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Some 'Miracle' News

Posted on 30th June, 2022

 

This week, I have two pieces of news to share with you regarding book 6 in The Railway Girls series, A Christmas Miracle for the Railway Girls, which comes out in October.

 

 

The first is that Miracle was featured in The Bookseller, which is the journal of the book trade in the UK. They were runnning a piece called Northern Powerhouse about forthcoming books set in the north.

 

 

 

And the next is that the proofs have arrived and I am working on them at the moment. At this point, the book is still on the computer, but now it looks like the finished thing. It is always such an exciting moment seeing it like this for the first time.

 

 

 

 

Miracle will be published on October 13th. It can be pre-ordered here.

 

 

 

Five Years On ...

Posted on 24th June, 2022

 

This has been a special week for me. Five years ago, on June 22nd 2017, The Deserter's Daughter, was published.

 

Five years on, and with twelve books now out there and more in the pipeline, it's lovely to look back on how it all started.

 

Here I am opening my very first box of author copies, which arrived a couple of weeks prior to publication day. I wore that silly grin all day long! This photo made my editor laugh - she said Alf was letting the side down by not looking interested.

 

 

 

And on publication day itself, my friends presented me with a marvellous bouquet, including an S in pink roses, some cotton-wool 'flowers' made by the florist (cotton = Manchester, the setting for the story), all housed in a genuine 1920s mixing-bowl to reflect the time the story takes place.

 

 

Here are a few of the reviews that I'm especially proud of:

 

"A strong and powerful family saga which kept my attention from start to finish." (Jaffa Reads Too)

 

"Powerful, complex... a delicious saga and an excellent read for fans of historical famiy novels featuring strong female characters." (Norther Reader)

 

"What a corker of a saga it is! ... At one point I was holding my breath and eager to turn the page to read what heppened next." (Boon's Boocase)

 

"Nuanced, believable characters... along with an absorbing and colourful narrative." (After the Rain)

 

 

Here is The Deserter's Daughter on Amazon.

 

 

Last week I shared my review of Tania Crosse's The Street of Broken Dreams. This week, I am delighted to welcome Tania to my blog so she can tell us where the inspiration comes for for her riting in general and The Street of Broken Dreams in particular.

 

 

With fourteen historical novels under my belt, I am often asked where I get so many ideas from. I often wonder myself, but it does appear that I have been blessed with an exceptionally fertile imagination. I even have the occasional totally unexpected flash vision that gets my mind working. But as an experienced author, I’m also well aware of the ingredients that make for a magical novel, and much of that requires a great deal of thought and exercising of the old grey matter. Engaging characters with natural dialogue, a gripping story with sub-plots that weave around the main theme, maybe a secret or an adversary, and most definitely oodles of inner conflict are all essential.

 

My main source of inspiration, however, is a mix of location and personal experience. Each of the ten books in my Devonshire series set out to illustrate in fictional form different aspects of the fascinating history of West Dartmoor and the surrounding area. I simply allowed myself to imagine what it would really have been like to scrape a living from the moor in the past, but the savage beauty of the moor itself is part and parcel both of my characters and the passions that shape them.

 

The same is true of the new Twentieth Century sagas I wrote for Aria Fiction. The first mini series comprising Nobody’s Girl and A Place to Call Home was inspired by a visit to Winston Churchill’s home of Chartwell, where the great man himself spoke to me in a vision. And the two books in my Banbury Street series are definitely inspired by both location and personal experience, as I lived there myself as a small child many decades ago.

 

 

The Candle Factory Girl is set in the 1930s and is based around Price’s Candle Factory that was just down the road, although many other childhood memories also came into the story, the creepy railway arches at Clapham Junction Station being one example. The second book in the Banbury Street series, The Street of Broken Dreams, is set at the end of the Second World War, and as such is much closer to the period when I lived there. I remember well the camaraderie among the neighbours, which I hope to have conveyed in this second tale.

 

The main plot of what happens to Cissie in the opening prologue was inspired by a true wartime incident which fortunately failed to develop into the terrible ordeal she suffers. The person in question was a nurse making her way home late at night after her shift, but I sought a different reason for the circumstances. I decided to make my main character a dancer walking home after a performance, since dance has been a life-long passion of mine.

 

 

I first began ballet classes when I was four years old and living in Banbury Street. Later, we moved to Surrey, and I started at a new dance school. At this point, there was nothing I yearned for more than to attend tap and modern classes as well. Just like Cissie, though, my parents couldn’t afford it.

 

When I was eleven, we moved again. After a spell at ballroom school, I insisted on returning to ballet, and my mother took me along to Miss Doris Knight’s to assess which grade to start me in. In later years, my mother admitted to astonishment at how much I knew. As for myself, I recognised what a brilliant teacher Miss Knight was, little realising this was to become a life-long friendship.

 

I studied under Miss Knight until I went to university. I was never going to be good enough to audition for the Royal Ballet School, but I loved my dancing with a passion. Miss Knight only produced a show every two years – but my, were they shows! Her husband, Mr Lightowler, was a conductor. So when it came to the main performance, we were accompanied by a full orchestra at – wait for it – prestigious Wimbledon Theatre. Which is why it features in the book!

 

I was lucky enough to do three shows with Miss Knight. I was seventeen at the final one, and danced the role of The Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. Miss Knight choreographed a wonderful solo for me. I remember leaping across the stage to a dramatic score, black cloak swirling around me. I felt as if I was flying, putting everything I had into that dance, and received a roaring applause. That moment was the pinnacle of my dance career, so I know exactly how Cissie feels when she performs to Tristan and Isolde in the book – even though her career continues to flourish and mine did not!

 

After university, I returned to Miss Knight’s for three years until my husband’s job took us sixty odd miles away to live in the country. My one and only regret was having to leave Miss Knight’s. However we corresponded regularly for over thirty years. When I began writing, she was a huge fan and bought every one of my books.

 

Sadly, in her late eighties, she was diagnosed with Parkinsons. She knew I hoped one day to write a novel about a dancer set possibly in the 1940s, and told me all about her wartime experiences in a repertory company which inspired Cissie’s career in my story. I so wish she had been alive to read it for herself, but her friendship and all that she taught me will remain in my heart forever.

 

My own ballet days are long over, although peek through the window and you might catch me spinnning a few posé turns across the kitchen floor. So throw into the melting pot my love of dance and the street where I lived, and sprinkle with imagination dust, and you will see why The Street of Broken Dreams is probably closer to my heart than anything I have written before.

 

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Tania's links:

 

The Street of Broken Dreams on Amazon  

 

Tania's other books on Amazon   

 

Tania's Twitter page   

 

Tania's Facebook page

 

A Rich and Compelling Plot

Posted on 10th June, 2022

As you may remember, I always have two books on the go - a print book and an audio. Recently I've been listening to The Street of Broken Dreams by Tania Crosse, which won the 2020 award for Romantic Saga of the Year.

 

The audiobook is read by Emma Powell and produced by Magna Story Sound.

 

 

The Street of Broken Dreams is set at the end of the Second World War and concerns two families in London, the Parkers and the Cresswells. Each family has a daughter with secrets and troubles. Mildred Parker is awaiting the return of her soldier fiancé, but is very aware of the way she rushed into getting engaged. How well do they really know one another? And how does she really feel about him? Meanwhile Cissie Cresswell has a dark secret that overshadows her life.

 

After a disturbing and harrowing opening scene, the book quickly draws the reader into the goings-on in the lives of the two families and the story is awash with period detail that brings the setting to life. Alongside the developing friendship between the two families, there are the daily problems of wartime and post-war life. 

 

Writing with compassion and honesty, Tania Crosse tells her story with sensitivity and atmosphere backed up by thorough reseach. The plot is rich and compelling, the characters well-rounded. This is an engrossing tale.

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Emma Powell narrates the audiobook of The Street of Broken Dreams with warmth and clarity, switching seamlessly from character to character. Her voice has a very slight huskiness in it that makes it appealing to listen to and she captures the essence of this story perfectly.

 

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The Street of Broken Dreams on Amazon   

 

The Street of Broken Dreams on CD, MP3 & in large print 

 

Tania Crosse on Twitter  

 

 

Last weekend saw the second anniversary of the publication of The Railway Girls.

 

 

It's amazing to think that two years later, there are now five books out there, with more to come.

 

 

How very different the second book-birthday was to the actual publication day. Two years ago, my identity as Maisie Thomas was a closely guarded secret, with only a tiny handful of people in the know. Having a publication day - but not being able to shout it from the rooftops that I was the author - was a weird experience, to say the least.

 

In fact, I had three publication days like that. Then, shortly before Christmas with the Railway Girls came out, I was able to share my long-held secret.

 

The other thing I particularly remember about that first publication time is that because it happened during lockdown, there were distribution problems and Amazon kept running out of paperbacks. Each time this happened, it looked on the screen as if my book was out of print. Oh, how my heart sank each time I saw that!

 

Things were very different for the second book-birthday, complete with a prize draw giveaway on Facebook. Thank you to everyone who entered and I hope the two lucky winners will enjoy their books.

 

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My Maisie Thomas author pages at:

 

Amazon UK  

 

Amazon US  

 

Amazon Canada  

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Amazon Australia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The thing about reading a book by Jane Cable or her alter ego Eva Glyn is that you can be sure you're in for a treat. Her writing is always of the highest quality and her exploration of characters and their lives is compassionate and honest, while the cherry on the cake is the beautiful and vivid descriptions of the settings within the story.

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The latest book from this talented author is An Island of Secrets by Eva Glyn, a dual timeline story set in 1944 and 2014.

 

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This is a moving tale of war and its effects on individuals, featuring characters who are complex and utterly believable. The story opens with Guy, a Second World War veteran now in his 90s, who knows his life is approaching its end, so he sends his granddaughter, whose own life is at a turning-point, out to Croatia to see if she can find out what became of various women from many years ago. This is what creates the link between the two timelines.

 

What can I say? It's beautifully-crafted and deeply atmospheric. You can never take anything for granted in the plot.

 

What can I say? The characters are well-drawn and fully formed. The descriptions of the settings are glorious.

 

What can I say? It's written by Jane Cable/Eva Glyn. That's all you need to know, really. It's superb.

 

 

Names are very important whe you're writing. You have to find the right name for each character. Very often, when a character appears into my mind, they are fully-formed in terms of personality, looks and background, and generally speaking they arrive in my head complete with a name.

 

If you've read The Sewing Room Girl, you may remember Juliet's friend Cecily, who sticks with Juliet through thick and thin. But would it surprise you to know that Cecily was only ever meant to have the briefest of walk-on parts early on in the story?

 

When I started writing the book, Cecily didn't have a name. She didn't need one. She only had a walk-on part, so she didn't need to be called anything.

 

Hardback, paperback & ebook cover

Audiobook cover

 

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Near the beginning of the story, Juliet's mother Agnes is given the job of resident seamstress in the household of Lord Drysdale. Because Juliet isn’t old enough to live on her own, she is allowed to accompany her mother to Moorside, the grand house where the Drysdale family has lived for generations. Not being an official member of the household means that Juliet isn’t invited to eat in the servants’ hall. Instead, meals are carried upstairs to the sewing room for her and Agnes.

 

And this is where my walk-on character appeared. In the first draft of the book, she was referred to as nothing more than “the maid who brought their tray upstairs.” I called her that once. Then, a little later, it was necessary for her to appear with another tray, so I called her “the maid who brought their tray upstairs” again.

 

The trouble was, she appeared a third time and – well, I couldn’t go on calling her “the maid who brought their tray upstairs,” could I? So I gave her a name. It didn’t matter what the name was, because she only had a walk-on part. I called her Cecily.

 

And from that moment, there was no stopping her. Before I knew it, she was Juliet’s best friend. Not only that, but she her own sub-plot and her own love story.

 

I swear that Cecily was never meant to do anything more than fetch and carry meal-trays and that she was supposed to drop out of the story as soon as Juliet left Moorside. But the moment she was given her own name, she also acquired a full personality – and a family – and an unshakable determination to bag herself a husband.

 

What’s in a name? As it turned out, considerably more than I had expected.

 

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The Sewing Room Girl at Amazon   

 

The Sewing Room Girl at Kobo  

 

The Sewing Room Girl at Waterstones 

 

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And on a different subject ....

 

Monday 23rd May is the book-birthday of The Poor Relation and I'll be hosting a giveaway on my Maisie Thomas Author Facebook page. There will be two prizes - one for a UK reader and the other for a reader overseas. I'll be introducing the prize draw on Monday, then the competition will take place on Tuesday through until Wednesday. The winners will be announced on Wednesday afternoon BST. Do come and join in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Like Catching Up With Old Friends."

Posted on 13th May, 2022

This week I'd like to share a review of Hope for the Railway Girls with you. It's such a lovely review, starting with "It really is like catching up with old friends," and that means so much to me because that's exactly how I want readers to feel. When writing a series, it's essential to create characters the readers can truly care about and feel invested in, and to have Cordelia, Joan, Alison and the rest referred to as 'old friends' is such a huge compliment to me as the author.

 

Zoe Morton ends her review with "If you're looking for a series to escape to.... you can't go wrong with The Railway Girls." Isn't that a wonderful ting to say?

 

If you'd like to take a look at the whole review, click here. The post is dated May 11th.

 

That Moment That's Always Special

Posted on 6th May, 2022

A day or two ago, this arrived ...

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Look what it contained! Actually, I received a few copies a while ago, which I sent straight out to book bloggers and reviewers, plus keeping one for myself, of course(!). Now the rest of my author copies of Hope for the Railway Girls have been delivered and don't they look lovely? The excitement and joy of opening up a box of author copies is something that writers never get tired of!

 

 

To celebrate, I'll be holding a book giveaway next week (week beginning Monday 9th) on my Maisie Thomas Author Facebook page. There will be two prizes - one for a UK reader and for one a readers overseas - so if you don't already follow my Maisie page, now is a good time to start. You'll be very welcome.

 

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Some Book Bargains

 

It might be May, but here are two Christmassy book bargains for you:

 

 

Christmas with the Railway Girls is currently 99p on a time-limited Kindle deal and the forthcoming A Christmas Miracle for the Railway Girls is £1.99 on Kindle. You can find both books here.

 

 

 

Books 1 and 2 in the Surplus Girls series, The Surplus Girls and The Surplus Girls' Orphans, are both on Kindle Unlimited. You can find them on this page (you may need to scroll down).

 

 

 

The Deserter's Daughter, which was the very first book I had published, is also available on Kindle Unlimited.

 

 

Back in November, I wrote a blog about how I tackle writing my two series - The Surplus Girls 1920s sagas written as Polly Heron and my Second World War series, The Railway Girls, written as Maisie Thomas.

 

Since then, a new Railway Girls book, Hope for the Railway Girls, has been published; the sixth book in the series, A Christmas Miracle for the Railway Girls, has been written; and the fourth Surplus Girls book has been finished!

 

 

The blog back in November concentrated on the importance of planning. In particular, I discussed how I wrote a 25-page synopsis of the whole series of The Surplus Girls before I put pen to paper and started writing book 1.

 

But it isn't just a matter of producing a synopsis, however detailed. There's much more to it than that.

 

Here is the rest of the process, using a Railway Girls book as an example:

 

A step-by-step guide to planning a Railway Girls book

 

1. I come up with plots for the three viewpoint characters and discuss them with my editor. I would much rather make sure she is happy with the plots in advance - it saves having to do edits later!

 

2. I make a note of which day of the week started each month in the time-frame of the book. I note down what day of the week Valentine's Day, Christmas Day etc took place. I make a note of the date of Easter Sunday and the bank holidays.

 

3. I list the important wartime events, with dates.

 

4. I list, with dates, things that happened on the home front. Changes to the rationing rules is an obvious example.

 

5. Do I need to sow the seeds of something that's going to happen in a future book? For example, in Hope for the Railway Girls something happens that has nothing to do with Hope but which is essential to something that's going to happen in A Christmas Miracle for the Railway Girls.

 

6. Using the plot-outlines agreed with my editor, and using a separate sheet of A4 for each scene, I note the main thrust of each scene for each viewpoint character, including how each scene will end.

 

7. The three characters don't have to have the same number of scenes, but it helps if they have approximately the same. Having said that, in the sixth Railway Girls book, A Christmas Miracle for the Railway Girls, which comes out later this year, one of the POV (point of view) characters has a chunk of scenes in the middle of the book, because that was what was needed. It isn't an exact science!

 

8. Each set of plot-strands needs to be checked against the dates. My books are woven around real events and the individual plots reflect this.

 

9. Now the scenes for the three characters have to be put together into a single sequence.

 

10. I make a month-by-month time-line, starting at the end of the book. Why start at the end? Because this is what everything is building up to. I know it sounds more sensible to start a time-line at the beginning, but I find them easier to spread out across the given time by starting at the end and working backwards. Does anyone else do this or is it just me?

 

11. Although it's important to balance the book fairly evenly in terms of the three character viewpoints, it's more important to create an overall plot that makes sense in terms of the time that is passing. (For example, I read a book a couple of years ago in which there were four POV characters, one of whom was pregnant, so her condition dictated the amount of time the story had to last. But this stretched another character's plot to snapping point, because this plot would have been far more believeable if it had been wrapped up in a matter of a few weeks.)

 

12. I go through the individual scenes to add references to real events and details. Many of these references are date-sensitive, but obviously there are others that aren't. NB: these details can only be added to a scene if they fit there naturally. Yes, books take a lot of research, but it must never look like research - it must be woven seamlessly into the narrative.

 

So there are the 12 steps that go into the planning. Then it's time to start writing the book!

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The Railway Girls books on Amazon