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A Spot of Editing

Posted on 27th November, 2020

If you have seen the Latest News slots on my Welcome page here or on my Polly Heron websites recently, you'll know that the third in the Surplus Girls series is going through the editing process at the moment, so I thought you might like to have a little glimpse into the world of writing. My editor wanted me to change around the order of some of the events in the first part of the book, so this is how I tackled it.

 

First I made an A4 sheet for each scene, complete with all the things that happened. I laid them all over the floor in order... and then I started rearranging them....

 

 

.... with a little help from Cassie (who doesn't look very pleased to be having her picture taken).

 

 

It wasn't just a matter of switching scenes around - it was bits within scenes in some cases. And of course every time a piece of plot moves, it's essential think through all the possible knock-on effects.

 

I imagine that most writers these days would do this job on-screen, but for me, it's pen and paper every time. That way I can see the whole layout all in one go. All I can say is, it works for me.

 

Anyway, it's been a time-consuming business that has required loads of concentration, but the end is in sight and I'll be sending the revised book back to my editor next week. Fingers crossed, everyone, please!

 

Susanna / Polly

 

 

 

A Dip Into The Past

Posted on 20th November, 2020

You may recall a blog I wrote a few weeks ago about novels that incorporate such a wonderful sense of place that they make you, the reader, feel as if you have been transported to that geographical setting. Then, a couple of weeks back, I wrote a companion piece about an historical novel that had a similar effect, but instead of a geographical place, it transported the reader back in time through the author's skilful use of historical detail - and by 'skilful', part of what I mean is that the detail is added to the story in a completely natural way. This book was A Borrowed Past by Juliette Lawson. 

 

This week, I have another such historical for you - The Gunpowder Girl by Tania Crosse.

 

The Historical Novels Review calls it a "gripping and heartbreaking tale . . . well-drawn characters, intelligent and fast-paced plotting, real authenticity make this novel a page-turner."

 

The story is centred around Dartmoor, an area with which Tania Crosse is very familiar, as is obvious from any of her books.

 

Of the inspiration behind the book, Tania says:

 

"The rugged, savage beauty of Dartmoor is inspirational enough in itself, but its secret history has provided the basis for so many of my novels. In the case of THE GUNPOWDER GIRL, the discovery of the ruins of the 19th century Cherrybrook Gunpowder Mills drove me to write a story to illustrate what it would have been like for a beautiful, intelligent young woman to live at this remote, unforgiving location. The other element in the book, still very much in evidence and currently still in use, are the forbidding buildings of Dartmoor Prison. In Victorian times, life there could be hell, not just for the inmates - some of whom were guilty of what today would be considered relatively minor offences - but also for the prison warders and their families who were forced to live in the isolated and exposed prison settlement of Princetown"

 

Rose is a wonderful character, who has so many challenges to overcome. Following her through her story, I was cheering her on all the way. She has a true streak of independence, but just because she shows capability and spirit, that doesn't mean that her path through life is an easy one.

 

The themes of the story include love, independence, justice versus injustice, and the way in which important choices impact on not just the life of the decision-maker but on others as well.

 

This is an engrossing historical novel set in Victorian times and for me, the world of the gunpowder mill was a new experience. Tania Crosse has evidently done her research thoroughly, but never fear - all the information is delivered with a light touch. When I reviewed Juliette Lawson's A Borrowed Past, I said that Juliette's research had informed her writing and I pay Tania the same compliment. Historically speaking, she knows her stuff so well that it pours naturally from her pen (or possibly from her fingertps onto her keyboard).

 

What better way to end this blog than by quoting from Juliette's own review of The Gunpowder Girl:

 

"I loved this book, the first by Tania that I’ve read (but it definitely won’t be the last). The research is worn lightly and used skilfully to create a wholly convincing picture of the time and place.... The narrative engaged all my senses, and made it so easy to imagine the landscape, houses and outbuildings, as well as the interactions between the characters, a strong cast who held the story together very naturally."

 

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Links:

 

Tania's books on Amazon Kindle  

 

Tania on Facebook  

 

Tania on Twitter   

 

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Food For The Spirit

Posted on 12th November, 2020

Wales has come out of lockdown just as England goes into it, so I thought this would be a good time to share some of my favourite photos of my lovely home town of Llandudno, so you can have a virtial visit. I know that during the spring lockdown I very much appreciated other people's online pictures of their own beautiful places. Food for the spirit!

 

I love this picture of the pier. It's so peaceful. You can barely see the join between the sea and the sky.

 

 

Here are some of the daffodils that flower in Happy Valley each springtime. Daffodils have a special place in my heart as they remind me of a certain person whom I lost twenty years ago.

 

 

At this special time of year, I have to share a photo of the Cenotaph on the promenade.

 

 

An image from the spring lockdwn, when the Great Orme goats came to live in the almost deserted roads of the town. These particular goats are half of a group that took up residence in a church car park.

 

 

This is a view of Happy Valley that was taken in February of last year - when we had a heatwave. Remember that?

 

 

And lastly, here is a view from the Great orme, looking across to Puffin Island and Anglesey.

 

I'll see you again next week when I'll be writing another of my blogs about historical novels. Next week it's going to be The Gunpowder Girl by Tania Crosse.

 

Until then, stay safe.

 

Susanna/Polly xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"A Highly Intelligent Story. . ."

Posted on 6th November, 2020

I don't normally use my blog as an advertising place for my books, but this week's blog is a special message to my readers down under, to let you know that The Surplus Girls is a Kindle special deal on Australian Amazon for the month of November, so now is a good time to try it if you haven't before. And it's a doubly good time because of book 2 in the series, The Surplus Girls' Orphans, being published in a few weeks time!

 

Here is the link to The Surplus Girls on Amazon Australia's Kindle.

In a recent book review, Julie Barham, who blogs as Northern Reader, said of The Surplus Girls: "This is a highly intelligent story of a young woman desperately trying to improve her lot in a world where there are few opportunities for uneducated women, and many men are coping with the legacy of a traumatic war."

 

If you would like to see the whole review, click here.  

 

And if you would like to see the latest news about my Polly Heron books, including what my editor said when she finished reading the recently finished book 3 in the series, why not pop over to my Polly Heron website and take a look. I'll see you over there!

 

Take care

Susanna/Polly xx

 

 

In my previous blog, I celebrated two novels, A Mother’s Secret and The Italian House, which are notable for their wonderful sense of place. In these stories, the authors, respectively Jan Baynham and Teresa Crane, created their settings so evocatively that they produced books of the type that make readers say, “It made me feel I was there.”

 

This week and in another blog in November, I’m writing about novels that have a particular depth and interest thanks to the attention paid to the historical detail. Part of the authors’ skill in this is the way each of them has woven the details into the narrative with a deft touch. Their historical details are never popped in just for the sake of it, but always to enrich the story.

 

The first book is A Borrowed Past by Juliette Lawson, a clever and increasingly intriguing family mystery set in the Victorian era. A strong narrative is combined with believable dialogue and a lively mixture of characters, not all of whom are what they seem. Add to this the many tiny details of life at the time and the result is an engrossing read.

The story opens in 1875 in a seaside village in England’s north east, where young William dreams of becoming an artist – a vocation he knows his father will never permit him to follow. William’s life is turned upside down when he stumbles across a dark family secret that changes the way he views his family, the world around him and even himself.

 

A Borrowed Past seemed to start out as a what you might call a straightforward historical novel, with an appealing young hero, a well-produced setting and the promise of a rattling good plot, but gradually that dark secret William found at the beginning becomes more important until you find yourself in the middle of a full-blown mystery, with layer upon layer of secrets, deceptions, assumptions and hidden agendas being revealed one by one as William struggles to find the truth at the heart of what happened years ago.

 

As Juliette Lawson says, “People are essentially the same in every era, trying to do what's right, looking out for their families and finding the best way through any challenges that they have to face. My aim is to bring the past to life through my stories, revealing that it's the situations my characters are in which bring out their true spirit.”

 

A Borrowed Past is an enjoyable and engrossing read for various reasons. I could have put it into a blog about mystery stories, but the reason I’m writing about it here is the quality of its historical setting. It is clear from the start that Juliette has done her homework and not only that, she has loved every moment of the research. How can I tell? Because the historical details that augent the story are dropped into the narrative in such a natural way, that’s how. Juliette’s love for the past informs every single page.

 

She says, “I became fascinated by genealogy and local history long before I began to write fiction. I love to imagine my local area in earlier times: ordinary people living out their lives in a different social context. The research I did for a parish history, predominantly Victorian, was the inspiration for my fiction. It revealed a seaside village community of rich and poor, of all classes, occupations from labourers to professionals, all bound together by fellowship, faith and humanity.”

 

As one reviewer of A Borrowed Past put it, the historical setting is “as much a heart and soul of the story as the characters.” And what greater compliment could you pay an historical writer than that?

 

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Juliette Lawson’s links:

 

A Borrowed Past at Amazon

 

Juliette’s page on Twitter @juliette_author

 

Her website juliettelawson.com 

 

 

Where We Wrote . . .

Posted on 23rd October, 2020

As I write this on the morning of Friday 23rd October, Wales will be going into a national lockdown this evening for two weeks. I imagine many people have been thinking at various times this year about holidays they have particularly enjoyed.

 

For me, one such was the writing week I spent in Bath two years ago this week with Jane, Cass, Kitty and Kirsten - my Sister Scribes.

 

While we were there, Kitty had a publication day and the rest of us secretly supplied cake, fizz and gifts to surprise her with on the day.

 

Here she is in the kitchen, cutting the cake. I've always had a soft spot for Second Chances because of this.

Basically, the structure of our writing week was that we worked all morning and then in the afternoons chose between carrying on writing or going out sightseeing, usually led by Cass, who knows Bath well. It was a wonderful week in terms of friendship, holiday and also writing. I remember Jane was working hard on a synopsis/book proposal for Endless Skies, which was published earlier this year, and Cass told me about a book she had in the pipeline... which is now published as The Cottage in a Cornish Cove. Kirsten had recently sent her debut novel, Another Us, to her agent, who loved it.

 

As for me, I was busy writing the second in The Surplus Girls series - what is now called The Surplus Girls' Orphans.

 

I wrote several chapters, including introducing a character whom I hope readers will love to hate when she makes life difficult for Molly, the heroine. Another viewpoint character is Jacob Layton (Belinda's youngest brother from book 1) and he also had a tough time in these chapters.

 

It was a very successful week for me work-wise, but the best bit of all is summed up in this photo - the pleasure of being with friends.

 

Let's hope it isn't too much longer before we can all be reunited with our friends and loved ones.

 

Sending love and hugs in these difficult time.

 

Susanna/Polly xxx

 

Back to the Library

Posted on 15th October, 2020

Although I do some of my writing outdoors, most of it is done - or used to be done - in the public library, which of course closed down in March. It is now open again in a limited way, so I thought I'd share my first visit with you. Browsing appointments have to be booked in advance and last for 45 minutes.

 

There's a one-way system for going in and out, but that's not the only change. All the furniture has been removed - all the seating, tables etc, apart from some computer tables. As well as that, some of the shelf units have been removed there were too close to other shelving.

 

This is the children's library minus its comfortable furniture.
There has been some shifting around of stock because of having to take away some of the shelving. The crime section has moved into part of what was previously an exclusively non-fiction section.

It was, of course, wonderful to be able to browse and choose books, but I do miss going to the library to work. There, I could settle down and simply get stuck in with no interruptions - something that hasn't been my experience while I've been working at home.

 

And the cherry on the cake of my library visit...?

 

 

 

 

 

Cover Love . . . With Jan Baynham

Posted on 9th October, 2020
This week I am delighted to welcome Jan Baynham back to my blog to take part in my Cover Love series and explain why one of her book covers has a special meaning for her.

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Cover Love

 

Thank you, Susanna, for inviting me to take part in this lovely series. What a fantastic idea! I’m always fascinated by the way book covers are designed to reflect a story and although they are not the only factor, they do influence my choice of books.

 

I am fortunate in that I now have three book covers from which to choose, one for my collection of short stories published in 2019 and two from the novels published by Ruby Fiction this year.

 

The one I have chosen is the cover for ‘Her Mother’s Secret’ that came out in April.

 

 


 

A significant part of the novel is set on a fictional island off the Peloponnese in southern Greece. The colours of the sea, sky and landscape chosen by the cover designers seem to suggest the very essence of a country that I love and have visited many times. At the time of publication, everyone in the UK was in the middle of lockdown. Holidays were being cancelled and here in Wales we were not able to travel further than five miles from our homes. Very soon after publication, the reviews and messages from readers were telling me how the novel was providing an escape from the grim news about how the corona virus was spreading and the numbers of people who were sadly losing their lives. Although not written as an escapist novel, I was more than happy for readers to find the setting authentic enough to escape the awful situation we were all facing even if it helped for just a few hours.

 

The cover also made me smile. When I first saw the design, I was taken back to a time when I, too, had long blonde hair and wore a mini-skirt and my husband had long dark hair and sported a beard. We could have been that couple standing by the camper van. Those were the days!

 

However, my main reason for choosing the cover of ‘Her Mother’s Secret’ was that having my first novel published was the culmination of a dream come true. As a late starter and only beginning to write fiction after I retired, there were times when I didn’t think that would happen. I was thrilled that Ruby Fiction believed in my story and offered me a contract for three books. Knowing that readers have enjoyed my writing has been immensely rewarding.

 

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Blurb:

A secret left behind in the summer of ’69 …

 

It’s 1969 and free-spirited artist Elin Morgan has left Wales for a sun-drenched Greek island. As she makes new friends and enjoys the laidback lifestyle, she writes all about it in her diary. But Elin’s carefree summer of love doesn’t last long, and her island experience ultimately leaves her with a shocking secret …

Twenty two years later, Elin’s daughter Alexandra has inherited the diary and is reeling from its revelations. The discovery compels Alexandra to make her own journey to the same island, following in her mother’s footsteps. Once there, she sets about uncovering what really happened to Elin in that summer of ’69.

 

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Jan's links:

 

Her author page on Amazon - and Her Mother's Secret is 99p on Kindle at the moment. Just saying!

 

Jan's Twitter page

 

Her author page on Facebook

 

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Where I Wrote . . .

Posted on 2nd October, 2020

Every now and again I post a blog called "Where I Wrote. . ." As a rule, these show a photo of where I was when I wrote a particlar scene that appears in a published book; so as well as showing you where I wrote it, I can also offer you an excerpt. This time, though, all I can give you is the photo, because the book is a WIP - a work in progress.

 

So here I was when I was writing one of the final scenes in the third book in The Surplus Girls series. If you have ever looked at my Llandudno page, you may remember that there is a small bay beside the pier, which is my favourite place in the whole world. I have done a lot of writing here.

 

On this occasion, the tide was right in so I sat on the steps going down into the bay. I specially wanted to take my writng outside that day, as it was forecast to be the last fine day for a few days.

 

 

You might think it a bit odd that I'm busy finishing book 3 in the series when book 2, The Surplus Girls' Orphans, is yet to be published, but the publishing world often works a long way ahead. All I can say is that it was a scene involving a character who was mentioned towards the end of book 1 and who then becomes a regular character in the series. I wonder if you can work out who I mean! In the scene, she goes to see her friend (who is the heroine of book 2) and they each have some special news to share with one another.

 

In the new year, after The Surplus Girls' Orphans is published, I'll share another photo from this little bay and show you were I sat to write one of the opening scenes, which I'll then be able to share with you here. All I'll say for now is that it takes place in a sweet shop and I had a wonderful time researching all the confectionery and chocolates.

 

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Link to my Polly Heron page on Amazon . . .

 

. . . and to my Polly Heron website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cover Love!

Posted on 25th September, 2020

This week I am proud to be able to show you the full wraparound cover of my next Polly Heron book, The Surplus Girls' Orphans, which will be published in paperback and e-book format in January.

 

Isn't it gorgeous? I love it and I hope you do too.

 

 

 

And if you didn't get the chance to read my blog about how the front cover illustration came into being, you can take a look by clicking here.

 

Meanwhile, if you need to catch up by reading book 1 in the series before book 2 comes out, The Surplus Girls is 99p on Amazon Kindle until September 30th and the paperback is still £2.00.