Category: Time Heal my Heart

The Rivalry of Sisters

The Rivalry of Sisters

‘Of all the gifts great and small, a sister is the greatest of them all.’ So, the saying goes and for many of us, this rings true. But history abounds with famous sisters who don’t exactly get along. First up, there are the famous biblical sisters like Rachel and Leah. These two exemplify the problem of sibling rivalry so often part of biblical stories. Rachel and Leah both have to share the man they love, Jacob. He first loved and married Rachel but she was unable to have children, so he took Leah to bed as well to bear his children. Imagine Rachel’s pain at this development. It is an untenable position.

The rivalry of the Boleyn Sisters

Moving forward, there are the beautiful Boleyn sisters who both wanted to marry the same man, Henry VIII. Quite a bad choice really as Anne literally lost her head in 1536 over that man. She lives on as one of Britain’s most famous ghosts while Mary sleeps on peacefully in her grave. Anne’s ghost is reportedly seen in many places around London and beyond including the Tower of London, Hampton Court and Hever castle. She was not ready to die and especially in not such a horrible way, deceived by her love. Her sister was a more reliable support to her despite the jealousy.

The rivalry of the Queen and Princess Margaret

Other royal sisters, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret shared a special sister bond but for Margaret the younger, it was not all plain sailing. Having a big sister who is also the queen of England was not easy. Margaret could not marry the man she wanted because he was divorced. She needed the Church of England’s and Elizabeth’s approval and it was not at first given. But in fact, the Queen and Eden drew up a plan in 1955 under which Princess Margaret could marry Peter Townsend while keeping her royal title and her civil list allowance. She could live in this country and even continue with public duties but she had to renounce succession as a royal princess. Read all about this here. 

Margaret ultimately, after much thought, decided to not marry Peter and married Anthony Armstrong Jones instead.  She did not have a happy marriage or life but kept the close bond to her older sister, Queen Elizabeth.

Though they had issues when Margaret wanted to marry a divorced commoner, they put this aside to maintain their special bond through life. After all it cannot be easy being the younger sister of a queen. So great was the love of Margaret for her big sister that she opted for her own cremation so there would be room in the family vault for Elizabeth and Philip one day and so she could be near her parents. Her ashes lie in the King George VI Memorial Chapel alongside her sister and the Duke of Edinburgh and her parents.

The Romanov Sisters

Recently, I have posted about the Romanov sisters. They were also royalty and suffered a terrible fate because of their status. Read about these beautiful young grand duchesses in my recent posts on the Russian royal family and these tragic sisters. They seemed to get along well but Anastasia the youngest may have been a bit of a brat. She was the naughtiest of the mostly very well behaved and family orientated sisters.

Rivalry between writing sisters

The arts abounds with famous sisters. The Bronte sisters, Anne, Charlotte and Emily shared a love of writing. maybe they shared a sense of rivalry as to who could write the best story? I know it was Agatha Christie’s big sister madge who challenged Agatha to write a crime novel. She did well, didn’t she. Writing over 80 novels and stories as well as plays, Agatha Christie became the most read and published novelist of all time.

I love the fictional sisters of Little Women and how they mostly got along just fine for four sisters with different temperaments. There are hints at jealousy and competitiveness but nothing too savage happens. maybe because it is fiction. But not all sisters have happy relationships. No one can be more annoying than a little sister trying to take the limelight or steal your boyfriend. Jealousy is a big issue that often ignites a lifetime of rivalry.

Movie Star rival sisters

In the case of movie star sisters, Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland, the enmity was fierce. They competed at star level and never softened their fierce jealousy of each other.

The Olsen twins, Mary Kate and Ashley made their acting debut while babies. They share an even more special sister bond, that of twins. Venus and Serena Williams are sisters at a unique competitive level, that of gold medals. They mostly leave their rivalry on the courts. Then there’s the Kardashian sisters competing for the best curves.

Have you heard of Zsa Zsa  and Eva Gabor? They were two sisters out of a trio of Hungarian born sisters. Magda is lesser known though she married actor, George Sanders, her little sister’s cast-off husband. Zsa Zsa, the middle sister competed with Eva for men, money and beauty. Though the sisters married multiple times, Zsa Zsa was the only one to have a child. The Gabor sister act was an act to follow in the 1940’s and 50’s. They were always in the news, a bit like the Kardashians of today.

In the 1930s, The Andrews Sisters, Patty, Maxene and Laverne were another sister trio, a singing group famous for ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’ and other swing hits during WWII. They rated as the best-selling of all female vocal groups. Despite singing beautifully together and selling 75 million records, they started a fight in 1937 though they stayed as an act until 1967 when Laverne died.

Birth order and rivalry of sisters

Birth order does seem to have an effect on how sisters get along. The order of birth also is said to determine the personality of a child. First born children are usually more sensible, calm and conservative compared to their younger sisters. This is because their parents often spend more time on the discipline side of parenting. Later children meet laxer parenting as the parents run out of puff with a larger brood to control. Little sisters often get to do things their older sisters could not at the same age. this explains the claim that little sisters are spoilt.

As a a younger sister, I can see this. My sister claims I was spoilt and she had a tougher time. However, I have always looked up to my big sister and listened to her advice. I even wrote her into my first book as a character! Whispers Through Time also tells the story of two sisters, my grandmother and great aunt who emigrated to Australia in 1912. They had a special bond through life though their lives took different directions. One married an itinerant worker and the other a rich doctor, but they stayed connected through their shared ordeals during World War One and Two.

In the third book in this series, Last Time Forever, a sense of rivalry that must always have been there, rises to the fore. The sisters have a falling out later in life. Watch out for this last book in the sister trilogy. It’s at the publishers now. But meanwhile if you like stories of sisters and historical fiction, read the others, Whispers through Time and Time, heal my Heart. 

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels: Whispers through Time, The Last Hotel Colour Comes to Tangles and her latest historical WWI drama, Time Heal my Heart. Joni has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.

Photo from Unsplash.

 

 

Romanovs, Rasputin and the Russian Revolution

Romanovs, Rasputin and the Russian Revolution

Queen Victoria of Britain had nine children and most of them married into the royal families of Europe. This was normal in the 1800s as marriage with commoners was not allowed so the royal families interbred. But such inbreeding led to the persistence or magnification of bad genetic traits. One such genetic defect in Victoria’s line was the gene part (called an allele) that codes for hemophilia, a rare blood clotting condition. This inherited disease passed through her descendants either via female carriers or affected males. The incidence of hemophilia in the Romanov royal family was one of the contributing factors to the Russian Revolution of 1917. Let’s examine this fascinating topic of Romanovs, Rasputin and the Russian Revolution. It has a lot to do with hemophilia which will be explained below so keep reading.

Hemophilia and the Romanovs

Alexei, the tsarevitch and only son of Romanov tsar Nicholas II of Russia had this game changing hemophilia gene defect. Because of this he was destined to a short life of restricted activity lest he bleed to death from an injury. His four older sisters, the grand duchesses, Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia being girls, did not have the disease though they possibly were carriers of it. Historian, Helen Rappaport eludes to this in her brilliant books. Modern DNA analysis of the duchesses remains reveal that only Anastatia was a carrier. The gene lottery was more kind to the daughters than the son. The chance of being a carrier if your mother is one is 50% yet three of the girls escaped being carriers purely by chance.

It all started with Victoria it seems. It is important to know that females have two X chromosomes to determine gender and males have an X and a Y. Therefore, females are denoted by XX and males by XY. Variations to this pattern are very rare.

Hemophilia is caused by a gene mutation

Victoria carried a gene mutation on one of her X chromosomes that can cause hemophilia to be expressed. A gene mutation is an accidental change in the genetic code of an individual. It can occur during the copying of genes as the cells multiply and most of the time these small changes do not affect anything adversely. However, if a mutation affects the coding or instructions for an enzyme or metabolic factor this mutation can be deadly for the person who has or inherits the mutated gene code. In the case of hemophilia, the gene alteration prevented adequate production of clotting factor 8 and 9 which are essential for the body’s response to a hemorrhage of any magnitude.

The gene mutation for hemophilia is on the X chromosome

Such was the case for Queen Victoria’s mutation. How it occurred no one knows. She may have inherited this genetic alteration from a parent or happened first in her gene code. It was only noticed after the event when one of her sons, Prince Frederick started having blood clotting issues. Because the defect for the gene determining the clotting factor 8 was on one of her two X chromosomes and is a recessive ie not dominant allele, her other normal X chromosome masked the defect. Queen Victoria consequently did not suffer from the disease. Females with the defective X chromosome do not have hemophilia.

In the late 19th century, genetic science was in its infancy. The occurrence of this gene mutation had been noticed because it was in the royal family. From then on the royal families of Europe were watchful for its appearance in their sons. With the line of succession usually via the male descendants this was a worry. Victoria only became queen because there were no male descendants to take the throne.

The need for a male heir for the Romanovs

Male gender-based succession has led to many lives lost throughout history. There are those who killed to get the throne or kings like Henry VIII who killed his wives because they could not give him a male heir. Then there was the War of the Roses where everyone killed everyone for hundreds of years just to secure royal succession. Much blood was shed. But for one small boy in Russia last century, no blood could be shed. Alexei’s blood could not clot and allow the smallest wound to heal. Yet he was the boy who was destined to inherit his father’s tsardom.

Clotting factor 8 is the essential factor which allows wounds to heal so if it can’t be made by the body, the individual’s wounds no matter how small cannot heal. As well, any falls or bumps can cause internal bleeding which also can be fatal. Such was the fate of little Alexei the heir to the Russian throne.

It is doubly tragic that his parents anguished about not having a male heir for many years before he was finally born. Alexandra his mother had four normal healthy daughters over a ten year interval before he was finally born. A boy! The whole of Russia celebrated. The Imperial dynasty of 300 years could continue now. Nicholas’s brother the standing heir stood aside now Nicholas finally had a son.

But it was only days before Nicholas and Alexandra knew their new baby had health issues. His umbilical cord was still bleeding days after the birth. The dreaded royal disease had raised its head again. Already the two young sons of King Alfonso of Spain had inherited hemophilia. Alexandra realized she had passed the fatal gene onto her son. She was a carrier through her mother, Princess Alice of Hesse. Alexandra’s brother had the disease.

Hemophilia occurs in the Romanov male heir

The hemophilia gene mutation is recessive and only expressed if there is no other normal X chromosome to mask it. As males have  an XY chromosome make up not XX as females do, the faulty X chromosome from their mother Victoria expressed itself in Victoria’s sons not her daughters. Prince Leopold inherited this fault and had hemophilia and Princess Alice and Beatrice inherited the faulty X trait but because they had another X chromosome from their father that was normal the hemophilia was masked, and they were carriers not affected by hemophilia themselves.

The defect in their beautiful baby son had to be hidden. If the Russian population knew then the tsardom was in peril. Already there was trouble brewing. The people were poor and hungry, and Nicholas and Alexandra were distant, autocratic and lacking in empathy with their citizens. Alexandra as a German princess bride had been unpopular from the start. But Nicholas had married for love not politics. But politics can be ugly and turn on unpopular monarchs. The Russian people did not like Alexandra, the tsar’s wife. This and the poor health of the tsarevitch contributed to the failure to save the Romanovs.

The hemophilia of the Romanov son had to be kept a secret

Alexandra was an introverted, cold woman in public yet at home she was an adoring mother and wife. Really both Nicholas and Alexandra were unsuited for their royal roles. They were homely, family orientated couple wrapped up in each other and their children but negligent of their duties in the royal dynasty.

Alexandra withdrew more from public life as she protected her little son and hid his defect from the world. Even other royal cousins did not know as Russia could not know. She must have realized that even if she could by chance have another son, he too could be affected by the disease. The chance of another son being affected was 50%. Hemophilia had struck twice in Spain’s royal family. There was no certainty that the genetic lottery would spare any future Romanov sons. Besides, Alexandra had already born five children and was not a well woman herself. She suffered sciatica, circulation issues and heart problems. Often she would stay in bed for days or weeks. Her mauve boudoir at the Summer Palace in Petrograd was the centre of her existence.

Rasputin, the infamous monk

The family rarely left the palace grounds to mix with the people or travel abroad. When WWI erupted life became more difficult. She was of German origin and Russia was at war with Germany. Plus, her little son was often ill from bruising due to falls. In desperation for help she sought the services of Grigory Rasputin, the mystical monk with healing powers. His inclusion in the royal household made her even less popular with the Russian people.

Russian Revolution

In 1917, while the war raged, the Russian people had enough of their autocratic, uncaring tsar and his wife. There was a revolt and Nicholas reluctantly abdicated. Alexandra was furious. She was not there when he signed the papers and would have stopped him. Stronger than him mentally, she believed in the dynasty and their rights of succession. Nicholas was weak and not a born ruler. His focus was on his family not his country. But because of his abdication and the ensuing politics, his family would pay the ultimate price.

If their little son had not been so delicate, would the Romanov dynasty been able to survive? The occurrence of hemophilia in the one Romanov child who needed to be robust was a tragedy. It was one of the factors in the dynastic and family tragedy of the Romanovs.

To learn more read my linked Romanov article just above or on my blog joniscottauthor.com. Helen Rappaport’s books on the Romanovs are also wonderful informative reading.

Why didn’t anyone save the Romanovs?

Why didn’t anyone save the Romanovs?

The Romanovs were the last of the Imperial royal family of Russia. They were most cruelly assassinated in July 1918 and their bodies thrown into a ditch. If you didn’t already know, the family consisted of the former Tsar Nicholas II, the Tsarina Alexandra and their five children. The oldest four children were all girls named in order of birth Olga, Tatiana, maria and Anastasia. The youngest child was the heir or Tsarevich, Alexey just fourteen at the time of his murder by the then Bolshevik government. Mowed down in a hail of bullets, their bodies thrown without reverence or ceremony into a ditch to rot. Why didn’t anyone save the Romanovs? Helen Rappaport explores this in her fascinating book, The Race to Save the Romanovs. 

Since I am enjoying this book, I thought to share the read with you. I know it is a little off topic to my usual but not so far from my latest WWI novel, Time Heal my Heart. the Russian Revolution happened during WWI.

Deposed from 300 years of Royalty.

Noone deserves this fate, especially those born into royalty who had served their country whether adequately or not. This last Imperial family represented 300 years of glorious dynastic rule over vast lands and palaces. But the politics turned against the Tsar and the Tsarina particularly. She was a German princess of Hesse married to Nicholas to secure European alliances. When WWI broke out in 1914 her German connections were not as appreciated by Russians as Russia was on the side of Britain and France and Germany the enemy.

Alexandra the unpopular Tsarina

Adding to this unpopularity was the fact that Alexandra had become obsessed with Rasputin the monk. He was moved into the royal palace to supposedly cure her son of his hemophilia. This genetically transmitted disease was the blight of the family’s happiness. As the only son and promised heir of Russia, this disease made life difficult and precarious. Alexey at any time could bleed to death from any injury that drew blood. His body could not produce the clotting factor necessary to stop a flow of blood like normal people. Hence, he spent his childhood almost literally wrapped in cotton wool. His mother Alexandra fussed and cosseted over him to the neglect of her more robust daughters.

Four daughters and a sickly heir

As a result, these four young girls lived a protected and seemingly dull domestic life within the golden Alexander palace in Petrograd. It was not only their brother who was often ill and poorly but in time their mother too. She suffered from heart issues, sciatica and other health problems that took her to bed for weeks at a time. So, despite her youth, she was an absent mother and perhaps wife as well.

Nicholas II in contrast was slim and reasonably healthy and of a gentle kindly disposition. He was not an aggressive nor militant man so was not a born leader. he preferred the domestic life, loved his family and nature. A quiet life in the countryside would have suited him fine. But he was born into royalty so had to be seen to be active in the affairs of his country. Behind their impressive facade of grandeur, the Imperial family of Russia was like any other loving family with five children. They wanted to enjoy each other’s company and live a quiet and happy life.

Revolution and abdication

When civil revolution erupted during WWI, he seemed too easily convinced to abdicate. But by signing the waver to his royal position he unwittingly signed the death penalty for himself and his beloved family. If any of the two, Alexandra had more ambitions. She was born into an autocratic German family and was not one to embrace the common people. As such she was as distant a royal as she was a mother. The Russian people did not like her.

Royal cousins

Tsar Nicholas however was a royal grandson of Queen Victoria. he had grown up with his royal cousins in a less grand atmosphere.  He was close to his British cousins, especially the boy who would become King George V of Britain. They even looked alike and were often mistaken as brothers. Another cousin who was not as well liked was Wilhem of Germany who would become Kaiser Wilhem and a thorn in their sides over the years to come. His ambition and militarism would feed into the progress of the two world wars.

In contrast George V and Nicholas were gentler souls, perhaps ill-suited for their adult roles pitted against the might of Germany and their royal cousin. With regards to possible saviours for the Tsar and his family, history indicates that George V was best positioned for this role. But there were others. Supporters or monarchists within Russia, Alfonso of Spain, Chritian of Denmark and even Wilhem II himself. Why didn’t anyone save the Romanovs?

Politics is a deadly game

The simplest answer to this question is that politics is a deadly game. All the people who could help the Tsar were enmeshed in a web of politics that made any rescue attempt either deadly or suicidal politically. The timing of the revolution in 1917 could not have been worse. Europe was in the grip of war. Britain and France needed Russia on their side to win against Germany. If either of these two countries appeared to be on the side of the old Russian regime then the new Russia could withdraw support. This is mainly why both Britain and France decided not to help. Added to this was their concern over revolt within their population. Fascists and socialists abounded and assisting the old Russian regime would inflame tensions within Britain and France.

Neutral Spain to the rescue?

Then what about King Alfonso of Spain? His country was neutral, could not he have intervened? After all he was another royal cousin descended from Queen Victoria and besides his two young sons also had hemophilia. They must have had an affinity over this royal disease that affected male progeny. But though Alfonso thought long and hard over this issue, he too settled for inaction. His concerns were similar. The socialists and fascists who could turn nasty (and they did in the later Civil War in 1936) could affect his popularity and destabilize the government.

Failure to act

Meanwhile while cousins failed to act, The Tsar and his family were moved further away from the rest of Europe into Western Siberia to a dismal place called Tobolsk. The time to act had passed. From Petrograd especially soon after the abdication would have been best. The Russian people had not yet turned their backs on the family, nor had the new government. Rescue was talked about. There was a way by sea to Finland if the family could be transported by rail past Petrograd. But water exits had to be before ice set in and this chance was missed as the months passed and winter set in.

Britain made a tentative offer via George V in these early days of 1917 but then later took it back due to the British government pressure. The German Alexandra would not be welcome in Britain, tensions would flare, and various other excuses swayed George’s mind. By then forces within the new government were in place to move the family west to Siberia. Out of sight, out of mind mentality.

Escape Options

There, in a rundown government house, the family of seven resided until July 1918 under guard watch. From this location, there was also chances of escape. Roads were mostly impassable, and a rail head was 132 miles away, so water was a better route. A boat down river towards ports that could lead to the sea and a number of possible destinations. The Arctic Ocean and Archangel lay beyond. Bergen in Norway was another option as there was a Norwegian shipper who was willing to help.

A Bergen to Aberdeen escape route had been under British consideration in 1917 before the offer to help was withdrawn. Some Bergen ships operated under British control, so this could have worked once the family were free of Russia. But getting out of Russia was the problem as then, in 1917, the family were near Petrograd which was heavily under government control. Any rail link connection entailed passing through the city first.  Another port often considered was that of Murmansk. But this too was a fantasy as this supposedly ice-free port is not really always ice free. Also, its fleet of ships was not exactly a fleet but an old battleship, a cruiser and some fishing trawlers. Plus, German submarines patrolled the waterways and icebergs also abounded to add to the danger.

Why didn’t Kaiser Wilhelm save his cousin?

Of all the royal cousins who could have helped, the one with most power was Wilhelm himself. Word from him in his immense position of power could have saved the family. Why did he not act in sympathy? They were family after all. Wilhelm was even Alexey’s godfather. But no, help was not forthcoming in 1918 either. By then Russia had conceded to Germany in a peace pact and this involved the division of Russia into four governance regions that would serve industrial Germany. Any concessions to a previous monarchy would contravene this treaty. Monarchists could raise the Tsar or his son back to power.

No, Wilhelm did not help. By mid 1918 it was too late anyway. The Russian government with all its powerful bodies, lenin included did not care to meddle with saving the old regime in any way. Turning their back on humanity, they let the status quo sign the death warrants for the ill-fated family, children and all. Nobody helped the once loved royal Romanovs. In July 1918, they were beyond hope.

Joni Scott is an Australian author who blogs about history on her website joniscottauthor.com. Her books are historical and contemporary and based on true stories.

The Spontaneous Christmas Ceasefire of 1914.

The Spontaneous Christmas Ceasefire of 1914.

A ceasefire is a situation where both sides in a conflict down their weapons and cease hostilities. Ceasefires can be short or long. The recent Gaza/ Israel ceasefire was a short one as was the Christmas ceasefire of the 1914 Great War conflict. However, unlike the Middle Eastern ceasefire, the 1914 one was spontaneous not prearranged. The spontaneous Christmas ceasefire of 1914 was an act of daring but also one of humanity.

Christmas Truce

Christmas Truce Photo from Brittanica.
World War One
 WWI started as a war confined to Europe but later would involve more countries as they took sides and sent troops to the conflict. It lasted from the summer of 1914 to late 1918 when Germany reluctantly admitted defeat. Many millions of civilians and soldiers died and many more would die after the war as The Spanish Flu outbreak spread worldwide with repatriating troops.
But by December 1914, it all was all just a few months into this brutal war that was promised to end all wars. Women had waved goodbye to sons, brothers and husbands in a wave of patriotism. ‘Don’t worry, I will be home for Christmas’ the men and boys had promised. There was no age check. Some lads were only fourteen. They like all the others would be lucky to survive the horrors ahead. Read such a story based on true lives in my historical fiction family saga Time Heal my Heart.
It was not over by Christmas

However, by this December in 1914, the reality of trench warfare had already descended on the troops. Weeks of heavy rain had turned the trenches and the No Man’s Land between them into mud. For the men on the Western Front, daily life was miserable for soldiers of both sides in the war.  Troops and their enemies were separated by only the small distance called No Man’s Land . This was only about 50 metres. It was called No Man’s Land because usually no man would dare go there for fear of his life. Even raising your head above the parapet of the trench could be fatal.The men in the trenches had seen battle, seen their friends die in front of them. It was not what they thought war would be like. It was not going to be over by Christmas as they had been promised. 

The ceasefire on Christmas Eve 1914

It all started five months after war’s outbreak on Christmas Eve 1914 along two thirds of a 30 km stretch of The Western Front. British troops in their trench heard the nearby German troops in their trench singing a Christmas carol in German. But the tune, whatever the language, is often the same so it was recognisable. To add to the spirit of this unexpected event, there were fir trees and lanterns visible along the German trench edge. In a midst of this brutal war how did this happen?

The spirit of Christmas cheer encouraged soldiers from both sides to call out to each other. No one dared raise their heads above the trench parapet for fear of death. Normally, stepping out of the trench was pure suicide. But one German soldier dared to suggest this.

Tomorrow, we no shoot, you no shoot,’

‘Tomorrow, we no shoot, you no shoot,’ he called out in English. Someone on the British side agreed. Tomorrow was Christmas after all. Why not, we could all be dead the day after. Life was fleeting in times of war and although everyone had promised the war would be over by Christmas, that now seemed a hollow promise.

There had been brief ceasefires before for each side to retrieve their fallen comrades from No-man’s land between the trenches. But this was different and lasted two days not just a few hours. This was a while considering the brutality of this war. On that long ago Christmas morning, the Germans emerged from their squalid muddy trench singing and bearing small gifts such as food and cigarettes. The British trusting this was not trickery, slowly raised their heads and then tentatively crawled from their trench too.

A miracle at Christmas

Hands were outstretched in friendship, gifts exchanged. It was a miracle at Christmas. The enemy were just like us. Human. Then from the German trench someone threw a football, and the game was on. Not a serious one, just a kick around in the thirty-yard space called No-man’s land. This incredible time of comradery was documented by soldiers from both sides and the photos live on as a witness to the event.

The soldiers, a few hundred in total, might have hoped that this was war end. Could this act of humanity end the war and create a permanent ceasefire. Then everyone could go home to their families and celebrate New Year.

But it was not to be. The pause in fighting was not planned nor universally observed. It had been pure spontaneous humanity at work in the hearts of men.  No commanders on either side had sanctioned such an act nor would they. Once the authorities heard of this event, they were furious and ordered a resumption of fighting. Those who refused would be shot. This news was tough to hear. It meant the soldiers had no choice. Shoot or be shot.

What carol did they sing?

Reports identify Silent Night as the carol initially sung by the German soldier in the trench. In his book on the truce, historian Stanley Weintraub identifies the singer as Walter Kirchhoff, a German Officer and sometime member of the Berlin Opera. Kirchhoff’s singing of the carol in both German and English is credited with encouraging the exchange of songs, greetings and gifts between the opposing soldiers.

Other ceasefires of WWI

There were other ceasefires during World War I, but none became famous like the Christmas ceasefire of 1914. In 1915 there was a brief one on the Eastern Front between German and Russian troops.

Ceasefires in wars allow for the retrieval of dead and wounded men. Also, in 1916 there was one on the Macedonian front to allow for the exchange of prisoners. Then again in 1917 a ceasefire was declared on the Italian front for similar reasons of retrieval of dead and wounded. There were also a few attempts at Easter ceasefires as well but they were short lived as not all troops dropped their weapons. Ceasefires have to be bilateral otherwise it is suicide for soldiers. None of these ceasefires however were for as long or as widespread as the Christmas ceasefire of 1914.

If you like real stories of families of this time in history, you may like my historical novels based on the true experiences of my grandfather, great uncle and their families set prior and during these WWI years. Whispers through Time and Time Heal my Heart tell their story. Discover these and others on my website. I also write weekly history blogs which are posted there.

Thank you for reading.

 

 

Agatha, Queen of mysteries.

Agatha, Queen of mysteries.

She is the queen of mysteries, the best-selling novelist of all times and one of the most prolific writers with 66 detective novels and 14 short story anthologies to her name. She wrote the longest running play, The Mousetrap which has played in London since 1952 and my mystery guest also wrote under the pen name Mary Westmacott. Did you pick up on the clues? Who is she?

The Queen of Mysteries

Yes, She’s Agatha Christie, the world famous, most celebrated detective-story writer. Agatha, the queen of mysteries and I have been one of her fans since a teenager. My daughter as a young teen also became a fan. Together, we collected 75 of her novels from markets and bookstores. We subscribed to the Poirot DVD collection and magazines and watched all the film versions of her books. They are still popular, so new versions keep being made, competing with each other to include famous stars. I am a self-confessed Agatha tragic (as well as a Titanic tragic.)

What I love about Agatha, apart from her delicious mysteries, is the woman herself. Having read everything about her and her autobiography countless times, I can tell you that she was a very humble, natural, unpretentious person, unaffected by her world-wide fame.

Agatha, a Natural Writer

When asked about her writing space and tools of the trade, Agatha laughed. ‘Why, I just need a little table somewhere, some paper, my old, battered typewriter and off I go.’ Apparently, her stories with their twists and turns, sprinkle of clues and trail of red herrings are already there in her head, bursting to come out and be put on paper. She’s a natural. No writer’s block, no hesitancy, two or three books a year, no worries.

When one of her books was first made into film and she went to the premiere, she asked why there was such a crowd. ‘It’s for you, Ma’am.’

Agatha, a Famous yet Humble woman

‘No, it couldn’t be,’ she protested. Agatha snuck away into the crowd and queued up with the patrons. When asked about her absent ticket, she told the usher she was the writer, could she go in free? Disbelieving her, he barred her entry and called the manager. They were amazed to discover that this plain little lady was the great queen of mystery herself.

Indeed, as Agatha aged, she resembled anyone’s granny. By then she was married to Sir Max Mallowan, the archaeologist, and travelled the world to his digs in Mesopotamia, now part of modern Iraq. She was an adventurous, no-frills woman, not one for glamour or the bright lights, nor interested in her fame. She wrote because she loved writing and puzzles. How good is that.

Agatha and the Modern Reader

Some modern readers admittedly may find her stories xenophobic but that is how the world was in the 1920’s up until 1976, the year of her death. She was a woman of her time, reflecting its attitudes and values, like we all are. In post-war England, people were wary of the influx of refugees flocking into their country.

Yet despite her now cringe-worthy comments about foreigners, she made one of them her most loved character, Hercule Poirot, the little dapper Belgian refugee detective. In fact, Agatha was a champion for the marginalized. Both Poirot and Miss Marple existed at the margins of society. A rotund foreigner and an elderly spinster were not on the A lists of society.

But Poirot and Marple infiltrate society and meet some well to do folk. Unsuspectedly, quietly working their little grey cells, they outsmart the police constables, even Scotland Yard. It’s a victory for the small man, the foreigner and the little old lady. In Agatha’s world there would have been many spinsters and maiden aunts. The Great War and later World War II took the flower of British manhood leaving many girls unable to marry. Jane Marple hints at a long-lost love lost in the war as does Poirot. He too, has a past. He too has a heart.

Agatha and Beatrix Potter

Agatha Miller was born in Torquay in 1890 to older, well-off parents. Like Beatrix Potter, she was home schooled in her nursery and had lots of pets running about in a rambling house and garden. Agatha had imaginary friends called the kittens that she talked to and wrote stories about. It was her sister Madge that challenged her to write a novel, as she was dabbling in writing herself. But this older sister lost interest in books and found men and left home to marry. Agatha as an only child for years, occupied herself. She had a vivid imagination, again like Beatrix Potter.

Eventually Agatha who was a very pretty, blonde child grew into an attractive, slim young woman. She went to local dances and caught the eye of Archie Christie a dashing young fellow. They became engaged in the gathering clouds of World War One, hesitated a few times, but eventually married on Christmas Eve 1914. He served his country in The Great War and luckily survived.

Dark Days for Agatha

During the dark years of the war, Agatha volunteered as a nurse and worked in the hospital dispensary. It was here that she learnt about poisons and had the idea for her first detective novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles where the victim succumbs to poison. It was the beginning of a seemingly never-ending flow of writing for young Agatha. I could not resist inserting Agatha in my latest WWI novel, Time, Heal my Heart. She becomes the friend of my character Dorothy who works in the dispensary with her. They have a marvellous time making suppositories and mixing potions. Dorothy is enthralled by Agatha’s writing.

Agatha, rejected by publishers

Agatha’s first attempt at writing pre-dated the success of The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Agatha wrote a novel called Snow Upon the Desert. It was rejected by six publishers. Today, the novel is still unpublished though it exists as a manuscript in the archives of her estate.

Agatha kept writing despite this rejection (as we all should.) She kept trying even after becoming a mother to a daughter, Rosalind, her only child. Agatha and husband, Archie were happy enough until her mother died. Agatha went into deep mourning and took herself off to her childhood home for weeks, while she sorted through the old house and grieved for her mother, probably her lost childhood as well.

It was during this time, 1926, that Archie had an affair with his secretary and decided he didn’t love his wife anymore. He told a startled Agatha that their marriage was over. She was still mourning her mother and now had to mourn her marriage as well.

It was a dark time for the writer. She disappeared for ten days, and no one could find her. Her car was found abandoned in a quarry. Unwittingly, she created a real-life mystery with herself in the star role. Strangely, she was located at a small hotel in Harrogate registered under the name of Archie’s mistress. This is one episode of her life that Agatha passes over in her autobiography. She must have wanted to mentally erase the traumatic incident.

Agatha Sets Off for Adventure

Afterwards, divorce papers filed, she left her daughter in care and took off further afield. She went to Paris and boarded the train to Istanbul, then onto Mesopotamia. The train was The Orient Express. At the end of her second journey to these parts she met, by chance through friends, her next husband, the archaeologist, Sir Max Mallowan. Though he was 13 years younger, they hit it off. Agatha was most interested in his work (and men love that.) He was unaware of her writing, and knowing her, she probably dismissed it as a little hobby of hers, despite the fact that she was earning well from her books by then.

In fact, even her first novel sold well. Not many debut authors can claim that success! During the 1920s and her stress over a failed marriage, she turned to thrillers, James Bond style stories with dark villains and political intriguing plots. These novels, The Big Four and The Secret Adversary, 1922 are not as well received as her classic detective stories. The 1920s was the time of the Flappers but Agatha continued to do her own thing. It was good she had an income to fall back on after her marriage failed. Many women of that time had no chance if their man left them. She forged on and became the queen of mysteries. I wonder what Archie felt about his name becoming so famous because of his ex-wife’s talent not his own.

Agatha had not quite realized her literary strengths and was no doubt experimenting with other genres. Her few later attempts at thrillers in the 1950’s again were not hailed as brilliant, The Pale Horse, 1961 and N or M, 1941. Her six novels under the pen name Mary Westmacott offer a different style. They are partly autobiographical and sweet love stories. She wrote a number of plays as well and ten short story collections.

Agatha and the Cosy Mystery

Finally, thankfully, she settled into the cosy mystery genre set in the ubiquitous English village with the inevitable vicar and cast of landed gentry and their servants. She later interspersed these with murder stories set in Mesopotamia, Murder in Mesopotamia,1936, in Egypt, Death on the Nile,1937, in Europe, Murder on the Orient Express, 1934 and The Mystery of the Blue Train,1928, and South Africa, The Man in the Brown Suit, 1924.

Agatha’s one regret was creating Hercule Poirot as past middle-aged. She didn’t anticipate that he would have to last many decades, along with the already aged Miss Marple. It constrained her to a time. She couldn’t use these characters in novels set too much later in the century. Eventually Poirot dies off in Curtain,1975, shortly before her own death.

Agatha borrowed from Arthur Conan Doyle to create a sidekick for Poirot in the form of Captain Hastings, just as Sherlock had in Watson. These sidekicks are not as smart and ask questions as the reader would mentally. It is a successful way of revealing how the detective is thinking as he chats with his curious sidekick. Captain Hastings and Poirot present a comic duo and add fun to the novels.

Agatha is everywhere as the queen of mysteries

At any airport or train station anywhere in the world, you used to be able to spot someone reading an Agatha Christie novel, no matter their nationality. Maybe not so much now, as everyone has their nose in a phone, in what is called ‘Phubbing’. A combination of the word phone and snubbing!

Using my detective skills, I can spot an Agatha Christe novel at twenty paces, as I know all the titles! Even translated, they are mostly recognizable. Her most popular novel, at over a million sales, is And There Were None, 1939, also called Ten Little Niggers in USA, (possibly not anymore though.)

Agatha in Film

Many of her novels have made excellent films, Death on the Nile, Evil Under the Sun and Murder on the Orient Express being probably most popular and revisited with modern re-makes. Agatha Christie novels have been translated into every language under the sun. Over thirty films are based on her works.

Recently, some writers have attempted to copy her work and write in her style, re-establishing the cosy mystery genre. This is encouraging! But they will never trump Agatha, the queen of mysteries.

Recognition for the Queen of Mysteries

Agatha was awarded many accolades for her services to literature and entertainment. She became a fellow of The Royal Society of Literature in 1950 and appointed a CBE in 1956. She was later promoted to Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1971, making her Dame Agatha Christie, three years after Max Mallowan was knighted. Therefore, she could also call herself Lady Mallowan, though I doubt she did.

In later years of their mostly happy marriage Max took a mistress who was also an archaeologist and friend. They married soon after Agatha’s death just as Archie married his secretary a week after he and Agatha divorced. Men behaving badly again.

Agatha hated crowds and was a shy, modest woman, despite her talents. She loved animals and gardens. Her last home, Greenaway in Dartmouth now resides with The National Trust. She is remembered as an amazing woman who leaves a legacy of literature and film.

 

Photo Source: Unsplash

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels: Whispers through Time, The Last Hotel, Colour comes to Tangles and her latest, Time Heal my Heart.  Joni has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.

The Great War (1914-1918)

The Great War (1914-1918)

The Great War started on 14 August 1914 in response to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, Serbia in the Balkans. Things had been brewing for some time in this part of the world. Once tensions reached a fever pitch, the fight was on. The Austro-Hungarian empire was a mighty one that included 14 countries many unknown in the popular domain. Ethnic diversities resented this take over and so there were many nationalist military groups fighting for independence. One such was The Black Hand.

The Black Hand and the Archduke

On hearing of the visit to Sarajevo by the heir apparent to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, The Black Hand planned his assassination. A bomb was thrown under the car carrying the Archduke and his wife, Sophie but missed the target injuring others in the motorcade instead. The Bosnian Serb, Gavrilo Princip was one of the nationalists involved and along with his disappointed comrades he fled the scene.

But Franz Ferdinand was meant to die that day it seems. The motorcade diverted to backstreets was in the act of turning around near a delicatessen where Princip was eating a sandwich. Surprised, he ran out and shot the Archduke and Sophie at short range. These two shots sealed the fate of millions. They ignited a powder keg that fanned the flames of The Great War.

The fuse that started The Great War.

At the time this conflict started it was not called World War One as not many expected a skirmish in faraway Serbia to become global. Nor was the conflict ever expected to last long. But The Austro-Hungarians wanted to take revenge on troublesome Serbia and avert possible intervention by mighty Russia. During the following month post assassination, the powers in Europe took sides.

Taking sides

The Allies included Britain, France, Russia and were also called The Triple Entente. On the opposing side called the Axis were the Austro-Hungarians, Germany and Italy though Italy switched sides in 1915. Other countries became involved by association. As these key players were Empires, they had inbuilt support from their colonies. Britain had Australia, Canada, other British colonies and surprisingly Japan. The Axis had Turkey on their side and later Bulgaria. I discovered there is a boardgame based on the conflict, called Axis and Allies. If only the leaders of empires had fought a duel or played this board game. Not used 40 million people as their play pieces.

The Central Powers or Axis was disadvantaged from the start in terms of resources and fighting personnel. But such was their Teutonic pride and ambition that they were the ones to start the hostilities that once begun would inflate to involve the world.  Britain declared war in retaliation to the Axis advance into France.

Youthful enthusiasm for the war.

British soldiers and young civilian men were up for the fight. They looked upon it as a grand adventure, a way to serve their country and also see the world. No conscription needed they enlisted willingly and with much patriotic enthusiasm. After all they would be home by Christmas after eliminating the enemy. Wouldn’t they?

Gallipoli. It all went horribly wrong.

Similarly in the colonies, men signed up for the fight. A whole generation of men and boys who lied about their age. Some were only 14 years old. Young Australians and Canadians were eager to go to Europe and see the world while getting paid. Whole contingents of them would be dead shortly after. The Gallipoli campaign alone took 70, 000 of the young Allied soldiers and Turkey lost 60,000 men. Stalemate was the name of this deadly game. It was all about a planned British sea route through the Bosphorus  to seize the straits of the Dardanelles in Turkey. But it all went horribly wrong.

Horribly wrong. The best made plans of Churchill misfired and bogged troops down in nine months of hell on both sides. The same could be said for the trench warfare in the fields of France and Belgium. Bogged down in mud, not advancing at all. Stalemate that cost men their lives and sanity. Those who survived the onslaught were not the young men they were. Shell shock and other traumas took their toll. A Christmas truce gave hope but then the soldiers were forced to continue the pointless battle for territory.

The deadly weapons of The Great War

Never before had soldiers faced machine gun fire and coils of barbed wire. They were new weapons. Daylight fighting was pure suicide. Sending men over the top of the trenches into No man’s land was tantamount to murder yet in the early days that is what happened. Coils of barbed wire, designed to keep the enemy out, also ensnarled many a soldier trying to retreat to safety. It took a while for the commanders from their position of comfort and safety to realise the enormity and futility of the troop losses.

The theatre of The Great War

But the war waged on in the mud at the infamous Somme and Ypres battlefields. Germany pressed northeast in battle to Russia as well up to 1917 when Russia descended into its own civil revolution.  Trenches that were intended as temporary stages for war became the rat and lice infested homes of soldiers for years at a time. The theatre of war did not refresh its scenes. There was no advancement. Trenches filled with the dead and shattered. Families at home grieved their young sons and fathers.

There were stories of great bravery and cowardice. News abounded of flying aces of the air, spies like Mata Hari, intelligence and espionage from balloons aloft and messenger pigeons. These stories buoyed the spirits of all. Surely it would end soon, surely there would be peace.

The huge losses of The Great War

Once USA entered the fray it was all over. The Germans reluctantly admitted they were a spent force and outnumbered. Kaiser Wilhem abdicated, and an armistice signed on 11th November 1918. But this forced sudden end to the conflict left Germany feeling cheated of victory and this unfinished business sowed the seeds for another world war just twenty years later.

20 million lost their lives in this conflict. This includes the civilians caught up in the fight. Another 21 million were wounded and 8 million left permanently disabled. This does not include those who suffered mental trauma. On top of this carnage was the loss of more millions from the Spanish Flu epidemic which also went global due to returning soldiers.

TIme Heal my Heart

If you find all this interesting, you might like to read my WWI novel based on my grandparents lives during this war. Newly immigrated to Sydney and just newlywed, their lives are caught up in this global war. The novel is called Time Heal my Heart and shifts back and forwards from Australia and France as it tells the story of a family and their friends. Love and loss, courage and tragedy, this one has it all and it’s true.

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels; Whispers through Time, The Last Hotel, Colour comes to Tangles and Time heal my Heart. Read about her books on https://joniscottauthor.com.

Stepping into History

Stepping into History

Stepping into history.

Getting immersed in the culture and times of a historical period can involve a lot of exhausting research but also immense fun. The trick is to choose a time that really interests you. Where would you go if you could time travel? Then stepping into history is fun. Otherwise, it’s just plain hard work. For me, I don’t really fancy the history before the Twentieth Century, so I am not really a long-ago history person but a modern history person. Even modern history has a huge scope.

The time period 1900 onwards is my time. Stepping into history and writing historical fiction started with my sister embracing Ancestry.com and finding some stuff about our grandparents. Reluctantly I read this stuff when bored on a rainy week at a seaside holiday resort and found there were gaps and silences about my granny. Why did she do this or that? Like hop on a boat alone to go to Australia from London just a few months after the sinking of the Titanic? I mean there are icebergs in the Indian Ocean too. Why too are there no photos of her?

A dalliance with ideas

This along with the ever-fascinating topic of the Titanic were enough to get me going. But I never planned a book, just a dalliance with ideas about my granny’s motivations on a rainy afternoon. Then the long sinuous arm of history grabbed me and sucked me down along the cob-webbed tunnels into the past, not so distant, but still a century ago. Off I went back to 1905 and my grandmother’s youth. She worked in a bakery in Hampstead Heath, London with an Elsie and a Johnny. This explained my mother’s name, Elsie and my uncle Johnny. Tick, Tick. Clever me.

The family were musical. Great grandfather was a piano journeyman. This term is interesting. I thought it meant travelling men but the journey bit comes from the French word journee meaning a day’s work. But I think my great grandfather still went about the London tuning pianos. At home his musically gifted older children gave lessons in the front parlour. Did they enjoy this, I wondered or was this child abuse? Then once I read more of my sister’s stuff, I discovered that the oldest brother just disappeared and never turned up later anywhere in any of the possible searches. And my sister is thorough. Before the days of digital searches, she used to write to the registries etc. Fifteen years of research and still going.

Lots of kids back then

Stepping into history, I set about creating personalities and motivations for this family. There were ten children, three boys and seven girls! Whoa! in a three-bedroom house. How does that work? Lots of bed sharing, that’s how. Children slept three to a bed.

No privileges back then like your own room or ensuite. No, a chamber pot under the bed was the best you’d get. Long cotton night dresses for boys and girls and twisted rags in your hair for the girls to keep their curls. A lot has changed in a hundred years and not all for the good. Big families were often happy families, sharing what they had not wanting more.

Anyway, the rainy week passed, as Time so quickly does. By then I had quite a few jottings in my notebook. These exploded over five months of secretive feverish writing into 60,000 words. The family blossomed into a family of characters with real personalities and reasons for doing or not doing stuff. I imagined Granny and Grandpa meeting on the ship to Australia in 1912 and falling in love. That seemed possible as they arrived on the same ship and married later that year. Then voila, I had a story based on true events and people. It’s called historical fiction. lol.

Whispering through time

Publishing? never occurred to me. I am a math and science teacher, not an arty type. But my sister once presented with my story, thought otherwise. She sent my story off to four publishers. She was secretive about it. All four liked it and so we chose one in London. Austin Macauley. Maybe not the best choice in retrospect but we knew nothing about publishing back then in 2018. Whatever, they made me a lovely book and called it a debut novel. Sounds posh, heh. It had a title too. Whispers through Time.

The publisher saw potential whereas I thought been there done that. Why not keep writing? Do a sequel? Really? You want more of my crazy imaginings? You’re a natural, they said. Without such encouragement from them and my sister, Granny and Grandpa would have been left on the Sydney pier on arrival. But now they have marched through history to this present day almost.

Covid was history in the making

The story continued through World War One and up to The Spanish Flu. I was researching this when ominously Covid 19 erupted. This event delayed the sequel Time Heal my Heart as I became seriously sick. Not with Covid or The Spanish Flu but with CRPS. This is a weird unfortunate disease that attacks your nervous system in a debilitating and super painful way. I lost the use of the right side of my body, moving my arm was excruciating. The prognosis was poor. Dire in fact.

There was no writing happening. I couldn’t even brush my hair or get dressed. Only hope (after much left-hand googling) was a clinic in Italy. Off I go, a week before Covid hits Europe. Bad timing but at least I get there. I have the two-week treatment of infusions and emerge from the hospital in Genova into lockdown. The suggested rehab and physio is not going to happen. Arm in a splint, I move from one hotel to another as they close in response to Covid restrictions. Fortunately, I have my husband to help. Italy asks all tourists to leave. We get to France. It goes into lockdown. The rest is history. We were part of history in the making. Stepping into history.

Shit is meant to happen

In lockdown in France in a hotel, I write another book. The Last Hotel. How, did you write it if you had no useful right hand? Good question. Answer is; with my left. Tippy tapping around my old battered IPad keyboard, I somehow wrote this contemporary romance set on The French Riviera. Think it was some type of weird channeling. Just poured out of me, figuratively speaking. It is my best seller at every book signing.  See shit is meant to happen. Good things come from bad. Just have faith. All bad things pass in time. Rainbows follow the rain.

So the historical sequel to Whispers through Time had a two-year setback. The Last Hotel took its place as my second novel and another novel, Colour Comes to Tangles took third place. Eventually, Time heal my Heart hit the bookshops in August this year. It’s a heart-rending story of love and loss during World War One era. Stepping into history once more it is a true story set in true and troubling times. It can be read as a stand-alone or sequel novel.

Last Time Forever

The last instalment of this family saga is also complete but yet unpublished. Last Time Forever will emerge at some future time and transport my family through the interwar and World War Two years up to 1950. What a turbulent life they had. Two world wars and a Great Depression. They were tough. But this last one has a surprise ending which I won’t tell you about because it’s a surprise!

Enough chatter. Thanks for reading my rant if you got this far.

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels; Whispers through Time, The Last Hotel, Colour comes to Tangles and Time heal my Heart. Read about her books on https://joniscottauthor.com.

 

 

Pip Williams and I

Pip Williams and I

Now, I don’t know Pip Williams, the Australian author, but after reading her second novel, The Bookbinder of Jericho (brilliant!), I was struck by the similarity and differences between Pip and I and our books. So, this post is about me and Pip Williams or Pip Williams and I, whichever grammar form you prefer. I know, you may laugh, an unlikely comparison, since she is famous, and I am a nobody, but you will get the drift in a moment if you keep reading. It’s a bit like Yellowface but with no evil intent.

Pip Williams; Travel, language and history

You see, Pip Williams and I are both Australian women who grew up in Sydney. We are both writers, albeit at opposite ends of the spectrum. Pip is a New York Times best-selling author, and I am an unknown nobody author. But we both love travel, language, history and books. Pip obviously loves the meanings behind words and as a previous Latin scholar, I also fell in love long ago with the origins of words. The other commonality is our novel plots, stories of two sisters set in World War One and on the university campuses of Oxford and Cambridge. Probably, that is where the personal similarities end. sigh.

Pip Williams; Australian Historical novels

Pip is young, I am not so. Pip had a career in writing nonfiction that led more easily into her novels being published. But I am a biochemist who accidentally wrote a novel then did not know what to do with it, so stumbled along in my newfound writing career to write five books. Maybe one day we will run into each other at a bookstore or maybe Pip is attending the Australian History Novelists Society conference this October (can’t wait!) Would love to meet her.

Pip Williams; World War One era

As I prefaced above, book wise, Pip Williams and I write novels set in World War One. My latest, Time Heal my Heart, has many parallel themes to those in Pip’s best seller, The Bookbinder of Jericho. Two sisters, love and loss, family, the futility and savagery of the war and the status of women in society. They both feature a foreign female character with a mysterious past (Pip’s Lotte and my Lisbette character) and a character attempting access to a socially restricted university education. Pip’s novel is set in Oxford. Mine is partly set In Cambridge. Both our characters swat for the university entrance exams around the time of The Great War of 1914-1918. No plagiarism involved. My novel was at the publishers long before Pip’s came out. It is the companion or sequel to my first Whispers through Time.

Pip Williams; Book Companions

I do love that Pip calls her second book a companion not a sequel or prequel. That is so much less limiting. A companion suggests that the books can be read together but not necessarily. So, each of her books, like mine, can be read as stand-alone novels. That helps me to pitch my fifth book as not a sequel but a stand-alone or companion novel set in Sydney prior to and during World War 2. I am preparing a pitch for an Australian publisher, and this gives me another angle. It is too hard having overseas publishers in London. I feel out of touch, can never do local book promotions and now since Covid the author copies cost a bomb to import.

Love Pp Williams? Take a chance on me!

So, wish me well. I just hope for a tiny ripple of book attention, nothing much. Aspiring to be a Pip Williams is ridiculous, I know, but authors have to self-promote somehow otherwise no one at all will know about their books. Writing a book is easy compared to marketing one. Publishers don’t really do it for you. They get you published and then it’s sort of goodbye at the school gate. Haha and thanks for reading if you did. Take a peek at my website or books. joniscottauthor.com. and if you are a Pip Williams fan, take a chance on me!

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels; Whispers through Time, The Last Hotel, Colour comes to Tangles and Time heal my Heart. Read about her books on https://joniscottauthor.com.

The Terrible Giro d’Italia of 1914

The Terrible Giro d’Italia of 1914

Feedback from readers of Time Heal my Heart so far tell me that my protagonist’s brother, Oscar is again a hit. Due to popular demand, I continued his story in this sequel. This older brother of Winifred seems to be a popular character for readers. I enjoyed creating him too. Although most of my characters in the two Time Trilogy books so far were real people, I never met them as Time separated us. They are but Whispers through Time. My family knew nothing about our grandmother’s family, including Oscar. As he disappeared without trace, I was free to make him whoever I wanted. I chose to construct Oscar as a wanderer, philanderer and adventurer. That is how he becomes involved in the terrible Giro d’Italia of 1914.

There had never been a race like it and never will be again. Plagued by the most horrific storms, rain and set to cover enormous distances and altitudes, it was the most grueling bike race ever. You can read all about it in a very entertaining book called Gironimo by Tim Moore or just read his BBC blog. Tim decided to re-ride this race in the modern age wearing the original cyclist’s apparel and travelling the huge 3162 km distance on a 100-year-old bike. He bites off more than he can chew. He soon discovers how easy life is for the cyclists of today. They have gears and comfortable bikes with proper brakes not just wine bottle corks.

Neither do they have to contend with nails strewn in their path and saboteurs at every bend. Cyclists were not popular sports heroes back then. The bicycle was seen as a threat and imposter to the traditional way of life. Add to that, strangers riding through one’s towns and locals became outraged. The weather was most foul of mood too. The first part of the race was the worst and the heavens opened upon the eighty-one contestants as they climbed the formidable Mt Sestriere peak and navigated the dirt roads awash with water. Their woollen maillot outfits with wool padded crotches became sodden and heavy. They shivered and slithered about on the mud. This stage alone was enough to demoralise many of the entrants. Half of them were just local boys, not professional cyclists. they entered for the fun of it and mostly for the prize money.

Like my character Oscar and his mate Luigi, they rode on borrowed bikes and had little experience or stamina for this endurance test. of the eight odd entrants only eight finish the race. This makes this Giro not only the hardest bike race ever but also the one with the longest overall distance and stages but also the one with the highest proportion of dropouts. Reading about it in Tim Moore’s book, It comes as no surprise. See some old photos here.

My characters make it only from Lucca to Florence. They decide to rest but end up at Luigi’s uncle’s house for a sojourn. Oscar is introduced to real family life, Italian style and the delights of the beautiful Florence. He buys a Bradshaws guide and he and Luigi continue their travels not by bike but by train to the east coast and then by boat to Sarajevo. There by chance they witness the opening shots of World War One. Life will never be the same again, for these two young men and for millions worldwide.

This sets the scen fro the second part of the novel entitled The Agony of War. By then, hopefully if not before, you will be so engaged you can’t but help reading on…

Young love, family troubles, mystery, war and loss, this book, Time Heal my Heart has it all. Plus, you get to travel not only back in time but to the mysterious abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel on the Normandy coast, Paris, Italy, Yugoslavia, Argentina and Sydney, Australia where the story begins. It’s a sweeping family saga that can be read alone or after Whispers through Time. The third part of this story, entitled Last Time Forever is due out next year. I have already written it. So, embrace the past and discover Oscar, a popular minor but memorable character. Join him on his travels and see how he reacts to the outbreak of war. He is the lost black sheep of the family. Don’t you just love these naughty boys? You never know what they will do next.

The contestants of this terrible ordeal had no idea that war would soon erupt and plunge them into another hell on earth. Maybe the Giro was a good preparation for what lay ahead?

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels; Whispers through Time, The Last Hotel, Colour comes to Tangles and Time Heal my Heart. Read about them on https://joniscottauthor.com.

Photo Source

‘Whispers through Time’ Sequel

‘Whispers through Time’ Sequel

Today was publication day and the birth of a new book into the vast global library. It’s the release of Whispers through Time Sequel entitled Time Heal my Heart by Joni Scott. This one has it all; love, loss, tragedy, war, peace, The Spanish Flu and best of all it is based on a true story! You can buy it on all the popular platforms like Amazon or through the publisher, Austin Macauley, London. 

It is the second historical fiction in my ‘Time’ series and can be read as it is or read after the first one, Whispers through Time. This historical novel continues the story of three young people who migrate to Australia from London in 1912 just after the sinking of the doomed liner, The Titanic. Soon war breaks out and their young lives are shattered by the consequences. This is the focus of the story in Time heal My Heart.

Time Heal my Heart is the sequel to Whispers through Time

Husbands, brothers and sons set off for the grand adventure of war, not realising its savagery. It was the war promised to be over by Christmas. Yet five years later it has involved the world and killed millions. Even in its swansong, the global conflict kills more as the deadly Spanish Flu spreads around the world with returning soldiers.

But the clock cannot be wound back. Time marches on taking the survivors with it into a brave new world of energy and promise. The Jazz age. But not everyone can forget, heal and move on. My protagonist, Winnie cannot. She has seen too much, lost too much. She cries, ‘Time heal my Heart!’ Hence the title.

A poignant Story of another time

War orphans, lovers, soldiers .. so many cannot move forward easily and forget or forgive the horrors of war. Read this poignant story and relive their lives with them. Step into the past and count your blessings perhaps that you were born in another time. Or do you want to recapture the romance, the urgency yet slower pace of the early Twentieth century? Life was ephemeral. Scarlet fever and infection could easily kill. There were no antibiotics, no safety nets in life.

And another place

Storm lashed monastery, Mont Saint Michel, is the scene of one of the sub plots in France. It is a place of mystery, violence and passion. Cut off from the war, it is also a place of refuge. The battle fields of France also feature as brother Gustave is sucked into a war of mud and danger. Then in Sydney, Australia, so far from the battlefronts, wives and families wait for news of the Gallipoli campaign. They knit socks, tend the returned soldiers and pray for their loved ones.

There’s more Time to come

I know this novel will tear at your heart. The story is of my own grandparents. But I must admit to adding sub plots and embellishing parts with fiction. However, it is based on true lives and war records. I hope you enjoy, Time Heal my Heart. If you do, you can go back and read Whispers through Time and look forward to part three, Last Time Forever, due out next year.

Stay tuned via my blog at joniscottauthor.com.

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels: Whispers through Time, The Last Hotel Colour Comes to Tangles and her latest historical WWI drama, Time Heal my Heart. Joni has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.