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Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Story of a B-O-O-K...BY THE SWORD

(Excerpt from BY THE SWORD by Alison Stuart)

Jonathan lifted his hand to her face, tilting her chin so she looked at him. Her eyes swam with unshed tears. Tears he had caused.
‘So many deaths. Too many, Kate. Believe me, it’s not always easy to be the survivor. I may not be dead but I have lost all that is important to me. It’s a hollow victory over death.’
So many deaths...Marston Moor and afterwards, Oxford. He had run at life, stumbled into the path of innocent people, and he had survived while they had died.
‘Jonathan?’ She touched his hand. The merest brush but she may as well have branded him with fire.

Once upon a time a little girl went to visit an old house in an obscure corner of Worcestershire, called Harvington Hall. The house creaked and groaned with a history dating back to the Middle Ages. The little girl had never seen anything so old... so mysterious... and she began to imagine a world of people who may have lived in this old house called the Thornton family.

AS aged 11 on her first visit to Harvington Hall in 1969
The old house and the cast of imaginary inhabitants lived on with the little girl as she grew up and over the years she scribbled, sketched illustrations, drew family trees, floor plans and breathed life into the imaginary world.

The original Seven Ways folder complete with illustrations!
The folder became lost in the bottom of the drawer and forgotten until one day she dislocated her shoulder in a skiing accident and left alone in a ski lodge all by herself she began to write... and in no time at all she had written A B-O-O-K but she didn't know if it was a good book or a heap of rubbish.

She entered it into a contest called the Emma Darcy Award run by the Romance Writers of Australia and it came second, so she began to think maybe this book wasn't a terrible story. She entered it into a big contest in England called the Catherine Cookson Fiction Prize and it was long listed... but alas none of the publishers she sent it was interested. "It's a terrific book," they said, "but its set in the English Civil War and we can't sell stories set in that period of history."

Just in case you wonder what an actual manuscript looks like...
This made the writer of the B-O-O-K very sad and she put the story away in the actual sock drawer (this was in the days before cyber sock drawers) and then a little miracle happened - called Ebooks and suddenly there was a publisher who liked the B-O-O-K and so it was finally published but there was a problem. No one had invented ebook readers... and even though it won the Epic Award for "Best Historical Romance",  not enough people bought the B-O-O-K and after a little while it went back into the sock drawer. 

Still the little girl inside the author dreamed about the old house and its imaginary family... Not just one story but the story of the house and the family on through the ages.

Then one day she mentioned it to her lovely publisher (Escape Publishing) and her publisher thought it was a good story and they had an idea to make three interwoven stories - THE GUARDIANS OF THE CROWN series.

So today, March 22, BY THE SWORD - that little story begun so many, many years ago, begins a whole new life as the first in a trilogy spanning the years of the Interregnum from 1650-1660.

It will always be the B-O-O-K of my heart... I hope you enjoy reading about Jonathan and Kate's adventures as much as I loved writing about them. 

BY THE SWORD is available as an ebook only from all reputable book stores:
Barnes and Noble (Nook)
For a complete listing visit Escape Publishing

Monday, March 9, 2015

A Reader's Weekend in Canberra... ARRC15

The Regency Fashion Parade!

For those who think the life of a writer is a solitary vigil beside a guttering candle in a cold, cheerless loft, they are obviously not thinking of romance writers. Every time I get together with my "tribe" I am reminded how blessed I am to found my niche in the writing world. 

But no writer can really call themselves a writer without readers and while the Australian Romance Readers Convention is teeny tiny compared to the American equivalent (I've yet to go to RT but I've heard stories), a reader nomination for an Australian Romance Readers Award (for Lord Somerton's Heir) was all the incentive I need to pack my bags for a weekend in Canberra with my "peeps".


Knowing how full on these weekends can be I normally lodge alone but a dear friend, Beverley Eikli, made a last minute decision to come to Canberra and agreed to be my roomie. I had forgotten what fun it was to have a roomie and as we are both on deadlines (hers more urgent than mine) we shared a little writing time and space - but, in my case, not nearly enough!

The weekend kicked off on Friday night with a gathering of the Harlequin authors followed by the welcome drinks and a chance to finally put some names to faces among the bloggers and readers who were there. 

Among inspirational women in my life, I rate Helene Young highly. Not only is she a fabulous writer of romantic suspense but she is an airline pilot. Now I have worked most of my life in male dominated professions (law... the military) but whatever difficulties I encountered are nothing compared to the fight for women to be fly (and yet look at how many of the early aviators were women???). I remember the battle Debbie Worley fought in the late 70s and it was wonderful to see Debbie with Helene on a recent TV program talking about how they just wanted to be able to do what they loved. Anyway I digress, Helene was the first key note speaker talking, aptly, about inspirational heroines (she also took out one of the ARRA awards). American authors Sylvia Day, Kelley Armstrong and Victoria Dahl were also among the guests as well as the charming, delightful and thoroughly lovely Nalini Singh. 

Getting ready for the Book signing

Pen poised...
The atmosphere at ARRC was so relaxed and the amazing organising committee had gone to so much trouble with games and contests and inventive ways for readers to connect with authors - not that we are a frightening bunch but if you are both a little shy, sometimes we all need a nudge. I loved having a chance to chat with a couple of special readers as a "Mystery Author". 

Then, of course, there is the book signing... A lovely opportunity to talk to readers about what they like reading. Although I reached rather depressing conclusion I needed to be writing "hot" paranormals, not considered historical romances... The queues for Sylvia Day and Nalini Singh are testament to that fact!

The ARRA dinner is a highlight, the fun amplified by a foto booth and a lifesize cut out of Fabio (remember him? "most beautiful man in the cosmos, including the black holes"). Anne Gracie was the thoroughly deserving winner of the Historical Romance Award. I texted my husband to say "I didn't win" and he responded "Win what?". I love that man...

Lady Elizabeth Kentmere
Sunday brought a special treat... a secret "Fashion Parade" of regency historical fashion and I was one of the models. As you may have guessed I love any excuse to dress up. Author Bronwyn Parry produced a Regency day dress... handstitched I have to say, as was the chemise, stay, chemisette and cap! The whole ensemble was extremely comfortable. I did have to remember to remove my watch and Fitbit!  Beverley Eikli, also a fabulous costume maker, provided a couple of the other costumes and we had some ring ins from the Jane Austen Society. Jeniffer Kloester (who has a life long affair with Georgette Heyer) wrote the script but none of us knew anything about our characters until we were on stage. Apparently Lady Elizabeth Kentmere was a foremost equestrienne, handy with a whip and a devil in a curricle. Hard not to collapse on the floor, paralysed with laughter! (Particularly when I think I looked more like Mrs. Bennet!)

Later in the day I appeared on a historical panel with Anne Gracie, Suzie Love and Allyssa James. 

That was it... needless to say I climbed into my own bed last night and was asleep before my head hit the pillow - with dreams of Fabio!