Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Writing a Series of Novels is tough work...

These novels are driven by romance within history, the history aspect of prime importance. This isn't about major battles or memorable skirmishes, the series is about families in time of war, rebellion, and how they live, survive, and where love and devotion is tested not only by family loyalties but loyalties to king and county. Although the English Civil Wars entailed several major battles, and numerous skirmishes, much of the fighting was splintered and local to specific places as the rival armies  traversed the country from north to south, and east to west. 

I have always derived immense pleasure from reading series novels. In fact I love ‘em and long ago I had it in mind to pen a series of four novels. Hence the English Civil Wars, Charles II’s attempt to wrest England from Cromwell’s clutches, the Restoration of Charles II and the Monmouth Rebellion sprang to life, and one portrait was the inspiration: 

Who is, she and what might her life have entailed?

The stories as a whole have been in my head since some thirty years ago after a ghostly apparition of a horse appeared in the courtyard of our house, or not. Perhaps in truth, what I experienced on that day, albeit within the house where I lived, was mere sense of a time past, and yet, the bridle of the horse was real to the touch. Even so, life itself and other publishing commitments (books in popular genres publishers wanted to publish for guaranteed returns on investment ) prevented this series coming to fruition. But at last, they are here, or at least, they're on Amazon. Since quitting mainstream publishing and going Indie in 2011 I've settled to writing for me and for readers who love romance and life-like history in equal measure not merely dressed up historical romances. 

By the way, for anyone who follows my blog posts or knows me well, they also know how the majority of my stories come about, and if you’d like to know for yourself you can find out by reading About Me. That said, the two houses in this series, in part reflect aspects of two houses, being one where I was born and the other in which I lived with my first husband. 

But, getting back to the subject matter, there’s nothing more frustrating than having read a book and wishing when the end is reached, that the story had carried on. Often I’ve wanted to know what happens to the lead characters post HEA, but more than that, to learn the fate of secondary characters. And there have been occasions when a prequel could have added to a series. Hence, I came to the conclusion there was scope for one of those little informative prequels to my series after I'd written book one and partway through book two. The second lead character in book one was determined to redeem his reputation a little and in doing so enlighten readers as to his earlier days of frustrations in the court of Charles I.  

And here it is.m behold the prequel Debt of Honour the forerunner to Book 1 

By Loyalty Divided. 

Yep, it’s set within my favourite period of history The English Civil War. The backdrop setting is Somerset - Bristol/Bath and surrounding districts. Bristol at that time was the second most important city in England and several times it changed hands between Royalists and Parliamentarians throughout the Civil Wars. Yes, two wars, not one major conflict.

In By Loyalty Divided, the main characters are:
Morton Viscount Axebury, (rebel son of William Lord Gantry) who becomes a Captain of Horse in the Army of Parliament = New Model Army.
William Lord Gantry (Royalist Commander)
Anna Lady Maitcliffe – born within the confines of the royal court until Lord Gantry became her ward.

The plot is a love triangle, which inevitably leads to tragedy.

Secondary characters:
The Lady Georgina Mrs. Darnley (Parliamentarian) - his lordship’s sister 
Catherine Thornton and her brother 
Captain Thomas Thornton (Royalist). 
Prince Charles, 
Prince Rupert, 
Lord Wittlesham.   

The second novel in The Royal Series:

Toast of Clifton, needless to say Toast meaning hostess of note. This novel is also set within the West of England at the time of Charles II’s bid to regain the throne and crown of England.

Main characters:
Thomas Thornton
Elizabeth Mountjoy
Morton Lord Gantry
Anna Lady Gantry

Secondary Characters are Catherine Lady Wittlesham (nee Thornton), Lord Wittlesham, Charles II, Lord Wilmot and others.

Although Toast of Clifton is a story of intense and passionate love, past betrayal haunts the hero and when the chance to right a wrong comes his way he takes it, but to lose every thing including the love of his life is a high price to pay for heroism. For when the odds of being imprisoned and deported to the colonies is your lot, and your King is fleeing the enemy as well, who comes first: family or King?  

And then to Royal Secrets, in which  the eldest Thornton daughter, Justine, sets her heart on the second generation Viscount Axebury of whom her father thoroughly disapproves and not without cause. Battles of family loyalty ensue, not only within the Thornton and Gantry households, but at Court too. It can be dangerous to overhear royal secrets when plotting to rid a king of his queen are afoot, as Justine soon discovers and her life suddenly in peril.      

And then as the years pass the Gantry and Thornton children begin to take centre stage along with Lord Wittlesham's daughters. Old feuds, lust of youth, desires and recklessness are set to cause mayhem and heartbreak and many tears are shed as the young test the allegiance and loyalty of their elders during the heart-wrenching weeks of The Monmouth Rebellion!  

One of their number, Henry Gantry, is looked upon as a traitor to the Gantry family, his story is one of spies, emotional turmoil, and regrets aplenty. But he's a king's man and loyal to James II, whilst his brother and the Thornton's are loyal to the Duke of Monmouth. Family feuding aside, Henry soon faces the awful truth royal favour is as fickle as his wife's affections, and when he's confronted with love that knocks him sideways he's tormented by duty to king and crown and torn between the two women. Tragedy strikes a severe blow, and although Henry turns to kingly duties whilst grieving a great loss, it is a tuning point in his life, where sense of family suddenly means more to him than his king.         

Rebellion continues in Lady of the Tower - Monmouth's Legacy. 

The rebel in this case is Thomasina, the youngest of the Thornton family, who risks her own life by venturing to the battlefield where carnage prevails. Whilst in search for her brother-in-law in a selfless act of bravery on behalf of her sister, her mission is fraught with danger, more especially when she's caught and assumed to be robbing the dead!  Whilst love blossoms for Thomasina and Captain Owain Lascelles, the horror in the aftermath of the Monmouth Rebellion unfolds, and Judge Jeffreys reign of terror throughout Hampshire, Dorset, and Somerset impacts on their lives, their families, and friends.       

And then, to come in about a year from now will be the release of:
 To Risk All in the Name of Treason. 

Set during the time of the Glorious Revolution (1688-1689), though "glorious" is a slightly overrated word for the toppling of a king who scarpered when senior army officers went over to the enemy. This is the story of Lady Georgina Gantry and Ira Wittlesham (junior).

Whilst Georgina takes on the role of spy within the Court of James II, as a lady to the Queen's bedchamber, Ira spies from within the king's personal court and within the salons of fellow officers of his majesty's lifeguards.  

But as history tells us, much deceit was already rife during the immediate aftermath of the Monmouth Rebellion and the dreadful circumstances surrounding Judge Jeffreys bloody reign. Thus the run up to the coming of William of Orange to the throne of England, is depicted from 1685 when a plot to overthrow James II was seeded and grew into a secret club of army officers. Two of the most famous hedged their bets throughout in determination to be on the winning side thus they wore false faces at court as did several more courtiers and junior officers of their day, and the latter were the first to desert their lines in Salisbury and ride to greet William and join his forces.     


All the books are available via Amazon worldwide.


Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Minor characters can be leading lights!

It is often said many readers dislike introductions to books by way of minor characters whose part seems solely given to that of introducing the main protagonists. Thus, out of pure interest, does an opening to a novel annoy you if minor characters gradually introduce the lead characters? 

Ardent fans of Jane Austen are no doubt conscious of Jane’s use of minor characters as backdrops to the main story (Wickham), or as a means of secondary observant viewpoint (Mary and Caroline in P&P). Georgette Heyer often used minor character/s for the opening of novels and those characters proved vital to overall plots.

The portrait above inspired the creation of Chastity and Honour, essentially two minor characters and truthfully I never saw them as lead characters. Once I started writing the sisters materialised as very different in outlook and temperament. Chastity is sweet, impressionable, and a little rotund for her years she suffers lack of breath when out walking. Whilst Honour (elder) being slim, she's obsessed with perfection all things, bitter of tongue, judgemental of others, and is her mother’s favourite. 

Subsequently, it is these two girls who introduce the lead characters within A Sinful Countess. Whilst stories of vampires thrill Chastity, prim Honour not only fears the storyteller, her reaction fuels the plot, and fuels conflict between two households. Neither sister could predict that of which will befall them all as time passes. And their individual personalities result in very different lifestyles and opposing opinions, as revealed later. I did wonder after having finished A Sinful Countess, whether to revisit Chastity and Honour at the point before they went their separate ways! Who knows, perhaps they do indeed deserve a book of their own.

Back cover blurb:

...rekindling flames from smouldering embers of lustful dreams is a risqué venture...

Whilst tales of Gothic horror deters visitors to Titchley House, the publication of Byron’s Vampyre added to the rumour the Countess of Villach has returned to her childhood home stirs untold curiosity at neighbouring Upton Park. Alas, fear in one girl’s nightmare stirs her uncle and father to action, but neither man is truly prepared when the past and present collide in a whirlwind of suppressed love and desire. Whilst Bryony Stafford, novelist extraordinaire, wars with the Earl of Wittlesea, his brother Captain Carleton is hell-bent on seducing the countess. He’s no saint and well aware scandal can taint the innocent, but can he win the woman he’s coveted for ten years or is she truly a Sinful Countess?

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Jane Austen Book Awards!

What can one say, but Thank You to the Jane Austen judges: sincere thanks.

Speeches are just not me...  

I hate award ceremonies and all that overt gushing and full-on bluster. Besides, other than Pat Jackson my editor, who has admitted time and again at having forgotten to edit because he became so immersed in the story, which is a morale boost in itself.  But, I am for the rest of the process entirely alone in formatting for e-book and paperback editions, and the painting of my own covers.  
So that's it, me...
Now get off the stage and get on with the rest of the show.

And.... I'm in good company on second award!

Monday, 14 January 2019

Suicide for authors in the Romance genre!

The very fact I paint my own covers I do require models, hence the photo on the right became the model for the hero depicted with the heroine in the left hand cover snip. 

Unusual hero for a Georgian era novel? 

I suppose he is, and no, he's not some romantic Bedouin tribesman who rides to the rescue of a fair maid or abducts her for his personal pleasure, nor is he a Barbary pirate. He's a young man of honour who swears fealty to a man who saved his life from one fate, though the greater fate prior awaiting him was, in part, more dire than death. And what transpires is not your average romance... errr, love story between two couples. 

Ooops! I must categorise my writing in correct terminology. I pray you heard not my whispered curse at that juncture...

Hence, writing out of the box for me is a passion in how far I can stretch the ubiquitous rules for historical romance novels, which have long since warn thin for me as a reader and writer. The standard boy meets girl, contention arises to keep H/H apart (you know the formula) and all is finally resolved for the HEA (happy ever after). I do read them but find myself often waiting for a riveting scene, something out of the ordinary, and it may be but a few words, and those words are insightful, memorable, and if written well they later vindicate suspicion of foreshadowing: that sense of evil this way comes, or sense of a presence watching. waiting...       

That's the kind of writing I admire and what I strive for, because if you don't read every word, a clue or nuance of other can be missed and the whole utterly misconstrued. After all, reading is all in the words, one can't fast-forward in the visual context and hope nothing of importance was said or enacted.  High stake problems, social restraints and failure motivate desire for change, and such can and will drive a novel forward, whether in narrative or dialogue. 
Stop for a moment and consider desires that transcend sage mind, where emotions spin out of control, where envy steals forth in all its ugliness, where a heroine or hero will take risks to achieve her or his aim for the life they want. Imagine a heroine who believes she cannot have that of which she desires and will literally take herself off to a nunnery rather than do as others would have her abide to. A young hero who vanishes to live a differing experience and learns more than he bargained for en route. In the great scheme of writing I do break the rules of romance from time to time, because too often stories are so alike I feel I've travelled on the same road, seen the same sights and nothing exciting or heart-wrenching happened along the way.

How dangerous is it to break romance rules and gallop off on wild and exciting trails of discovery, or break with tradition? Answer: It can be suicide for an author to go off the beaten romance track and indulge a Romance train wreck in which a sub hero dies, or the hero is killed! But sometimes events conspire against the author, characters determine their own destiny, and here is where the same old argument arises in what constitutes a "Romance Novel" as opposed to "Love Story".

The former Romance Novel is strictly romance all the way with little irritating asides, a touch of fear, abduction, murder, mystery, damn near rape, or forced sex in marriage, forced marriage, widowhood, and angst of one sort or another, plus friction, envy, rivalry, hot hot sex with a ghost, or no sex at all and all must have a fairy tale end. And Lo and Behold, the HEA supersedes the shocking elements, or how base the sex was, whatever... 

With a Love Story one can do almost any damn thing listed above one likes, and even kill the hero or heroine in the last scene shot. That's the most memorable end, is it not - remember Harry's Game the TV drama, or Heathcliff's haunting in Wuthering Heights?  But whoa, that's the suicide bid, the end bite where a reader can turn against the author. And even if the novel has a secondary HEA, that may not pacify the reader, and it does not classify it as a Romance novel, not  even a teeny weeny or grand Romantic ending. Oh, no, no, it's merely a Love Story as die-hard romancers will ram down your throat on social media until you wish you could puke all over their over zealous pomposity!

But back to the hero, the unusual, and the penning of risque love affairs... ah, do I have your attention? Some authors are more daring than others, and scarred heroes and spies returned from the Peninsular Wars, "Wellington and Napoleonic" era, have been the rage for several years now, and it would be great to see more modern-day authors risking all for love with unusual historical heroes! 

Damn it, research history, seek out the unusual and run or ride with it, and to hell with boring formula romance, Be daring, beguile, and write out of the box, Discard the sweet twee novel, and go for full-on cinematic glory where God forbid another author has gone before...           

What of a highwayman who isn't?
What of highwayman who robs for the daring of it, nothing more?
What of a soldier/sailor who is more than he appears to be?
What of heroine masquerading as other than she is and for good reason?
What of heroine who has walked a dark path and finally finds the love she has always sought?
What of young man who loves a heroine with extreme passion but can never voice that love?

Those are just a few of the story lines from my list of books...   

Go write out of the box and dare to be different!


        Amazon UK    Amazon US


Monday, 7 January 2019

Lady of the Tower

My words have taken flight with dark deeds of human nature, its envy, its jealousy, its lustful desires, unforgiving in its brutality;

my mind is bruised, tears welled, and yet, and yet, one moment of happiness eases the pain of yesteryears;

the going back through the words of others, those who saw, those who died before the ink dried, and those who loved and again returned,

none could forget, some couldn't forgive, thus they rallied,

and avowed to avenge the one a king had put to death.

BOOK RELEASE DAY - Finally finished after two years of searching for every scrap of evidence I could dig up in avoidance of bullshit "Victor" propaganda, which so many historians and authors who take words as writ by others as proof of past events. Not so, John Childs author/prof/biographer of Percy Kirke. Nor I who never takes anything for granted where history is concerned, instead I think, puzzle, and question the motives of the movers and shakers of their day. I investigate, dig deep into archives, pit one person's words against another's, look for discrepancies, look for the hidden clues and follow your nose as a bloodhound on fresh scent of its prey.

Back cover blurb:

In the aftermath of Rebellion and the Duke of Monmouth’s defeat, Thomasina Thornton rides to the battlefield wearing her dead brother’s clothes. Desperately searching for her brother-in-law, a Dutch officer, she’s aware of the dangers of posing as a curious lad. Fear and dread of capture materialises in stark reality with the arrival of a new officer and detachment of cavalry. As innocent bystanders and robbers of the dead are herded together, her freedom is at an end. Never had she envisaged the man who had momentarily held her gaze within the splendour of Axebury Hall would now hold her life in his hands. Nor can she perceive love and romance could or would blossom between them in that moment when threat of death, and worse, floods her thoughts.

This isn't a romance set against a historical backdrop, it's all about the raw reality of rebellion against a monarch by a king's natural son (a long debated point). Romance does blossom when least expected, but harbouring the enemy is always a dangerous business. more so when that man is a spy in the king's camp.