Give ‘Rose’s Choice’ a try

Everyone knows I love to match a book to a reader. ‘Rose’s Choice’ is a heart-wrenching saga set in a small Northumbrian mining community during World War 2. Events unfold from Rose’s point of view and the novel starts in 1944 when she is ten. Here is an extract to see if it’s for you.

1944

Ch1

Ten-year-old Rose Kelly could hardly remember the time when there wasn’t a blackout at night and you could buy as many sweets as you wanted. The older lads and lasses talked about those days and how they would be back after Hitler was sent packing. Until that day, carrying a gas mask and a trip to their Anderson shelter in the middle of the night whenever they heard the siren, Wailing Willie, was part of life. 

They might have to be careful with their sweets but they all ate well in Linwood colliery rows because of the allotments that grew all manner of fruit and veg. A strip of land was allotted to each house and the miners used their plot for growing food, keeping chickens and building sheds from whatever scraps of material they could find. After hours underground, pitmen liked outdoor hobbies like growing prize leeks or racing whippets and pigeons. Rose’s dad used his shed for painting and storing his canvases. 

Even though they had the allotments, a lot of a miner’s pay went on food because he did a job that needed fuel in the belly and he dreaded being laid off sick. Miners were allowed a few extra rations because of their work but it all had to be paid for. Her mam was a really good cook of stews and pies and soups but Rose’s favourite meal of the week wasn’t any of those. Her favourite was Friday’s dinner when she could have either her one rationed egg, fried, with chips and a slice of bread, or have some battered fish and chips from Charlie’s. 

Folk said her mam and dad made a handsome couple and Rose had to agree. Dad was as fair as her mam was dark. Her mam was the bonniest of all the women in the colliery rows, as pretty as that Vivien Leigh in the films. She had chocolate coloured curly hair that she tied up in a scarf when she was working, kind brown eyes and a big smile showing white teeth. Rose had her mam’s brown hair and her dad’s green eyes and, no matter how hard her mam tried, she put everything in her left hand like Dad too. Cack-handedness her mam called it.

Every weekend saw her dad sketching or painting after he’d done the gardening jobs and her mam making do and mending so much that she deserved a medal from Mr Churchill. Old clothes didn’t go on a scrap pile to make proggy mats for the floor as often. Clothes were unpicked to see if they could be altered or made into something new for Rose, her younger twin brothers or another bairn in the row. Their mam was very handy with a needle and careful with clothing coupons. 

Their neighbours, the Elliots, had given up sharing the Anderson shelter with them. It now had a shelf and blanket arrangement that her dad called a bunk at the end of it for her and the twins, Stanley and David, to sleep on. Benches ran along either side and a shelf under the bunk held jars of water, some old crockery and an oil lamp, candles and matches. Their oldest proggy mat was on the floor and they had put a couple of blankets in there. Her dad and Mr Elliot’s son, Larry, had sealed the panels well with that stinky hot stuff before covering it with soil, and the shelter hadn’t leaked so it was dry but, goodness, it could get cold down there.

Mr Elliot thought the cold and being underground reminded his chest of the pit and made it worse. ‘I don’t mind dying in my own bed,’ he claimed. ‘When your time’s up then it’s up.’ Mary wouldn’t leave him so she stayed in the house too.

‘Do you think they’re daft Mam?’ Rose couldn’t understand the Elliots ignoring the siren.

‘I wouldn’t make their choice but our neighbours have lived through a lot. They lost two boys in the first war.’ 

To Rose, that was all the more reason to stay safe. ‘What about Larry? He’s lost two older brothers and might end up with no mam or dad?’ she asked.

‘You’re getting to be a real chip off the old block,’ Mam answered. ‘Let me get back to peeling these taties.’

‘What does that mean, Mam? What old block?’

‘It means you ask too many questions, just like your father.’

Rose went out to play with her best friend, Lottie. She had a hundred questions in her head. Maybe her dad did too. It was better if she didn’t ask too many at once because grown-ups didn’t answer them carefully when she asked too many. Like her mam, just now. 

She should be like her mam who eked out the meat ration with lots of veg. She would eke out her questions a few at time and keep the tricky ones for Miss Wakenshaw, her favourite teacher, or Dad. 

Rose loved school and she always wanted to read but often she had to put her book down and help out by keeping an eye on her brothers or running errands. She didn’t mind because it seemed to her that Mam never ever stopped working. 

On Mondays, Mam helped Mary-from-next-door with her week’s washing because Mary was nursing Mr Elliot who was proper poorly with his lungs. Mary had no daughters so Rose’s mam stepped in. Her daughter-in-law, who was married to Larry, hardly came by even though she just lived in Burnside, the next village. She always sent Larry and the bairns over for Sunday tea and had a nice rest herself. When she listened in to their crack, Rose could tell her mam and Mary hadn’t much time for Larry’s wife, Kate.

That’s why it seemed so strange when Kate and the two children burst into Mary’s kitchen one Tuesday afternoon.

ROSE’S CHOICE – a heart- wrenching wartime saga of family, live and secrets.
Rationing, bombing, disease and pit disasters are part of Rose Kelly’s Workd War 2 childhood. When the spirited coalminer’s daughter discovers a family secret , she makes a choice that overshadows her teenage years. Rose tried to make the most of post war opportunities but family tragedy pulls her back to the rows She relinquishes a bright future for domestic duties because her family comes first. Will family ties get in the way of her dreams?

Purchase Links ~ Amazon UK |  Amazon US 

Before I start chapter 1

Like many readers, I love reading between the lines of a book and guessing at the untold bits of the story so I suppose it is only natural for me to invest a lot of time in creating a setting for my own novels and a back story for all of my characters. This spade work is done ‘before the lines’. I start creating my characters and setting before I write their story and some of this background is just for me to know whereas a lot of it is revealed through my characters’ actions. 

‘Roses Choice’, my new novel, is set in a Northumbrian mining village during the 1940s and 50s. It is a heart-wrenching saga of love, family and secrets told by its feisty heroine, Rose Kelly. The inspiration for setting this saga during World War two and afterwards came from tales of colliery life in the forties that I loved listening to from my grandparents.

The first thing I did was to sketch a map of my fictional village. It was five colliery rows, miners’ allotments, a pithead, a few shops, a school, a working men’s institute and a chapel and it was set right in the middle of the Northumbrian countryside. After sketching it, I described it to myself in words. It is typical of the little mining villages scattered through the Northumbrian countryside.

Linwood nestles in a dale surrounded by farmland that stretches all the way to the sandy beaches of Northumberland and, on the horizon, you can see the North Sea blend into wide skies. A patchwork carpet of allotments sits behind the five rows of colliery houses that lead up to the pit head. Rolling fells rise behind the pit wheel giving it a backdrop of dark green.

The railway line that transports the coal is flanked on either side by hedges that flower throughout summer and give up a harvest of blackberries, sloe berries and rosehips in autumn.The tiny hive of industry that is Linwood Colliery has been carved from a once tranquil beauty spot because, hidden far below the fields and fells lie great riches. Seam after seam of black gold runs under land and sea waiting to be mined.

With this picture firmly in my mind, I was ready to fill the rows of Linwood Colliery with my characters and make the colliery rows come alive.

The first character I wanted to create was Rose  who was born to Ginnie and John Kelly but, first of all, I had to imagine her birth. Was she wanted? Was she one of many? What were her parents like? So my prologue was another starting point. Rose was born to parents who wanted a lot for her.

NEWCASTLE EVENING CHRONICLE

BIRTHS

Born at home on August 15th 1934

to John and Virginia Kelly of 1, First Row, Linwood Colliery

a daughter, Rose Virginia.

Mother and baby well

John Kelly cut the birth announcement out of last night’s evening paper and tucked it inside the family bible beside the certificate of his marriage to Ginnie. He put the bible back into the drawer of the dresser before placing the rest of the newspaper and a few sticks of wood by the hearth ready to lay a fresh fire in the morning.

Dry crumpled paper in the grate, then sticks crossing each other and a shovel of coal would get their range going in no time tomorrow morning before he set off to the pit. He was on the early shift but he wanted to get the fire going for when Ginnie and their firstborn came downstairs. Even though it was mid-August, the fire would blaze to heat the oven and boil water. Ginnie loved her early morning tea.

Quietly climbing the stairs, avoiding the creak on the third step from the top, John found Ginnie lying on her side with her hand resting on the baby’s crib by the bed. He’d sanded and painted the crib as Ginnie knit an intricate white shawl during their last weeks of waiting.

His wife looked beautiful with her dark curls tumbling to her shoulders and she didn’t even stir as he tucked her hand under the blankets and stood over his daughter’s crib.

Ever so gently, he picked the baby up and cradled her in his arms drinking in her warm, sweet smell. He traced the back of his finger around the curve of her cheek. Her skin, so soft, reminded him of the petals of the roses that grew in his allotment and they had the same cream tint with a blush of pink. That rosebud mouth, now there was an exquisite shade that he would find hard to recreate on his paint palette. He would never capture such beauty with a pencil or a brush.

He took her over to the open window to catch the last of the day’s light and some cool air. The clock on the nightstand broke the silence as it marked time ticking by and, as John watched Rose breathe, he marvelled at this little being. Would he ever tire of watching those changing expressions?

Tears blurred his vision as a surge of love and protectiveness coursed through his body. Rose Kelly was his flesh and blood and he wanted her to flourish in his care, to grow rich roots of confidence and courage. He placed his little finger in the centre of her open palm and, even in sleep, she gripped it. He hoped she would always grasp opportunities. He would be a happy man if his daughter was given the chance to see the world in all its wondrous colours beyond these dark colliery rows.

Yes, there is a lot of thinking going on before writing a single line of chapter 1 but I love the part of getting to know my characters and their setting before I start.

ROSE’S CHOICE – a heart- wrenching wartime saga of family, live and secrets.
Rationing, bombing, disease and pit disasters are part of Rose Kelly’s Workd War 2 childhood. When the spirited coalminer’s daughter discovers a family secret , she makes a choice that overshadows her teenage years. Rose tried to make the most of post war opportunities but family tragedy pulls her back to the rows She relinquishes a bright future for domestic duties because her family comes first. Will family ties get in the way of her dreams?

Purchase Links ~ Amazon UK |  Amazon US 

A lockdown tour with my new book

 I haven’t written on here for a while yet I’ve written several blogs. That sounds like the start of a riddle doesn’t it? But it’s not. It’s  because I’ve been busy writing contributions for my blog tour.  It is running next month between 14 th and 21st of July and I’ve been scribbling away because 21 (yes 21!)bloggers have offered to help me to launch my new book ‘Rose’s Choice’

For those of you who haven’t met one before, a blog tour is ideal for our lockdown situation. It is a virtual tour on the internet and I appear on the 21 blogger’s sites with either an interview or an article or an extract from ‘Rose’s Choice’. Some bloggers read and review the book too so I’m excited to hear what they say about this heart- wrenching wartime saga. I hope it goes down well because I’d hate to disappoint my readers and I start to worry about a month before delivery of my book baby. 

During the week of the tour, the bloggers tweet and use Instagram as well as having me as a guest on their blog so, if you see any of these, please retweet and let as many people as we can reach find out about my new release. Promotion is important because I’d hate my wartime saga to be a book without a reader. 

It’s ebook or paperback and available on Amazon which is perfect for those who feel nervous about going out to shop or, when they open again, any good book shop will order.

Ebooks can be pre- ordered now and it’s exciting to see how many readers have already ordered. Thank you if you were one of them!  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Roses-Choice-heart-wrenching-wartime-Colliery-ebook/dp/ 

Rationing, bombing, disease and pit disasters are part of Rose Kelly’s World War 2 childhood. When the spirited coalminer’s daughter discovers a family secret, she makes a choice that overshadows her teenage years. Rose tries to make the most of post-war opportunities but family tragedy pulls her back to a life in the colliery rows. She relinquishes her bright future for domestic duties because her family comes first. Will family ties get in the way of her dreams?

What Would Happen If?

I’m a writer and I ask myself the “what would happen if?” question a lot. 

That question is part of my toolkit when I’m starting a new novel. It’s the question that encourages me to try different paths for my stories. 

I’ve never asked myself the question so much as I have  in the dark hours of the night during the past couple of weeks. The story that’s unravelling on the news every day still seems unbelievable to me. I’m sure many of you feel the same way. 

My “what would happen if?” questions  range from scary world wide problems involving whole continents not being able ride out the virus to equally scary personal fears as I try to assess which of my family and friends might be healthy enough to withstand an encounter with this unknown enemy. 

Some of you may know that isolation and not knowing whether I’ll survive or not is not new to me.  In the past, I’ve had two bouts of cancer treatment. The day after my daughter’s wedding, I was hospitalised with sepsis when my immune system was weakened by chemotherapy and couldn’t cope with hugs of congratulations. However, this battle just involved me. I didn’t have to worry about my grandchildren, my family and a husband with an “underlying condition”. 

Right now, my brain is on danger alert for everyone and it’s exhausting. So many of my writer friends are saying that they are locked down and, although it’s an ideal time to escape into their writing projects, they can’t. I’m sure that’s because all of our “what would happen if?”questions are now about our own world, the survival of Mother Earth and how it will change in future. 

I don’t know how you are coping but I’ll share my strategy. I’m trying to structure when and how often I listen to news, I’m trying to ration how long  I’m anxious before distracting myself because worry changes nothing and I’m trying to enjoy the pleasures that are still present in this wonderful world every day. 

There are good stories as well as bad coming out of this crisis – brave key workers, community spirit, hilarious dark humour and less pollution. 

Today I’m in Spain on day 17 of lock down and I’m  sitting at my laptop writing this blog. I’m healthy and able to write and that makes me feel blessed. 

My motto is to stay safe, be kind and enjoy everything I can. What’s yours? 

New Year, New House, New Book

Whitley Bay Northumberland

I’ve got great hopes for 2020 and a new decade. A lot  happened to me in the last decade and a lot of it was tough to get through so I’m hoping for an easier time ahead. Well, I can wish!

The good parts of the last decade were the writing successes – completing three novels and starting a fourth, winning the Elizabeth Goudge award at the RNA conference, talking to people who enjoy reading  and making such good author friends from all over the world. An additional three grandchildren to join the family and a little dog to run on the beach  with me were blessings to enjoy.

HAPPY TIMES!

Award winning kicks

 

 

The bad parts of the decade were cancer treatment and surgery twice within three years, fractured pelvis, two hip replacements and carpal tunnel surgery. Amazingly, I’m still alive and kicking and I’ll be happy to avoid further work even if offered a face lift for free!

To start thIs new decade, himself and myself will be moving half a mile and will be even nearer that beautiful coastline that you can see at the top of the page.  A beach walk with Oscar is great for sorting out tricky characters and their tangled lives.  After three months of renting, the move to our dream home next week will be extra sweet.

This pit village below is typical of a Northumbrian mining community  in the 1940s  The mining took place right in the middle of farmland and countryside

Lynwood Colliery Rows

This photo brings me to my book news – I’m really excited about it! I’m writing  a family saga in two parts and I’m halfway through the second part.  My aim is to get it completed by summer and publish them both later in the year.
The photos below tell more about the setting.

 

NORTHUMBERLAND

Out there somewhere -Your Dream Home


I’ve been house hunting and it has really brought home to me how much some buildings have a real ‘air’ or ‘atmosphere’ about them.

Atmosphere. It’s not something you can tick off your list like a garage or measure like a garden but, forget the missing tiles or jungle of weeds, I think the ‘feel’ of a home is THE most important thing to consider before moving in.

I love to read a book where the home is part of the setting and atmosphere of the story. At the moment, I’m on holiday and I’m reading ‘The Family Upstairs’ by Lisa Jewell. I  haven’t finished yet but the old house that Libby has inherited really adds atmosphere to this compelling tale.

The Barn of Buried Dreams

My latest novel, ‘The Barn of Buried Dreams’ is set in a converted barn full of happy family memories but dreams have been buried there along with a lot of real life and emotional clutter until Erin and Heather turn their lives around. I love that barn set in the Northumbrian village of Dunleith! What a pity it isn’t up for sale!

I admire how the cover designer transferred these pics into the barn on the cover.

My house hunt has meant renting for a couple of months and there is a cosy, warm, happy feeling place we have found but it’s temporary with only our basic possessions around so it feels like ‘playing house’. I’m  really looking forward to putting down roots in our new home in the New Year.

We have found a gem of a bungalow close to the sea that is large enough to have the family and has a study with French doors that open onto the small garden at the back. A large family dining kitchen was a must and an en suite was a bonus but the study and the peaceful atmosphere are what sold it to me. (I must add that the shed and plenty of off road parking sold it to Himself.)

Family kitchen

View from my study

We all have different priorities don’t we? My dream house won’t be yours and thank goodness for our differences. I wonder what would be on your wish list….shed or study?

A Daydream without a Plan is just a Wish

I used to be a daydreamer and did not like planning too far ahead. As Robbie Burns said – “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

Why waste time planning? I was happy to go with the flow of life and see where it took me.

This approach served me quite well because I had a successful career  in education and was happy with my laid back life.

A  turning point came when this daydreamer came to earth with a thud. Cancer doesn’t care about whether you’re a drifting dreamer or a planner and when I found out I had to live with cancer and its treatments my dreams were  crushed.

There was a lot I wanted to do and, most of all, I wanted to write but I might not have the time.

Along with the discomfort of chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy, I found my planning mojo. I had to plan to make the most of good days and prepare for the bad. As the treatment progressed relentlessly, running through my mind was the hope that I’d get as well as I could. Until then, I’d plan my novels and map out that writing journey I wanted to make.

A goal without a plan is just a wish.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Dreams and wishes were given a backbone by my plans. When I felt better, I’d learn the craft of novel writing, I’d learn to use social media and I’d learn about the publishing world. My plan was to be a published author and I’d succeed by taking steady steps to make a life long dream come true.

“It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

I can’t argue with Mrs R because I found this was true. My dreams had shape and, by planning,  I made time for them.

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” ~ Alan Lakein
(Time management guru)

Friends often comment on how I’m less laid back nowadays and my time management is better. Once you face the truth that time can run out on you when you’re not expecting it, it’s easy to plan. So what if Robbie Burns is right and a few go awry? I’ve found that some of them will hit the spot.

Today, I’m a published author of the two novels you can see below, I use social media to keep in touch with readers and other writers and I plan to keep on writing for a long time to come.

The Barn of Buried Dreams

Pinch me! The Highs of July – No Lows at all

Pinch me! July was such a fantastic writing month. The month just kept on getting better and there wasn’t  a single grey writing cloud to spoil it. How often does that happen?

I was away for two weekends so I’ve been too busy playing catch up to write and reflect on it all until now.

First of all, we had The Romantic Novelists’ Conference in Lancaster.    

This was a weekend of interesting talks, meeting old friends and making new and the joy of kitchen parties where everyone talked about books and writing and the joy (OK and struggle)  of  writing. 
I particularly enjoyed Jo Baker’s talk on revisiting the past. She has written an alternative story about Austen’s Pride and Prejudice characters, ‘Longbourne’. Her talk caught my interest because my third book is set in the past and, at the moment, I’m enjoying novels set in other eras.

I went along to see my friend, Lynda Stacey, in action on the ‘Dangerous Romance’ panel. Lynda was one of four writers who blend romance with suspense and the panel talked about how and why they did it. Not one of them was the same so it made for an interesting discussion. I’ve written about this session in detail for ‘Romance Matters’ so, if you’re in the RNA, look out for it in the Autumn edition.

Jo Nesbo is leaving the building

The next weekend was Harrogate Crime Festival.

I don’t write crime but I’m an avid reader so, as a fan and as a friend of some crime writers, I tagged along and had my first taste of their annual highlight. A murder mystery dinner at Mel Sherrat’s table with my pals Lynda Stacey and Rachel Dove and a charming pair from an accountancy who were sponsoring one of the events made this an unforgettable night of fun, detectiving and  laughs.

James Patterson stopped writing (was it his millionth book?) to open Saturday’s events and he was entertaining. I listened to talks and discussions involving Jo Nesbo and Lisa Jewell, two of my favourites, chatted to Rachel Abbott, a really successful self publisher, and so many others but I don’t want to be a name dropper! 

Rachel Abbott and Chrissie Bradshaw

I returned from both conferences with new friends, new links to publishing and new ideas so, as you can imagine, it has been a busy old time since then.
Come August, I did recharge my batteries in France with the family. My cousin followed her dream and bought a fabulous place in St Estephe so we are all ‘obliged’ to do our bit and visit at least once a year to see what they are growing and enjoy the lakes and countryside around there. 

Al fresco eating

Splash pool

The lake at St Estephe

 

The garden

 I’ve appreciated this sunny spell of life because I’ve had my share of storm clouds and I’m always looking for them coming over the horizon. 

How was your summer? All highs like mine or a few lows too?

 

One of the best things about being a writer.

A BOX OF BOOKS LONGING TO BE READ

One of the best things about being a writer is meeting real readers and gaining a few of them for my own books. 

How do I do that? By accepting a speaking engagement where there will be readers and connecting with them.

I‘ve found that, if readers like you and the sound of your book, they are generous in their time and with their money and they buy a book or take a leaflet and download it on their kindle afterwards.

I’ve given a couple of talks recently about my writing journey -the tale of how a miner’s daughter eventually became an author. After the talk, I’ve read extracts from my books, answered questions and had the joy of connecting with future readers.

One thing I’m still waiting for but it is early days and, when it happens, I’ll sing from the rooftops (well, in my head anyway) is the day that someone comes along and they have already read one of my books. Imagine that!

Meeting a hero at Waterstones Newcastle. I had already read ALL of Marian’s books.

Writers, like many people, keep going on dreams, don’t they? What’s your best thing about your job?

Is there anybody out there?

Is there anybody out there?

Of course there is!

Billions of internet users are out there. Just beyond those rocks.

What I’m wondering is, who else, besides me, reads writers’ blogs?

To be more exact who reads my blog?

I’d love to know more about my readers. Do you like my daily life gossip? Do you wish I’d stick to book news? Do you look at my reviews page? Do you want to send your own photo of you with my book to my ‘rogues gallery of readers’? If I sent out a quarterly newsletter, i could ask such things every now and then and find out.

A CALL TO ACTION! 

If you do read this, could you, just this once,  write a comment in the reply box below? just ‘READ IT’ will do.

 ( Or, if you just hate to write comments a quick explanation of why this is such a chore for you.) 

I want to start a quarterly newsletter

-one that gives readers a heads up to when I have special offers on Amazon, spills the latest news  and that has a giveaway every issue. I’d like an email list for this but I think the best way to do this is to have a button on my home page that states 
‘SIGN HERE for quarterlynewsletter’

That will give you blog readers a choice. You can sign up or not and I won’t use info you’ve given just because you want to reply to my blog. What do you think of that option?

I love getting photos like this sent to me. isn’t that a fabulous reading corner? Thank you to that reader! More of these would be most welcome 

 

 

 

 

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