Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Wartime Britain.


After finding out that my new novel is set before and during the Great War, I received a (quite heavy) parcel in the post from my cousin. (Thanks Brian!)

 It sounds wrong to say I was delighted, considering the circumstances, however, I certainly was very proud when I opened the box and found this bronze memorial plaque (pictured). Over a million of these were issued after World War 1, to the next-of-kin of all British and Empire servicemen who were killed as a result of the war.

 This particular plaque, also called  'Dead Man's Penny' because of the similarity - although a lot bigger - to the penny coin, was presented to my nan after the death of her younger brother, Michael Hughes, who was killed when his Royal Naval ship Anchusa was blown up off the coast of Ireland, just four months before the end of the war. What is also sad is that Michael died with his brother, James, who was also serving on the ship - so a double blow for nan when James' wife informed her.

I can only imagine the sorrow, and the pride, she felt when she saw their names carved in bronze surrounded by the words; 'He died for freedom and honour'... So touching.

 Still on the wartime theme, I have also been reading a lot - lovely!

 Especially books about the Home Front and the years immediately after WW2.

The post war years, and the tribulations of women in those austere days, fascinate me. The war years were certainly hard, and dangerous, but so too the immediate aftermath, methinks. Rationing was a continuing problem, people still had to make do and mend, because everything was needed for the export drive. Finding accommodation was dire, because so many homes had been destroyed or damaged.

 Newly-married couples had nowhere to go except Ma's front room. (My own parents lived in a neighbours parlour until they could find a house, and that was in the fifties - some time after the end of the war!) Even the well-to-do were feeling the pinch, with high taxation and huge crumbling houses in need of repair after six long years of conflict. Not to mention the homecoming of the troops, when both men and women had changed so much.

Must dash, I feel a story coming on...

Toodle-oo for now

Sheila :)

Thursday, 30 July 2015

The Heart Will Go On to Albert Dock

This is Albert Dock where I went to research my latest novel, working title The Heart Will Go On. I loved walking through history to get a sense of the life my characters lived in 1910.

 Set in the thriving Liverpool port, the story tells how the lives of sixteen year old Anna Cassidy, and her thirteen year old brother, Sam, are changed forever when tragedy strikes their home on Christmas Eve.

 I found this glorious 'house', inside the Liverpool museum. It showed how people once lived - complete with outside privy, the midden and pestiferous rats... Oh dear!

But not all is doom and gloom! Lifelong friendships are forged. Love is only a heartbeat away and Memories are something that cannot be stolen or replaced.

As this story is set in a different era to the Empire Street novels, I will not use the Annie Groves pen name, but I do hope you like it as much.

I will keep you updated on what happens next, as soon as possible. Meanwhile, have a look at the blog (below). I posted it just before Christmas last year, and was written for the North West libraries Time To Read competition, which I won in 2010. Although it is a very shot piece, it got me thinking what if... That is when I came up with the idea for The Heart Will Go On.

Happy reading,
Sheila :) xx

Sunday, 21 December 2014

A short story to warm your heart...

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a fabulous 2015. Here is a little story I wrote a few years ago that might warm your heart.
                                              BACK HOME
 Annie Cassidy disembarked quickly from the hospital ship, Gigantic, as a vicious wind whipped up the river Mersey, taking her breath away. Touching terra-firma at Princes Dock, she saw the jostling crowds, eager to catch sight of the great liner bringing England’s heroes home. Annie marvelled at the valiant troops as she struggled to push the terrible images of war from her mind.
    Nursing the heroes at Passchendaele, she had promised to get messages to loved ones; people like these who had come to witness the homecoming of the hospital ship. White against a pewter sky, the red cross of Geneva showed prominently on her hull, decked out in the neutral colours of mercy and compassion, Gigantic signalled the end to hostilities.
   Annie felt a painful surge of all-embracing pride as the slow disembarkation of stretcher cases, urged her to ease her pace and acknowledge these brave men. While the huge crowds desperately waited for the sight of injured loved-ones, she made her way from the dock.
  `Carry yer bag Miss?’
Recognising the keenness of the slightly-built young’un, she noted the too-large cap that hid a lean look of hunger and decided not to take a seat on the overhead railway today.
  `I’ll take a hansom.’ Handing him the valise she sadly noted his bare smacks, slapping the cobbled setts. `It can’t be easy lugging cases on the cobbles, haven’t you got any boots?’ Nodding to his grimy, chilblained feet, she hoped her tone didn’t sound condescending.
   `I’ve got a family to feed, Miss,’ he said stoically pushing back the rim of the outsized flat cap `boots don’t come cheap, y’know, not when empty plates need filling.’
   Annie admired his obligation, knowing of young battalions who would see no more clean plates, and she was heartily glad of the life in him.
   `I’m a mermaid, don’t you know?’ The words, which had been left unsaid for a long time, brought to mind the face of another young lad, much like this one.
    ’Is that so, Miss?’ His lopsided grin showed a healthy scepticism, melting her heart and bringing back memories of days long gone… She slipped a florin into his hand when they reached the hansom cab, and Annie watched him knock back his cap even further, his eyes lighting at the sight of the precious coin.
 `Strike me!’ He flicked it into the freezing air, `it’s not every day you meet a mermaid!’ Slipping the two-bob bit into the pocket of a tattered waistcoat, he then slowly raised his eyes to hers and in a tone thick with gratitude he said solemnly;
 `This is `preciated very much, Miss… My ould man caught the business end of a toffee-apple at the Somme... I’m the bread-winner now...’ Annie silently acknowledged his admission with an understanding nod.
   `I’m sure your mother is relieved she’s still got you. Good on you, Lad.’ She had seen the devastation trench mortar bombs caused a body. She also understood that no more words were necessary as, tipping the cap that had probably belonged to his heroic father, the boy disappeared into the throng to earn another copper or two…
   The rhythmic sway of the carriage lulled her as she travelled the uneven thoroughfare, taking in the familiar landscape of corner shops and ale-houses. Her eyes followed the line of stone-streaked cerulean sky to the warehouses and dockyards hugging the river, once the forbidden playground of her brothers.
   Sighing quietly she watched the first snowflakes of winter begin to fall and dust the back-to-back terraced houses that ribbed the backbone of the dock road and her memories slipped to another time, another place. For certain there were countless heroes, and she knew some would remain nameless forever, taking care of business back home...
© Sheila Riley

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Welcome to my world

Hello there,
Welcome to the world of Annie Groves, bestselling saga writer and pen name of Sheila Riley who inherited the pseudonym after the sad death of bestselling author Penny Halsall.

I have just completed two of a four-book series of Merseyside sagas set in one of the most dangerous places to live at that time. Dockside Bootle during World War Two was no place for the faint of heart. It was a place where people lived, loved and balled their fists at the enemy, where courage was the order of the day and a leonine spirit was commonplace.

The first; Child of the Mersey, tells the story of one street, two women and a war that will tear them apart. It is in the shops now and has received very good five star reviews on Amazon, which I am thrilled about as you can imagine.

The second book is entitled Christmas on the Mersey, out in October 2014 and continues with the everyday lives of the Empire Street residents and their struggle to get through the war in one piece. Life is not all doom and gloom and tears, though, there are many laughs along the way and, hopefully, when you reach the end of the story you will be dying to know what happens next... So I must get one and write it.

I hope you enjoy my page and as I progress I will add more detail...
Much love to you all and thanks for reading xx

Sunday, 11 August 2013

I've had one of those weeks where, no matter what I try to do, the project I need to finish is always a little bit further out of reach than I anticipated. I have been beavering away on my the first book in my new series as well as researching - did I tell you I adore researching? Also I've been trying to find a bit of 'me' time too, however, it is also school holidays and I have grandchildren who love to come and see me - I know, how lucky am I?

The thing is, children, and necessary creative time, do not mix so this week has ran away from me - I did think of telling the mothers - two, that I was going on holiday - I must edit!!!! But when I thought of the angelic little faces and saw the expectant look of excitement on the face of my knight-in-rusty-armour and decided to do my edits in the wee small hours when everybody is sleeping.

I know, I am a martyr to my art and a fool to my grandchildren who can wrap me around their cute little fingers - I draw the line at taking them on holiday though. Brrrrr!!


Sunday, 21 July 2013

Forgot to say...

I bet you are all dying to know how my trip to the palace went? Sadly, it didn't. On doctor's advice I had to stay home. Here's what happened, a short while ago I woke up in the middle of the night with a really nasty ache in my shoulder, thinking I'd been in a draught or had twisted it I got up and had a walk around but it didn't work and I had to take pain killers. Anyway, long story short, I put up with the pain for two days but to no avail.

Now, being the level headed type I had a mad panic, and thinking I was having a heart attack, because I couldn't take a deep breath and my arm grew very heavy, the knight-in-rusty-armour drove me to A and E sharpish after I had voiced my worries. They later gave me the news my diaphragm had collapsed on one side and the other side had lodged in my lung - scary. I was kept in hospital for a week with this unusual occurrence and as I wasn't quite strong enough to travel I had to miss out on the trip I had been so looking forward to. However, I have now been given a brand new (although not shiny) ventilator to sleep with - oh the excitement - I look like Mrs Darth Vader! But at least I can breath easier now, which is such a relief.

But, every cloud... I have now been told by my agent that I have been offered a new four-book deal! So I'd better crack on - work to do.
It's turned very dull today - 'be off with you clouds, if you're not going to rain and water my flowers you are no use here. Don't hang around now...Take a hike and allow our sun to shine.'

Oh that's better, had to get that off my chest. All those killjoys who prayed for the sun to cool, appear to have got their own way - again. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not a sun worshipper - I don't follow it around the garden like a lovesick sun groupie - being a red-head with fair skin I don't even sun-bathe but the beam does cheer me up no end. Hey ho, maybe later - or tomorrow.