Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Life in the Victorian Workhouse [Part Two]


Oliver Twist
The Poor Laws of 1834 made the workhouses even nastier places to be than they already were, the idea being for work to be worse inside for the paupers than it was outside. They were given punishing jobs, such as stone breaking, where big rocks were hit with great force to produce small pieces which were then passed through a sieve and used to build roads. Oakum picking was another job for paupers. Rope was broken up into strands, then yarn and eventually fibres of hemp. These were transported back to ship yards and used to place in planking where it was rotting away. Jobs for paupers removed their dignity and certain jobs such as, oakum picking, made their fingers bleed.

Some people committed suicide rather than face the prospect of going into the workhouse and that wasn’t unusual. I read of a case where a husband and wife both took cyanide rather than live that sort of life.

A letter from a lead miner aged 69, said he’d rather die than go into the workhouse. Often people were an accident away from going in there. For example, if the head of the house suddenly died underground or got injured, often the whole family would end up interned and divided once inside.
Workhouses were designed to be unwelcoming and often looked like prisons. They made inmates feel insignificant.

A poster from 1837 showed a variety of fears people had about entering the workhouse, some fears were imagined by people but others turned out to be true. Fears included:

  • ·         Being hung from the rafters
  • ·         Being chained and beaten
  • ·         Pauper bodies being taken for dissection by surgeons
  • ·         Expected to work
  • ·         Punishments meted out to inmates for particular behaviours
  • ·         Diet reduced
  • ·         Held in dark cells for anything from 4 to 12 hours

In the case of pauper bodies being taken for dissection by surgeons, that was true if bodies were unclaimed by families and about working too, as described earlier. Possibly some of the other things could happen too, though being hung from the rafters and chained and beaten should not have, but of course, who knows? It might have occurred.

Fears people felt about entering the workhouse:
  • ·          Shame
  • ·         Separation from family
  • ·         Worries about food and clothing
  • ·         Non provision of relief
  • ·         Harsh treatment from officers
  • ·         Intimidation by other paupers
  • ·         Not being able to get out
  • ·         Lack of medical care
  • ·         Lack of independence
  • ·         Refusal of relief

A letter was sent in 1866 from W. B. Brown, Bethnal Green: Where he claims the Master beat a 15 year old so cruelly she could hardly walk afterwards, but after an inquiry was held by the Board of Guardians it was said that his accusation bore no substance.

Sometimes inmates were given charge of the sick ward and weren’t paid for it, so they robbed the other inmates. That was written by a man called John Compre, who was an inmate at a workhouse between 1858-61. He asked that his name not be given to the authorities in case it caused any trouble for him in the future. He obviously feared punishment for speaking out against conditions at that particular workhouse.

A silk weaver questioned if he’d be able to go back out if he entered the workhouse. The only way he could get relief would be to sell his tools, but of course, if he did that and was allowed back out, then he’d have no tools to work with. He asked that the Poor Law Board write to the Board of Guardians to not keep him a pauper. This man obviously wanted to work, but his circumstances went against him. He was interned at the workhouse between 1847 and 1850.
The Guardians did look to make conditions easier sometimes for people.

By 1948, most workhouses were handed over to the National Health Service where they were turned into local and regional hospitals. There might even be one in your home town. Even today, many years after the first Poor Law Workhouse, there is still a stigma attached to certain hospitals that were once the home of the workhouse itself. Many people tell tales of ancestors interned in one, when they trace their family tree. It’s almost as if we are still living in the shadow of the workhouse today…

Monday, September 19, 2016

Life in the Victorian Workhouse [Part One]



The Workhouse was built for the poor and needy, and intended to be so harsh and hostile that only the truly destitute would seek refuge there. It was hoped it would solve the problem of poverty as many rich people believed people were poor because they avoided work, but for many, this simply wasn’t the case. For example, a family could be surviving very well until the head of the house died suddenly possibly in a work-related instance such as a pit accident, some other injury or illness. The mother and children might well end up in the workhouse as there were too many mouths to feed and they couldn’t survive off the parish. Once there, the whole family would be kept apart from one another, sorted into the following categories.
  • Men infirm through age or illness
  • Women infirm through age or illness
  • Able-bodied men over 15 years
  • Able-bodied women over 15 years
  • Boys between 7 and 15
  • Girls between 7 and 15
  • Children under the age of 7
The idea behind this was so that people didn’t breed, even the elderly were segregated. Each section had its own exercise yard and there were separate boys and girls schools.
The buildings themselves were stark, foreboding places, undecorated and very much like prisons. High walls encompassed the workhouse cutting inmates off from the outside world.

Workhouses contained dormitories, washrooms, workrooms, a 'refractory ward' which was for solitary confinement, a mortuary, bake-house, receiving wards, dining halls and a chapel. Any sick or old person housed on the upper floors would be become a prisoner in the ward because he or she might not be able to manage the stairs.

Space was to a premium. Too many people were crammed into the smallest space possible: for example, eight beds could be put into a narrow dormitory only sixteen feet long; thirty-two men were put into a dormitory 20 feet long; ten children and their attendants were put into a room 10 feet by 15 feet.

The hospital ward took in all cases, so at any one time there may have been patients suffering from any variety of complaints ranging from dysentery to diphtheria, and let us not forget there were several outbreaks of cholera up and down the land during the Victorian era. But sometimes people were better off in the workhouse if they were ill than if they were outside of it as they may not be able to afford good medical care otherwise.

Furniture was basic: cheap wooden beds, flock-filled palliasses as mattresses, only two or three blankets would be provided and pillows considered a luxury, sheets were not provided. Most inmates shared beds. There were no comfy chairs just wooden benches, tables and stools. Seats were not upholstered. Walls were bare apart from lists of rules and regulations and various Bible passages were displayed.

The day began early at 5.00 am with the tolling of the bell. Prayers and breakfast were between 6.00 am and 7.00 am. The inmates were expected to work between 7.00 am and 6.00 pm but they were allowed an hour’s break for lunch between midday and 1.00 pm.  Prayers were said between 6 and 7.00 pm. Supper took place between 7 and 8.00 pm and then they were expected to go to bed and sleep, when the whole rota began again with the toll of the bell at 5.00 am the following morning.

The sort of work the men were expected to undertake was: bone crushing , stone breaking, oakum picking [which was untying threads from ropes used on ships etc’,] and sometimes working in the corn mill or on vegetable plots at the workhouse.

For women, it often involved domestic duties such as working in the laundry, scrubbing floors, blacking leading fire grates, etc.

On admission, the inmates own clothing was removed and sanitised. They were searched and washed and made to wear a uniform and their hair cropped to prevent infestation of head lice. Women wore a shapeless dress which reached ankle length, long stockings and knee length drawers and a poke bonnet. Men wore striped shirts and ill-fitting trousers that were made shorter by tying pieces of string at the knee, thick vest, woollen drawers and socks and a neckerchief  and, in wintertime, a coarse jacket.

Meals lacked nutrition for the inmates and often the Board of Guardians got to dine like kings and queens whilst the inmates made do with a thin watery gruel for breakfast, and at other times a thin vegetable soup and piece of bread. Sometimes they had meat but it was very sparse.

Children were sometimes educated inside the workhouse where there was a boys’ school and a girls’ school, so in that respect, workhouse children might be better educated than those who received no education at all in the community. When children got older they learned new skills and became apprenticed to learn crafts such as carpentry or midwifery. And some workhouses had industrial schools where children learned such skills.

PART TWO COMING SOON!






Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Red Poppies [Seasons of Change book 4]

It should have been the war to end all wars...Adele Owen is a young woman living in a man's world but she is determined to train as a doctor...leading her to a close encounter at the Western Front....png
It's 1916 and Adele Owen from Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales, is standing at the graveside of a dear family member, whilst another was recently killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
It's a time when the Suffragettes are campaigning for 'Votes for Women', and although they are making their mark, women have a long way to go to compete with the men of Great Britain. It's a man's world and women usually have to accept their lot in life, or do they?
Adele is a young nurse who has lofty ambitions -- she yearns to become a doctor during a time when it's quite unusual for women to take up the profession. She has the dilemma of telling her parents of this decision, coupled with the fact she will have to go to London to train.
Once there, at the Royal Free Hospital, she faces opposition from the young men, who are her contemporaries. They think an ex-nurse from a valley town isn't good enough to become a doctor in training, doing all they can to put her off. But unknown to them, Adele has already caught the eye of an eminent surgeon who sees something stoic and worthwhile in her. So much so, he offers to mentor her and plans to take her to the Front with him to work at a casualty clearing station in Ypres, Belgium.
Once there, she is thrown in the deep end, amongst the explosions and horrors of war, not to mention her involvement with shell-shocked soldiers, some of whom, signed up underage to take the King's shilling.
Adele leaves an admirer behind in London, a well-respected physician of his day, who writes to her whilst she's overseas. This will eventually put her in a difficult position where two men vie for her attention. But which one will she choose?
And will she survive the Third Battle of Ypres? Otherwise known as the Battle of Passchendaele...

Monday, August 22, 2016

Blue Skies [Seasons of Change book 3]

From a bustling grey town to the blue skies of a West Walian farming community.png
1896
Rebecca Jenkin is a nurse working at The General Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil, where she comes into contact with Daniel Evans, an arrogant young doctor. Daniel is someone she prefers to avoid, though with time, his ice-cold exterior begins to thaw as he shows interest in Rebecca, thus begins a courtship between the pair.
At home, things aren’t easy for Rebecca. Her father is the chief inspector at the Merthyr Branch of the Glamorgan Constabulary. Her Mother, Kathleen, a former songbird of the big stage, is now middle-aged and forced to take a back seat in life to care for her family. It’s become evident her parents' marriage is on rocky ground, as her father’s temper and frequent disappearances, affect a previously happy home.
Rebecca is about to have the biggest shock of her life when she discovers something about her father, something so disturbing, it threatens to tear the family apart. Then not long afterwards, there’s yet another shock in store, which will cause double the trouble.
Rebecca faces the dilemma of leaving the town she loves to settle in a quiet farming community in West Wales, somewhere she’d never thought she’d see herself living in a million years. And the person responsible for this move is someone she thought she’d never fall in love with.
There’s just one problem, he’s a married man...
Will she be able to resist him? Or will her strong feelings for an unavailable man, cause her to ride the waves of temptation?

Sunday, August 21, 2016

White Roses [Seasons of Change book 2]

White Roses.png
Merthyr Tydfil 1867
There’s a new emerging star of the stage, called, ‘Kathleen O’Hara’.
Unfortunately for Irish-born, Kathleen, although she’s described as having the ‘Voice of an Angel’, as she successfully performs on the stage at The Temperance Hall, Merthyr Tydfil, it’s not plain sailing. She has the wrath and jealousy of operatic diva, Bella Montovani, to contend with. Up until now, Bella, has had top-billing at the theatre, but she views Kathleen as competition. The young Irish woman is better looking and her voice draws an appreciative audience, whilst Bella’s popularity wanes.
Newly-married Kathleen, also has opposition from her own husband to contend with. He’s just landed a job with the Glamorgan Constabulary, whilst she has the chance to head for the London stage, causing conflict between the pair.
Will Kathleen pursue her dream and head for London without her husband or stay put on the Merthyr stage?
The Seasons of Change Series:
1. Black Diamonds
2. White Roses
3. Blue Skies
4. Red Poppies

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Black Diamonds [Seasons of Change book 1]


From the Valley of the Shadow of death...to the open space of Great Salt Lake.png
A tale of passion and compassion and most of all, one woman's brave heart.
Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, 1865. When Lily Jenkin begins her first day working for the Morgans at their corner shop in the little village of Abercanaid, she has no idea of the calamity that lies ahead of that fateful day.
It is a day of tragedy at the Gethin Coal Pit that brings her into contact with the new handsome, chapel minister, Evan Davies, for the first time.
Although a dark cloud of death passes over the village, Lily and Evan draw close to one another as they help the villagers deal with the tragedy, forming a bond which could lead to love. However, there is a gossiping old crone in the village who will do her best to cause trouble for the pair by hook or by crook.
Lily has the opportunity to escape the valley of the shadow of death to make a new home for herself in Great Salt Lake, America. Will she take the chance to go to ‘Zion’, following her Mormon relatives, and more importantly, will Evan, a Welsh Baptist minister, go with her?
The Seasons of Change Series:
1. Black Diamonds
2. White Roses
3. Blue Skies
4. Red Poppies

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Four Kindle books in saga series £7.49!


soc

Buy all four Kindle books in the Seasons of Change saga series for just £7.47!
BLACK DIAMONDS
A tale of passion and compassion and most of all, one woman's brave heart. 1865 Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. When Lily Jenkin begins her first day working for the Morgans at their corner shop in the little village of Abercanaid, she has no idea of the calamity that lies ahead of that fateful day. A day of tragedy at the Gethin Coal Pit that brings her into contact with the new handsome, chapel minister, Evan Davies. Although a dark cloud of death passes over the village, Lily and Evan draw close to one another as they help the villagers deal with the tragedy, forming a bond which could lead to love. However, there is a gossiping old crone in the village who will do her best to cause trouble for the pair by hook or by crook. Lily has the opportunity to escape the valley of the shadow of death to make a new home for herself in Great Salt Lake, America. Will she take the chance to go to ‘Zion’, following her Mormon relatives, and more importantly, will Evan, a Welsh Baptist minister, go with her?
WHITE ROSES
Merthyr Tydfil 1867 There’s a new emerging star of the stage, called, ‘Kathleen O’Hara’. Unfortunately for Irish-born, Kathleen, although she’s described as having the ‘Voice of an Angel’, as she successfully performs on the stage at The Temperance Hall, Merthyr Tydfil, it’s not plain sailing. She has the wrath and jealousy of operatic diva, Bella Montovani, to contend with. Up until now, Bella, has had top-billing at the theatre, but she views Kathleen as competition. The young Irish woman is better looking and her voice draws an appreciative audience, whilst Bella’s popularity wanes. Newly-married Kathleen, also has opposition from her own husband to contend with. He’s just landed a job with the Glamorgan Constabulary, whilst she has the chance to head for the London stage, causing conflict between the pair. Will Kathleen pursue her dream and head for London without her husband or stay put on the Merthyr stage?
BLUE SKIES
1896 Rebecca Jenkin is a nurse working at The General Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil, where she comes into contact with Daniel Evans, an arrogant young doctor. Daniel is someone she prefers to avoid, though with time, his ice-cold exterior begins to thaw as he shows interest in Rebecca, thus begins a courtship between the pair. At home, things aren’t easy for Rebecca. Her father is the chief inspector at the Merthyr Branch of the Glamorgan Constabulary. Her Mother, Kathleen, a former songbird of the big stage, is now middle-aged and forced to take a back seat in life to care for her family. It’s become evident her parents' marriage is on rocky ground, as her father’s temper and frequent disappearances, affect a previously happy home. Rebecca is about to have the biggest shock of her life when she discovers something about her father, something so disturbing, it threatens to tear the family apart. Then not long afterwards, there’s yet another shock in store, which will cause double the trouble. Rebecca faces the dilemma of leaving the town she loves to settle in a quiet farming community in West Wales, somewhere she’d never thought she’d see herself living in a million years. And the person responsible for this move is someone she thought she’d never fall in love with. There’s just one problem, he’s a married man... Will she be able to resist him? Or will her strong feelings for an unavailable man, cause her to ride the waves of temptation?
RED POPPIES
It's 1916 and Adele Owen from Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales, is standing at the graveside of a dear family member, whilst another was recently killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. It's a time when the Suffragettes are campaigning for 'Votes for Women', and although they are making their mark, women have a long way to go to compete with the men of Great Britain. It's a man's world and women usually have to accept their lot in life, or do they? Adele is a young nurse who has lofty ambitions -- she yearns to become a doctor during a time when it's quite unusual for women to take up the profession. She has the dilemma of telling her parents of this decision, coupled with the fact she will have to go to London to train. Once there, at the Royal Free Hospital, she faces opposition from the young men, who are her contemporaries. They think an ex-nurse from a valley town isn't good enough to become a doctor in training, doing all they can to put her off. But unknown to them, Adele has already caught the eye of an eminent surgeon who sees something stoic and worthwhile in her. So much so, he offers to mentor her and plans to take her to the Front with him to work at a casualty clearing station in Ypres, Belgium.
Once there, she is thrown in the deep end, amongst the explosions and horrors of war, not to mention her involvement with shell-shocked soldiers, some of whom, signed up underage to take the King's shilling. Adele leaves an admirer behind in London, a well-respected physician of his day, who writes to her whilst she's overseas. This will eventually put her in a difficult position where two men vie for her attention. But which one will she choose? And will she survive the Third Battle of Ypres? Otherwise known as the Battle of Passchendaele...

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Midnight Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses

Seasons of Change Novels





BLACK DIAMONDS

A tale of passion and compassion and most of all, one woman’s brave heart. 1865 Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. When Lily Jenkin begins her first day working for the Morgans at their corner shop in the little village of Abercanaid, she has no idea of the calamity that lies ahead of that fateful day. Soon a dark cloud of despair will engulf the village as the mourn the loss of 34 boys and men in an awful pit disaster.

WHITE ROSES

Merthyr Tydfil 1867 There’s a new emerging star of the stage, called, ‘Kathleen O’Hara’. Newly-married Kathleen, also has opposition from her own husband to contend with. He’s just landed a job with the Glamorgan Constabulary, whilst she has the chance to head for the London stage, causing conflict between the pair. Will Kathleen pursue her dream and head for London without her husband or stay put on the Merthyr stage?

BLUE SKIES

1896 Rebecca Jenkin is a nurse working at The General Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil. Rebecca faces the dilemma of leaving the town she loves to settle in a quiet farming community in West Wales, somewhere she’d never thought she’d see herself living in a million years. And the person responsible for this move is someone she thought she’d never fall in love with. There’s just one problem, he’s a married man… Will she be able to resist him? Or will her strong feelings for an unavailable man, cause her to ride the waves of temptation?

RED POPPIES

It’s 1916 and Adele Owen from Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales, is standing at the graveside of a dear family member, whilst another was recently killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. It’s a time when the Suffragettes are campaigning for ‘Votes for Women’, and although they are making their mark, women have a long way to go to compete with the men of Great Britain…

Available in Kindle and Paperback formats from Amazon!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The story behind the 'Seasons of Change' series of books

1e268-51msfw2fpol-_sx312_bo1252c204252c203252c200_I began writing this series of books ten long years ago! I'd been reading a lot about local history and something that struck a chord with me was The Gethin Pit Explosion of 1865. Actually, there were two explosions that caused a loss of life at that particular pit, the other was just a couple of years previously. It got me thinking though, what would it be like for the small village community of Abercanaid losing all those lives, particularly after the second explosion where 34 men and boys died. It was just before Christmas that year, so the village would have been shrouded in grief.
At the same time, I was tracing my family tree and was flabbergasted to discover that one line of my family had been Mormons who were fervent believers. One had even set sail for Utah to live out in Great Salt Lake and helped build the Morman Tabernacle Church.
I read about the treatment of Mormons in my home town of Merthyr Tydfil. They were treated quite badly as people stoned them on the streets as they preached the word.
So I combined my research about the Gethin Pit Explosion and pioneer Mormons in the town to form the fictional story, Black Diamonds. I explain it as 'a fictional story set around real life events'.
I decided to write the story for the Nano Wrimo Challenge which takes place in November every year. The idea being to write at least 50,000 words of a novel in one calendar month. I achieved that goal and wrote around 58,000 words but hadn't completed the book. In fact, I abandoned it for around 7 years, not showing it to a soul! Then I started up a creative writing group on Facebook and posted chapters of the book for people to read and comment. I was amazed how people loved the story, so whilst they were still reading early chapters, I got on with completing the book and posting new chapters. Quite soon, it was complete!
You can read my first blog post about Black Diamonds here:
And so, 'Black Diamonds' was born. It's had some really great reviews. One lady told me she went to visit her elderly father one day and was concerned as his curtains were still drawn. It turned out, he'd been having a lie in as he was up all night reading Black Diamonds!!
07eb6-41dmnzljxjl-_sx312_bo1252c204252c203252c200_Following on from the great feed back from that novel, I wrote another called, 'White Roses'. The story is set further down the line, so it becomes a saga series. In this one, a young woman wants to sing on the London stage but her husband who has just joined the Glamorgan Constabulary forbids it. She is already singing on stage locally and he believes that should be enough for her to contend with. That particular book is set both in Merthyr Tydfil and London.
The third in the series is 'Blue Skies' which is about a young nurse working at The Merthyr General Hospital. That book was very emotional to write and is set in Merthyr Tydfil and Cardigan. Two very different settings -- whilst one is a heavy, bustling industrial town, the other setting is in a farming community near Aberwystwyth. That's where my grandfather's family originated from. I often remember him talking about the 'Cardis'.51ftjuSSCsL._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_
Back in those days women didn't have much in the way of rights regarding divorce or their own children and property, though an amazing lady called, Caroline Norton had helped bring in a new law which helped women more than in previous times. Divorce was still a dirty word and women were expected to lie in the beds they'd made for themselves.
Writing those particular books has made me realised how difficult life was for women. They were expected to be 'Angels of the Home' whereas men were expected to be the 'Head of the House' and quite often their behaviour wasn't challenged at all. Which brings me on to the next book in the series. This one was probably the most emotional of all to write...
The fourth book in the series is 'Red Poppies'. The story begins during the Great War and actually starts not long after the Battle of the Somme. It's the story of a young nurse who wants to become a doctor. She meets a lot of opposition along the way. It's set in Merthyr Tydfil, London, Ypres and Northern France.
Red Poppies Kindle July.jpgI hope you'll enjoy the series which was very emotional for me to write. Maybe as some of it was close to home with the setting being my home town and the links to my family history and the topics involved. Basically, they are stories about four strong women who battle against the odds in a man's world.

All books can be purchased here in either Kindle or Paperback formats:

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Bullying in the Work Place



They've been discussing adult bullying in the work place on Loose Women on ITV today. It's surprising how much of it goes on and it's only something I've come across more recently.

I worked at one place where someone in a powerful position and their side kick mercilessly bullied several members of staff, there was a high staff turn over at that place, something that should have been picked up by someone in authority! When good staff are forced into resigning [which is what seemed to happen] then there's something wrong.

The bullying took this kind of form:

* Excluding members of staff. By this I mean when the person being bullied [they often picked on one person forcing them to leave and then turned their attention on someone else] that person would be left out of certain things or topics of conversation.

* Sending someone to Coventry. The pair would not speak to the particular staff member. One woman who had been forced into resigning was ignored for the last few days she worked at the office. She wasn't allowed to tell us she was leaving and when she'd left, the following Monday, we all received letters in our pigeon-holes informing us she had left her position.

* Not being allowed a say. Staff members weren't allowed to discuss work related issues. One meeting was held where I gave several suggestions of how working conditions could be improved, after that, we were never allowed another meeting.

* The poor woman who was forced to resign was shouted at in front of other people, victimised and made to feel she couldn't do her job properly, even though she had once worked for years in a responsible position and I felt she was very good at her job.

* Undermining. Anything worthwhile the woman did was undermined. She created a new filing system, which was changed.

* Given too large a workload. The woman was also given too many jobs to do, so she became highly stressed and when other members of staff offered to help they were told they couldn't.

I've used just an example of what happened to one good member of staff there, there were many others who were forced to resign, including myself eventually, even though I was well thought of by others. I was told I could go back there at a later date. No idea why but I didn't take them up on that offer. I wanted out. Things had changed a great deal and there were many 'working practices' I wasn't happy about. So I just accepted the cheap bunch of flowers they gave people when they'd outed them and the crappy card, pasted a smile on my face said, 'Goodbye!' and dumped them in the nearest bin!

I finally discovered why the woman was set up to fail, they wanted her out of the job so it could go to a family member.

Manipulation of the highest order!

It Happened One Summer

I was looking at some old blog posts today and realised it's ten years since my first book launch -- I remember it as if it was yesterday! It was held in a local castle for the charity I was working for at the time as I donated all proceeds for that first book to them.
book signing
Signing copies IHOS at the castle
It was a momentous day for me. I'd never been involved in anything quite like it before, or since to be honest. Although there have been other book launches and signings since, and I've enjoyed them all, there is nothing quite like your first!
There were a lot of people there for that launch on July 3rd, 2006, including my family, colleagues, dignitaries, press etc. If I'm honest, it was a little nerve wracking as I wasn't that used to public speaking and the thought of doing so in front of so many people set my knees a trembling. Thankfully, no one noticed as I stood behind a table when I spoke about my book. :)
cyfarthfa-castle-museum-and-art-gallery-1
Cyfarthfa Castle
All books sold out that day, there wasn't even one left for the mayor, we had to order more. One young woman who had been queuing for ages for me to sign her book, informed me that it was her grandmother who started the cancer charity in the first place. I felt honoured to sign a book for her.
That book was, It Happened One Summer. It really did happen that summer for me! It was the summer my first ever novel was published.
writinggroup1
Me with my writing group who came to the book launch!
If you fancy reading this book...it's available on Kindle and in paperback, though now has a new cover as I parted company with the original publisher. That's another another story in itself! I was fortunate to find a better publisher in New York, who published that book along with its follow-up, Return to Winter. That second book was also sold to raise funds for the charity. Both books are very close to my heart, as you can imagine. Since that time I've now republished them myself as I have more control over my books that way, although I still have two publishers for other books written under a pen name.

Purchase book here!
IHOS

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Author Lynette Rees Gets Interviewed by Sallyann Cole of 'Sally's Sneaky Peeks!'




Author Lynette Rees

Q, What made you start writing and when?
A,  I’ve always written as far back as I remember, I just think it comes naturally to me—
as natural as taking a breath in and out.
Q, How long have you been writing?
A, I remember writing short stories and making little books when I was in primary school. I always had a lot of imagination even back then.
Q, What genre of books do you write?
A, Romance in the following sub genres: contemporary, suspense, comedy and historical. I also write crime fiction under the name, ‘Lyn Harman’.
Q, Where does your inspiration come from?
A, I get ideas from everywhere and anywhere! I got the idea for The Honey Trap from a newspaper article about honey trappers who set up cheating partners for their wives and girlfriends. I suddenly thought: What if one of those honey trappers accidentally set up the wrong guy?
I sometimes get ideas for historical stories from actual events, for example, I’d read about the 1865 Gethin Pit explosion in the village of Abercanaid where I live [which happened just before Christmas that year] killing 34 men and boys and thought, “What would life be like for the villagers at that time? And so, ‘Black Diamonds’ was born, which was the first of the ‘Seasons of Change’ series of books.
Studying photographs are a good source of inspiration for stories and also listening to music as I let my imagination run riot!
Q, How do you plan your story line?
A, I don’t. I rarely plan. I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type of writer. What I do though is think of a beginning, which often comes from a question I’ve asked myself about a situation. I also usually have an ending in mind and work from A to B. I find working that way I often surprise myself. For example, in my most recently published novel, ‘Red Poppies’, something happened which shocked me. It was a discovery about one of the characters that suddenly popped into my mind. I had to run with it. When I write I see events unfolding before my eyes like watching a movie on a big screen. I like to surprise myself as I tend to think, no surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.
Q, Do you write full time?
A, I try to work full time most days, though part of that time might be spent on promotion or editing and revision too.
Q, When do you do most of your writing?
A, I write best early morning or very late at night.
Q, What would you say to novice writers?
A, Don’t just talk about writing, do it! You can’t fix a blank page. Write and give yourself permission to write rubbish to begin with. You can always go back and amend it. Set your subconscious mind free and don’t edit and revise as you go along as it will kill the story stone dead. It’s a good idea to take the Nanowrimo Challenge. This is a writing challenge that takes place throughout November every year. The idea being to write at least 50,000 words in one calendar month. You can sign up for it online. In fact I know of someone who completed it in the early days and she eventually became a New York Times Best Selling Novelist! Her name is Lani Diane Rich. That Nanowrimo inspired novel became her first best seller called, Time Off For Good Behavior. I was fortunate to interview her for an article for, Writers’ Forum magazine a few years ago.
Q, Do you just write ebooks?
A, No, I’ve also written articles for magazines and websites. I also have several blogs. Two are to promote my books and there I write about all sorts of things. The other, is a Jack the Ripper blog. I used to run a ‘Catfished’ blog based on the well-known MTV show, ‘Catfish’. It was very popular and received lots of comments from the ‘Catfish’ themselves. I ended up closing it down though as several TV companies kept badgering me to provide them with people for the UK version of the show. The trouble was they needed the people who’d been catfished [i.e the victims] but only the catfish were contacting my blog and then for obvious reasons, they were anonymous! So, I wouldn’t have been able to contact them personally if I wanted to!
Q, Would you like to go into print?
A, I’ve been fortunate to see my work in print since around 2001 one way or another, whether it’s been printed in a magazine in Australia, Canada, America or over here in the United Kingdom or in book format. Seeing my work in print was the icing on the cake for me!
Q, Do you have any other hobbies?
A, Yes, I love tracing my family tree [which was the inspiration for one of my books], local history and history in general. I also love music, all sorts, my tastes are very varied. I love anything from The Beatles to Beethoven!
Q, What do you do for relaxation?
A, I like walking or listening to relaxing music.
Q, Have you got any other information about yourself or to help other authors?
A, Yes, never give up. Be persistent as persistence wins the day. I didn’t get published immediately. In the early days when I just wrote articles and short stories, I had to keep sending them out, but found after several rejections, I eventually found some editor somewhere liked what I’d written. If I’d have given up at the first hurdle I’d never have seen my work in print. The same with my books…in the beginning I tried several publishers until I found a fit. Nowadays, I have two publishers, one in the US and the other in the UK, and I’m also an Indie self-published author too. I find it gives me more freedom to do what I want with my work. I don’t have to restrict myself. Of course, self-publishing is a lot of work but it can be very rewarding. These days you don’t have to keep trying to get published as you can do it all yourself by using publishing platforms such as Amazon Kindle [to publish your ebook] and Create Space [to go into print]. Some self-published authors like, Rachel Abbot, have even made the best seller lists. So publishing isn’t as limiting as it was for me in the early days when I started out trying to get published. I say, if you’ve got the talent, go for it. Join some sort of creative writing group, whether it’s at your local library or online. It will keep you motivated and you’ll learn from other writers. Better to learn the truth about your work from strangers rather than to have friends and relatives tell you how great it is because they don’t want to upset you. If you feel inspired by reading this, then do something about it as soon as possible. I joined a creative writing group run by my local library back in 1999 and I literally haven’t stopped writing since, even though that same group no longer exists!


Sallyann Cole of Sally's Sneaky Peeks!

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Excerpt: Red Poppies

Wounded Canadian being carried into the receiving room at a Can

She had to admit, she’d shed more than just a tear that night and fallen onto her bed thoroughly exhausted. The bed itself was little more than a narrow camp bed, with a couple of army blankets to keep her warm, but it was a better condition to sleep in than those who slept on the floor on pallets who were at risk of being woken by rats that often found their way to the encampment. Though the relative few she saw, were nothing compared to the ones the soldiers themselves described in the trenches as being as 'fat as cats'.

She had drifted into a deep sleep of dreams of her homeland and family when she heard a soft female voice beckon her.
“Och, Adele, wake up. We’re expecting another few ambulances full of injured men. I’ve brought ye a cup of tea before they arrive.”
imagesEIHQLYFQFor a moment, she thought she was still dreaming, until she opened her eyes and saw Morag, a young Scottish nurse from Dundee, holding out a tin mug of tea in her hand. Adele sat up and took it gratefully from her, it would be many more hours before she’d have the chance of another.
Thanks so much, you’re very thoughtful.”
Morag smiled. Even in the dimly lit tent, where there were only a couple of lanterns lit, she could see the young woman’s dazzling smile. She was the sort of person who lit up a room with her presence, always positive, forever cheerful, an asset to be around.
Morag sat in a chair sipping her own tea, it would be hard work for her too later. Harder in some respects as she had to run hither and thither, looking for this and that for the medical team, whilst they only had to attend to the task-in-hand.
The nurses, though, sometimes did the doctors' jobs if they were not around and were well-experienced. She knew that herself from the time she’d spent as a nurse back in Merthyr. The ward sister there could diagnose as well as any of the doctors, and more often than not, was correct with her diagnoses.
At first light, the ambulances arrived and the stretcher bearers brought in the casualties to the clearing station. Adele had had hardly any time to draw a breath for the first half hour or so, the large tent was in chaos as the injured were sorted into those requiring immediate surgery and those that could afford to wait. All the other casualties were in another tent. Some could wait, others were already dead by the time of arrival or else on the brink. Often Adele heard one or another of the men cry out with delirium, their limbs shivering, lips trembling. Shell shock, they called it. Some of the poor men would never be the same again. Fortunately, for some, with the right help, support and guidance, they became physically whole again, though they’d never forget the mental anguish, ever.
Worst of all were the firing squads—who on the command of a senior officer would shoot a deserting soldier, as they brought shame on the army and could prove a security risk if they fell into enemy hands. Adele often wondered if those poor men were just shell-shocked and refusing to take any more, their bodies shutting down, their need to escape, their only outlet from a hell on earth. Life in the trenches was arduous. Often they were stuck in inches of wet muck with no means of washing, changing or drying their clothing. Although they were told to change into clean socks and dry their feet, it didn’t always happen that way and as a result, many soldiers developed something known as ‘trench foot’, a painful condition. The constant mud and rain had exacerbated the condition for many. Often the foot would crack and change colour, then swell up as blood vessels and nerves were damaged in the process. If untreated, then gangrene could set in resulting in amputation to save the soldier’s life. One soldier arrived at the clearing station and his toes fell away when his socks were removed, the stench being unbearable. Adele had to inform him that his limbs had to be removed as soon as possible.
images6KVD8ABOThe sounds and smells they endured as they worked at the encampment was like nothing she’d ever witnessed before. Here, there wasn’t much cleaning up of areas, like at the hospital. It was very rough and ready, often a quick sweep and mop of the floor were all they had time for. No time to disinfect operating tables as time was of the essence, a delay could mean the difference between life and death. Often wounds were already infected from mud and manure from the fields, the medical staff were really up against it.
One young man lay on a gurney whimpering in the corner of the tent. There was no time to attend to him. Adele wished she could split herself in two, realising that a lot of her decisions meant the difference between life or death. She was in the midst of suturing a wound when the young lad cried out, “Mam! Where are you?”
Morag left the operating table as Adele was able to manage alone for a while. She knelt beside the gurney and took the lad’s hand. He wanted and needed his mother, but she was in a distant land. Adele watched Morag stroke the soldier's head and softly kiss his cheek. A smile appeared on his face, he held out his arms as if he was embracing someone, and then he was gone, in the belief his mother was him. If there’d have been time, Adele would have wept, but there were many more casualties to attend to and she just didn’t have the time to spare. No time to ponder her decision on whether she’d have saved the lad if she’d operated on him first. Only God knew the answer to that.
Adele didn’t have the time either to dwell on her dry mouth, aching back and limbs, and her growling stomach. Something spurred her on, propelling her to get through the day’s work. James Bellingham was beginning to leave more and more cases in her capable hands to work at another hospital over the Belgian border in Northern France. That one was in a large ch√Ęteau that had been taken over for the war effort. The men were transported there by ambulance and even trucks after their operations. If then found to be chronically unwell, they were shipped back to Britain, where special hospitals were set up to deal with the aftermath of burns, amputations and shell shock.
At that time, there was also pioneering plastic surgery being carried out at various British hospitals. Some of the men had received horrific burns to their faces and other parts of their bodies, making them barely recognisable to their families and friends.
The first time James had left her alone with the nursing team, she had trembled from top-to-toe, but a professionalism had taken over, along with a comforting word from Morag. After a couple of minutes of adrenaline coursing through her veins, she had calmed down, realising she was doing the best she could under the circumstances. James, who checked out her work when the casualties arrived at the hospital, informed her he was very pleased with her work indeed, which gave Adele an immense feeling of satisfaction.
It wasn't planned that she would head a surgical team but there was little choice as one of the senior surgeons had fallen ill, so it was either in at the deep end or let the men die. There was no other choice.
Apart from a quick cup of tea and a small corned beef sandwich, it was 4.30 p.m. before Adele got to go off duty, when another surgeon, who had rested most of the day, took over for another long shift.
The cost of this war was high and seemed totally futile to Adele.

Red Poppies is now available in Kindle format on Amazon!