A New Beginning

LakeUnionPublishingImage-V343774130-newIn January, I listed 6 Musings on Writing, one of which was ‘each year marks a new beginning‘. Well, as it turns out, January truly did mark a new beginning, one that I can now tell you about, because the contract is signed.

My third novel, Time & Regret has been taken on by Lake Union Publishing. As you can imagine, I am more than excited!

The folks at Lake Union have been amazing, both professionally and personally. Time & Regret has already been through their developmental edit process and will soon head into copy edit. The objective is to release it in late August or early September.

Many thanks to Carol Bodensteiner who connected me with Lake Union, to Jodi Warshaw the acquisitions editor at Lake Union, and to Jenny Quinlan of Historical Editorial who has done such terrific editing work on Unravelled, Lies Told in Silence, and Time & Regret.

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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. Her debut novel, UNRAVELLED: Two wars. Two affairs. One marriage. is also available from these retailers.

Mary can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

WWI Diary Entries


Source: www.dailymail.co.uk
Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

Last Friday I wrote about Killing My Darlings which resulted in deleting the first eleven chapters of Time & Regret. But then I had another thought. Perhaps some of the materials would make a good blog post or two.

Within those eleven chapters were excerpts from a WWI diary written by Grace Hansen’s grandfather, Martin Devlin. To build a convincing diary I read many other WWI diaries, researched aspects of WWI training programs and studied the battalion records for the 4th Brigade, 19th Battalion of the Canadian army. I had decided that the 19th Battalion would be Martin’s home for the duration of WWI.

Feb 5, 1915

Enlisted today. A whole mess of forms to fill out. Looks like I’m signing my life away. Guess I shouldn’t joke about that. Went down with Bill Jackson who has been chomping at the bit to get in the fight, as he says. In September everyone thought the war would be over in a few short months. Reality is somewhat different.

Yesterday, Mother said Jim Smithers has been sent from France to England with severe wounds. She won’t be happy to hear that I’ve enlisted but I feel it’s my duty. If we don’t stop the Hun who will? Bonnie won’t be happy either but I think I can talk her around. The enlistment officer told me that with my education I’ll likely be selected for officer training. Next step is a medical exam.

Feb 8, 1915

I was right about Mother and Bonnie. Neither woman is happy although at least Mother is talking to me. Jane says she’s proud of her older brother and Father says it’s the manly thing to do and he wished he were young enough to join up.

Mar 1, 1915

Had a letter from Bonnie yesterday so I hope that means she’s forgiven me. Most of it concerned her comings and goings, although she did say that she now understands why I signed up. And she ended it ‘with affection’ which is very positive. I probably won’t see her for some time.

After a few weeks living in tents in High Park, my battalion has gone to the Exhibition grounds for training. I’m all kitted out with uniform and insignia though I won’t get my 2nd lieutenant stripes until I’m officially commissioned. Must be more than two thousand men here. Rather chaotic but I’ve heard that it was much worse last fall when the camp was initially formed. Hardly any training occurred then, they were in such a state of confusion. Captain Butler still complains about it. Some of the officers say Hughes is a pompous ass and favours his cronies to the detriment of our troops. Shocking if it’s true.

Mornings are regular training and afternoons are officer training. I prefer the practical stuff of mapping, communications, artillery and rifle practice. Drills and marches are a necessary evil. I’m getting used to the rules and rigidity but a few men have been put on report for disobedience or sloppiness. This afternoon we paraded for inspection by General Dawson.

Must read a bit of the drill manual before bed.

March 22, 1915

We’ve just heard the news about Armentieres. The PPCLI sustained severe casualties. Can’t help but think that I will be there soon. I wonder if I will distinguish myself. Perhaps merely getting through it will be enough. My tent mates don’t talk much about this sort of thing although I sense more intensity than before.

I share a tent with five other cadet officers. John Stanley keeps to himself, Bob Morrison is the self-appointed spokesman and somewhat pompous, Michel Diotte is fluently bilingual (English mother, French father) and a good sort, Pete Vanleuven is second generation Canadian of Dutch heritage (he knows Bill Jackson) and then there’s Bill. We get along which is good in such confined space. The army puts great emphasis on maintaining order and this applies to all things from the precise angle of a salute to the fold of a blanket. Mother would be proud. [Note: Michel, Bill and Pete become significant characters in the story.]

Mar 29, 1915

Regular letters arrive from Mother and Jane and irregular ones from Bonnie. I find it difficult to write back because it’s such a different world. A world that women wouldn’t understand. We’ve heard rumours that we’ll soon go overseas, although we’ve heard that before. Machine gun practice today. The noise takes some getting used to. In the afternoon we had a hockey game. Quite a contrast but the men need an outlet for all their energy. Officers did not participate but I was asked to help coach. We didn’t win – much joking over too many beers tonight.

Still cold and wintry, we wear overcoats and mittens on every parade. Firing rifles is difficult in this weather. The men rise at six and often we are up before them. Roll call is at six-thirty. The sergeants berate any man who is late.

Have to stop now and write a few letters.

Apr 22, 1915

Not much of a diary! The days have so much similarity, although if I think back to February I realize that our battalion has come together and learned a lot. The men drill properly, load and unload their rifles with ease, carry 50 lb packs as though they were nothing. For my part, I’ve led several mock actions and conducted parade drills with success. We now know that we will depart May 12 and I have a five-day leave to visit home.

So, at least these darlings aren’t totally dead.

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available in paperback from Amazon and in e-book formats from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. Mary can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

4 Photos – Seeds for the Next Novel

At a small French cafe in 2010, Time & Regret was born. My husband and I discussed the plot all evening, the twists and turns becoming more elaborate as the bottle of wine disappeared. We took lots of pictures that summer, some of which offered inspiration for Lies Told in Silence; others are now providing ideas and texture for my next novel, Time & Regret.

Here’s the premise: While cleaning house to eliminate traces of her ex-husband, Grace Hansen discovers her grandfather’s WWI diaries along with a puzzling note. Surprisingly, the diaries reveal a different man from the beloved grandfather who raised her. A few months later, Grace follows the path her grandfather took through the trenches of northern France and discovers a secret he kept hidden for more than seventy years.

Hotel in HonfleurThis first photo is the place where my husband and I stayed in Honfleur, a small town across the Seine from Le Havre. In Time & Regret, Grace stays here for the first few days of her trip to France.

“Located in a grand three-storey house with imposing columns on either side of the front door, the hotel looked elegant and, after stepping inside, I rang the bell and looked around. The room just beyond the front hall was full of ornate antiques and overgrown plants, Persian rugs and gilded ceilings. In the living room an enormous mirror filled one wall, its frame decorated with coloured glass in the shape of vines. Flanking the mirror were blue Chinese vases, at least three feet tall, etched with red, white and pink flowers. Opposite the mirror on a marble-topped chest of drawers was a chess set, a vase full of blood-red roses, a turquoise urn and a brass lamp. I could not decide whether this arrangement was contrived or random. Scattered along the other walls, as if it was important to fill as much of the room as possible, were high-backed chairs with winged sides, their wooden legs carved and gilded, and their backs and seats covered in muted floral patterns. A baby grand piano stood in the far corner, topped with an old gramophone.

Since no one had yet arrived, I rang the bell again and stepped further into the living room. Two large doorways invited exploration, one led into the solarium where tables were set with crisp white cloths and potted geraniums filled every window ledge, the other into the dining room with a mahogany table and matching sideboard, three huge canvases and the marble bust of a black warrior above the fireplace. Enchanting, in a bizarre way.”

Musee de la Grande GuerreMusee de la Grande Guerre in Peronne was a wonderful if sobering experience. Simple displays made for more impact.

“Peronne was a larger town, its streets and squares decked with hanging baskets while citizens strolled about enjoying the sunshine. Housed in a medieval chateau, the museum’s collection was laid out sparingly for maximum impact. On the floor surrounded by ten-inch wooden frames were full uniforms and kits for French, British, Canadian and German soldiers. Similar frames housed rifles, ammunition clips and light trench mortars, medical instruments, ambulance supplies, and signalling equipment. Further on, a display of camouflage techniques showed a hollowed out tree trunk used as an observation post and a range of ingenious materials to disguise artillery and command posts.  Along the walls were posters exhorting civilians to donate to the cause or help in some other fashion.”

WWII American Govt certificateIntending to explore the areas around Ypres, Passchendaele and Vimy where her grandfather fought, Grace stays at a hotel called Chateau Noyelle. Exploring the Chateau’s salon while waiting for cup of coffee, Grace finds this framed certificate.

“Stopping to order an espresso, I looked around the bar at comfortable chairs organised in small groupings for intimate conversations before dinner or perhaps a reading retreat on a rainy day. Large windows embraced by silk overlooked the front yard. I approached a display of sepia photos next to a tall curio cabinet and peered at the first one, clearly a shot of the building before it had become a hotel. Two women holding lacy umbrellas were in front of the chateau wearing long skirts and white blouses with wide sleeves and tight cuffs. Nothing alluring about those outfits, I thought. Beside them was a young boy holding a hoop in his hand, a straw hat on the ground nearby. Below the picture a silver plaque said Chateau Noyelle, 1879.

Beside that photo was a framed certificate bearing the American coat of arms. Curious, I bent my head to read the inscription: The President of the United States has directed me to express to Andre Justin-Gabriel Constant the gratitude and appreciation of the American people for gallant service in assisting the escape of Allied soldiers from the enemy. Underneath was the signature of Dwight Eisenhower as General of the Army. My imagination began to work, spies lurking in the corridors, an underground passage through the woods, secret doors behind . . .

“Your espresso, Madame.” “

WWI Craters and Shell holesTime & Regret is told through Grace’s voice, through her grandfather Martin’s voice and through the diary he kept. Bill Jackson, Michel Diotte and Pete Vanleuven are Martin’s friends. Butler is his commanding officer.

” “We’re gearing up for a major offensive,” said Captain Butler.

Martin was in the cellar of a house partially destroyed by shelling. He thought these brigade headquarters a distinct improvement over the dungeon HQ had occupied in December. Smelling of dried bat droppings and ancient slime, the air in that deep, dark space had created a feeling of doom as though the echoes of tortured screaming had only recently faded. He shivered, not from the cold but from the memory.

Jackson, Vanleuven and Diotte sat with Butler at a rickety table while Martin and the captain’s adjutant leaned against the wall. Rain slickers hung from hooks next to the entrance dripping remnants of sleet onto a hard mud floor.

“There’s an enemy salient near St. Eloi.” Butler stabbed at the map. “We’re part of the force ordered to eliminate it.”

“What are those, sir?” Diotte pointed to several numbered circles on the map.


Pete scratched the rash at the base of his throat. “Who occupies them?”

“That’s the problem,” said Butler. “We thought we occupied four and five and could attack craters two and three from those positions. Turns out the Germans still hold them. Our battalions couldn’t tell one crater from another. Fucking mess. We go in tomorrow night to relieve the Sixth.”

Captain Butler spent the next two hours explaining the operation and answering questions. Trench reinforcements would be the first objective, their brigade augmented for this task by two thousand reserve troops. A series of bombardments and infantry attacks would follow with the aim of securing four of the largest craters.

“Fucking mess is right,” Martin said to Bill as they slogged through the mud, the wind whipping sleet against their cheeks. He wiped his eyes and squinted. “Here’s the turn.”

“Doesn’t look promising,” Bill said.

“If the Sixth has lost more than five hundred you can imagine what we’re in for.”

April 10, 1916

Diotte has been wounded. Bill saw the stretcher bearers take him off but we’ve had no confirmation. Can’t leave my post to find out. I’ve prayed that Michel will be all right. Feels strange praying out here in the midst of what can only be described as hell.

April 12, 1916

Severe enemy bombardment. Spent the day reassuring men holding the line.

April 14, 1916

Butler said that aerial photos show all craters still in German hands. Lost Jimmy and Snowy last night. Both went down in the same scramble up the far side of a crater. Wilson and I dug them out but we couldn’t get any medics in time to save them. Snowy knew I was with him at the end. We don’t seem to make any progress. Communications often fail to get through so we are uncoordinated. No sleep. “

As they say – a picture is worth a thousand words.