If I were clever …

Four (!!) years ago, I posted Writing a Series Backwards. In that post, I explained that I was writing a novel about two women called Camille and Mariele, which was set in 1870 Paris.

If I were cleverer or a more experienced writer, I would have written my novels as a series. Planned them out in such a way that novel one would have naturally led to novel two and so on. Many readers love series because they become invested in the characters and like familiar friends, they wish to enjoy their company again and again picking up from when they last met. And publishers appreciate the ongoing reader interest and revenue that comes with it.

But I wasn’t that clever.

Paris In Ruins has taken the long road to publication: rejected by Lake Union Publishing who had published Time and Regret, the nail-biting search for an agent, almost two years with an agent who was unable to sell it, months of deciding whether to toss it out or proceed with self-publishing, and then months of reshaping, rewriting and editing. I even did another editing pass after an author who gave me a wonderful endorsement pointed out a few flaws.

Paris in Ruins was prompted by readers’ questions about an earlier novel Lies Told in Silence. That story begins in 1914, when a young woman called Helene Noisette leaves Paris along with her mother, grandmother, and younger brother to escape the threat of war by moving to the fictional town of Beaulieu in northern France. Helene’s grandmother, Mariele, is a widow in her mid-sixties, a woman whose past holds tragedy and secrets.

To my delight, readers were taken with Mariele and the role she played in Helene’s coming of age. They wanted to know more about her. 

What could Mariele’s story be? I pondered this question for a while and eventually asked: What if I went back to a time when Mariele was a young woman and the historical events that might have shaped her life? I did the calculation and landed in 1870. A quick search led me to the Franco-Prussian war, the siege of Paris and the Paris Commune. Wonderful! War, destruction, death, starvation, and a ruthless insurrection – all that drama. Surely, I could cook up something.

A second character threads her way through Lies Told in Silence – Camille Noisette, Mariele’s sister-in-law. Although Camille died before 1914, she features in that story through the memories of Mariele and through her house, which is located just outside the village of Beaulieu.

Two capable women. A friendship. A siege and an insurrection. Throw in a dash of unscrupulous behavior, some clandestine activities, an element of romance, the desire to protect those you love and to serve your country, and voilà, as the French say.

I’m excited to share Paris In Ruins with readers. Stay tuned for pre-order and publication details.


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Unravelled – final tuning

When is your manuscript done? A facetious answer is ‘when it’s done’. And there are endless opportunities to tweak and tighten but I thought I was done when I sent Unravelled out to a few people in the historical fiction community who had offered to provide a blurb for me – after reading the novel, of course.

But hold on. You’re not quite there, Mary.

One individual who is well known for insightful reviews along with her own writing offered excellent feedback and as a result I just had to open up the Word document again a few days ago. One of her suggestions involved cutting out some quoted material I included either in the form of radio broadcasts or newspaper articles. Another involved bringing more life to some of the minor characters in the novel.

Here’s a before and after of the same scene. Edward and Ann Jamieson are gathered around the radio with their teenage children Emily and Alex. The war has dragged on for more than four years. It’s June 6th, 1944, what we now call D-Day.

May 31 Draft

On the evening of June sixth, the whole family remained glued to the radio as news of the D-Day landings came through. Winston Churchill spoke, his growling voice riveting.

“During the night and the early hours of this morning, the first of the series of landings in force upon the European Continent has taken place. In this case, the liberating assault fell upon the coast of France. An immense armada of upwards of four thousand ships, together with several thousand smaller craft, crossed the Channel. Massed airborne landings have been successfully effected behind the enemy lines, and landings on the beaches are proceeding at various points at the present time. The fire of the shore batteries has been largely quelled. The obstacles that were constructed in the sea have not proved so difficult as was apprehended. The Anglo-American Allies are sustained by about eleven thousand first-line aircraft, which can be drawn upon as may be needed for the purposes of the battle. Reports are coming in in rapid succession. So far the commanders who are engaged report that everything is proceeding according to plan. And what a plan! This vast operation is undoubtedly the most complicated and difficult that has ever taken place. It involves tides, wind, waves, visibility, both from the air and the sea standpoint, and the combined employment of land, air and sea forces in the highest degree of intimacy and in contact with conditions which could not and cannot be fully foreseen.

“There are already hopes that actual tactical surprise has been attained, and we hope to furnish the enemy with a succession of surprises during the course of the fighting. The battle that has now begun will grow constantly in scale and in intensity for many weeks to come, and I shall not attempt to speculate upon its course. This I may say, however. Complete unity prevails throughout the Allied armies. There is a brotherhood in arms between us and our friends of the United States. There is complete confidence in the supreme commander, General Eisenhower, and his lieutenants, and also in the commander of the Expeditionary Force, General Montgomery. The ardour and spirit of the troops, as I saw myself, embarking in these last few days, was splendid to witness. Nothing that equipment, science or forethought could do has been neglected, and the whole process of opening this great new front will be pursued with the utmost resolution both by the commanders and by the United States and British governments whom they serve. I have been at the centres where the latest information is received, and I can state to the House that this operation is proceeding in a thoroughly satisfactory manner. Many dangers and difficulties, which at this time last night appeared extremely formidable, are behind us. The passage of the sea has been made with far less loss than we apprehended. The resistance of the batteries has been greatly weakened by the bombing of the Air Force, and the superior bombardment of our ships quickly reduced their fire to dimensions, which did not affect the problem. The landings of the troops on a broad front, both British and American—Allied troops, I will not give lists of all the different nationalities they represent—but the landings along the whole front have been effective, and our troops have penetrated, in some cases, several miles inland.”

Broadcast the following day, firsthand accounts transported Edward to the heat of battle …

June 27th Draft

On the evening of June sixth, Edward and his family remained glued to the radio as news of the D-Day landings came through. Winston Churchill spoke, his growling voice riveting.

“During the night and the early hours of this morning, the first of the series of landings in force upon the European Continent has taken place. An immense armada of upwards of four thousand ships, together with several thousand smaller craft, crossed the Channel.”

Like a sail filled with buoyant breezes, every word Churchill spoke lifted Edward’s spirits. We’ll do it, he thought. The end is finally in sight.

As Churchill continued Edward recalled the fall of Tobruk when the British Prime Minister had spoken. The man’s gravelly voice with its slow steady beat combined with evocative images and simple words still had the power to inspire. “Massed airborne landings . . . vast operation . . . formidable danger and difficulty . . . tactical surprise . . .”

Edward had played a part in that element of surprise. A smile filled his body even though his face showed nothing but concern.

When Churchill finished, Alex was the first to speak. “What does it mean, Dad?”

“It’s the invasion of Europe we’ve all been waiting for. Churchill and Roosevelt must believe that the time is ripe. I saw evidence of troop buildup while I was in England, but the scale of our attack is incredible. And it looks like the Germans were caught napping.”

“That’s fantastic news, isn’t it?” Alex’s tone was part question, part assertion.


“Why is this different from Dieppe?” Alex, who sat in his usual spot on the floor, turned around to look at his father.

“Well, one difference is the single command structure under General Eisenhower. Churchill mentioned that in his speech, didn’t he? It helps eliminate confusion and rivalry between the countries and allows clearer communication of successes and failures as our troops attack. Imagine playing football without a quarterback.”

“That wouldn’t work very well,” Alex said.

“You’re right. Same thing on a massive scale in war. Beyond Eisenhower, there’s the strength of combining American British forces and all the bombing we did leading up to today. And the element of surprise. ”

“It’s amazing to think that Hitler didn’t know where we were going to attack,” said Emily.

“You’re right, sweetheart. It’s amazing.”

Broadcast the following day, firsthand accounts transported Edward to the heat of battle …

Perhaps I made the typical mistake of falling in love with my research?