Saturday, 14 October 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.


I see my character, Tilly Grayson from my novel Southern Sons wearing this dress.






I love this dress. Simple but elegant.
 
 
 
 

 

 


Friday, 13 October 2017

Writing the Heroine's Journey

1. What is the inciting incident or problem and in what way does it effect her life?

2. What emotional state is she in at the start of the story?

3. What does she want? What are her aims and goal, and what does that tell us about her?

4. What is her flaw or inner conflict that prevents her from attaining her goal, and which traits will help her to overcome them in the end?

5. Many external conflict or obstacles will stand in her way?

6. What is at stake? The stakes need to be high. What will she lose if she doesn’t achieve her objective?

7. Why would the reader care about her? They need to be emotionally involved, to understand her situation and willing her to succeed. Motivation. Motivation. Motivation is the secret of good characterisation.

8. What does she learn along this hazardous journey? How does she confront her demons and develop as a person?

9. The darkest hour will come when it seems she has lost everything. This will be followed by the climax when, largely by her own efforts and certainly not luck or a Prince Charming riding to her rescue, she wins through.

10. How does her story end? Redemption and resolution. Major problem finally solved and a satisfying end for the reader.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Is Accuracy important in the Historical Novel?

Historical novels are so deeply researched they sometimes seem like non-fiction in disguise. And some readers consider that romance can kill the story dead. Even so, we must do our research and set the scene as accurately as we can. We can take some liberties, for the sake of the story, but if we veer too far from the facts as we know them the reader may feel cheated and lose faith in the work. If a mistake crops up, an anachronism, this will jar the reader and jerk them out of the story back to the present. It’s also best to avoid controversy or anything doubtful, which has a hint of being anachronistic. It has to feel correct. E.g: Soldiers did play baseball in the American Civil War. I believe they also played in a Jane Austen novel too. But the reader may found that hard to accept.

France in the war


Societies traditions, moral mores and customs help to build the picture, but this is where even the most fanatical historian can come unstuck. Many time periods, such as the Regency, have become so stylised that you may actually be considered to have written an historically inaccurate book if you do not follow the “popular perceptions” of the period. Presenting a realistic and complex view of society during a specific era can be the thing that makes the difference between a passable yarn and a gripping story.

It’s surely about striking the right balance. The story is the most important thing, but it must be firmly rooted in the appropriate period. It must not simply be a costume drama. The past must be made as relevant as the present. The problems can be the same: human emotion, conflict and behaviour. Falling in love and losing that love are just as painful, whatever year it is in.

A combination of accuracy and imagination that will make the story plausable. The writer needs to incorporate the odd, quirky detail. Perhaps the price of cheese, a housemaid’s monthly wage, a description of underwear, length of time for a journey, breed of horse, how someone would get their boots mended, what book or newspaper they might read. How would they conduct a funeral, spin wool, pluck a hen, fire a rifle, fight a duel or take part in a bare knuckle fight. Whatever is needed for your story. When you can’t draw on personal experience or memories use interviews, explore diaries, memoirs, biographies, newspapers, etc. Select with care. Don’t put material in just because you wish to show off how much you learnt at the Imperial War Museum. Too much info can be boring unless it is entirely relevant to the story.

It is the correct little details which builds the atmosphere, gives a strong sense of time and place that creates a feeling of reality vital for the reader, so that they’ll sit back and enjoy the ride.


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

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Friday, 25 August 2017

The Black Market in Wartime Britain

The black market became very much a part of wartime life. With rationing, and rising prices, it held a certain appeal. This was even the case by the end of the war when people were sick of austerity and shortages. ‘Wide boys’, ‘Spivs’, or ‘Wheelers and Dealers’, as they were known, were very clever at flaunting authority and ignored the fact what they were involved in was illegal. They were making money, so why would they not be prepared to take the risk? These fellows had a certain style about them, often quite flashily dressed in a wide-lapelled suit and brightly coloured tie, sporting a trilby hat tilted rakishly over his forehead.


Surplus goods would fall into their hands out of clever conniving and trickery, which they’d sell on at a price. One of the characters in this book: Home is Where the Heart Is gets involved. On one occasion he arranges for a driver to leave his cab door open so that he can help himself to some goods left on the passenger seat. Did he get away with it? You’ll have to read the book to find out more.

Shopkeepers would hide stuff under the counter for registered customers who were special to them. Salmon and peaches were often supplied in that way. Where they got these products from was never asked about. This was considered to be a good way of holding on to their best customers.

Black market goods were often more expensive, although their quality not always reliable. As well as food these might include petrol, spare parts for a car, cigarettes and alcohol. Cosmetics, perfume and nylons were also hard to come by during the war, even though women were encouraged to look their best for purposes of morale. This created sales of the kind of cosmetics that were not necessarily safe.

The Ministry of Food would investigate any complaints brought by the public of those suspected of being black marketers. They could be fined, or even imprisoned. But more often than not they got away with it because people would avoid informing the authorities. The believed it was not their concern and they’d lose out if the black market disappeared. The government fought something of a losing battle with those involved in the black market, despite employing hundreds of inspectors to enforce the law.

1945: Christmas is approaching and Cathie Morgan is awaiting the return of her beloved fiancé, Alexander Ramsay. But she has a secret that she’s anxious to share with him. One that could change everything between them. Her sister has died and she wants to adopt her son. When the truth is finally revealed, Alex immediately calls off the wedding, claiming that the baby is actually Cathie’s, causing all of Cathie’s fears to be realised. As Cathie battles to reassure Alex of her fidelity, she must also juggle the care of the baby and their home. But then Alex crosses the line with a deceit that is unforgivable, leaving Cathie to muster the courage to forge a life for her and her nephew alone. Will Cathie ever be able to trust another man again and as peace begins to settle will she ever be able to call a house a home…

Available in most good book shops and on line:

WH Smith

Amazon UK

Friday, 11 August 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.
 

Thursday, 10 August 2017

"A Knight's Vow." Full Length Medieval Historical Romance 99p/99cents New Excerpt

Here's the blurb and a new excerpt from my re-issued full length medieval historical romance novel, "A Knight's Vow." Just 99p or 99 cents.

Blurb.

A crusader, haunted by grief and guilt. A bride-to-be, struggling with old yearnings and desires. Can Sir Guillelm de la Rochelle and Lady Alyson of Olverton rediscover the innocent love they once had for each other? When Guillelm makes a fearful vow on their wedding night, is all lost forever between him and Alyson? And will the secret enemy who hates their marriage destroy them both?

“A Knight’s Vow” is a tale of romance and chivalry. In a time of knights and ladies, of tournaments and battles, of crusades, castles and magic.

(First published by Kensington Publishing, New York, in 2008.)


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Excerpt. (Taken from a skirmish where the hero Guillelm is fighting and the heroine Alyson is desperate to save him.)


Alyson began to run again, to Guillelm, aware she only had seconds, instants before the enemy raised his helm and wound up his deadly crossbow.
He would shoot at Guillelm—
‘Down! Get down! Get away!’ Yelling warnings, she ran straight at Guillelm, her one thought to save him, her only wild plan that if she could not make him hear her warnings, she might spoil the aim of the enemy archer.      
Ignoring the growing pain of her heat-seared lungs and her fading, tiring limbs, she screamed again, ’Get down!’ and now Guillelm heard and saw her, shock and horror warring in his face, his mouth forming the question, ’How?’
‘Down!’ Alyson cried, but she was too late. She felt a punch slam into her shoulder, spinning her round so that she fell backwards, the breath knocked out of her. She tried to move, to reach Guillelm, shield him, but as she raised her head a jolt of agony drove through her body and she blacked out.

Guillelm reacted without conscious thought. He lowered the shocked, sobbing Prioress gently onto the ground and seized the quivering arrow shaft buried so sickeningly in Alyson’s shoulder, determined to draw it out before she came round from her faint.
Even as he worked, images flashed constantly before his eyes. Alyson running towards him, arms outstretched, making herself a target. Over and over, he saw the bolt thud into her slender body, saw her feet actually leave the ground as she was flung around by the force of the impact. She had been shot in the back and he had done nothing to save her; worse he had not even known she had joined the war-band. He had been so keen to lay sword against sword with Étienne the Bold, who, cur that he was, had turned tail the instant he saw him, riding through the smoke and soot of the burning convent.
‘Ah!’  Although he tried to be steady and careful and the crossbow bolt came out cleanly, the sharp decisive tug hurt her—Alyson came out of her swoon with a shriek of agony.
‘Sssh, sweetheart, it is done.’ Guillelm wanted to cradle her but dare not: he could not bear to hurt her again. Kneeling by her, he packed his cloak around her body, terrified at how cold she was. Her shoulder was bleeding freely and that must be good, for the ill-humours would be washed out.
What if the crossbow bolt was poisoned?
What if she died?
‘Live, Alyson,’ he whispered, too afraid to be angry at her. He should have known she would attempt something like this: she was never one to sit still when those she loved were under threat. Where was that sister of hers? The Flemings had herded the nuns into the courtyard while they torched the buildings. None had been harmed so where was she?
Blinking away tears, he raised his head and met the pasty faces of the squires. The lads had dismounted and gathered round, forming a shield with their horses. Too late, Guillelm thought bleakly.
‘My lord, we did not know…’
‘Truly we never suspected…’
‘She moved so swiftly, ran right amongst the horses…’
‘We could not stop her!’
Their excuses died away and they hung their heads.     
‘What can we do?’ asked one.
Guillelm raked them with furious eyes. His knights were still searching for survivors in the wrecked convent—friends or foe—but these useless, lumpen youths should be good for something. 
‘Get me that archer,’ he spat.
‘I will do so, my lord.’ Fulk stepped into the circle, glanced at Alyson’s still body, and then turned, shouting for his horse.
‘Sir —’
At first Guillelm thought it one of the squires, or the half-blind old militia-man he had led away to safety from the burning church.
‘Do not scold them, sir. I rode in disguise.’ The small, breathy voice was Alyson’s. She was looking at him, her eyes dark with pain and fear.
‘Peace!’ Guillelm took her icy hand in his, trying to will his own heat into her. ‘We shall have you home safe, soon enough.’
‘I am sorry to be so much trouble.’ Alyson tried to raise herself on her elbow, gasped and fell back.
‘Alyson!’ For a dreadful moment, he thought she had died, but then saw the quick rise of her chest and realized she had passed out again. He should lift her from this burnt, wrecked ground as soon as possible, but what way would be best? In his arms, on horseback? On a litter?
‘Give me your cloaks!’ he snapped at the hapless squires. ‘Cover her with them. You! Bring me the infirmarer! You! Make a fire here! You! Find Sir Thomas.’ He almost said Sir Fulk, his natural second-in-command, but Fulk was off on another necessary task and one he longed to accomplish himself, though revenge on the archer would not save Alyson.
Live, please live, he thought. It was a prayer and wish in one.
‘Where is that infirmarer?’ he bellowed, above the steady weeping of the Prioress. He was growing incensed with the lack of speed of everyone about him and exasperated with the cowering, wailing nuns who had trailed after him like ducklings following their mother as he carried the helpless, vacant-eyed head of their order away from her devastated convent. If  Alyson’s sister was in that drab company, why had she not come forward to be with her? Was she so withdrawn from the world that even the sight of her own flesh, broken and bleeding on the ground, stirred no passionate care? ’Is there no one?’
‘I am here, Guido.’ Calm as a rock in a sea of troubles, Sir Tom leaned down from his horse. ’What say I find something to use as a stretcher?’
‘Do it,’ Guillelm answered curtly, ’And tell your men to search the infirmary for potions and such.’ A late thought struck him, but he could not feel ashamed at it, not with Alyson injured beside him. ’See if any of our own men are hurt, and tend them.’
 ‘They will not be hurt. Men never are.’ A small, slim nun emerged from the smoke, her arms full of books and manuscripts.
‘I am Sister Ursula, who was once Matilda of Olverton Minor,’ she said, calm as glass. ‘I have been in our scriptorium, where our true treasures are stored. The mercenaries did not recognize them as such.’ Slow, careful, she laid the books on the ground and only then looked at Alyson.
‘Your infirmarer?’ Guillelm asked, as Sister Ursula’s lips moved in prayer. His hands itched to shake her out of her complacency: was this woman human? ’Your sister is still bleeding.’
‘The infirmarer is dead.’ Sister Ursula opened her eyes, fixing Guillelm with a stare of utter dislike, mingled with distaste. ’Our sister in Christ passed away eight days ago.’
‘Mother of God, have you no one who can help my wife?’
‘Do not blaspheme against the name of our blessed Lady of Heaven.’
Sister Ursula stared at a kneeling squire striking sparks off his knife to light a small, swiftly-gathered bundle of kindling until the youth shuffled out of her path. She knelt beside Alyson, facing Guillelm across her sister’s body. ‘I will pray.’
‘Please —’ Guillelm felt to be out of his depth dealing with this smooth, polished creature, he felt to be drowning in her piety. If it had been a man he would have appealed to honour, or come to blows. How did women deal with each other? He thought of his sister Juliana, but their relationship had been oddly formal, she being so much the elder and out of reach of sibling contests.
Rivalry. The answer came to him as he recalled the scrapes and scraps that he had seen and sometimes intervened in between brothers. It was a risk to employ it against women, but what other tactic could he use? Luck and recklessness were all he had left.
‘If she could speak, Alyson could tell us how to treat her,’ he remarked, adopting Sister Ursula’s calm tones while around him his squires and gathering knights held their breaths against the approaching storm. Gently: he had to do this right. ‘She is an excellent healer.’
Sister Ursula said nothing.
‘She told me you had no diligence in such matters,’ Guillelm went on, lying shamelessly and worse, feeling no guilt as he did so. ’That you love books more than people.’
‘She is wrong,’ said Sister Ursula.
 ‘You put your skill above hers, then? I have seen no other to match her, even in Outremer.’
With a small shake of her head remarkably like Alyson’s, Sister Ursula unclasped her palms.
 ‘I thought her judgment a little harsh, but I see that she was right. She said you lacked the healing touch.’
‘What nonsense.’ Sister Ursula rose to her feet. ’Build up that fire,’ she commanded. ’I must have more light.’ 

Lindsay Townsend

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Inspiration for Post War sagas

I’m always on the look out for ideas, finding inspiration from many sources: family memories, history of the places I’ve lived in including the beautiful English Lake District and Cornwall. I’ve dipped into interesting parts of my own life, such as when we had a smallholding and tried the ‘good life’. Having fully exploited those ideas, I then moved on to interviewing people for other fascinating stories.

I begin by talking to people who either can recall such times themselves, or retell that of their own parents or siblings. I’ve met some fascinating people over the years, and what a joy it is to listen to their stories, so real and personal, vividly recalled and rarely recorded anywhere. Memories are fallible, of course, and facts need to be checked against whatever documentary evidence I can find such as newspaper reports, letters, diaries, biographies, as well as history books. The walls of my office are packed with books covering all the topics I love.

Writing also demands a need to investigate natural history, geography, geology and topography. My farm or village might be fictional but the mountains, forests and lakes have to be entirely accurate; the walks my heroine takes are actually trodden by me. The flowers must be in season, the birds on their migratory flights south from Scandinavia, carefully checked. The agricultural law of the period must be studied as well as weather reports. I cannot say 1945 was a beautiful summer if it rained all through July and the harvest was ruined. Nothing can be fudged, because unlike Medieval times, someone will remember.

The gritty northern street saga has its own requirements, format and boundaries and usually concerns a strong woman fighting against the poverty of her surroundings, as well as the trials and tribulations of the times in which she lives. My family have been weavers (or websters as they were once called) for generations on both sides of the Pennines. My mother wove parachutes during the war, and lived with her widowed mother while her husband was away fighting. I have vivid memories of my grandmother black-leading her range and donkey-stoning her doorstep. You could have eaten your dinner off her stone flag floors for although she was poor, she was clean. Therein lay her dignity.

When the war ended, new problems arose. Some men were less than impressed with their welcome home in a society gone to pieces. Relationships had changed, jobs and homes hard to come by, shortages and austerity still prevalent. Mothers often still treated their sons as boys, instead of grown men. Husbands were unprepared for a more tough and independent wife, or could be suffering injuries, nightmares or depression. The effects of war are extremely traumatic and it’s fascinating to learn how such problems were dealt with, and to write about them as I’ve done in this latest book: Home is Where the Heart Is.


1945: Christmas is approaching and Cathie Morgan is awaiting the return of her beloved fiancé, Alexander Ramsay. But she has a secret that she’s anxious to share with him. One that could change everything between them. Her sister has died and she wants to adopt her son. When the truth is finally revealed, Alex immediately calls off the wedding, claiming that the baby is actually Cathie’s, causing all of Cathie’s fears to be realised. As Cathie battles to reassure Alex of her fidelity, she must also juggle the care of the baby and their home. But then Alex crosses the line with a deceit that is unforgivable, leaving Cathie to muster the courage to forge a life for her and her nephew alone. Will Cathie ever be able to trust another man again and as peace begins to settle will she ever be able to call a house a home… 

Available in most good book shops and on line:

WH Smith

Amazon UK