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Writing a Blurb

Posted on 12th July, 2024

The blurb on the back of the book has a job to do. It has to sell the book. It has to make your story sound so appealing that the person who has picked up your book will want to read it. The blurbs on my Railway Girls books (written as Maisie Thomas) and those on my Home Front Girls books are written by the respective editors. But when I wrote my original four stand-alone sagas for Allison & Busby, and again when I wrote the Surplus Girls series for Corvus, I was asked to write the initial blurb.

 

I should make it clear that this wasn't with the intention of putting my blurb on the back. It was to give the editor some ideas to use as a starting point.

 

Here, I'd to share the three blurbs I wrote for A Respectable Woman.

 

 

Why three blurbs? Well, once I'd got started, I just enjoyed writing them!

 

The first blurb was almost all about Nell, the heroine; the second introduced other characters and story elements; and the third concentrated on Nell and Jim, the hero.

 

I have put them all here. What do you think of them?

 

* * * *

 

A Respectable Woman - blurb 1

 

After losing her beloved family in the Great War, Nell is grateful to marry Stan Hibbert, believing that with him, she can recapture the loving family feeling she has lost. Five years on, she is just another back-street housewife, making every penny do the work of tuppence and performing miracles with scrag-end. When she discovers Stan's secret, she runs away to make a fresh start elsewhere.

 

Two years later, in 1924, Nell has carved out a fulfilling new life for herself and her young children in Manchester, where her neighbours believe she is a respectable widow, as do her fellow-workers in the garment factory where she is a talented machinist.

 

When a figure from the past turns up, Nell has to face a court case. Will the respectable life she has fought for be enough to guarantee her freedom or will her lies mean she must lose everything?

 

 

* * * *

 

A Respectable Woman - blurb 2

 

Manchester, 1924. Nell Hibbert has a secret. Over the past two years, she has carved out a fulfilling new life for herself and her young children and believes her shameful past is behind her.

 

Nell's dear friend, Leonie Brent, has a secret. Her overbearing son-in-law is making her life a misery, but she can't speak out because she can't bear to upset her daughter. Besides, what would the neighbours think?

 

Leonie's young granddaughter Posy also has a secret. Her charming father is really a cruel bully and her mother pretends not to know.

 

Jim Franks has no secrets. Everyone knows he is a former solicitor who has worked as a window cleaner since the War while coming to terms with deep-rooted feelings of loss. He is in love with Nell, but what can he do to make her notice him?

 

When a figure emerges from Nell's past, she and her friends face fresh challenges as hidden truths emerge, relationships are strained and Nell is threatened with losing everything she holds dear.

 

 

* * * *

 

A Respectable Woman - blurb 3

 

1924, Chorlton, Manchester. Life is looking up for young widow Nell Hibbert. She and her two small children live with a loving elderly couple and Nell's skill with the sewing machine enables her to get a desirable job as a sewing machine demonstrator in a department store. Discovering a flair for teaching inspires her to think of working for herself. Could a lass from the back-streets really do that? Nell devotes her life to her children and her work, while trying not to fall in love with Jim Franks. He may be the perfect man for her, but Nell Hibbert has a secret.

 

Jim Franks has no secrets. Everyone knows he was a well-to-do solicitor before the War. Now he works as a window cleaner while coming to terms with deep-rooted feelings of loss. He can't get Nell to notice him. His former fiancée, the elegant Roberta, on the other hand, is eager to get back together.

 

When Nell learns that the past is hard to hide from, what chance do she and Jim have of finding happiness? 

 

* * * *

 

So there they are, my three attempts at writing a blurb for A Respectable Woman. Which do you think is best?

 

Link to A Respectable Woman on Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon Canada and Amazon Australia

 

 

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog about the seventh book-birthday of The Deserter's Daughter. That set me thinking about the very important business of getting a literary agent. Some publishers these days don't require you to have an agent but that was less common back in 2016, and in any case I was very drawn to the 'traditional' route.

 

At that stage, I knew all about receiving rejection letters. At one extreme I received one that took the term "standard rejection letter" to new heights by being so standardised that it applied to non-fiction writers as well as novelists; and at the other extreme, there was the one that that praised my writing and was nothing but positive about my submission, only to close with the words: "Good luck placing it elsewhere."

 

In fact I received a lot of positive rejections - that is, a rejection that includes a compliment about the writing. In my case, these were couched in similar fashion; namely, "compliment compliment, but..." Ah, those buts!

 

At the time I didn't realise how lucky I was to get this feedback. The praise gave me a boost, but it was those buts I concentrated on. The end result was another draft of The Deserter's Daughter, which in June 2016 was ready to be submitted. I sent out email submissions around 4pm one Friday afternoon, intending to send some paper submissions the following morning. On the Saturday morning I glanced at my emails and there were two from literary agents. Automatic responses, of course - and I almost deleted them unopened.

 

Fortunately for me, I opened them instead. Yes, the first was indeed an automatic "We've received it" message. I opened the second one and my immediate thought, as my finger hovered over the delete button, was: That's a long automatic response.

 nger obviously had more sense than I did, because it didn't hit delete

Well, my finger evidently had more sense than I did, because it didn't hit delete and that gave me time to read the message.... which was a personal email from Laura Longrigg at MBA, sent around 9pm on Friday evening, saying she had started reading my submission on the way home, was loving it and wanted to see the full MS.

 

Long story short. I ended up with offers of representation from two agents, but while I was enormously pleased and flattered by the second agent's interest, there was never any doubt in my mind. Various writer friends advised me to meet with both agents before deciding what to do, but I didn't feel the need for that. Out of the agents I submitted to, and also those I didn't get the chance to submit to because Laura responded so swiftly, she was always top of my list and I was delighted to be represented by her from then until her retirement.

 

And now we come to the advice...  

Writing this blog has reminded me of something very important that Laura said to me - or rather, that she wrote to me in an email.

 

Here's what happened. Laura read The Deserter's Daughter and wanted to meet me. We put a date in the diary. Then the other agent also asked to read the book. I duly sent it off and, as a courtesy, informed Laura after I'd done so. She then told me that it was her intention to offer me representation as long as we liked one another when we met.

 

I've put that in bold because that's the piece of advice I want to offer to unpublished authors out there who are busy querying and wondering if they will ever get taken on by an agent. Yes, the author/agent relationship is a professional one, but it is essential that you also honest-to-goodness like one another. I know authors who dislike their agent - and what must their professional relationships be like? I've met authors who are scared of their agent.

 

Trust me on this. I know how hard it can be to secure representation; I know how long it can take; I also understand how a writer would want to grab the first offer that comes along for fear that it might be the only offer they ever receive.

 

But don't sign up with an agent without meeting them. And don't sign up without liking them.

 

And if you are querying at the moment - good luck!

 

* * * *

 

Here are all my books that were published thanks to Laura's representation:

 

 

My Susanna Bavin author page on Amazon  

 

 

 

My Polly Heron author page on Amazon 

 

 

 

My Maisie Thomas author page on Amazon  

 

This week I am delighted to welcome American author Jessica Scachetti to my blog to talk about her favourite book cover. The one she has chosen is Back to the Light, which is book 3 in her Wonder of Light series.

 

 

I’m honored to be featured on such an accomplished author’s blog! Thank you, Susanna, for giving me the opportunity to feature the favorite of my book covers. The writing community around the world is so amazing, and I’m truly blessed to have met many wonderful people such as Susanna.

My favorite book cover out of all my books would have to be the cover of “Back to the Light.” It is my latest release, and the third and final installment of my “Wonder of Light” faith-based trilogy. Each book in the series is a standalone romance but is interconnected by its characters.

This specific cover features two people, a man and woman, holding hands and standing on a path that leads to an illuminated cross. Majority of their figures are not pictured. Only enough to let you know, the woman is in a summer dress and the male is in jeans and tee shirt, giving them a youthful appearance. Considering my characters in the book are high school/college-aged it fits perfectly. The photo centers around their clasped hands and the luminous cross. It also appears the two are walking toward the cross, signifying a young couple bound together, not only by love, but on a foundation of faith.

 

When I discovered this image during publishing, it immediately resonated with the book’s story line, which involves a young apostatic Christian man who has lost his way while grieving the loss of a dear loved one. The male lead has not only turned his back on his faith, but he has broken the heart of his childhood sweetheart and shut out his family. His childhood sweetheart is the female lead of the story and refuses to give up on him. Through faith and forgiveness, she, along with their loved ones, endeavors to lead his young lost soul back to the light.

 

I’ve always outsourced my book covers, using the same Fiverr gig for all my books covers because they have consistently done amazing work. I provide the gig the licensable image of my choice, and they turn it into a book cover. I have also used this same gig to format my e-book and paperbacks.

 

An extract from this book that I feel echoes the cover is:

 

Upon arriving to our destination, we clutch hands as we climb up the front stoop of the Church. Once we make it inside, we are greeted most graciously by members of the congregation.

 

It’s humbling how easily I transition back into my spiritual element. As Cat and I introduce ourselves to the throngs of attendees greeting us, it’s easy to smile and exchange amiable salutations. When we find our seats, it takes no effort for me to sing along during praise and worship and bow my head when the Deacon leads us all in prayer. Still finding myself angry at God, I have no words or thoughts for him at the moment but convey my respect, nonetheless.

 

By the time the pastor announces what his sermon will be about today, I know instantly that the message is meant for me. He discusses the topic about being angry with God and relates the story of Jonah and the whale. I listen intently to every word that hits me direct center in my chest. My conviction weighs heavy, and I lose control of my emotions. I try to fight back my tears, but to no avail.

 

Cat, being ever aware, puts an arm around me and starts to massage me consolably.

 

Through my thoughts, I speak directly to God. After everything that’s happened and the chaos that ensued from my foolish and sinful actions, I feel an immense amount of guilt befalling me.

 

* * * *

Readers can connect with me through my author website: https://jscachetti.wixsite.com/authorsite

My books are sold exclusively by Amazon and free to read with Kindle Unlimited Subscription:  

US: https://www.amazon.com/stores/author/B0B37SZ3ZX

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/stores/Jessica-Scachetti/author/B0B37SZ3ZX

 

The direct link for “Back to the Light” is:

US: https://www.amazon.com/Back-Light-Wonder-Book-ebook/dp/B0BTKB4243/

UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/Back-Light-Wonder-Book-ebook/dp/B0BTKB4243

 

A Book-Birthday

Posted on 20th June, 2024

During the week in which this blog is current, The Deserter's Daughter will have its seventh book-birthday. Seventh!

 

Here I am happily unpacking the box of author copies. That's dear old Alf on the left - I remember my editor joking that he let the side down by not looking interested!

 

 

What I didn't know then was that it doesn't matter how many boxes of author copies you receive over the years, it's exciting every single time.

 

* * * *

 

Here are some highlights from the reviews:

 

"A gripping, mouth-watering twist-fuelled read from start to finish... A measure of all good books is simply, does the reader want to read on? And the answer here is, without a doubt, yes!" Saga author Carol Rivers.

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"Whilst this is very much a saga, there are aspects of a psychological thriller about it, with themes of manipulation, and emotional and physical abuse." Short Book & Scribes book blog.

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"I enjoyed the northern setting around Manchester, which highlights the stern good humour, the strict moral code and the implacable northern grit of the inhabitants of this tough industrial city." Jaffa Reads Too book blog.

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"This is a powerful, complex and well written saga which contains important themes such as the lack of choices that women had in the recent past, the way men influenced their lives, and the ways they were so dependent on the choices made for them." Norther Reader book blog.

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* * * *

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I love seeing my books on the shelves in public libraries.

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This was my first ever library shelfie!

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And as you may be aware, I also love audiobooks, and I always have one on the go. Here is the MP3 cover of The Deserter's Daughter. Beautiful!

 

* * * *

 

Here's the blurb:

Manchester, 1920.

Carrie Jenkins reels from the revelation that her beloved father was shot for desertion during the Great War. Jilted, and with the close-knit community turning its back on her as well as her mother and her half-sister Evadne, the plans Carrie nurtured are in disarray.

 

Desperate to overcome private shock and public humiliation, and with her mother gravely ill, Carrie accepts the unsettling advances of Ralph Armstrong and Evadne also meets Alex Larter.

 

But both sisters put their faith in men who are not to be trusted, and they will face danger and heartache before they can find the happiness they deserve.

 

* * * *

 

Amazon link to The Deserter's Daughter on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited.

 

 

Last week I wrote a blog about how I sometimes use very similar names in the same book without realising what I've done for quite some time, and then I have to set about finding a different but equally suitable name for one of the characters. The example I used last week was Nell's lovely landlord in A Respectable Woman, who started out as Hubert and ended up, via Edwin, as Hedley.

 

In that case, it was a question of finding a name that 'felt' the same to me. Hubert was a gentle, considerate person, and to me the name Hubert reflected that; and when it had to be changed, I needed another name that felt the same. In fact, as it turned out, I needed two names that felt the same.

 

But it doesn't always work out that way. Take what happened to Prudence and Patience Heskeths' brother in the Surplus Girls series....

 

 

 

This - written from Patience's viewpoint - is how Lawrence is introduced into the story:

 

"For Prudence and Lawrence to be in the same room without arguing was unprecedented. Lawrence had always thrown his weight around, ever since they were children, and over the years he had become increasingly condescending towards them. Because they weren’t married? Probably. The world looked down on spinsters. But it wasn’t just that. Lawrence had risen in the world. He was a successful businessman and Evelyn revelled in her role as his perfectly-groomed wife."

 

But Lawrence didn't start out with that name. He started out as... Anthony. Then, towards the end of book 1, the orphanage that plays such an important role in the series is introduced in to the story - and, guess what, I called it St Anthony's. Another instance of me not playing close attention to names? Maybe. I will admit that it took a considerable time for me to realise what I'd done.

 

Well, the obvious thing would have been to rename the orphanage. After all, I had Anthony Hesketh very clearly in my head - I knew exactly what he looked like, how he behaved, and all about him.

 

But - and it's a very big but - it was really important for the orphanage to be called St Anthony's - as you will already be aware if you've read the series. So I ended up having to find a new name for Anthony Hesketh.

 

And the name that appeared in my head, demanding to be used, was Lawrence. Great. Except for one thing. Lawrence didn't look the same as Anthony - he's a lot taller, for one thing. And his personality was different too - cleverer, more sarcastic. So I had to go back and rewrite all the old Anthony scenes to make them suiable to be Lawrence scenes.

 

I ought to make it clear that this change of character didn't alter the plot - it simply changed the manner in which the scenes and conversations that included Lawrence played out.

 

So there you are: changing a name isn't always as simple as pressing 'Find & Replace'. It all depends on what the character needs you to do.

 

* * * *

 

Here is the link to the Surplus Girls 4-book series on Amazon.

 

Books 1 and 2 (The Surplus Girls and The Surplus Girls' Orphans) are both available on Kindle Unlimited.

 

 

 

 

 

What's in a Name? From Hubert to Hedley

Posted on 30th May, 2024

One question I am sometimes asked is how do I choose names for my characters. Well, in many cases, when the character appears in my head, s/he is fully formed in terms of personality and background, and they appear complete with their name. It's not often that I have to choose a first name.

 

But one problem I have is that I find myself using similar names within a book - hence the subtitle of this blog: From Hubert to Hedley.

 

If you've read my 1920s saga A Respectable Woman, you'll know that the heroine is Nell Hibbert, and early in the story she and her children are the lodgers of a devoted elderly couple called Hubert and Leonie Brent.

 

Hubert was the right name for the elderly landlord because it feels to me to be a gentle sort of name, and that fitted in pertectly with his personality. I'm not sure how long it took me to realise that I had a Hubert and a Hibbert in the story....

 

So I had to change Hubert's name, and it had to be another gentle-sounding name. After a little thought, I settled on Edwin. Perfect! Or so I thought....

 

....until I realised that Edwin's son-in-law, the villain of the piece, was called Edmund. Edwin - Edmund - how could I have not noticed? But I didn't for quite some time.

 

Finally I chose a new name - Hedley. I honestly thought I had made up this name, but some time later I came across it in my Oxford Dictionary of First Names. It was originally a surname and in some parts of England it is derived from a place-name, from two Old English words meaning 'heather' and 'wood' or 'glade'.

 

So there we are - the journey from Hubert to Hedley.

 

* * * *

 

 

 

Link to A Respectable Woman on Amazon

 

"Complete with a jaw-dropping twist near the end, this is a well-crafted novel with a strong, compassionate lead character and a splendid sense of time and place." Booklist (journal of the American Library Assoction)

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"Escaping one's past is at the heart of this endearing historical romance.... rings with authenticity.... The focus on historical and emotional authenticity will leave readers heartily satisfied." Publisher's Weekly

 

And in case you're wondering about Edmund the villain - here are some review quotes:

 

"rounded, believable characters - some good-hearted, some positively scary (Edmund! What a character!)"

 

"a brilliantly drawn, horrible character too. (Half way through the book I just wanted to thump him! I was so involved)"

 

"If you're looking for a character to loathe in a book - he's your man."

 

"the more you find out about him and how he treats his own family, the more it made my blood boil!!"

 

 

 

 

 

Book-Birthday Twins!

Posted on 23rd May, 2024

This week I am delighted to welcome award-winning saga author Tania Crosse back to my blog to help her celebrate a special book-birthday. She book-birthday twins!

 

Here, she tells us about the books.

 

 

Book Birthday – The Harbour Master’s Daughter and The River Girl

 

Celebrating three years since the lovely team at JOFFE BOOKS re-released on the same day The Harbour Master’s Daughter, previously published as Morwellham’s Child, and The River Girl. These are the first two titles in my Devonshire series which now consists of ten Devon novels based on the history of west Dartmoor and the surrounding area, spanning the Victorian era through both world wars and into the 1950s.

 

 

The Harbour Master’s Daughter is set at Morwellham Quay, once the greatest copper port in the whole of Queen Victoria’s empire, and now a living history museum. In the late 1860s, however, the copper trade went into sudden devastating decline, and this is reflected in the heroine’s personal life. While the port faces ruinous changes, Rebecca’s spirit is tested to the limit as she struggles to rescue her own future. But she must find the courage to defy a vicious stranger who is intent on destroying her life and bringing the port to absolute destruction.

 

The River Girl is set a few years later up on the wilds of nearby Dartmoor. Trapped on her uncle’s lowly tenant farm, life is hard for Elizabeth who yearns to train as a doctor, an impossible dream for a woman in Victorian times. Besides, her uncle has other plans for her which she must fight to escape. Even the man she comes to love hides a dark, terrible secret, and both have to face their personal nemesis in the terrifying climax of the story.

 

If this has whetted your appetite, do pop over the my website www.tania-crosse.co.uk where you will find details of all my books, including my four London and Kent novels. You can also say hello via the contact page. I’d love to hear from you! You can also follow me on Facebook @Tania Crosse Author or on Twitter/X @TaniaCrosse

 

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The Harbour Master’s Daughter on Amazon

The River Girl on Amazon

 

 

Unsung Heroes and Heroines of the Home Front:

Working in Air Raid Precautions

 

Put that light out!’ Most of us instantly associate those words with life on the home front during the Second World War. Many of us probably picture Warden Hodges from Dad’s Army. Yes, the ARP wardens did patrol the blacked-out streets looking for slivers of light showing through tiny chinks in the curtains, but most people may not realise just how extensive the Air Raid Precautions work actually was.

 

ARP was an umbrella term for a range of different Civil Defence services, such as the wardens (like Mr Hodges); light and heavy rescue; demolition and decontamination parties; ambulance drivers and attendants; as well as the first aiders who either attended serious incidents or staffed first-aid posts.

 

Youngsters could join the messenger service, cycling at top speed through the blackout, sometimes while the bombs were falling (like young Noakes in The Home Front Girls), to deliver information from one ARP station to another. The official age for joining was 15, but a keen 13- or 14-year-old might well be allowed to join unofficially. It was a dangerous job, and the bombs did not make allowances for age.

 

The youngest ever person to be awarded the George Medal, which was instituted early in the Second World War, was 15-year-old Charity Ann Bick of the messenger service. Charity, who lived in West Bromwich, had joined when she was 14, having lied about her age. On the night in question she helped her father extinguish several incendiaries, after which, in order to pass vital information between ARP stations, she made several bicycle journeys of around a mile and a quarter. These journeys took place during the height of the air raid and several times she had to dismount and lie on the ground for safety. According to her citation, she ‘displayed outstanding courage and coolness in very trying circumstances.’

 

‘Very trying’ seems to me a distinctly British way of describing an air raid!

 

Going back to our friend Warden Hodges, what other jobs would he have done aside from bellowing ‘Put that light out!’? As well as being closely involved in communication during raids, ARP wardens supervised the public air raid shelters and helped to dig out the dead and injured from the ruins of bombed houses. In the clear-up afterwards, they put up UNEXPLODED BOMB notices, checked damaged buildings to see how safe they were, and contributed to the ‘bomb census’. The aim was to record every bomb that detonated by noting its position on a hand-drawn map known as a ‘tracing’, so called because of being traced from an ordnance survey street map.

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Advertisements in newspapers and women’s magazines quickly recognised the role of women in the ARP. Lifebuoy Toilet Soap showed a picture of a grubby-faced woman with an ARP tin helmet and a bath towel, while Mrs Peek’s Puddings asked, ‘Can a Warden be a Good Wife?’ at the top of a comic-strip style story of Mrs X, who fears she might have to resign from the ARP because her husband is vexed at having yet another cold dinner served up. Fortunately for her, her friend advises the use of Mrs Peek’s tinned puddings. The tale finishes with the happy husband thinking she must have resigned from her position, but she hasn’t had to – thanks to Peek Frean.

 

Having taken over the traditionally male jobs while the men were away, thousands upon thousands of women spent long days at work, followed by going out again to perform their wartime ARP duties as wardens, air raid shelter attendants and ambulance drivers. Oh yes, and they were expected to do all the housework, the shopping and the cooking as well; and those who had kept their children at home, instead of having them evacuated, had to care for their families as well - something that readers of The Railway Girls series will be very familiar with.

 

When I say ‘ambulance drivers’, don’t necessarily imagine an actual ambulance. The standard ARP ambulance was a motorcar that towed a trailer with racks for stretchers. Part of the training involved two of these ambulances, complete with trailers, starting at different places about a mile apart with winding roads in between them. The new drivers had to negotiate this challenging route in the blackout and then pass one another safely.

 

When the air raid sounded, the only people who could officially be above ground were the various ARP services, the fire brigade and fire-watchers, and the police. The duty of the wardens was to patrol their designated streets and, as soon as a bomb fell, go to that place and determine the extent of the damage before sending for whatever other services would be needed.

 

And what were the rewards? According to a playground song of the time, ARP workers got their gas-mask free of charge.

 

Under the spreading chestnut tree

Neville Chamberlain said to me:

If you want to get your gas-mask free,

Join the blinking ARP.

 

A jolly little song, but also jolly misleading. No one at all had to pay for their gas mask.

 

Publication Day for Courage

Posted on 8th May, 2024

 

 

 

In Courage for the Home Front Girls, Sally is now the manager of the salvage depot and she's thrilled to bits. Good-natured Betty has reason to be thrilled too, because she's got a boyfriend at long last.

 

But someone who has no reason at all to be thrilled in new girl Lorna, who has been sent to work at the depot as a way of keeping her hidden away from all the journalists who would just love to add to the juicy stories they've already written about her.

 

* * * *

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 Here is the link.

 

Kindle Unlimited Titles

Posted on 5th May, 2024

The Home Front Girls is proving very popular on Kindle Unlimited (151,000 swipes in the first two weeks) so I thought you might like to see which of my other books are on KU.

 

Let's start with The Home Front Girls.

 

If you don't use KU, the Kindle is £1.99 to buy. The link is the same.

 

Next up my first published novel, The Deserter's Daughter.

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The paid Kindle is £4.99 (same link).

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The one-line blurb I sometimes use on Twitter is "A secret is revealed and a family is changed for ever."

 

Then we have the first in the 1920s Surplus Girls series - The Surplus Girls 

 

The paid Kindle is £2.99 (same link).

 

And the last one at present is Surplus Girls book 2 - The Surplus Girls' Orphans