Share this...

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Meeting my Waterloo: A sale, a contest and a new story...

The pathetic piece of muslin did little to conceal the stench of unwashed bodies, blood, corrupted wounds and worse that pervaded the makeshift hospital. The price Wellington had paid for the victory lay crowded on filthy straw mattresses on the makeshift hospital floor of an old warehouse in Battersea.
Everywhere she turned the wounded had been crowded together, so many of them that only a curtain separated the officers from the other ranks. Pushing aside the curtain, the conditions for the officers was little better. At least they had cots, not straw-filled bags, but those who had survived the rapid evacuation to England were in a poor state. Most still wore the tattered remnants of the uniform they had worn in battle over ten days ago and it looked to Isabel as if the rough bandages over their wounds had not been changed in days. 
(Opening lines from LORD SOMERTON'S HEIR ... by Alison Stuart)

Waterloo June 2015:  It is hard to imagine these peaceful fields were once the scene of so much carnage... (20,000 casualties)

The battle site of Waterloo today

Ten years ago, my military husband and I made a flying visit to the battle site at Waterloo, en route to returning a rental car. (Needless to say in the days before GPS we then got hopelessly lost trying to get back into Brussels and nearly missed our train... but that's another story).  That brief visit was the inspiration behind my Waterloo story LORD SOMERTON'S HEIR which starts in the days immediately following the battle.

On our recent travels, booked in complete ignorance that June 18 2015 was in fact the bicentennial of Waterloo, we found ourselves accidentally on a Waterloo trail that began in London with a visit to the Guards Museum and ended at Waterloo - the week before the Bicentennial weekend of re-enactments. A little bit of better planning and we could have been AT the bicentennial! However as it turned out, we had the place pretty much to ourselves, apart from hordes of workmen frantically trying to finish the paving and put up signs and bleachers etc. 

Alison labours up the 200 steps of the Butte de Lion

The new Visitors' Centre had been open a week and it is a marvel of 21st century technology including animated paintings, detailed and lifelike wax mannequins and a 3D movie about the battle that has you ducking for cover while facing the charge of 8000 French Curaissiers! 

Napoleon's staff on the eve of Waterloo - Visitors' Centre

Needless to say I have returned with a Waterloo buzz and a suitcase full of Waterloo memorabilia so in conjunction with my wonderful publishers from the 4th to the 13th of July I have a very special offer... several very special offers.

A CONTEST...  The prize is a collection of Waterloo memorabilia including a full reproduction of The Times with Wellington's Waterloo despatch. To enter, you only have to participate in the RAFFLECOPTER at the end of this post or click HERE

A SALE Lord Somerton's Heir , my own 'Waterloo' story will be on sale on Amazon and iBooks for only .99c for this week only.

A NEW STORY And finally, in honour of Waterloo I have written a short story... a prequel to LORD SOMERTON'S HEIR, which I have titled SEBASTIAN'S WATERLOO, in which we share the events of the 18th June 1815 with the hero of LORD SOMERTON'S HEIR, Captain Sebastian Alder.  

This available is FREE to subscribers of my Readers' Group Newsletter... so you can subscribe here to either read the story on line or download it to your ereader.



Friday, July 3, 2015

The sweetest notes of all - Stradivarius violins and my guest Lee Christine

My guest on this cold, grey Melbourne winter day is fellow Escape author, Lee Christine.

Music has always played a part in Lee's life and as a teenager she loved playing the guitar and writing songs. Those lyrics were all about love so when she turned her hand to writing novels later in life romance was the obvious choice. Lee’s novels are sexy, fast-paced and contemporary. She lives on Australia’s eastern seaboard and loves snow skiing and playing the alto saxophone.

Lee writes wonderful romantic suspense and her three part 'Safe' series has received fantastic reviews.  A Dangerous Arrangement (Dangerous Arrangements Book 1) , book one in Lee’s next romantic suspense series has just been released.

In keeping with her interest in music,  she is bringing us some little known facts about the wonderful Stradivarius violins. 


Thank you Alison for having me of your blog today!

In my latest romantic suspense novel, ‘A Dangerous Arrangement’ released by Escape Publishing, my heroine plays a Stradivarius violin, an instrument constructed of a dense Croatian maple and made by Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) an Italian luthier.

I’ve always been fascinated by the Stradivarius, primarily the violin, though Stradivari also made violas, harps, guitars and cellos. And for a long while now, I’ve wanted to write stories about classical musicians, performers at the top of their game who’ve been given access to instruments worth millions of dollars, such as the Stradivarius, though tenures with certain orchestras.

Experts don’t really know what gives the Stradivarius its superior sound though it is believed to have something to do with the density of the wood.

The Australian Chamber Orchestra own a Stradivarius violin valued at around three million dollars. It is Australia’s only Stradivarius and is played by Satu Vanska, the assistant leader of the orchestra. I partly used Satu as inspiration for my character of Marina Wentworth as well as Kirsten Williams, associate concertmaster with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

There are only 650 Stradivarius instruments left in the world and each has a unique nickname. The following is a list of famous people who have owned and/or played a Stradivarius instrument:-
·         Andre Rieu: plays a violin called ex-Captain Saville, made in 1667
·         Queen Elizabeth: owned a violin called Oistrakh, made in 1671
·         Napoleon Bonaparte: owned a violin called Molitor, made in 1697
·         The Mendelssohn Family: owned a violin called the Red Mendelssohn, made in 1721
·         Da Vinci Family: owed a violin called the Leonardo Da Vinci, made in 1725
·         Julian Lloyd-Webber: played a cello called Barjansky, made in 1690
·         Yo-Yo Ma: plays a cello called Davidov, made in 1712

Other owners include the King of Spain, US Library of Congress and some US and UK universities.  Many also owned by different musical foundations and museums.

Visit Lee Christine at her website:  Click HERE


When violinist Marina Wentworth arrives in Venice en-route to a cruise ship for a short working holiday, the last thing she expects is to be confronted by a handsome stranger demanding answers. After going to great lengths to keep her real reasons for the trip a secret, Marina refuses to let her immediate attraction to Dean Logan derail her plans.

Desperate to recover his latest super yacht designs, Dean doesn’t want to believe the lovely violinist is involved in the devastating cyber-attack that threatens to destroy his yacht building empire. However his growing feelings for Marina fail to extinguish the nagging suspicion that she is hiding something.

Set against the backdrop of Italy’s Amalfi Coast, Dean and Marina must navigate the dangerous waters of secrecy, attraction, and the fusion of two very different worlds. Will their lives remain discordant, or will they take the chance at true harmony?


Friday, June 26, 2015

The French Role In the War of Independence - Guest Post from ReganWalker

France’s Contribution to America’s Victory in its War of Independence

My newest historical romance, To Tame the Wind, is set in 1782, the last year of the American Revolution, however, it does not take place in America. Rather, it takes place in Paris and London and the waters of the English Channel. As such, it brings to the fore a part of the war not often focused on: the incredible contribution of France to American’s victory.

Comte de Vergennes
At the beginning of the American War of Independence in 1776, France was still smarting from its defeat in the Seven Years’ War that took place between 1754 and 1763. When Benjamin Franklin came to Paris to call on the French Foreign Minister, Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes, soliciting France’s aid and support, he met with success. The French were eager to thwart Britain’s imperial ambitions and to restore French pride. There was also widespread sympathy in France for America’s desire for liberty and self-determination. The American Revolution was perceived as the incarnation of the Enlightenment against “English tyranny.” After all, it would not be long before France would have its own revolution.
Benjamin Franklin

All this contributed to the fast friendship that formed between Vergennes and Franklin.

Living in Passy, just outside of Paris, Franklin learned the language and displayed an uncanny knack at politics and persuasion, which led scholar Leo Lemay to call Franklin "the most essential and successful American diplomat of all time." He served as America’s ambassador to France until 1783.

The alliance between France and America, negotiated by Franklin, was signed on February 6, 1778 after the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga. It was titled the Franco-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce. By its terms, France openly supported America’s claim of independence. The French had three goals in mind: to help the Americans win their independence; to expel the British from the West Indies where France held many profitable, sugar-producing islands; and to compel the British to concentrate the majority of their naval strength in the English Channel. Not surprisingly, Britain soon declared war on France, in March of 1778.

Vergennes persuaded King Louis XVI to give the Americans money, soldiers (most notably Lafayette, who became an aide to Washington and a combat general), sailors, ships and supplies. At first, France’s support was covert. French agents sent America military aid, predominantly gunpowder, through the legitimate French company Rodrigue Hortalez et Compagnie, beginning in 1776. But by 1777, over five million livres of aid had been sent to the Americans.

During the American Revolutionary War the French Navy played a decisive role in supporting the Americans. In 1781, the French, fighting under Admiral Fran├žois-Joseph de Grasse, managed to defeat the British fleet at the Battle of the Chesapeake, thus ensuring that the Franco-American ground forces would win the ongoing Battle of Yorktown. After the Americans won the Battle of Yorktown, the House of Commons voted to end the war in the spring of 1782, a fact my English privateer hero is quick to take note of.

French ships of the line in the battle of Chesapeake
In all, France contributed about 1.3 billion livres (in modern currency, approximately thirteen billion U.S. dollars) to support the Americans, and this didn’t include what France spent fighting Britain on land and sea outside America. According to Benjamin Franklin, our wily commissioner in Paris, at one point while France was having difficulty meeting its own expenses, “it has advanced six millions to save the credit of ours.” That France was deeply in debt at the war’s end cannot be disputed.

While there were other American commissioners in Paris, there is no doubt that America would not have won the Revolutionary War without France's financial and military aid and that Franklin was almost entirely responsible for obtaining that aid. That all of France admired and loved him is clear. (When the news of his death reached Paris in 1790, the French admiration for the American statesman was such that in the middle of the French Revolution, the National Assembly decided to adjourn for the day.)

To Tame the Wind (Agents of the Crown Book 0)

Paris 1782… AN INNOCENT IS TAKEN. All Claire Donet knew was the world inside the convent walls in Saint-Denis. She had no idea her beloved papa was a pirate. But when he seized Simon Powell's schooner, the English privateer decided to take the one thing his enemy held most dear... her.
A BATTLE IS JOINED The waters between France and England roil with the clashes of Claire's father and her captor as the last year of the American Revolution rages on the sea, spies lurk in Paris and Claire’s passion for the English captain rises.


Twitter: @RegansReview (

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Book Review - The Uncivil Wars Series by M.J. Logue

Another "Missing in Action" post... Actually I have been travelling - nearly six weeks of 'research' in the UK and Europe. Museums, castles, cathedrals... so much information to absorb it is dribbling out of my ears! More on my travels in later posts.

One thing travel has afforded is long hours in planes and trains and an opportunity to catch up on reading and the books that have held me in a thrall is a new series, set in my favourite period, the English Civil War, by writer M.J. Logue - THE UNCIVIL WARS. 

I should declare that Logue (or her alter ego, Hannah Methwell) is a compadre of mine... sharing as we do a PASSION for the English Civil War. Unlike me, Hannah is able to indulge her passion as a proper re-enactor and as a consequence she lives and breathes the ECW in ways I can only fantasise about... and it shows in her writing.

It is too hard to separate out the Uncivil War stories,  because although they stand alone, they are at the same time entwined and episodic. Logue has done something really unusual... she has created a troop of Parliamentary cavalry under the command of an unusual hero, more an anti-hero, Holofernes Babbit (Hollie). To complement the three UCW books written to date, are 3 short novellas that delve into the backstory of the characters and I think it is important. to at least read KERSEN before embarking on the series as this story introduces us to the 16 year old Hollie adrift in Holland, having fled his brutal father to join the fighting in the 30 year wars.

Twenty years later (in THE RED HORSE) we meet a hardened and embittered mercenary who has returned to England to take the pay of king of parliament... whoever offers the most... and fight in the English Civil Wars. Tall, auburn haired, scarred emotionally and physically, like his horse, the vicious Tyburn, Hollie won't easily be broken to obey the commands of men he considers his military inferior. On and off the battlefield he is difficult, obstreporous, volatile and unpredictable. He has been given command of a raggle taggle troop of the sweepings of the street... so much for the perception of 'roundheads' as dour and godly crop heads.

Hollie's fire is tempered by the calm and poetic nature of the young man who is made his Cornet, a task Lucifer (Luce) Pettit initially baulks at. Unlike Hollie, Luce (a gentleman by birth and nephew to the Earl of Essex) genuinely believes in the cause for which he is fighting.

Logue's writing, like Hollie, defies convention. The story is told from any number of perspectives and sometimes all in the same scene, but it works. You get right under the characters' skins and come to care for all of them, even the horses, deeply! The dialogue is utterly true to period and to each character.

Now to the books... KERSEN (Hollie's story) I have mentioned. There are 2 other short prequels, A CLOAK OF ZEAL and UNBREAKABLE both of which centre on a young man, Thankful Russell (or Hapless as he comes to be called for good reason) who we meet briefly in Book 1 but by Book 3 is a member of Hollie's regiment.

BOOK 1: THE RED HORSE - in which we meet Captain Hollie Babbit and his reluctant new cornet, Luce Pettit. This book spans the early days of the war (August 1642 to December 1642), a time of battles that are fought and neither won nor lost, the reality of the battlefield and the uncertain politics surrounding the command of the Parliamentary forces. Through all of this Hollie rages, somewhat unsuccessfully. wounded at Edgehill and forced into the company of Luce, the two form a grudging respect bordering on friendship. Luce takes his shattered commander home to meet his Aunt Het ('the mendingest lady in Essex') and in Het's care, Hollie begins to heal not only physically but emotionally.

Book 2: COMMAND THE RAVEN - picks up in the early months of 1643 with Hollie back in
command of his uncommandable troop, while hankering after Het who has offered him a glimpse of what life with hearth and home could be like. In despair 'Uncle Essex' sends him north to support the Parliamentary cause being led by the Fairfaxes. Sir Thomas Fairfax is a particular favourite of mine and Logue's too, I suspect. He is drawn with great affection and respect but recognising his weaknesses too. In this book we meet Thankful Russell, on the staff of Essex. They are also joined by Hollie's father, the firey preacher, Elijah Babbit and the issues from his childhood which drove him away at 16 have to be confronted. Like the first book, the book ends with a return to Het's arms.

And here I must take a small issue with Logue.... rather than continue the series with what should be next book (1643/4),  by her own admission, she jumps to 1645. Yes it stands by itself, but we miss the arcs of the characters in the intervening 2 years... during which Hapless becomes one of the Babbit troop and a peculiar little trooper called Gray who may not be what he appears to be joins them as well. Without the intervening years, as a reader it made me hard to engage with a really important character who will die in A WILDERNESS OF SIN. The character's death is sad but if we had a better opportunity to get to know this character in greater depth, it would have been even more heartbreaking. A small point and it does not detract from reading A WILDERNESS OF SIN as a stand alone.

Book 3: A WILDERNESS OF SIN... begins in the aftermath of the battle of Naseby in June 1645 during which Hapless has been badly wounded in an altercation that has nothing to do with King and Parliament and everything to do with Trooper Gray. Once again the broken men return to Het for 'mending' but Hollie has to return to the war and a New Model Army which has no time or patience for men like him. As the Parliamentary forces start mopping up the last royalist resistance, the war has become a tedious routine of sieges and beaurocracy and Hollie does not react well to being curbed in this matter. In the aftermath of the death of one of the key characters ( a scene which had me reaching for tissues in the  middle of an airport), Hollie begins to question why he is doing what he is doing. His own sense of honour will see him complete the task but at the end of the book, like small desperate child, he asks Het 'Do I have to go back?'

Logue's writing is compelling, her voice utterly unique. I can't think of another author's writings to compare. Hollie Babbit is NOT a Richard Sharpe but in the eposidic nature of the stories and the well written cast of secondary characters (including animals), there are some slight similarities. This is pure historical fiction at its best. While there is romance, it is not romantic historical fiction. Logue's battles are brutal and bloody, no glossing over the horror that is a civil war. She has created sympathetic characters to espouse the 'unpopular' side (the Parliamentary cause) and she also captures the complex politics of the time in a way that makes it accessible and understandable to the reader.

This is such an important period of history and yet it is not a 'popular' subject for fiction. There are a few of us, hacking away at the corners in the hope that more readers will come to love this period as we do. Logue's books fill an important niche. 

I am hanging out for the next stories... hurry up, Hannah!  

(You can find out more about THE UNCIVIL WARS at and you will meet Hannah next month when she is my guest on Friday Fun Facts)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

MIA or 6 things I learned from a book deadline...

Firstly I must issue an apology for my recent absence from the blogosphere ... I have just crawled out of the tangled jungle of a contracted 'book deadline' -  (without the assistance of Humphrey Bogart...)

This is the first time I have encountered this beast before and it all seemed fairly straightforward when I put my signature to a contract around July last year that said 'Thou shalt deliver unto us a completed manuscript by no later than 30 April 2015'

I blithely tossed my hair... 'Oodles of time', thought I. 'I've published 6 books. Loads of my friends do it on a regular basis. It can't be too hard...'

HOWEVER what with one thing and another... I did not get to sit down to even consider the concept of the book until September - giving me seven months to write the book from a standing start. 

There I hit my first snag.

I had a hero, a historical time span but no earthly idea where to go from there. I resorted to Tarot Cards (no kidding) - as a mind kicking exercise it is brilliant, by the end of that session with my Writers Group, I had a heroine, an antagonist and motivations etc. etc. 

Next step, said I, let's PLOT the story. I have stated on many occasions I am not a plotter but I thought on this occasion something more than just 'a vague idea' was needed, so I plotted - or thought I did. I then sat down to write and, you guessed it, the plot went out of the window... Of the 7 months I had available to me it took me 5 months to write the rough draft.

Throw into this mix, two weddings (I have now officially run out of children to marry off), Christmas, the fact I still work, edits on other books... and time began to disappear from underneath me. Extraneous activities (such as keeping up with my blog went out of the window) but I am pleased to say I fell across the finish line with the duly finished story delivered up to my publisher on the due date.

So what have I learned from this exercise?

1. I can write a book to a deadline but at a cost to my life, my health, my family and my sanity. Next time there will have to be an enormous 6 figure advance attached to it!
2. I can write a book to a deadline and still be a pantser but at a cost to my life, my health etc etc...(see 1 above)
3. I cannot plot (see 2 above).
4. In order to reach the deadline with something that looks vaguely book shaped, I had to write SOMETHING every day... even if some days it felt like I was carving every word from stone with my thumbnail. 
5. I could not have done it without someone keeping me accountable and that someone was a Facebook group set up by my friend Monique McDonell #1000wordsaday. Only by checking in my word count on a daily basis did I get across that line. Some days were woeful some were good, but word by word I got across that line and I don't think I could have done it without the support of that group and the accountability of having to check in daily. Actually I had 2 'someones' because standing behind me with their shoulders against my back when it looked like my steps might falter, were the wonderful ladies of my Writers' Group to whom I am completely accountable for my goals...
6. When in doubt... resort to Tarot Cards...

Of course it remains to be seen whether the book I delivered passes muster with my editor, but any rewrites will be welcome and only improve the story.

So how did I eventually do it? In this photograph, the sheet of paper with the sticky notes is my first attempt at plotting. The picture of the white board (expunged the day I handed the story in!) is how I actually got it over the line, using the 4 Act method of writing. The black writing was where I had got in the plot and the red was what was needed to bring it home. 

Plotting for pantsers... Alison style
THAT worked well but I had to be halfway through the book before it even started to work. 

Oh... and Scrivener... I couldn't have done it without Scrivener (or my Writers' Group or my husband...)

(I am just about to go AWOL again as I head off on a 6 week vacation... but once I am back in June I have some very exciting projects to get my teeth stuck into - and the deadlines will be of my own choosing!)  WATCH THIS SPACE....

Friday, April 24, 2015

Commemorating not Celebrating Gallipoli

The 25th April 2015 marks the 100th Anniversary of the landings at what is now known as Anzac Cove. 

As I stood in the queue at my local post office this week I found myself confronted with a whole stand of ANZAC centenary 'items' - everything from stubby holders to tea towels. The television has been flooded with mini series, docu dramas, documentaries and advertisements. When did the death of over 8000 young men become a cause for celebration? A significant date in our history certainly but not for reasons of ‘celebration’.

It is one of the saddest days in our history. The whole Gallipoli operation, cost 26,111 Australian casualties, including the 8,141 deaths. And all for nothing. A failed military strategy that never had any hope of succeeding in a war that cost over 800,000 lives and probably should never have been allowed to happen. 

There is plenty of learned information to be found on the complex train of events that led to the start of the the 'Great War' but I think in its most simplistic form it is best summed up by Private Baldrick, a character in the 1980s television show Blackadder (Blackadder goes Forth).

·        Baldrick says: I heard that it started when a bloke called Archie Duke shot an ostrich 'cause he was hungry.
·        Captain Blackadder explains: In order to prevent war in Europe, two superblocs
developed: us, the French and the Russians on one side, and the Germans and Austro-Hungary on the other. The idea was to have two vast opposing armies, each acting as the other's deterrent.  That way there could never be a war.
·        Baldrick says:  But this is a sort of a war, isn't it, sir?
·        Blackadder replies. Yes, that's right.   You see, there was a tiny flaw in the plan. It was ;.
·        Baldrick concludes with his usual pereceptivity:   So the poor old ostrich died for nothing.

In fact Blackadder’s explanation regarding the two power blocs is a succinct explanation of the cause of the war which has its origins in a bitter power struggle between Germany and Russia over the Balkans, thousands of miles from England, Belgium and France - and Australia.  It all came to a head on 29 June 1914 with the assassination of the heir to the Austrian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a Serbian national. This act of aggression triggered a diplomatic crisis which in turn invoked the international alliances and within two months Europe was at war. 

Far away at the bottom of the world, Australia, an independent country for only thirteen years, felt the pull of the old empirical ties and Australia went to war in support of the 'Mother Country'. Thousands of young men seeing it as a great adventure signed up and were sent firstly to Egypt and then on to Gallipoli. The reality of what they had committed themselves to was written in their blood at Anzac Cove on 25th April 2015. 


Last year I visited Gallipoli and as I heard our Turkish guide speak I saw it from the Turkish perspective for the first time. The Turks were defending an invasion of their country, as we would an invasion of our country. They hold Gallipoli in as much reverence as we do, more so because of the contribution of a single man... Mustafa Kamal (Attaturk). As the commander of the 19th Division of the 5th Army of the Ottoman Empire, his brilliant strategies and leadership inspired his men to the spirited defence of their homeland. The Turks tell you "Without Attaturk, no Turkey. Without Gallipoli no Attaturk". Every Turkish child is obligated to make a visit to Gallipoli so at any time (particularly weekends) you find busloads of bored Turkish teenagers mooching around the memorials. Teenagers of any country are a universal breed...

My husband's grandfather went to Gallipoli in August, in a second wave. He fought at Lone Pine and survived, only to be sent to the Western Front where he was badly wounded. He would talk about his time at Gallipoli but only after his death did the family discover that he had served most of his time on the Somme. The horror of the Western Front rendered him silent.

As we stood at Anzac Cove two former soldiers ourselves, my husband and I (as we are want to do on the great battlefields of the war), talked through the allied strategy... Take the Gallipoli peninsula, secure the Dardanelles, take Istanbul. We concluded that in common with much of the military strategy of a war that should never have been, that it was doomed to failure the moment the ink dried on the orders. High command in London was deluding themselves that the Turks, who held such a brilliant defensive position, would just let the allied forces march in. This was THEIR country and they defended it with their blood. Over 86,000 Turks died in the defence of the Gallipoli peninsula.

However the respect the Turks showed for their invaders and is written in Attaturk's words, carved in stone on the battlefields, was never to be repeated and was not seen on the Western front. As our Turkish guide said, as bloody as it was, the Gallipoli campaign was the last war of gentlemen.

"Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives ... You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours ... You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well." (Attaturk 1934)

So let us not 'celebrate' ANZAC day but rather take the time to quietly remember not only our own casualties, but the 44,150 total Allied deaths and the 86,692 Turkish dead.

On ANZAC day I will don my own (peacetime) medals and stand in the cold, dark dawn in a little country town (population 12) and remember the boys of that town who went to war in a country so very far from their home and never came back. For that little country town in Victoria, World War One took the life blood from the gold mines that sustained it and the town itself died on the battlefields of Europe.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Story of a B-O-O-K...BY THE SWORD

(Excerpt from BY THE SWORD by Alison Stuart)

Jonathan lifted his hand to her face, tilting her chin so she looked at him. Her eyes swam with unshed tears. Tears he had caused.
‘So many deaths. Too many, Kate. Believe me, it’s not always easy to be the survivor. I may not be dead but I have lost all that is important to me. It’s a hollow victory over death.’
So many deaths...Marston Moor and afterwards, Oxford. He had run at life, stumbled into the path of innocent people, and he had survived while they had died.
‘Jonathan?’ She touched his hand. The merest brush but she may as well have branded him with fire.

Once upon a time a little girl went to visit an old house in an obscure corner of Worcestershire, called Harvington Hall. The house creaked and groaned with a history dating back to the Middle Ages. The little girl had never seen anything so old... so mysterious... and she began to imagine a world of people who may have lived in this old house called the Thornton family.

AS aged 11 on her first visit to Harvington Hall in 1969
The old house and the cast of imaginary inhabitants lived on with the little girl as she grew up and over the years she scribbled, sketched illustrations, drew family trees, floor plans and breathed life into the imaginary world.

The original Seven Ways folder complete with illustrations!
The folder became lost in the bottom of the drawer and forgotten until one day she dislocated her shoulder in a skiing accident and left alone in a ski lodge all by herself she began to write... and in no time at all she had written A B-O-O-K but she didn't know if it was a good book or a heap of rubbish.

She entered it into a contest called the Emma Darcy Award run by the Romance Writers of Australia and it came second, so she began to think maybe this book wasn't a terrible story. She entered it into a big contest in England called the Catherine Cookson Fiction Prize and it was long listed... but alas none of the publishers she sent it was interested. "It's a terrific book," they said, "but its set in the English Civil War and we can't sell stories set in that period of history."

Just in case you wonder what an actual manuscript looks like...
This made the writer of the B-O-O-K very sad and she put the story away in the actual sock drawer (this was in the days before cyber sock drawers) and then a little miracle happened - called Ebooks and suddenly there was a publisher who liked the B-O-O-K and so it was finally published but there was a problem. No one had invented ebook readers... and even though it won the Epic Award for "Best Historical Romance",  not enough people bought the B-O-O-K and after a little while it went back into the sock drawer. 

Still the little girl inside the author dreamed about the old house and its imaginary family... Not just one story but the story of the house and the family on through the ages.

Then one day she mentioned it to her lovely publisher (Escape Publishing) and her publisher thought it was a good story and they had an idea to make three interwoven stories - THE GUARDIANS OF THE CROWN series.

So today, March 22, BY THE SWORD - that little story begun so many, many years ago, begins a whole new life as the first in a trilogy spanning the years of the Interregnum from 1650-1660.

It will always be the B-O-O-K of my heart... I hope you enjoy reading about Jonathan and Kate's adventures as much as I loved writing about them. 

BY THE SWORD is available as an ebook only from all reputable book stores:
Barnes and Noble (Nook)
For a complete listing visit Escape Publishing

Monday, March 9, 2015

A Reader's Weekend in Canberra... ARRC15

The Regency Fashion Parade!

For those who think the life of a writer is a solitary vigil beside a guttering candle in a cold, cheerless loft, they are obviously not thinking of romance writers. Every time I get together with my "tribe" I am reminded how blessed I am to found my niche in the writing world. 

But no writer can really call themselves a writer without readers and while the Australian Romance Readers Convention is teeny tiny compared to the American equivalent (I've yet to go to RT but I've heard stories), a reader nomination for an Australian Romance Readers Award (for Lord Somerton's Heir) was all the incentive I need to pack my bags for a weekend in Canberra with my "peeps".


Knowing how full on these weekends can be I normally lodge alone but a dear friend, Beverley Eikli, made a last minute decision to come to Canberra and agreed to be my roomie. I had forgotten what fun it was to have a roomie and as we are both on deadlines (hers more urgent than mine) we shared a little writing time and space - but, in my case, not nearly enough!

The weekend kicked off on Friday night with a gathering of the Harlequin authors followed by the welcome drinks and a chance to finally put some names to faces among the bloggers and readers who were there. 

Among inspirational women in my life, I rate Helene Young highly. Not only is she a fabulous writer of romantic suspense but she is an airline pilot. Now I have worked most of my life in male dominated professions (law... the military) but whatever difficulties I encountered are nothing compared to the fight for women to be fly (and yet look at how many of the early aviators were women???). I remember the battle Debbie Worley fought in the late 70s and it was wonderful to see Debbie with Helene on a recent TV program talking about how they just wanted to be able to do what they loved. Anyway I digress, Helene was the first key note speaker talking, aptly, about inspirational heroines (she also took out one of the ARRA awards). American authors Sylvia Day, Kelley Armstrong and Victoria Dahl were also among the guests as well as the charming, delightful and thoroughly lovely Nalini Singh. 

Getting ready for the Book signing

Pen poised...
The atmosphere at ARRC was so relaxed and the amazing organising committee had gone to so much trouble with games and contests and inventive ways for readers to connect with authors - not that we are a frightening bunch but if you are both a little shy, sometimes we all need a nudge. I loved having a chance to chat with a couple of special readers as a "Mystery Author". 

Then, of course, there is the book signing... A lovely opportunity to talk to readers about what they like reading. Although I reached rather depressing conclusion I needed to be writing "hot" paranormals, not considered historical romances... The queues for Sylvia Day and Nalini Singh are testament to that fact!

The ARRA dinner is a highlight, the fun amplified by a foto booth and a lifesize cut out of Fabio (remember him? "most beautiful man in the cosmos, including the black holes"). Anne Gracie was the thoroughly deserving winner of the Historical Romance Award. I texted my husband to say "I didn't win" and he responded "Win what?". I love that man...

Lady Elizabeth Kentmere
Sunday brought a special treat... a secret "Fashion Parade" of regency historical fashion and I was one of the models. As you may have guessed I love any excuse to dress up. Author Bronwyn Parry produced a Regency day dress... handstitched I have to say, as was the chemise, stay, chemisette and cap! The whole ensemble was extremely comfortable. I did have to remember to remove my watch and Fitbit!  Beverley Eikli, also a fabulous costume maker, provided a couple of the other costumes and we had some ring ins from the Jane Austen Society. Jeniffer Kloester (who has a life long affair with Georgette Heyer) wrote the script but none of us knew anything about our characters until we were on stage. Apparently Lady Elizabeth Kentmere was a foremost equestrienne, handy with a whip and a devil in a curricle. Hard not to collapse on the floor, paralysed with laughter! (Particularly when I think I looked more like Mrs. Bennet!)

Later in the day I appeared on a historical panel with Anne Gracie, Suzie Love and Allyssa James. 

That was it... needless to say I climbed into my own bed last night and was asleep before my head hit the pillow - with dreams of Fabio!