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Tuesday, 18 October 2016


A Woman of Substance (Emma Harte Series Book 1) by [Bradford, Barbara Taylor]
Book cover courtesy of

I remember reading up on the career of one of my favourite authors whilst I was still in my twenties. It went something like this: student, café worker, gymnast, market gardener, therapist, athletics coach... long before I got to the end I wondered what this lady had ever done to make her a writer!

Yes, I was very naïve and no, I  hadn't heard of the University of Life. But those days came to mind this week when someone from my past work history appeared out of nowhere.

'I recognise that lady,' said one of my daughter's facebook friends after seeing my author photo online.  'She got me a job almost twenty-years ago, and I'm still here.'

This was someone I'd found a position for in my days as a recruitment consultant in the late nineteen nineties - one of the best jobs I ever had!

Better still, the one-time customer services advisor had now risen through  ranks of the  successful distribution company to become customer services and transport manager.

In my early days of recruitment I interviewed many  graduates looking for their first job after years of studying.  I usually recommended temporary positions in industry to  instil in them the work ethic.  One girl, I remember, told me she had ambitions to work for the Secret Service, but was quite happy to do any temporary work that came her way.  She was one of my best temps and eventually accepted a lucrative position with an international organisation.

Five years later I received a confidential letter from  MI5  asking if I could verify the candidate's work records.  I was happy to do so and, though I never got to hear the outcome, I'd always known this was someone determined to succeed.

Success is not so much about what you do as how you do it.  And that stint working behind the beauty counter in Boots might just come in handy when you're ready build your own cosmetics empire.

So if your children or grandchildren are keen  to learn how to work, try suggesting they work to learn. And for anyone hoping to become  A Woman of Substance just remember that Barbara Taylor Bradford once worked in the typing pool at the Yorkshire Evening Post.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Life in an English village - it might not be quite as you think.

A Village Affair
Anthony Horowitz speaking in the Daily Mail
A Village Affair courtesy of Random House

'There is nowhere more evil than an English village,' Anthony Horowitz told a packed audience in Gloucestershire this week.  'It breeds mistrust, suspicion and bitterness.'

Speaking at Cheltenham Literary Festival, the Midsomer Murders screenwriter added: 'I live in Norfolk so I should know.'

Mr Horowitz, who adapted the well-known novels by Caroline Graham for television, said cities weren't a suitable base for the genre.

Attributing the above quote to Sherlock Holmes, the writer said: English villages are special places where hatred and mistrust and suspicion and anger and bitterness have a natural place to grow. In a city, in London, your feelings get dissipated, it's too loud, there are too many people, life is too fast. In an English village it can all fester slowly.'

Hardly surprising that these thoughts come from the man who made small-time murder mysteries fashionable, but the truth is that English villages have  held fascination for writers through the centuries.

One novel that has stood the test of time is Joanne Trollope's A Village Affair - a wonderful observation  of human frailty with characters we can all recognise.

Another of my favourites is Lark Rise to Candleford, Laura Thompson's semi-autobiographical trilogy that transferred so well to the small screen.

Perhaps one of the best-loved chroniclers of British life was Rebecca Shaw who died in 2015 having sold a million copies of her novel The Village Green Affair and many others inspired by her   life in a small Dorset village.

Do you have a favourite novel about village life?

Monday, 3 October 2016

They all collaborated, didn't they?

Jenny Lecoat's story featured in The Times newspaper

What do you do if you want to share a family secret with the world? The answer, for  Jersey girl Jenny Lecoat, is turn it into a film.  Jenny's great aunt, Louisa Gould, was murdered by the Nazis for sheltering an escaped Russian prisoner in her home during thr German Occupation of the Channel Islands.  Another Mother's Son, starring Jenny Seagrove as Louisa,  will be released in March 2017.

A television scriptwriter for thirty years, Jenny  created storylines for high-profile  soaps such as East Enders and Holby City before she realised that she wanted to share her own  family's tragic past. Louisa Gould perished in the gas chambers at Ravensbruck for sheltering a Russian prisoner-of-war during the  Occupation of Jersey. The prisoner was known as Bill.

'She was pretty lax about security - she used to take him into town with her, she used to go to church with him,' Jenny told Simon de Bruxelles in The Times this week. Louisa was a widow who was running the village store in St Ouen in the west of Jersey when the Germans invaded in 1940. At first the Occupation was relatively benign as Hitler harboured hopes of a negotiated settlement with Britain. The Germans brought thousands of Russian prisoners captured on the Eastern Front who were put to work on concrete fortifications that still stand today.

Among them was Feodor Burriyiy, a pilot in in his early twenties, the same age as Louisa's son Edward, who had won a scholarship to Oxford but was killed serving with the Royal Navy. Burriyiy escaped within weeks of arriving but was recaptured. When he escaped again Louisa was asked by a neighbour if she could take him in.

Explained Jenny 'One of Louisa's sons had been killed and the other was in the RAF and she didn't know whether he was still alive and I think she was very lonely. She was a good-hearted person but I think there was a certain degree of naivety there.'

Louisa taught Bill English and altered her son's clothes to fit him. Bob le Seur, now ninety four, who helped to shelter Russian fugitives at the time, said of her 'She was a saintly soul but not as discreet as she should have been.'

When a neighbour sent a 'betrayal' letter to the Gestapo headquarters, Bob hid him in his lavatory until another safe place was found.

Bill was never recaptured. He returned to Russia after the war and kept in touch with his Jersey friends. Louisa, her brother and her sister Ivy Forster, who had also hidden a Russian prisoner-of-war, were tried by the Germans and sent to prison in France. Louisa was transferred to Ravensbruck in Germany and sent to the gas chambers, eight weeks before the camp was liberated.  She was 53.

'When you mention Jersey and the Occupation,' said Jenny, 'people say "They all collaborated, didn't they?" No, they didn't.There were a lot of people like my family who were involved in the so-called resistance. I had written soaps and comedies in the past but found what I really liked was fact-based so I went over in 2012 and spoke to people like Bob Le Seur.'

Jenny sent the screenplay to producer Bill Kenwright in 2014, 'and he was fascinated by the story.' The film had a budget of £2.5 million.

NB I can't wait to see the film.  My new novel, Occupying Love, set in the Occupation of Guernsey, includes a fictitious Guernsey Resistance called GINA based on an underground news service which really existed.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Brangelina, the Great British 'Break-off' and who stole the Toffee Deluxe...

'What's Brangelina?' asked my favourite uncle.  'Not bloomin' Brexit  all over again?'

'Don't worry,' I shook my head.  That's  yesterday's news. Brad and Ange have moved on. It's The Great British Bakeoff  everyone's talking about  now.'

'Breakoff?' He looked puzzled.  You mean Bacup! It's been in Lancashire for as long as I can remember and that's where it belongs.'

'Do listen. The Great British Bake-Off. They've defected to Channel Four. Well, Hollywood has. The rest are staying with Mary.'

'Hollywood?' Is that where Donald Grump lives?'

Close - but back to Bake-off. The newspapers  are full of it.  Pushy Paul versus Mumsy Mary. And now Channel Four has  a celebrity food programme with no star.'

'Bah - food again. Why IS everyone so interested in cooking these days?

'Because it takes their minds off  what's really happening in the world. Besides, we all love to eat.  Which reminds me. Have you heard the latest on the Toffee Deluxe?'

What about it?'

'It's leaving Quality Street.'

'Good riddance, I say. Never did like that programme. 'Is it time for tea? All this talk of food's making me hungry.

Image result for quality street

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Read all about it - in the sunshine!

I am taking a  holiday  from my blog till September 2016 - see you all then!

If you're worried by stories of library closures across Britain, take heart - it's not all empty buildings and unread books. There's a new fashion for open-air borrowing and it's definitely catching on.  Last week I visited a mobile café and library in Homestead Park in York where celebrations were in place for the the 100th anniversary of the birth of Roald Dahl.

Charlie and his Chocolate Factory in Homestead Park, York

Celebrating the  100th anniversary of  Roald Dahl's birth 

Nearer my home in Lancashire 'Little Garden Libraries' have been popping up in the front gardens of book-lovers' homes. All you have to do is 'take a book and leave a book' and the service is entirely free. They can even be found in local hotels, too.
A hand-made little library ready for its new home at Ribby Hall, Wrea Green, Lancashire.

A little garden library in a Lancashire garden

Sunday, 24 July 2016

It's Never too Late to start Writing

Linda Mitchelmore (centre) at Torbay Bookshop signing her debut novel To Turn Full Circle

I'm thrilled to welcome Linda Mitchelmore to my blog today, a brilliant novelist I met through social  media who has become so much more than just a 'cyber' friend.

Linda was extremely supportive to me when I was trying to get my debut novel traditionally published, and has continued to encourage me through all the trials of bringing out my second novel Occupying Love.

Linda, like me, came to novel-writing later in life and is a prolific short story writer.  I have asked her today to tell us about her journey to publication.

Welcome Linda! It's great to have you here for the very first time. I can't believe how long it has taken me to ask... Now, at last,  it's over to you.

'To paraphrase a famous saying … ‘some are born writing, some achieve writing, and some have writing thrust upon them’. I am the latter. That said, I do have a vivid memory of being six- or seven-years-old sitting at the dining table and ‘writing a book’. My mother cut strips of leftover wallpaper lining-paper, stitched them together with wool and a carpet needle to make my blank canvas. I remember illustrating the front cover in crayon and writing my name – large – at the bottom, but not what I called said book or what it was about.

There’s another saying along the lines of … ‘it’s not what life chucks at you that matters, but how you deal with it’. Deafness got chucked at me. It was a slow deterioration to begin with – high sounds were the first to disappear – but by the time I was in my forties I had little hearing at all. Conventional hearing aids were of no use as I had zero receptors left to pick up sound, however artificially amplified. So, I disappeared into a world of reading. My children were still at home and magazines with short stories became my reading of choice from a time factor.

One Christmas my (now late) mother-in-law gave me a copy of Woman she had finished reading in which there was a short story competition. While the family were glued to The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, and the Queen’s Speech I had a go. And lo and behold I made the shortlist, was given £50 for my efforts and was published. It was heady stuff. Deafness often means the sufferer retires to the sidelines but here was my name, out there, and no one had a clue whether I was deaf or not. I had another couple of acceptances and then a lot of rejections! One acceptance (and a £100 fee) came from Writing Magazine so I decided to enrol on their short story writing course. My assigned tutor recommended that I try an agency, Midland Exposure, to see if they would take me on. They did. With Midland Exposure’s guidance my sales crept up to around the twenty mark. Midland Exposure are now closed for business but they opened up doors to magazine editors for me and, to date, I have had over 300 short stories published worldwide. I was a happy little bunny again earning extra money for the family coffers, never thinking for a moment I could (or even wanted to) write a novel. But my tutor had other ideas and suggested I enrol on Writing Magazine’s novel writing course. With her guidance I began to learn the craft of novel writing, and I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme – money well spent in my opinion. After a few near misses, Choc Lit took me on and I’ve now had six titles published with them. But I am a late developer because I became the owner of a bus pass, had my first grandchild, and saw my first novel published, all in the same year!

In between the short story writing and the novel publications I was selected to be in three charity anthologies which raised money for Cancer Research UK – Sexy Shorts for Christmas, Sexy Shorts for the Beach, and Sexy Shorts for Summer.

It’s often been suggested I write a ‘How-to’ book. I wish I could! I’m a very organic writer and don’t plot or plan and I certainly don’t analyse how I do what I do. I start with a character who has a problem, put her (or him) in an interesting location and let her (or him) work it out for herself. If I could analyse I would probably get less rejections than I do (yes I still get them!) but, strangely, when I get another sale it is all the sweeter.

Sometimes I wish I’d started on my writing journey earlier in life. Would I have become a best-seller if I’d started being published in my thirties? Possibly, and I’d probably have been richer! But would I have been happier? It is what it is, I think, and I’ve met the people I have, when I have, because of that – and I am the richer for it in other ways.

Every writer will have a different journey. This, then, is mine.

Linda with fellow Choc Lit authors in 2015


You can find all Linda's books on here

Thursday, 14 July 2016

When nothing adds up...

I really know how George Osborne, ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, feels today.

English 1 Pound Note (1966-70) Signature J. S. Fforde Photo courtesy of

I've never really understood money.  Which is probably why I'm a writer instead of a millionaire. Take my first job as a Saturday girl in a Midlands newsagents when I was still at school. All went well on day one until my new boss hauled me into the back office and slapped a ten shilling note on the desk. (Yes - I'm THAT old!)

'It's  bit early to pay me,' I said, oblivious to  the angry face in front  of me. 'Is everything all right?'

The poor man, whose face was already a deep shade of red, almost exploded. 'No it is NOT all right,' he hissed. 'You don't seem to know the difference between ten shillings and a pound note. If you stay much longer I'll go bankrupt.'

My next weekend  job was in a local hairdressers where I washed hair, swept up and, if the staff were busy, gave clients their bills.  I got sacked again after a month.

'Could you tell me why you don't want me,' I asked the manager, trying to keep my voice steady.

'Firstly, you keeping telling everyone you want to be a newspaper reporter - this is a hair salon for heaven's sake.'  His eyes rolled heavenward. 'Your maths is terrible. You've already undercharged several ladies and let one go without paying at all.'

Undercharging the ladies! Clearly a heinous crime.

I'm sure Theresa May will never be accused of that.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The day Guernsey will never forget...

Photo courtesy of the Corbet family with thanks to Gillian Mawson

Seventy-six years ago today on June 28 1942  enemy planes bombed Guernsey harbour triggering the German Military Occupation of the Channel Islands.

The tomato lorries, queuing patiently to  send their precious load to the mainland, were mistaken for troops, even though there was no question of the island being armed for an invasion. Prime Minister Winston Churchill had already made that clear.

What happened next changed lives forever.

My novel Occupying Love begins on that day just as Lydia Le Page disembarks from the mail boat  in the warm evening sunshine.

June 1940

The shock of that day never left her; it invaded her dreams and shadowed her waking moments. She could see herself now, carrying an old brown suitcase down the ship’s gangplank, her chocolate brown hair tousled by the fresh Guernsey breeze. In the year since she’d left the island nothing had changed. Fishing boats rocked from side to side, slapping waves against the harbour walls, yacht sails shimmered in the early evening sun, fine wisps of cloud skittering across the skies like pockets of hand-stitched lace.

 Up ahead, the old tomato lorries wound their way like a wooden snake towards the cargo ships bound for England. Her papa had grown tomatoes in the greenhouses behind their home for as long as she could remember. Nowadays he didn’t need the income, but the twelve-pound fruit baskets – or ‘chips’ as the locals called them –  were his pride and joy. Feeling exhilarated at the thought of seeing her parents again, Lydia headed for the bus terminus, stopping to rest on a bench by the harbour wall.

It started as a low rumble, like a vast swarm of bees in flight, growing steadily louder till it turned into a roar. Startled, she shaded her eyes from the sun and stared up into the sky. Three planes came into view, bright lights shining from their wings. A wave of raw fear rose up from her stomach. Someone shouted, ‘Enemy aircraft’ and her limbs froze. Lydia dropped to the ground, her face hitting the dirt as she landed. Bullets ricocheted over her head as she cowered in terror while the bombs plunged with sickening accuracy on to the harbour.

 A piercing scream brought Lydia back to reality – it came from her own lips. All around her people were crying or standing motionless in shock as blood dripped on to the pavements while air raid sirens, woken from their reverie, shrieked in protest. Coughing, she gasped for air, dense now with smoke, and tried to roll over.

‘You okay, Miss?’ A policeman loomed overhead.

 She fingered a cut on her face. ‘I think so. What happened?’

‘The Jerries have bombed the tomato lorries. Must ’ave mistaken them for tanks.’ He gripped her arm. ‘Can you get up?’

 Nodding, she let him pull her off the ground.

‘I’d get out of here, if I were you. Fast as you can. It’s not safe.’

‘But Papa, what about Papa?’ A vision of her father lying dead in the rubble flashed in front of her eyes. ‘He’ll be in one of those lorries…’

‘If he’s out there now, Miss, there’s nothing you can do for him. You’d best find shelter in case the Jerries come again.’

 Her suitcase long forgotten, Lydia headed for the dockside where a lone mother sat in the debris, cradling her daughter in the shelter of the harbour wall. The child was silent but the woman sobbed as smoke rose into the sky like a giant funeral pyre.

You can find out more about Occupying Love in the link at the top of this blog.

Friday, 24 June 2016


Politicians are always told to 'leak' stories they'd rather hide on a major news day. So as an ex-working journalist I'm smiling ruefully at the news that the Brexit Campaign has won. Not that I wanted them to lose (or win) you understand  - I don't talk politics here.  It's just that
my new novel is out today.

So, instead of a leak I thought I would try a flood.




Or here

Or you can spend the day reading the latest news on Europe