Christmas with the East End Angels – Chapter Three

Today it’s Chapter Three of Christmas with the East End Angels and we find out who upsets Bella and why. In Secrets of the East End Angels she was given the job of writing a fortnightly column about life at a London Ambulance Station for the War Illustrated, and has been doing it ever since and loving it.

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Chapter Three

Bella read through what she’d written one last time. It was as polished as she could make it and she hoped that Mr Dawson, the journalist at The War Illustrated, and his editor would think so too.

‘Are you happy with it?’ Connie asked as she sat down at the kitchen table and poured a cup of tea out of the bone-china teapot.

‘Yes. It’s due in today so I’ll deliver it on my way to work. It’s getting much harder to find something interesting and new to write about now the Blitz is over and I’ve already written so many pieces.’ Bella had been writing a fortnightly piece about life working at a London Auxiliary Ambulance station since the summer. Her brief had been to write about what it was really like doing the job, to show behind the scenes – all the things that a journalist couldn’t see on a flying visit to the station. ‘I mustn’t complain about there being no air raids, though; we don’t want the bombers coming back killing and injuring more people.’

‘I expect they’ll be back sometime, so enjoy the peace while you can.’ Connie broke off a toast crust and fed it to Winnie’s dog, Trixie, who was sitting patiently by her side, looking at her hopefully with her liquid brown eyes. ‘Why don’t you have a word with your journalist, see what he thinks?’

Bella shook her head. ‘I can’t do that. I don’t want to him to think I can’t do the work.’

‘Oh, Bella, there’s no doubt that you can write beautifully; haven’t you proven it many times over now?’ Connie reached across the table and patted Bella’s arm. ‘Be proud of what you’ve achieved because it really is quite marvellous. Just think, your work has been read by thousands of people all over the country.’

Bella’s cheeks grew warm. ‘I know, but I don’t want to lose this job, I love doing it.’ She glanced at her watch. ‘I’d better get going. Come on, Trixie, time to go.’ She was taking the little dog into work with her this morning as Winnie had gone to see Mac off at the station.

‘Have a good shift,’ Connie said.

‘I will, see you later.’

 

Holding Trixie tucked under one arm, Bella walked into the newspaper office where Mr Dawson worked. The clatter of typewriter keys permeated the air, which was thick with cigarette smoke.

‘Ah, good morning to you,’ Mr Dawson said, looking up from his desk where he’d been furiously scribbling in spidery writing on his notepad. ‘And who’s this with you?’ He put out his hand and stroked Trixie’s head, the little dog wagging her tail in response.

‘This is Trixie; I wrote about her being dug out of a bombed-out building a few weeks back. She’s coming into work with me this morning as her owner’s seeing her husband off at the station.’

‘Ah, the famous ambulance station dog. Have you got this week’s piece?’

‘Here it is.’ Bella handed it over and waited, her heart starting to pound as Mr Dawson read it through. This was always an anxious moment: waiting to see if her writing was accepted. All of it had been so far, but there was always a first time . . .

‘That’s a good piece of work,’ he said, laying it down on his desk. ‘But I’m afraid this is the last piece we’ll run on the Ambulance Service; we won’t be wanting another from you. The editor feels that although it’s been very good and popular with our readers, it’s time to move on.’

Bella stared at him for a few moments as what he’d said sank in, her chest tightening. ‘Have I done something wrong?’

‘No, not at all, every piece you’ve written has been excellent.’ Mr Dawson ran a hand through his thinning hair. ‘The thing in journalism is to know when enough is enough, if you keep on for too long with something then it can become stale and the reader won’t like it. Knowing when to stop before that happens is the key, and the editor’s decided that it’s now. I’m sorry. Truly, I am, you’ve done a remarkable job.’

‘Very well, if you don’t want any more about the Ambulance Service then I’m willing to write something different. Anything.’ Writing was too important to her to give it up without a fight. There had to be another way. ‘I could write about . . . ’ Her mind whirled through other possibilities but none of them seemed any good off the top of her head.

‘I’m sorry, but there’s nothing else for you at the moment. I’ll keep you in mind if anything comes up that I think might be suitable for you, all right? I can’t promise anything but if I need a good writer I know where to come.’ He shrugged. ‘That’s the best I can do.’

What could she say? If she kicked up a fuss they’d never use her again. She just had to be professional and accept that they didn’t want her to write her articles any more and she couldn’t force them to take them. But it hurt. She’d doubted her ability to do it at first and writing each piece had been a challenge, but in spite of that she’d still loved doing it and not doing it any more would leave a huge hole in her life. ‘I’m sorry, too, I’ve really enjoyed doing it.’ Bella sighed. ‘Thank you, Mr Dawson, for giving me the chance in the first place. I really hope you might find something else for me sometime.’

‘I’ll be in touch if there’s something that’s right for you, I promise.’ She nodded. ‘Thank you, I appreciate that.’

*

Pedalling towards Station 75 with Trixie sitting in the basket at the front of her bicycle, the little dog’s golden ears streaming back in the icy cold wind, Bella bit back the urge to cry. She was hurt and bitterly disappointed. Admittedly, she had been finding it harder and harder to find new and interesting things to write about, but the quality of her writing hadn’t altered, the pieces were still good and entertaining, she could have written more. It seemed so unfair to have it suddenly cancelled on the whim of the editor because he felt like something different . . . She swallowed against the lump in her throat. She had no choice in the matter: the editor’s word was final, all she could do now was hope that Mr Dawson found something else for her to write. But would he?

Reaching the entrance to Station 75, she turned in under the archway and bumped her way over the cobbles into the courtyard where the ambulance station was housed in flat- topped mews garages opposite a crescent of grand terraced houses. Hopping off, she scooped Trixie out of the basket and put her down on the ground and the little dog immediately dashed in through the open garage doors. Bella followed, pushing her bicycle past parked ambulances to the back where the staff left them.

‘Mornin’, Trixie.’ Frankie had already parked her bicycle and Bella could see her crouching down and making a fuss of an ecstatic Trixie: the dog was wagging her tail so hard her whole body was wriggling from side to side.

‘She must have known you were in here.’ Bella leaned her bicycle against the wall. ‘There’s not much gets past Trixie.’

‘She’s a clever girl.’ Frankie stood up and looked at Bella, her blue eyes suddenly looking concerned. ‘Are you all right? Only you look a bit upset.’

Bella bit her bottom lip. ‘They don’t want any more articles from me for The War Illustrated. They think there’s been enough on the Ambulance Service now, I—’ She stopped as her voice wavered.

Frankie put her arm around Bella’s shoulder. ‘I’m sorry to ’ear that; I know ’ow much you love doing it. Can’t they give you somethin’ else to write about instead?’

‘I did ask, tried to think of something interesting on the spot but couldn’t . . . Mr Dawson said he’d let me know if something else came up that was right for me.’ She sighed. ‘I’m going to miss it.’

Frankie pulled her into a hug. ‘I know you are; you’re a good writer. It’s a rotten shock for you and that ain’t nice to have ’appen.’

‘I never expected that when I went in there this morning.’

Frankie stood back and looked Bella straight in the eye. ‘My gran used to say that when one door closes another opens. Keep thinkin’ that and who knows what might come along next for you.’

Bella smiled at her. ‘You are such a tonic, Frankie. I don’t know what I’d do without you.’

‘Keep your chin up, as Winnie says. And talking of our dear friend, ’ave you seen her this mornin’? Is she all right?’

‘Only briefly before she and Mac left for the station. She looked fine then but you know her, stiff upper lip and all that, she’ll be hiding what she’s feeling. She hates it when Mac goes back.’ ‘We’ll ’ave to keep an eye out for her today.’ Frankie glanced at her watch. ‘If she ain’t here in a few minutes she’ll be late. We’d better keep the boss talking so she won’t notice – the last thing Winnie needs today is a tellin’- off for being late. You can tell the boss about what’s ’appened; that should keep her mind off the time for a bit.’

‘Good idea.’ Bella linked her arm through Frankie’s and the two of them headed for the staff rooms above the garages.

***

So life is changing and still throwing up challenges for Winnie, Frankie and Bella and the three of them are still supporting each other.

Christmas with the East End Angels is slightly different from the first two books in the series as the Blitz is over and life at Station 75 takes on a different pace, but there are new people and worries for the crews – Station Officer Steele has an especially rough time.

Tomorrow is publication day and kicks off a blog tour where you can find out what other readers think of Christmas with the East End Angels. Thank you so much to all the bloggers for taking part and giving their time to reading the book and reviewing it – it’s very much apprecitated.

Christmas with the East End Angels Full Tour Banner

If you do go on to read the whole book I hope you enjoy finding out what happens to Winnie, Frankie and Bella, and poor Station Officer Steele – do let me know what you think by either leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads or by getting in touch with me on my FB Rosie Hendry Books page or on Twitter @hendry_rosie, I read every review and it’s always lovely to hear from readers and is one of the greatest delights about writing.

Christmas with the East End Angels will be on the shelves in Asda and available on as a paperback or ebook from Amazon.

Christmas with the East End Angels – Chapter Two

Today I’m delighted to share chapter two of Christmas with the East End Angels with you. Last time we saw Winnie and Mac in Secrets of the East End Angels, they’d just got married, but now the reality of married life in war-time is hitting them hard.

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Chapter Two

‘You don’t need to wait until my train goes,’ Mac said as he and Winnie walked into Liverpool Street station, their arms around each other. ‘You should go or you’ll be late for your shift.’

Winnie shook her head. ‘I don’t care. I’m spending every last second I can with you, and if that makes me late for work, then so be it. I can make up the time later, or forgo my breaks.’

Mac grinned. ‘Aren’t Deputy Station Officers supposed to set a good example? Keep to the rules.’

She laughed. ‘Rules should have a little bit of bend in them, don’t you think?’

‘You are quite incorrigible; did you know that?’

‘I know, but you love me all the same.’

‘You know I do, very much.’ Mac stopped walking and kissed her, then pulled her into a tight embrace.

Winnie closed her eyes and leaned her head against his chest, breathing in the scent of him: soap and essence of Mac. She squeezed her eyes tightly shut to dam the tears that were threatening to spill over. She didn’t want to spoil what time they had left together by crying, she could do that in private later. Having Mac arrive home on a surprise forty- eight- hour leave had been absolutely wonderful, but it also had a bitter- sweet edge to it because he had to go away again, and saying goodbye was utterly beastly. It never got any easier, even though they’d done it several times now since he’d joined the bomb squad. Each time it hurt and she was terrified that it could be the last time she ever saw him.

‘Come on, I mustn’t miss my train.’ Mac loosened his arms, took hold of her hand and led her into the throng of people that were crowding the station: Londoners on their way to work, Winnie guessed, and service people in uniform, their heavy kit bags in tow.

So many people on the move to who knows where, she thought, leaving people at home waiting for them, missing them and worrying about them. This horrid war had torn up the lives of so many people, tossing them to different places far from their homes and families, those lives now governed by the services. She wished it was over and done with so that she and Mac could settle down into their married life and not be forced to live it in a few snatched hours of leave, with always the worry that it could be their last hanging over her like some dark cloud.

She’d got it bad, Winnie thought, she really was down in the dumps and now was most definitely not the time for feeling that way. She shouldn’t waste this precious time with Mac, so giving herself a mental shake, she pasted a smile on her face and worked on her chin- up and stiff- upper- lip attitude so that she’d be able to send him off with a smile and not tears.

Standing on platform ten beside the train that would take Mac back to his bomb disposal depot in Colchester, Winnie looked at her husband, trying to drink in every detail of him to last her until the next time she saw him: his beautiful blue eyes which were shot through with amber streaks; his dark blond hair, and the tall, solid, gentleness of him. Seeing him dressed in his khaki army uniform still gave her a jolt – it didn’t seem right after knowing him for so long in the navy- blue boiler suit he’d worn when he worked as an ambulance driver with her at Station 75. She would never be happy that he now worked digging up bombs instead, would never stop worrying about him, but she’d had to accept that it was what he wanted to do.

Winnie reached out and touched the red sleeve flash sewn on to his uniform, her fingers tracing the bomb embroidered in gold thread with royal blue detailing. ‘You will be careful, won’t you?’

Mac put his hands on her shoulders. ‘I always am. We don’t take unnecessary risks, so try not to worry about me.’

‘Impossible, I’m afraid.’

‘You be careful, too.’

‘Life at Station 75 is rather tame these days compared with how it was during the Blitz; we haven’t had a raid since May. If they hadn’t brought in that ridiculous rule, I might have left to do something with a bit more action.’

A new rule had been passed a few weeks before preventing ambulance crews from leaving the service now that the raids had stopped for the time being; there was always the possibility and fear that the bombers would return, and they needed the crews to be on standby if and when that happened.

Mac threw back his head and laughed. ‘My dearest Winnie, if your mother could hear you saying that she’d be delighted, her wish to get you to leave the Ambulance Service would come true. But you can’t and I’m glad, because if you did who knows where you’d be sent to. At least we’re not that far away from each other and I know that your friends at Station 75 look out for you while I’m not here.’

‘Well, it’s out of my hands now, but it’s frustrating sometimes to not have much to do other than keeping the station ticking over.’ She sighed. ‘I know that sounds awfully mad because in the thick of the Blitz we’d have liked nothing better than for the raids to stop.’

‘All aboard,’ a guard shouted.

Winnie’s stomach clenched. This was the bit she hated.

‘I’ve got to go.’ Mac’s eyes met hers and he kissed her, then pulled her into a tight embrace.

‘When will I see you again?’ she said as he released her. ‘Will you be back for Christmas, do you think?’

‘I don’t know. I will if I can.’ Mac put his hand on her cheek. ‘I love you.’

Winnie grabbed hold of his hand and swallowed hard, her throat painful. ‘I love you, too.’

Mac smiled at her and then turned and climbed into a nearby carriage, slamming the door behind him. He pulled the leather strap down to open the window, then leant out and took hold of her outstretched hand. ‘Look after yourself.’

The guard blew his whistle and waved his green flag, and with loud chuffs of smoke that billowed from the engine up into the ornate ironwork roof of the station, the train began to move. Winnie walked with it, still holding on to Mac’s hands, desperately eking out her last moments with him, but as the train picked up speed she had to let go. ‘Goodbye, Mac.’

She could still see his face looking back at her out of the window, watched it as long as she could, imprinting it on to her mind until the next time she could see it. Then the train was gone, leaving nothing but a sooty taint in the air and the background hubbub of station noise. Winnie stood, still looking down the empty track. Wrapping her arms around herself, she closed her eyes and sent up a silent prayer that Mac would keep safe. Then she turned and walked back along the platform, dashing away her tears with the back of her hand as she headed for Station 75 where her shift was now about to start. She was going to be late getting there, but she really didn’t care because being with Mac for as long as possible was far more important to her.

*

Thank you for reading it and hope you enjoyed it. I’m glad to say that Winnie hasn’t changed she’s still bending the rules!

I’ll be posting Chapter Three on Wednesday when we’ll catch up with Bella, do drop by to see what happens to upset her so much.

Welcome to Christmas with the East End Angels!

Publication day for Christmas with the East End Angels is almost here and I’m delighted to be sharing the first three chapters with you over the coming days, starting with Chapter one today. Chapter two will be on here on the blog on Monday and Chapter three on Wednesday.

This books begins in early December 1941 and finishes on Christmas day in 1942 – there are two Christmases in this book for you to enjoy.

Welcome to Christmas with the East End Angels!

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Chapter One

8 December 1941

‘That makes twenty- three shillings and tuppence.’ Frankie finished counting out the money on to the kitchen table. ‘It’s short again this week, Ivy! I need another shilling and ten pence from yer.’

‘Well, you ain’t getting it, ’cos I ain’t got it.’ Ivy folded her arms and sneered, her ice- blue eyes cold in her heavily made- up face.

Frankie put her hands on her hips and glared at her step- grandmother. ‘This is the third week running yer’ve left me short with your rent. I ain’t going to keep topping it up out of my wages. If you can’t pay your way, then we’ll ’ave to give up this house, then you can go your way and I’ll go mine.’

‘Humph!’ Ivy rummaged about inside her handbag and threw a sixpence on the table. ‘There. Will that do yer?’

‘It’s still short. Perhaps you’d like to explain to the rent man why he ain’t getting his full rent this week, since it’s you that’s making it short, not me,’ Frankie suggested.

‘I ain’t staying ’ere listening to you; I’ve got to get to work.’ Ivy snatched up her handbag. ‘I don’t know what your grandad would say if he could ’ear the way you speak to me.’

‘I only asked yer to pay your fair share of the rent each week, that’s all. You should be able to afford it on your wages from the garment factory.’

Ivy sniffed. ‘I ’ave things to buy to keep my spirits up now I’m a poor widow. They don’t come cheap, you know.’

Frankie had seen some of the things Ivy chose to spend her wages on: the make- up, stockings and bottles of drink – sherry, whisky, whatever she could get – and all hard to come by in the shops these days; no doubt bought on the black market for an inflated price. ‘I don’t care what you spend your wages on as long as you pay your share of the rent. If you don’t then we’ll ’ave to leave ’ere ’cos the landlord’ll kick us out. There’s an ’ousing shortage, remember, so he’ll soon find someone else who’s willing to pay the rent.’

‘All right, all right, but I ain’t got any more to give you right now. I’ll ’ave to owe it yer,’ Ivy snapped and flounced out of the kitchen, slamming the front door loudly a few moments later.

Frankie sighed and sat down. She leant her elbows on the table and put her head in her hands, listening as the blood gradually stopped whooshing so hard in her ears. Life with Ivy was like living in a miniature war of her own, little battles flaring up between them regularly, always because of the older woman’s selfishness or failure to pull her weight. Frankie was tired of having to pick up the pieces and do more than her fair share in the house or pay more than her portion of the rent. If her grandad had known how his widow would behave, would he have been so keen to ask Frankie to promise to look out for Ivy before he died? She’d never know the answer to that because he wasn’t here to tell her any more.

Now, almost seven months since he’d been killed in the last huge raid on London, Frankie had been driven to the point of despair. She should stop picking up the slack and let the landlord throw them out for not paying the full rent, then she’d be able to go her own way and forget about that horrible woman. Ivy would get a huge shock if she ever had to stand on her own two feet again with no one to bolster up her selfish ways.

Only Frankie couldn’t let them lose the house; she had to keep it going so that Stanley had a home to come back to at number 25 Matlock Street, after the war. He might not be a blood relative, but the eleven- year- old boy had become like a brother to her when her grandparents had taken him in after his mother had died. Now, with both her grandparents gone, she was the one responsible for him. He might be safely evacuated to the countryside for the moment, but one day he would return home and she’d promised him that it would still be here waiting for him.

Sitting up, she began to gather the money into the tin she used for the rent money, knowing full well that she had no choice but to make up the difference yet again. Did Ivy know that Frankie would never let them lose the house? Possibly. She’d never say as much to her, but her step- grandmother knew how much she loved Stanley and the home she’d lived in all her life. Frankie would do whatever was necessary to keep it going. Ivy, like the plant she was named after, was hanging on to the comfortable home she’d married into. She wouldn’t ever leave unless something better came along.

Frankie glanced at the clock on the mantelpiece. It was almost quarter past seven: if she didn’t get a move on she’d be late for the start of her shift at Ambulance Station 75. After she’d hidden the rent tin away in a safe place, she grabbed her sandwiches, stuffed them into her bag and pulled on her coat, wrapping herself up in her scarf and pulling her knitted green beret on over her auburn hair ready for her bicycle ride to work.

Outside in Matlock Street the air was icy cold, her breath spiralling out in plumes in the pale light, the sky lightening as the sun rose. Pushing off on her bicycle, she bumped over the cobbles just as her neighbour Josie emerged from the front door of number 5 and picked up her milk bottle from the doorstep.

‘Morning, ducks,’ Josie called, beaming a warm smile at her.

Frankie braked and came to a halt by her. ‘Morning, Josie, ’ow are you?’

Josie rubbed her back, her swollen belly straining the front of her crossover apron, which didn’t quite cross over any more, but draped to the sides like the curtains at a window. ‘Not so bad, but I’ll be a whole lot more comfortable when this one’s born. All right for my old fella, he comes ’ome on leave and goes off back to the army and leaves me in the family way.’ She laughed and stroked her stomach with one hand. ‘Still, it’ll be lovely to ’ave a baby in the house again.’

‘If you need any ’elp, you only ’ave to ask – you will, won’t yer?’ Frankie said.

‘Course I will, thank yer, ducks.’ Josie frowned. ‘You all right? Only you look a bit peaky this morning.’ ‘I’m fine, just ’ad a bit of a run- in with Ivy over the rent again.’

Josie rolled her eyes. She knew how things were with Ivy as Frankie often talked to the older woman, seeking advice from her and glad of someone to turn to who understood just how difficult Ivy could be. ‘She oughta count ’erself lucky she’s got you there to keep the ’ouse going. If it were left to her she’d have been kicked out months ago.’ She shook her head. ‘I don’t know what your grandad would have said; she’s got worse since he died.’

Frankie shrugged. ‘We live separately as much as we can. She deals with her own rations and I do mine, we don’t cook together, do our own washin’, more like lodgers in the same ’ouse, only she don’t pay her way or do her fair share of the cleaning.’ She’d had plenty of arguments with Ivy over not washing up her used plates and cups. It wasn’t as if Ivy did much cooking; she seemed to survive on fish and chips or go to the pie and mash shop or a cafe. It was no wonder she didn’t have any money left from her wages.

‘You’re a saint to put up with ’er, I don’t think I could.’ Josie shivered. ‘It’s cold out ’ere. Drop in on your way ’ome tonight if you fancy a cuppa.’

‘Will do, thanks, Josie. See yer later.’ Frankie pedalled on in the direction of Station 75, glad of her neighbour’s friendly support; without it Matlock Street would seem a much lonelier place.

*

Thank you for reading it and I hoped you enjoyed it. Ivy hasn’t improved and is still causing Frankie problems!

Apologies for the spaces between paragraphs – I couldn’t get WordPress to play nicely and set it out exactly how I wanted to and it would be in the book… so if anyone knows how let me know!

Do pop back on Monday for Chapter two when we catch up with Winnie.

Blog guest: Jean Fullerton

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My guest today is author Jean Fullerton, writer of the excellent Nurse Connie series and the Ration Book series, the latest of which “A Ration Book Christmas” is out now and continues the story of the Brogan family in war time East End.

A very warm welcome Jean. From first idea to finished manuscript – talk us through your writing process.

I spend about a week thinking of the book then sketch out an initial scene by scene plan and then start writing. Although, at the start of a new series I do lots of background reading I don’t do too much detailed research because I don’t know what I need to know until I get that point in the story.

I start off fine and it usually stays that way until I reached the 30/40k mark then to be honest, I’ve forgotten what I’ve written and where the story was going. This used to give me the jitters at first but I now know this is perfectly normal.  I plough on until the 60k mark. When I get to this stage my inner storyteller starts identifying elements of the story so far which aren’t working. This can either be because I’ve set some plot development up wrong at the start of the book or a character is developing very differently to the way I envisioned him or her or that plot line no longer seems plausible. It’s at this stage I believe the book is a pile of rubbish and ask myself why I ever thought this story was a good idea.  I have a day or two of thinking about all the elements, plot character and sequencing of action then, more often than not, go back to chapter one. I reorder the pivotal events, add scenes, adjust plotlines and character often by changing dialogue and when I get to the point where I left off I know exactly how and where the story is going. I edit again, filling in any bits of research and then send it off to my agent and pour a large glass of rum and coke.

Why do you write and what got you started?

I started writing in 2002 when I was a District Nurse sister after attending an NHS management course. One of the strategies they advised us as a way of counteracting occupational stress was to take up a hobby. I’d been a life-long reader of historical fiction but have from time to read a book which made me think ‘I’m sure I could do better than that’ so I thought I’d write a historical romance which I would have enjoyed reading. The first story I ever wrote was a romance between a Norman knight and a Welsh princess. Needless to say it is still on my computer.

If you could go back and give yourself advice when you started out what would it be.

Don’t grab the first contract. I did and the rights of three of my medieval titles ended up in an Arizona bankruptcy court. I have them back now but a sobering lesson. Plus, don’t believe everything you’re told.

What do you read for pleasure?

Anything which has a good story. Like many writers I tend not to read my own genre when I’m in the middle of writing the next book. However, I’m a bit of a medievalist at heart so I tend to veer towards novels set before 1500 but also modern and crime too. As I say as long as the character and plot hold my interest I’m happy.

You’ve set your books in several different periods, which one do you like best and why?

I’m happy in 18th 19th and 20th century but the further back in time you go the easier it is to have your characters doing all sort of daring things as the enforcement of the law back then were much laxer. For example, in my Victorian book Perhaps Tomorrow I have the villain Amos Stebbins buying up property anonymously. He is only able to keep it secret because the story is set before the National Land Registry was set up.

Where is your future writing heading?

I’m not too sure yet but I would like to return to the Victorian period as I have a few ideas I haven’t yet explored fully plus I’d like to write some more 20th century ones but set in the 60s and 70s.

  1. Tea or coffee.

Tea. I never drink coffee.

  1. Favourite film.

Sleepless in Seattle because it’s so romantic.

  1. Ticket to go anywhere in the world where and why?

Bora bora. I’ve been there once but I’d love to go back. It’s everything you expect from a south sea island and then 20% more.

  1. What does you favourite day out include?

London, the river Thames and an historical building. The Tower or the War Rooms or anything in between and I’m happy.

 

Thank you Jean. I’m very much looking forward to reading ‘A Ration book Christmas’ and finding out what happens next with the Brogan family.

A Ration Book Christmas cover 1

A Ration Book Christmas – In the darkest days of the Blitz, Christmas is more important than ever.

With Christmas 1940 approaching, the Brogan family of London’s East End are braving the horrors of the Blitz. With the men away fighting for King and Country and the ever-present dangers of the German Luftwaffe’s nightly reign of death and destruction, the family must do all they can to keep a stiff upper lip.

For Jo, the youngest of the Brogan sisters, the perils of war also offer a new-found freedom. Jo falls in love with Tommy, a man known for his dangerous reputation as much as his charm. But as the falling bombs devastate their neighbourhood and rationing begins to bite, will the Brogans manage to pull together a traditional family Christmas? And will Jo find the love and security she seeks in a time of such grave peril?

Amazon: https://goo.gl/eZ4TD5

Bio: Jean Fullerton is the author of eleven novels all set in East London where she was born. She worked as a district nurse in East London for over twenty-five years and is now a full-time author.

She is a qualified District and Queen’s nurse who has spent most of her working life in the East End of London, first as a Sister in charge of a team, and then as a District Nurse tutor.

She has won multiple awards and all her books are set in her native East London.  Her latest book, A RATION BOOK CHRISTMAS, is the second in her East London WW2 Ration Book series featuring sisters Mattie, Jo and Cathy Brogan and their family.

You can find out more about Jean and her books on her website http://jeanfullerton.com/

Follow her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Jean-Fullerton-202631736433230/?ref=bookmarks

Twitter:  @JeanFullerton_

The Catchetts Farm ring

Last Sunday I lost a very precious ring in our back garden. It isn’t worth a lot in monetary value but was utterly irreplaceable for its sentimental history as it was given to me by my Grandmother when I was 10 years old, not long before she died. She’d found the ring behind the kitchen range when she lived at Catchetts Farm during WW2, which if you’ve read “A Home From Home” will know is the name I use for the farm where Phylly and Grace work. 

So how did I come to lose it? I always wear it next to my wedding ring, both of which are loser on my ring finger than they used to be. I was wearing gardening gloves and helping DH cut the grass, putting the cuttings in the chicken’s run as they love scrapping through them. I suddenly realised my rings were missing from my finger and frantically checked inside my glove and luckily found my wedding ring in one glove finger but my Catchetts Farm ring was gone. I was extremely upset.

The search began, it could have been anywhere I’d been in the back garden or thrown into the chicken’s run along with 4 large wheelbarrow loads of grass cuttings. DH has an old metal detector and we had a search around with that but with the volume of grass it could easily be missed and to be honest I didn’t fully trust it. So I removed all of the grass cuttings from the chicken’s run and piled it on a plastic sheet on the grass then started to check through it handful by handful using a sieve to help. It took me 4 days on and off working through it bit by bit, like some Zen task testing my patience. So was the ring in there? No!

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It had to be somewhere else in the garden and so next I began scouring every inch with the metal detector, regularly checking it was working by testing it with my wedding ring. I’m so happy to say that I found my Catchetts Farm ring this afternoon, but not with the detector, I luckily spotted it in the grass near where I was detecting. I’d walked right past it so many times this past week on my way to sieve grass cuttings – but never saw it. I’m relieved to have it again, I was so worried that I’d lost it for good.

I’ll be taking all my rings off when I’m gardening from now on.

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Blog Guest: Kate Thompson

Kate Thompson writes books set during WW2 in the East End of London. I’ve read all of her books and enjoyed each one, and her latest ‘The Allotment Girls’ is my absolute favourite so far. Beautifully written, it rapidly draws you into the lives of the Allotment girls, Annie, Rose, Pearl and Millie who work at the iconic Bryant & May factory. Kate’s a very talented storyteller who paints a vivid picture of war time East End which makes you feel as if you were there.

I’m delighted to welcome her to the blog today.

Hi Rosie. Lovely to be here.

When it comes to research, probably what I can only describe as a scattergun, everything and everywhere approach. I draw up a huge list of places to go and people to speak with, which includes libraries, archives, community groups, local papers, Facebook groups and calling round the wartime East Enders I know.

There really is no substitute for speaking with people who were actually there though. I met a lovely 82-year-old lady called Anne, at a group called the Bow Bells, who told me all about how she worked at Bryant & May match factory, where The Allotment Girls is set. When she told me this: “‘Oh it was a plum job. My Nan hated me working there mind, “You’ll get phossy jaw,” she used to say. But by the time I worked there it was smashing; everyone wanted to work there! There was such camaraderie and friendliness amongst the girls. It taught me to be strong, work hard and to appreciate the value of friendship. I enjoyed the best years of my life at Bryant & May.” I knew these values had to be instilled in my characters. Research is my favourite part of the process and a great catalyst for stories.

What is your writing process – do you plan your story before you write or discover it as you go along?

I’m a plotter and something of a control freak. I admire people who can discover it as they go along, but that would freak me out. I tend to start with a setting. When I stumbled upon a gem, like the iconic Bryant & May match factory in Bow, I knew firstly I had to set a book there. Next I accessed the archives held at Hackney Library and started to read about the factory, its long history, its role during the war and its many social opportunities, like The Match Girls Club, and these vivid characters started to drop into my mind. Shortly after I discovered the Bethnal Green Producers’ Association, which during the war saw 200 men, women and children from the borough transform the darkest of bomb sites into thriving allotments, using elbow grease, imagination and pierced dustbin lids to sift out shrapnel. I had the beginnings of my story and the Allotment Girls was born.

Where and when do you write? Do you stick to a strict timetable of so many words a day?

As soon as I’ve dropped my two boys off at school I make an enormous cup of coffee then park my bum down and go for it. I don’t stick to a strict timetable of so many words a day, rather I set myself deadlines for chapter completion. I know a lot of writers use apps to help them stick to word counts which is great if it works for you. I use the internal terror of missing the deadline to keep me focussed.

What inspired you to write about life in war time in the East End? Would you write about other historical periods or other regions

I write about the East End in wartime for the simple fact that I love the streets and their vibrant inhabitants. Over the past four years I have interviewed countless men and women from the East End as research, many of whom I feel privileged to now call a friend. They draw from many different backgrounds and religions, but all share common traits; a bristling pride of their cockney roots, a ferocious honesty and work ethic and a cracking sense of humour. I think East Enders values are probably reflective of the wartime men and women from all working class areas of Britain. The memories and rich tales of Britain’s wartime men and women are the lifeblood of our country. So why don’t we listen more? Why are they ignored, their stories lying forgotten like suitcases in a dusty attic? Once the feather light tread of youth has gone, what remains? Wisdom!

Lets not ignore the actual topography of the area either. The East End with its labyrinth of streets and bustling markets feels like a character in its own right.

Quick questions

Tea or coffee?

Tea before 10am, a steady flow of coffee after that while I’m writing and I’m partial to a nice glass of red in the evening.

The last film you saw.

The Darkest Hour with Gary Oldman as Churchill. Electrifying.

A travel ticket to anywhere in the world – where would you go and why?

A ticket to Seattle to visit my little sister and her kids!

Thanks for being part of my blog tour, Rosie

It’s been a pleasure to have you visit. Thank you, Kate.

To find out more about Kate’s books visit her website or get in touch on Facebook of Twitter.

www.katethompsonmedia.co.uk

www.facebook.com/KateThompsonAuthor/

@katethompson380

 

The Allotment Girls, published by Pan Macmillan is out March 22nd. Available to order now on e-book via Amazon.

Blog Guest: Wendy Clarke

One of the great pleasures of writing is meeting other writers and I’m always curious about how they work. Today I’m welcoming Wendy Clarke to find how she goes about creating her fabulous stories.

Wendy Clarke

I’m always fascinated by how other writers work because everyone has their own way of working. Are you a plotter or do you just start off and see where the story takes you?

When it comes to short stories, I am definitely not a plotter. I start with just the seed of an idea – a snippet of conversation, a line of a poem, a memory maybe. Once I have that starting point, I sit down and start to write. I write from all perspectives – male, female, young and old and I find that a character will just pop into my head and say, ‘This is my story’. Once I’ve got a decent amount of the story written, I usually take my dog for a walk and that’s where my missing story pieces are found and where all the strands come together. Writing the end is then simple. During the process, there’s not a single note or plan in sight.

Do you ever write yourself into a corner and have to scrap work and find another way?

No, I don’t think this has ever happened to me. Every one of the two hundred or so stories I’ve started have been completed. On the odd occasion when things don’t seem to be working, I usually just try the out in a different tense and that seems to do the trick.

How many drafts of a story do you do?

One only. I edit as I go along then, when my husband comes home, I get him to proof read it for me. I rarely change anything plot or structure wise once the story is written.

Which do you prefer first draft or editing and why?

Oh, the writing of the story, definitely. Especially if it’s a story that just flows and I can lose myself in it. Editing is just a chore!

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve been given?

Personally, the best piece of writing advice I was given was by my tutor, Anne Hamilton, from the online course Writing Classes. It was she who advised me to send some of my stories to the women’s magazines. If I hadn’t, I’d never (five years on) be doing what I am now and my three story collections (all stories previously published in national magazines) would never have been written. Without that advice, it’s possible I might not have carried on writing after the course had ended.

Do you think you’d be the writer you are now if you’d started writing earlier? How has your life experience contributed to your success?

Like a lot of writers, I really wish I’d started writing earlier. That way I could have taken advantage of the many magazines that still accepted fiction – now there are so few to submit to. The problem was, I didn’t even think about writing until after the school I was teaching in closed down and I was made redundant. The writing course was suggested to me by my brother. If he hadn’t mentioned it, I don’t know what I would be doing now. Probably not writing and I certainly wouldn’t have written two novels.

Short sharp answers

Favourite film?

The Italian film, Life is Beautiful. It’s both funny and desperately sad.
Tea or coffee?

Am I allowed to say both?
You are given a travel ticket to anywhere, where will it be?

That’s easy. It would have to be a Greek island. Each year, my husband and I find a new one to visit. We just love the slow pace of life, the food and the scenery.

Advice to your teenage self.

Don’t be afraid to push yourself forward. No one else will do it for you.

Thank you, Wendy, for explaining how you write your stories, and as a planner I am in awe of your ability to work without planning them first!

To find out more about Wendy and her work you can visit her excellent blog wendyswritingnow.blogspot.co.uk or find her stories in national women’s magazines such as The People’s Friend, Take a Break Fiction Feast and Woman’s Weekly

Wendy has published three collections of short stories, Room in Your Heart, The Last Rose and most recently Silent Night and has just finished writing her second novel.

Silent Night - kindle cover

Follow Wendy on Facebook here  or on Twitter here. Her books are available on Amazon here