I Am Back!

I have not been ‘away’ here, sadly.

Hello! I can’t believe I’ve been away for almost a month! (I don’t mean away in some exotic place – I wish – but ‘away from the blog’).

I have been working on novel #2 – the notoriously difficult one (and I can confirm this is true).

I got the first draft back from the editor and it was honestly like handing in your homework to the teacher and getting a ‘D’ and ‘Must Do Better’ or ‘See Me!’ in the margin.

It was 65k of gobbledy-gook and when the blasted thing came winging its way back, I agreed with all the editor’s comments.

But, I am pleased to report that the next draft was 84k of not-such-drivel. I submitted that last Saturday and although there’s still work to do, it’s in much better shape now (fingers crossed. It will be back with me, marked up with the red pen, next week…).

But enough of that!

In other news, Bonnie has had a minor op, which has involved several trips to the vets. She has a love-hate relationship with the vet’s (apostrophe or not? hmm, not sure). She associates it with nasty things, like collars-of-shame and injections, so she always does a scaredy wee when she gets there but she loves the fuss they make of her and the biscuits they give her for being a Good Girl.

We are back there tomorrow afternoon for hopefully the ‘sign off’ and the OK to let her tear around off the lead again.

Also, my mum has been poorly bad and is now in hospital, so all of that has been taking up time and headspace, so I hope you can forgive my non-posting. It’s not because I’ve lost interest in the blog, it is purely a time thing.

People’s Friend Short Story Competition

NB: As Sharon has kindly found out (see comments below), DC Thomson, the publishers of The People’s Friend, are taking all rights to the entries in this competition. Which seems very strange but there we go. Read the rules on the PF website and think very carefully before you enter. They don’t take all rights to normal (ie: non-competition) submissions.

If you’ve never had a story published in The People’s Friend magazine – and you’d like to – you may be interested in the competition they’re running, which closes on 24th June 2022.

Stories must be 2000 words long and, obviously, suitable for publication in the PF (read the guidelines!) and they must have some connection to Scotland. All the details are below. NB: it’s only open to people who’ve never had a story published in the People’s Friend.

Evesham Festival of Words ‘First Line’ Competition c/d 31st May 2022

And talking of competitions, Evesham Festival of Words is running another free one, in which you have to complete the story, from a given first line (or two!), in no more than 50 words. Details of that one are here.

Bookish Events

I wasn’t able to go to either the Stratford or the Chipping Norton Literary Festivals, which were both on a couple of weeks ago. They had some fabulous events and it was galling not to be able to go to any.

Author Gillian McAllister being interviewed at Tasting Notes Live 2022

However, I did go to an all-day bookish event ‘Tasting Notes Book Club Live’ in Kenilworth at the end of April, which featured no less than 5 authors interviewed on the stage, including Bonnie Garmus, debut author of the much-feted (and already optioned for TV), ‘Lessons in Chemistry’ and AJ Pearce, author of ‘Dear Mrs Bird’, which I love.

There were over 100 people at that event and the next day I went to a Chinese banquet in Liverpool (part of my stepdaughter’s wedding celebrations), at which there were another 100+ people. If ever I was going to catch Covid, that was the weekend but, amazingly, I managed to escape it. Phew! (*for now*).

Posted in Blogging, Bonnie, Books, Competitions | 6 Comments

I Finally Get To Do a #Shelfie


I can’t quite believe I’m saying this (where HAS the first quarter of the year gone?!) but Happy Easter to you all.

I hope you get some time to relax, read, write or whatever makes you happy (and of course, that lots of chocolate comes your way too).

A few little notices from me:

Readers’ Digest Magazine is running its (if not quite annual, then still very frequent) 100-word story competition, which closes on 1st May 2022. You can enter on-line or by post.

All the details are here but in short (ha, no pun intended), it’s free to enter, you can enter as many times as you like, there are 2 children’s categories too and the winner in the adult category will receive a rather lovely £1000, plus a reading light/lamp worth £400.

As always though, read the rules carefully. Your story must be exactly 100 words long and they do say “We may use entries in all print and electronic media” which implies they have the right to print your story and not pay you for it (although in the past I’ve noted that they have paid anyone whose non-winning story has subsequently appeared on the website).

Good luck if you decide to have a go!

Resonate Festival, Coventry.

Thank you to Michaela for alerting me to the Resonate Festival, being held in Coventry, on the Warwick University campus from 19th – 21st April, as part of Coventry’s City of Culture activities. All events are FREE.

For writers, there’s a Crime Writing Masterclass led by Mark Billingham, an event with Annie Garthwaite, talking about her debut novel, Cecily, plus Mike Gayle, Lemn Sissay and an evening with Ruth Jones … and more! And it’s all free but you do have to book.

Here’s the full programme of events.

My book is in The Works! Or at least, it’s in the Midlands’ stores. (So far it’s been spotted in Sutton Coldfield, Evesham, Stratford-on-Avon and Derby). I managed to swipe a little photo in the Evesham store, which was fun, as it’s the first time I’ve seen the book on a bookshelf.

In The Works!

It’s only £2, so a complete bargain (and if you buy 2 other books, you can get 3 for £5). Amazon price-matched The Works for a couple of weeks, so the novel was only £2 on there too but it’s gone back up to the usual price now. (Tip: if you’re thinking of buying it – and it would be lovely if you did – get it from The Works. Even if you have to pay £2.99 to buy it from the website, it will be cheaper than the ‘A’ place).

Whispering Stories

And finally, I was invited onto Stacey’s website ‘Whispering Stories’ to write about what I’ve learned since I’ve been published and it appeared yesterday. Here it is, if you’re interested (I tried to keep it chirpy but quite a lot of moaning crept in…! Sorry).

Finally, a #shelfie!

Posted in Books, Competitions, Novels, West Midlands | 2 Comments

‘Second Novel Syndrome’ & a New Short Story Market

A cheesy photo of me in this month’s Cotswold Life magazine

After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I finally finished the first draft of novel no. 2 on Sunday (I had to beg for a week’s extension – it was supposed to be all done and dusted on 18th March) and sent it to my editor.

I find writing a first draft very hard.

I can totally relate to writer Judy Blume who said, “The first draft is pure torture for me. I hate every second of it. I have a messy mind and my writing is a process of cleaning up the mess. And then, slowly, making a story.”

Where do you start, for a start? I know, in theory, you can go back and sort out the start when you get to the end of the novel but I can’t work like that.

Unless I’ve got the beginning in place (or at least the beginning that I’m happy with for now), I can’t move on. I’m all discombobulated. The first few pages set the mood and the tone for me.

The start of ‘A Wartime Secret’ when Maggie is face down on the floor of a bus during an air raid, was written on a tutored writing retreat in October 2018 (yes, that long ago!), when I was instructed to ‘write the first 500 words!’ (of the novel I was thinking and thinking and thinking about writing).

That first scene was hardly tweaked, throughout the whole editing process but it was only because I was happy with the start of the novel, that I was able to move on and (s l o w l y!) write the rest.

But can you see how long I had, to write novel no.1? Two years before it was submitted to an agent (and even then it wasn’t finished).

And for novel no. 2 I’ve had 9 months to produce the first draft, less all the time I’ve spent editing and promoting novel no. 1 (erm, and then there was Christmas… ), so, it was more like 6 months. Edits are coming back a week today and then I have 4 weeks to get those done.

And this is the truth about the second novel, which Emma Darwin writes about so accurately here, in a post about ‘second novel syndrome’.

I will stop moaning now because I should be happy and grateful and of course, I AM! (but also, tired).

I did have my suspicions that getting published, as a novelist, would be like this. I even wrote about it, here on the blog, back in 2017! (psychic, moi?!)

But on a more cheery note, Stylist magazine has put a call out for short stories and they’ll pay £200 for each one they publish.

It’s hard to know exactly what they’re looking for until they start printing them, obviously, but they mention Emma Cline’s short story collection ‘Daddy’ and author Lisa Taddeo in the article (interestingly, both American female writers in their 30s/40s), so I’d hazard a guess that they’ll take stories with more risks than some of the more traditional women’s magazines (eg: Woman’s Weekly, My Weekly and The People’s Friend) and they may well be looking for stories that are more literary than the traditional womag type of story (which tends to be more commercial – and that’s not a criticism, just fact!) BUT I’m only guessing and we shall have to wait and see.

It’s fantastic news though to see a new magazine market opening up for short stories (a very rare event these days) and fingers crossed that readers of Stylist give the story pages the ‘thumbs up’ and they continue.

If you’d like to submit a story, read the guidelines carefully and it wouldn’t hurt to have a look at the Stylist website (if you can’t get hold of a copy of the magazine itself. You can subscribe to it digitally – and perhaps, if you’ve got Readily, it will be on there? The magazine isn’t sold in shops. It always used to be available on the ‘commute’ – so you’d find it at train stations and on the Tube, free of charge. As I haven’t been anywhere near a station for probably 2 years, I don’t know if it’s still available as a ‘real’ magazine but perhaps some of you know and can answer this question!)

I have Patsy at the Womag Writer Blog to thank for originally flagging this opportunity so many thanks to her and do pop over and have a look at her blog, if you don’t already follow it, as she always has lot of information about writing and competitions which I’m sure you’ll find interesting.

Posted in Books, Magazines, novel writing, Short Stories | 7 Comments

‘A Wartime Secret’ – Paperback Giveaway

Update: The winner of my book + chocolate (drawn this morning by random wheel name spinner thing) is Derek B. Well done, Derek. I have emailed him for his details. Thanks everyone for entering. I may have more giveaways coming up over the next few weeks.

Hello, here I am, better late than never, with my paperback giveaway!

Whee! Yes, today is the paperback launch of my novel ‘A Wartime Secret’ (I’ll shut up about it soon, I promise) and it’s also out on audio today too.

I would love to say that I’ve been swanning about today, signing copies in bookshops (!), drinking champagne and generally ‘living the dream’ but I have not.

I’ve been on a muddy dog walk on my own (with the dog, obvs!), have tried to write more of novel#2 (deadline was tomorrow but I’ve got a week’s extension) and stressed (a lot) about my elderly mother.

I’ve deleted that paragraph twice because I sound like a right Moaning Minnie but in the end I decided to leave it in because that’s the reality of getting published (at the start of one’s novel-writing career, at least!) 🙂

But anyway…..

If you’d like to win a signed copy of the book and a lovely bar of chocolate (someone on Twitter has already ‘admitted’ that they’re entering for the chocolate really. Erm, thanks..?!) just leave a comment below and you’ll be included in the draw.

I will pick the winner at random on Saturday morning at 10am. UK only sorry.

I’m running the same competition (there are 2 books and 2 bars of chocolate) over on Twitter, so feel free to enter that too, if you so wish!

Posted in Books, Novels | 32 Comments

A Pekingese, A Paperback and Pocket Novel News

Hello, how are you all?

The picture of Eric the Pekingese, who was ‘robbed’ of Best in Show at Crufts in 2016, is just to give you a little smile (and to remind you, if you are doggy and/or interested, that Crufts is on tele’ at the moment).

It’s relaxing and fun. Not that I’ve got much time to watch TV at the moment but it’s always a highlight for me. Apparently, no-one could decide whether Eric was a dog, a fig roll or a pain au chocolat. Bless!

I am still trying to fit everything around writing the first draft of novel #2 (we’ve got the builders here too, working on an extension, which isn’t helping! Aagh. Whose stupid idea was that?).

Sooo, this will be another quickie from me.

But also, just to say, the paperback of ‘A Wartime Secret’ (described by one reviewer as ‘East enders meets Downton Abbey’), will be launched on Thursday next week (17th) and I’ll be doing a couple of giveaways of the book then – one on Twitter and one here – so keep your eyes peeled if you’d like to win a signed copy.

If you’ve pre-ordered the paperback (thank you!) you should receive it on Friday 18th. My OH has just had an email from THAT website to tell him. (Yes, he’s pre-ordered it. Not sure why as we are ‘awash’ with copies – well, we have three – but he wanted the thrill of my book arriving in the post!)

There will be no big launch in a bookshop, with champagne and fanfares! Shame, isn’t it? If you’re way down a publisher’s pecking order, like little old me, those kind of things only happen if you organise them yourself and I just haven’t had time to do it. Just one of the things I’m learning about the publishing business! BUT, there may be time to do something a little later in the year, so all is not lost!

To answer Philippa’s question (in the comments), the paperback will also be available from WH Smith and World of Books (on-line and hopefully, in the case of WH Smith’s, in shops) AND.. wait for it,  The Works, who have ordered a LOT. Now, you might be able to snag yourself a bargain if you get it from The Works (they also have a website now and you can order on-line) but I honestly don’t know when the book will appear. Once I know, I will report back! But if anyone sees it ‘in the wild’, then do let me know. Take a ‘shelfie’ if you can! Thank you.

News & Opportunities
Dolly Parton, now in her 70s, has written her first novel in partnership with James Patterson. And she’s written 12 new songs to go with the book. OK, so now we all feel like we’re underachieving, right?

Pocket Novels
My Weekly magazine has put out a call for pocket novel writers.

You don’t earn a fortune (£350 for 50,000 words, I know, I know…) BUT apparently you can also sell large print rights (or self publish the stories) and claim both PLR and ALCS money for them, so it all adds up.

And in addition to that, it’s: a) a paying market that’s actually looking for new writers and b) could be the stepping stone to something longer, in due course.

If you’ve written short stories and/or serials up to now and want to stretch yourself, a pocket novel (which in novel terms, is like a ‘novella’ – most novels are at least 80,000 words long), could be a great place to start. More info here.

Free Flash Competition
Here’s a free-to-enter flash fiction competition (max 500 words) that closes on 15th April and has some very nice cash prizes. There’s no theme and although it’s on an American on-line literary journal’s website (‘Brilliant Flash Fiction’), it’s open worldwide.

Grazia Magazine ‘First Chapter’ Competition – closing 12th April
Grazia Magazine has launched its annual first chapter competition in conjunction with the Women’s Prize for Fiction. It’s free to enter and you have until 12th April to complete the chapter (in 800 – 1000 words) started by Tayari Jones author of ‘An American Marriage’ (amongst other novels) which has been on my TBR list for months.

The prizes are fabulous and include mentoring and an Arvon course, so have a look – and have a go!

Enjoy the rest of the weekend! x

Posted in Books, Competitions | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Chippy Theatre On-Line Auction: Manuscript Critique from Me!

Chipping Norton Theatre, where I teach two of my daytime classes, is holding an on-line auction starting TODAY (Friday) at 10.30am, to raise funds.

They asked me to donate something, not unreasonably, so I’ve donated a manuscript critique. ie: 3 chapters + synopsis of your work-in-progress novel OR 3 short stories (these can be any kind – womag stories or those aimed at competitions. I have lots of experience of both!).

Bidding starts at just £25 and the auction ends on Sunday night at 10pm (it was going to be midnight but I said, please think about all us oldies who won’t want to stay up until midnight to have to finish our bidding! And they listened to me – hurrah – and changed it to 10pm).

Have a look if you think it might be of interest! (You can also bid for a tractor lesson with Kaleb Cooper of ‘Clarkson’s Farm’ TV programme, if you prefer!! But he’s a bit more expensive than me!).

Kaleb Cooper, local Chippy celeb!

All the details are here. If you win the auction, I’ll give you detailed written feedback on your work (constructive but kind!) and if you’d also like to have an hour’s Zoom chat to talk it all through, we can do that too, once you’ve read and digested the report.

We’ll have to agree on a mutually-convenient time for you to submit the work and for me to send you my report and for the follow-up chat. Given my ahem.. (PANIC!).. deadline for novel #2 (which is 2 weeks today), to be followed by edits, it may not be for a few weeks, but I will do it sooner if I can. But perhaps you haven’t even started your novel and this will be the impetus to do it? I’m quite happy to wait a while for your 3 chapters + synopsis. There’s no cut-off date to take up your prize if you win the bidding.

Thanking you kindly! I’ll be back again soon with other stuff. In the meantime, have a good weekend! x

Posted in Cotswolds | Tagged , | Leave a comment

A Turn Up For the Books, as The Books Turn Up

One day last week a parcel arrived and I opened it in a distracted way and when I spotted what was inside, I yelled, “Oh my God!” and closed the box flap again and composed myself for a few seconds before daring to look properly.

It was, quite out of the blue, the author copies of the paperback version of A Wartime Secret. My book! In physical form, for the first time! And, ahem, which is available to pre-order from you-know-where, should you so desire.

I knew the publishers had my address but I received the books without any fanfare or warning, which is probably the way of these things but as it’s the first time it’s ever happened to me, who knew?

So, I got 10 copies. That’s it. I’m not complaining, because it’s what I expected but I know some people are surprised that authors get so few of their books. (And it might explain why they don’t have tons to hand out to family and friends). If I want any more – for events or to give to people (!) – then I will have to buy them, at a reduced rate, from the publisher.

I will be running a giveaway on the blog and probably on Twitter too, to give away a couple of copies, a little closer to the launch of the paperback, which is 17th March (“St Patrick’s Day!”, as my mum keeps pointing out. Which is lovely, of course, but has absolutely no relevance to the book whatsoever 🙂 ).

What’s the Best Age to Write a Novel?
In my last post I mentioned an event that Jane Bettany and I are doing at the Evesham Festival of Words in July. “It’s never too late…” (‘to be what you might have been’, to complete the George Eliot quote). It seemed appropriate, as both Jane and I, having beavered away at short stories and other types of writing for many years, were only published as novelists quite recently.

And if you find yourself in a similar situation, you might be interested in this blogpost by author Deborah Klee in which she writes how there’s no right time to write but ‘being older has its advantages’. Hurrah to that.

‘What’s the best age to write a novel?’ is a question that literary agents Curtis Brown ask – and answer – here. . In addition to the late Mary Wesley, who was first published for adults (having already written for children) in her 70s and who is always trotted out when people talk about ‘late starters’, I think they should have mentioned Anne Youngson, who published her first novel of any kind, aged 70 (‘Meet Me At The Museum‘ which I really enjoyed).

Evesham Festival Short Story Competition
Just time to give another quick plug to the Evesham Festival short story competition. I am usually involved with this but they’ve given me the year off, for good behaviour, so I have nothing to do with the reading or judging this time.

Simon Whaley is head judge (if you scroll to the last pages of the rules, you’ll find out more about him and also what he’s looking for in a short story) but before your precious story reaches him, it has to impress two readers, who will be sifting through all the entries (and reading and discussing them very carefully) and he will then judge the longlist of 15. All the details are here and you’ve got until 11th March (at 5pm, note!) to get your entry in.

Good luck!

Posted in Bonnie, Books, Competitions, Novels, West Midlands | Tagged , | 7 Comments

How to Distraction-Proof Your Mind

I’ve been away for a little while because, for the past fortnight (and honestly, it feels like about 6 weeks), I’ve been moving my elderly mother into a retirement village nearer to me.

I won’t bore you with the details but it’s been very stressful, as you’ll know, if you’ve ever done anything similar. There have been tears (hers and mine) and much gnashing of teeth….

Consequently, now that I’m trying to get back to the WIP (having not even looked at it for two weeks and panicking slightly because I have a mid-March deadline), I’m finding it really hard to concentrate.

I found this video on the BBC website – Five Ways To Distraction-Proof Your Mind – useful (I found it, ironically enough, when I was surfing the net…)

It’s got some good tips on it. For example, don’t focus on the ‘output’ you want to achieve (by writing a ‘to do’ list and expecting that everything will get done) but on the ‘input’ – how much time you’ve got to devote to the things you want to do. Anyway, worth a look, I reckon.

Evesham Festival of Words

Thinking ahead, to the summer, the Evesham Festival of Words, with which I am involved, has got a great programme of events lined up, including, *trumpet fanfare* an hour-long ‘author talk’ with yours truly and fellow writer Jane Bettany, on Friday 1st July at 2pm.

The theme of our discussion (as we were both published for the first time in, what shall we call it? Not the first flush of youth, anyway), is: ‘It’s never too late..’ Just £6 a ticket and we’ll be answering questions and signing books at the end too and it would be wonderful if people would come along! (Because we’re going to look silly sitting there talking to ourselves).

Here are the details and here’s where you can book!

Jane Bettany and Helen Yendall didn’t take the direct route to novel writing. They’d been writing short stories for women’s magazines for over twenty years before success in writing competitions propelled them into exciting new careers as novelists.

They’re both now published by HQ (Harper Collins). Jane writes the DI Isabel Blood crime series – In Cold Blood and Without a Trace (with a third book in the series due to be released in 2022). Helen’s novels are set in the 1940s. Her debut is A Wartime Secret and her second novel will be published in the autumn.
Helen and Jane will be talking about their writing journeys, the inspiration for their books and the competition wins that launched their novel-writing success.

I’m running our regular quiz night (with a ‘wordy theme’) with my friend Chris on the evening of 1st July and there are also a couple of writing workshops over the weekend ‘Writing Funny’ with Fran Hill on Saturday 2nd July and Travel Writing with Simon Whaley on Sunday 3rd July (I have booked both of those) and lots more great events (authors Amanda Reynolds and Vaseem Khan, amongst others).

I know some of you live a long way away, but if you’re able to get to Evesham and it’s not a million miles away from you, it would be great to see you at the Festival in the summer! Have a look at the programme here.


Here’s a question for you. I’ve been asked by the venue where I teach Creative Writing on Mondays, whether I’d be prepared to donate something to their fundraising online auction. They have suggested ‘a writing lesson, either in person or on Zoom’. But I think that’s a bit rubbish: I can’t see it appealing to that many people.

So, I was thinking of offering something else, along the lines of a manuscript critique. But..eeek… not a whole novel! That would take forever and I don’t have that much time to spare. What do you think? Have you ever been asked to do anything similar and what did you offer? Any ideas of what I could propose as a prize, that will sound appealing (to writers and/or non-writers) but that won’t take up hours and hours of my time to deliver?

Answers on a postcard, please… (or just put them in the comments! Thanks).

Posted in Competitions | 8 Comments

Reviewing The Reviews

Thanks to everyone who entered the 1940s giveaway in the last post. The winner, chosen by the random wheel thingy, was Fiona, who has been notified and in fact, I have posted her parcel of goodies off today.

One of the inescapable parts of having a book published is facing up to your REVIEWS! Eek.

As I type this and, erm.. not that I’m looking or anything.. I have 30 ratings/13 reviews on Amazon, 22 ratings/12 reviews on Goodreads and 29 reviews on Netgalley.(As I’m sure you know, you can rate a book on Amazon and Goodreads without giving a comment or reason for the number of stars chosen).

Some of these reviews and ratings are duplicates, as some readers post the same review on one or more of the platforms. (Ooh, get me! Not even sure if ‘platforms’ is right but it sounds right, so it’s staying).

When the reviews first started to appear (very slowly!) on Netgalley (from people who’d requested the book in advance of publication on 14th January), I was refreshing the webpage about five times an hour, to see if anything new had appeared.

I tried to take an ‘arty’ outdoor photo

Big thanks to my HQ fellow author Jane Bettany, who was one of the first to read the book and put a lovely, heart-warming review on, before anyone else, so that eased me in gently. (Jane and I are doing an event together at Evesham Festival of Words in the summer but I’ll tell you more about that next time).

Remember, if you review a book, particularly someone’s debut novel, it’s very likely the author will read that review. So don’t be mean! (If you really hated the book, probably best to … well, not leave a review at all!).

So far, no-one has been too nasty (but there’s still time, I know).

I was braced for some not-so-nice comments and yes, I’ve had them. I know I shouldn’t read them but who can resist?! They do give you a little stab to the heart though, I must confess and if you’re not careful, they can make you doubt yourself. So it really is best to do as someone on Twitter urged me, “Don’t read them, love!” Anyone else got tips for dealing with reviews? Do you really manage NOT to read them?

But for every person who doesn’t like something in the book, there’s someone else who loves that part. E.g.:

“I got no real sense of Maggie” … “Maggie is a great character”

“This book gripped me from the start” … “Unfortunately, nothing much happens”

“This book replicated a lot of previous stories about WW2”… “Fans of the WWII novel will like this for its different take on the Homefront.”

See? You can’t please all of the people all of the time!

And, as most of the reviews seem to be pretty positive, then I can cope with the odd snarky one because that person clearly just didn’t ‘get’ the book. And that’s fine. I don’t ‘get’ ‘Where The Crawdads Sing’ or ‘All The Light We Cannot See’ and those books are adored by a lot of people.

We all like different things and as long as some people like my book, I can’t really complain. And yes, I’m going to try not to take too much notice of the not-so-good reviews from now on!

And when the arty photo failed, I took one of a muddy lane instead.

Posted in Books | Tagged | 6 Comments

Publication Day Giveaway!

Upton House & the outdoor pool

As promised, to celebrate publication day (and erm, a little later than planned!) I’m back, to reveal a little about the background to my first novel, ‘A Wartime Secret’ and how I got the idea PLUS there’s a little 1940s-themed giveaway at the end.

The Idea For The Book
A few years ago, I visited an exhibition (‘Banking for Victory’) at Upton House in Warwickshire, not far from where I live.

There’s more about the exhibition and some great photos here.

The house, gardens and extensive art collection were donated to the National Trust in 1948 (and are well worth a visit) but at the outbreak of World War Two, Upton belonged to the wealthy, glamorous and philanthropic couple, Lord and Lady Bearsted.

When war was declared, Lord Bearsted decided to move his merchant bank, M Samuel & Co. from London to his country house in Warwickshire for the duration of the war and lots of staff went too! (They were, if you like, ‘adult evacuees’).

The Long Gallery became the banking hall, single employees were put up in dormitories within the house and married couples were billeted in the nearby village or in cottages on the estate.

Most of the workers came from London’s East End. What an experience it must have been, to move to the countryside, to live in a manor house, to ride bicycles, wear wellies and swim before breakfast in the outdoor pool. It must have felt a million miles from the Blitz. But there must have been a certain amount of guilt too and worry about those left behind.

For their 2015-6 exhibition, the staff and volunteers at Upton House did a marvellous job of turning back time, so that the house looked as it would have done during the war.

The view over the gardens

It was only after I’d visited the exhibition twice – and a year or two had elapsed – that the idea came to me, that the story of a bank moving to the countryside would make a great setting for a novel.

Of course, by then, the exhibition had finished but that didn’t really matter. I had my setting, now I just had to come up with characters and a plot.

I wrestled with the idea for quite a while.

A couple of summers ago I visited Upton House on my own and strolled around the gardens – where I took these photos – asking myself whether I thought it was going to be possible to come up with a story or whether I should forget the whole thing.

Obviously, in the end (and it did take me a long time!), I managed it.

So, to celebrate publication day, I have a little giveaway. In an ideal world, I’d give away signed copies of the book but obviously I can’t do that until the paperback’s out on March 17th, so instead, I’ve got this:

A ration book mug with a selection of 1940s sweets (not actually that old, obviously but ‘in the style of’!)

A ‘home front’ memorabilia pack which looks like fun: 20 pieces of artwork, including a clothing ration book, war emergency leaflet, ‘dig for victory’ information, trade cards and travel tickets and more. Interesting, perhaps if you write about WW2 (or want to) or might be nice to share with children or seniors. (Or scatter on tables if you’re having a WW2 ‘tea dance’ or similar event?)

A ‘couple on a tandem’ tea towel. The significance of this will become clear if you read the book!

One lucky person, drawn at random, will win all these goodies!

You don’t have to follow the blog, or buy the book (although obviously it would be nice if you did!).

All you have to do is leave a comment on this post no later than a week today, 21st January 2022 and you’ll be included. Sorry but UK only, because of postal costs. If you want to leave a comment but don’t want to be in the draw (or live in exotic climes so are excluded!) please feel free to comment but just add that you’re not entering the draw.

Right, I’m off to open the fizzy stuff now. Have a good weekend everyone!

Posted in Cotswolds, Novels, West Midlands | Tagged | 55 Comments