Welcome to my world

The changed face of The Lost Girl

Not literally, of course! No, Charity Walker is still 100% Chinese and looks it. Her Chinese heritage lies at the heart of the novel. But she’s going out into the world of paperbacks with a different face.

When The Lost Girl comes out as a paperback on 7th August, it will do so with a different cover. The striking cover for the digital version, which came out at the end of last year, did not transfer well to the paperback, so a new cover was born, a cover full of the atmosphere of the West.

Allow me to introduce the changed face of



What if you were trapped between two cultures?

Life is tough in 1870s Wyoming. But it’s tougher still when you’re a girl who looks Chinese but speaks like an American.

Orphaned as a baby and taken in by an American family, Charity Walker knows this only too well.  The mounting tensions between the new Chinese immigrants and the locals in the mining town of Carter see her shunned by both communities.

When Charity’s one friend, Joe, leaves town, she finds herself isolated. However, in his absence, a new friendship with the only other Chinese girl in Carter makes her feel like she finally belongs somewhere.

 But, for a lost girl like Charity, finding a place to call home was never going to be that easy …


I found this a fascinating period of American history, about which I’d known nothing until I stumbled upon it by chance, and I loved writing the novel. I’m thrilled that readers are saying that they, too, were caught up in the story, characters and events. If you would like to see what the readers are saying on Amazon, click here.



Retreating to Kent


My little piece of paradise

What better place to begin than with a photo of the plush armchair in which I spent my writing retreat, and my laptop. You’ll notice that I’m not one for a spartan attic. My radio is visible (for The Archers, of course) and just out of sight, I have coffee, tea, large quantities of cheese, wine and so on.

Seekers is a non-denominational, non-sectarian centre, which offers prayer and healing, but it also offers quiet, comfortable guest accommodation (see the above photo), where people can stay for whatever reason they wish. Each visitor has one of the terraced cottages that surround a green.

Arriving at my accommodation










I was not alone on the retreat- I went to Seekers with friends Rosie Dean and Cara Cooper, both of whom have been before. For me, it was my first visit. In the second photo, you’ll see Rosie’s room on the left, and mine on the right. Cara’s cottage was next to ours.

Half the fun of a writing retreat is to talk with friends over dinner in the evening about what we’ve been doing in the day, and to attempt to sort out each other’s plot problems. It’s amazing how easily someone other than you will see something that you can’t see for yourself. And there’s no nicer place for this discussion than in a restaurant.

Our first evening With Rosie and Cara, on our first evening. This pub/restaurant is in comfortable walking distance from the cottages.

A healthy mind and a healthy body are desirable attributes, and the area around the Seekers is perfect for walking, especially when the woods abound with snowdrops. When one of us was in the mood for a short break, she’d ask if the others were so inclined.










In the photo on the left, you’ll see the woods. To the right is the view looking towards the golf  course. Alas, my photos don’t do justice to how attractive the area around the Seekers is.

It was also possible to have a slightly less healthy sort of break during the day. Seekers has a little café which sells coffee, tea and homemade cake on certain days of the week. There are worse things to do while waiting for inspiration!



At the end of our time there, we all felt we’d achieved a great deal: we’d had some great conversation; eaten one of the best chilli spaghetti and prawns ever in a lovely restaurant in the very attractive nearby West Malling; Cara had bought a fabulous pair of boots, and we’d all achieved an impressive daily word count.  It was a win/win situation and I would happily go there again.



All good things have to come to an end, and Cara’s came to an end the evening before Rosie and I left. So from the remaining two of us,   CHEERS!










THE LOST GIRL, set in SW Wyoming in the 1870s and 1880s, was published last week amid a mass of enthusiasm on the social media. I feel that the image below, taken at lunch on that day, best captures the essence of what was a truly lovely Publication Day.


What if you were trapped between two cultures?

Life is tough in 1870s Wyoming. But it’s tougher still when you’re a girl who looks Chinese but speaks like an American.

Orphaned as a baby and taken in by an American family, Charity Walker knows this only too well. The mounting tensions between the new Chinese immigrants and the locals in the mining town of Carter see her shunned by both communities.

When Charity’s one friend, Joe, leaves town, she finds herself isolated. However, in his absence, a new friendship with the only other Chinese girl in Carter makes her feel like she finally belongs somewhere.

But, for a lost girl like Charity, finding a place to call home was never going to be that easy …


Welcome into the world, THE LOST GIRL!!

To buy a digital copy from Amazon, click here


The RNA Summer Party – as always, a night to remember

Twice a year – once in the summer and once in the winter – RNA members and friends converge from all parts of the UK in the Royal Overseas League in Park Place, off St. James Street, in order to party. The Summer Party 2015, which took place on the evening of May 21st, was even better than ever, and once again, I’m going to indulge myself by posting some of the photos I took, which allows me to re-live the fun I had.

To start at the beginning. The AGM preceded the party, and during this, I was confirmed as RNA Libraries’ Liaison. After the AGM, with a short period of time before the party was due to begin, the balcony and the glorious weather beckoned, and we headed for a glass of wine in the sun.

On the balcony …

Christina Courtenay, Jenny Barden

Christina Courtenay, Jenny Barden

Alison May, Myra Kersner

Alison May, Myra Kersner


Sue Moorcroft, Evelyn Ryle

Sue Moorcroft, Evelyn Ryle


Gill Stewart

Gill Stewart

Christina Courtenay, Catriona Robb

Christina Courtenay, Catriona Robb

Susie Vereker

Susie Vereker


The view from the balcony

The view from the balcony


Wendy Prove

Wendy Prove

Jules Wake, Jane Eastgate

Jules Wake, Jane Eastgate

Jane Eastgate, Alison May, Sarah Waights, Lyn Vernham, Kathryn Freeman

Jane Eastgate, Alison May, Sarah Waights, Lyn Vernham, Kathryn Freeman


We’re now on our way into the party …


Janet Gover, whose hair...

Janet Gover, whose hair is cleverly …

... is co-ordinated with her latest book!

… co-ordinated with her latest book!


Product Details




Tracy Hartshorn

Tracy Hartshorn

Liz Cooper

Liz Cooper, Anita Chapman

Lizzie Lamb

Lizzie Lamb


Carl Pengelly, Catherine Lawless

Carl Pengelly, Catherine Lawless

A. J. Pearce, Lizzie Lamb, Debbie Flint

A. J. Pearce, Lizzie Lamb, Debbie Flint


Radmila May, Christina Courtenay

Radmila May, Christina Courtenay


Mags Cullingford, June Kearns

Mags Cullingford, June Kearn

Brigid Coady

Brigid Coady


John Jackson

John Jackson


Jan Jones

Jan Jones

Carol Townend

Carol Townend


Josa Young, Debs Carr, Saskia Childe

Josa Young, Debs Carr, Saskia Childe


Catherine Lawless, Me

Catherine Lawless, Me

Kathryn Freeman, Evonne Wareham, Lyn Vernham

Kathryn Freeman, Evonne Wareham, Lyn Vernham


Alison Knight



Sue Mackender, Adrienne Dines, Cathy Woodman, Gillian Holmes

Sue Mackender, Adrienne Dines, Cathy Woodman, Gillian Holmes

Lin Treadgold, Beth Hilton, Me

Lin Treadgold, Beth Hilton, Me

Judy Astley, Julie Cohen, Alison May, Fiona Harper

Judy Astley, Julie Cohen, Alison May, Fiona Harper



Beth Elliott

Beth Elliott

Kate Johnson

Kate Johnson

Katie Fforde, Emma Burstall

Katie Fforde, Emma Burstall



Laura Wilkinson

Laura Wilkinson

Jo Thomas

Jo Thomas

Fenella Forster, Alison Morton

Fenella Forster, Alison Morton


Nikki Moore, Sue Moorcroft

Nikki Moore, Sue Moorcroft

Gill Stewart, Oliver Green

Gill Stewart, Oliver Green


Lynne Shelby, Sue Mackender

Lynne Shelby, Sue Mackender


The end of another excellent RNA party is nigh  …

Leaving for the hotel

Getting ready to leave

Jenny Barden, Anita Chapman, Evonne Wareham -settling down for a final drink

Jenny Barden, Anita Chapman, Evonne Wareham -settling down for a final drink


Jenny Barden with orchid

Jenny Barden with orchid


Well, that’s it from the Summer Party of this year.  I hope you’ve enjoyed your visit to the event.

Over and out!


Liz’s Lovely Blog Hop

My writing friend Sue Moorcroft has kindly invited me to take part in the Lovely Blog Hop, in which writers are asked to talk about some of the things that shaped their life and writing.

You’ll see that at the end of the post, I’ve linked two other writing colleagues. They, too, think that this is an interesting and fun way to tell you about themselves, and they will be doing so. It’s also a good way to discover blogs you might not have known about. So, here I go …

First Memory

This is a Christmas memory. I must have been about five years old. It was Christmas Eve and my sister, a year younger, and I were tremendously excited. My father had helped us hang up our stockings and was about sit down when he suddenly remembered something he needed to ask the caretaker of the flats, and he went out to see him. About five minutes later, there was a knock on the front door. My mother opened the door – and it was Father Christmas in full regalia!!

My sister and I were beside ourselves with excitement. For a moment we stood there in a haze of wonder, and then words started tumbling over themselves. Desperate for our father to meet Father Christmas, too, and tell him how good we’d been all year, we pleaded for him to wait until our father came back. But sadly, he couldn’t stay long as he had so many other children to visit. When our father returned – about five minutes after Father Christmas had left – he found us in tears of happiness mingled with distress that he hadn’t been in time to meet our visitor.


Handmade Christmas stocking

Handmade Christmas stocking



I’ve always loved reading. At an early age, my parents introduced me to what had been their childhood favourites, novels such as Children of the New Forest, Little Lord Fauntleroy, What Katy Did, Just William and Little Women. When I was about nine, my mother – who’d been an actress –  introduced my sister and me to some of Shakespeare’s more accessible plays. She and I divided the best parts between us, while my sister and father, reluctant participants, were assigned the equivalents of third ostler and fourth gardener.

By ten, I must have read all of Enid Blyton’s novels  – I loved every one of them. And then I started on Jane Austen. I was an eclectic reader and by the end of my teens, I’d read all of Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Nevil Shute, Mrs Gaskell, Mickey Spillane, some of the Russian writers and all of the crime books written by Earl Stanley Gardner, to name but a few. It was thanks to Earl Stanley Gardner and his Perry Mason series that I later read Law at university.

On a par with my favourite novels are the three companions who are always by my side when I write: my ancient Roget’s Thesaurus, my Slang dictionary and Chambers Dictionary.


Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases

Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases

Chambers Dictionary

Chambers Dictionary

Cassell's Dictionary of Slang

Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang




I have always loved libraries. From quite young, I used to work as a Saturday volunteer at the Finchley Road Central Library. School work finally intervened, but some years later I returned to Camden Libraries and worked there during my university vacations, this time being paid.

The library working day was divided into hourly slots, and my favourite task was to work in the Reference Section first thing on a Monday morning. As soon as the library doors opened, crossword fanatics would fall over the threshold and speed to the Reference Section in order to get help with completing the Sunday crosswords. It was our task to help them find the elusive answers, and that was tremendous fun. I imagine, however, that the internet has done away with the need for such help today.

My enjoyment of cryptic crosswords may well derive from Camden Library days. When introduced to Colin Dexter in Oxford a few years ago, we got talking about cryptic crosswords – and also The Archers, another interest we had in common – and Colin later read my debut novel, The Road Back, and asked to endorse it, which he did. I have a lot for which to thank libraries!

With Colin Dexter at the launch of The Road Back in Waterstones Oxford

With Colin Dexter at the launch of The Road Back in Waterstones Oxford


What’s Your Passion?
Cryptic crosswords (I expect you’d guessed that!), the theatre, travel and languages. Re language, I love finding out about the structure of a language. In the talk I give to WI groups, I discuss what a language tells you about the culture and priorities of the people who speak that language. Hmm. I recognise that sounds a bit dry. But believe me, it isn’t!

In Florida. Horror gave way to smiles when I remembered the camera

In Florida. Horror gave way to a smile when I remembered the camera



I enjoyed every single minute of school, and I even like exams. In my final year at school, I was Head Girl (I was very bossy) and then I went off to read Law, got the degree and went to California. While in the States, I took a course in American Studies at LA City College, which I found fascinating, and which instilled in me a love of the American West that has stayed with me ever since. I then returned to England and did an English degree. America has remained very close to my heart, and three years ago, I was overjoyed that my research for A Bargain Struck meant that I ABSOLUTELY HAD to go to Wyoming (or so I told my husband).


Hello, Wyoming!

Hello, Wyoming!



It’s the most wonderful feeling to come down in the morning, sit in front of the computer and know that there’s a day ahead in which to write – a day in which I’ll be living with the characters to which I’ve given birth, and in the world I’ve created. Every day is a new adventure.

To create a fictional world, a world which one inhabits for the duration of writing the novel, is the most marvellous, powerful feeling, and it makes the job of being an author one of the most exciting and fulfilling jobs there can be.

My study

My study


Well, I think that’s me done! Many thanks to Sue Moorcroft for nominating me. I’ve very much enjoyed writing my Lovely Blog Hop, and hope you’ve enjoyed reading what I’ve written.

And there’s more to read. Below are the links to two blogs from writers I think you’d find interesting. But from me now, it’s over and out.

Liv Thomas (one half of Isabella Connor). Liv will be putting up her blog on Sunday, March 29th.

Sarah Waights



Another fabulous RNA party

Once again, the imposing Royal Overseas League in Park Place, off St. James Street, a few steps from Piccadilly Circus, was the venue for the annual RNA Winter Party. And once again, I’m putting up some of the photos I took of the event. This allows me to indulge myself by looking at them again and re-living what was yet another fabulous RNA party.


The Royal Overseas League


I could wax lyrical about the atmosphere, the liveliness and friendliness of everyone, the delicious canapés, but as always, I shall allow my photos, plus their captions, to do the talking. (P.S. Any fuzziness about some of the photos is entirely the fault of the camera. It is in no way the result of an over consumption of wine!)

Right, Camera, action …

John Jackson catches the photographer in action!!


Jan Jones with Catherine Jones

John Jackson with Roger Sanderson

Pia Fenton


Berni Stevens with Sarah Newson and Linda Mitchelmore

Berni Stevens, Christine Stovell, Kathryn Freeman, Jules Wake

Anna Lucia Scamans


Julie Vince, Nicola Cornick

Christine Stovell, Julie Houston

Royce and Marion Lindsay Noble




Margaret James

Trisha Ashley

Catherine King, Margaret James, Trisha Ashley


Lucy Gilmour, Rony Grey, Fiona Harper

Margaret James, Broo Doherty, Sophie Duffy, Cathy Hartigan

Jean Fullerton


Cathy Mansell

Julie Roberts, Caroline Rayner

Myra Kershner


R.J. Gould

Mandy Baggot, Katie Fforde

Talli Roland, Vanessa Savage, Catherine Miller



Jo Thomas

Talli Roland

Me, Jan Sprenger, Tania Crosse, Claire Dyer, Julie Roberts




Me with Alex Hammond

Alex Hammond with Emily Kitchen

Yes, chocolate!


Anita Chapman, Liz Cooper

Judy Astley

Gilli Allan, Berni Stevens, Clare Chase, Lyn Vernham, Caroline Rayner



Carol McGrath, Cara Cooper

Veronica Henry

Catherine Miller, Vanessa Savage, Clare Chase, Anita Chapman




Alison May

Jan Jones, Katie Fforde

Cathy Hartigan, Ian Skillicorn




Imogen Howson, Julia Wild

Kate Johnson

Taking positions for the photograph that will be on the cover of the next issue of Romance Matters, courtesy of John Jackson



Well, that’s it for this year’s RNA Winter Party.

Over and out!


Where there’s a Will …

Thank you, good friend Janet Gover, for tagging me to take part in this fun series of blog postings, and Hello, Australian readers and writers of rural romance, and others. If this is your first visit to my blog, Welcome!

Today I plan to introduce you to lean, athletic, gorgeous rancher Will Hyde, one of the stars of A Western Heart, but before I do so, a word about Janet.

Not only is Janet a good friend, but she’s also the fabulous author of books that are a must-read for those who love the romance of the outback and rural life. Janet grew up surrounded by books in the tiny Australian bush town where she lived. There wasn’t a lot to do except read and ride her ponies, so not surprisingly, since she writes from the heart and from her experience, rural Australia and horses feature strongly in her writing – oh, yes, and dishy men, too!

Janet’s latest novel, Flight to Coorah Creek, is the first in a series of Coorah Creek novels. To learn more about Janet and her books, check out her website here. And if you missed her introduction to Dan Mitchell, the hero of her second Coorah Creek novel, click here.


Right, back to my latest book, A Western Heart, a novella set in Wyoming 1880.

Will Hyde and Rose McKinley, the older son and the older daughter of successful neighbouring ranches which sprawl across rolling hills and lush green fields, have grown up like brother and sister, knowing that one day they’ll marry and thereby unite their two ranches.

Their families and friends know this, too. And impatient to see the marriage take place, they’re starting to wonder aloud, and with increasing frequency, why Will and Rose’s engagement hasn’t yet been announced. Rose, too, has started to wonder why. She knows Will loves her and she knows she loves him, so there’s nothing can stop them marrying.

Or is there?


That was a brief introduction to the book. Now to get down to the lovely business of introducing you to Will.

1.) What is the name of your character?

Will Hyde. The Hyde Ranch will be his one day, but rather than stand back and merely supervise his men, he’s out there working with them at every available opportunity, his sleeves rolled up, the brim of his hat low over his eyes.

A strong man, not given to many words, but with a great sense of humour, Will’s a man a woman can rely on, a man who will make her feel protected and safe.

2.) Is he fictional or a historic person? 

Fictional. He stepped out of my head, into my heart and on to the page. I hope very much that readers will fall for him big time in the way that I have. BUT he’s also historical. He’s a rugged man living in the American West, not a modern, twenty-first century man.

3.) When and where is the story set? 

Wyoming 1880. I’ve stayed on a working ranch in Wyoming and walked the fields that Will and Rose will have walked. Not in 1880, though! A little more recently than that.


Ranch land in Wyoming, US

A town like Hope










4.) What should we know about him/her?

Ranching is in his blood, and he would like to see the Hyde and McKinley Ranches unite just as much as would the two sets of parents, but not at any cost. Will knows that Rose McKinley likes him – indeed, loves him as a brother – but he’s not a man to settle for liking, or for being loved as a brother: he’s a man with the potential for passion in his heart, and he’ll only wed a woman if he’s sure she loves him as a man.

5.) What is the main conflict? What messes up his life?

Not ‘what’, but ‘who’.

Nate Galloway. Lean, good-looking Nate Galloway, with the way of the world about him, walks into Rose’s life and …  Hmm. I think I ought to stop there to avoid a spoiler.


Cora McKinley, Rose’s sister. While Rose was drifting through life on a cloud of self-blindness and complacency, Cora had been growing into a beautiful young woman. A beautiful young woman with her eye on Will, the answer to every woman’s dream. Was spirited Cora the type to sit back and do nothing about her growing feeling for Will? I’ll let you, dear reader, guess the answer.

6.) What is the personal goal of the character?

To run the family ranch to the best of his ability. To wed a woman who loves him in the way a woman should love the man she wants to marry.

7.) Can we read more about A Western Heart?

Definitely. You will find more about it in this website, and it can be bought here.

AND NOW it’s over to two of my writer friends, Christine Stovell and Angela Britnell, both of whom write about fab men in rugged locations. They’ve agreed to be tagged and will be telling all next week.

A little about Chris. Setting off with her husband in a vintage wooden boat – how romantic is that! – Chris sailed from a sleepy seaside resort on the east coast of England halfway round Britain. She’s now on dry land and lives on the beautiful West Wales coast, where long-distance running, rather than sailing, helps her plan her plots, such as for her romantic novella, Only True in Fairy Tales.




You can learn more about Chris and all her books by clicking here.

And now a little about Angela. Angela was born and brought up in England, but later travelled extensively with her American husband before they settled in Tennessee. She learned to love books at any early age and now loves writing them too. Her latest is a romantic novella, set in a stunning location – Cornwall. Celtic Love Knot is set in the small Cornish village of St. Agnes. Learn more about this, and Angela’s many other novels, by clicking here.

So – Chris and Angela– over to you. I’m very much looking forward to reading your blogs next Thursday.



Yes, it’s the RNA Conference, July 2014

Harper Adams in Edgmond, Shropshire, was the venue for this year’s excellent RNA conference, and the perfect ambiance it proved to be.

Before the conference proper began, RNA members gave talks and held workshops in the Wellington Library on the Thursday, and on the Friday morning, there was a highly successful ‘Love of the Past’, meet-the-author and book fair event at Blists Hill in the Victorian Town. To give you a flavour of the occasion, I’ve captured some of the magnificent costumes worn by the historical authors who participated in the event.

Freda Lightfoot

Me, preparing for the Blists Hill extravaganza

Christina Courtenay


Kate Johnson

Liesel Schwarz

Kate Johnson, Liesel Schwarz



Louise Allen

Nicola Cornick

Romy Gemmell, Louise Allen



Jenny Barden

Anne Stenhouse

Juliet Greenwood


Lynne Connolly

Jenny Harper

Jacqueline Farrell


Jean Fullerton

Denise Barnes

Alison Morton, Jacqueline Farrell




And finally from Blists Hill, no photographic record of an RNA event is complete without at least one photograph of a pair of shoes …


My boots


Moving on  to the first day of the conference …

Getting together after the panel

Christina Courtenay, Chair of the RNA, and Jan Jones, Conference Organiser, welcome the delegates

Lizzie Lane, Judy Astley, Sue Moorcroft, Janey Fraser, Charlotte Foreman. Panel for the topic: ‘Reviews Revealed’


Christina Courtenay, Liesel Schwarz

Elizabeth Cooper, Anita Chapman

Carol McGrath, Charlotte Betts


Jen Gilroy

Alison Knight


Lynne Connolly, Liam Livings, Jan Jones



What better thing to do on a hot summer evening than gather together on the grass outside one of the houses in which we were staying. After dinner on the Friday evening, we did just that.

Alison May, Janet Gover, Lyn Vernham (MD, Choc Lit), Kate Johnson, Sue Moorcroft, Margaret Kaine

Melanie Hudson, Jane Lovering, Sarah Callejo, Rhoda Baxter, Laura E. James,
Alison May, Janet Gover












Val Williamson, Rachel Brimble, Alison Knight, Christina Courtenay

Henriette Gyland, Alison Morton, Val Williamson, Rachel Brimble










Erica Hayes, Melanie Hudson, Jane Lovering

Liesel Schwarz, Jane Lovering, Robert Fanshaw

Celia Anderson, Vanessa Savage, Lucie Wheeler, Catherine Miller, Simon Whaley


Now on to some of the talks I attended.


Eileen Dickson, Jen Gilroy, Julie Roberts

Checking the locations for the various talks and workshops

Nikki Logan, President of the RWA, discusses how the body reacts when reading


Matt Bates, Fiction Buyer for WH Smith Travel, and Richard Lee, Founder of the HNS, talk about getting books into retail outlets

Katie Fforde, Christina Courtenay, Jenny Barden (who organised the conference programme), Richard Lee, Nikki Logan discuss the Future for Romantic Fiction

Hazel Gaynor




Alison Baverstock, sharing her research into self-publishing


Ian Skillicorn tells the delegates everything they need to know about self-publishing their books

Phillipa Ashley & Nell Dixon discuss writing a series or set of linked books





And yes, there was a lot of gathering

Gathering for the Gala Dinner

Still more gathering



Denise Barnes, Jean Fullerton, Me

Alison May, Janet Gover, Denise Barnes, Jean Fullerton

Alison Morton, April Hardy, Sue MacKender, Eilidh McGinness


Janice Preston, winner of the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy

Denise Barnes, Alison Morton

Pia Fenton (Christina Courtenay), Chair of the RNA, with Jan Jones, announcing winner of the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy


Janie Millman, winner of the Katie Fforde Bursary

Katie Fforde, announcing the winner of the Katie Fforde Bursary


Sue Moorcroft, Jan Jones, Pia Fenton




The evening draws to an end  …

Talli Roland

Liam Livings

Sarah Callejo, Rhoda Baxter, Me




For those who stayed on, the last afternoon begins…

On the Sunday Sofa. Jane Wenham-Jones with Janie Millman, Christina Courtenay, Katie Fforde, Jo Thomas

… with necessary supplies

Kate Johnson prepares for mental exertion


And on the final evening …

The best of quiz teams (even if we didn’t win). April Hardy, Alison Morton, Denise Barnes, Eilidh McGinness, Me, Bernardine Kennedy


All there is left to say is, Roll on RNAConf15!

Over and out!






Turning family fact and myth into a novel

I’ve known Heather Rosser for more than ten years. During that period of time, I’ve watched as her novel, In the Line of Duty, has grown from its inception to its publication a few weeks ago.

In the Line of Duty, by Heather Rosser


I’m delighted, therefore, to welcome Heather to my blog this week. Unusually for me, I intend to step back and allow her to speak to you herself.  So it’s over to you, Heather!

‘Sorry, Liz, that you were unable to come to my First World War ‘street party’ to celebrate the launch of In the Line of Duty, but I know you were there in spirit! Oxford Writers Group, family and friends rallied to make it a lovely occasion.


The launch party in Oxford for In the Line of Duty

I guess all families have skeletons in the closet! When my cousin began delving into why our grandfather had been disgraced as a Royal Naval Air Service sea plane pilot, my uncle declared, ‘It’s a can of worms!’ This, of course, immediately made us want to open the tin.

The staff of the Fleet Air Arm Museum were very helpful and I was able to build up a picture of what it must have been like for my grandfather and his observer to track enemy shipping, a basket of pigeons being their only method of communication.


Heather’s grandfather in RNAS uniform, and her grandmother: Harvey and Elsie Dyke


My grandfather’s disgrace was only one of the closely guarded family secrets: there was another. No one knew the identity of the mother of my grandfather’s eldest son who was brought up by my great-grandparents.

My mother had hinted about it and had even begun to write a family memoir. She had talked about my great-grandfather, Humphrey, who was a Detective Inspector with the railway police. The story goes that in 1912, when he was working at Llandudno Junction in North Wales, he and Alice, his wife, walked from Conwy to visit an old Celtic church, fell in love with the view and built a holiday home there. The house remained in the family for sixty years and I loved spending summer holidays there when I was a child.  The idea of turning my grandfather’s story into a novel came very soon after my mother’s death.


Heather near the family home in Wales and the old church


I returned with my husband and daughters several times while I was writing my novel. Recently I was delighted to see the old church at Llangelynin featured in a TV series about sacred places. My grandmother used to be the key holder and one summer I helped her serve tea to hikers coming up the mountain from the Conwy Valley or the coast.

I chose my title, In the Line of Duty, to reflect the romance of railway journeys as well as the conflicts between duty and desire ever prevalent in war-time. In the novel, I tell the story of William through the eyes of Alice, his mother, and Lottie his sweetheart. It’s a story very loosely based on that of my grandfather. The family lived in Wembley, which used to be a wealthy London suburb, but I’ve changed this to Belsize Park which has remained affluent and so is more plausible to the reader. Very little is known about my grandmother’s family so I have given free reign to my imagination in creating Lottie, her wayward sister and their conventional parents who own the grocer’s shop opposite Llandudno Junction station.

I have loved researching and writing my book and I hope some of you will enjoy reading it. You will be able to buy it through bookshops, and through Amazon. To buy through Amazon, click here.’

Heather Rosser


Many thanks, Heather. I wish you every success with In the Line of Duty.


How much historical vocabulary is too much?

No, I’m not the person who’s going to discuss this very interesting question with you – it’s my good friend, Alison Morton.

Alison Morton, author of INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO

I’ve timed Alison’s interview, if that’s the right word, to coincide with her launch of SUCCESSIO, the third novel in her award-winning Roma Nova series which features sassy detective Carina Mitela. As writer and broadcaster Sue Cook says, it’s a “A real edge-of-the-seat read, genuinely hard to put down.”

I know Alison researches her writing thoroughly, so I asked her for her thoughts on historical detail in books.

Over to you, Alison!

“Not finishing a book is a serious and rather sad decision for a reader. I rarely give up, but I was struggling through a recommended book and twice woke up with it on my face. I dreaded picking it up again. The story was fascinating, but the dialogue and vocabulary so irritating I was losing the plot. Literally.

The research was impeccable, the thriller story full of twists and the characters well-drawn and rounded. The chief enemy was very sympathetic, so the writer had been clever, pulling me in to want him to be the victor rather than his opposite number.


The dialogue was full of words such as ‘Odds bodkins’, ‘Prithee’ and ‘varlet’, and I mean full. Obscure names of everyday objects had been inserted wherever possible and they became alienating.

I’ve nothing against well-researched period vocabulary; in fact, it’s essential to set the scene in historical fiction of all types and sometimes crucial to the plot. I use Latin expressions and Roman character names in my alternative history world of Roma Nova. Words such as palla, atrium, solidus, centurion, etc. are what give my books their ambiance. But my characters speak in standard English so the reader can follow what’s happening. If a book is set in the Renaissance then a more formal tone may be better, if in the Wild West, then a more casual tone and with farming and animal-related words and expressions.

Writers need to link the period flavour to the reader’s experience and knowledge without ‘writing down’ to them. Scattering, hinting and drip-feeding are far more effective writing techniques and give readers context, colour and perhaps some new information without separating them from the story. Less is more, or multum in parvo as the Romans say.”

The Arch of Constantine, near the Colosseum in Rome, emblematic of all things Roman

Medieval knights

Roman signifier

Many thanks, Alison. That was most interesting, and food for thought for all those who write historical novels. It recalls a discussion about historical vocabulary that I had on my blog some time ago. You can read it by clicking here.

Before you go, tell us about the book that’s published today.

SUCCESSIO continues the story of Carina, whom we met in the first two books in the series, INCEPTIO and PERFIDITAS. What’s a little different is that the next generation steps up to take an important part in the action.

Roma Nova – the last remnant of the Roman Empire that has survived into the 21st century – is at peace. Carina Mitela, the heir of a leading family, but choosing the life of an officer in the Praetorian Guard Special Forces, is not so sure.

She senses danger crawling towards her when she encounters a strangely self-possessed member of the unit hosting their exchange exercise in Britain. When a blackmailing letter arrives from a woman claiming to be her husband Conrad’s lost daughter and Conrad tries to shut Carina out, she knows the threat is real.

Trying to resolve a young man’s indiscretion twenty-five years before turns into a nightmare that not only threatens to destroy all the Mitelae but also attacks the core of the imperial family itself. With her enemy holding a gun to the head of the heir to the imperial throne, Carina has to make the hardest decision of her life…

And here’s a trailer with some exciting music http://youtu.be/B6Tr0VvKbJI

Alison’s bio

Alison Morton writes Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with strong heroines. She holds a bachelor’s degree in French, German and Economics, a masters’ in history and lives in France with her husband.

A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, she has visited sites throughout Europe including the alma mater, Rome. But it was the mosaics at Ampurias (Spain) that started her wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by women…

Both INCEPTIO, the first in the Roma Nova series, which was also shortlisted for the 2013 International Rubery Book Award, and PERFIDITAS, the second in series, have been honoured with the B.R.A.G. Medallion®, an award for independent fiction that rejects 90% of its applicants.  Alison’s third book SUCCESSIO is being launched now!

SUCCESSIO is available through your local bookshop (paperback) and online as ebook and paperback at multiple retailers.

 You can read more about Alison, Romans, alternate history and writing here on her blog at www.alison-morton.com

or on her Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AlisonMortonAuthor   Twitter: @alison_morton

Over and out!

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