Thursday, 16 November 2017

Would you send your dog to war?

Hello all, this week I'll admit I'm a bit excited as I'm all about the dogs. Some of you may not know this but when I'm not up to eyeballs writing, researching and reading everything I can about WW2, I also write another series of books all about the wonder of dogs. My latest novel,  A Puppy Called Hugo has just been released, and so my mind has inevitably strayed to the way our furry friends helped us out during wartime.
imagesI was amazed to discover recently that in May 1941, the War Office made an appeal for those with dogs to be sent to war. In all honesty the government wasn't too sure what sort of response they would get, but incredibly the office received 7,000 offers of pets within two weeks. By the end of WW2, the War Dogs' Training School in Hertfordshire had sent army dogs all over the world, boosting morale, offering friendship and saving lives. Here are just some of the heroes.

Brian, a two-year-old Collie Cross
Brian was awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal for service. During the D Day Landings, Brian and several other animals became 'paradogs' and were dropped into France under heavy enemy anti-aircraft fire. Amazingly, Brian survived and after the war he returned home to his owner where lived out his days quite happily before passing away of old age in 1955.

Judy, an English Pointer

79931.adapt.1190.1
This plucky hound became the only official canine Second World War prisoner of war (POW) after she was a mascot on board HMS Gnat and HMS Grasshopper. When Grasshopper sank, Judy tracked down a fresh-water spring on a desert island where she and the remaining survivors washed up but inevitably ended up in the POW  Gloegoer camp in Sumatra, where she was repeatedly abused by her captors.
While she was in prison, she bonded with Leading Aircraft-man (LAC) Frank Williams, who had been captured in Singapore in 1942. Despite warnings from the war office about not making friends with service animals, Judy and Frank became inseparable. When the Japanese ordered the POWs back to Singapore, Judy was smuggled onto the cargo ship and, when torpedoes struck the boat, she swam around rescuing drowning prisoners, guiding them to floating debris. When the POWs were rounded up and returned to Sumatra, Frank became critically ill and later insisted that Judy, who sat loyally at his bedside, gave him the determination to survive.
When they were freed from the camp in 1945, both were nursed back to health and received bravery awards, with Frank taking care of Judy until she died in 1950.

Ricky, a Welsh collie
Ricky from Kent, received the Dickin Medal after he was sent to the Nethelands in 1944 to clear mines from railway tracks and canal paths. Working through thick snow and on frozen ground, Ricky brought  nothing but joy to the soldiers with his plucky spirit, fierce energy and determination.
Sadly, on December 3, a mine exploded, killing the section commander and badly wounding Ricky. Despite the shock of the blast and sustaining serious injuries to his head, Ricky got straight back to work and found more mines before being taken away to have his wounds patched up.
To read more about these incredible WW2 dogs, you can buy Dogs of Courage by Clare Campbell and Christy Campbell, published by Corsair.

So what do you all think? Would you send your dogs to war or would you keep them safe and sound? Do you think they deserve more than a medal? Perhaps their own commemorative statue in The Mall? As ever I love to hear your thoughts.

Until next time,

Fiona x

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Dennis's Dunkirk Miracle



‘A1. You sure?’ I asked the Army Medical Officer who declared me fit for service in September 1939.

 I was 20 years old when war broke out. Having suffered measles and diphtheria as a child, I was stunned by the assessment, but there it was – I was fit to fight and, having registered for military service, there was no going back.






I joined the Royal Artillery, Northumbria Field Regiment, as a lance-bombardier,

and we were sent straight to Northern France. The rest of my regiment were great Geordie boys and I was happy to be serving alongside them. I was made a dispatch rider and it was my job to lead ammunition lorries to our position and relay messages back from observation posts to our regiment. I had some narrow squeaks, and was blown off my motorbike a number of times. Despite this, we were confident. ‘We’ve got Jerry on the run,’ we boasted as we fired our 24 howitzer guns at them.


We were wrong. In May 1940, we blew up a bridge along the Bassey Canal, and I relayed the message back to the observation post. There was a padre there who said to me: ‘All being well, you’ll be back in England this time tomorrow.’ I asked if he’d been drinking! ‘We’re miles from the coast,’ I protested. But that night, sure enough, we were on the move… to Dunkirk. The road was hell and it dawned on us as we marched that we didn’t have Jerry on the run, quite the opposite. It was chaos; an inferno of noise and fire. We were repeatedly dive-bombed by German Stuka bombers. I’ll never forget the terrible wailing scream they made as they hurtled through the sky towards us. The closer we got to the beach, the more desperate things became. It was pandemonium. Bodies littered the beaches; there were explosions, blood, fires and such noise. I saw an ambulance on fire full of burning bodies, which stopped me in my tracks. It was the very image of hell. This was the real war.

 We ended up in a ditch being dive-bombed. I saw men from my regiment with their brains splattered everywhere. I have to get out of here I thought. I know this sounds strange, but I suddenly heard a woman’s voice behind me that sounded like my dead mother’s, urging me to get out the ditch and take to the fields. It could have been hysteria-induced hallucinations, but I did as she told me and legged it. I found a motorbike hidden under a bush, got on it and rode like the clappers towards the beach.

 I was blown off my bike up against the side of a burning French truck, which took the skin off my back, but all I could focus on was getting onto the mole and one of the Navy destroyers. The instinct for survival was so strong inside me. I had a sweetheart at home, Joyce, and I knew I had to make it home to her.

I was nearly there when I saw my Commanding Officer Jack, crouched in a doorway clutching his head and moaning. A piece of shrapnel had sliced through his helmet and embedded it into his skull. ‘Leave me,’ he begged, as I tried to pick him up. ‘I’m done.’ But I wasn’t leaving him to die there. I managed to get him onto a destroyer and he made it back to England. After a couple more days up to my waist in seawater, trying to get on a small boat, I finally made it onto HMS Vanquisher. Jack survived. He ended up with severe injuries and lost the use of his legs. Years later he tracked me down to thank me. My own survival at Dunkirk is more mysterious, but I like to think my mother had a hand in it.

 Our regiment – or what was left of it – reformed and we were posted to the Middle East, to the hell that is the desert. Dunkirk had death and destruction in the sand, and so too did Tubrok. Once more, my survival instincts were tested to the full. In June 1942, our garrison was under siege for 241 days and we had to pull out. On the forth night out in the desert, we ran into a strong German armoured division and we were surrounded on all sides by Panzer tanks. Four of my regiment were blown up in front of me, and I was trapped in a bunker with their blood-soaked bodies. I had no choice but to surrender. I didn’t have a white flag, so lifted up a stick, which was shredded by machine gun fire, along with my hand.


‘Come on Tommy,’ said a German, peering over the bunker. Maybe it was because the Germans knew how hellish the desert was, but there was a mutual understanding between front-line troops, almost a strange kind of ‘esprit des corps’, despite being on opposing sides. He treated me with respect as he took me to have my hand bandaged up. Sadly, that respect ended with the front-line troops as I was marched towards the coast and Tripoli. Here, in the prisoner of war camp, I saw Mussolini. He came to gloat over the prisoners with a look on his face as if to say, ‘I am the victor.’ From here, we were taking by boat to Naples. I was starving and exhausted and losing the feeling in both legs. We survived off Red Cross packages, and kept the packs of five Players cigarettes they sent to bribe the Italian Guards.

Every day I held fast to the hope that one day, some way, I would see my Joyce again. We were moved so many times, I lost track of time and which country we were in. We were treated with no humanity and half starved. Hope comes in strange ways though. I remember looking through the bars of my cell one morning at dawn to see Mount Vesuvius rising up through the morning mist. When we were transferred to Rome, we arrived to see the Vatican bathed in the milky light of a full moon. I clung to these images of beauty, as a reminder of why I had to stay alive. I know I’m a terrible romantic, but it’s this that kept me going through some dark times. I knew I had to escape, to somehow to make it home to Joyce and to my beloved church, St Mary’s in Sunbury. At night, I’d close my eyes and remember the sound of its church bells pealing out on a Sunday morning. When asked by the British Red Cross to identify myself in eight words for my relatives to know I was alive, I sent the message, Keep the old bells a-ringing.

But then, hope began to die. I woke one morning and realised I couldn’t feel my legs at all. Escape was now impossible. I was inspected in the infirmary by the camp medic, who realised the starvation diet they had me on had affected my nerve endings. The infirmary was full of British soldiers dying from internal injuries from the rifle butts slammed into their guts by Italian guards. The International Red Cross were touring camps in the area so the camp authorities got scared and quickly moved me under guard to a civilian hospital in the Ferrara area.

Here, I was nursed by the most wonderful Italian nuns. One in particular, a young nun, took pity on me and sneaked me bread and tinned meat. ‘Dog?’ I joked to her one day. She smiled briefly, a fleeting, mischievous smile, which lit up her face. ‘No, kitten.’ Her English was broken, but she was kindness itself, bringing me coffee she had roasted from ground acorns. ‘Why do you do this?’ I asked her one day. ‘We are enemies’. ‘No,’ she replied. ‘We are all God’s children.’

Whilst I was in this hospital, I was used as medical guinea pig and given some groundbreaking treatment, by a young Italian doctor by the name of Antonino Alessi, a lieutenant in the Italian army.

‘You’ll never walk again if it fails,’ he warned me. It was a risk I was willing to take. He injected serum containing Vitamin B into my lymphatic glands with a huge needle. It was so painful, three nuns had to hold me down. ‘Now you know what it’s like to have a baby, huh?’ he joked with me. There were a few invectives, I don’t mind telling you! One of the nuns wagged her finger at me and said in Italian: ‘There’s no paradise for you’.

 The pins and needles signalled the return of feeling in my leg and amazingly, two weeks later, I was ready to walk out of there. Before I left, the young nun who sneaked me food snipped off her crucifix and slipped it into the lining of my jacket. ‘May God protect you,’ she whispered, before the Germans hauled me back to the prisoner of war camp.





The war raged on and from there, we were transferred to a camp in the historic city of Dresden, Germany. Now I was better, I was put to work making bricks in a factory. They may have had my body, but they didn’t possess my mind. I carved images of my church in Sunbury into the clay to remind me of home.

 One afternoon, we were working outside when we saw flares light up the sky. I knew instantly what it was. ‘There is trouble ahead,’ I warned our guard. ‘That’s Bomber Command. The British are coming to bomb Dresden. We need to leave, now.’

 ‘You are wrong,’ replied the guard. ‘The RAF will never bomb Dresden, we did not bomb Oxford.’

 Eventually, he was persuaded otherwise and we fled back to the POW camp outside the city. The next day, February 13th 1945, was Ash Wednesday, which was ironic as there was nothing left of Dresden but a great cloud of ash. Bomber Command had razed the city to the ground. In the chaos and destruction, I finally saw my opportunity for escape and I took it.

Me and my pal, George, managed to hide amongst a crowd of refugees fleeing the ruins of Dresden. Then we found an abandoned car and drove it until it ran out of petrol. After that, we went by foot in the direction of France, hiding in barns and eating whatever vegetables we could take from gardens. We were filthy, exhausted and starving… But we were free.

 Eventually, we came across an American unit of GIs who saved us and flew us home to Britain. And so my war finally came to an end. I was reunited with my sweetheart Joyce, whom I married a year after the war ended in my beloved church. Never had the sound of church bells sounded so sweet.

 Aged 99, I lead a less eventful life now, and 72 years on from the end of the war, I have learnt to forgive my captors. As a dedicated Christian, I believe in love and forgiveness. I treasure the crucifix that nun gave me and I get it out often to remind me of the power of humanity and love in the darkest of days. I am also, so they tell me, Britain’s oldest bell-ringer! How I wish that Italian medic could see me now, climbing the bell tower stairs. I would shake him by the hand and thank him. I truly never thought I would make old bones.





Kate Thompson is the author of three saga novels published by Pan Macmillan and set in wartime Britain. Her next book, The Allotment Girls is out Spring 2018.

To read all about Kate's latest interviews with the wartime men and women of Britain, keep up with exclusive book news and be the first to enter some great competitions, sign up to her quarterly newsletter. http://www.katethompsonmedia.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/KateThompsonAuthor/

@katethompson380


Monday, 13 November 2017

MARY WOOD - AN INTRODUCTION TO ME AND MY WORK

Hello,

I am new to this blog, and it is lovely to be here. I am Mary Wood, author of gritty, emotional, Historical Sagas, published by Pan Macmillan.

I write Northern Sagas, and Wartime Sagas.

All of my books will tug at your heartstrings and take you right to the heart of what my heroine/s endure. You will be on a journey through life as our great grandmothers lived it. But, the journey will be yours too, as I aim to drag you into the story, to go through the emotions, heartache, and hardship that my heroines go through as if you are them. 

In my Northern Sagas, this will be to a time, when for women of all classes, life was very different from ours. They had no voice. The attitude of men was that there was no such thing as rape, only a woman who teased, and wanted it, and then changed her mind, so deserved what she got. And, domestic violence was a man's right to keep his missus in check.

Yes, upper-class women commanded more respect on the face of it, but had to put up with being married off for money, or title, and then, often endure their husbands keeping a mistress, who was given more affection, while they were instructed to 'lay back and think of England!

Against this background, many characters emerge. And of these, the strong woman, who grasps the mettle of life and makes things better for others, is my favourite, and the forerunner to the liberation we have today. She is a woman who will triumph, no matter what life throws at her. She will endure great hardship, and yet be there for others. She will form deep friendships that will sustain her, and yet ask a lot of her too. And, though she may be a battered wife, a victim of rape with a child to care for, or a woman of means married to a thug of a man, she will come through, and find happiness.

My Wartime Sagas are based in England, but take you to many of the wartime theatres of Europe with the heroine, who may be a British spy working behind enemy lines in France, or a Polish Jew, with British connections. Or, a doctor/nurse on the Somme, or a Land Girl in the countryside of England.

All experienced, fear, emotional upset, and all endured more than should be asked of any person in a lifetime. But they did it willingly and with great courage, and did so, so that their families, and future generations could be free.

In these novels life is often at its rawest. and yet, its most heartwarming, as war is a great leveller of people. Upper class girls find themselves fighting and working alongside lower class girls, and deep friendships are forged, that would never have prevailed in peacetime. And all find that when your back is against the wall, it is the friendship of others and their courage that will bring you through.

Some win through, some don't, as is the nature of war, but all are strong and make you proud as you experience with them, the dangers they faced, the hardships, the heartache of death of comrades, friends, and even family - and yes, mixed with all this, the fun they managed to have and falling in love, and the conflicts this can set up. 

Are you ready for such a journey as my books will take you on? If so, these are my titles:

Available from WH Smiths, and all good bookshops. Also on line at Amazon and Kobo.

And, coming on the 30 November, and available in WH Smiths, all good bookshops and all supermarkets 

Molly lives with her repugnant father, who has betrayed her many times. From a young age, living on the
streets of London’s East End, she has seen the harsh realities of life . . . When she’s kidnapped by a gang and forced into their underworld, her future seems bleak.
Flo spent her early years in an orphanage, and is about to turn her hand to teacher training. When a kindly teacher at her school approaches her about a job at Bletchley Park, it could be everything she never knew she wanted.
Will the girls' friendship be enough to weather the hard times ahead?


Thank you, for reading my blog of introduction. I will come back soon to blog on my research, my journeys into the past as I visited the Somme, Austwich, Krakow, in Poland, and Normandy, to being realism to my work. And, many other topics. Much love to all, Mary x

Friday, 10 November 2017

New Cover!

Eden's Conflict - My Victorian saga has had a revamp.  I felt the old cover wasn't getting the right response from readers. So I worked with Josephine, a graphics designer (JB Graphics) who is wonderful in my opinion, and after telling her about the story and what I envisioned, she came up with the cover you see below.
I love it. Those who have read the story will see how much the cover represents the story as well.

I've asked Amazon, Apple iBook and Kobo, etc, to change their listing to the new cover, which will take a few days or so to filter through online. Hopefully, this lovely new cover will soon be able to be seen by everyone.

Eden's Conflict
Blurb:
1901 - A new century brings change to the carefully ordered world Eden Harris maintains, change that threatens all she holds dear. Despite years of devoted service to the Bradburys, the leading family of the community, Eden hides a secret that would affect them all. When an enemy returns, her world is shattered and her secret exposed. Torn and provoked, she strains to protect her family until a devastating accident leaves her alone and frightened. As the threat against her grows, Eden takes her precious daughters and flees from the only place she's called home, to live amongst masses in York. 
Her attempt to start anew is not so simple as the past haunts her, and the one man she thought lost to her so many years before, returns to claim what has always been his. Eden must gather her strength and look into her heart to accept what the future offers. 
Can she find the happiness she longs for?

Eden's Conflict is available now.
Purchase 
Amazon: myBook.to/EdensConflict

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Strong Women in Sagas

The saga usually has a strong woman as the main character - who must succeed against all the odds. She can be found fighting to deal with the issue in question, and possibly also the poverty of her surroundings. She may aspire to break out of the lower class in order to better herself, or she might be battling against the restrictions and prejudices of the time, as well as the conflict brought about by her antagonist as well as her own inner flaws.

Her heroic achievement is exactly the same as her Norse and mythical counterparts: she must pit good against evil and, unlike in real life, must win through in the end, no matter what she has suffered or lost along the way. She must be a woman of her time, confined by the moral mores, the traditions and tenets of her upbringing. Yet she must also have the strength and courage to appeal to a modern readership. It’s a fine balance and if you read Cookson, you will see that the females in her books managed to do both rather splendidly.

Whatever her problem, she must have the core of strength necessary to allow her to resolve it, whether she is ahead of her time, a rebel, or simply has grit. She must suffer, sink all the way down, be beaten by the prejudices and restrictions of the time, her antagonists, fate, and whatever conflicts you can throw at her. Then she must bring herself back up again and win through, thus making a stand for all women. Your heroine must grow stronger in spirit than she was at the start of the story.


We know that in today’s world we must not attempt to radicalise or be politically incorrect. Being set in the past, you need to reveal that attitudes were very different. Obviously, some issues, such as murder, rape, child abuse, etc., cannot be justified on any account. But it is sometimes necessary to give a slightly modern twang to the problem, or to your main character.

 E,g: Illegitimacy, as Cookson made clear, was considered wrong at one time, but not any more. A mixed marriage (at one time being of different religions, was also looked upon as wrong in certain areas, even back in WWII. The issue can be objected to by some people in your story, while others consider it to be perfectly fine. You need to be politically correct by showing points of view from both sides. Where possible look for a balance. My grandmother was a strong working class woman, having an invalid husband and being the one responsible for earning a living. Polly has other problems in the Polly Books but she too is a strong woman who manages to cope despite the difficulties she has to face.

An element of your heroine female character can be slightly modern in that she’s forward thinking for her time so that your readers can empathise with her. In a way, women have always been a bit modern in their way of thinking. They’ve always fought for what they believe in, battled against hard times, done several jobs at once, held their families together and aspired for a better future for their children. Take care though, not to overdo it. Make sure you do not allow your heroine to become an anachronism. Don’t have her knowing or understanding things she couldn’t possibly have known in the period in which she lives. Make her realistic and allow her to achieve what she requires in life.

Polly Pride feels luckier than most who live in the poor Ancoats area of Manchester. She has a loving husband, two healthy children, a place of their own and a regular wage coming in. But it is the late 1920s, unrest is in the air, employers are putting on the squeeze, and when Matthew loses his job Polly’s life is thrown into turmoil. 

With no money coming in Polly decides that only drastic action can keep the family from starvation and in a desperate gamble she sells all the family goods and chattels and buys a handcart, from which she sells second-hand rugs and carpets. But struggling to deal with poverty and her husband’s hurt pride are only the start of her problems, for when tragedy strikes Polly has to do battle with the bigotry of a sour brother-in-law to keep herself and her family from falling apart. 

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Friday, 13 October 2017

Australian historical don't sell...?

Three of my novels are in the top 10 of Australian category. Kitty McKenzie's Land, Nicola's Virtue & Southern Sons.

I'm so pleased that they are doing well because I feel that a lot of the time the reading public ignore the region of Australia and southern countries and islands, when in truth they are wonderful places to learn about and enjoy. I suppose everyone has their favourite areas where authors set stories, as they do by having favourite genres and historical eras. However, there is room for more, less known countries to be featured and explored, and I really encourage readers to try something new and different.

Throughout the many years I've been writing, I've been told constantly that Australian set historical novels don't sell outside of Australia. Well, I beg to differ. Agents who have said in the past to me to not bother writing Australian historical novels may not have been willing to take a chance, and I think that is a mistake.
I'm excited by the fact that people may be branching out and trying books set in other areas outside of the main countries that are so popular. If you are one of those readers, thank you!

Amazon UK. Australian & Oceania category. 13th October 2017. 9:48 am.
Proof that sometimes readers buck the trend.

A novel setting... a peek inside...

My latest release, Southern Sons, is set in Australia and France during the Great War.
It's about the grandchildren of Kitty McKenzie, who live on a large cattle property (or cattle station) called Blue Water.
I set Blue Water in the country area of Northern New South Wales, near the town of Grafton which sits on the mighty Clarence River. A smaller river runs off the Clarence, called Orara. Blue water sits on the edge of the Orara River.
In a chapter in Southern Sons, Tilly learns to drive her father's motor car and she drives it miles from Blue Water to Grafton to do some shopping. She has to cross the Clarence River on a steam ferry, and I have found a picture of the actual ferry.



The picture below is something similar to the motor car, Tilly would have learned to drive while the men were at war.

Tilly also went on a cattle muster, to bring in the cattle that grazed the hundreds of acres of Blue Water...


and at night they would camp by the fire.


Read Tilly's story in Southern Sons.



Blurb: 1914, Australia. As war is declared, the idyllic world of Blue Water Station is torn apart when Oliver, the eldest grandson and heir, shares his desire to enlist in the army. His enthusiasm ignites his brother, cousins and friends to do the same, but upsets his sister, Tilly. After a tragic family incident, Tilly is left to run the cattle station and take care of the older folk. A chance meeting with a sophisticated Lieutenant opens up a friendship through letters, but it’s a rogue stockman who attracts her attention with dire consequences. With the men at war, and her heart pulled in two directions, Tilly must grow up quickly and face the consequences of her rash decisions. Will She find her own happiness?Surviving a baptism of battle fire in Gallipoli, Turkey, Oliver and the men are sent to France and feel the brutal force of the Western Front. The only glimmer of light for Oliver is his relationship with Jessica, an army nurse. But as the terrors of war impact him, he feels the heavy guilt of encouraging the others to follow him into combat. Will he, and they, ever make it home to Blue Water.

Can the grandchildren of Kitty McKenzie survive the horrors of war?


For those who have read the Kitty McKenzie books, the third book, Southern Sons, about Kitty's grandchildren, is available in ebook and paperback.
If you've read and enjoyed it, I'd love it if you left a review on Amazon please. Thank you.
Southern Sons
Will they survive the war?
#WWI





Monday, 9 October 2017

Book fair at Morley

Last Saturday I attended the Morley Lit Festival, which held a book fair in the Town Hall. Unfortunately the turn out wasn't great, perhaps due to the awful cold wet and windy day. But that didn't stop all visitors.








A selection of my books.
 

I met some lovely readers and signed some books. The highlight was meeting Deborah, an avid reader and supporter of authors, who runs a couple of Facebook pages promoting historical fiction authors like myself. I was so pleased to see her and have a chat in person - and of course we had a photo taken!




Deborah and myself

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Work on the land in World War II

At the start of the war because of the blockade around our shores, there were fewer imports, and farming exports fell. The amount of food people could find went down and people turned their flower gardens into vegetable plots. They would keep hens and maybe a pig too. Women and youngsters would go out each autumn to pick acorns, collecting those that had fallen from the oak trees and use them to feed pigs. Children often had plots at school where, with the help of teachers, they too grew vegetables.

Throughout the war the government maintained good prices and strived to avoid a post-war farm recession, as happened following World War I. Farm labour shortage did become a problem, most men having enlisted. A farmer’s first reaction was to get his wife and children to work with him, being required to produce more food. Eventually an emergency appeal was made to recruit members for the Women’s Land Army. Many had not worked on the land before, some having been hairdressers, shop assistants or simply wives and mothers, so had a great deal to learn. It could be difficult at times for them to cope with the cold and mud of winter, the long hours and heavy work involved in the vital tasks of digging, weeding and ploughing, but the land girls grew proud at being able to contribute to the war effort.

Later, the government allowed German and Italian prisoners of war (PoWs) to be used as farm labourers, which is what happens in this story. Were they welcomed, and were there rules that had to be kept? They were often involved in caring for sheep and hens. I too have experienced that when running a smallholding. I found that great fun, if quite demanding and took me a while to learn how to do it.

A friend supplied me with a number of sheep and battery hens. I could give them the freedom to be free-range. Being a lass from the mill towns of Lancashire I barely knew how to deal with them, except for a vague memory of helping my grandfather with his hens when I was a small child. She explained the routine, reminding me to shut them up last thing at night. What she didn’t tell me was how to get them safely into the hen hut. I diligently attempted to pick them up. They ran around avoiding me and I finally fell headlong, catching none on them. I went off to have a cup of tea to puzzle over how to resolve this issue, then saw them forming an orderly queue. Presumably in correct pecking order they hopped through the pop hole and onto their perches. So simple! I used this experience in the story, just for fun.

Despite rationing of raw materials for farm equipment, farmers during the war became keen on new technology. The arrival of the Ford Tractor provided valuable equipment for the task of food production. When the war was over, most of their previous hired labourers did not return to the farm. By then most farmers were much better equipped, having used their increased income to buy machines, so they no longer required anywhere near as many workers.


Brenda Stuart returns to her late husband’s home devastated by his loss only to find herself accused of bestowing favours upon the Germans. Life has been difficult for her over the war, having been held in an internment camp in France simply because of her nationality. Thankful that her son at least is safe in the care of his grandmother, she now finds that she has lost him too, and her life is in turmoil. 

Prue, her beloved sister-in-law, is also a war widow but has fallen in love with an Italian PoW who works on the family estate. Once the war ends they hope to marry but she has reckoned without the disapproval of her family, or the nation. The two friends support each other in an attempt to resolve their problems and rebuild their lives. They even try starting a business, but it does not prove easy.

Available in most good books shops and online:

 WH Smith 

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Kobo

Friday, 29 September 2017

Southern Sons - WWI historical fiction


So, for those of you who have read and enjoyed Kitty McKenzie, and the sequel Kitty McKenzie's Land, you'll be pleased to know that I've written a third book to do with the family. Southern Sons is about Kitty's grandchildren. (If you've not read the first two Kitty books, don't worry, Southern Sons is a stand alone book as well.)
I absolutely loved writing this book. it was one of those books that just flew out onto the page without much hardship. The research I did was enjoyable because the era of WWI is fascinating to me. I have many books about the Great War, and spent hours watching documentaries. Also online are some wonderful forums and websites about WWI, the battles, the conditions and the soldiers' stories.

I felt the need to write about the young Australian men who went to war so naïve and fresh-faced, and who, by the end of 4 years of fighting, were renowned as a magnificent army of brave and gutsy men full of the new-born Australian spirit that still lives on today.
I used Kitty's grandsons for that honour, and her tenacious spirit flows in their veins.
To add to the drama of  the grandsons going to war, I needed a granddaughter to be at home on Blue Water Station to 'keep the home fires burning' so to speak. Matilda (Tilly) is definitely Kitty McKenzie's granddaughter, with the same braveness and can-do attitude.

I love this family like my own, I hope you do too.





Blurb: 1914, Australia. As war is declared, the idyllic world of Blue Water Station is torn apart when Oliver, the eldest grandson and heir, shares his desire to enlist in the army. His enthusiasm ignites his brother, cousins and friends to do the same, but upsets his sister, Tilly.
After a tragic family incident, Tilly is left to run the cattle station and take care of the older folk. A chance meeting with a sophisticated Lieutenant opens up a friendship through letters, but it’s a rogue stockman who attracts her attention with dire consequences. With the men at war, and her heart pulled in two directions, Tilly must grow up quickly and face the consequences of her rash decisions. Will She find her own happiness?Surviving a baptism of battle fire in Gallipoli, Turkey, Oliver and the men are sent to France and feel the brutal force of the Western Front. The only glimmer of light for Oliver is his relationship with Jessica, an army nurse. But as the terrors of war impact him, he feels the heavy guilt of encouraging the others to follow him into combat. Will he, and they, ever make it home to Blue Water.

Can the grandchildren of Kitty McKenzie survive the horrors of war?


For those who have read the Kitty McKenzie books, the third book, Southern Sons, about Kitty's grandchildren, is available in ebook and paperback.
If you've read and enjoyed it, I'd love it if you left a review on Amazon please. Thank you.
Southern Sons
Will they survive the war?
#WWI