Woman on Ward 13 – New Release from Delphine Woods

Delphine Woods writes dark historical fiction, where people are rarely who they seem. She has a deep love for the Victorian period, and for women who are prepared to fight back in any way they can. She lives amidst the rolling hills of Shropshire and dreams of a life filled with far-stretching views and open fires, where she can toast her feet as she flicks through the pages of a Gothic mystery or a gripping thriller. Discover her other books on her website or Amazon page, and get two free historical novellas when you join her newsletter. Woman on Ward 13 – New Release from Delphine Woods

A Conversation with Author Tonya Mitchell

This evening in the Library we have ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Tonya Mitchell who has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into her life as an author.

Thank you, Pam. I’m a great fan of your books. I’m thrilled to have found your Lucy Lawrence series.

Thank you! You are very welcome Tonya, please introduce yourself: 

I received my BA in journalism from Indiana University. My short fiction has appeared in The Copperfield Review, Words Undone, and The Front Porch Review, as well as in various anthologies, including Furtive Dalliance, Welcome to Elsewhere, and Glimmer and Other Stories and Poems, for which I won the Cinnamon Press award in fiction.

I am a self-professed Anglophile and I am obsessed with all things relating to the Victorian period. I am a member of the Historical Novel Society North America and reside in Cincinnati, Ohio with my husband and three wildly energetic sons. A Feigned Madness is my first novel.

Which genre do you write in and what draws you to it?

I read voraciously as a child. There was never a time I wasn’t reading something. When I was eight-years-old, I told my mom I wanted to write a book. I had no idea what I wanted to write, mind you, I just knew I wanted to write books. I cherish To Kill a Mockingbird to this day. I still remember the first time I read it, the colour of the couch, the way the sun shone through the window. But it wasn’t until I read Jane Eyre in high school that I really started gravitating to historical fiction. History fascinates me in ways few other things do. It’s so intriguing, because as a reader I’d think: Wow, things were really like this? How did these people cope? How did they survive? I love seeing characters in those tight spaces, battling it out with the cultural beliefs, social mores, and injustices of their time—particularly women, who had so little power. I think I became a lover of all things British when I started reading—devouring actually—Agatha Christie novels. The combination of mystery inside, oftentimes, an English manor house hooked me every time. And who doesn’t love Miss Marple?

Are you a self-published/traditional or hybrid author?

I’m lucky enough to be traditionally published by a small press. My debut will be out this fall. I wanted to go the traditional route simply because I wanted to walk into a bookstore one day and see my book there. That’s been a dream for as long as I can remember. Getting published was a hard road for me, though. I had lots of fits and starts along the way, lots of imposter syndrome. I’d read an excellent book and think: How the hell can I do this? Who am I kidding? There have also been changes in the publishing industry that have made it harder to get published traditionally. The Big Five in the US tend to see debut authors as a huge risk, so if you don’t stand out from the get-go, and I mean stand out amongst the brilliant, already-successful authors with big followings, chances are you won’t get far. It’s very competitive.

Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?

In a nutshell, the authors who were writing what I most wanted to read. After Jane Eyre, I began looking for other dark stories: Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, and Bram Stoker. At some point along the way, I figured out that gothic was really what I loved. From there, I went on to read Shirley Jackson, Margaret Atwood, and Laura Purcell. If there’s something dark and murky about it, something uber twisted, chances are I’m going to love it. What that says about my mental state, I’m not sure 😉

What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? How do you overcome it?

I think the hardest part is that horrible first draft. Facing the blank page is a monster to me. I know the first draft is supposed to be bad (there’s a reason writers call it the vomit draft), but it’s hard to write drivel and move on. But that’s what you have to do, keep writing badly until it’s down. It’s the next passes, the editing, that I prefer because I have something to work with I can make better. That’s not to say editing is easy, it’s just that I’d rather have something to improve than work from nothing. I like the research too, though sometimes keeping myself from going down rabbit holes is a struggle.

What was the best piece of writing advice you received when starting out?

Proceed as if success is inevitable. I have it stuck to the wall in my office where I write to remind me. Oddly, it didn’t come from an author. It was a meme I think, but honestly, it helped. It’s what got me through all the highs and lows. It helped me keep my head down and working as I approached each milestone. There was some doubling-back of course, but it was all about forward momentum.

Do you have a favourite time of day to write?

I have three teenage boys at home, so school hours are the best time for me. Things get a little chaotic after that. I also work late at night sometimes if things are flowing after everyone has gone to bed.

If you weren’t an author, what would you be up to?

I’d probably be drinking too much coffee in Starbucks, lamenting that I should’ve become an author.

If you could travel back in time, what era would you go to? What draws you to this particular time?

I’d go back to the Victorian period, probably to the 1880’s. It’s when my book takes place. It was such a fascinating time. At the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign, rooms were lit by candle and transportation was by horse; by the time she died, the world was ushering in electricity and automobiles. The industrial revolution was well underway, but the women’s movement—suffrage, gender equality, etc. was way behind. The dichotomy of that boggles. Reading and writing female protagonists from that era, women who wanted to break free of the mold men were so determined to keep them in, makes for such vivid storytelling. Plus, the clothes. To die for.

Please tell us about your debut novel. 

Elizabeth Cochrane has a secret.

She isn’t the madwoman with amnesia the doctors and inmates at Blackwell’s Asylum think she is.

In truth, she’s working undercover for the New York World. When the managing editor refuses to hire her because she’s a woman, Elizabeth strikes a deal: in exchange for a job, she’ll impersonate a lunatic to expose a local asylum’s abuses.

When she arrives at the asylum, Elizabeth realizes she must make a decision—is she there merely to bear witness, or to intervene on behalf of the abused inmates? Can she interfere without blowing her cover? As the superintendent of the asylum grows increasingly suspicious, Elizabeth knows her scheme—and her dream of becoming a journalist in New York—is in jeopardy.

A Feigned Madness is a meticulously researched, fictionalized account of the woman who would come to be known as daredevil reporter Nellie Bly. At a time of cutthroat journalism, when newspapers battled for readers at any cost, Bly emerged as one of the first to break through the gender barrier—a woman who would, through her daring exploits, forge a trail for women fighting for their place in the world.

Available: October 6th 2020

Pre-order book: https://www.cynren.com/catalog/a-feigned-madness)

Pre-order ebook: Amazon

 

If you would like to know more about Tonya and her work, please check out her links below:

Facebook         https://www.facebook.com/TonyaMitchellAuthor/

Twitter               https://twitter.com/tremmitchell

Instagram:        https://www.instagram.com/tmitchell.2012/

Email:               tmitchell.2012@yahoo.com

 

 

A Conversation with Author Delphine Woods

Today in the Library we have ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Delphine Woods, who has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into her life as an author.

Me 3You are very welcome, Delphine, please introduce yourself:  

I’m a Shropshire based author of historical fiction. When I was a teenager, I had my heart set on becoming an actress, but after my first year at drama school, I decided the lifestyle wasn’t for me. I’m too much of a home bird! After wondering what to do for a while, I decided to join the Open University. I studied a variety of modules including creative writing, medicine through history, and children’s literature, and graduated in 2016.

Whilst studying and travelling Europe, I began writing novels. My first novel was a contemporary romance, and whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the process (and knowing I could actually write a full novel), the genre didn’t ignite my passion. History is what I love – Victorian history in particular. After a couple of years writing and learning as much as I could about self-publishing, the first novel in my Convenient Women Collection went live in August 2019. There are now five books in the Collection, and I will be publishing the first book in a new, time-slip series soon.

Which genre do you write in and what draws you to it?

I find it a little hard to define my genre. My books are gothic historical mystery-thrillers, with a dash of romance (although very few romantically happy endings occur). I love gothic texts, with wild landscapes and unstable minds, and these themes are prominent in many of my stories. Undoubtedly, there is a feminist slant to my work, and often I depict the horrific ways women have been treated in the past. I like to make my women fight back, in whatever way they can.

Are you an avid reader? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others?

Who doesn’t love a good book? Some books just grab you from the start and won’t let go. I am quite a slow reader, I can’t read a book in a day, but I know one has truly given me the bug when I can’t stop thinking about it.

I tend to stick to my favourite genres. Those are, of course, gothic and/or historical fiction, but it is nice to escape into some light-hearted romance once in a while. I’m not all doom and gloom! I also enjoy psychological thrillers and I am fascinated with the human mind and what makes people tick.

Do you have a favourite time of day to write?

My routine varies with each book and my state of mind. I used to like writing first thing in the morning, but that was before I had to keep up with emails. I tend to reply to emails and write newsletters when I first arrive at my work space. Late morning and early afternoon I write my novels, at the moment, anyway. I most definitely cannot write at night. I clock off no later than 6pm and cherish my peaceful evenings with my husband. The same goes for the weekend, although as any writer knows, the mind never really stops plotting and planning.

If you weren’t an author, what would you be up to?

I have always thought I would like to be a psychologist. However, in reality, I’m not sure how good I would be. Working in a living museum has appealed to me too, as has becoming a dog trainer!

If a movie was made of one of your books, who would you like to play the lead roles?

I actually had an actor in mind as I wrote The Promise Keeper. The main male character is called Tom Oliver, and I would want the beautiful Douglas Booth to play him. Tom has Douglas’ full lips, his dark hair, his chiselled jawline, and his brooding sense of danger. I didn’t have a specific actress in mind when I wrote Liz, the female lead, but I think Holliday Grainger would be a good fit because of her beauty and poise – I loved her as Lucrezia in The Borgias.

You have been chosen as a member of the crew on the first one-way flight to Mars – you are allowed to bring 5 books with you. What would they be?

Firstly, there is no way on earth you would get me into that spaceship! I hate flying at the best of times, but, my five books would be … Gosh, this is hard! First up, it has to be Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, my all-time favourite novel which inspired me to write Victorian gothic novels. Second, I would chose Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase because even now, two years after reading it, I can still step into the larder or onto the cliff edge. Philippa Gregory’s The Queen’s Fool would be third. It has been years since I read this book, but the opening scene hooked me straight away, and I still think about bats flying amidst the orange trees at the Alhambra Palace. Fourth, Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White because Sugar is my favourite ever literary character, and Ramola Garai played her so well in the TV mini-series. Finally, I’m going to throw something lighter into the mix because Mars would be pretty hard work. I Love Capri by Belinda Jones is a summer rom-com which has been on my mother’s bookshelf for over a decade and has been flicked through too many times! We all need a bit of love and sunshine!

Please tell us about your latest published work.  

The-Little-Wife-GenericThe last book in my Convenient Women Collection is The Little Wife. Set in 1875 in an isolated Scottish castle, this book has murder, intrigue, sexual tension, and a fight for survival.

When Beatrice Brown’s husband is duty-bound to return to the ominous Dhuloch Castle, she has no choice but to leave her home and go with him. The journey to the Scottish Highlands is nerve-shattering for Beatrice, and life in such a desolate place is no better. All she wants is to go back to England, back to her old, boring life.

As she struggles to cope with the isolation and her husband’s cruel nature, Beatrice finds comfort in the only friendly face, the castle’s mistress, Clementine Montgomery. Soon, the two embark on a passionate affair. With Beatrice’s desires and vibrancy reawakened, she begins to wonder what her husband is hiding. Why did he flee the castle all those years ago?

Something evil lurks inside Dhuloch’s walls. It will not rest until it has blood.

Will Beatrice have the strength to uncover the truth before the castle claims its next victim?

Every book in this collection is a standalone and can be read in any order. If you want a taste of my work for free, join my newsletter and you will receive the Convenient Women Collection novella, The Butcher’s Wife, to whet your appetite.

Buy Link for The Little Wife

 

If you would like to know more about Delphine and her work, please check out her links below:

Victorian Tourism: Thomas Cook

Today, everyone is familiar with the guided tour or cruise, but such things were virtually unheard of in the early years of the Victorian age. The man who changed that, and who is now considered the inventor of modern tourism, was Thomas Cook.

Who was he?

Thomas-Cook
Credit: Thomas Cook Group

Thomas was born in 1808 in Derbyshire, England, and left school at ten years of age to work. In 1826, he became a Baptist minister, becoming an itinerant evangelist, distributing pamphlets and sometimes working as a cabinet maker to earn money. Eventually, Thomas settled in Market Harborough and while there, was persuaded by the local Baptist minister to take the temperance pledge. As a part of the temperance movement, Thomas organised meetings and held anti-liquor processions. In March 1833, Thomas married Marianne Mason at Barrowden in Rutland. They went on to have three children, John, Henry (who died in infancy) and Annie.

The First Excursion

Cook’s initial idea of offering excursions came to him while walking to Leicester to attend a temperance meeting, thus taking advantage of the extended Midland Counties Railway. On 5th July 1841, Thomas escorted almost 500 people, who paid one shilling each for the return train journey. It was the first publicly advertised excursion train in England.

A Growing Business

Soon after, Thomas moved to Leicester, and set up as a bookseller and printer, specialising in temperance literature but also producing guidebooks. Then, in 1846, he took 350 tourists by train and steamboat to Glasgow. For customers travelling for the first time, he offered a guidebook entitled Cook’s Scottish Tourist Practical Directory. One particular chapter bore the heading: Is it Safe for Ladies to Join in Highland Tours? [I’d love to know the answer!]

Credit: Thomas Cook Group

In the early 1860s, Thomas ceased to act as a personal guide and became an agent for the sale of domestic and overseas travel tickets to countries such as America and Egypt. As the decade progressed, alpine journeys became popular and in 1864, parties began to venture into the newly united Italy. Thomas opened a London premises on Fleet Street, London, and in 1872, he went into partnership with his son, John, and renamed the company Thomas Cook & Son. Around this time, the firm started to use ‘circular notes’, which were eventually known as travellers’ cheques.

Thomas retired in 1878, following a disagreement with his son. He moved back to Leicester where he lived quietly until his death in 1892. The business passed to his only surviving son, and was subsequently taken over by Thomas’s grandsons in 1899. The company continued to be run as a family firm until 1928.

Nile_cruises
Nile Cruise Poster 1922

The ‘Cook tour’ rapidly became famous during the Victorian era. However, not everyone thought highly of them. One critic referred to them as ‘everything that is low-bred, vulgar and ridiculous’ (Blackwood’s Magazine, February 1865).

Not surprisingly, the worst critics were the wealthy English, now finding their exclusive haunts overrun by the middle-classes. Another gripe was that tourists were ruining the places they visited by importing their customs, such as tea, lawn tennis and churches!

In my novel, No Stone Unturned, Lucy Lawrence does not travel as part of a Cook tour to Egypt, however, she does encounter many tourists in Cairo who have. As Lucy is fairly occupied trying to solve a robbery, and subsequently a murder, she doesn’t pay them much heed. However, it was her upper class of Victorian male who traditionally did the ‘Grand Tour’, the forerunner of the guided tour. It was frowned upon for a woman, even a widow such as Lucy, to travel without a male escort. Thankfully, there were women prepared to break the mould, and I talk about one of them in my next post on Victorian travel.

Footprints-EBOOK-Cvr

Footprints in the Sand – Book 2 of The Lucy Lawrence Mysteries

Cairo, Autumn 1887: A melting pot of jealousy, lust and revenge. Who will pay the ultimate price?

Lucy Lawrence throws caution to the wind and embarks on a journey of self-discovery in the land of the pharaohs.

Travelling to Cairo as the patron of the charming French Egyptologist, Armand Moreau, Lucy discovers a city teeming with professional rivalries and jealousies and a thriving black market in antiquities which threatens Egypt’s precious heritage.

When the Egyptian Museum is burgled, Lucy is determined to solve the case, much to the annoyance of the local inspector of police, and the alarm of Mary, her maid. But when an archaeologist is found murdered in the Great Pyramid, Lucy is catapulted into the resulting maelstrom. Can she keep her wits about her to avoid meeting a similar fate?

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The Shepheard Hotel Cairo

By the middle of the Victorian era, foreign travel was much easier and tourism was flourishing. One of the most popular destinations was the land of the pharaohs – Egypt. The ‘leisure’ classes took advantage in their droves and some could even afford a Thomas Cook Tour up the Nile. A forty-day round trip from Cairo to Luxor in the 1850s cost about £110, the equivalent of £12,856 today. 

Touristen_in_Egypte_-_Tourists_in_Egypt
Credit: Nationaal Archief

Two distinct groups of visitors tended to undertake the trip. The first were the military and government officials either stationed in Egypt or en route to India, via the Suez Canal. For many, a stop over in Cairo was an attractive proposition. Secondly, you had tourists drawn to Egypt by its romantic associations, unique antiquities and of course, the wonderfully mild winters. Both groups wanted ‘home from home’ comforts in their accommodation while staying over in Cairo.

Sam_Shep
Samuel Shepheard

A canny Englishman, by the name of Samuel Shepheard, found himself in Cairo in 1842, having been thrown off a P&O ship for taking part in an unsuccessful mutiny. He found work at the British Hotel in Cairo and within a couple of years, had bought the hotel and renamed it after himself.

During a hunting trip he met and became friends with Khedive Abbas and two years later Shepheard, with the khedive’s help and influence, managed to buy a former palace on Esbekier Square, an area of park land with tropical greenery and rare trees, that was once occupied by Napoleon’s army and used as headquarters during his invasion of Egypt.

 

Shepheard's Hotel

Shepheard’s new hotel became known as a ‘safe haven’ for weary travellers who were guaranteed the best whiskey and the company of fellow Westerners. As the hotel grew in popularity, its guests included British military officers, bureaucrats, and wealthy American travellers. One of its most celebrated guests at the time was the novelist Anthony Trollope. Samuel was renowned as a superb host which contributed in no small part to the success of the hotel.

Shepheard made a small fortune from the hotel, benefitting from the dawn of adventure tourism along the Nile.  Shepheard sold the hotel in 1861 for £10,000 and retired to Eathorpe Hall,  Warwickshire, England. 

DiningDespite his departure, Shepheard’s Hotel remained the centre of the Anglo-American community in Cairo and in 1869, it hosted the celebration of the Grand Opening of the Suez Canal.

The hotel became the playground for international aristocracy where any person of social standing made a point of being seen taking afternoon tea on its famous terrace. 

In my novel, Footprints in the Sand, I base the Hotel Excelsior on Shepheard’s Hotel. It was the perfect setting for Lucy to mingle with the odd assortment of fascinating guests, who would eventually feature in the murder mystery. The famous dining room is the setting for one of the pivotal scenes in the book.

Footprints-EBOOK-Cvr

Cairo, Autumn 1887: A melting pot of jealousy, lust and revenge. Who will pay the ultimate price?

Lucy Lawrence throws caution to the wind and embarks on a journey of self-discovery in the land of the pharaohs.

Travelling to Cairo as the patron of the charming French Egyptologist, Armand Moreau, Lucy discovers a city teeming with professional rivalries, and a thriving black market in antiquities which threatens Egypt’s precious heritage.

When the Egyptian Museum is burgled, Lucy is determined to solve the case, much to the annoyance of the local inspector of police, and the alarm of Mary, her maid. But when an archaeologist is found murdered in the Great Pyramid, Lucy is catapulted into the resulting maelstrom. Can she keep her wits about her to avoid meeting a similar fate?

Buy Link

A Conversation with Olivier Bosman

Today in the Library we have ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Olivier Bosman, who has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into his life as an author.

You are very welcome, Olivier, please introduce yourself:

My name is Olivier Bosman and I write the D.S. Billings Victorian Mysteries. Born to Dutch parents and raised in Colombia and England, I am a rootless wanderer with itchy feet. I’ve spent the last few years living and working in The Netherlands, Czech Republic, Sudan and Bulgaria, but I have every confidence that I will now finally be able to settle down among the olive groves of Andalucia.

I am an avid reader and film fan (in fact, my study is overflowing with my various dvd collections!)

​I did an MA in creative writing for film and television at the University of Sheffield.  After a failed attempt at making a career as a screenwriter, I turned to the theatre and wrote and produced a play called ´Death Takes a Lover´ (which has since been turned into the first D.S.Billings Victorian Mystery). The play was performed on the London Fringe to great critical acclaim.

I am currently living in Spain where I make ends meet by teaching English .

Which genre do you write in and what draws you to it?

I write Victorian mysteries. I love a good mystery. I like creating intrigue and suspense and keeping the readers hooked till the end, and I just love the past. If only I had a time machine, I’d be travelling throughout the ages, never to return to my own time again. My books are set in the late Victorian period, because I was inspired to write Gothic Victorian mysteries after reading Wilkie Collins. There is something irrepressibly appealing about dark gas-lit alleys, and sinister men in top hats, and shifty looking maids lurking in corridors, and enigmatic damsels with long dresses and hidden pasts.

Are you an avid reader? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others?

I read all kinds books. Mysteries and literary fiction are my favourite. Combine the two and you get something like Alias Grace or The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood; or The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad. I’m currently going through all the Booker Prize nominees.

Are you a self-published/traditional or hybrid author?

I’m self-published. I like the control it gives, and I get to set my own deadlines, which suits me well, because I’m a slow writer.

Has your country of origin/culture influenced your writing?

I’ve had an unusual upbringing. My parents are Dutch, but I was born in Colombia, where I lived until I was eleven. Then we moved to England, where I spent my teenage years. I haven’t stayed put since. I don’t feel like I belong in any particular country. I’m a foreigner everywhere I go, and this is reflected in my main character, John Billings, who was brought up in Madagascar by his missionary parents, and got stranded in England aged fourteen when both his parents died. He’s an alien in his own country which helps him see things from a different perspective. But it also means that, along with the fact that he is a homosexual and a Quaker, he is forever an outsider, which makes life hard for him.

What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? How do you overcome it?

The hardest part is writing the first draft. Getting the words down. If writing were like sculpting, then writing the first draft is akin to sitting on a muddy river bank scraping together the sticky clay and hauling the heavy load back to the workshop. Once the first draft is completed, the fun part starts, which is sculpting and shaping the mass of words into a thrilling little story.

Do you have a favourite time of day to write?

I’m a morning person. If I don’t do any writing before lunch, it won’t get done. My mind ceases to work after lunch time.

If you weren’t an author, what would you be up to?

I’d be doing something that involved making up stories. Film making, or comic books, or composing songs. I can’t imaging not being able to tell stories.

Please tell us about your latest published work.

D.S. Billings Victorian Mysteries Boxset

Dimly lit cobblestone streets. Sinister looking men in top hats lurking in the fog.

The first three books in the DS Billings Victorian Mysteries Series have been bundled together to chill you to the bone. Detective Sergeant John Billings is an honest and hard working man who has risen swiftly through the ranks to become one of Scotland Yard’s youngest detectives. But in his private life he struggles with the demons of loneliness, morphine addiction and homosexuality. In these mysteries he will lead you on a thrilling journey into the darkest recesses of Victorian society.

viewbook.at/dsbillingsmysteries

https://www.olivierbosman.com/

https://www.facebook.com/olivier.bosman.author

 

A Conversation with Historical Fiction Author, Carol Hedges

Today in the library I have a very special guest. I happen to be a huge fan of Carol’s Victorian crime series, so I am really pleased to share this interview with you.
Which genre do you write in and what draws you to it?
 
I write Victorian crime fiction. I used to write teenage fiction, until the market got flooded by celebs, and I decided to switch genre. As I read Victorian authors, like Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, etc., and specialized in this era at university, it seemed a natural choice. My series ‘The Victorian Detectives’ is set in 1860s London … mainly because the 1880s is a rather crowded field. I have two main detectives, DI Leo Stride and DS Jack Cully, and a host of other members of Scotland Yard’s Detective Division, plus the populace of London who wander in and out of the books, causing havoc.
 

Are you an avid reader? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others? 

I don’t think you CAN be a writer unless you are a reader. I always have a couple of books on the go. One is usually a research book on some aspect of the Victorian era (currently a book on Lunatic Asylums). Then, true to my genre, I have a couple of crime novels to read. I enjoy Philip Kerr, Kate Atkinson (the Jackson Brodie books), Robert Harris, Donna Leon, Tobias Hill. I’ll sometimes dip into a writer I’ve never come across, if recommended. I like series best ~ you know if you’ve enjoyed one, there are more to follow.

 
Are you a self-published/traditional or hybrid author?
I used to be published by Usborne, when I wrote YA. Now, I am entirely self-published, using Amazon as a platform. My publishing name is Little G Books (named after my granddaughter). I publish in ebook and paperback formats, and I use a professional cover artist to do my wonderful covers. It is definitely worth paying out for good covers. The advantages of self-publishing, for me, is that I have control over pricing, platforms and publicity. The disadvantages are that few mainstream bookshops will take Amazon-generated fiction. But then, as most of my sales come via ebooks, that isn’t a big problem. I don’t ‘owe’ an agent 12% of my earnings, nor a publisher 25%! All good as far as I am concerned.
 
Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?
My English teacher has probably been my greatest influence, which shows how important schooldays are. Mrs Myles, who taught me in Years 7 & 8, loved the writing process. She used to set us ‘compositions’ every week, giving us a title and then seeing what we produced. It stopped me being terrified of the blank page, and made me think in all sorts of directions. I am so upset that the modern curriculum no longer gives space for free creative writing! I wonder how many writers of the future are being stifled.
 
What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? How do you overcome it?
I am a TERRIBLE procrastinator. Given the choice, I’d rather dust behind the fridge than actually write. I have learned, though, to be disciplined, as I know that as soon as I sit down at my computer to write, I will just get on with it … and time will flash by as I do. I gather, from ‘fessing up’ to this on social media, that I am definitely not alone.
 
What was the best piece of writing advice you received when starting out?
I remember reading somewhere that there is no such thing as ‘writer’s block’ ~ it is just a fancy excuse for not writing. Yes. Ouch!
 
Do you have a favourite time of day to write?
I like writing in the late morning … and then again late afternoon. If I am editing, I can do it at any time, but I seem to be drawn towards those particular times of day. I do NOT set myself any word limits; if I manage a page or five pages, that is enough. Distractions include: cat taking over writing chair, fish cavorting in the pond below my window and the local goldfinch thug-pack visiting the bird feeders.
 
If you could travel back in time, what era would you go to? What draws you to this particular time?
I would love to go back to my fictional period: the 1860s. Not sure who I’d be ~ possibly not one of the starving poor, but I’d like to stand in Oxford Street and just watch the passing traffic and people. However much research you do, there is so much more you miss. What did it SMELL like? How did the people SOUND? What were their faces like? We know that any TV/film adaptation of a Victorian novel cannot ever be accurate ~ I find I shout at Ripper Street and The Woman in White, etc., as I know they are presenting a false image. Where are the rotten teeth? The smallpox marks? The clothes are always far too clean, as are the streets. I’d so love to go back, for 24 hours, and see what it was really like. And then come back and write about it!
 
Please tell us about your latest published work. 
Intrigue & Infamy is the 7th book in The Victorian Detectives series. I am currently working on the 8th, Fame & Fortune, to be published later this year.
 
It is 1866, the end of a long hot summer in Victorian London, and the inhabitants are seething with discontent. Much of it is aimed at the foreign population living in the city. So when a well-reputed Jewish tailoring business is set aflame, and the body of the owner is discovered inside, Detective Inspector Lachlan Grieg suspects a link to various other attacks being carried out across the city, and to a vicious letter campaign being conducted in the newspapers. Can he discover who is behind the attacks before more people perish?

 

Elsewhere, Giovanni Bellini arrives in England to tutor the youngest son of Sir Nicholas Haddon, ex-MP and City financier. But what are Bellini’s links to a dangerous Italian radical living in secret exile in London, and to beautiful Juliana Silverton, engaged to Harry Haddon, the heir to the family fortune?

Romance and racism, murder and mishap share centre stage in this seventh exciting book in the Victorian Detectives series.  Buy Link

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1886 LADIES’ FASHION

Peterson's Magazine Sept 1886

The mid 1880s were notable for the increasing size of bustles, often made of steel with horsehair padding. Some were even collapsible to enable ladies to sit down! Intricate folds of fabric were draped over these structures, adding even  more volume.

Peterson's Magazine Jan 1886

Postcard_depicting_Liane_de_Pougy,_dated_1886
Liane de Pougy, French Actress 1886

Drama was the order of the day with exaggerated silhouettes, lush and expensive fabric and highly decorative details. Long trains on evening dresses, particularly for married women, and v-necklines were also extremely popular.

Patterned fabric added drama, ranging from checks, plaids to stripes. Colour, as ever, played an important part with strongly contrasting colours, such as stripes of red and blue being utilised. Although, some ladies preferred more muted colours.

And the bling? That was provided by lots of silk ribbon, braiding, tassels and beading. Embroidery incorporating precious stones and metallics gave dresses that extra pizzazz.

In No Stone Unturned, my heroine Lucy Lawrence attends a Christmas Eve banquet at her family home. This is her impression of the fashionable people present:

“It was as if the salon had been invaded by a flock of exotic birds, each displaying their plumage in a kaleidoscope of colour. Every conceivable shade of silk, satin and velvet was on display and it appeared likely the jewellery boxes of Yorkshire had been emptied for the occasion. It almost hurt to look upon so much glitter and sparkle in such a confined space. Thankfully, the gentlemen in full evening dress were perfect foils for their more vibrant companions.”

♠♠♠♠♠

No Stone Unturned is the first book in the Lucy Lawrence Mystery Series.

NoStone-EBOOKA suspicious death, stolen gems and an unclaimed reward; who will be the victor in a deadly game of cat and mouse?

London October 1886: Trapped in a troubled marriage, Lucy Lawrence is ripe for an adventure. But when she meets the enigmatic Phineas Stone, over the body of her husband in the mortuary, her world begins to fall apart.

When her late husband’s secrets spill from the grave and her life is threatened by the leader of London’s most notorious gang, Lucy must find the strength to rise to the challenge. But who can she trust and how is she to stay out of the murderous clutches of London’s most dangerous criminal?

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Penny Dreadfuls – Only a Bit of Fun?

If you enjoyed a good old execution in the 18th or early 19th century, it was possible to buy a crime broadside at the hanging which was produced by specialist printers. These would feature a crude picture of the crime and the culprit, a written account of the crime and trial proceedings and a doggerel, thrown in for good measure. Most of the poor could not read but they enjoyed the lurid pictures, and there was always someone on hand to read out the cautionary poem.

Varney_the_Vampire_or_the_Feast_of_Blood 1845During the Victorian era, however, literacy rates increased. Combined with technological advances in printing and the advent of the railways making wide-spread distribution viable, the demand for cheap, entertaining reading matter increased rapidly. This led to the first penny serials (originally called penny bloods) being published in the 1830s, and by 1850, there were over 100 publishers of penny-fiction. The penny dreadfuls were printed on cheap wood pulp paper and were predominantly aimed at young working class men and boys. They usually had eight pages with black and white illustrations on the top half of the front page. Working-class readers could afford these and they did a roaring trade. In contrast, serialised novels at the time, such as Dickens’ work, cost a shilling (12 pennies) per part and were out of the reach, therefore, of most working class readers.

The subject matter of the penny horrible, penny awful or penny blood was always sensational, usually featuring detectives, criminals or supernatural entitles. Popular characters included Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber, first printed in 1846, who murdered his clients so his neighbour, Mrs Lovett, could cook them in her meat pies. Then there was the endless retelling of Dick Turpin’s exploits and his supposed 200 Pennydreadfulmile ride from London to York in one night! Supernatural characters, such as Varney the Vampire were extremely popular. But the most successful of all time was the Mysteries of London, first published in 1844. It ran for 12 years, 624 numbers (or issues) and nearly 4.5 million words.

Many famous authors began their writing careers writing penny dreadfuls including, GA Sala and Mary Elizabeth Braddon. She reputedly said “the amount of crime, treachery, murder and slow poisoning, and general infamy required by my readers is something terrible.” Many authors took the melodrama of the dreadful and infused it into their later very successful novels.

When highwaymen and evil aristocrats fell out of fashion, true crime, especially murder, was the most popular. These were then overtaken in the popularity stakes by detective stories with the focus on the police rather than the criminal. By the 1860s, the focus changed again and children became the main target audience.

It was easy for the middle and upper classes to look down on the penny dreadfuls as cheap, sensational nonsense. Some even went to far as to blame them for infamous crimes and suicide. But I suspect many read them surreptitiously – for who doesn’t enjoy a good yarn now and then?

In No Stone Unturned, Lucy’s maid, Mary, is huge fan of the penny dreadfuls and cheap sensational novels. Lucy, feeling obliged to look out for her maid’s moral welfare (so she claims!), often reads these books and thoroughly enjoys them, too. When the women’s lives are in danger, Mary comes to the fore with her penchant for intrigue and spying. Lucy suspects Mary’s favourite reading material may be at the root of it.

No Stone Unturned is the first book in the Lucy Lawrence Mystery Series.

NoStone-EBOOK

A suspicious death, stolen gems and an unclaimed reward: who will be the victor in a deadly game of cat and mouse?

London October 1886: Trapped in a troubled marriage, Lucy Lawrence is ripe for an adventure. But when she meets the enigmatic Phineas Stone, over the body of her husband in the mortuary, her world begins to fall apart.

When her late husband’s secrets spill from the grave and her life is threatened by the leader of London’s most notorious gang, Lucy must find the strength to rise to the challenge. But who can she trust and how is she to stay out of the murderous clutches of London’s most dangerous criminal?

Amazon Buy Link