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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

On August 4 2014 it is one hundred years since the beginning of World War One

World War One Centenary, 1914 – 1918
by Madalyn Morgan

My novels are set in WWII and, during a recent interview, I was asked if war excited me.  War doesn’t excite me, I am a pacifist, however, WWI, WWII, and the years inbetween, were the most important in history for women – and that excites me.  The greatest change for women and society happened during the First World War.  When tens of thousands of men were sent overseas to fight, women had to do their jobs.

Women on the Front Line

There was only one female soldier in WW1.  Flora Sandes, a vicar’s daughter from Yorkshire, joined St. John’s Ambulance as a volunteer.  She swapped her first aid bandages for a rifle during fierce fighting in Serbia and was accepted into the Second Infantry Regiment of the First Serbian Army, as a Private.  In 1916, during the Serbian advance on Bitola (Monastir), Sandes was seriously wounded by a grenade in hand-to-hand combat.  She received the highest decoration of the Serbian Military, the Order of the Karađorđe's Star - the equivalent of the Military Cross.  By the end of the war, she was mentioned twice in Dispatches for exceptional bravery – and later promoted to Captain.  

Captain Flora Sandes

Another woman to go to the front was battlefield surgeon Elsie Inglis, who worked for the Scottish Women’s Hospitals.  She was a formidable woman, talented surgeon, compassionate doctor and militant suffragette.  Dr Inglis was a pioneer who fought the prejudice of male-dominated Victorian society, where women were expected to become wives and mothers and leave doctoring to the menfolk.  In 1914 the Army did not permit women doctors, so she set up a medical unit in France and sent 14 teams of women volunteers to give medical help on the battlefields.  In 1915 she went to Serbia where Serbs were fighting Germans and Austrians.  She faced many hardships, dangerous battles, freezing weather and being arrested as a spy.  From Serbia, Elsie went to Russia to work as a war doctor.  She returned home to Scotland in November 1917 because she had cancer.  She died shortly afterwards.

Dr Louisa Garrett Anderson, also a battlefield surgeon, set up Endell Street Military Hospital in London with Dr Flora Murray – both were suffragettes.  Run entirely by women the hospital treated more than 24,000 soldiers between 1915 and 1918.  The daily admittance rate was around 80 casualties, and surgeons performed as many as 20 operations in one day.

The Endell Street Military Hospital opened in May 1915

Women on the Home Front
As fathers, husbands and sons, who did essential work in power stations, shipyards and munitions factories were sent overseas to fight, mothers, wives and daughters, replaced them.  Middle class girls abandoned their social calendars to drive ambulances – often during air raids, originally by Zeppelins – and the invisible in society, working class women, were suddenly seen as a valuable work force.

Women worked across the economy – from postal workers to police patrols – and tram drivers to train cleaners.  Cleaning a steam train’s boiler meant wearing trousers – another first.  Women worked as window-cleaners, milkmen, butchers, delivery drivers - and they shovelled coke.

A young woman delivering a sack of coke. 

To keep up production, women worked 12-hour shifts, for 13 days without a break.  Conditions were hard and could be dangerous.  Filling shells with TNT often caused explosions, and chemicals turned girls’ skin yellow.  They were nicknamed Canary Girls.

Women preparing projectile heads at Cunard Shell Works, Merseyside, 1917

Work on the land was backbreaking.  Land Girls worked from dawn until dusk, in all weathers, and without the help of horses.  Heavy horses that pulled the ploughs had been sent to France to pull field artillery.

On a lighter note, because it’s the 2014 World Cup
“We make shells and we’re also terrific at scoring goals.”  Professional players had been called up, so women took over the football pitches.  This team from the AEC Munitions factory in east London played seriously, attracted large crowds and held the Munitionettes’ Cup Final at St. James’ Park in Newcastle

The AEC Munitions Factory Eleven

The AEC played for charity, to help wounded men coming home from the war.  They wore their frilly munitions mobcaps with pride – and at a time when many women still wore skirts to the ground – they were wore shorts and showed their knees.

ANIMALS IN WWI
In 1914, soldiers fought on foot or horseback.  Eight million horses were killed on the Western Front, about the same number as human casualties.  A baboon named Jackie served in South Africa, and on the battlefields of France dogs were used as sentries and messengers.  Mercy dogs with medical supplies strapped to them were trained to find wounded and dying soldiers.  A Mercy dog would keep a fatally injured soldier company by lying next to him until he died.

The British Army used more than one hundred thousand pigeons to carry messages.  When the war ended, homing pigeons became a protected species.  Killing or wounding them was punishable by six months in prison, or a £100 fine.  

A Portable pigeon loft in WW1

The First World War was a time of military innovation.  By 1917, the British Armed Forces were fighting with tanks and aeroplanes – and battlefield communications were by radio.

Women - Recognised at last
Women did the same work as men but for less than half the pay.  Men, often in charge of the female workforce, usually disagreed with equality for women.  In engineering skilled work was broken into smaller individual tasks so women did not challenge men’s skilled status.  However, on February 6, 1918, the Representation of the People Act giving the vote to women over thirty received Royal Approval.  It was the beginning of equality for women.

WSPU founder Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhust

After WWI men’s attitudes towards women began to change.  Men had the vote at 21, the suffragists at 30, but as voters, they could exercise direct influence on parliament – and they did.  It took many years before men recognised women as equals.  Some still don’t.
     One of the biggest improvements in the lives of women during the First World War was health.  Women lived longer and had healthier lives.  After the war infant mortality was reduced by two thirds – and smaller households and earnings rising faster than food prices meant there was more food to go around.  However, many women were forced from their jobs once the men returned and had to go back to domestic life.  Many women had earned the right to vote, but such things as higher education, going to university, having a career as a lawyer, doctor, or MP, were still overwhelmingly the preserve of men.

The Great War.  The war to end all wars 
And it may well have been, if a Gefreiter (corporal) in the Bavarian Army named Adolf Hitler hadn’t been so lucky.  In 1916, Hitler was wounded in the left thigh at the Somme when a shell exploded in his dugout, and in 1918, he was blinded in a mustard-gas attack.  Hundreds of young men faced a lifetime in darkness after they were blinded by mustard gas, but Hitler got away with it.  How different the world would have been if Hitler hadn’t had the luck of the devil.

Lest We Forget   On August 4, 2014, it is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, one of the costliest conflicts in history.  The war started and ended in Africa.  The first shot fired by a British soldier came from a Ghanaian in the Gold Coast Regiment on August 7, 1914.  And the last German troop to surrender was in present day Tanzania on November 25, 1918.
    The tragic and horrific statistics of the First World War are hard to take in.  The total number of military and civilian casualties was over 37 million.  Over 16 million deaths and 20 million wounded make it one of the deadliest conflicts in human history. 
     The total number of deaths is estimated at 10 million military personnel and 7 million civilians.  The Allies lost 6 million military personnel, and the Central Powers lost 4 million.  At least 2 million died from diseases and 6 million went missing, presumed dead.  Around two-thirds of military deaths in World War I were in battle, unlike the conflicts that took place in the 19th century when the majority of deaths were due to disease. 

The young men who went off to war in 1914 left behind an old world.  Those lucky enough to return in 1918 came home to a new world, a modern world, a world that was full of changes.  Soldiers like my grandfather, who survived although he was shot through the knee in 1918, had a new society to come to terms with.  Sadly, some men never managed it.  It is because of the brave servicemen of the First and Second World War who gave their lives for us, that we are able to enjoy freedom today.  It is for this reason that our generation, and future generations, must never forget the sacrifices that so many millions made for us. 

They shall not grow old,
As we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun
And in the morning
We will remember them.


Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Brook Cottage Books: Author Spotlight - Madalyn Morgan.

Brook Cottage Books: Author Spotlight - Madalyn Morgan.:

"Madalyn Morgan lives in Rural Leicestershire.   After thirty-six years, she has swapped window boxes in South London for a garden."

A super interview about, Foxden Acres and Applause, by award winning blogger, J B Johnston.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

BIRDSONG at CURVE



Sebastian Faulk's Birdsong, stage version by Rachel Wagstaff, was performed brilliantly by a company of fantastic actors at the fabulous Curve Theatre, Leicester.




I was delighted when my friend Malcolm James phoned to say he was going to be at Curve in Leicester, playing Rene Azaire and Captain Gray, in Birdsong- and if I was free perhaps we could meet for lunch.  You bet.  The last time I saw Malcolm was about eighteen months ago.  He was on tour with Equus and came to the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry.  He played the doctor, psychiatrist, and he was fantastic.  I met Malcolm at Curve and after a lovely lunch, in the cafe at Curve, Malcolm gave me a comp, which I took to the box office.  For £3.90, the box office will take your NCP entrance ticket and give you an exit ticket.  A good incentive to park at the NCP while you're watching a play at Curve, otherwise it would be expensive.    

Malcolm James


Captain Gray (Malcolm James) talking to Stephen Wraysford

The action of the play takes place on the Western Front, France, 1916-1918.  The play also moves back to 1910, Amiens, France. The story of Stephen Wraysford conjoured as he delves into his past and the love of the beautiful, but married, Isabelle Azaire.

Isabelle Azaire (Carolin Stoltz) & Stephen Wraysford (George Banks)


REVIEWS

Faulks's First World War Tale gets the staging it deserves...enough to make me weep'
THE TIMES

Heartbreakingly beautiful, powerful and poignant. Go see it; it may well be one of the most memorable pieces of theatre you are ever likely to witness.'
BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE

The performances were near faultless...Birdsong is not an easy story, but it helps us to understand. No play can hope to achieve more than that.'
STAGETALK MAGAZINE

'Birdsong is a masterpiece in every respect
Outstanding. Stunning. Superb.'
EAST ANGLIAN DAILY TIMES


Jack Firebrace (Peter Duncan) Stephen Wraysford (George Banks) Tipper (Jonny Clarke)


Soldiers ready to charge in battle



In the production at Curve, the violinist was played by Evans (Samuel Martin)
who also had the most beautiful voice.


Arthur Shaw (Simon Lloyd) and Jack Firebrace (Peter Duncan)

Birdsong is superb. It is full-on, high energy, and incredibly moving.  There are lighter moments when the soldiers tell jokes or have a singsong.  But there weren't many dry eyes after the performance I saw.

It was obvious by the applause that went on for an unusually long time that the audience enjoyed the play and the performances.  The cast could have returned to the stage for several more curtain calls.

COMING VENUES


From Curve in Leicester, Birdsong goes to:
The Grand Opera House
Belfast
23rd - 28th June

The Wyvern Theatre
Swindon
1st - 5th July

Devonshire Park Theatre
Eastbourne
7th- 12th July

The cast will then have a well earned rest.  Or maybe not.  Most actors are looking for their next job before the current one ends.

This is a DRAFT POST - It needs to be edited



Saturday, 31 May 2014

Stand Up Comedy for The Inner Wheel's 60th

The 60th celebration Charter Tea of the Inner Wheel was held in the beautiful Cloiser Room at the Coombe Abbey Hotel.

A lovely audience. What sincere and hard working women (for charity), the women of the Inner Wheel are.

The afternoon began with the traditional candle lighting.
Inner Wheel Candle lighting.  


The three objects of Inner Wheel are -


  • to promote true friendship
  • encourage the ideals of personal service
  • to foster international understanding


  • Afterwards there was a delicious, traditional, and extremely calorific cream tea.
    A speciality of  the Coombe Abbey Hotel.  



    What a wonderful place it is and, it once belonged to an ancestor of mine.  I learned only minutes before I left for the gig that Coombe Abbey (for about 40 + years, give or take) from around 1520 to 1560 was owned by John Dudley.  I intend to Google this and find out all the facts and exact dates, but for now they are an estimate. 




    Coombe Abbey was given to John Dudley by Henry VIII for his loyalty and the services he provided.  I'm guessing they had something to do with dodgy dealings, because Henry VIII wanted to divorce and remarry. I shall research that too.  Suffice it to say, my grandfather on my mother’s side was a direct desendant of John Dudley, the Earl of Warwick, I think.  The family lived at Coombe through the reign of Henry VIII and also through his son, Edward VI’s reign.  When Edward VI died, Henry VIII’s daughter Mary was crowned Queen.  Queen Mary 1st, o‘Bloody Mary’ as she became known, had John Dudley executed along with hundreds of other Protestants and gave the Abbey to one of her supporters who, like herself, was Catholic.  As I said, I intend to research this and give exact dates, names and titles.  

    Notes made on, Joyce Grenfell  (1910-79)

    Born in London; her mother was sister of Nancy Astor.  After school, she was "finished" at a private school in Paris. She met her husband when she was 17; they were married two years later and lived in a cottage on the Astor's Cliveden Estate. 
         Joyce’s first job was writing reviews of radio programs for The Observer. She got her first break in writing and performing on radio from Stephen Potter.  She wrote monologues, poems and sketches for radio and later starred in films with people like Alastair Sims, George Cole and Frankie Howerd. Best known for the St. Trinians films.  Joyce also appeared in revues with Noel Coward, Edith Evans, Peter Ustinov – and many others.
         In the 70s she was a popular member of the panel of the BBC television
    program Face the Music and contributed to Thought for the Day

    My first sketch was, Stately Galleon, impersonating Joyce Grenfell and acting the character of Mrs Fanshaw, Joyce's neighbour who is a northerner.

    Joyce Grenfell - A massive talent.

    The second of Joyce's sketches I performed was, Rainbow Nights.  Now married and happy, the London girls 'can't help looking back with wistful nostalgia at those glamorous nights when they used to go, up West, to Rainbow Corner.'  

    Pam Ayres

    The first, third, and fifth sketches were Pam Ayres poems.  Grimwald The Puppet Horse,  Mother Was Right About You, Snoring, and Oh Mr (John) Prescott.


    Work in progress.  There is more to come.  





    Thursday, 22 May 2014

    Alison Thompson's Conversations with Authors: Madalyn Morgan

    Conversations with Authors: Madalyn Morgan


    madalyn morgan
    This is the second interview in the “Conversations with Authors” podcast series. You can find more interviews here.
    Madalyn Morgan grew up in Lutterworth in Leicestershire and had a long career as an actor before turning her creative hand to writing. Her books Foxden Acres and Applause are part of a series of books following the lives of four sisters during WWII and they’ve been a huge success. During our conversation, Madalyn talks about what inspired her to write the books and what the future holds for the Dudley Sisters, and she also has some good advice for anyone interested in self publishing.
    Hi Madalyn. I know that you have published two books so far – Foxden Acres in 2013 and Applause this year [2014]. What inspired you to start writing?
    A combination of things. I had my heart broken (not for the first time) in the nineties and I really couldn’t get over it, it was quite an unpleasant time, and a friend of mine who was sick of me going on about it said, Why don’t you write it down – exorcise it? And I did, and as I was writing, it contextualised it and I began to enjoy it. A little later I was out of work as an actor – I’ve been an actor for 35 years, but when you get to about 50 you start getting less work as an actor unless you’ve already made it – and I was doing a temping job that had become full time. I needed something artistic to do, so I started a writing course, a correspondence course, and I really loved it. I couldn’t believe that I could actually do certain things!
    At the same time my mum wanted to give a brass airplane back to a Polish pilot who had made it for her during the second world war. He’d stayed with her family when he’d crash landed – my grandad was in the ARP and when the local RAF base said, “Could you take these Polish pilots in?” my grandparents said they would.  Well, the pilot was sweet on my mother and he made her this brass plane. It had sat on the hearth by our fireplace for as long as I could remember and my mother wanted to give it back. The pilot had died but I found his son and arranged to meet him. His father had divorced his mother and remarried and the second family got all his medals, so the son was delighted to have this plane. At this time I got as far in the writing course as biography and my mother had had a pretty interesting life so I wrote her biography. They said it was really good, they really enjoyed it; however, nobody knew me or my mother so why didn’t I turn it into a work of fiction? I didn’t actually turn her biography into a fiction but I used to tape her and talk about the war with her and I ended up with the plots for four novels!
    So are your novels rooted in reality to an extent?
    No. Pure fiction. However, every single thing that happens in them is true, it has happened. I originally started out with my mum and her three sisters but that was only to give myself names to work with, so it’s nothing to do with my mum at all. The books all have individual plot lines but they are all rooted in truth and fact from the time of the second world war. I’m fictionalising what happened, though it’s all based on truths. We all know what happened in 1939, we all know when D-Day was, we all know the timeline of the second world war, so what I’ve done is create characters that were doing what they were doing in those days. So the first book, Foxden Acres, is set on the land. When the Ministry of Agriculture said to the lords and ladies that they had to turn their land into arable land, that’s what Bess [the main character in Foxden Acres] is doing in the book. She comes back from London where she was a school teacher because the children are evacuated – and that part is fact, those dates and times all tie up. She was born in the country and brought up on the estate as a groom’s daughter, lived in an estate cottage. She comes back, runs the estate, turns it into arable land, gets together an army of Land Girls and … I won’t tell you the end but it’s a love story!
    No, don’t give away the plot! It’s a lovely love story and if people listening haven’t heard it yet then they should go and buy it now! So that’s Foxden Acres. Would you like to summarise what Applause is about – that’s the second book in the series.
    A lot of people enjoyed Foxden Acres and were asking me when the second one would be out, and I decided to just do it. However, that’s the wrong reason to write because you get very stressed and work long hours. I was an actor for 35 years in London so I know the West End very well. Applause is about blind ambition. The second sister, Margaret (who later changes her name to Margot) moves to London, where her husband is working for the MOD. She gets a job as an usherette and climbs her way to the Talk of the Town. Everywhere in the book is based on real theatres in the West End – the Haymarket, the Theatre Royal etc. It’s all authentic. The events in the second novel have to timeline with the real events of WWII and with events in Foxden Acres, but both books stand alone.
    I was telling a friend last week that while the books are part of a series they are also standalone novels and you can read them in any order.
    I did my best to do that and funnily enough they are selling in equal numbers! People have said perhaps they should read Foxden Acres first … They’re not expensive to download on Kindle … they’re doing really well and I’m ever so chuffed!
    So what did you learn during the writing process? I know that Applause took you less than a year to write.
    I learned a lot, masses. Never be flattered into saying you’re going to do another novel and it will come out on the anniversary of the first! The truth is I had plotted and written part of Applause in the six months before. I had already written Foxden Acres and sent the first three chapters to a literary agent. I went to the Carleon Writing Summer School and came back having written the bare bones of Applause, about 15,000 words. I got back to a phone call saying “I want Foxden Acres … Love it, want it, fast track it!” Can you imagine a literary agent saying that to you? Not in my dreams! But wow!! Send it send it send it! So I finished it and sent her the rest of the book. Six months later she had forgotten me! I had a hard time in that six months. I held Foxden Acres back but I couldn’t get it together to write any more of Applause, I was too wound up. So I sat back and waited, and then managed to get on with Applause. I was writing it for about 18 months in total. I guess I learnt never to think anything is a done deal in the world of writing because it’s not. Even if someone does love something and says to fast track it ….
    The writing process is the same as acting for me. When I was an actress I was a method actress and being the character would be how I learned the lines. I would get to know the character and wear her shoes – shoes are great things – and my characters had to be believable. People go to the theatre and don’t like certain characters because they don’t believe in them. That’s the same with my writing process. They have to be believable, my characters. I walk in their shoes. I am all of them – and if I find a character that I can’t be then it’s not working. I was Molly, the young girl in Foxden Acres, I was Bess, I was Margot – and at the moment I am Claire in China Blue [the third book] and I feel their feelings. I’ve had myself tied up! I’ve never been raped, thank goodness, and I hope I never am, but in the rape scene in Foxden Acres I literally wouldn’t let go of my hands; I pressed my hands behind my back and wouldn’t let go of them and I worked out how the scene could happen. It was the only way I could do it. It was awful, very traumatic and I cried a lot after it but  … Honestly, people will think I’m mad but that’s how I do it. I walk in their shoes as much as I can.
    That really comes across in the books. The books that touch me are the ones where I feel I know the characters, and to be able to write a character that people will know you have to know the character inside out yourself.
    Well if I don’t believe in them, how can I expect you to believe in them?
    Exactly, and that really does come across, I think you succeed in that. So how did you get your books published?
    Well when I phoned up this literary agent about Foxden Acres, the book she’d said she loved, she decided there was a problem and she wasn’t convinced by Bess, and she asked me to rewrite the first three chapters and send them again! I said, “Thank you very much, goodbye,” and I self-published. If it was good enough for her six months previous ….. But before I self-published I was very wise. I had a professional proofreader proofread it – am I allowed to say that was you, The Proof Fairy?  My advice to anyone is if you are going to self-publish you have to get a professional proofreader and if you cannot format it yourself get that done professionally too.
    I agree completely, and also it’s important to get a proper cover designed and not knock something together in Word!
    I maintain that my book is as well produced as any book on WH Smith’s or Waterstone’s shelves. Without a literary agent or editor or publisher that cost me money but if I am going to put my work out there and my name behind it why am I going to have people not wanting to read it because it’s rubbish? I want it to look and sound professional when people read it. Having it proofread, having it specially formatted [was important]. I designed both covers, but I sent them to a pro to have them finished properly. I sent the covers that I’d made and asked them to make them look professional. For Applause, there are three photographs on the front. I bought one from Getty, which was very expensive, but to me it’s of the three girls when they do ENSA. The photograph of the little girl – Margot as a child – is of my best friend back in London, Jane Munns, when she was about eight, and the photograph of Margot, perhaps after she’s finished in the West End, is me in The Mouse Trap in the 1990s. I love the picture of the Blitz behind and the red curtains. I knew exactly what I wanted. I went to see Cathy Helms at Avalon Graphics, who was brilliant. She said it was so much better to have an author who knew what they wanted! We worked so well together and what she came up with in the end was mind blowing.
    That’s good news for anyone writing a book at the moment – don’t be afraid of having your own ideas about the cover, don’t feel you have to hand it over to someone else. And if you have an idea in your head go with it, because you know your book better than anyone else. 
    Yes. I sent her a brief outline of the book. Finding Cathy Helms at Avalon Graphics was a godsend, and she was brilliant. As was the chap who did the Foxden Acres cover.
    You said you self-published the books. How did you go about doing that, because there are different platforms available?
    As I said, before I self-published I had them professionally proofread and laid out and a cover designed so anyone buying the books wouldn’t be disappointed. The first time I self-published I’d been to a talk on Lulu so I had the book uploaded to Lulu. In my opinion that was a mistake – Lulu is fantastic, the quality is fantastic but they are expensive. I’ve had 2000 Kindle downloads – and gosh I’m lucky – but I’ve only sold about 100 paperbacks and I’ve lost money on those because for me to buy them they’re about £8 and with postage I sell them for £8.99, which is competitive. [Both FA and Applause are now published by CreateSpace.] If there are two books and you don’t know which one to have and one is a Lulu one at £10.99 and the other is a CreateSpace book at £8.99, and you don’t know either author, you’re going to go for the cheaper one, aren’t you?
    How do the CreateSpace books compare with the Lulu ones?
    Fabulously. The other mistake I made with Lulu was I had a larger book. With CreateSpace I published at the 8×5 size and it sits nicely on the bookshelf with all the other books. I didn’t know when I first published Foxden Acres, which is now out as a CreateSpace book. I chose 8×5, cream paper and black print and I’m very happy with it.
    So you would recommend that other people looking to get their books printed go with CreateSpace?
    Personally I would. I only know Lulu and CreateSpace – the quality of both is good, but the price of CreateSpace is cheaper, and in this world we all want something that’s good, and if it’s less money that’s a bonus.
    Since publishing the two books have any exciting things happened as a result?
    Yes. Lots and lots of wonderful things.  Firstly self-publishing is very satisfying, it gives you confidence because you can actually watch the sales, you know people are reading your books, you can see the reviews and see people are enjoying it. It’s very empowering to self-publish. With Applause I didn’t even try for anything else. I had two literary agents interested and I didn’t even give them it, I wanted to do it myself. I’ve done book signings, and the local garden centre have invited me along to do a signing at a charity event they are holding for NOROS???? They thought they’d have to pay me to come along, but that’s not the case, and I will be giving them £1 from every book I sell. The WI asked me to go and talk too.
    When you self-publish a lot of time is spent every day on Twitter, Facebook and so on. Everyone is marvellous – they tweet about your books, you tweet about their books and your friendships grow, though it does take a lot of time. I’ve also used a site called Look For Books by Gary Walker. He has made me a couple of posters. One of them shows Shaftesbury Avenue in 1939, and one  theatre wall has the Applause cover and on another is the Foxden Acres cover. It’s all about sharing, tweeting other people’s books, attending other authors’ virtual book launches, giving away books – it’s all about getting your name out there when you’re a new author, and I now have a huge following of people interested in my books. It’s fantastic.
    I know the two books that are out are part of a series of four, so you already have a huge audience waiting for the next books to come out.
    Yes! I’m working on the next book at the moment. It’s called China Blue and it’s a love story set in France, involving the French Resistance, the Gestapo, the RAF and the SOE (Special Operations Executive). In Foxden Acres the Polish pilot taught Claire some German and some Polish and when she joined the WRENS they looked into this and asked her to learn French, as she has an ear for languages. Eventually she joins the SOE and is parachuted into France. It’s fascinating stuff, but it’s involved a lot of research – and it doesn’t matter how many people ask me when the next book is out, I’m not setting a deadline till I’ve got the book in my hand. You’ll be reading it first, as the proofreader!
    Excellent – perks of the job, definitely! So that’s the third book. Do you have any plans for the fourth one?
    Bletchley Secret … The fourth sister is called Irina, after my mother. My mother wasn’t at Bletchley, and the book is pure fiction, but this book will have some of my mother’s stories in it. Mum was in a factory in Lutterworth (Lowarth in the books) and she used to make tiny spot-welding things for machinery; she never knew where it went. She also used to degrease Magnetos as well – men didn’t want to do that because it was a nasty acid job, poisonous!
    There is going to be a fifth book – a tie-up book which will bring all four sisters together along with the lovely Goldmans from the London theatre, and a couple of the girls who worked with Margot, and perhaps one or two Land Girls who stayed behind, perhaps got married to a local farmer. I’m not sure yet. Everyone is brought together on New Year’s Eve 1948, which is ten years after the opening of Foxden Acres. What’s going to happen is the Foxden Acres land has been sold off, the Foxdens have moved and Bess has put back the gardens, the parkland and the lovely lake and it’s all as it was before the second world war. On the night of the opening, New Year’s Eve, everybody is there but there’s going to be somebody there who will get his comeuppance ….!
    That sounds fantastic, I can’t wait to read it! That sounds like the perfect way to end the series.
    I thought it needed something to end on … Actually I had no choice. One of the characters keeps coming into my head, waking me up in the night, and once I get the plot written down I won’t be woken up any more!
    Before we finish, what tips or advice would you like to pass on to other aspiring authors – about writing, publishing, the job of being an author?
    The job of being an author – people think it’s easy but it’s not. We might be able to speak 5,000 words in a conversation but there will only be about 1,500 words that will be interesting enough to put on paper and read. You do need to have a smattering of grammar, which I really didn’t have; my grammar is very old fashioned. Before anyone sets about writing, if they really want to do it they should take a writing course, perhaps at a local college. Because everyone can write but not everyone can write interestingly enough for someone to want to read.  I would also say read, read and read!!! When people said that to me I’d think, Oh no, I don’t want to read, I want to write! But you must read, and you must read better writers than yourself. When you start, that’s not difficult, but what I mean is don’t read your mates’ books. Read books you’re going to learn from – style, language and so on – because the more you read the better a writer you will be. It sounds odd, doesn’t it, because you’re not nicking stuff, it’s not plagiarism, it isn’t stealing anything. It’s basically getting into the mindset of being able to write in such a way that people want to read you. The thing about reading writers that aren’t good – and there are some out there – is that you pick up bad habits. I didn’t know the difference between good and bad writing when I started writing.
    The other thing is if you’re going to self-publish, make  sure you have a professional proofreader and a professional formatter if you can’t do that yourself. I thought I’d proofread Applause brilliantly but then someone pointed out that I had written Margaret two different ways. When I looked through it again there were so many errors that I sent it off to The Proof Fairy. I thought I might not have needed you, to be honest. Rubbish! Get a professional proofreader every time, and get a professional formatter, because there’s nothing worse than a badly edited or formatted book. Make sure your book is as good as any book on the shelves of WH Smith. Get yourself a fabulous book cover. You also need a catchy title – one or two words works well; long titles don’t do it for me personally. Somebody said the best thing about self-publishing is anyone can do it, and the worst thing about self-publishing is …
    Anybody can do it!
    Yes. You have to look at it in a professional way. You won’t make any money as you’re paying for services, but do it in a professional way. Don’t forget that your book represents years of your life. Foxden Acres was about 6 years of my life, and Applause was about 18 months. It ain’t a baby – get it out there and get people reading it. Let it go – but get it out there and make it the best you can.
    That is fantastic advice. I think that’s a great place to stop – get it out there and make it look the best you can. Madalyn Morgan, thank you so much for your time today.
    If you would like to find out more about Madalyn Morgan and her Dudley Sisters series of books, have a look at http://www.madalynmorgan.com/ or visit Amazon 

    Friday, 18 April 2014

    Easter Wishes - Love and Peace




    Happy Easter. 
    Flowers and eggs, love and peace.

    Let's try for peace.  
    If every ordinary person wanted peace, the governments couldn't warmonger.








    Monday, 7 April 2014

    Books and Life: Books on Billboards

    Amazing and clever.



    Books and Life: Books on Billboards: I thought the authors featured at Look 4 Books would like to see how their book covers would look on a billboard. Here are a few I ...

    Thursday, 3 April 2014

    Saharan dust ‘very high’ air pollution warning in London

    What a difference a day makes. 
     "Saharan dust prompts ‘very high’ air pollution warning." Or London in Victorian times.


    St. Paul's Cathedral April 3, 2014

    A Magnificent View of London from The Shard

    I had a FAB time in London yesterday. My friend Valerie is full of surprises. "Let's go somewhere nice for lunch to celebrate out birthdays," she said. (Mine was last week and Val's is next week.) "Let's go to the Oblix." Fine by me, I thought, I didn't know it, but Val knows some nice places, so... Nice? When we arrived at London Bridge and she pointed to The Shard I almost fainted. The Oblix restaurant is on the 32nd Floor and has the most spectacular views over my favourite city. The wine was lovely, the food was delicious, and waiters were good looking. Ooops! I meant the service was very good. And when we finished eating a young waiter filled our glasses and suggested we might like to drink our wine at a table by the window. We'd already quaffed our wine.  What he had given us, while we relaxed and took in the view, was complimentary.

    The Shard


    Here are some of the views from the oblix restaurant on level 32.

    Tower Bridge


    St. Paul's Cathedral 


    The Mobile and The Gherkin


    A working barge on the Thames. PO Tower in the distance 
    - and a view across London all the way to Primrose Hill


    Me sitting in the bar looking at the view of



    Parliament and Big Ben in the distance 

    Friday, 21 March 2014

    Which came first, a love of writing, or a love of animals?

    Contribution to Liz Hurst's Blog What fun.

    * Which came first, a love of writing, or a love of animals?


    Animals came before writing, but not before acting.  Let me explain.  My first cat adopted me just before I went to Drama College in London.  I had a hairdressing salon in Rugby and the girls who worked for me insisted I took in a scruffy little stray.  I said no, but by the time the girls had fed him for a couple of weeks, they had fallen in love with him and he had taken over my flat.  Toby Two-Shoes ended up living with my parents at the pub I grew up in, when I went off to London in 1974.  

    Susie Kit-Kat adopted me when I was an actress living in London

    My second cat, Susie Kit-Kat, was fifteen when she came to live with me.  I was an out-of-work actress and she had been orphaned when her mum of ninety-three died.  The lady was famous in South London after a court appearance for not paying her TV license.  She told the magistrates that she had enough money to pay the TV license, or feed her cats, but not both.  She chose to feed her cats.  Susie travelled with me to several repertory theatres.  She wasn’t much help when I was leaning lines though, she used to fall asleep.

    * Describe your pets.

    My first cat, Toby, was jet black with white front paws – hence the name Toby Two-shoes.  Susie was a tabby, very soft and very pretty with big eyes.  Her lips were strange.  Most of the time she looked as if she was smiling.  A regular feline visitor to my garden is, Blanca.  She disturbs my writing so much…  She stalks the fish in my pond, so I run out and shoo her off.  She is pure white with piercing blue eyes – and she is very cheeky.  She knows I would never hurt her, so she sits and stares me out.  Only when she decides to leave, does she slink off.    
    Blanca, hiding in my wildflower garden under the apple trees

    * Take me through your writing day.

    My day starts early.  I wake as soon as it is light, which is not so bad in the winter but in the summer, it can be too early.  However, it is as I’m waking up that I have my best ideas.  I have to write them down immediately.  Like dreams, they are very real at the time, but they quickly go out of your mind once you’re awake.
         Sometimes I'm bombarded with ideas for my next book before I’ve finished writing the current one.  I was line editing my second novel, Applause, for twelve hours a day.  Stupid I know, sitting at the computer for that long is bad for your legs.  However, two nights running I was kept awake by the plot of China Blue, the third book in the Dudley sisters saga,  which I haven’t started writing yet.   


    Editing Foxden Acres I had Applause wake me up.  Editing Applause I had China Blue wake me up.

    In the spring and summer, I make a cup of tea and switch on the computer.  While it warms up, I take my tea and walk round the garden.  I fill the birdbaths from the water butt, put down seeds for the birds and look at the fish.  One my garden creatures are happy I go back to the computer and, with a second cup of tea, check my emails, Facebook and Tweets, before opening my writing file.  Once I start writing it’s a cup of tea and a chat to the fish and frogs every couple of hours. 

    * How do your pets help or hinder the writing process, and/or inspire you?

    That is a good question.  They hinder and inspire in equal measure.  I was prone to being stressed, but my pets calm me.  Fish and frogs are fascinating to watch, which is relaxing.  On the other hand, if the weather is good, I am in and out of the garden all day, which is a hindrance.  In the summer, I eat my lunch outside so I can watch them.  By then the frogs are used to my voice and will sit and watch me as I am watching them.  

    Frog sunbathing on a lily pad

    The fish too are used to my shape and come for food.  But my favourite time is the end of my writing day.  Around six o’clock I sit and relax by the pond with a dish of olives and a glass of wine.  Perfect.  

    Shubunkin, goldfish, yellow and black tench.

    Summer is the best time for man and fish, except when you lose one.  I was heartbroken when I returned from Swanwick in August 2012 and found a beautiful red, silver and black, Shubunkin and two red goldfish were missing.  My neighbours saw a bird of prey in my garden and I guess it took them.  However, the good news is, last year I saw two tiny baby ‘black’ goldfish.  I can’t wait to see how much they have grown, if they survived the winter, which I’m sure they did.    

    In the winter, my workstation faces the garden and I spend far too much time gazing out the window at the birds.  I hang suet balls, seed, and nut feeders in the trees for the tits and sparrows, throw seeds on the steps for the ground eaters like Robins and other small birds, and put currents and apples out for the blackbirds.  Two beautiful little doves visit every day and what they don’t eat the pigeons see off.  I love my garden, my birds and my fish and frogs.  I never tire of watching them – and I never tire of writing.
         Popping in and out several times, a day is good for a writer.  I spent far too many hours at the computer without taking a break, while I edited Foxden Acres and then Applause, and had extremely painful legs as a consequence.  Writers need to get up every hour or so and move about. 

    Thanks Liz.  I enjoyed answering your questions.  I love my pets, but I didn’t realise how important they were to me as a writer.  I’m off now to make a cup of tea and have a walk round the garden before I settle down for the afternoon to write.