Friday, November 18, 2016

Guest Author: Emma Hornby

Please welcome to the blog, guest author, Emma Hornby, who writes historical sagas set in Lancashire.


I've always had a deep passion for the Victorian era and have read sagas for as long as I can remember. Therefore, writing historical sagas was the inevitable route I took once I was hit with the author bug. I chose to set my books in Lancashire; it has such a rich and interesting history.

 I’d been researching my family tree for years and was fascinated by what I unearthed. Generation after generation lived, worked and clawed out a life in the poorest slums in Bolton and Manchester. I’d spend hours imagining what their lives must have been like, picturing these faceless characters, wondering about their struggles, their daily lives, their relationships, loves, fights, hopes and struggles. My mind was soon swamped with imaginary scenarios and I began penning down snippets, immersing myself in the research of the time. The result was a full-length novel and an overflowing trunk of ideas now sitting patiently in my mind, just waiting to be turned into a future stack of books.

A Shilling for a Wife, a gritty northern saga, is my debut novel. The eBook and hardback are now available to buy, and paperback will follow on the 23rd February. Audio and large print will be with you in the near future. My second book is out May 2017.


Blurb:

Sally Swann thought life couldn't get much worse. Then a single coin changed hands.

A dismal cottage in the heart of Bolton, Lancashire, has been Sally’s prison since Joseph Goden 'bought' her from the workhouse as his wife. A drunkard and bully, Joseph rules her with a rod of iron, using fists and threats to keep her in check.

When Sally gives birth, however, she knows she must do anything to save her child from her husband's clutches. She manages to escape, and taking her baby, flees for the belching chimneys of Manchester, in search of her only relative.

But with the threat of discovery by Joseph, who will stop at nothing to find her, Sally must fight with every ounce of strength she has to protect herself and her son, and finally be with the man who truly loves her. For a fresh start does not come without a price . . .

Amazon UK:


Amazon US:



Social media links:


https://twitter.com/EmmaHornbyBooks

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Remembrance Day - WWII novel

On of my favourite eras to write in is World War I, however, I have written a book set in World War II.
Broken Hero was a great story to write. Audrey and Jake are wonderful characters, each with their own issues to overcome.
I hope readers enjoy it too as they commemorate Remebrance Day this year.



Blurb:
Audrey Pearson's life changed dramatically when WWII broke out and her large home, Twelve Pines on the East Yorkshire coast, became a convalescence home for wounded soldiers. Her life is no longer lavish with entertainment, beautiful clothes and surrounded by a loving family. Soldiers, physically and mentally wounded now fill her home. The smell of disinfectant replaces her mother's perfume and gone are the friends and acquaintances - instead nurses roam the hallways. 
Captain Jake Harding, a doctor training in psychiatry arrives at Twelve Pines. Audrey immediately finds herself attracted to the Captain, but he is remote towards her. Puzzled by his cold behaviour, Audrey tries to learn more about the handsome Captain. He reveals that he's lost a wife and baby in childbirth and refuses to ever remarry. 
However, despite this, Audrey believes she can change his mind and make him aware he doesn't have to spend his life alone.The ice around Jake's heart begins to melt. For years he has rejected the possibility of finding love again because of the pain it caused him before, but the beautiful Audrey shows him her love and she needs someone to love her in return. 
Could he honestly walk away from her, from the love that could be his? 


Available for Kindle and all other online forms of reading devices.
Amazon USA
Amazon UK

Also available in paperback
Amazon USA
Amazon UK

Saturday, October 15, 2016

A PROMISE BETWEEN FRIENDS and the 1950's



Out of the four decades that followed the Great War, the 1940’s were the most austere, but romance was at its most dangerously seductive as the 1950’s fashions edged their way into the female wardrobe. For over a decade women had drawn stocking seams on the backs of their legs and made underwear from barrage balloon materials. Now, at the start of the 50’s, there was no holding back.
I’ve long wanted to write about the new freedoms and luxuries, the fabulous music and broadened culture of the 1950’s. And so Ruby walked onto the stage; self-confident, assured, spirited, tasteful, ambitious and yet hopelessly naive. She brought a certain honesty to A Promise Between Friends - and sense of humour. She made me laugh and she made me cry. I hope she does the same for you.
Published in paperback on October 20, you can pre-order at Amazon with a price guarantee. Or if you’re a Kindle or ebook reader, then A Promise Between Friends is already on Amazon’s shelves. Whatever kind of reading you like, I think you’ll find Ruby a stimulating companion. I can assure you of one thing - she’ll step into your world and won’t dream of leaving until the very last page.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Where Dragonflies Hover to be published in Norway!

It is with great excitement that I can now reveal I am going to be published in Norway with my split era novel, Where Dragonflies Hover.

The translation rights have been bought for Where Dragonflies Hover by Norwegian publisher Cappelen Damm AS. https://www.cappelendamm.no/
This is an excellent opportunity for one of my books to reach an ever wider audience by being translated into another language.
I am so thrilled with this new development and am looking forward to seeing this new partnership grow.

More information about the trade deal can be found here. http://www.booktrade.info/index.php/showarticle/66293


Sometimes a glimpse into the past can help make sense of the future …Everyone thinks Lexi is crazy when she falls in love with Hollingsworth House – a crumbling old Georgian mansion in Yorkshire – and nobody more so than her husband, Dylan. But there’s something very special about the place, and Lexi can sense it.

Whilst exploring the grounds she stumbles across an old diary and, within its pages, she meets Allie – an Australian nurse working in France during the First World War.

Lexi finally realises her dream of buying Hollingsworth but her obsession with the house leaves her marriage in tatters. In the lonely nights that follow, Allie’s diary becomes Lexi’s companion, comforting her in moments of darkness and pain. And as Lexi reads, the nurse’s scandalous connection to the house is revealed …

Amazon UK

Amazon USA

Amazon Australia

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

A review of a book I recently read.



Circling the Sun by Paula McLain.
Blurb:
Brought to Kenya from England as a child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl is raised by both her father and the native Kipsigis tribe who share his estate. Her unconventional upbringing transforms Beryl into a bold young woman with a fierce love of all things wild and an inherent understanding of nature’s delicate balance. But even the wild child must grow up, and when everything Beryl knows and trusts dissolves, she is catapulted into a string of disastrous relationships.

Beryl forges her own path as a horse trainer, and her uncommon style attracts the eye of the Happy Valley set, a decadent, bohemian community of European expats who also live and love by their own set of rules. But it’s the ruggedly charismatic Denys Finch Hatton who ultimately helps Beryl navigate the uncharted territory of her own heart. The intensity of their love reveals Beryl’s truest self and her fate: to fly.

My thoughts;
I really enjoyed reading this book. Set primarily in Kenya, Africa, with little bits in England, this story is based on a true person, and is a lot like the book, Out of Africa. 
The author has done a great job in the telling of Beryl's life and has also given the reader a glimpse into 1920s colonial life in Africa. The descriptions of Africa makes you feel like you're there.
Highly recommended.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Inspiration for Forgotten Women

We first had a village holiday home in Spain but in the late nineties bought an olive grove in a village in the mountains and built a house upon it. Here we enjoy a relaxed and reasonably stress-free lifestyle. We have space to breathe and enjoy the wonderful climate and a lovely outdoor life: walking, swimming, and working on the land. I generally spend an hour or two every afternoon gardening as a short break from writing. We do now spend our summers in the UK but happily spend each winter in Spain.

The subject of the Civil War is still not an issue the Spanish wish to talk about much. The horror stories we’ve heard from our village is that the priest was killed by being dropped down a well. Not a happy thought, but it was not an area that approved of Fascists and never entirely taken over by Franco. I’ve also heard stories about lost children, a dismissive attitude towards women and having lived there so long, I couldn’t resist doing some research on it.

The Spanish are delightfully friendly people, making ex-pats feel very much a part of the community and we love visiting different places in Spain. Ideas came to me when we visited the Salvador Dalí museum in Figueres, the Prado in Madrid, and the museum in Cartagena. La Colina de Arboledas is fictional, but all other places mentioned are real.

I’ve also read many books and articles on the Civil War. My favourites being: A Concise History of the Spanish Civil War, and Doves of War, both by Paul Preston. He is very much an expert on the subject. Other books included: Memories of Resistance – Women’s Voices from the Spanish Civil War by Shirley Mangini; Malaga Burning by Gamel Woolsey; Homage to Caledonia by Daniel Gray; Tales of the Kirkcudbright Artists by Haig Gordon.

Thanks also to Maria Dolores Castro, a Spanish friend who checked the Spanish language for me, and to my brother-in-law, Michael, who checked the historical facts. I am most grateful for their help and support, and of course to my husband David, who as well as keeping me well fed and cared for, helps with proofing and other admin tasks. My wonderful agent, Amanda Preston, and the excellent Amazon team.

I would also like to thank all my readers who follow me on my newsletter, Facebook and Twitter: @fredalightfoot

If you wish to sign up for my newsletter please visit my website: http://www.fredalightfoot.co.uk

Published 6 September-by Lake Union



It is 1936 and Spain is on the brink of civil war. Across Europe, young men are enlisting in the International Brigade to free their Spanish brethren from the grip of Fascism, leaving sisters and lovers at home. 

But not all women are content to be left behind. In Britain, Charlotte McBain and Libby Forbes, friends from opposite sides of the class divide, are determined to do what they can; in Spain, Rosita García Díaz, fiercely loyal to her family and country, cannot stand by and watch. Three brave women, inspired by patriotism, idealism, love and even revenge, dare to go into battle against tradition and oppression. 

Tying them all together is Jo, Libby’s granddaughter. Five decades later she travels to Spain hoping to make sense of a troubling letter hidden among her grandmother’s possessions. What she learns will change all of their lives forever. 

Deceit, heartbreak, and a longstanding fear of reprisals must all be overcome if the deeds of the forgotten women are to be properly honoured. 





Friday, July 22, 2016

Big Flo’s Sayings and Wrinkles

Big Flo is loosely inspired by my grandmother, who was very much a strict Methodist and a stoic. She would stand in her pew at chapel every Sunday reciting: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want, while her belly growled with hunger and she wondered what they could possibly find to eat for their tea.

They were poor because she was the bread winner as her husband had MS. She also lost her baby son while he was being minded by a friend. He was scalded to death with boiling hot water as he grabbed a pan from the stove. Her hardships in life created a woman of strength but with a lovely dry Lancashire sense of humour, and a most tolerant lady. Her second husband was a Catholic, quite a daring thing to do in her day, but a very happy one. Here she is in her younger days with her daughter (my mum) and her sister on the right.


Here are some of her favourite sayings:
Stand on yer own two feet.
Be clean in mind and tongue.
Ask no favours.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be.
Idleness addles the brain.
Be stoic - no complaints.
Look the next chap in the eye.

Don’t throw the baby away with the bath water. 
Back in the day when the bath was a tin one in front of the fire, the man of the house had the privilege of the first bathing in nice clean water, followed by his sons and other working men in the household. Finally the women and children. The baby was last, and as it was pretty dirty by then, you had to be careful not to lose sight of it and throw it away with the bath water.

Raining Cats and Dogs.
The thatch on houses was a favourite place for animals to sleep and keep warm, so cats, dogs, mice, bugs often lived on the roof. But when it rained it became slippery, the straw might split and they could fall through, thus raining cats and dogs. Dirt Poor The floor of a worker’s house was generally comprised of dirt. Only the wealthy had flagged floors.

Bringing home the bacon
Most people lived on vegetable stew from the stock pot kept going over the fire, but sometimes they might be lucky and be able to afford pork which was a treat. It was a sign of god fortune if the man of the house could “bring home the bacon” and they would hang it over the fire to show off.

Upper crust
Bread was divided according to status. The peasants got the burnt bit at the bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and the lord got the top or the “upper crust”.

A wake
It was not uncommon for someone assumed to be dead to be no more than dead drunk. And with medical expertise often sadly lacking they would be laid out for a couple of days so that family and friends could gather round and see if they would wake. Hence the custom of holding a “wake”.

Saved by the bell 
When graveyards began to get full and money was tight, coffins would be dug up and re-used. On reopening scratch marks were sometimes found inside, indicating that the incumbent had been buried alive. So a string would be tied to the wrist of the corpse, fed through the coffin and up through the ground and tied to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the “graveyard shift”) to listen for the bell, just in case. Thus, someone could be “saved by the bell” or was considered a “dead ringer”.

Make do and mend 
From a pamphlet issued by the British Ministry of Information during WWII intended to give advice to housewives on how to cope with rationing. But it became a way of life for my Big Flo, and many others in real life, including my gran.

Wrinkles 
Tea leaves left to stand will clean up mirrors, glassware, furniture & old carpets.
Lemon juice in the water makes a lettuce crisp, whereas salt makes it flabby.
Mustard rubbed into the hands after peeling onions takes away the smell.
Cleaning damp shoes is aided by adding a few drops of paraffin to the blacking, and stuffing them with paper.

Big Flo is a fun and intriguing character in - The Polly Books - now republished by Harlequin Mira Books.


 Available at W H Smith and various book shops.

 Amazon

Thursday, June 30, 2016

100 Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme

I am a lover of history and I have a special interest in WWI. I'm not a scholar or an historian. I write stories. I would have liked to have had a career as a WWI historian. Instead, I feature it in my writing.
Books about WWI sit on my bookshelves, I read them for research, and every time I look at them I am in awe of what those men and women went through - the first world war.

It was a time of new awakenings. The world had never experienced anything on such a grand scale before. Wars had been fought before, but they were country against country. This time, this war, it was united armies fighting across vast areas, something not ever seen or done in history.

I can't imagine, or though I do try, how the people felt at this time. Each side believed it was in the right. I don't get into the politics of that era. I believe that unless you lived in that period with the mind set belonging to that era, then we can only surmise how they thought and why.
I prefer to concentrate on the effects of what was happening to the common people.
When I am writing about the war in my stories, I hope I can capture the feeling of what it was like to be in that world at that time.  There was fear, certainly, but also hope and belief in that they were all fighting for the right cause.

My research is based on the English and Australian people and armies. I am Australian born to English parents and I've attended many ANZAC parades and services on ANZAC day in Australia. However, my heritage is completely British and Irish. I had ancestors who fought and died in WWI. I was amazed to find, while researching my family's genealogy, that one my mother's side, there were great + uncles who fought - six brothers from West Yorkshire went to war, and surprisingly four came home as far as I can find out by the records so far. They bet the odds, but still, that family, my family, lost two, maybe three, young men.

Alfred Ellis - King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Died - 2 May 1915

Arthur Ellis - King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Died - 1 July 1916

Arthur died on the first day at the Battle of the Somme. One of the worst battled with the biggest loss of men in British military history. You can find out more about the battle here.

WWI is, without doubt, a changing point in history. A time when women were asked to take the roles only held by men. Women worked in factories, on the land, learned to drive ambulances, became battlefield nurses. They stood up and were accounted for. No longer told to stay by the kitchen sink and look after the children, they had a job to do - they kept the country going.
Strong women and brave men.
We, the future generations, should be so proud of them, our ancestors, for fighting to stay alive, both at home and on the battlefield.


As the years roll by and WWI becomes even more distant, a mere event in history, we should never forget such courageous people who suffered, who buckled down, who stuck together, who got on with the job they were asked to do. They saved us from tyranny. They saved us from invasion. They fought for their country to keep it safe and free.

We should never ever forget their sacrifices.

 We should, and always continue to, educate the younger generations that they live this wonderful carefree existence because of the people who fought, and those that died - for us.

Lest We Forget










Friday, June 24, 2016

Girl Bands in World War II

Girl Bands are not a new phenomenon. Long before Girls Aloud, The Spice Girls, or even The Supremes there were girl bands of quite a different sort. During World War II Girl Bands took over and became increasingly popular once the boys joined up. But it was a time when prejudice against women performing was still strong. Female singers such as Vera Lynn was quite acceptable, but many people thought it wasn’t quite proper for women to blow into a trumpet or make a sax sing.

Ivy Benson was a highly skilled clarinetist and saxophonist who formed her All Girls Band in 1939 playing throughout the war. It is said that she was inspired by listening to the recordings of Jimmy Dorsey and Benny Goodman. They became one of the top bands of the era, although not without some resentment from male band leaders, and the worry that some of her prized musicians would sometimes leave to marry.

There was a wonderful movie called The Last of the Blond Bombshells, featuring Judy Dench. It’s the story of a widow who was obliged to confine her sax playing to the attic while her husband was alive, but on his death decides to follow her passion and start her own band. I loved this film, and the idea inspired me to write my own story about a girl band, set in Manchester during the war.

Dancing on Deansgate is about Jess Delaney, a young girl who loves music and discovers she has a talent, thanks to a Salvation Army sergeant who teaches her to play the trumpet. Despite an abusive uncle and a feckless mother, and with her beloved father away fighting in the war, she decides to make something of her life. But Jess doesn’t find it easy to get the band underway.

As well as proving they were skilled musicians, they were also expected to look feminine, but finding the right clothes to wear wasn’t easy either, as fabric for dresses was in short supply. Faulty parachute silk was often used instead, and a glamorous look brought its own problems. Slinky gowns, together with sexy swing music, could bring about unwelcome invitations, as if fraternising with the men rather than a passion for music, was their main purpose in life.

Band leaders and ballroom managers frequently accuse them of not being able to withstand the physical hardships of long hours of playing.

Extract: 
‘Women don’t have the stamina that men have,’ said one.
‘Limited scope,’ said another.
‘Women are long on looks but short on talent.’
‘We aren’t in the business of employing young ladies who think it might be fun to show off on stage, however charming and genteel they might be.’

This attitude incensed Jess and she would tell them in no uncertain terms that her girls could play In the Mood every bit as well as they could play Greensleeves. One manager had the gall to say that women had no real sense of rhythm in a jam session, as they were hopeless at improvising.

Another, trying to be conciliatory, remarked, ‘I see why you ladies are offering to step in, with all the men having been conscripted for service and bands desperate for decent musicians. But we’re looking for professionals, not amateurs. We need the best.’

Outraged, Jess’s response was sharp. ‘We are the best, and how can we ever get to be professional if we’re never given the chance.’

A shake of the head. ‘Women aren’t made to sit on a stage and blow their brains out.’

‘We could blow the men right off it.’


They called it the Christmas Blitz, but there are no festivities for Jess, locked in the cellar by her feckless, tarty mother. And when Lizzie is imprisoned for shoplifting, Jess is sent to live with her uncle, a bullying black marketeer, who treats her like a slave. 

Jess’s natural musical talent offers an escape route - and the chance for love. But Uncle Bernie has never forgiven his niece for refusing to join his illegal schemes, and threatens to deprive Jess of her hard-won independence. 

Amazon

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Researching the First World War

For some years I have had a fascination of what is known as the First World War, or the Great War. (World War I 1914 – 1918)
This was a time of enormous change in the world. For the first time countries banded together to fight a common enemy. I’ll not go into the politics of the time or the reasons why the war happened, that is for professional historians to determine, but the effects of the war were far reaching, particularly in Europe.
In Great Britain the changes impacted on all walks of life, from the wealthy to the poor. Women were asked to step into the space left behind by the men who went to war. Not only did they have to work the men’s jobs, but they also had to keep the home running as well. Not an easy task to a female population who was expected to simply marry and have children and keep a nice house. Women of that time were sheltered from the world, innocent. All that was soon to change.

In my book, Where Dragonflies Hover, modern woman, Lexi, finds a diary written by an Australian nurse, Allie.
Allie wrote about her time as a nurse in Great War, and of falling in love with Danny, an English officer. She wrote of her struggles to help injured and dying men who came to her straight from the battlefield, covered in mud and blood.


To write Allie’s story I had to do a lot of research about World War I. I enjoy researching, and because the Edwardian Era is one of my favourite eras, it was no hardship to spend hours reading sources from that time.  
I really wanted to make Allie’s story as real as it could be. One of my research sources was reading, The Other Anzacs by Peter Rees. A truly extraordinary book detailing the true stories of Australian nurses in WWI. A lot of my inspiration came from that book. What those nurses went through was simply remarkable.


Another book I read was The Roses of No Man’s Landby Lyn MacDonald. Another interesting account of what the allied nurses and VADs from other countries went through. These women went from the comfort and security of their homes to the heart of battle zones.  They had to learn new skills swiftly, for even dedicated career nurses had never experienced before the types injuries and wounds they encountered only miles from the front line. Those women had to sustain difficulties they never thought of, for example at times they were food shortages, hygiene hardships, danger from bombings, homesickness and many more problems. Yet, these women, some just young girls, dutifully headed into an alien world without the promise of survival.

It is, of course, impossible for me, or anyone, to know exactly how these women felt during this challenging time, we can only read about their experiences. However, simply reading about them is enough for me to give them my heartfelt gratitude and admiration for what they endured.
I hope I did justice to their stories, to what they gave up and for the sacrifices they made to help us win the war.


Where Dragonflies Hover blurb:

Sometimes a glimpse into the past can help make sense of the future …
Everyone thinks Lexi is crazy when she falls in love with Hollingsworth House – a crumbling old Georgian mansion in Yorkshire – and nobody more so than her husband, Dylan. But there’s something very special about the place, and Lexi can sense it. 
Whilst exploring the grounds she stumbles across an old diary and, within its pages, she meets Allie – an Australian nurse working in France during the First World War.
Lexi finally realises her dream of buying Hollingsworth but her obsession with the ho
use leaves her marriage in tatters. In the lonely nights that follow, Allie’s diary becomes Lexi’s companion, comforting her in moments of darkness and pain. And as Lexi reads, the nurse’s scandalous connection to the house is revealed …

Excerpt:
The late sunshine enveloped the house in a golden glow. Again, it seemed to call to her, begging for attention. A path on the left of the drive looked inviting as it meandered through a small strand of poplars. Lexi grabbed her keys, locked the car and took off to explore again. She had nothing to rush home to now, and if she got caught for trespassing, then so be it.
The overgrown pathway brought her out on the far side of the grounds near the end of a small lake. She gazed over the water towards the back of the house and noticed a paved terrace area. From there the lawn then sloped down to the water. She’d not been around the back before and fell even more in love with the property. She could imagine the serenity of sipping a cool drink on a hot summer’s day and looking out over the lake.
Lexi stepped out along the bank. A lone duck swam by, its movement serene on the glassy, dark surface. This side of the lake was in shadow from large pine trees, and she stumbled on fallen pinecones hidden in the long grass. On the opposite side of the water were some small buildings, a garage, fruit trees in early blossom, and an overgrown vegetable patch, complete with a broken, rejected-looking scarecrow.
She wandered over to a narrow shed on her left and peered through its sole, dirty window. Unable to make out much in the dimness, she walked around to the front and was surprised when she was able to pull the bolt back on the door. Why didn’t people lock things? A covered rowboat took up most of the space inside. She smiled, seeing herself rowing it on the lake. Growing more excited, Lexi edged around it to peer at the workbenches and the odd assortment of tools and useless things one found in abandoned sheds. It was like treasure hunting in an antique shop. She used to love doing that with her grandfather.
She glanced about and spied a dusty painting leaning against the wall. The scene was of a child and a brown dog. Behind the canvas were more paintings, some framed, some not. Lexi flicked through them. The ones that caught her attention she took out and set aside.
She looked for somewhere to sit and study the paintings. A small tin trunk wedged under a workbench seemed the only offering. Thinking it empty, she went to tug it out, but it remained fast.
Using both hands, she heaved it out and was showered in a puff of dust. Squatting down, she inspected the latch that was held tight with a small lock. ‘Why are you locked?’ she murmured. The shed was open to anyone passing by, yet this ugly little chest had a lock on it. The trunk was nothing special, plain and in parts rusted. No ornament or writing hinted at its use.
Intrigued, she grabbed a hammer from the workbench, but then hesitated. She had no right to open someone else’s property. Lexi closed her eyes momentarily.What was she thinking of breaking into the trunk? What am I doing? Never had she broken the law and here she was guilty of trespassing and breaking and entering! She looked around the rowboat as though expecting someone to jump out and arrest her.
Something inside urged her on. She knew she couldn’t stop now. Sucking in a deep breath, she bent and hit the lock hard. The ringing sound was loud in the quiet serenity of the garden. The metal dented and with another few solid whacks the lock gave.
Shivers of excitement tingled along her skin. Gently, she eased up the lid.

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