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Friday, 13 December 2019


Today it's my turn to take part in this wonderful December Blog Hop.  So here is a little light relief from politics.

December 13th is the feast day of Santa Lucia, which has great significance in Sweden.  The date of the feast falls very close to the winter solstice - the shortest day of the year - and many believe that as the name "Lucia" means "light", the saint signifies light and hope in the darkness of a cold northern winter.

The original Lucia was born in the late third century AD in Syracuse, Sicily, at a time when Christians were persecuted and forced to hide in the depths of the catacombs.  Lucia secretly took food to them, and to light her way through the darkness underground, she wore a crown of candles on her head (a early form of the head-torch, I suppose) so that both her hands would be free to carry the food.  The tradition of this candle crown lives on, in the way in which Lucia is commemorated today in homes and churches all over Sweden.

In the morning of December 13th the eldest daughter of the house dresses as Lucia, in a long white gown tied around the waist with a red ribbon (symbolising the saint's martyrdom).  On her head she wears a crown of fresh greenery and lighted candles. Traditionally these are real candles, but the safety-conscious might prefer to use battery-powered ones.

If "Lucia" has younger siblings these may be her attendants.  Her sisters will wear white robes with tinsel tied around their waists and heads, whilst her brothers will wear white robes and cone hats decorated with stars.  Each will carry a single candle.

The children sing the traditional Sankta Lucia song as they serve their parents a festive breakfast consisting of coffee or mulled wine, together with special buns called Lussekatter.  One of the legends of Saint Lucia is that she was blinded but her eyesight was miraculously restored, and she is often portrayed in art with her eyes on a plate.  The shape of the buns, and the stragegically-placed currants used to decorate them, represent Lucia's eyes.

If you'd like to try making some Lussekatter, here is a simple recipe.  To make twelve buns, you will need:

300 ml whole milk
1 pack (0.5g) saffron
75g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
500g strong white bread flour
100g golden caster sugar
1 sachet (7g) fast-acting yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, beaten, plus a little extra for glaze
a little oil
24 currants

Put the milk into a small pan and heat gently until it starts to steam.  Use a pestle and mortar to grind the saffron strands into a powder, and add this to the pan of milk along with the butter.  Swirl the mixture around until the butter has melted, then set aside and leave to cool until it is lukewarm to the touch.

In a large bowl mix together the flour, caster sugar, salt and yeast.  Make a well in the middle of the dry mixture, and pour in the milk mixture and the beaten egg.  Mix together to form a sticky dough, then turn out on to a floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic (this will take about ten minutes).  Put the dough into a lightly-oiled bowl and cover with oiled cling film, then leave the bowl in a warm place for about an hour, until the dough has doubled in size.

Knock back the dough and divide it into twelve equal portions.  Keep the pieces covered with oiled cling film whilst you make the rolls - this will stop the dough from drying out. Take each piece of dough in turn and roll it out into a 30cm-long strand.  Roll up one end into the middle, turn it over and roll the other end into the middle, forming the dough into an S-shape.  Put all the buns on to a large parchment-lined baking tray, lightly cover with oiled cling film, then leave them to prove until they are almost doubled in size.  In the meantime, heat the oven to 200C (180C if you have a fan oven) or Gas Mark 6.

When the buns are ready to bake, remove the cling film, brush them with beaten egg, and press a currant into the centre of each spiral.  Put the tray in the oven and bake for around 15 minutes.  Allow to cool before serving.  The buns are best eaten on the day they are made.

For a light-hearted but informative piece about the Lucia celebrations, take a look at this.

Thank you for your company.  Be sure to visit the tour again tomorrow, when the guest is my dear friend Cathie Dunn.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

LOVE LOST IN TIME - Cathie Dunn's exciting new release with Ocelot Press

Today is an exciting day for Ocelot Press.  The historical fiction & romance author Cathie Dunn takes you to the south-west of France, to Carcassonne and its stunning surroundings.

Love Lost in Time, Cathie’s new release, is a dual-timeline mystery set in 2018, and from AD 777, during the expansion of the Franks under Charlemagne into the region of Septimania, the area on the western shores of the Mediterranean Sea and inland. Raids from Saracens were rife north of the Pyrenees, and sites like Carcassonne were fortified to repel those attacks. But as so often, the real danger lay far closer to home!

A tale of love, death and redemption…

AD 2018
Languedoc, south-west France

Madeleine Winters discovers ancient female bones under her kitchen floor. How did the woman end up buried, all alone, in that particular spot in the Cabard├Ęs hills?

And why was her back broken?

AD 777
Septimania, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea

Seventeen-year-old Nanthild must marry Count Bellon of Carcassonne, a Visigoth, as part of his peace agreement with Charlemagne. As a wise-woman, she continues to visit those in need of her help during Bellon’s frequent absences. But dangers lurk on her journeys…

Love Lost in Time is currently at 99p / 99c for a few days only, and *free* to read on #KindleUnlimited.

Amazon international buy link:

Cathie Dunn’s Amazon link:

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

THE RAIDED HEART - a guest post by Jennifer C Wilson

My guest today is a very special friend: the fabulous Jennifer C Wilson.

I first met Jen a little over four years ago, when I worked with her as editor of her first novel: Kindred Spirits: Tower of London.  Since then we have worked together on three more Kindred Spirits novels - Royal Mile, Westminster Abbey and York - and most recently on her latest masterpiece: The Raided Heart (released last Friday).  

Read on for a fascinating interview, and news of an exciting giveaway.

Welcome, Jen!

Hi Sue, and thanks so much for hosting me today. You know better than anyone the journey The Raided Heart has gone through, so I thought I would write about one of the biggest stages of the book’s journey: National Novel Writing Month, 2009, especially as we’re midway through the 2019 edition!

For those of you who haven’t heard of this month of madness, NaNoWriMo, as it is shortened to, is the challenge to write 50,000 words over the course of November, in any given year. The emphasis is to write fast, not looking back over what you’ve written, and not allowing that pesky Inner Editor to have any say at all over the words which are hitting the page, with word count all that really matters. 

It was certainly a challenge! That year, the 1st November was a Sunday, and I was out for Halloween the previous night, but remember pausing just after midnight, and sending myself an email with the opening line of The Raided Heart: “The night was always darker when a raid was afoot.” What I love, is that after all the rewrites and edits, although it may no longer be the opening line, that’s still in there! I’ve always had big problems changing opening lines…

But back to NaNoWriMo. It all gets a bit manic, but I really do recommend it, if you have the time to commit to it. The average target is 1,667 words per day, which, depending on whether you write or type, can usually be done in a couple of hours. Using any free time to boost the word count and reduce the average needed for the days remaining is usually a good idea too, to allow for those days when life does, inevitably, get between you and the work-in-progress.

I’ve completed NaNoWriMo in full twice now, and both times, the finished projects became, with a lot of editing and polish, published novels: Kindred Spirits: Tower of London and The Raided Heart. For The Raided Heart, I used the month to full rework an old project I had begun years before, but the 50,000 words were still ‘new’ written during November. And that’s all that really counts; that 50,000 words hit the page throughout the month. It can be 10,000 words each on five shorter projects, a collection of short stories, a first draft of a new project, or the final 50,000 words of a much longer piece that you’ve been working on.

When I was first looking at having an attempt at it, ten years ago, I read the great piece of advice: You can’t edit a blank page. This is utterly true, and having the ability, in fact the instruction, to ignore that little part of you which keeps saying “Stop, you can’t write that,” or “You should really go back and check what you wrote yesterday,” is liberating. You just have to keep writing, pushing the story forward, word by word, page by page, until you hit that magical goal.

So, are you tempted? Granted, it’s a bit late for this year, unless you really are a fast writer, but if you do give it a go next year, or decide to try it any other month of the year, these would be my top tips:

·       Do have a think about what you’re going to write before the month rolls around. There’s nothing more terrifying than a blank page, especially when you have a very specific and ambitious goal in mind. Pre-November planning is absolutely allowed, so consider your settings, characters, and plot in advance, so you can hit the ground running on the 1st.

·       Do tell others that you’re giving it a go, especially anyone who has to share a home with you for the month, and might be expecting you to take part in cooking, cleaning or caring for others in that time! Get some swaps arranged in advance, and try to give yourself as clear a run at things as you can, so your free time is just that, free.

·       Don’t beat yourself up if you cannot hit your daily goal. At the end of the day, this is meant to be fun, and if we’re tormenting ourselves because we cannot face the screen or notebook at the end of a long day at work, then there’s not going to be any joy found in what we write.

Good luck if you give it a go, and don’t forget, everything begins with a first draft, and this is a great way to get that first draft into being!

More about The Raided Heart:
Meg Mathers, the headstrong youngest sibling of a reiving family on the English-Scottish border, is determined to remain at her childhood home, caring for the land and village she's grown up with.  When an accident brings her a broken ankle and six weeks in the resentful company of ambitious and angry young reiver Will Hetherington, attraction starts to build.  Both begin to realise they might have met their match, and the love of their lives - but 15th-century border living is not that simple, as Meg soon finds herself betrothed to the weakling son of a tyrranical neighbour, Alexander Gray.  When tragedy strikes, can Meg and Will find their way back to each other, and can Will finally take his own personal revenge on Gray?


More about Jen:

Jennifer C. Wilson is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history and historical fiction whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots on childhood holidays (she has since moved on to Richard III). Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east of England for work reignited her pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and has been working on a number of projects since, including co-hosting the North Tyneside Writers’ Circle. Her Kindred Spirits novels are published by Crooked Cat Books and her time-slip novella, The Last Plantagenet?, by Ocelot Press. She lives in North Tyneside, and is very proud of her approximately 2-inch sea view.

Social Media Links:  

Giveaway* to win 2 x e-copies of The Last Plantagenet? (open internationally)

* Terms & Conditions:  Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter by clicking on the Rafflecopter link below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email.  If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel's Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner.  Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners' information.  This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel's Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Sincere thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

BOOK REVIEW: HOME ALONE HARRY by Jerry Rhodes, Rachael Messiter and Nicky Hill

Harry is a mischievous young dog, adored by his family: Dad and Mum, Maisie (8) and Max (5).  When the family leave him on his own he creates chaos.  Dad demands, "That bad dog must go!"  Alone and sad in bed that evening, Max asks, "Can anyone help?"  How will the Thunkies respond to his call?

The Thunkies® are a group of four cartoon characters (Thoth, Rath, Joth and Dith) designed to make thinking and learning fun and accessible, particularly in the context of dog behaviour.  This book is the first in a planned series offering a new and ingenious approach to solving perceived problems when dealing with dogs.  

The Thunkies® understand how the dog is thinking, and convey his feelings and the reason for his behaviour to the humans in a form they can appreciate.  The text is easy to follow and the illustrations are clear and colourful.  Although this has the appearance of a children's book, the lessons it contains are equally relevant to adults.  

Jerry Rhodes, AUTHOR 

Jerry Rhodes’ life-long research and teaching is the inspiration behind ‘Home Alone Harry’, this first book in a series for children featuring the cartoon characters, Thunkies®. After completing his degree and teacher training at Oxford University, Jerry’s career as a school-master was cut short by polio. He changed course to a management career in industry, discovered his talents for creativity, and formed his world-wide consultancy to collaborate with international organisations. A special project with Philips led to the discovery of ‘Thinking-Intentions’, to which he has now given the playful name, Thunkies®. Jerry writes his books from his weather-beaten old farmhouse in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds.

Rachael Messiter, AUTHOR

Rachael Messiter, a Dog Listener, uses the approach known as Amichien® Bonding pioneered by Jan Fennell. Rachael has her own practice, Talking Paws, based in Staffordshire. Previously she lived with wolves for close on two years in Colorado, USA, to learn how packs work. She has identified a group of issues that dog owners experience that are due to the well-meaning but flawed behaviours of owners, rather than ‘nuisance’ dogs. How to properly avoid and resolve such troublesome issues will be the theme of each book in the series Thunkies® love Dogs.


Nicky Hill is an illustrator and storyteller from Winterbourne near Bristol. Her artwork is featured throughout the Thunkies® Love Dogs books, bringing a bright, vibrant style that captures the imagination. A great lover of animals both wild and domestic, Nicky also illustrates and writes her own series of books about ‘The Wotton Pack’; a group of inquisitive pooches who spend their days and nights having many adventures. She currently lives with her own pack of three dogs in Wotton-under-Edge, a small town in Gloucestershire, where she also co-runs the shop called ‘The Collective’.

The Creative Team at work

Social Media Links

Website -
Shop -
Facebook -
Instagram -
Pinterest - 

Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour.

Monday, 4 November 2019


Anyone who has read Nicola Slade’s wonderful award-winning novel The House at Ladywell may be wondering what happened to Freya and Patrick after the story ended.  This charming novella, published today, brings us up to date.  Although intended as a sequel, it includes enough background information from the original story for it to work well as a stand-alone read. 

The writing is clear and concise, the characters are wholly believable, and plot is carefully crafted leading to a warm and satisfying ending.  As an added bonus, the novella includes a fascinating and wholly plausible suggestion for what could have happened to the Princes in the Tower.  Highly recommended – especially for fans of King Richard III.

Read on for more about the book, more about Nicola, and news of an exciting giveaway!

A time for spilling secrets...

Having refurbished her inherited house and upcycled her whole life in the process, Freya - now happily married to Patrick, and with a small child - has to transform her tiny stone barn into a romantic hideaway for a mystery guest who is also looking for change.  With Christmas only a week away, things don't go according to plan...

In the past, old uncertainties are resolved when an elderly woman seeks the truth of a legend on Christmas Eve and confesses to a deception; a Tudor wife listens to a story that must never be repeated and is given a precious relic that must never be displayed; and in the early nineteenth century an old woman tells a younger one the story of the hares at Ladywell.

Past and present are only a whisper apart when Freya learns of an astonishing discovery that will make Ladywell famous. But meanwhile her house is full of unexpected visitors, she has a turkey to cook – and a very special secret of her own that must be told.
Purchase Links

Nicola Slade is an award-winning, bestselling author of historical and contemporary mysteries and romantic fiction, all set in and around Winchester and Romsey in Hampshire – which is where she lives. The House at Ladywell – a contemporary romantic novel with historical echoes – won the Chatelaine Grand Prize for Romantic Fiction at the CIBA awards in April 2019.

She is the author of the mid-Victorian Charlotte Richmond mysteries and the contemporary Harriet Quigley mysteries. The Convalescent Corpse, published November 2018, is the first in a new series, The Fyttleton Mysteries, set in 1918.  Keep reading to find out how you can win a free Kindle or PDF copy.

Social Media Links –
Twitter: @nicolasladeuk

Giveaway to Win a .mobi or PDF of The Convalescent Corpse by Nicola Slade
* Terms and Conditions – Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter link below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email.  If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner.  Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winner’s information.  This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Sincere thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour.

Saturday, 2 November 2019


Today marks the halfway point in the Ocelot Blog Hop.  

This interview first appeared in June 2014, under the heading Brothers in Arms.

The Ghostly Father is available to purchase here.  Ailsa's books should be coming to Ocelot Press at some point in the future.  Believe me, they are well worth waiting for.

Whilst recently chatting over a glass or three of wine, I and fellow-author Ailsa Abraham realised that our male lead characters (Lorenzo in The Ghostly Father and Iamo in Alchemy and its sequel Shaman’s Drum) have a great deal in common.  They come from similar backgrounds, they’re both monks, and they’re both somewhat unorthodox in their outlook on life.  So we decided to get the two of them together and ask them a few questions.  

Let's start at the beginning – what made you enter a monastery in the first place?

LORENZO – I had no choice.  I was told by my father that this was what I must do, and he threatened to disown me if I did not obey him.  To say that this was a shock does not even come close to describing how I felt; he was a kind and just man, and for him to behave thus was completely out of character.  I did not find out the real reason for his actions until almost twenty years later.

IAMO – I had felt a sense of vocation from my early years and studied with the Temple while I was at university. It was a natural progression for me to take my vows as soon as I finished my studies.

Did you have a happy childhood? Had it always been your ambition/vocation?

LORENZO – My childhood was privileged.  My father was a Venetian count and we lived in a palazzo.  All our needs were taken care of by our servants.  I had one brother, three years my senior.  Sadly I never knew my mother, who had died at my birth.

It was never my ambition or vocation to enter Holy Orders.  My one desire was to become a physician.

IAMO – Not particularly. Like Lorenzo I was born into an aristocratic family but I found myself unable to take an interest in the things expected of me and I became interested in the Path very early on. I had almost no contact with my parents but adored my Nanny. It was probably through her that I found my vocation.

Were you not bothered about the vows of chastity etc that you had to take? Did you give those a lot of consideration before making your decision?

LORENZO – Having lost the love of my life before I entered the order, the vows of chastity did not cause me any problems.  I knew that I could never replace her.

IAMO – in my Order we were only required to take celibacy vows after a certain time and by then I was so set on my career as a priest that I gave it very little thought. I had never been in love and felt that the pro outweighed the con inestimably.

Once in the order, were you happy?

LORENZO – To my great surprise, yes.  I am sure this is due in no small part to the influence of Fra’ Roberto, the Father Superior who became my own “ghostly father.”  He displayed a level of kindness, sympathy, compassion and good sense which I had never anticipated of a monastic.

IAMO – Probably less so than Lorenzo. I became the assistant to the High Priestess of our Order and my responsibilities were onerous. I failed in my duties several times. Although Scribe has never said so, I think she has hinted that I was itching for adventure.

Did you ever envisage leaving the order?

LORENZO – Never.  Indeed, I did not imagine that it would even be possible.  I had always understood that the vows were for life.

IAMO – As far as my past life was concerned, I had burned my bridges. All contact with my family had been cut and they were furious that I was not going to return to give them the heir they wanted. Not having considered any other way of life, I never imagined anything else.

Did you have much of a life on the outside “in the world” before taking your vows?

LORENZO –- I was eighteen when I first entered the friary as a postulant, but for the year before that I was apprentice to an apothecary.  This is where I learned the skills which prepared me for my later tasks as herbalist and infirmarian.

IAMO – Yes. Like all privileged little boys of my class I went to prep and public school. My studies were then pursued at university because I wanted to study under Professor Oliver, so I had the life of a student with all the attendant excesses. Also, in an effort to marry me off and dissuade me from the monastic life, my mother had shoved various prospective brides at me. Yes, I think it's fair to say I had my share of “real life”.

How did you decide on your monastic name?

LORENZO –- My real name is Sebastiano Lorenzo Matteo Giovanni Battista Da Porto.  I was always known as Sebastiano, but when I came to take my vows I was asked to choose another name because there was already a Fra’ Sebastiano in the friary.  I chose Lorenzo because it is my second given name.

IAMO – I would rather not reveal that as I have been Iamo for so long now and will stay that way. Perhaps if I just say that it is composed of my initials.

When you entered the order, what did you miss most of your earlier life?  How did you cope without it?

LORENZO – It was all so different from what I had previously known that for a long time I was not comparing like with like, so the question did not arise.  Once I had accustomed myself to the new way of life, the biggest difference was being a servant rather than a master.  But that was the way of the Franciscans – their task was to serve.

IAMO – Nothing. Oh yes, the occasional cigarette. Mostly I was very happy in the Temple.

Was there anything you were glad to leave behind when you entered the order?

LORENZO – Unhappiness.  I had just had to bid farewell to the love of my life.  And also (I am ashamed to say this), following my father’s inexplicable change of demeanour, I was glad that I should not have to have any further contact with him.

IAMO – Yes, killing. My father belongs to the “hunting, shooting, fishing” brigade and such things leave me cold. I cannot bear the taking of sentient life for no reason. I'm vegetarian and the only things I kill willingly are demons, but that is a moot point. Are they in fact “living” in the first place? I was glad to get out of a world I didn't fit into.

From what we can gather, neither of you seem to have had much difficulty about bending the rules when it suited you.  Do you feel guilty about that?

LORENZO – I had to (as you describe it) “bend the rules” on one particular occasion – which was to help a desperate person out of a desperate situation.  I have no feelings of guilt about that – but I cannot even begin to imagine how I would feel if the outcome of my actions had been different.

IAMO – I have to agree with my brother monk here. I didn't just bend the rules, I broke them, threw them on the ground and jumped up and down on them. I had to pay for that but no, I do not regret it for a moment because I did it for the finest of motives – love.

Thank you both, gentlemen – this has been a fasinating discussion!

This post is also available on Ailsa's blog here.

Promo post: HUNTER'S FORCE by Val Penny

Hunter’s Force is the third in the series of Edinburgh crime stories by Val Penny.  Read on to find out more about this bestselling thriller, plus news of an exciting giveaway!

Hunter by name - Hunter by nature.

Can DI Hunter Wilson keep Edinburgh safe when he is the hunted?

Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson is woken in the early hours of the morning by a call from his son.  Cameron's flatmate was murdered.  Why would anyone want to kill a young woman recently arrived in the city?

Hunter must call in the new Major Incident Team (MIT) to lead the investigation due to the reorganisation of police services.  Hunter's ability to be involved, however, is put in severe doubt when someone from his past decides to take revenge on him.  He goes missing, and his team have no idea where to look for him.  Who would want to stop Hunter in his tracks?

Meanwhile, Hunter's team must work closely with the MIT, with or without him, to solve the murder in this taut crime thriller.

Purchase Link -

Author Bio – Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her crime novels, Hunter's Chase, Hunter's Revenge and Hunter's Force, are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, and are published by Crooked Cat Books. The fourth book in the series, Hunter's Blood, follows shortly.

Social Media Links – Author contact details

Author buy links

Giveaway to win a .mobi or PDF of Hunter’s Force by Val Penny

*Terms and Conditions - Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter link below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries, and will be notified by Twitter and/or email.  If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel's Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternativ winner.  Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winner's information.  This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel's Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019


Today the Ocelot Blog Hop begins in earnest.  I get the party started with an interview with Tom, one of the principal characters from Jennifer C Wilson's novella The Last Plantagenet?, in which a present-day young woman called Kate finds herself transported back in time to the summer of 1485, to the court of King Richard III in the weeks leading up to the Battle of Bosworth.

Welcome, Tom.  It is good to meet you in person.

When you first met Kate, you told her that you’d been with King Richard for years, since before he was king.  What did you do before then, and how did you come to be part of his household?
I certainly fell on my feet here. I grew up near Middleham you see, but when my father died, well, there were no other options available. I went to the castle, found work, and when the Duke arrived, ended up attached to his part of the household. I’ve been with him ever since.

You noticed straight away how the king “flirted” with Kate when he first saw her.  Did this surprise you?
It did, I’ll be honest. I mean, we'd only lost Her Grace, Queen Anne, a few months ago, and he hadn’t shown any interest in anyone since. There’d been the official communications of course, regarding potential marriage negotiations, but nothing with any of the ladies at court.

Were you surprised at how quickly their relationship developed?
Yes, but I suppose, grief and romance are odd things. He was so saddened, of course, by the loss of Edward and Anne, and Kate, well, she was different. He needed that, something, or somebody, to bring him out of himself. And I’m glad she came along, just like that, before... well, before. He deserved some happiness.

You were in the very privileged position of being the king’s confidant, and he clearly trusted you.  How did you cope with this responsibility?
Firstly, by keeping it mostly to myself. None of the nobles and fine ladies needed to know that King Richard confided in the likes of me, after all. When there was somebody who needed to know, or who I felt I could trust myself, like Kate, then I didn’t mind letting them know the position I hold, but for the majority of the time, nobody fell into that category.
I know he was the king, but he had worries like the rest of us, and doesn’t everyone need somebody they can be themselves with now and then, rather than putting on a front all the time?

What did you think of Richard the man, as opposed to Richard the king?
Like I said, he was the king, and I respected him in that role. He was a fair ruler, and a fair master. I’m not going to go so far as to say we were friends, I know my place, after all, but I like to think I saw the real man: the one who had grown up in such turbulent times, had lost so many members of his own family, and been through so much. Nobody would come through that unscathed, and I know plenty of others, and other families, were in the same position, but still, it isn’t easy. Richard the man had seen all of that, and was still a good ruler. That says a lot, about both sides of him.

Do you think the king was genuinely in love with Kate?
I don’t know. It was all so quick, and love is a strong word. I think she made him happy, for their brief time, and I know he was planning for the future, with her being a part of that, but who knows in what capacity? I have a feeling, if things had gone differently at Bosworth, she would have been an important person in his life going forward, and would definitely have been given a place at court.

Were you in love with her yourself?  How did you feel when she disappeared (just before Bosworth)?
No, not me. I really liked her, and liked how she made the king feel, but there was never going to be more than friendship between us. So yes, I was sad when she left, and surprised. It did cross my mind that perhaps she had been an enemy to us all along, perhaps trying to find out what she could to help the Tudor, but that thought didn’t stay with me long. She was so genuine when she was around the king, and I don’t think you could maintain that as well as she did. I wish I knew where she had gone, and what happened to her; I think we could have been good friends to each other in this new reign.

Did you fight at Bosworth? 
I did, but to my eternal shame, I got separated from His Grace, just before his final charge. A group of us had been heading towards him when we saw what was about to happen, but by then, there was nothing we could do. Once it was clear he was dead, we thought the best thing would be to get ourselves away to safety, and regroup.

What did you do after Bosworth?
A group of us stayed together, and made our way to London; we thought that was as good a place as any to be, to see whether any resistance might rise up against the Tudor. But there was ultimately nothing we could do. It was pleasing to see the young Elizabeth at his side, as a York queen, but it wasn’t the outcome any of us had truly wanted.

Some people claim that King Richard arranged to have his young nephews killed so that he could seize the crown for himself.  Do you believe that? If not, what do you think might have happened to them?
I don’t believe he killed them. He had nothing to gain. They had been declared illegitimate, and given how things were in the country at the time, we needed a strong king to take charge anyway. I truthfully don’t know what happened to the boys, but there are plenty more who benefited from their death, and for me, you don’t have to look much further than the man currently wearing the crown. He and his scheming cronies strike me as the sort of people who wouldn’t pause for a moment in the killing of a child, whereas Richard, no, he had more heart than that.  

Thank you, Tom, for a fascinating chat.  And I don't for one moment believe that King Richard was guilty of those murders.

Jennifer C Wilson, author of The Last Plantagenet? and the Kindred Spirits series of historical novels.

For this week only, the Kindle edition of The Last Plantagenet? is on special offer at just 99p.  And Jen is also offering a prize of a free copy of Kindred Spirits: Tower of London (the first book in the Kindred Spirits series).  
To be in with a chance of winning, click on the link above to go to the book's Amazon page, click on "Look Inside", and find the answer to the following question:
Why is Richard III miserable about the guided tour which he and Anne start haunting?  
Message your answer to Jen directly by using the contact form on her blog:
The competition will stay open until midnight tomorrow (30 October), UK time.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

TORN - an interview with Karen Moore

Today I have a very special guest on my blog: the fabulous Karen Moore, whose debut novel Torn will be released next week through Darkstroke Books.  I've know Karen (and her novel) for some years through our writing group, so this is a very exciting time for both of us.

Welcome, Karen!

What prompted you to first start writing? What was the first thing you wrote?

I’ve always enjoyed writing, from the days of penning long epistles to my childhood penfriends to creating colourful English essays at school.  Writing then became a fundamental part of my career in PR and marketing.  Here I discovered that the more creative aspects of the job, such as writing articles and press releases, were the most enjoyable.  I started writing creatively as a hobby and quickly became smitten.

Can you summarise your latest work in just a few words?

A young mum and her daughter escape from a troubled past in Sicily and settle down to a new life in North Wales.  When the daughter suddenly disappears, the mother is forced to return to her former home and face the dark world of organised crime in a bid to rescue her.

What was the inspiration for this book?

The main driving force was the devastating migrant situation in the Mediterranean that continued for so long, with so many people not even surviving the journey.  My own travels and love of Italy and my experience of living there were also a major contributory factor.

Did you do any research for the book?

Yes, I followed news reports on the continuing migrant situation and the action and inaction of various agencies in response. I visited Sicily and North Wales several times to gather background information, as well as doing the usual desk research.

Cefalu, Sicily

What does a typical writing day involve for you?

I find mornings are the most creative time for me when I’m fresh and full of ideas!  I like to settle in front of my computer with a strong cup of coffee (or two!) and blast away for a couple of hours.  It’s important, almost cathartic, to capture these thoughts.  Refining that output comes later on.

How do you decide on the names for your characters?

Some are easy and just come to you naturally such as Hanna, the protagonist of Torn.  Others take a bit more research depending on their role.  For example, Hanna’s daughter needed a name that would suit both an Italian and UK setting.  Eva seemed a perfect fit.

Do you plot your novels in advance, or allow them to develop as you write?

My debut novel Torn developed quite organically which made the writing journey fun but also a bit of a roller-coaster!  I’m trying to be more structured with my second novel, while still allowing myself flexibility.

Which writers have influenced your own writing?

I read quite widely depending on how the mood takes me and whatever I find appealing in a given moment.  I’ve particularly enjoyed the Nordic Noir genre with its moody landscapes, gritty characters, pacy action, and underpinning social issues.  I would like to think that some of this has rubbed off on my own writing.

What has been the best part of the writing process…and the worst?

The best part has to be coming up with ideas and shaping them into some sort of structure, with a credible plot, characters and timeline.  I have a tendency to race ahead with ideas, so my constant challenge is to pay attention to the detail needed to get from A to B.

Now the book is on the point of being published and ‘out there’, how do you feel?

Excited but nervous!  It’s been part of my life for so long, it feels as if you’re releasing a part of yourself to the public.  I just hope people enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed the writing.

Do you have any advice for new writers?

Just do it!  Persevere but only if you’re enjoying the journey – you spend too much time on it not to.  If something’s not working, spend time on reviewing why not.  Get feedback from other writers and polish the finished article as much as you can before submitting.  Trust in your own judgement – each writer has a unique perspective and a unique way of expressing him/herself.

What can we expect from you in the future?

I’ve just started work on a sequel to Torn, so watch this space!

Torn is available to order at