piroska Blanchette!

Congratulations Piroska and signed copy is winging its way over the ocean towards you.

 

Phoebe has just completed her draw. We agreed that the first to fly out of the bowl would be the winner. In the end several shot off at once so it was the one that landed nearest the copy of ‘We That are Left.’

 

Phoebe choosing 3

Phoebe sets to work

Phoebe choosing 1

Entries go flying ….

 

Phoebe chosen

Phoebe approves the winner

And the winner of Phoebe’s draw from the hat/bowl is – Jen Fishler! 

Congratulations Jen and I’m just off to let you know the good news.

Thank you to everyone and I hope the winners enjoy ‘We That are Left’ – and try out the recipe for the WW1 poppy seed cake. Delicious.

There are 5 copies of my first book for Honno ‘Eden’s Garden’ currently in a Goodreads giveaway  – and watch this space for a chance to win signed copies of ‘Eden’s Garden’ here too.

Enjoy!

WW1 Seed Cake small

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literarybloghopnovember-1

 

Thank you to everyone who has entered the Rafflecopter draw to win a copy of ‘We That are Left’ (and which is still open). For all those who are not on Twitter (and anyone who would like two chances to win!) there’s now a second signed copy to be won. To enter the draw, all you have to do is to follow this blog and put a comment below this post. All names will be placed in a hat on November 6th and the winner will be chosen in time-honoured fashion by Phoebe the collie and announced on the blog.  You are welcome to enter both draws!

P1010570

The Author’s Secretary in action earlier this year

 

You can enter the Rafflecopter draw in the original post HERE

The ninth Literary Blog Hop this weekend (November 1st – 5th) is  Hosted by Judith@leeswammes.wordpress.com/

There are over 30 participants joining in the hop (you can find links to all of them at the end of this post), all offering exciting prizes for book lovers everywhere – so check them out!

As my part of the hop, I offering a chance to win a signed copy (which will wing its way to you wherever you may be, this side of Mars) of my novel ‘We That are Left’, which was published in February this year by the wonderful Honno Press.

“We That are Left’ is the story of the brave and resourceful women of the First World War, both at home and on the battlefields of France, and of one woman’s journey of self-discovery from which there is no going back. It is a story of friendship and survival, and includes original recipes and remedies of the time. ‘We That are Left’ was completed with the aid of a Writer’s Bursary from Literature Wales and in March 2014 was Waterstones Wales Book of the Month, Wales Independent Bookshops Book of the Month and Wales National Museums Book of the Month. At the same time, my previous book for Honno, ‘Eden’s Garden’ became a finalist for ‘The People’s Book Prize’.  Over the summer, both books reached the top #5 in the Amazon Kindle store.

‘We That Are Left’

“August 4th, 1914: It was the day of champagne and raspberries, the day the world changed.”

Elin lives a luxurious but lonely life at Hiram Hall. Her husband Hugo loves her but he has never recovered from the Boer War. Now another war threatens to destroy everything she knows.

With Hugo at the front, and her cousin Alice and friend Mouse working for the war effort, Elin has to learn to run the estate in Cornwall, growing much needed food, sharing her mother’s recipes and making new friends – and enemies. But when Mouse is in danger, Elin must face up to the horrors in France herself.

And when the Great War is finally over, Elin’s battles prove to have only just begun.

Praise for ‘We That are Left’

“powerful and moving”
Trisha Ashley (http://trishaashley.com/)

“‘We That Are Left’ spans the four long, life-changing years of 1914-1918 and beyond, portraying the effects of the war not merely on the novel’s characters but on British society as a whole, capturing the final days of a passing era and way of life. It is beautifully written, wonderfully paced. There is romance, adventure and suspense. And there is, as in Eden’s Garden, quiet contemplation of the themes of grief, loss and loyalty, and of the way in which our past experiences shape our future selves. It is, quite simply, a riveting read.”

Suzy Ceulan Hughes, http://www.gwales.com

“There are few greater delights than a book that draws you in from the very first pages and immediately makes you care about what happens next, that demands your attention in every free moment you can conjure until the end.”
Claire McAlpine, Word by Word (http://clairemca.wordpress.com/)

CHECK OUT THE BRILLIANT BOOK LOVERS TAKING PART IN THE GIVEAWAY – JUST CLICK ON THE LINKS BELOW.  

  1. Leeswammes
  2. Read Her Like an Open Book (US/CA)
  3. My Book Self (N. Am.)
  4. The Book Stop
  5. My Book Retreat (US)
  6. Books in the Burbs (US)
  7. Guiltless Reading
  8. Word by Word
  9. Juliet Greenwood
  10. BooksandLiliane
  11. Words for Worms (US)
  12. The Relentless Reader
  13. The Misfortune of Knowing
  14. The Friday Morning Bookclub (US)
  15. Readerbuzz
  16. Lavender Likes, Loves, Finds and Dreams
  17. The Emerald City Book Review
  18. Wensend
  1. Laurie Here
  2. A Cup Of Tea, A Friend, And A Book (US)
  3. Moon Shine Art Spot (US)
  4. I’d Rather Be Reading At The Beach (US)
  5. Lost Generation Reader
  6. Books Speak Volumes
  7. Mom’s Small Victories (US)
  8. Books on the Table (US)
  9. Orange Pekoe Reviews
  10. Lavender Likes, Loves, Finds and Dreams
  11. Words And Peace (US)
  12. Booklover Book Reviews
  13. Inside the Secret World of Allison Bruning (US)

Read Full Post »

literarybloghopnovember-1

 

I am delighted to be taking part in The ninth Literary Blog Hop this weekend (November 1st – 5th) Hosted by Judith@leeswammes.wordpress.com/

There are over 30 participants joining in the hop (you can find links to all of them at the end of this post), all offering exciting prizes for book lovers everywhere – so check them out!

As my part of the hop, I offering a chance to win a signed copy (which will wing its way to you wherever you may be, this side of Mars) of my novel ‘We That are Left’, which was published in February this year by the wonderful Honno Press.

“We That are Left’ is the story of the brave and resourceful women of the First World War, both at home and on the battlefields of France, and of one woman’s journey of self-discovery from which there is no going back. It is a story of friendship and survival, and includes original recipes and remedies of the time. ‘We That are Left’ was completed with the aid of a Writer’s Bursary from Literature Wales and in March 2014 was Waterstones Wales Book of the Month, Wales Independent Bookshops Book of the Month and Wales National Museums Book of the Month. At the same time, my previous book for Honno, ‘Eden’s Garden’ became a finalist for ‘The People’s Book Prize’.  Over the summer, both books reached the top #5 in the Amazon Kindle store.

To win the signed copy simply enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below- all you have to do is tweet to be in with a chance!

(There’s now a second chance without using Rafflecopter – check out the next post here) 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

‘We That Are Left’

“August 4th, 1914: It was the day of champagne and raspberries, the day the world changed.”

Elin lives a luxurious but lonely life at Hiram Hall. Her husband Hugo loves her but he has never recovered from the Boer War. Now another war threatens to destroy everything she knows.

With Hugo at the front, and her cousin Alice and friend Mouse working for the war effort, Elin has to learn to run the estate in Cornwall, growing much needed food, sharing her mother’s recipes and making new friends – and enemies. But when Mouse is in danger, Elin must face up to the horrors in France herself.

And when the Great War is finally over, Elin’s battles prove to have only just begun.

Praise for ‘We That are Left’

“powerful and moving”
Trisha Ashley (http://trishaashley.com/)

“‘We That Are Left’ spans the four long, life-changing years of 1914-1918 and beyond, portraying the effects of the war not merely on the novel’s characters but on British society as a whole, capturing the final days of a passing era and way of life. It is beautifully written, wonderfully paced. There is romance, adventure and suspense. And there is, as in Eden’s Garden, quiet contemplation of the themes of grief, loss and loyalty, and of the way in which our past experiences shape our future selves. It is, quite simply, a riveting read.”

Suzy Ceulan Hughes, http://www.gwales.com

“There are few greater delights than a book that draws you in from the very first pages and immediately makes you care about what happens next, that demands your attention in every free moment you can conjure until the end.”
Claire McAlpine, Word by Word (http://clairemca.wordpress.com/)

CHECK OUT THE BRILLIANT BOOK LOVERS TAKING PART IN THE GIVEAWAY – JUST CLICK ON THE LINKS BELOW.  

  1. Leeswammes
  2. Read Her Like an Open Book (US/CA)
  3. My Book Self (N. Am.)
  4. The Book Stop
  5. My Book Retreat (US)
  6. Books in the Burbs (US)
  7. Guiltless Reading
  8. Word by Word
  9. Juliet Greenwood
  10. BooksandLiliane
  11. Words for Worms (US)
  12. The Relentless Reader
  13. The Misfortune of Knowing
  14. The Friday Morning Bookclub (US)
  15. Readerbuzz
  16. Lavender Likes, Loves, Finds and Dreams
  17. The Emerald City Book Review
  18. Wensend
  1. Laurie Here
  2. A Cup Of Tea, A Friend, And A Book (US)
  3. Moon Shine Art Spot (US)
  4. I’d Rather Be Reading At The Beach (US)
  5. Lost Generation Reader
  6. Books Speak Volumes
  7. Mom’s Small Victories (US)
  8. Books on the Table (US)
  9. Orange Pekoe Reviews
  10. Lavender Likes, Loves, Finds and Dreams
  11. Words And Peace (US)
  12. Booklover Book Reviews
  13. Inside the Secret World of Allison Bruning (US)

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Portmeirion Wilderness

The Wilderness in Portmeirion

 

And so the end of the year has arrived.

 

Dolbadarn Castle with Snowdon behind

Dolbadarn Castle beneath Snowdon

The end of the ancient Celtic year, that is. Samhain was the end of the agricultural year, when the harvest was in and secured for the winter ahead. A time to relax after months of hard physical work. A time to celebrate, but also to pause and reflect. To take stock and prepare for the new year ahead. It was also a time when the barrier between the living and the dead thinned, allowing the loved, who are always with us, creep in around the fire to join their families once more.

P1040484

An autumn walk in Snowdonia

 I love this time of year, with its soft light and vibrant colours, with its fragility and sense of urgency. With its call to enjoy every moment of warmth and sunshine before the dark cold of winter really sets in. And it’s still a lovely time to reflect and plan before the serious partying of Christmas and New Year begins. So I’ve been tidying up my garden, preparing it for next year, enjoying the sun and walks amongst the changing scenery.


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Portmeirion at night

It’s been quite a year, with the publication of ‘We That are Left’ and ‘Eden’s Garden’ becoming a finalist for ‘The People’s Book Prize’, followed by the excitement of the Kindle version of both novels reaching the top 5 in the Amazon Kindle store. I’ve celebrated with finally getting my poor neglected garden under control, and a visit to Portmeirion to spend time with my lovely American author friend, Nadine Feldman and her husband.

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Portmeirion at night

Portmeirion is always a magical place to stay, with its eccentricity and sheer love of life. I’ve come back refreshed, reinvigorated and ready to get back down to the next book – and the unknown adventure that awaits next year.

For Samhain and Halloween I shall light my candle in memory of all those who are still with me, and take a last look back over the fading year, and huddle round the fire to prepare for the unknown year ahead – undoubtedly with a dram or so of sloe gin once the Christmas season arrives!

Happy Halloween!

 

 

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Suffragette at Blists Hill

One of the highlights of this year’s RNA Conference was definitely the historical author’s event at Blists Hill, the reconstructed Victorian town at Ironbridge, the birthplace of the industrial revolution. As you can see, I went as a suffragette (what else?).

There was a great atmosphere, being there in company with so many talented historical novelists and meeting the visitors coming through on their way to experience times gone by. In a brief lull in proceedings, I took myself off to visit my favourite cottage, the squatter’s cottage.

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It’s so hard to remember, even in times of recession, the reality of life for the majority of people at a time that – in terms of human evolution – is only a breath away. The squatter’s cottage, at the edges of existence outside the Workhouse, in an age before the Welfare State, is a poignant reminder of just how little our forebears had. Ten people lived in this cottage. The beds crammed together, with more than one child to each. The single change of clothes hung up. The tiny kitchen and living area. No room (let alone light) to study for the chance to escape such poverty. No privacy. No running water and the outside toilet at the bottom of the garden next to the pig stye. And always just a broken leg or a lung infection away from losing any kind of income, and the shame of the Workhouse where families were split up and might never see each other again. And yet the cottage is warm and homely, as I’m sure it would have been, crammed to bursting with the family making the most of what they had. It was also the world that shocked the recruiters of soldiers for WW1 at the appalling state of health of so many of the inhabitants of one the richest nations in the world.

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The pig style and privy

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The bedroom

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The kitchen

I’ve been here several times before, but this time I found myself part of the exhibits. Well, I was a bit hard to miss with my extravagant hat and my ‘votes for women’ sash. The policeman on his bike was a bit uncertain meeting an unscheduled suffragette, and despite the heat peddled off rather fast, and possibly hanging on to his hat. But next to the pig stye of the squatter’s cottage I had a lively discussion on universal suffrage with a 21st century gentleman entering into the spirit of the thing. It wasn’t exactly an argument, as we both, in the end, agreed. Because, of course, all that window smashing was not where the the suffragettes began, but with the long, peaceful struggle, in the face of appalling brutality, for universal suffrage to give a voice to both men and women –  and eventually even to the inhabitants of the squatter’s cottage.

I shall be wearing my hat again – and with pride!

 

If you would like to learn more about the squatter’s cottage (which was inhabited until the 1970s), there is an excellent blog post here. And if you would like to know more about Blists Hill Victorian Town the website is here.

 

 

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The pantry – with a spot of poaching?

 

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A window into a lost world.

 STOP PRESS! The Kindle edition of ‘We That Are Left’ is currently only £1.99 – you can find the link HERE or click on the cover below.

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