Saturday, October 3, 2015

Historical Research: Inside a Manor House

Another blog post on my visit to Normanby Hall, in North Lincolnshire. 

My visit was for research to help write my historical novels, which usually include a manor house or two! It is wonderful to walk in the past's shoes. To see the furniture used in the days of my characters. I can feel the atmosphere in my mind and absorb vibe of the era, which I hopefully transfer into my stories.

 This photo I took half way down the driveway, from the rad to the village. You can just see the gate posts right at the end. The drive continues to go through an avenue of trees until it passes the stables, then the trees finish to open up in a park in front of the house, see photo above. 

The entrance hall of the house is square with rooms coming off to the right and the staircase to the left. The above photo is taken from the doorway leading into the drawing room, which is shown in photos below.

Beautiful silk wallpaper

 Modernisation comes to the Hall.

 The Dining Room

The Library

Architect's table

Next time, I'll blog about the upstairs.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Cover Reveal: New cover for Broken Hero, WWII novel.

I'm enjoying re-releasing my old back list into ebook formats on all Amazon sites.

The latest one I've put online is my World War II novel, Broken Hero.

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

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Historical Research: Estate Garden and workers

To continue my research on manor houses and their estates, specifically showcasing Normanby Hall where I spent the day a couple of weeks ago. (See previous blog post)
The Walled Garden of Normanby Hall, supplied the fruit, vegetables and flowers for the hall. It was built in 1817, the high wall protected the plants and the glass houses were built along the south wall to take advantage of the sun.
 Details on the Gardeners and their accommodation

The Greenhouse

The family would visit the greenhouse after church on Sundays and the Head Gardener would have something special each week to show them.

Splayed fruit trees. Even pineapples were grown in the greenhouses.

The next post will be on the house itself.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

On the best seller's list!

Just had to share my news, Kitty McKenzie's Land, (it's a sequel to Kitty McKenzie) is #20 on the best seller's list on Amazon Australian historicals! Yay!

Kitty McKenzie's path has taken her from the slums of York to the inhospitable bush of colonial Australia. Yet, when she believes her dreams will never be attained, she is shown that sometimes life can be even better than what you wish for. 
Kitty McKenzie is gifted land in the far north of New South Wales. Life at the northern property is full of hardships as she learns how to become a successful landowner. 
However, Kitty’s strength of will and belief in herself gives her the courage most women of her time never realize they have. A decided thorn in her side is the arrogant and patronizing Miles Grayson, owner of the adjourning run. He wants her gone so he can have her land, but he wants her even more.

Available on 
Amazon USA
Amazon UK 

This book is the sequel to Kitty McKenzie, the start of Kitty's journey when her world is turned upside down by the death of her parents, and she is left penniless and must take care of her siblings in a world totally unknown to them.
Find out more about Kitty on Amazon USA  or Amazon UK

Thank you to those readers who take the time to leave reviews. They are so important to authors! Thank you!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Historical research: Horses, carriages, stables and automobiles.

On a recent trip to Normanby Hall, a local historical manor house a few weeks ago, I spent a lovely few hours in the sun strolling around the estate and gaining knowledge that will come in handy for writing my historical novels.
I thought I would write a post on each part of the house and grounds, and I'm starting with the stable block.

Horse stalls, made of brass and timber, and note the floor for easy cleaning. The stable block was built in 1818, and was a walled square with open arches. It was a hive of activity and the meeting place for hunts and shooting parties.

The daily duties of a Groom or Coachman

 Feed and Muck out the horse.
Breakfast at the Hall.
Rub down and groom the horses.
Clean and put away any tack (riding and carriage equipment used).
Prepare the coach for the family.
Feed the horses.
Lunch at the Hall.

Afternoon and Evening:
Get horses ready for any family members wishing to ride.
Sweep out the stableyard.
Clean and put away any tack used.
Exercise any of the horses that have not been ridden that day.
If carriage not needed again, carry on with any odd jobs around stable.
Feed horses.
Supper in the servant's hall.
Rub down and give the horses water and hay for the night.
Maintenance work on the carriage - cleaning, brass polishing, and touching up paint.
Soak wheels of carriage to prevent wood from shrinking and spokes becoming loose.

Carriage Lanterns

                                                                                                                                    Carriage interior, with glass windows.   
 Early forms of transport.

The estate had its own horse drawn fire engine, with working water pump. The unit was used for the local village as well. It was officially retired in 1953.

The grooms and coachman lived in housing above the coach house but ate with the household in the Servant's Hall. The groom had to sometimes act as a footman if the family held a large dinner party.

Census records between 1841 - 1891 show that none of the grooms or coachmen were local Lincolnshire men. They came from neighbouring counties, and as far away as London. This shows that people were prepared to travel for work.

By the 1920s, only one side of the stable block was in use as a stable. With the introduction of the motor car in the early 1900s, the stable block was adapted to house up to six motor vehicles.

Normanby Hall.
North Lincolnshire

Next post will be on the estate's garden.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Wartime Secrets by Mary Nichols

Wartime secrets

Almost everyone in my second world war novel, We’ll Meet Again, has a secret. First and foremost are Lady Prudence Strange and Sheila Phipps, two girls from very different backgrounds who become friends. Their secret is that they work at the Government Code and Cypher School, usually referred to as Bletchley Park. It was here that coded German radio messages were interpreted.

'The enemy uses a very clever machine called an enigma, to encypher their radio messages,’ Prue is told when she first arrives. ‘Our job is to find the key to unscrambling it all. We have a modified Type X machine made to work like an enigma, and other more complicated electro-mechanical machines called bombes, which do the job of checking, but they won't work unless we have a crib to start them off, things like call signs, transmission times, the length of the message and - more often than Herr Hitler would like if he knew about it - the silly mistakes of the German operators.  Without those there are 58 million million million possibilities.
'Our work is further complicated because there is no universal setting, every section of the German army, navy, air force and intelligence services, use different settings and they are changed every twenty-four hours. Then we have to begin all over again.'
'Gosh! What a task.  Can it be done?'
'Oh, yes we are doing it. In this hut we are dealing with German army and air force signals.  Other huts are working on different aspects of decrypting, but you don’t need to know about those. I have only told you this much so that you can understand how vital the work is and how important it is to be accurate and never breathe a word to anyone of what you do. It is painstaking work and needs accuracy, dedication and the utmost secrecy. The enemy must never know how we have obtained our information. In fact, most of our own side don't know either.  When we send on the information we to say it comes from a most reliable source.  Sometimes we make it look as though it is a report from a spy.'

This is the secret the girls have to keep. Others have their secrets, some in the national interests, some private and mysterious, all of which affect their relationships with family and boyfriends, who do not understand the reason for it.

We’ll Meet Again is out in paperback now. ISBN: 9780 7490 17040.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Lizzie of Langley Street & great covers!

Asda is a busy, bustling store and always has an awesome display of books. So it was great to see ‘Lizzie of Langley Street’ on the shelves this month. Lizzie was my first heroine more than a decade ago and Simon & Schuster have brought her back with a new and fabulous cover. ‘Lizzie of Langley Street’ is the first book of my Lizzie Flowers series, with The Fight for Lizzie Flowers following in September. And both covers are super showing period detail that means so much to the reader! The winds of change blow fairly frequently through publishing but it was wonderful to note so many other hard-working historical writers on Asda’s shelves along with their breathtaking covers. Cross-fingers for us all for 2015!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

1932 and the year in which 800m runner Tommy Hampson won one of the four golds for Britain in the Los Angeles Olympics and when, more famously, Aldous Huxley published his controversial novel, Brave New World. His was a repellant vision of the future, that at the time, seemed too far fetched for public consumption. Whoever could have imagined 83 years later, that Huxley’s fictionalized babies fertilised in laboratory bottles, would resemble today’s cloning? Or his sleep-learning to brainwash the young to be obedient citizens, the precursor to George Orwell's spinechiller, Nineteen Eighty Four. Or Huxley's conception of the Talkies to become Feelies, now upon us in our riveting 4D cinemas. And how chilling it is to compare his fictional drug Soma to those used today in our clubbing scene. During this wildly paradoxical decade of the 1930’s, I continue the tale of my Great War cast, the Flowers family, in THE FIGHT FOR LIZZIE FLOWERS, published September. The Flowers, like many others worldwide after the mass slaughter of millions, are trying to balance conscience with survival in a contemporary age. 83 years down the line from Huxley's vision of doom and gloom, we are still trying to improve the world. On the one hand our daily doses of social media and smart phones give us a power that even Huxley could never have conceived possible. On the other, underlying this sophistication and the digital masks we wear, the real problems still exist. How to make money. How to pay bills. How to work faster. How to hold family together. How to live and love and find our individual space. Like us all, Lizzie Flowers is trying - and trying hard to meet the challenge of everyday life. When she thinks she’s a breath away from success, her brave new world starts to tremble, like a distant earthquake. Who of us haven’t felt that same tremor, or waited breathlessly on the brink for the danger to pass? One last word, Lizzie’s journey may be hard, but it’s hopeful too. Huxley may not have agreed with me, but I’m ending this post with an old and rather cliched quote; to every cloud, there is a silver lining. Simple wisdom. But I like it better than doom and gloom any day, don’t you?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pigeon Power by Janet Woods

Pigeon Power

During WW11, pigeon extraordinaire number 139 was based at Madang in New Guinea.
               Along with the rest of his attachment, number 139 served with the Australian Corps of Signals Pigeon Service. Their members were a hush-hush unit with superior navigation skills. They were able to fly at a moment’s notice and at a high altitude.
               Usually, the birds went about their business silently and mostly they remained undetected as they breasted the tough and muddy trails and high mountains of Papua New Guinea. Their main job was to send and receive messages and maps that reported the position and movement of enemy troops. Sometimes the Pigeon Postmen were detected and brought down by enemy fire - sometimes killed. There were those who were intercepted by the enemy and used for counter espionage by sending false messages back.
               One of the drawbacks of being a pigeon: Quite a few would have been posted as lost while serving their country – but alas, some of those would have been dished up as a tasty meal for hungry allied soldiers and enemy soldiers alike! Not many survived to pass on the tale of the cooking pot I would imagine.
               Several thousand homing pigeons served with the British in WW1. Far fewer were needed during WW11 due to the improvements made in radar, radio and telephone communications, approximately a quarter of the amount.
               Still, it was a lot of pigeon power, and it would be fair to say that, generally, the pigeon postmen were a brave and fearless unit that made a significant contribution to winning the war. Reports show that the birds flew with bullets lodged in their bodies and wings, trying to complete the tasks they were trained to do until they could go no further and fell out of the sky. 
               Pigeon 139’s unit was especially suited for marathon flights since Australia and its war zone had wide open spaces of sea and land that need to be covered quickly. They are truly power-packed birds. Pigeons can manage a mile a minute and sustain the pace for hours on end, apparently without any stress. Previous to his award winning dash, pigeon139 had clocked up over a thousand miles during 23 operational flights without fraying a feather.

Pigeon 139 joined the army in 1943. Bred by pigeon expert, Gordon Whittle, he was one of several birds recruited by George Adams from the Yarraville pigeon club and donated to the Australian fighting services, where he shared mobile quarters in an uncomfortable, but portable bamboo cage when he wasn’t as base or on the wing. This was probably carried on a man’s back. It was a far cry from the spacious loft accommodation with views over the rooftops that he’d left behind in Yarraville.

So how did pigeon number 139 win his medal? He was in a boat running much needed stores. The weather in the South Pacific was unpredictable on his tour of duty and there was a heavy tropical storm brewing. The boat’s crew was dismayed when in heavy seas the engine failed and their craft was washed ashore on Wadou beach in the Huon Gulf, leaving them in a vulnerable position.
               Pigeon 39 did his utmost to carry out his duty to the letter. Taking to the air he flew through the storm, travelling the 50 miles back to base in 40 minutes, the mayday message secured in the little canister attached to his leg. It advised the recipient that the boat was carrying ammunition, stores and much needed equipment. The engine had failed in heavy seas and they desperately needed help. The boat and its crew survived to deliver their cargo safely, and it was all due to one little pigeon.
               For his valiant rescue effort in 1943, Pigeon 139 was honoured with the
 * “Dickin” medal. This medal is the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross. It was one of two awarded to Australian Pigeons.

I can find only limited information about the second awarded pigeon, Q879. He was bred in Elwood, Victoria by A.J. Flavell and donated for war duty. It appears he was attached to the US forces.

Q879’s brave feat of endurance took place in 1944 and his story was similar to that of 139, I imagine. The award was made for gallantry after the plucky little Aussie bird carried a message through heavy gunfire to fetch help for his beleaguered human compatriots. Surrounded by enemy fire they had no other means of communication to draw on at the time.

Both medals were awarded in 1947 and the heroic birds’ bodies returned to Australia, where they now have a special place of honour in the Australian War Memorial Museum in Canberra.

 *The Dickin Medal is a British award supported by The People’s Dispensary for sick animals. The citation advises that it is awarded to “animals that display conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty while serving or associated with a branch of the armed Forces or Civil Defence Units.”

Janet Woods

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Thank you.

On behalf of my fellow authors, I'd just like to say a big thank you to all our readers of this blog. We've received over two and half thousand page views last month alone. We obviously have a faithful band of followers and regular readers of this blog, and although not all our authors are regular contributors, we must be doing something right with what we do post.

So thank you for reading, and hopefully buying our stories. We appreciate it very much.