Publication Day!

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Back in May 2017 I was on a six-month motorhoming trip around Europe with my husband. We’d reached Sicily and were sitting in a campsite restaurant one evening, when we began talking through ideas for my next novel. I’d just finished a round of edits for The Drowned Village and was ready to start work on something else. I had this vague idea I wanted to do something around the Irish war of independence, and that my contemporary character would uncover a cache of old guns under a barn – that would be the trigger to set her off researching the past.

We sat in that restaurant and began thrashing out ideas. My husband’s Irish so of course he knew a lot more than me about this period in history. I jotted down a load of notes, kept mulling it over for the next week or two and ended up with a plan for the novel that eventually (after several title changes!) became The Forgotten Secret.

This one turned out to be the most difficult to date to write. Partly because I didn’t do enough research before starting to write. Partly because for some reason I wrote most of the contemporary storyline before the historical (usually I do them the other way round, so at least I know what happened in the past, and know what my contemporary character needs to discover). And partly because hitting the right note for the historical story was tricky. I wanted the novel to illustrate the premise that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. But I didn’t want it to be overly political or partisan.

I think I got the balance right. Early reviews are positive. I hope everyone enjoys this novel, and do let me know what you think of it!

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Publication looms and a lovely review

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Just a week – actually less! – till publication of The Forgotten Secret. It has been gathering some lovely early reviews on Netgalley and Goodreads, so I hope it’s going to do well and be enjoyed by many people. One thing early reviewers have said is that they learned some Irish history from it, and appreciated the brief historical notes at the start of the book. I had to do a lot of research for this one, to get the history right and yet not overwhelm the reader with it. So far it sounds like I found the right balance.

In other news, the Historical Novels Society have featured The Drowned Village in their latest batch of reviews. Really pleased with this one! I keep meaning to join the HNS. One day I will!

 

100th anniversary

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Today, 21st January 2019, is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the first Dáil – Ireland’s parliament. The Dáil was not recognised by Britain, and thus the Irish war of independence began.

The war ended in 1921 with a signing of a treaty that split six counties of Ulster away from the rest of Ireland – creating what we now know as Northern Ireland (although those in the republic tend to refer to it simply as ‘the north’).

Many in Ireland were not happy about that treaty, and civil war ensued (1922-3) between the pro and anti-treaty forces.

And of course some anti-treaty forces (the IRA) continued fighting over the decades until the Good Friday Agreement finally brought peace in 1998. (Peace that Brexit may endanger, but this isn’t supposed to be a political post so let’s not go there!)

My new book, currently available for preorder, is partly set during the war of 1919-21, telling the story of Ellen, young and in love with an idealistic Republican fighter. In the present day, Clare inherits a farmhouse in county Meath, and discovers long-forgotten secrets that allow her to unearth Ellen and Jimmy’s story…

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Happy New Year!

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I should first say a belated happy Christmas. Sorry for the lack of a Christmas post – we had a family bereavement in December, a funeral in Ireland, and then were away on a skiing trip for Christmas week. All of which gets in the way of blogging.

But here we are, in 2019, at the start of what I hope will be a great year for everyone.

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It’s certainly going to be a year of change for me, as I give up the day job in mid February and concentrate on my career as a novelist. I’m currently getting a novel ready to submit to my editor and beta readers – hope to send it next week. I have a stack of new ideas waiting to be worked on – never any shortage of ideas!

At this time of year I always like to look back on what I’ve achieved in the previous year and make some goals for the coming year. Here are last year’s goals which were essentially to complete The Forgotten Secret (done! Coming out on 1st March!); complete a draft of another novel (done! The Stationmaster’s Daughter is the one I’m about to submit to my editor); lose a few kilos and get a bit fitter (done, but put them on again and lost the fitness, isn’t that always the way?); and begin reducing the amount of junk in the house (made a start but didn’t get far).

And my goals for this year:

  • Get The Stationmaster’s Daughter ready for publication
  • Write two further novels (with no day job I ought to be able to!)
  • Work on thinning down the amount of stuff in the house, so that in a year or so we can downsize
  • Go travelling in our motorhome Gertie for a couple of months
  • Make the most of my time, and basically enjoy life!

Finally – The Drowned Village is now on a Kindle promotion in the UK, selling at just 99p. Grab yourselves a bargain – the perfect antidote to a New Year hangover!

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So, happy New Year to everyone, thanks for all the support in 2018 and may 2019 be a year of happiness and prosperity for you all. Cheers!

 

 

Taking the leap

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I’ve worked for the retailer John Lewis for over 30 years, almost all of it in IT: designing, building and supporting the many computer systems needed to keep a retailer of this size functioning smoothly and profitably.

For the last four years, I’ve effectively had two jobs – the IT one and the writing one. It’s been hard to fit writing around the day job, and I’m fed up with the juggling act. Time to drop one job and focus on the other.

Three weeks ago I handed in my notice, and I am due to leave in mid-February. Valentine’s Day, to be precise, will be my last day. I’m not old enough (quite) to take my pension so will live off savings, writing income and then in a couple of year’s time, my SIPP.

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Today I told the team I work with about my decision. They’re pleased for me, some are shocked and sad I’m going, some are excited for my future, some are figuring out how to persuade me to stay (6 months paid holiday every year and a 100% pay rise might tempt me…)

It’s a big move. A big change. I’ve been a Partner, as JL employees are known, for well over half my life. I’ve been to an extent defined by my job. On applications for credit cards, mortgages etc under Occupation I’ve put ‘IT Professional’ or ‘IT Technical Analyst’ for so many years.

But next time, I’ll write ‘Novelist’, and I will so enjoy that moment.  (Yeah yeah I get that it means I might not qualify for the credit card or loan or whatever due to the unpredictable income but hey.)

I’m planning to spend the next 30 years writing novels, to balance the time I spent in IT.  Wish me luck!

The Forgotten Secret

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Cover from Amazon

Here it is! My new book, The Forgotten Secret. Set in Ireland during the war of independence, and in the present day. Here’s the blurb:

Can she unlock the mysteries of the past?

A country at war

It’s the summer of 1919 and Ellen O’Brien has her whole life ahead of her. Young, in love and leaving home for her first job, the future seems full of shining possibility. But war is brewing and before long, Ellen and everyone around her are swept up by it. As Ireland is torn apart by the turmoil, Ellen finds herself facing the ultimate test of love and loyalty.

A long-buried secret

A hundred years later and Clare Farrell has inherited a dilapidated old farmhouse in County Meath. Seizing the chance to escape her unhappy marriage she strikes out on her own for the first time, hoping the old building might also provide clues to her family’s shadowy history. As she sets out to put the place – and herself – back to rights, she stumbles across a long-forgotten hiding place, with a clue to a secret that has lain buried for decades.

For fans of Kate Morton and Gill Paul comes an unforgettable novel about two women fighting for independence.

And here’s the Amazon links to preorder: UK   US  

This was the most difficult book I’ve ever written but probably the one I am most proud of. It will be released as an ebook on March 1st 2019, and in paperback later in May. I can’t wait to find out what readers think of it!

 

 

 

More drowned villages!

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I’m building up quite a collection of links to stories about drowned villages reappearing after long droughts. Here’s another one – Derwent under Ladybower reservoir which is visible now, though is pretty muddy. Some poor chap got stuck in the mud and had to be rescued. My characters in The Drowned Village thankfully did not get stuck (oops, spoiler!)

Edited 25th November – sadly it seems someone’s vandalised Derwent, while it was exposed… 

And here’s a lovely bit of video of a drowned village that’s still underwater, set to haunting music. Watch out for the gravestones.

 

They shall not grow old

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The sun was shining in Bournemouth this morning, the 11th November 2018, one hundred years since the signing of the Armistice agreement that ended the first world war. On a spur of the moment decision I decided to get on my bike and cycle to the town centre, in time for the Remembrance Day parade.  Bournemouth always hosts a parade, of war veterans, marching bands, Cadets, Scouts and Guides. The remembrance service is held in the town’s Middle Gardens, beside the war memorial.

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I have been to many remembrance day parades over the years. From when I was a child and teenager in Brownies and Guides, to being the mum of two sons who went through the Scout movement.  I’ve stood in the same spot I was in today, accompanying the parade, sometimes in pouring rain with only a handful of veterans and other Scout mums watching.

The turnout today was very different. I guess the weather helped – but there were certainly more marching than I’ve ever seen through streets closed to traffic, and many, many more ordinary people following, trying to find vantage points from where they could listen to the service.

Time, like an ever-rolling stream bears all its sons away;

They fly forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.

It was, as always, very moving. I can’t hear the Last Post without a tear in my eye. The start and end of the two minute silence was announced by the firing of a large gun, which caused all the local bird population, all the pigeons and starlings, to take to the air. So during the silence the sky was filled with birds wheeling around like souls of lost servicemen. The only sound was that of a baby’s innocent crying – a member of a generation who I hope will never know war or fear or want.

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The service was multi-denominational, with readings from several different churches, Rabbis and non-religious leaders. Its message was that of the continuous need to strive for peace.

Peace begins with respect. If we cannot accept a world of human difference we will never enjoy a world of peace.

Peace needs co-operation. If we realise that most of what we desire cannot be secured by ourselves alone we will cultivate friendship.

Let our tribute to those of all beliefs who have suffered and died in conflict be our resolve to work for peace.

(The words quoted above were part of a reading on behalf of the Defence Humanists for non-religious people in the armed forces.)

At the risk of alienating some blog-readers by ending this post on a slightly political note, I could not help but think about the aims of the EU, as stated in the Lisbon treaty. Its number one goal is to “promote peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples”.

Instagram

I have bravely decided to open an Instagram account. I am @kathleenmcgurl there if you use the platform and want to follow me. I have absolutely no idea how to use it as yet!

Added three pics just so my profile isn’t completely empty.