LSH Pre-release

Friday, April 25, 2014

Anzac Day 2014: Remembering Lemnos

Anzac Day 2014 and a particularly personal one for me as I have just returned from a visit (a pilgrimage) to the Gallipoli Peninsula and the Island of Lemnos (or Limnos). As you read this I will have joined the crowds at the Australian War Memorial ... far from the beaches and cliffs of Gallipoli.

The reason for the trip primarily came from an idea of my husband’s to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, E.A. Bottrill (EAB) who served with the 22nd Battalion AIF. EAB was among the second contingent of Australian troops at Gallipoli. EAB’s story is not mine to tell but in the quest to walk in his shadow, DB expressed a wish to visit not only Gallipoli but the small Greek island of Lemnos, which played a crucial role in the Gallipoli campaign, and so off we went.

Why Lemnos?

Lemnos itself lacks the glamour and romance of the southern islands such as Santorini and Crete (and I think I can confidently attest to possibly being the only tourists on Lemnos in late March). It lies in the far north of the Aegean Sea and it is in its geography that you can see its importance, not just in 1915 but in ancient times.  Historically it boasts some of the oldest ruins of a “city” ever found - Poliochni - with close ties to Troy. Guarding the entrance to the Dardanelles,  it lies just sixty miles off the Gallipoli peninsula and Moudros harbour is a large, deep, natural harbour, well concealed from a casual passing ship. It played a small, but crucial role in the Gallipoli campaign of 1915.

(Ironically even before DB mentioned a desire to go to Lemnos, I had been researching its role from the perspective of the nurses who served in the Australian hospitals stationed on Lemnos between August 1915 and January 1916.)

The first soldiers landed at the beaches of the Gallipoli peninsula on April 25th 1915. In February of that year, the Greek Government had offered the island of Lemnos, with its deep water harbour, as a base for the naval attack on the Dardanelles (which failed). It was decided to use Lemnos as the staging point for the land attack on the Gallipoli campaign. The geography of Lemnos does not lend itself to large scale habitation, however temporary. It is a dry, rocky and hilly island with a chronic shortage of water but by 21 April, thousands of allied troops were gathered on the island itself or in boats in the massive harbour of Moudros.

Nurses arrival on Lemnos
Originally it was planned to use Lemnos for the lightly wounded troops but early casualties quickly overwhelmed the facilities and it soon became apparent that there was a need for a closer medical facilities. In August 1915 the first Australian nurses (led by the redoubtable Matron Grace Willson) arrived on Lemnos to set up the Field hospital. They found the conditions dire. Wounded men lay on the open ground and lacking any supplies, the nurses had to tear up their own clothes for bandages.

Two areas were set aside for the wounded. The main Australian encampment comprising No. 3 General Hospital and No.2 Stationary Hospital (along with a British and Canadian Hospital) were sited on a promontory known as Turk’s Head (Moudros West). A second encampment was based around the little town of Moudros.

By mid October 4000 cases had passed through No.3 GH: 30% Australian troops, 13% NZ and 57% British and Indian troops. In the two months to October 57,000 sick and 37,000 wounded men were evacuated from Gallipoli. The hospital accommodation was increased to 9000 beds, accommodated in tents. Ships, known as the “black” ships, transported the casualties on to Egypt, Malta and England. In total from August until October 100,000 sick and wounded men left Moudros.
No. 3 General Hospital on Turks Head

The conditions the nurses worked under were atrocious. There was a chronic water shortage, making the washing of soiled linen almost impossible. This in turn led to illness caused by the insanitary conditions. The flies were atrocious and the rations sparse. Once winter came the conditions became even worse, the dust turned to clay so thick the women had to wear army boots. They lived in bell tents that provided inadequate protection against the cold winter wind.

In December 1915, the allies withdrew from Gallipoli. Having survived his Gallipoli experience unscathed, EAB spent several weeks recuperating on Lemnos before being shipped back to Egypt for exercises in the Sinai desert before being sent to the Western Front. The nurses left Lemnos in January 1916 aboard the Oxfordshire, profoundly grateful for comfortable beds, fine china, table linen and decent food. However as one wrote “… we can’t have worse times than we had for the first two months on Lemnos. Still I never regret going there…”*

Today on Lemnos there is nothing to see of the encampments. The only indication of the island’s involvment in the Gallipoli campaign are the two beautifully tended war cemeteries…one at East Moudros and one at Portianos. There you can see the beautifully tended graves not only of those soldiers, Australian, Canadian, New Zealand and Indian but also Egyptian workers. Turk’s Head remains a wild bluff inhabited only by curious sheep.

Site of the Military hospitals on Lemnos 2014
With the centenary of Gallipoli in 2015, the Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee has been established and you can read about its activities and the history of Lemnos’ contribution to the Gallipoli campaign on its website. Click HERE or visit them on FACEBOOK. They are raising money to build a proper memorial to the work of the nurses on Lemnos.

Pontias Military Cemetery 2014
*For more information on the World War I nurses, I refer you to THE OTHER ANZACS by Peter Rees. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Taking Tea with... Regan Walker (and Giveaway)

I have been looking forward to welcoming Regan Walker to my tea table.   We are “sisters in law”, by which I mean we are both lawyers (or in my case, a former or  “recovering” lawyer).

And I am delighted to be here, Alison! I love your blog.

Before we proceed, Regan has offered a GIVEAWAY to a lucky commenter so read through to the end for details...

Regan, in lieu of tea, I should pour us both a good red wine (a favourite tipple of my legal friends), but if you prefer tea, George has a wide range available. Just name your preference…

I love all the British drinks: gin & tonic, red wine and most especially, port. (I think of port as an English drink though I know it comes from Portugal.) So, I’ll be having whatever you’re having. Oh, yes, I do love tea, too. Green tea with jasmine is my favourite morning drink.
(AS: It's never too early for a Gin and tonic... my absolutely favourite tipple. I have a bottle of Tanqueray's No. 10 here which is particularly pleasant! George...slice the lemon!)
I have traveled to Australia several times and have friends there (Australians, not Americans) and love the country and the spirit of its people. I find the history of Australia fascinating, too, and have enjoyed many romances set there. In fact, the stories I have loved that are set in Australia are on my Exotic Locales list   (AS:  We need to write more... our history is short but there is plenty of scope there!)

Before we start on the writer Regan, I would like to know a bit more about the lawyer Regan. Are you still in practice or like me, heaving a sigh of relief at having left the demands of clients and regulators behind?

I haven’t actively practiced for the last year. Instead, I’ve been taking a long needed break and focusing on my writing. Can’t say as I miss it though I did love solving problems for my clients.

What was your most interesting/challenging role as a lawyer?

Saving clients millions of dollars and winning the hard case. (Remember in America it is possible to be both a solicitor and a barrister and I was both.) And the most rewarding was seeing their dreams come to fruition.
(AS:  Here in Australia I practised as a solicitor - although we have the right of appearance in court, it was not one I exercised if I could help it. On the few occasions I had to appear before a court - mostly courts martial in the military, I felt physically ill... I just don't have that ability to think on my feet!)

I am often asked why I don’t write “legal” stories. I have my answer (Firstly it would be too boring and secondly the temptation to write people I know into the books would be irresistible and possibly actionable!), but what is your response to that question?

I don’t watch legal shows on TV (well, except for Garrow’s Law-- I make an exception for 18th century England) --nor would I be likely to write a legal story, though I might feature an aspect of law or a trial in a novel. I find much of it procedural and boring, as you do, and then there is the fact I lived that for decades. Now I’m doing the fun stuff! (AS: Absolutely!!!)

What period of history is your passion and who or what inspired you?

Well, now that depends on the country. For Scotland and Ireland, it would be anything prior to the 19th century; for England it would be the time just after William I conquered England and then the Regency and Victorian eras; and for France, it would be their tumultuous times. In America, it would be the Revolutionary War and last half of the 19th century primarily as we expanded West in a new way. Other countries interest me not so much, at least as a writer. And for those that do, it really comes down to historical periods when the events that were occurring interest me.

You have just released the third book in the “Agents of the Crown” series, WIND RAVEN – a trilogy of ‘suspense’ stories set in the Regency.  What is the premise behind the series that makes it a series? Are there continuing characters/ plot arcs linking the stories?

The Agents of the Crown trilogy is based on the premise that government leaders sometimes employ what I would call “special agents” who are not technically part of the government, nor technically spies, to gain information. These are merely trusted men acquainted with the Crown who are sent on private “errands.” Having served at high levels of government, and done some reading, I know such people liked this have existed throughout history. The Prince Regent no doubt had such “friends,” though we may never hear of them.

Thus far, all my novels and stories are Regencies and, though each can be read as “stand alones,” they are connected. You can see that from the list on my website (“The Order of Things”). They often have overlapping characters. For example, the hero and heroine in my first novel, Racing With The Wind, appear in Against the Wind, in my novella, The Twelfth Night Wager and in my short story The Holly & The Thistle.

Will WIND RAVEN be the last in this series and if so, what is next for Regan Walker?

Ah, no. There will be a prequel coming in 2015. It’s the story of the parents of the heroes of books 2 and 3, Captain Simon Powell, the young English privateer they called “the Golden Eagle,” and Claire Donet, the wild daughter of the French pirate, Jean Donet. It will be set in late 18th century France, England and aboard Simon’s ship the Fairwinds. It’s a tale of adventure, passion and love, for Simon knows if he is to have Claire’s love, he must find a way To Tame the Wind. And, dare I say it, there is a niggling of a story for the pirate son of a French comte, Jean Donet, rumbling around in my brain, so there could be a sequel to the prequel. (Are you still with me?)

Right now, I’m finishing my William the Conqueror medieval, The Red Wolf’s Prize, set in England in 1068. I know, I know. It’s a bit of a detour for me, but I like challenges and going back to the 11th century has certainly been a challenge. It will be out this year and I’m very excited about it as it will be my first self-published novel (all my Regencies are under contract). It will have a “Cast of Characters” and a map included!

Ordered by the Prince Regent into the Caribbean, English sea captain and former privateer Jean Nicholas Powell has no time for women onboard the Wind Raven, especially not Tara McConnell. The impudent American forced herself aboard, and so she’ll get more than she bargained for: Instead of a direct sail to Baltimore, she’ll join their quest to investigate a rampaging pirate, the infamous Roberto Cofresi.

But the hoyden thinks she can crew with his men, and though he bans her from the rigging, Nick is captivated watching her lithe, luscious movements on deck. Facing high seas, storms, cutthroats and the endless unknown, he must protect his ship, his passenger, his crew. But on this voyage, with this woman, there is a greater danger: to his heart.

You can buy WIND RAVEN on Amazon (including Amazon Aus), Barnes and Noble, Smashwords and where all good ebooks are sold.

And about Regan...

As a child Regan Walker loved to write stories, particularly about adventure-loving girls, but by the time she got to college more serious pursuits took priority. One of her professors encouraged her to pursue the profession of law, which she did. Years of serving clients in private practice and several stints in high levels of government gave her a love of international travel and a feel for the demands of the “Crown” on its subjects. Hence her romance novels often involve a demanding Prince Regent who thinks of his subjects as his private talent pool.
Regan lives in San Diego with her golden retriever, Link, whom she says inspires her every day to relax and smell the roses.
Connect with Regan: 
Regan’s Romance Reviews blog:
Twitter: @RegansReview (

Regan is offering an ecopy of the the first in the trilogy, Racing With the Wind or the second, Against the Wind, the winner’s choice. (Must be able to gift it via Amazon or she can send them Mobi for Kindle if it can't be gifted from Amazon’s UK site)

Regan's books all have a common theme of seafaring and pirates... What is it that appeals to you about a seafaring, pirate romance?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Fulfilling a lifetime's dream...

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

As I was born in colonial East Africa of peripatetic parents, I am afraid travel is in the blood so if you think I have been missing in action for the last few weeks, you will be right. I have been travelling again. My friends now roll their eyes and ask "And where is it this time?" 

The Parthenon
This time it was Greece and Turkey. Primarily the trip was a 'pilgrimage" for both of us.... for my husband, it was to walk in the footsteps of his grandfather and the experience of Gallipoli (more about that next week) and for me it was to visit places I had dreamed of for 40 years.

It's no secret that the little girl in me really wanted to be an archaeologist. Digging up ruins in the Middle East or Europe was all I wanted to do. My father, ever a pragmatist, suggested I study law as "something to fall back on". He was probably right... I have yet to meet a fully  "employed" archaeologist.

The wall of Priam's Troy
As it turned out archaeology as a subject of study did not exist in Australia in the late 1970s (only if you were interested in ancient Australian archaeology which I wasn't) so I had to resort to the second best thing, a study of ancient civilizations. My history Major is in Ancient and Roman History and my Minor is in Classical Studies... and I write books set in the seventeenth century. (In fairness I started out in first year with sixteenth and seventeenth century history but it was so incredibly dry that I gave it away in favour of the classics!). The law degree had to be finished but I had the entry forms for the London School of Archaeology in my hot hand... but then I met a man... and I became a lawyer... and the dream faded. (My father probably heaved a huge sigh of relief!) 

But I have never lost that lust for ruins and finally after nearly 40 years I made it to the sites I had so assiduously studied in my youth. This was real "bucket list" stuff.  As the airport bus wound its way down into central Athens I got my first sight of the Acropolis between the buildings and, dear reader, tears came to my eyes. 

The Lion Gate at Mycenae
I was blown away by my emotional response not only to the Acropolis, but to Mycenae, Epidaurus, Olympia, Delphi, Troy and Ephesus... and all the other sites in between.  I have read and studied Homer's Illiad and Oddyssey and Virgil's Aeneid and there I was standing at the gates of Agamemnon's city or the walls of Priam's Troy.  It was not just the physical sites, the statuary, the vases and the people came to life for me. The Parthenon statues (those NOT in the British Museum!), the Delphic Charioteer, the statue of Zeus... I could go on but I won't. I think the pictures tell it all! Like lines between dots, each step on the journey intersected with another place and time and even my husband who had no background to ancient Greek history, picked up the threads (excellent guides helped of course!)

The Charioteer of Delphis
So many different senses to dwell over... the call of the Muezzin clashing with the bells of churches, the scent of wild chamomile crushed under foot, the taste of a rough wine drunk with a spinach and fetta pastry on a warm day looking out over Athens from a seat on the ancient wall of the city and the nodding scarlet heads of poppies among the worn and weathered stones.

And I got to play the archaeologist... at a crusader castle on the island of Lemnos where bits of broken roof tile, pottery and other "finds" litter the ground. In a country with so many ancient monuments to study and protect, a crusader castle is just a nuisance... In true time team fashion I gathered up the bits and pieces and drew my conclusions - a bit of 14th century pot, a cooking pot with its blackened exterior, roof tile... It was fun to muse and then return my "finds" to the earth.

As my grandmother used to say. "Good memories are like nuts for the winter... to be taken out and treasured in our darker moments."

We all have dreams that may be unfulfilled or places of the heart we must visit. I would love to hear of your experiences or wishes...
Wildflowers among the fallen stones of the ancient city of Athens

 PS And on my travels I met a man who was living my dream. After a lifetime in accountancy, in his retirement he has returned to study archaeology and is going off to dig on Hadrian's Wall over summer. Perhaps... one day...? 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Dyers and the Great Migration - Guest: Christy Robinson

A few years ago, a group of writers with a passion for the 17th century and a determination to provide a forum for people interested in this period of history to find information about the life and times of the people, came together to form the HOYDENS AND FIREBRANDS. One of the newest Hoydens is writer, Christy Robinson and it's my pleasure to have her as my guest today to showcase her two fabulous novels based on movement of people between England and the "New World" that occurred during the mid 17th century.

Christy has written a pair of novels set in the 17th-century Great Migration from England to early-colonial America. Although written in novel format, the books focus on one (real life) couple (May and William Dyer) and their famous associates, and follow a timeline of actual events, showing the remarkable, world-changing people who precipitated oppression and freedom, law and grace, enslavement and redemption. And ultimately, it was death that saved lives and ensured liberty for centuries to come.

Mary Barrett Dyer, 1611-1660, was comely, dignified, admired for her intellect, and known in the court of King Charles. But how did she become infamous in England and America as a heretic who gave birth to a monster? Was she responsible for curses falling on colonial New England in the form of great earthquakes, signs in the heavens, and plagues? What possessed the ultra-righteous Governor John Winthrop to exhume her baby before one hundred gawkers, revile her in his books, and try to annex Rhode Island to get its exiles back under Boston’s control?

In Mary Dyer Illuminated, follow William and Mary Dyer from the plague streets and royal courts of London to the wilderness of America where they co-founded the first democracy of the New World 135 years before the Declaration of Independence. While living in the Puritan theocracy of Boston, Mary participated in a new religious movement that would be recognized today as evangelicalism. When she miscarried a “monster” fetus with severe neurological defects, Puritans called it God’s judgment for her heresy. The Dyers became co-founders of the colony of Rhode Island, where William was appointed attorney general, the first attorney general in America. They were only getting started.

In the second of two volumes, Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This, the Dyers return to war-torn England and lay a foundation for liberty that resonates in the 21st century. William was appointed commander of the Anglo-Dutch War in New England, including what would become New York. Mary stayed in England for nearly five years, and became a Quaker convert. When she sailed back to America, she was arrested and imprisoned, but when William obtained her release, Mary placed herself in danger several more times. Why did beautiful, wealthy Mary Dyer deliberately give up her six children, husband, and privileged lifestyle to suffer prison and death on the gallows?

The two novels  are compelling, provocative, and brilliantly written, blending historical fact and fiction to produce a thoroughly beautiful work you won't want to put down. The author has reconstructed a forgotten world by researching the culture, religions, and politics of England and America, personal relationships, enemies, and even the events of nature, to discover who they were.

Both books are available on AMAZON. Click HERE for the link.

Statue of Mary Dyer at Philadelphia Quaker HQ

Christy K Robinson is the author of two (five-star-reviewed) historical novels and one nonfiction book centered on the mid-17th-century Great Migration from England to New England, the books spotlighting the Quaker martyr Mary Barrett Dyer. Christy’s books may be found at her Dyer blog, (click HERE). She has been a magazine and book editor since her university days, as well as a piano teacher and church musician for many denominations. At her parents’ instigation, she inhaled historical fiction and “real” history as a young schoolgirl, and helped her mother research the family genealogy very early on—long before the advent of the internet.

EXCERPT: From Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This, (© 2014 Christy K Robinson, used by permission)

July 1653
Raby Castle, County Durham, England

            Before the household could awake and notice her absence, she took her Bible with her and left the crenellated castle through its gatehouse with the statues of medieval warriors on the top of the battlements.
Mary crossed the grassy park outside the walls and sunken formal garden, and entered the edge of the wood. She sat on a tree stump and listened to the birds chattering in the trees. Having been a city girl in her youth, she was unfamiliar with which birds sang which songs, but she thought she recognized the goldfinch by its plumage.
Only because the eye blinked did Mary notice the head of a doe that had settled down to ruminate in a stand of leafy saplings. The deer seemed little concerned with Mary’s presence, for they were nearly as tame as cattle.
With the sunrise came a slight breeze and the leaves trembled on a wide-spreading oak. Almost as if she could see the wind, she sensed tendrils of sweet summer herbal-scented air riffling the pages of her open Bible. When she focused her eyes on the words there, she read, 
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Then slowly, as the invisible tendrils of air caressed the ends of her hair and her cheeks, she relaxed, submitted to its ministrations, and inhaled, and with the intake of breath, she began to be filled with the love of God. Mary could feel it traveling from her heart through her core and to her limbs, and it was not unlike the butterfly flutters of a child quickening in her womb. As she was gradually filled with the love and Light, strength and power, Mary began to tremble with joy. No love in her life had ever filled her like this. Not her parents or dear friends, not her beloved husband William, not the joy of new motherhood, and not her teacher, Anne. She rose to her feet in reverence and lifted her hands.
Nothing could separate her from this love, for now it had become part of her. It was not in her blood—it was her blood. It was not the flesh of her arms or legs—it was the power that made them move. It was not the English summer air she breathed—it was the very life-breath of the Creator.
It was not an audible word in her ears, but an orchestra in her spirit, which said, “Mary, my child, I have ordained you to be a light in the world, a friend to the sick and imprisoned, a balm to the persecuted, a voice for the silenced, a banner to rally weary warriors.”
Mary replied without speaking. “Yea, and joyfully I go, Lord.”
Gradually, over a few minutes, the trembling faded away, but she felt no sense of loss or emptiness, for the love remained. Everything in her life had a purpose and a destination, which she did not yet know, but she was ready for the journey.

September 17, 1653
Newport, Rhode Island

William Dyer sat at the bench with Nicholas Easton, after adjourning the Court of Admiralty, and organized his notes and papers before leaving for home. Easton was working on a letter to the Commissioners of the United Colonies regarding Captain Thomas Baxter, the young privateer captain.
Two weeks before, Baxter had seized the Desire, a barque owned by Samuel Mayo and three other men of Barnstable in Plymouth Colony. Baxter claimed that the Desire was carrying on trade with the Dutch, though Mayo was only carrying goods from Reverend William Leverich of Sandwich to a new farm at Oyster Bay on Long Island, within English limits.
Baxter had put Mayo and his captain off the Desire at West Harbor, a larger and deeper harbor about ten miles west of Oyster Bay, claiming he had a commission from Rhode Island to offend the enemy Dutch, and all who did business with them.
Mayo and Lt. William Hudson of the Honorable Military Company of Massachusetts, on duty at the English outpost there, had come to Newport to investigate Baxter’s privateer claim.
Dyer and Easton called the Admiralty Court to session, and made a response to Mayo’s claim of Baxter’s actions.
Now, at the conclusion of testimony, Easton dictated a letter to the court clerk. 

16 Sept. 1653
Loving friends,
            Having received your complaint regarding Captain Thomas Baxter, I hereby affirm that Mr. Baxter has been authorized by Rhode Island, under a commission of the English Council of State, to offend the enemies of England, and all who treat with the Dutch. He is bound to bring his prizes into Newport for trial, that the state may get its share.
            Mr. Baxter tells us that he knows of no English patent or charter for the lands at Oyster Bay or the West Harbor, where he seized the sloop Desire, and that the place is known as Martin Gerretson’s Bay, in Dutch territory.
However, Mr. Mayo testifies that he, Mr. Wright, and Mr. Leverich purchased the land from the Indians, and he requests that his ship be brought to Connecticut or New Haven if it must be held for trial.
            We regret the inconvenience this has caused Mr. Mayo and the other owners of the barque, and assure you of a speedy hearing with the commissioners of the United Colonies when it meets at Hartford

            He signed the letter and its copies, and the original was given to the fuming Samuel Mayo, who said through gritted teeth that he would appeal to a higher court.
            “That would be my advice to you, anyway, sir,” said Dyer. “The Desire could remain impounded until the case comes up on the court calendar, probably six months from now. That will be a severe hardship for its owners, unless you post a bond with the court and reclaim your ship for the interim. If you win the suit, you’ll have your bond returned, and Baxter may be assessed damages.”
            Samuel Mayo and William Paddy became sureties for the bond and filed a suit against Thomas Baxter, and left the meetinghouse.
            Dyer and Easton remained at the bench, talking.
“Meanwhile,” said William, “Baxter, eager to make his fortune, sailed off to Connecticut’s Fairfield harbor and seized a Dutch ship there, which caused the Dutch to fit out two more ships to go after Baxter.”
Easton sat back in his padded chair and toyed with the gavel. “The commissioners of the United Colonies will renew their warning that the Dutch keep out of the rivers, harbors, and bays, and cease all Indian trading in our territory. Baxter and Hull, if they dare to make raids or to engage with the enemy, will run to Connecticut inlets for refuge—and perhaps to cache their prizes if we’re not vigilant.”
“I have no doubt,” Easton continued, “That in the matter of the Desire, the commission will find for Mayo and Leverich, and Baxter will be censured or fined. Legally, Baxter had a right to raid the Dutch waters and take the ship and its cargo as prizes on mere suspicion that it was trading with the Dutch. The lands and waters won’t be under New Haven, Connecticut, or Massachusetts control without a patent for its founding.”
            Will nodded. “But morally, Baxter knew it was an English ship with English cargo, and he was a fool to set a blaze like this. It’s exactly what Gregory Dexter protested would happen in the Providence assembly in May.”

Friday, March 14, 2014

Taking tea with... Sydney Jane Baily (and Giveaway)

With this week's guest, Sydney Jane Baily, I am back in historical country, in the elegant years following the American Civil War. 

When an editor turns her hand to writing...

Welcome to my parlour, Sydney. George will pour for us. What is your preference for tea?

Usually, I like a strong Irish tea, like Barry’s Gold. I let it steep for about four minutes, add a teaspoon of honey, and a goodly splash of whole milk. (Unless it’s evening, then let’s have a Long Island Iced Tea!) (AS: I have come across this habit of putting honey in tea with a few of my American guests... I suppose it's no different from a lump of sugar!)

You write wonderful historical romances set in nineteenth century America (is it correct to call it Victorian when talking about stories set in the US?)?  This is a period we think we know from westerns and other Hollywood movies but what is it about this period that sparks your passion?

It’s not normally called Victorian, no. It seems that this genre is now generally referred to as Americana. It’s a bit tricky to classify because my time period, 1870s and 1880s, is after the Civil War, so it’s not a Civil War romance, nor is it a Western though there are elements of Westerns in my stories. A cowboy may happen through or one of my heroes may enjoy riding horses. Still, if a reader wants a true Western, he or she would be looking in the wrong book. My characters spend as much time on trains and in hotels and, as they do on horses and in saloons.

This late nineteenth-century period is one of tremendous ingenuity and growth in America. Trains crisscross the country and meet in the middle, making travel easier and faster. Telephones are finding a place in businesses and homes. Gas lamps are giving way to electricity.

If we were transported back in time, we’d find these people to be very modern and extremely familiar. For me, as a storyteller, I like to set my characters in a time period when I know they will have a great life. The country has gone through a terrible war on home turf but it’s nearly 20 years in the past, and WWI is in the distant future. It is a safe yet exciting time with loads of opportunity. And I absolutely love the fashion. I spend way too much time researching the clothing; there are so many examples that still survive. Even as the silhouette and the bustle change over the decades, the women maintain a look that is elegant, stylish, and simply beautiful. The men have some good choices, too. I love a man in a duster (long coat), but I also think their dress suits, morning suits, and vests are equally attractive.

You have come from a background in publishing and editing. When did the bug to write your own stories hit and what made you decided to choose the indie publishing route?

I am a late bloomer as far as finally getting published is concerned. I wrote a novel at age 17 (about 100,000 words) and kept on writing ever since. However, I let myself get distracted by life, including college, grad school, publishing career on the other side of the desk, marriage, children, pets. You name it, I would put it first. And when I was a production editor for college textbooks, I simply could not look at a computer screen at night to write my fiction.

I didn’t seem to have the discipline to write regularly and follow through with finding an agent or a publisher. I wrote my first historical romance about fifteen years ago and sent it off by snail mail. I even had some interested parties, but it was a busy time in my life. Within a few years, I had two children under three. I kept putting writing on the back burner. I wrote a contemporary novel a few years back and started shopping it around. Again, I had interest. But in the back of my mine, my historical was my best work, and I knew it needed another chance. I decided to self-publish. I followed it with two more historicals featuring family members from the first book, and I have just completed a prequel to this series.

My big news, however, is that I recently signed with a publisher, EPW, which is re-publishing my first three books, as well as producing the recently completed prequel and as-yet unwritten fourth book. They were impressed enough with my reviews to offer me a contract. After the fourth book, I have an idea for an Edwardian historical romance with a tortured hero who simply won’t leave me alone. I can’t wait to write his story.

You are the power behind “Cat Whiskers Studio” which offers website and editing services to writers as well as being a small press in its own right.   What led you to set this service up?

Why Cat Whisker Studio?
Because cat whiskers are really lucky—
even luckier if the cat is still attached.
As a freelance editor since 1994, I worked for many publishers, mostly handling non-fiction projects. Eventually, I began to dabble in website design. I created Cat Whisker Studio as an umbrella company for all my freelance work, both for websites and for publishing services. Up until recently, I used my own imprint, Cat Whisker Press, to publish my books, but as mentioned above, I’m going to try an outside publisher and see how it goes.

(To find out more about Sydney's Author services at Cat Whiskers Studio, click HERE)

I am assuming you are a cat person? Tell me about the cats in your life?

The girls
Oh, the cats in my life! I have been truly blessed. I have been loved by some splendid felines, and I have loved them wholeheartedly in return. My first cat, Sandy, we got when I was 13 years old. I had her through high school, college, grad school, about eight moves or more, and even getting married. She passed away 17 years later (though we don’t know her true age as she was a shelter kitty). She was a bold, fearless, orange tabby—a great hunter and an awesome companion. We had a special connection, and I am so grateful to have had her in my life.

Leo taking it easy...
My husband and I found Leo, a buff-colored Maine coon, under our lilac tree one winter; never a hunter, he was starving and had frostbite, and he was very happy to come in from the cold. I didn’t want to get as attached to him as I had to Sandy, so we got a kitten from the shelter to keep Leo company. Chloe was an all-black, part Siamese, super smart talkative girl. She wanted to live on my shoulder or on my lap, and I let her as much as possible. As it turned out, I got just as attached, and Chloe decided early on that I was her special person. Calm and dignified, Leo passed in 2012, and Chloe passed at age 19, two days before Christmas this past year (2013). I am reeling a bit as my animal family has been quite decimated.

Perry and old Chloe
We still have two cats, Sabby (16 lbs. of tuxedo cat) and Coco Puff (fluffy craziness), each adopted from a shelter, one for each of my children. They are unique and loveable, but I haven’t got the same connection. I suppose that lightning cannot strike too many times in the case of cat/human love.

I also have my very first dog ever, Perry, a rescue from Tennessee, part Beagle (in the face), part “you name it and someone says he is it”: Australian shepherd, Border collie, feathered-tail spaniel. Who knows? But a smart, herding, silky-furred, and active dog. He has added a different dimension of unconditional love. I’m thrilled to have him in my office every day and, of course, he makes me walk (or run) the way the cats never have.
(AS:  Thanks for sharing the stories of your animals! I would not be without my feline companions)

You have a series of three (the Sanborn-Malloy series) what was the inspiration and the links in this series?

I already mentioned the first book in the series which I wrote years ago; I rewrote An Improper Situation and published it in October of 2012. That story of a female writer in the 1880s—isolated, secluded, and not traditionally marriage-minded, nor maternal—came to me with the idea of a man and two children suddenly showing up on Charlotte’s doorstep in a small-town in Colorado. I had to figure out who they are. Turns out they are from urban Boston, and they need her as much as she needs them. One of the hero’s sisters inspired my second book, An Irresistible Temptation. Sophie is a classical pianist with a broken heart who crosses the country to find her destiny and, of course, true love. Charlotte’s brother stars in the third book, An Inescapable Attraction, when he reconnects with a love from his past on a wild race-and-escape story with trains, riverboats, and horses, gamblers, gun fights, and sexy romance.

Thank you so much, Alison (and George) for allowing me to take tea with you. One last thing: I read all genres of historicals while I’m on my exercise bike, including medieval, highlander, and regencies. I would love to hear from readers of your blog about their favorite time periods. 


With her chestnut hair and striking green eyes, Charlotte should be the catch of Spring City, CO. But she wears her independence like an impenetrable suit of armor, cloaking her identity behind her male nom de plume. A 24-year-old confirmed spinster, she won’t risk heartbreak; that is, until a handsome stranger arrives.

Boston lawyer Reed Malloy has a solemn mission—deliver two orphaned children to their Colorado cousin. He's not prepared for Charlotte being utterly beguiling, or for her flat-out refusal to raise her kin. It will take some firsthand persuasion to complete his legal duty and resolve more tantalizing issues.

When Charlotte forsakes everything familiar and is welcomed into the high society of the Boston Brahmins, concealed malice, sinister forces and scorned women emerge. With passions ablaze, Reed and Charlotte find themselves in a very Improper Situation. 

Available at:  Amazon
For all 3 Sanborn- Malloy books visit Sydney's Amazon page

Sydney Jane Baily completed her first novel at the tender age of 17. Thankfully, that manuscript currently resides in an undisclosed secure location. She went on to get B.A. degrees in English literature and in history, and an M.A. in literature with a concentration in Romanticism. During her career while continuing to write stories, she has been a copy editor, cat snuggler, proof reader, production editor, mother of two, developmental editor, indexer, and dog walker, among other things literary and not. Besides writing historical romances, she also writes contemporary women's fiction, and believes in happily-ever-after stories for an already challenging world. Though born and raised in California, she resides in New England with her family—human, feline, and canine.
Sydney welcomes email from fellow writers and readers at

Join Sydney and I for a discussion on your favourite historical period and Sydney will giveaway a copy of an Improper Situation to a randomly drawn commenter.

AS:  No prizes for me... but of course my favourite historical period is the English Civil War... but I do find American history interesting partly because of the parallels with Australian history (without the wars!). Having had ancestors who fought in both the American War of Independence and the American Civil War, I think I am about as American as the next person... :-)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Cover Reveal... Lord Somerton's Heir (a Regency Romantic Suspense)

The book is written (and rewritten and cut and polished), the edits are done (and redone and cut and polished). The blurb and tag line are settled... all that remains is THE COVER... and here it is... the gorgeous cover to the May 1 Escape Publishing release... LORD SOMERTON'S HEIR.

From the battlefield of Waterloo to the drawing rooms of Brantstone Hall, Sebastian Alder’s elevation from penniless army captain to Viscount Somerton is the stuff of dreams. But the cold reality of an inherited estate in wretched condition, and the suspicious circumstances surrounding his cousin’s death, provide Sebastian with no time for dreams, only a mystery to solve and a murderer to bring to justice.

Isabel, widow of the late Lord Somerton, is desperate to bury the memory of her unhappy marriage by founding the charity school she has always dreamed of. But, her dreams are shattered, as she is taunted from the grave, discovering not only has she been left penniless, but she is once more bound to the whims of a Somerton.

But this Somerton is unlike any man she has met. Can the love of an honourable man heal her broken heart or will suspicion tear them apart?

Watch this space for more details....