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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!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

I have found a new love... Pinterest

Yes, it's true. Facebook... Twitter... you have your place in my heart but I am afraid a perky, newcomer has stolen my heart. I have discovered Pinterest.

Now you might think that I have just found a new and fascinating way to procrastinate and you would not be wrong.  I could happily spend hours flicking through the Boards and repinning fantastical pictures. It is the 21st century equivalent of going through magazines and cutting out pictures to stick in a scrap book.

My problem is that I am a visual person so something like Pinterest is of immediate interest to me. I like maps, and pictures of all sorts of things. to help me visualise my work. 

I had a brief flirtation with Pinterest when it first started but the lawyer in me tapped me on the shoulder and pointed out that what I was doing was quite possibly a breach of someone's copyright and you know that probably (read, definitely) rings true. If you google Pinterest and Copyright there are slews of articles warning of lawsuits and damnation both for Pinterest and users of Pinterest. 

And this sensible advice comes from a lawyer - Mr. Pink... who wrote in a Wall Street article journal (How to use Pinterest without breaking the Law...
For the most conservative of Pinterest users, lawyers say following a few simple rules will avoid potential legal trouble.
“The best and easiest way to avoid trouble is to put up your own content, the content you created,” Jonathan Pink, a California-based intellectual property lawyer with Bryan Cave LLP told the Law Blog.
For example, Mr. Pink said that if a Pinterest user sees a piece of furniture that he or she likes, or a tasty-looking cookie, they’ll be safe taking out their smart phone, snapping a photo, and pinning it.
“Own the content you are publishing,” Mr. Pink said.
On the flip side, Mr. Pink said, “if you are going to play it conservative and safe, you should never pin an image on Pinterest for which you don’t own the copyright interest or for which you have not obtained a license from the copyright owner.”
There are some exceptions: Old photos that pre-date 1923 can be “safely posted” under copyright law, he said.
One area that might be somewhat less risky is recipes.
“You can post a recipe as long as you are creating the text of the recipe yourself, according to Mr. Pink.
(Hmm... I have to take issue with Mr. Pink, simply taking your own photograph of anything does not necessarily make it yours either... you are still infringing on the rights of the owner of the chair or the building. But, hey, I'm not a lawyer any more so this is not legal advice!)
Back to my rediscovery of Pinterest. Like all forms of social media since my initial flirtation, followed by a dose of panic, I ventured back on to it - with my own content in hand. Interesting photographs I have taken for research purposes in my travels, my needlework and, of course, my cats.
What I discovered was a realm of possibilities. The whole world had discovered Pinterest (and were happily posting up pictures regardless of possible copyright violation). What if I posted up all those images I captured for use with my books (currently stored on Scrivener and Evernote)? What if each book had its very own board?  Would that help bring it to life for the readers? (see the Pinterest Board for By The Sword - above)
So yes, all my books, including the WIPs in progress now have their own Pinterest Boards.
But best of all, for me, were the costume resources! 
One thing you probably don't know about me is that I am a costume fiend. I love historical costume and in my adolescence dreamed of becoming a stage costume designer. I can't get enough of galleries with decent costume displays (The Bath Costume Museum for example) and I am hoping to get to the V&A on my next trip to London. This is why (if you follow me on FB) you FREQUENTLY see me in dress ups... from Medieval costume in Shrewsbury to Roman Armour in Wales. Being the visual and historical person I am, nothing gets me into a time and place faster than costume. 
I am addicted to costume and Pinterest just feeds my addiction.
So come and visit me on Pinterest and I will happily share my addiction with you!

Monday, February 9, 2015

JOIN ME FOR VALENTINE'S DAY! (with the Digital Writers' Festival)

To kick off your Valentine’s Day evening, join a bunch of writers, poets, and comedians as they share their stories of love (both true and unrequited), lust, ardor, and romantic awkwardness. In the leadup to the event, send in dedications to your loved ones for our artists to read on air – just the way they did it on FM radio back in the nineties.

Join me and fellow Escape author, Lee Christine for an hour of fun and romance on Valentine's Day Evening.

We are the guests of the Digital Writers Festival and we will be 'hanging out' in a Google Hang Out with Siv Parker and Karys McEwan from 6pm Australian Eastern Standard Time.

Click HERE to go the web page for further details, to RSVP and to send in your dedications!

Thursday, February 5, 2015


From award-winning author Alison Stuart comes a stirring historical trilogy about soldiers, spies, and the strong women that love them.

The battle of Worcester in 1651 was the last great battle ever fought on English soil. Cromwell routed the forces of the young King Charles II and plunged England into nine years of a Rebulican experiment which ended with Cromwell's death and the restoration of Charles II.

The Guardians of the Crown series follows the fate of three men who fought beside the King on that day - Jonathan Thornton (BY THE SWORD), Kit Lovell (THE KING'S MAN) and Kit's brother, Daniel Lovell (EXILES' RETURN). Their stories will span the ten years of the Interregnum from 1650 until 1660.

I have often described BY THE SWORD as 'The book of my heart"... in later posts I will go into greater detail as to how I came to write it and the inspiration behind it, but for now BY THE SWORD was and always will be my first great love.

This was the book I started writing in a ski chalet all those years ago. It has been on a long journey with me... finalling in RWA's Emma Darcy Award (as it was then) and winning an EPIC Award for Best Historical Romance but it has never really found a home and people to love it as I do.

So a huge thank you to my wonderful publisher Escape Publishing for giving BY THE SWORD a new lease on life - re imagined, rewritten and re-edited. So even if you have read it before in an earlier incarnation, you won't be disappointed by revisiting this edition...

For my newsletter subscribers... watch out for my next newsletter coming out shortly. There will be a special offer just for you - so if you would like to become a subscriber, you will find a box to the right of this post. 


England 1650: In the aftermath of the execution of the King, England totters once more on the brink of civil war. The country will be divided and lives lost as Charles II makes a last bid to regain his throne.

Kate Ashley finds her loyalty to the Parliamentary cause tested when she inherits responsibility for the estate of the Royalist Thornton family. To protect the people she cares about, she will need all her wits to restore its fortunes and fend off the ever-present threat of greedy neighbours.

Jonathan Thornton, exiled and hunted for his loyalty to the King's cause now returns to England to garner support for the cause of the young King. Haunted by the demons of his past, Jonathan risks death at every turn and brings danger to those who love him. Finding Kate in his family home, he sees in her the hope for his future, and a chance at a life he doesn’t deserve.

In the aftermath of the Battle of Worcester, Jonathan must face his nemesis, and in turn, learn the secret that will change his life  forever. But love is fragile in the face of history, and their lives are manipulated by events out of their control. What hope can one soldier and one woman hold in times like these?


As one reviewer wrote:

"By The Sword was one of the most moving and powerful books I have read in a very long time. You could actually feel the struggle these two characters had to endure to be together. Alison Stuart really drove home how hard it was for people of that time especially woman to survive. Her book felt so real that I wondered if anyone living today could ever cope with the way life was back then. This book pulls at your heart strings and you hold your breath until the very end praying for these two characters." Coffee Time Romance (5 stars)

Find out more about BY THE SWORD by clicking HERE or visiting its very own PINTEREST BOARD HERE


Monday, February 2, 2015

What's not to love about a spy? Great and Unfortunate Desires - Gina Danna

Great and Unfortunate Desires

Victorian England c. 1870

Operating as a British spy, Tristan St.James, the new Marquis of Wrenworth, barely escapes Afghanistan with his life in the spring of 1869. He plans to seek vengeance against the traitor who exposed him and for the agent he’s forced to kill. Returning to England, as a lord, he must marry. Haunted by guilt from the horrors of war, he avoids love at all costs, but finds himself drawn to the only woman who is disinterested in him.

Lady Evelyn Hurstine has waited over two years for the return of her love, a man who left for war in the East. But during that time, she suffered a brutal assault, resulting in a child and fear of any man touching her except for the man she once knew. The pursuit by the marquis scares her but her excuses against his proposal dwindle.

Their marriage strengthens into love until she discovers her husband isn’t the safety she believed but the one who killed the man she once loved. Caught in a world of intrigue and mayhem, Tristan must prove his love to her before the traitor destroys them both.




“I shall talk to him shortly.”

Evelyn raised her brows, eyeing over his shoulder. “Shortly may be now, my lord.”

Tristan turned. Barreling down the lawn, creating a wake in in his path, Evelyn’s father stormed toward them. Not far behind him was Huntington and his son. Tristan gauged their pace and the distance. He had a few seconds and could hear Evelyn’s foot tapping against the grass. Frankly, he was surprised she hadn’t crossed her arms in anger or left him. With every second, her behavior and decision to stay put only made him more interested in her. Damn! Her dowry and position made her exactly what he needed his English bride to be like, with a ramrod backbone and a defiance of societal rules. As Evelyn’s father got closer, there was only one thing Tristan could think of to ensure she become his. In one swift move, he turned, pulled her close, bent her backward, and pressed his cheek to hers. She gasped.

“Considering the situation, you need me as much as I need you. We are the perfect match,” he whispered, smiling and gesturing as if to kiss her.

They both knew in that moment she became his forever. The compromising position between two single people in a public setting was shocking to the ton.

Tristan heard the grass crunching under the footsteps of the Baron and his party. He didn’t look in their direction but eased back from Evelyn, watching her reaction. Suppressed fury blazed in her eyes, and her body was rigid.

“Naught, naught, naught,” he murmured. “To slap me would be appropriate but would serve you no purpose.”

Despite the fire in her gaze, she relaxed a little within his arms. “But it would give me satisfaction nevertheless,” she whispered defiantly, although she didn’t move.



Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Gina Danna has spent the better part of her life reading. History has been her love and she spent numerous hours devouring historical romance stories, dreaming of writing one of her own. Years later, after receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees in History, writing academic research papers and writing for museum programs and events, she finally found the time to write her own stories of historical romantic fiction.

Now, under the supervision of her three dogs and three cats, she writes amid a library of research books, with her only true break away is to spend time with her other life long dream – her Arabian horse – with him, her muse can play.

You can connect with Gina on her website, Facebook and Twitter:  @GinaDanna1


Available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and reputable on line bookshops.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Were you there? A First Hand Account of the Execution of Charles I

The 30th January marks the 366th anniversary of the execution of Charles the First.

Charles I farewells his children
In an earlier blog post (Click HERE), I wrote about the commission set up to try Charles. The trial of a King for treason was unprecedented and the public execution of a monarch unthinkable. Yet it happened and was to repeat in France 150 years later.

Despite his challenge to the authority of the Commission that was set up to try him, Charles was found  guilty of the crimes levelled against him and sentenced to die by the axe. (For an account on the gruesome revenge exacted on the regicides by Charles II, see my post HERE)

The execution was scheduled for the morning of January 30 and a scaffold was set up outside the Inigo Jones designed dining chamber of Whitehall Palace (the only part of the old palace that still survives today - see my blog post on HISTORICAL HEARTS).

On the day of his execution, Charles was allowed one final meeting with his children Prince Henry and Princess Elizabeth who were the only members of his family still in England. Both children continued to be held hostage by the victors. Princess Elizabeth did not live to see the restoration of their brother and Prince Henry died at the age of 20 from smallpox shortly after the Restoration.

As a historian though, it is best to go to the primary sources and the following account of the execution comes from an eye witness (the spelling is original). The full text is at
“About ten in the morning the King was brought from St. James's, walking on foot throughthe park, with a regiment of foot, part before and part behind him, with colours flying, drums beating, his private guard of partizans with some of his gentlemen before and some behind bareheaded, Dr. Juxon next behind him and Col. Thomlinson (who had the charge of him) talking with the King bareheaded, from the Park up the stairs into the gallery and so into the cabinet chamber where he used to lie.

... Where he continued at his devotion, refusing to dine, (having before taken the Sacrament) only about an hour before he came forth, he drank a glass of claret wine and eat a piece of bread about twelve at noon. From thence he was accompanied by Dr. Juxon, Col. Thomlinson and other officers formerly appointed to attend him and the private guard of partizans, with musketeers on each side, through the Banqueting house adjoining to which the scaffold was erected between Whitehall Gate and the Gate leading into the gallery from St. James's. The scaffold was hung round with black and the floor covered with black and the Ax and block laid in the middle of the scaffold. There were divers companies of food, and troops of horse placed on the one side of the scaffold towards Kings Street and on the other side towards Charing Cross, and the multitudes of people that came to be spectators, very great. The King being come upon the scaffold, look'd very earnestly upon the block and ask'd Col. Hacker if there were no higher. And then spake thus, directing his speech chiefly to Col. Thomlinson...(Full text of speech omitted)

...Then turning to the officers, said, "Sirs, excuse me for this same, I have a good cause and I have a gracious God. I will say no more."
Then turning to Colonel Hacker, he said, "take care that they do not put me to pain. And Sir, this, an it please you---" But then a gentleman coming near the Ax, the King said "Take heed of the Ax. Pray take heed of the Ax."

Then the King, speaking to the Executioner said "I shall say but very short prayers, and when I thrust out my hands—"

Then the King called to Dr. Juxon for his night-cap, and having put it on said to the executioner "Does my hair trouble you?" Who desired him to put it all under his cap. Which the King did accordingly, by the help of the executioner and the bishop.

Then the King turning to Dr. Juxom said, "I have a good cause, and a gracious GOD on my side." Dr. Juxon: There is but one stage more. This stage is turbulent and troublesome; it is a short one. But you may consider, it will soon carry you a very great way. It will carry you from Earth to Heaven. And there you shall find a great deal of cordial joy and comfort.

King: I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown; where no disturbance can be, no disturbance in the world.

Doctor Juxon: You are exchanged from a temporal to an eternal crown, a good exchange.
The King then said to the Executioner, "Is my hair well?"

Then the King took off his cloak and his George, giving his George to Dr. Juxon, saying, "Remember—." (It is thought for to give it to the Prince)

Then the King put off his dublet and being in his wastcoat, put his cloak on again. Then looking upon the block, said to the Executioner "You must set it fast." Executioner: It is fast, Sir. King: It might have been a little higher. Executioner: It can be no higher, Sir. King: When I put out my hands this way (Stretching them out) then— After having said two or three words, as he stood, to himself with hands and eyes lift up.

Immediately stooping down laid his neck on the block And then the executioner again putting his hair under his cap, the King said, "Stay for the sign." (Thinking he had been going to strike)

Executioner: Yes, I will, an it please your Majesty.

And after a very little pause, the King stretching forth his hands, the executioner at one blow severed his head from his body. When the Kings head was cut off, the executioner held it up and shewed it to the spectators. And his body was put in a coffin covered with black velvet for that purpose. The Kings body now lies in his lodging chamber at Whitehall.

This image is said to be a contemporary portrayal of the execution (from a decidedly royalist point of view...the King is pictured on the left and his executioner on the right. The executioner bears a strong resemblance to Thomas Fairfax - who took no part in the trial and execution of the King. A woman faints and others run forward to dip cloth in the 'martyred' king's blood.

Another eye witness recounts that at the moment of the stroke "Such a groan as I never heard before, and desire I may never hear again".

The scene was quickly cleared but not before many of the spectators had rushed forward to dip handkerchiefs in the blood. "King Charles the Martyr" had been created and in old books of Common Prayer you find a service dedicated to King Charles the Martyr to be said on January 30th.

The funeral procession of Charles I

The King's head was reattached to his body, the body embalmed and conveyed to Windsor where he was laid to rest in the vault containing Henry VIII and his wife Jane Seymour. Space had been left for the body of Katherine Parr but as she had remarried and was interred at Sudeley, it left room for King Charles.

News of his father's death did not reach his son, now Charles II,  until February 5. His advisors debated how to tell the young King and in the end his chaplain, Stephen Goffe, was given the task. He entered Charles' room, hesitated, went down on one knee and addressed him as "Your Majesty." Fully understanding the import of those two words, Charles  left the room in tears.

Several books have been devoted to the trial and execution of Charles I and I recommend in particular: CV Wedgwood THE TRIAL OF CHARLES I and the more recent book about the prosecution of the trial by Geoffrey Robertson THE TYRANNICIDE BRIEF. Another interesting book is Jordan and Walsh's book on the fate of the regicides and those who prosecuted him - THE KING'S REVENGE.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Write the Books you love to read - a Writer's Journey with Samanthya Wyatt

I love celebrating new releases - particularly from my historically romantic friends.

Today my guest is Samanthya Wyatt. Samanthya lives with her husband in the Shenandoah Valley. She left her accounting career and married a military man traveling and raising her children in the United States and abroad. She loves a good book, a good joke, and her playful, witty husband. She enjoys long walks on the beach, and adores her grandchildren.

She is with me to today to talk about her writing journey and THE TRUE ONE, the second in her One and Only Series (the RIGHT ONE being the first book). The books are set in the 1820s... what we in historical romance might call "later Regency". (I love the excerpt she is sharing with us...but then I am sucker for a wounded hero!)

Thank you Alison, for having me here today. I appreciate your helping me celebrate the release of book 2 in the ‘One and Only Series’.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved curling up with a book. When I was young I wrote poems and short stories. When I graduated, my life changed. I married a military man, traveled across the US and abroad, settled in the Shenandoah Valley and had a family. Then I found romance novels. I fell in love with the characters and needed to know their happy ending.

When I couldn’t afford to buy them, I wrote my own stories. I’ve taken every workshop I could to improve my writing. I’ve entered many contests. I joined RWA and joined several chapters. Savvy Authors offered a pitch contest with several editors, agents and publishers. Coming up with a pitch—25 words or less—is extremely difficult when you’re in a group with thousands of other authors. But I got the attention of 3 editors and two different publishing companies. My dream paid off. I signed my first contract with Soul Mate Publishing.

My characters are fictitious. I have taken real life experiences to achieve the emotion on paper for my characters. I do a lot of research for the time period, studying the lingo / slang and culture. With appropriate details, hopefully I put the reader in the setting.

I find that I get a lot more accomplished if I just sit at the computer and write. As long as I write something, I just keep going. Later I can delete or gather tidbits together. And I have deleted whole chapters. But if I want my story to go somewhere and be a good manuscript, there has to be goal, motivation and conflict (GMC). I learned this from many workshops. I learned how to do character sketches, GMC charts, plots—everything one needs to bring a story together.

My first submission to an editor resulted in a rejection. Being a beginner, I was not surprised. And I didn’t let it get me down. The thing that impressed me the most was a comment—what happened to the brother? She told me the story had holes. All questions needed to be answered.

So I worked on my story, but decided Kat’s brother was a story all by itself.
So the sequel, book 2, is about Kat’s brother. Why he was gone for two years, what happened to him, and a love story all his own.
Is there a book 3? Of course. The third book in the series is about Giles. He was introduced in the first book as Morgan’s best friend—the duke. In the second book, he is asked to rescue Stephen.
My characters in all of my books are fictitious. However, I have taken real life experiences to achieve the emotion for their situations.

Find out what happened to Kat’s brother in the thrilling sequel of the One and Only series


Captain Stephen Radbourn accepts an intriguing proposition which results in horror. His ship in splinters and his men captured, he is a broken man. A band of rebels rescue their leader from a dungeon, taking the near dead captain with them. Fearing capture and thinking the tortured man will die, they leave Stephen in the care of a woman, who he believes is an angel of mercy. A man of passion, with a trail of satisfied maidens to prove it, he finds his heart captured by the lovely widow. But she forces him to choose—her or revenge.

Jennifer Faircloth departed England full of a young girl’s fantasies of romance and adventure. Her young husband dies leaving her a widow to survive alone in a foreign land. When a near death English captain is dropped at her door, memories emerge of the family she foolishly left behind. While caring for him, her curious imagination turns to an overwhelming awareness she cannot deny. He must flee for his life and he takes her with him—back to England—back to the family she’d deserted. She wants her family to forgive her, but she wants Stephen’s love even more.


He was dead.
He had to be. For serenity enclosed him. Fresh air cloaked him. A cloud of softness wrapped him. Comfort would mean he’d gone to heaven, when he had been destined for hell. Slowly, Stephen became aware of soreness, then stinging, then blinding pain. Sure signs of hell.
The lilting voice of an angel drew him to an unbelievable place of calm. The honeyed sound soothed his mind to a state of ease. Alleviating his anxiety. Diminishing his pain. The most enchanting dream he’d ever held.
 He opened his eyes with excruciating sluggishness. The first glimpse of light splintered his skull with a sharp stabbing. He slammed his eyes closed with a long groan. He’d been denied sunlight for so long, he thought never to see the light of day again.
His insides still stuck to his backbone. He breathed as deeply as his broken ribs allowed, then grounded his teeth over the agonizing ache. Slashing pain shot through his jaw stirring more memories. Oh yes. That had been broken too.
A bed? He took a moment to grasp his surroundings. Unfamiliar hands. Gentle hands. He thought he’d felt movement at one time, dreamed he was in a wagon.
 Flashes of torture penetrated his skull—men with curved knives and jeweled handles, shackles, a pit for a prison cell. He struggled with the bonds squeezing him when the sweetest sound of an angel pulled him from the dark fog. Reassuring hands swabbed a wet cloth over his feverish skin and coaxed him to swallow. Blessed relief to his parched lips. Now he lolled in a bed.
With a sense of unease he pondered his situation, wondering what state of play brought him to this consequence. He inhaled, taking in pleasant air. No stench. No slimy creatures. Where was he? At this point he didn’t care. As long as he no longer suffered the Raj’s torture.
Slowly, and more cautious this time, he lifted one lid to a narrow slit. The swelling around his eye had gone down considerably. He glanced down to find a hand-sewn quilt, like the ones his mother made. Definitely a bed. Which also resembled his English heritage. Had he somehow been transported back to England?
He rolled his head against the pillow’s softness. His mind wandered restlessly through a mirage of shadows. His ribs were on fire. He searched the room. A window stood open and the thin covering wavered as if the wind blew gently to make it dance. A crude piece of furniture beyond the bed with items scattered about. To the right a door. He wondered who was on the other side. Friend or adversary? He closed his eyes for a moment, seeking relief. Ignoring the pain in his skull, he turned his head to the right and saw the delicate creature in his dream. An angel of mercy, with dark hair falling about her shoulders. Long sweeping lashes brushed velvety cheeks. Instant awareness surged through his body. At least the devils hadn’t killed that part of him.
On the heels of that thought, he wondered if she were a maid or the wife of some possessive husband. If she were his wife—perish the thought—he would never leave her alone in any room with a strange man, incapacitated or no. Especially not in close proximity of a bed.
And he was naked. Bare as a new baby’s bottom.

Connect with Samanthya on her website here:

THE TRUE one is available from Amazon and all reputable ebook stores.