Thursday, 8 August 2013

Stella Whitelaw: Yesterday Once More

It's our pleasure to welcome back the incomparable, Stella Whitelaw. Stella has had a wonderfully long career as an author, and has quite a repertoire of published works to her credit. Some of those include the Jordan Lacey Mystery Series, No Darker Heaven, and Lucifer's Bride, all republished by Tirgearr Publishing.

Stella is also the author of over 200 short stories. She has been organizing this tantalizing collection into a new series: The Once More Series.

Today we celebrate the first collection in this new series, Yesterday Once More, a collection of historical short stories. Stella takes us back to 1537 in Table for Two,1587 in Run Crimson, 1646 in The Second Ark, 1805 in Loblolly Boy, 1881 to read The Diary of Dr Arthur Southwick, 1939 in Southpaw, 1939 in Jubilee Jones, and a historical time travel set between 1881 and 2000 in The Dome is Square and Made of Jelly.

This is a fabulous collection of historical tales --

In A Table for Two, can we guess who Miriam's dinner companion is?

And in Crimson Run, who is Sarah stitching a crimson petticoat for?

The Second Ark takes us into the heart of 17th century England where a severe storm threatens a small family. Will the rain every stop?

We sail the oceans with The Loblolly Boy, aboard Lord Nelson's ship to the Battle of Trafalgar. Is this the life young Dan wanted?

Take a step back in time to read The Diary of Dr Arthur Southwick, the man instrumental in the introduction of the electric chair as a humane means of dispatching criminals. You can Google this one!

Southpaw is the story of a young hairstylist, Mary, who dreams of a life with her soldier boy. But during the war, the future is uncertain.

Jubilee Jones is a tale told from an unlikely point of view.

Finally, The Dome is Square and Made of Jelly -- A clever title for a clever story of a woman working for the London Gasworks in 1881 who suddenly finds herself standing inside the Millennium Dome in 2000, the gasworks having been demolished for the Dome!

This is a wonderful journey through history. Stella introduces us to several historical characters in the telling of each of these unique stories. I'm hard-pressed to decide which I liked the most. All are so cleverly told. Many could actually be expanded into longer stories, but these short versions are well-satisfying and ideal for anyone looking for a quick read, or an introduction to a new-to-you-author.

I can't wait to see the next inclusion in this series: Christmas Once More, slated for a November release.

Here's an excerpt from The Second Ark --

The sky was the blackest I had ever seen. I prayed my Meg would not be bewitched by it and produce a babe with a mark on its face. The village women had many a black tale to tell about storms and thunder. The scurrying wind was getting up and beginning to howl like a wolf from the Downs. Branches were hitting my face as the gale took hold of the tree and thrashed it around.

The monks were writing it down that 1646 had been a year of horrendous storms, torrential rain and flooding, with pellets of ice as big as rings. I never knew the number of the year. But the heavy rain worried me.

There was no work to be done in this downpour. I set off for home, my feet slipping in the mud. A sudden gust of wind struck my back and sent my feet flying from under me. I fell on my back on the streaming mud, scrabbling for a hold but my hands found nothing to cling to. Meg would be in a fine temper when she saw the state of my shirt now. There might be no supper for me but a wedge of stale bread and hard cheese.

The rain was turning into small stones of ice, bouncing off the ground, hitting and stinging my face like a shower of pins. I could barely see my way back to the cottage even though I knew every step in the dark. The rain had turned it into a weird foreign place, every bit of landscape changed and contorted. Trees that I had known since a boy were fallen, their roots stuck out of the ground, bleeding into the torrent.

The cottage was swathed in a thick mist, almost impossible to see within a curtain of rain. The wind was lifting the thatch and I was sorry I had not put a new top coat of thatch on the lower layer when we first came to the cottage. It had not had one for twenty years and was sorely in need of patching.

Meg was huddled inside the cottage, the wind howling straight through it. She was already drenched, trying to save her washing, but the wind had whisked it away and my shirts were now rolling over the Downs.

“Will, my Will,” she cried, clinging to me. “The sty has gone and the hen coop. I have lost all my good hens.”

“Let me see what I can find,” I said, dreading to go out again into the storm. I could feel the walls of the cottage shaking but the flint stone and mortar was strong. There were a few bedraggled hens sheltering under a flattened bush and I tucked them under my arms and took them back to Meg. The pigs had found their own way into the cottage and were huddled against the far wall. No fire left in the hearth for the rain was coming in through the roof. Water was swirling in through the flapping door, and already the floor was a mass of mud. Our bed was wet and sodden, heaving like a raft.

The stairs to the upper chamber had long ago rotted, destroyed by some earlier disaster or lack of money to repair. I used a makeshift ladder if there was need to fetch something from the store kept upstairs. It was not a proper ladder with rungs, but a sturdy trunk of tree that had enough branches strutted out for footholds.

I was an old hand at climbing it but I doubted if my Meg in her swollen state would find it easy. But the water was pouring in and finding nowhere to go, was filling up to her knee level. She was trying to save our precious bits of pottery but they were falling from the alcove over the hearth and smashing on the hard stone.

“John Catchpole will be mad at this,” I muttered.

“He’ll have other things to worry about,” said Meg, bunching up her wet skirt as if to protect the babe from the water.

John Catchpole owned the cottage among many other properties in the neighbourhood. I was a tenant farmer, also kinsman, and paid my dues when I could.

• • •

Stella Whitelaw began writing seriously at the age of nine. She was ill with measles when her father gave her an Imperial Portable typewriter. Covered in spots, she sat up in bed and taught herself to type.

At sixteen, she became a cub reporter and worked her way up to Chief Reporter. She was the first woman Chief Reporter, the youngest, and the only one who was pregnant.

After producing a family, she became Secretary of the Parliamentary Press Gallery at the House of Commons. Secretary then meant the original meaning, Secretariat, the keeper of secrets. She was awarded an MBE in 2001 but is not sure why.

Like Trollope, she wrote books on the train and in the recesses. The Jordan Lacey PI series is her favourite and the cruise crime books. Her big romances, No Darker Heaven and Sweet Seduction, were a marathon adventure.

Stella has won a woman’s magazine national short story competition and the London Magazine’s Art of Writing competition judged by Sheridan Morley. The Elizabeth Goudge Cup was presented to her at Guildford University.

Homeless cats find their way to Stella’s lifelong hospitality and she has written eight books of cat stories for the 7 – 70 plus.

Find Stella online --

Stella's Website
Stella's Blog
Tirgearr Publishing

• • •

Tirgearr Publishing is giving away a copy of Yesterday Once More today to one lucky commenter. Leave Stella a message with your email address, or ask her a question, and be automatically entered into the random drawing.

Or grab a copy of Yesterday Once More here.


  1. Welcome back to Heart of Fiction, Stella. Must say, I love your stories, and this collection certainly has something for everyone. Best of luck with this new series.

    1. Nice to see you back here again Stella. Love the title of your latest release and what a stunning cover.
      Can't wait to start reading it.

      Hope you're having a lovely day.

    2. Thank you, Cathy. You are always so supportive. I think you
      would love these stories, all part of British history from a fresh angle.
      Hope you are enjoying the sunshine
      Stella x

    3. Dear Kem

      Thank you for the clever precis of each story without giving
      away any of the unusual aspects. Very grateful.
      What a busy lady you are.

    4. This is a good collection of stories, Stella. Can't wait to see your Xmas collection . . . and others!

  2. What a terrific variety in a collection! This sounds fabulous.

  3. Dear Kit Marlowe

    Thank you for kind and generous remarks. There's a lot of history about
    and these stories touch some unknown aspects.