Monday 30 July 2012

Children of The Storm; Stage Six in My Novel Marathon

Second in Kitty Rainbow Trilogy
Click to obtain

How does a trilogy happen? In my case it certainly was not planned. 

When I completed the novel Kitty Rainbow instead of the sense of closure which can come at the end of a novel I was haunted by the still powerful presence of the charismatic and complicated Kitty Rainbow. There seemed to so much story untold.

I was compellers by this feeling made me to embark on a sequel with the idea that this novel should stand alone, apart from Kitty Rainbow but could also be read in sequence. Hence I embarked on my only trilogy.

So it happens that Kitty Rainbow emerges again, dominating the background of Children of the Storm. Kitty learned her lessons in life from retired fighter Ishmael Slaughter and has become the proprietor of Rainbow and Daughter a very successful draper’s shop in the Durham market town of Priorton. She is life partner (but never married – very scandalous in those days) to William Scorton inventor and manufacturer whose factory in this novel has been turned over to the making of shells in the Great War.

In the foreground of the novel are her stepsons, Samuel, Michael and Tommy, and Leonora and Mara, her children with William.   Taking place between 1915 and 1921 the novel tells the story of this complex family, set against the dramas of war on the home front, on the Somme, and on the bloody Russian Front where Russia is slowly disintegrating into full scale revolution.

In her fifties now, Kitty is very involved with her business, William has retired to make clocks and invent a signalling mechanism for railways, middle-aged Michael is running the armaments works, Left-thinking thirty eight year old Samuel is in Russia writing journalist, acting as a go-between and perhaps a spy, thirty seven your old Leonora is working for the Russian Red Cross in field hospitals, seventeen year old Tommy  is kicking his heels dying to be a soldier and  fifteen year old Mara is a pupil teacher in a school in the coastal port of Hartlepool.

The event at the beginning of the novel – the bombardment of Hartlepool – sets away events impact this  family to its core and reflect the destructive ripple, rippling impact of war on the individual.

For You, if you have just a few more minutes

Some Extracts

In Hartlepool fifteen year old Mara arrives at school early in the morning reflecting on the difficulty of the task she has taken on and the fear she has of the domineering head teacher Mr Clonmel.
He was nodding now, a slight smile on his face. ‘Then you too are an example to our children Miss Scorton.’
She struggled to think well of this, but was uncomfortable again at how he could turn even this fascinating idea into a lecture. She was relieved of the responsibility of answering by a heavy rumble from the direction of the harbour.
Mr Clonmel turned his head. ‘Guns,’ he said. ‘The soldiers in the battery must be practicing.’ She was just glancing past him, looking for some means of escape when the earth beneath her seemed to ripple like thrown silk and the whole building about her shuddered like a restive horse. For a second even the dust in the air seemed to be suspended. Then there was a creaking and groaning of wood; every pane of glass in the partition cracked like a rifle.
Then everything went black.
When she came to, Mara found she had been flung into Mr Clonmel’s arms. ‘Mr Clonmel!’
There was no reply. Desperately she pulled herself out of his frozen clasp and he fell, insensate. The shriek of a bursting shell pieced the fabric of her brain. She struggled to her feet and looked at the crumpled figure on the floor. She leaned over and then recoiled from the mass of blood and brain matter spilling from the back of his head.
‘Let’s at him,’ Miss Scorton. Give us a see.’ Joe Bly knelt opposite her and put a blackened hand on Mr Clonmel’s scrawny neck.
‘Is he dead, Mr Bly?’
Joe shook his head slowly. ’Nothing so sure, Miss Scorton. Dead as a doornail. Seen a few like that in Africa, fightin’ them Boers.’

Having worked as a governess in Russia 37 year old Leonora Rainbow has volunteered (as some British women did) to work for the Russian Red Cross.

She resisted the temptation to smooth down her grey dress and white apron or to tuck a wandering curl under her white veil. The other fifteen nurses all younger than her stood as still and rapt as the icons around the walls, their eyes glued to the gold-clad back of the priest as he made his way to the alter.
The perfume of incense wafted across and made Leonora’s nose itch. The breath of the priest iced on the air as he made the signs of the cross. She was used to these elaborate rituals, having quite regularly attended services with the Poliakovs. In fact her young friend Lucette Poliakov was here, first in line waiting for the priest’s benediction.
Now the priest was turning to face them, causing a ripple of indrawn breath, a rustle of feet as he held out the crucifix to full view of the congregation. He blessed the heap of red crosses then, having asked the name of each girl, blessed her, presented her with a red cross and offered her his crucifix to kiss. ‘To you Leonya, child of God, servant of the most high, is given this token of faith of hope of charity…thou shalt tend the sick, the wounded, the needy; with words of comfort you shalt thou cheer them.’
Standing in the shadow of the great door, and tall man in high boots and a shaggy hat carefully scrutinised each veiled face. Suddenly Leonora’s hands were grabbed and she was pulled against a great chest in a bear hug which brought with it the smell of snow and tallow candles, of pine forest and tobacco. She struggled to free herself and stood back to identify her assailant.
‘Leonora! Leonora! Leo!’ The voice that clipped its way through the massive beard was English and she knew it as well as she knew her own reflection in the mirror,
She drew closer to peer into the man’s face in the pearly half-light that strayed into the cathedral from the snowy square outside. ‘Samuel!’ She finally got the word pout/ ‘What in Heaven’s name are you doing here?’



More about this one anon ....

Children of the Storm

Scroll down for notes on the Kitty Rainbow novel itself and the Priorton Map and for inside info on Kitty Rainbow 
Riches of the Earth, Under a Brighter Sky,
 Land of your Possession and A Dark Light Shining.

I hope you are enjoying or will sometime enjoy them all

Saturday 28 July 2012

Kitty Rainbow Novel Marathon 5. Fiction from a Dream

The creative spring of a novel (as this marathon sequence is showing) emerges from many parts of a writer’s experience . 

One night I had this vivid dream.

 I was walking by the sparkling River Wear in field beside a great historic railway viaduct - one of the earliest in the world. In the air above the viaduct a rainbow appeared. I was suddenly aware of something falling on me from a great height. I put up my arms and into them plopped a baby, warmly wrapped (I nearly wrote there in swaddling clothes...) 
Now I do dream of babies now and then. I think they're  symbols for the stories that keep popping out. After all what is this marathon but a celebration of my twenty three novel-babies?
Then the next day I woke up with the name Ishmael Slaughter  tumbling from my mouth. I said it again. Who would have such a name? By the end of the day it was in my mind that this was a very big man, a craggy man, who had once been a bare knuckle fighter. Suddenly it came into my mind that it was this man who raised his arms under th viaduct, it was he who in the story will grasp and save  the baby.
Then my husband – who never misses the Births and Deaths column in the Northeen Echo turned to me and said, ‘Here, Wend! I have a good name for you!!'  He reads: ' “the death of Kitty Rainbow, sister of Bunty” ’ Of course this sweet man had lived with me and experienced my long search for interesting, meaningful and significant names for my stories.
Inevitably there followed much research, not least into the history of bare-knuckle fighting – but out of all this came this novel Kitty Rainbow.

 For you

The Story
Ishmael Slaughter calls the baby Kitty Rainbow and fosters her with the strange drunken shopkeeper  Janine Druce. Kitty’s greatest love is for her adoptive the aging boxer who is the only link with who she is, where she came from...

From near the beginning:
Ishmael looked down at Kitty’s battered face, her ragged clothes,  and her bare feet, arched too high and turning slightly inward. He stroked his beard and frowned at Janine  ‘i’d have thought the shop’s doing all right now, Janine Druce. Alright enough ot put shoes on thios child’s feet. His voice was soft, its articulation very distinct, ‘These are prosperous times. Those cotton men may be laid  off in Lancashire but the collieries and ironworks are going full pelt across here.  There’s money enough around for fancy clothes…’
His glance dropped to the child, 'Come here Kitty Rainbow, so that I can see you properly.’ He turned Kitty round towars the gauzy light coming from the window, The hand on her shoulder was light as a feather, as big as a frying pan, He peered into her battered face and his knobbly fingers grasped her more tightly. ‘Have you been doing this, Janine? Good God!’
‘I telt yer, Ishmael. She gets into fights.’

From  near the end:
Among other adventures as she grew up Kitty Rainbow has become a respected shopkeeper in Priorton.  Here she is in Edwardian London with her theatrical friend Esme:

‘Just one thing.’ Kitty reached inside her jacket and pulled out the cornelian pendant, rubbed it with a linen handkerchief and let it fall. It glowed softly against the black broadcloth,
Esme grinned. ‘Ha! Putting out the flags are we? Telling the lovely Willian we’re all at home?’
Kitty shook her head. I don’t know. I was horrible to him last night,’
‘I don’t really understand.  To tell the truth all the time I’ve been here I’ve hardly thought about William at all, just Leonora and Ishmael. When he came to Merridew court last night he seemed like a stranger, And the two of them, him and that Hunter fellow, they loomed up out of the alley and I thought of this man who’s …’
Esme put an arm around her, ‘Nine day wonder, these murders. I’ve told you. Things like that happen round here. You have to harden yourself to them.’
Kitty shook her head again. ‘I’d never get used to them. All I want is to be back in Priorton. Back behind my counter, planning for the new shop.
‘There’s wickedness in Priorton too,’ Esme objected. ‘Murders. Beatings. Remember I grew up in the Royal George. And I’ve lived with Jarrold. Always in the edge of such things, he was.’
Kitty glanced at her. What had made Esme think about Jarrold?  Was she making a connection between Jarrold and these murders?
‘I wonder where Jarrold’s got to,’ she ventured.
Esme shrugged. ‘Signed on for some ship to America I should think. He mentioned America in the note, didn’t he? Always wanted to go back there, always.’

USEFUL NOTE: KITTY RAINBOW turned out to be the first of a trilogy. 

I didn't quite know that when I finished it. 

More tomorrow.

Scroll down for the Priorton Map and for inside info on 
Riches of the Earth, Under a Brighter Sky,
 Land of your Possession and A Dark Light Shining.

Friday 27 July 2012

Mapping Your Story: Stage 5 in my Olympic Novel Marathon

I have just watched the Olympic flame come up the Thames and I have  only covered 5 novels in my novel marathon.

Here for You

...  in this post - taking a breather - I thought  I'd tell you about the fact that I always work with some kind of map for my stories - sprawling across  my study wall fo a year or so to keep my imagined world before me. This is a my top tip today for those aspiring big novel writers out there.

For instance for   A Woman Scorned I gradually built up on a roll of wallpaper drawings of a street 18th and Ninetneth Century Century buildings in the West Auckland steet where the alleged murderer Mary Ann cotton had lived, I drew the people who lived there and pasted on images of 19th Century peopole and vehicles in the village street.

I  had made similar maps of people and place  for my first four novels which all took place in and around the South Durham town of Priorton. - my nom de place for the marvellous market town of Bishop Auckland where I live. (In later novels I came clean and gave Bishop Auckland its own name,..)

My editor at that time asked me to make a map covering all the first five novels. So I distilled all the maps and located all my characters. The map was part of the frontispience of KITTY RAINBOW the story - the first of a trilogy - which is my fifth novel and which I will post about next. Tomorrow I hope, marathon permitting....

On this map of The Priorton Novels I locate the characters and the home ground so important for these first five novels.I hope you can make it out. Scroll down on this blog page for inside info on the first four novels and watch out tomorrow for the story of the story of KITTY RAINBOW which started with a dream.

I am learning a lot in this marathon process.

I hope all this  entertains you Wx

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Dark Light Shining Olympic Novel Marathon 4 Research as the springboard for fiction.

Research as the springboard for fiction.

With my background in history and sociology I have  researched material, people and places which have in the first place been nothing to do with my fiction. Some of this was for academic essays, reports and journalism. But alongside this is fiction. One example of this is Paulie’s Web (see sidebar) which emerged from work and enquiry in a women’s prison.

Twins appear in more than one novel
lNB Another great Len Thurston cover.
Click to Buy. Now also on Kindle

A Dark Light Shining came from quite another place.

One day the vicar of what had been Witton Park  - which had been a cruelly poor village in the 1930 - asked if I would record interviews with old people there – one was a hundred years old – who had experienced that village throughout the twentieth century. I interviewed a number of these very interesting people and duly created a transcribed archive.
One of the youngest of these people – a lovely lady in her mid seventies - had been the daughter of a shopkeeper – marginally less poor than her neighbours.

 I asked her about holidays.  
‘Oh!’ she said ‘I never had a holiday until I was forty.’ She paused. ‘Except for when I was twenty one, when I went to Nice in the South of France. Thomas Cook. Twenty six pounds seventeen and six. I went by train. On my own.  Two women joined me on the train. One got on near Birmingham. She was a bookmaker’s wife. The other got on the train in London. She was very beautiful,  what they called a model and was going to meet her man friend down there. We stayed in different kinds of hotel but we met every morning to swim and drink hot chocolate. I stayed in an auberge and the waiter introduced me to Sauternes. I have drunk that ever since.  Right up till now.’
‘Why France?’ I asked.
‘There was this woman who came to live in the village. She was different, She even wore trousers. She was married to a man who had been injured in the great war. Shell shock, you know! Anyway in the Great War she’d gone to France, rented a house behind the lines so she could be near him. She loved France. Told me all about it. She had maps. So when my father drew an insurance when I was twenty one and asked me where I wanted to go, I said France.’  She showed me a treasured pale green fabric belt that she had worn on that holiday. 
(NB in the novel this woman is transformed into Jenefer Loumis. And the young girl traveller becomes Finnuola – called Finn.  See below.)
It seemed incredible: a naïve  young village girl aged 21-going-on-12 making that journey one her own around 1933. I checked the Thomas Cook archive in London and found she was not alone in travelling alone in Europe in the 1930s. Then, researching the historical background, I became interested in the fact that her unique personal adventure took place in the year that Hitler came to power in Germany.

Fiction emerging from Fact:

After a year or so all these fragments came together like iron filings under a magnet and this novel – this fiction – came to life as A Dark Light Shining. By this time the character Finnuola is her own self, not the lady from the shop. And she is surrounded by characters also purely invented by me, driven into life by the narrative. So there is the point where the story becomes its own self quite apart from the research which inspired it.

The Story

From the beginning: In the village 
‘ … Inside the house, Jenefer had Michael’s money neatly stacked. ‘Thank you Michael. Hubert  could not have done without you. He feels comfortable with you.’
Michael shrugged. ‘He’s a queer old coot, but he’s no harm.’
Jenefer smiled at him. ‘Finn was telling me you have twin sisters. i’d love to see them. My father was a twin. Strange phenomenon, twins.’
He looked around the warm cluttered kirched which smelled of herbs and smokey geraniums. ‘They want nothing here, Mrs Loumis. You’ll forgive me.’
She smiled straight into his eyes. ‘Well, Michael, if those twins fall sick or they need anything, you bring them to me.’
He put his cap back on his head. ‘Well, thank you for the pay. If you want anything else done, you know where to find us.’ He turned on his heel and left.
Jenefer turned her smile on Finn. ‘I think I’ve made progress with that young man Finn.’
Finn leaned against the dresser. ‘You turn your charm on the lot of us Jenefer We’re all sows ears turning into silk purses aren’t we?’

From near the end: In France

(After swimming with Finn, Kate, the ‘model’ has met Denis Constandine  -a leading British Fascist - in her swish hotel bedroom…’

…He wrinkled his nose I thought you’d want to get rid of the nasty salt water and that awful smell of Fleury’s chocolate’ He looked at the bed. ‘And a little rest before your evening’s activities.’
She took her silk wrap from the wardrobe. ‘I’m not waiting around here for you. I’m going dancing tonight. At the Blue Cat.’
‘Ah with your little friend Finn? Not indulging in private enterprise I hope. You know our little arrangement. An exclusive contract.’ He watched her as she peeled off her clothes, rubbed her fingers together and licked them, tasting the sea on her lips. She looked at him directly. ‘There’s nothing in our agreement that says I can’t enjoy my holiday.’

(Later… Kate and Finn are in the Blue Cat, where the floor is made of glass.)
 ‘You might not be able to swim, Finn,  but you certainly can dance,‘ said Kate as Finn was handed back off the dancefloer to the table by an engineer from Coventry. ‘Where did you learn to dance like that? Are there lots of dancehalls in tht queer little place you come from?’
Finn shook her head, ‘I have a friend. We dance to her pramophine, with her husband. It’s much easier here with that orchestra. At least you don’t have to wind them up all the time.’ She laughed, And the floor! They won’t believe me when I tell them about the floor!’
The dance florr was not large but was made entirely of glass, Dancing was like gliding on ice.

Research point: There was such a place and the floor was made of glass… 

Marathon Author’s Note: I had forgotten that in the background I have Jonty Clelland, pacifist and activist from Riches of The Earth and Land of Your  Possession, alongside his gifted wife Susanah.

I hope you enjoy it!

A Dark Light Shining

Scroll down for similar marathon  posts about
Riches of the Earth 
Under a Brighter Sky
& Land of Your Possession

Sunday 22 July 2012

Land of Your Possession: Stage 3 in my Novel Marathon

Another significant cover by Len Thurston
Click to buy

Using an aspect of your own life in fiction

I was born in Lancaster but conceived in Coventry just before the great World War 2 Blitz.  My dad worked in the aero industry in that city, which made it such a desired target for the German bombers.
      These events were part of our family story for years afterwards and years later I used them as the core inspiration for my novel Land of your Possession.
    I also brought back my central character Lizza who appeared in my first novel as a young girl. She, her sisters and, all live on in this World War 2 novel in which Lizza is a young mother, living in Coventry with her husband Roland who works in the aero-industry...

For You

About The Story
On the  terrifying night of the Blitz when Coventry loses its cathedral, the pregnant Lizza is comforted in her grief at the death of her daughter Rebecca not by her husband Roland but by Krystof, the Polish refugee who understands Lizza's feelings only too well.  Her home in ruins, her marriage crumbling and with two motherless children of neighbour in her care, Lizza heads for Durham, the home land of her possession, where only stray bombs fall.

Extract From near the beginning:

As she tucked Rebecca's blanket around her again, the war weaved itself through Lizza's head like a clinging vine. Ever since the summer she'd listened to the thrum-thrum of the planes, seen the dazzle of the tracer bullets across the Coventry sky, heard the thrump and boom of bombs falling in the spasmodic air raids  By now, however, the routine of warnings, the rush to the shelters and the clatter of the ack-ack had given her, in her optimistic moods, an illusion of protection, a feeling of control.
       After all there were still dances and the pictures. Queues most nights. Up till this last rush of work at the factory Roland and Lizza had gone dancing every Saturday. Roland loved to dance.  Lizza was proud of her husband's grace as he steered her expertly through the soldiers and their girlfriends and through the women dancing together, moving around the floor as though they were the only two dancers in the hall. 
       They had learned to dance in a little studio in Bradford: in that twenty foot square space their sturdy boy-girl friendship had  imported the sensuality that turned it into love. Even then Roland had cut a different figure, with his cultured voice and stories of his father sailing the high seas the other side of the world.
     Smiling at the thought, Lizza nodded cheerfully at Mrs Callaghan and walked on into town, forgetting the Ouija glass and its dire warnings. 

Extract from near the end:

(Lizza and Krystof have met in Durham Cathedral)

'i was thinking about what you said about your churches when you were a child. The feeling you had, about man-made beauty and anither creator.'
    'Did you feel it?'
    'I don't know. I felt something.'
    They sat quietly for a few moments then she grasped his hand, 'Let's think about Wanda, And all our children,' she said. 'Their passing must never go unremarked,'
     The boy in the choir started singing again and they sat quietly waiting fpr the song to end. Then Krystof pulled her hands together and placed his own over them. 'And let us think about our two selves, two halves of a whole,who will never be apart' ...
     ...They held hands all the way home and Krystof told her of the high praise his paintings had received and the proposal to tour the exhibition.
     She frowned. 'You mean, not to sell the paintings? All that hard work?'
    'Oh they'll sell eventually. That means the Spitfires and ourselves will benefit...'
     ...  She was just walking along the street, shoulder to shoulder with Krystof thinking what a good day it had been, when she saw the familiar car parked outside Campion House. It was the Morris, Roland's pride and joy, which she had last seen without wheels in the garage of the Coventry house. It had wheels on now and the dust of many miles of travel on its once highly polished bonnet.

I hope you enjoy it ...

Scroll down to find out more about the novels

Friday 20 July 2012

Under a Brighter Sky: Stage 2 in My Novel Marathon

Discovering the Novel Process.

I loved this jacket design by Len Thurston
Writing a series of novels as I have over the years has been a whole learning process. With each novel I have learned something new.With Riches of the Earth I came to learn the sheer discipline of putting a whole network of stories together into one narrative that took me and the reader through twenty five years of two families' lives.

Under a Brighter Sky (now also available on Kindle) was my second adult novel; by the time I was offering the manuscript to headline I'd got to know my editor Anne Williams (now a fine literary agent) quite well and she was giving me very sound advice. I learned such a lot from Anne through the years. She enjoyed my writing and always had great structural advice. With this novel she advised me to begin my novel at the third chapter - where Greg finds Biddy the exhausted old Irishwoman in a ditch. In essence the advice was to begin with the first dramatic moment. Bingo! Anne was absolutely right. 

I have a feeling I have begun all my subsequent novels at Chapter Three...

And now for you:

About the story:
The wild Catholic Farrells and the straitlaced Protestant McNaughtons live less that a mile apart  But the two clans are only brought together when the Farrells' Aunt Biddy- who has shipped from famine-torn ireland and walked from Liverpool to County Durham to find the last remaining shreds of her family - is found exhausted in a ditch by Greg McNaughton.  But when Tommo Farrell comes home to find his sister Shona entertaining Greg and the old woman he loses his temper and  throws them both out into the winter night, leaving Greg with no choice but to take the old foundling into his own home.
      Then Biddy Farrell creates friction between the families, and when Margaret McNaughton is found wandering the streets one night and a prostitute is murdered, the finger of blame points to Tommo Farrell.

Set in the dourly impressive coal country of the North East and the teeming Metropolis of Nineteenth Century Manchester this novel centres on love, repression and freedom and I hope follows on from Riches of the Earth in  what Pat Barker judged to be  '...vivid characterisation, a compelling story combine to produce an original and memorable novel.'

From the beginning of the story:

Tommo and Shona reflect their childhood in Ireland.
      'What do you best remember? About things back there?' His voice was whistful...
        'Home?'she answered. 'Oh.... the fine days when th rain was really soft, no more than a fine veil. Our mammy holding onto Gerard's arms, laughing at Richie's antics. And our Daddy standing on the edge of a field of fully grown corn. And him by the smithy fire with your sweating st the bellows. And Maire sitting in the window waiting for us to come home.'
         He poured lukewarm water into a jug and drank it to the last drop, wiping the residue from his chin with the back of his hand. 'We're all right here, aren't we Shona? You, me and our Richie? Plenty money from the ironworks?'
        She laughed. 'Maybe. But there'll  never be plenty money as long as you pour it down your throat. Or place it on lame horses or digs...Good job I've got me own wage.'
         'Ain't no need for you to work down the pit, Shona. Dirty work that, for a woman...'

From near the end of the story:

To her annoyance Shona had hardly seen Greg all week. He spent Friday on some errand in Priorton and they had only managed to  see each other briefly after supper. The idle life at Garth End did not suit her and she took it out on Greg, 'I haven't seen you all week,' she whispered to him on the stairs.
      'I've been around,' he grinned. 'You must be blind.'
      'No!' She went bright red.'I mean properly. To talk to. i want to find some work. I'm used to working. I've earned my own money since I was a pit girl and I don't intend stopping now.'
        You want to go  back down the pit? Or back on the stage at the Variety Hall in Priorton?' His tone was neutral...

I hope you enjoy it! wx

Scroll down for more details about the writing of the earlier novel 

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Riches of the Earth: Beginning my Novel Olympic Marathon.

To celebrate the whole of my back list going live  on Kindle in the next fortnight, I will post here reminders and information about all my novels. Perhaps I should call this My Novel Olympic Marathon..

The First Historical Saga Click Here
To begin at the beginning: After publishing one children's novel (Corgi) and three Young Adult novels (Hodder and Stoughton) I felt the urge to leap into adult fiction. I was working full time when I started this novel. It took three years to write and I had something of a nervous breakdown in the middle of it and had retired into full time writing when I had finished it. So Riches of the Earth momentous in both my personal any my professional life.

I didn't know it at the time but it turned out to be 'an historical saga', taking place as it does between 1895 and 1921. (This wonderful historical saga has to be on your reading list... A lovely book, Woman's Realm)

The then newish Publisher Headline were the first to be offered it and they took is straight away.


The Story
Susanah is a child when  her family moves from the Welsh valleys  to County Durham for work. Her dour father Caradoc - in his spare time a gifted clockmaker - is a force to be reckoned with, be it in the pit, at chapel or in his own house which he rules with an iron fist. Susanah has inherited his strengh but is deterrmined not to take on his bitterness. She grows up alongside Jonty Clelland who becomes a schoolmaster and a pacifist in the first world war. Their stories intertwine, allowing us to glimpse an intensely personal aspect of  intelligent working class like during these dramatic years of England's history.

In the beginning:

'Caradon Laydon Jones hammered a second time on the faded brown door. The rest of the family dtood at a distance in the dirt road, their bags and baggages tumbled around them.
     A thin faced woman opened the door a little way, then wider.
    'Mrs Kenton is it?' he said.
    She nodded.
    'There was a letter from my cousin Davey Lewis, said you would have the key to number seventy one.' He had to stiffen his mouth to frame it around the English. Neither his wife nor his children could understand a word he said,
    She squinted up at him. 'I've got the key all right, hinney.but it winnet do you no good tonight, House is empty.'

Towards the end:
Isabella in a green silk wrap opened the door wider when she saw who it was. 'Well, who is this stranger?' she said smiling, 'What brings you here?'
      He sat down in the larger chair with remembered ease. 'I needed to see a friend.'
      He had not been close to her since that week in London at the beginning of the war. She stood before him, plumper and less smoothly finished that he recalled. The eyes, though, still sparked with amusement and secret knowledge. 'Is there trouble, Jonty?'
      'I have my appeal in two weeks time, The Monday. My second tribunal. I'll end up in prison. Worse, maybe.'
    'You want sympathy? For what you asked for?'
    He smiled at the familiar unsentimental tone. 'Not sympathy, Bel. Just a bit of company.' 

(Note: Susanah and Jonty turn up again in the background of my 1930s novel WHERE HOPE LIVES.)

I hope you enjoy it...

My First Adult Book Still on Amazon 
and now Available on Kindle Click

'An intense and moving story.' Today
'Inspiring and challenging.' Sunderland Echo

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Celebrating enthusiast, escapist, fictionist, idealist - The Romancer

The Romancer for 97p!

I am very excited this week because as I have already mentioned, on the 19th of July the whole of my back list from my publisher Headline is going live on Amazon Kindle and other eBook platforms!   Amazing, amazing!

This is virtually my life's work as a writer of fiction. This is is also reflected in my only  non-fiction book about the process of writing which I called 'The Romancer'. (The title does not refer to me being a writer of particularly romantic fiction, although relationships are important in my novels.) 

I did write about the source of the title on this blog when we launched the book:

 'There is this saying in County Durham. ‘Oh, him! He’s a proper romancer!’.meaning someone who lives on the borderline between truth, fantasy and lies. I wanted to call my novel about the (alleged) County Durham serial killer Mary Ann Cotton, ‘The Romancer’. My editor didn’t like it. (It became A Woman Scorned’ – see my sidebar)

The Romancer for 97p!

 I looked up the word ‘Romancer’ (see below*) and was moved to see what I came up with. So many of these words fit the way I think I am. I was called dreamer in my family from when I was very young… 

Essentially, as I wrote the book it dawned on me that events and emotions from my childhood and in my adult life have - whether I was conscious of it or not (usually not)  -  inspired and underpinned the fictional content of my novels. 

This was made possible - I feel certain now  - by the transformative, creative magic of  the writing process.  This is what 'The Romancer' is all about.

Since the book came out  I have found that many writers (and readers too...)   have enjoyed coming to know the novels in a different way. And writers among them have felt encouraged by the practical advice to strive on with the large project of writing their own novels.

So! To celebrate the wonderful event of all my backlist going into eBook form, on Amazon Kindle and all other platforms, I'm offering you a copy of 'the romancer' for the slim price of 97p as an introduction to all of may books.

I hope you enjoy them! Let me know


*Romancer’ :Don Quixote, Quixote, anecdotist, daydreamer, dreamer, dreamer of dreams, enthusiast, escapist, fableist, fabler, fabulist, fictionist, idealist, lotus-eater, mythmaker, mythopoet, narrator, novelettist, novelist, prophet, raconteur, reciter recounter, relator, rhapsodist, romancist, romantic, romanticist,sagaman, seer, short-story writer, spinner of yarns, storier, storyteller, taleteller, teller of tales, utopian, utopianist, ustopianizer, visionary, wishful thinker, word painter, yarn spinner reamer of dreams, enthusiast, escapist, fableist, fabler, fabulist, fictionist, idealist, lotus-eater, mythmaker, mythopoet,narrator, novelettist, novelist, prophet, raconteur, reciter,recounter, relator, rhapsodist, romancist, romantic, romanticist, sagaman, seer, short-story writer, spinner of yarns, storier,storyteller, taleteller, teller of tales, utopian, utopianist, topianizer, visionary, wishful thinker, word painter, yarn spinner

Romancer’ A mysterious or fascinating quality or appeal, as of something adventurous, heroic, or strangely beautiful: "These fine old guns often have a romance clinging to them" (Richard Jeffries).

Monday 9 July 2012

Exciting Times - Designing New Covers

Months ago, on someone's recommendation ( I can't remember who ...) I downloaded a copy of  Katherine R Howard's  book called Self Printed - about self publishing through Print On Demand and eBooks.

With the rush, and the reading and the writing and glorious Ireland (see Postcards from Ireland: 1-10 below on blog)  I didn't get down to actually reading it until I was on the plane from Ireland. It is a great book with a great voice and in it (the book is very successful ) the medium is the message.

And here on the plane was this distinctively witty Irish voice giving me very savvy advice about the self-publishing process. Catherine takes no prisoners, she dismantle's myths, scorns self-pitying writers who blame publishers, agents and the world of publishing for their lack of presence in the world of books. She scorns lazy writers who think typing is writing.  She spots so many things which seem obvious but which haven't been articulated in this way before. You need to read the book to get the full flavour and advantage of her eminently practical advice.

The very best thing about this book is its tone - the joyful sense that this is an exciting, even privileged, world in which to work and we should make our own success by our joyful professional attitude and focused professional work..

Now! I thought I knew something about all this. I have self published on Kindle six of my novels and they are selling fairly well, bit by bit. However Katherine R Howard has shown me I need to do more than just publish them on Kindle. There is serious (and joyful) follow up-work to do.  She has a great philosophy about this and some great suggestions. Inspiring is a cliche these days, but this book is just that.

And now - halleluyah !-  next week from 19th July,  the whole back-list of my novels will be  live on Kindle, published by Headline.So my self published books have to sit well alongside them.

So I have to say that the best (but not the only) thing I took from Catherine's book was how much serious professional work you should do on your self published book and Kindle covers. Her mantra is they must, must look professional, not home made. This sent me back to my own covers with a critical eye and since returning from Ireland I have done some concentrated work on two of those.

Here they are. What do you think?

New Mary Ann cover for Kindle

New Cover for Paulie

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Post Card 10: A Day of Mist or Fog and Good Food

Mist ot Fog?
Weatherwise Tuesday was superficially the worst day of the holiday as there was a sea fret - or fog - or mist that persisted all day. Still warm, though.

So we jumped the car and rode rhrough the mist along the coast to Goleen, via Schull, enjoying spooky mist-laden views of  lake and lagoon and  bog. We passed the turn off for Bantry where so many thousands set off to emigrate in the 19th century to escape famine,  poverty and oppression.

As we purred along the modern well made road we wondered about the length of this journey - on the old bumpy route - travellng in a pony and trap, on horse or in a carriage. Or on foot of course.

We are not alone. D said she's read an old Independent article that described this region as the Irish Dordogne, as it is the refuge for so many rather well known arty and creative people.  I saw a notice of Lord Puttnam - a long term resident - opening a literary festival here. The upmarket restaurants and some shops here and there reflected this affluent presence.

We stopped at Schull on our way back and had the best pub lunch ever, served with great charm at  Hacketts, as we  ate and talked to the tune of mid-twentieth century jazz. A great way to spend a misty day...

Wish you were here

Eating out is one thing but for the lovely food we've had here in the house see D's Licked Spoon blog 


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