Thursday, September 21, 2017

A picture says a thousand words?




Things go right and things go wrong when you’re writing. Some mornings your character voices (in your head) are indistinct, right down to a whisper. So you sit there and look at your screen and place your fingers on the keys. And you wait. And wait. Then you type something and it’s all wrong. Your characters are up to mischief. They hide, are devious, play games in your mind instead of coming to life in the scene you know you want/must/need to write. Even stoked to the ears with caffeine and digestive biscuit, turning three times in a circle and saying abracadabra doesn’t help.

And then I remember. Look at the pictures!!

I have amassed a library of wonderful, evocative digital photos over time, each bearing a relevance to the story I’m writing. I even have personal photos, browned and torn, but doubly beautiful in their own tarnished way because they are unique. However, two of my favourites are these. The watercolour is one that Chris painted for me some years ago. The other is from a recent Google search. Both represent Terry Doyle, Bella’s poor little brother from Christmas to Come. These two street kids and their fight for survival are what the story is all about. By a happy accident or coincidence or fate, the coloured one was painted for a character I had not yet written. But when I found the black and white photo some time later I KNEW exactly what my story was going to be. Weird isn’t it, the magic that fate has in store for us?

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Edwardian Fashion

I really enjoy looking at historical fashion, especially from the Victorian and Edwardian eras which are the periods I set a lot of my novels.
Below are some pictures of Edwardian gowns that I can easily imagine my characters wearing. I like the simple, clean lines of the Edwardian fashion and the soft subtle colours and textiles. They capture the essence of style and femininity.








Monday, September 4, 2017

Catrina's Return - Victorian saga

I'm highlighting another one of my books, which I really enjoyed writing.
Catrina's Return is a story of a young woman who is brave and strong and a survivor.
In this story I deal with issues resulting from selfishness.
Phillip, Catrina's half brother is the cause of a lot of Catrina's problems, like many of the men of those times, he had wealthy and power and ultimately abused both. 
Travis, the man Catrina loves, was wonderful to write. Although a flawed hero, (and we all love those, don't we?) Travis is torn between the love of Catrina and the loyalty to his family.
 
Set in the beautiful countryside of Yorkshire, Catrina's Return is a story I hope you enjoy reading.
 
 

Catrina's Return

 Blurb:
1899. A life altering event led Catrina Davies to hide from her family and society. Alone in The Highlands she exists in a lonely world cared for only by her saviour, a kind old gentleman. When she receives a surprise visitor, Travis Millard, the man she used to love, her head and heart are thrown into turmoil. 
Travis is determined to save her from this poor life and return her to her family where she belongs. No one is more surprised than he when she agrees to marry him. 
When Catrina arrives back at her family estate, Davmoor Court in Yorkshire, she is stunned to see the changes. While her father clings to life, Davmoor is nearly ruined by her brother's gambling obsession, and there is something strange about his new wife. 
As Catrina adjusts to her regained position in society and being with Travis, her marriage comes under attack from Travis's grandmother, who has her own secrets and reason for loathing the Davies family. 
When one of her brother's adversaries comes to stake his claim on the estate, the resulting chaos threatens not only Catrina's home, but the very lives of those she loves the most. 
Can she find the strength to fight once more for the right to be happy?

Catrina's Return is available now.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Main Characters of Forgotten Women

Charlotte McBain, daughter of a Scottish laird, spent a lonely, neglected childhood growing up in a fine castle in Kirkcudbrightshire and has no wish to be forced into marriage by her bully of a stepfather. She is passionate about art, stubborn, courageous and determined to find freedom and do something useful with her life. 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. Charlotte, who likes to be called Charlie, also has a desire to help people less fortunate than herself, not only the tenants on her father’s estate but also the people of Spain caught up in the Civil War. She and her dear friend, Libby Forbes, have a somewhat complex relationship, being from opposite sides of the class divide, but wish to do what they can to help.

Libby Forbes is a somewhat unsociable and self-opinionated girl who very much likes to be the centre of attention. She rarely reveals her true feelings about anything, particularly the fact she is passionate about Ray Dunmore, and fond of Laurence too. But her worry is they may both be more fascinated by her friend Charlotte, who is a beautiful and rich woman. She strives to remain friends with her, despite the jealousy she feels. When Libby’s brother goes missing in Spain in 1936, she is desperate to find him, no matter what the risk.

Rosita García Díaz, a young Spanish girl, is fiercely loyal to her family and country and having suffered badly from the war, she cannot stand by and do nothing. When Charlotte and Libby arrive, they become good friends. Three brave women, inspired by patriotism, idealism, love and even revenge, who dare to do battle against tradition and oppression.

Scotland 1986: Libby’s granddaughter Jo, is accused of displaying a forged picture in an exhibition. And finding a letter tucked into the back of it, realises she knows little about her grandmother’s life. Why has she kept silent? Feeling the need to find answers and recover from her own personal traumas, she goes to Spain to find the effect the Civil War had upon these three women’s lives, and why they are forgotten women. What she learns will change all of their lives forever.

Click here to download a sample: http://www.fredalightfoot.co.uk/



Amazon UK

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017



www.carolrivers.com

MOLLY'S CHRISTMAS ORPHANS has a flavour of the sea, and is inspired by one of my Dad's (BILL SKEELS) wartime adventures. THIS IS A COPY OF AN EXTRACT FROM THE DAILY TELEGRAPH 1943

"DIVED IN SERVICE GAS MASKS TO REPAIR HOLE IN SHIP"
BY TAFFRAIL


This is the rather unusual story of LCI (L) Landing Craft Infantry (Large) as recently told me by her Commanding Officer Lieutenant William T. Skeels, RNVR, of London who before the war worked with the Port of London Authority. The tale has never been made public.

An LCI (L) may be used for carrying troops from shore to shore for short voyages or alternatively for short journeys from a transporter to the shore. Since crossing the Atlantic, No.179 as she may be called for brevity in default of a name, has taken part in the original landing in Sicily and four other operations in Italy. She has had her fair share of excitement and danger in the way of enemy gunfire and bombing and like all the other landing craft out here, has done a sterling good job of work.
Lieutenant Skeels described the evening and night before the Sicilian landing as the worst he'd ever experienced from the point of view of weather. "We hung by our eyelids and many were miserably sick. It was worse by far than the long swell of the Atlantic."

HIT AMIDSHIPS
At 4.45.a.m. on the day of 179's great experience, dawn was beginning to break and objects on the hostile coast ahead were beginning to take shape. Filled with troops she was on her way ashore with a concourse of other craft. Soon after daylight shells from a coast defence battery were falling unpleasantly close. 179 beached herself and landed her troops, still under fire. Disembarkation was completed by 6.40.a.m. and the ship hauled off. Almost at once she was hit amidships on the port side of the waterline, the shell making a hole about three feet by two and a half feet. She tried to make water so was re-beached. The enemy battery had meanwhile been silenced by a destroyer; but not before the First Lieutenant and four ratings of 179 had been slightly wounded by shell splinters. It was surprising there were no more, as between twenty and thirty shells had fallen within twenty yards and the ship had been peppered all over by splinters%u2026275 times - I saw a photograph.

Lieutenant Skeels then set about repairing his ship. As a temporary measure the large shell hole was filled with blankets, duffel coats and fenders, anything they could spare, beg, borrow or steal. It wasn't very satisfactory so they asked another ship to cut them a steel plate and having borrowed a drill tried to heel the ship over to get the hole out of the water. With his ship still on the beach that was found to be impossible. But extemporising a diving helmet for working under water out of a service gas mask, with air supplied by a hand foghorn like an exaggerated bellows, they managed to bolt on the plate somehow. It was while this work was in progress that they found the shell - unexploded - still inside the ship.

A THUNDERING GOOD JOB
"Then we hauled off and took her out for a trial," said Lieutenant Skeels. "It was quite successful; a good deal of water came in but it could be kept under by the pumps. However, to make quite certain, I went alongside a ship and they built us a cement cofferdam inside. Then we went to Malta who took a look at us, but said they'd plenty on their hands, that we would do for the time being and sent us on to Bizerta where we were finally repaired by an American repair ship. Those chaps made a thundering good job of it, welding on the big patch and the 275 small ones. The old ship looked like nothing on earth when they'd finished."
"I like the idea of your gas-mask diving helmet,' I said to Lieutenant Skeels. "Who thought of it?"
"I can't quite remember,' he replied, "but it worked."

A QUOTE FROM "NAVAL AWARDS" - LANDINGS IN SICILY AND ITALY
The King has approved the following award for gallant and distinguished service in the face of heavy opposition from the enemy for BAR and D.S.C to Lieutenant William Thomas Skeels
 

Dad was an Eastender born and bred. He was a quiet, unassuming man, but he must have been very brave. I model a lot of my heroes on his character. Thank you, Dad.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Primary Sources

Primary sources, I feel, are a writer's best friend, especially for a historical writer.

   I collected Victorian diaries and journals, written mainly by women who have arrived in Australia after leaving England, but also by women born in colonial Australia. These diaries give me an insight to how they lived and what was happening in the world around them at that time. From their personal entries, we can learn what was important to them, their daily routine, their views and opinions. They can also lift some of those myths we in the modern world tend to think as true.

   Diaries aren't the only primary source available to us. We have so many museums and art galleries. I love studying paintings of the different eras and visiting museums that have wonderful displays of every era.

  We should be visiting our local or state libraries for books, letters, newspapers and articles written in the eras we write. Naturally this is difficult for those writing in the ancient periods, but those of us who write about the last few hundred years have sources available and we need to use them.

   If you are writing about the area where you live, join your local historical society, where as a member, you can study maps, paintings and photos are that district. Also the local councils will have documents and maps going back years.

   It is not always possible to visit your chosen setting, but if you can visit, make sure you don't simply go to the main attractions, like a castle, etc, but find the time to visit the graveyard of the local church, sit in a pew and study the stain glass windows, lay by the river and absorb the surroundings, listen to the birds sing, the insect buzz and imagine what it would be like in your era, the smells, the sounds. Glance up at buildings, many have the dates of construction engraved at the top to give you an idea of how the street would looked. Walk the back streets of the village or town, find the oldest parts and touch the walls of the buildings and think of nothing but how your characters would have lived. Would their footsteps have walked where yours have?

 



The photo is taken from a sketch done of Lower George St, Sydney, Australia 1828. I used this as a guide for where my character, Nicola, goes in my book, Nicola’s Virtue, which is set in Sydney, Australia in the 1860s.

Sketches and paintings like these give us the artist's view of those times and from studying it we can see a little of what life was like then.

I found this photo in a book, but the internet has many websites with great antique photos and paintings, some even for sale.
 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Lost Children in the Spanish Civil War

Lady Felicity, Charlotte’s mother, decides to support her daughter by helping refugee children during the Spanish Civil War. It wasn’t an easy time for them. Many were sent away to foreign lands, including Scotland where she lived. Once the war was over they were expected to return to Spain, whether or not their parents agreed. Some didn’t wish that to happen because their lives were still not entirely safe. But these children were used as means of political propaganda.

Children were taken from those who had been assassinated, jailed, or where members of families had vanished without a trace. Women were in danger of being arrested simply for supporting their husbands. To have a child in prison was a woman’s worst nightmare. If the infant was fortunate enough to survive the birth it would often be taken from her, and their emaciated mothers could do nothing to save them. The law stated that children could remain in jail with their mothers until they turned three. But many were taken away before that, either because of ill health or were considered to be of the wrong religion, not being Catholics.

In addition, babies were often taken away from their mothers at birth, not only if they were unmarried or jailed, but if they were of a different political persuasion to the fascists. This rule was considered to be of benefit to the couples of the Francoist regime who wished to adopt a child, or sometimes in order to indoctrinate them to agree with the new politics of the state. Even after the war it became a state policy that continued for some years.

Other characters in the story also help with this issue, but won’t go into any more detail, as I’ve no wish to make spoilers.

Here’s an extract from the Prologue:
Ventas prison, 1938 
My dearest love,
Let me assure you that I am well. The silence in the prison cells as thousands of women prisoners wait for the call they dread is deeply distressing. Every night is the same. The guards come in the hour before dawn to select the next victims to be shot by firing squad. The only crime of many of these poor women is to have supported their husband by not revealing his whereabouts, or simply to raise funds for the Republican cause. Even failing to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church with sufficient diligence can result in execution, particularly if the family is of the wrong political persuasion. 

Sometimes I feel that anticipating one’s death is almost worse than the actual event itself, rather like waiting to be sacrificed to ancient pagan gods. The agony becomes so intense that desperation grows inside me to get it over with quickly. 

Each night, when the call finally comes, the eyes of the women being taken go instantly blank, as if they’ve already departed this world and are looking beyond the grim walls of the prison to a life of peace in the hereafter. They walk to meet their fate with pride and courage, dressed in their best, heads shaved. 

I confess to breathing a sigh of relief each time I am passed by, even if my heart bleeds for those less fortunate than myself. An emotionally charged silence generally follows, as those of us who have been spared listen for the sound of the shots that mark the end of yet more innocent lives. 

Some prisoners have had their sentence commuted to anything from ten to thirty years. I can’t recall how much of my five-year sentence I have served here in Ventas prison, or La Pepa as some call it. I’ve lost track. But then time no longer seems relevant. I do hope you are still safe, my darling. I live in hope for the day when this dreadful war is over and we’ll be together again. 

Sorry, my love, but I had to stop writing this letter and have returned to it a night or two later. I was interrupted by a heart-rending scream, then forced to watch in agonised silence as a woman frantically fought a guard who was dragging her child from her arms. He strode away with the screaming infant tucked under his arm as if it were no more than a rabbit. Silence descended upon everyone as the poor woman fell into a stupor, realising she had but hours to live. Perhaps she no longer cared, having lost the battle to save her child. The lack of facilities is such that many babies don’t survive birth. Nor do their mothers. 

The conditions here are unbearable: fleas, lice and bedbugs, with very little water to drink or wash ourselves. Yet we endure it all without complaint. It’s the safest way. I’ve grown accustomed to battling hunger, dysentery, food poisoning, malnutrition and rat bites, even the regular beatings. But living with the fear of torture, rape and execution is another matter altogether. I try to be brave, as always. Did I write to tell you about the interrogation I had to endure, once I’d recovered from the trauma? Can’t quite remember. I do hope you receive all my letters. I’m so grateful for yours that R brings to me. Reading them daily gives me the will to battle on. 

Must hurry to finish this one as letters are already being passed to friends before the guards come for their next victims. Wedding rings, crucifixes, earrings and other jewellery are also being handed over. I have none left, as I’ve given them all away in payment for food and other necessities. Mothers are whispering a loving farewell to their children, preparing for the worst as they struggle not to shed a tear, fearful of frightening them. Babies are put to the breast to silence them too. 

Ah, a small voice has started to sing. This happens often, almost as if the women feel the need to indulge in some light relief to make their last hours on earth joyous. I’m singing along with them. Can you hear me in your heart, my darling? 

Sadly the singing has stopped almost instantly at the sound of footsteps clomping on the stone paving that leads to our cells. My heart is racing. The sound of breathing too has almost ceased. Fists are clenched. I hear soft whimpers and cries. The guard has entered and is reading out names. The women called rise at once to their feet, knowing there can be no delay in obeying or more will be taken in retaliation. Five are now standing in line. I am safe. Oh no . . . 


Amazon UK 

Amazon US 


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Molly's Christmas Orphans and Links to the Merchant Navy






June 4 1940. Waiting, wondering, hoping and praying. In Molly’s Christmas Orphans, this is exactly what Molly does; like millions of women world wide, she dreads the arrival of bad news. She’s already lost her family; young husband Ted, who enlisted and perished in the fated British Expeditionary Force, and her darling little daughter Emily, victim to the influenza outbreak. Now Molly is entrusted with the care of two orphans and the London blitz shows no mercy. Their father, Andy, is serving on an ‘old lady’ from World War 1, a battered, and bruised vessel and at the mercy of the infamous German U-boats of the Kriegsmarine. How will Molly cope? In Andy's absence has she the strength to fight for the children's lives? Molly’s Christmas Orphans is a saga of wartime courage and hope.

My October saga, MOLLY'S CHRISTMAS ORPHANS is set during World War 2 and against the backdrop of the Merchant Navy. Many unsung heroes lost their lives because of our badly defended merchant ships. Light cruisers and sometimes destroyers tried to protect them as they ploughed through the freezing North Atlantic, sitting targets for the famed wolf-packs of the Kriegsmarine. Molly's love interest, Andy, has escaped the dangerous duties of the DEMS (merchant ships), only to find himself in deeper trouble and longing to be home with Molly and his family.

On sale with AMAZON and eretailers, in supermarkets and book shops as from October 2017.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Farm in West Yorkshire

Isabelle's Choice is set in West Yorkshire, in the area around Halifax, Hebden bridge and Heptonstall. This story was a favourite of mine to write, and after visiting the area I could really imagine Isabelle living there. The quaint village of Heptonstall, situated on top of a moor and over looking Hebden Bridge and the river below is the perfect setting for the run-down farm where Isabelle goes to live when she marries Farrell, a drunken waster. She thought him a better man than he was, and out of desperation for her and her brother's safety, she hopes marriage will give her a decent life after the trauma of being in the workhouse. Little does she know...


Blurb
Halifax, 1876. On the death of her mother and sister, Isabelle Gibson is left to fend for herself and her brother in a privately-run workhouse. After the matron's son attempts to attack her, Isabelle decides to escape him and a life of drudgery by agreeing to marry a moorland farmer she has never met. But this man, Farrell, is a drunkard and a bully in constant feud with his landlord, Ethan Harrington. When Farrell bungles a robbery and deserts her, Isabelle and Ethan are thrown together as she struggles to save the farm. Both are married and must hide their growing love. But despite the secrecy, Isabelle draws strength from Ethan as faces from the past return to haunt her and a tragedy is set to strike that will change all of their lives forever.


Isabelle’s Choice is available now
Purchase:
Amazon: myBook.to/IsabellesChoice

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Historical Places

Apart from the historical novels I have set in Australia, the rest of my historical stories are set in various areas around Yorkshire, England. I think I chose Yorkshire because my family and ancestors are from this region.
Yorkshire has some beautiful countryside, and it's worth visiting, but it also has quaint little villages and historic cities full of wonderful architecture. It has a rugged coastline and bleak moors, sweeping valleys and mountains.

The map below shows you its size and location within the UK.



Novels I have set in Yorkshire and where.
 

 
Kitty McKenzie - York
To Gain What's Lost - Leeds
Aurora's Pride - York
Broken Hero - near Bridlington
Isabelle's Choice - Heptonstall & Hebden Bridge
Eden's Conflict - Gargrave
Catrina's Return - York
Grace's Courage - Leeds
Where Dragonflies Hover - Wakefield

I have visited all of the above places, but because my stories are set in Victoria & Edwardian time, I've relied heavily on maps from those eras and non-fiction research books, paintings and so on. Luckily for me, the eras I write in are not that long ago, unlike say, Roman or medieval, therefor I can still see evidence of Victorian streets and buildings. Some villages have not been modernised for centuries and that helps me as an author to visualise my characters in those places.



Gargrave, and the river Nathan gets swept away in - Eden's Conflict.
 
 





The photos of York, featured in Kitty McKenzie and Aurora's Pride.
 
 
 
 
The farm is something similar I pictured for Isabelle at Heptonstall in Isabelle's Choice.

These are just a few examples of places and images to show where my books are set, or where my characters might have visited. I could go on for hours and fill the page with photos, and perhaps I'll do some more another day.