The website of the historical fiction writer.


Read Through History January and February 2017

Time really does fly. Already we are in March but, for what it’s worth, Happy New Year!

Here’s what I’ve read so far in 2017:

1) Mr Midshipman Hornblower – by C. S. Forrester. The first in the legendary Hornblower series. I can see how this has inspired many writers since it was first published.

2) The Hammer and the Cross – by Harry Harrison. The first in the alternative history series concerning the Great Heathen Army’s invasion of England in the ninth century. Good to read alongside the Amazon Vikings series.

3) Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling. This is where it all began for the Harry Potter series and the success it has had is very well deserved.

4) Great Harry’s Navy by Geoffrey Moorhouse. A bit of interesting non-fiction about how Henry VIII laid down the foundations for the Royal Navy.

5) Arminius by Robert Fabbri. I am really enjoying reading the Vespasian series and this is a little sidestep which is set right about where I’ve got up to so, for me, it’s been published at the right time.

6) The Scottish Malcontent by Craig MaCauley. This is a thrilling espionage novel set in late eighteenth century Scotland. Well worth a read.

7) Nomad by Alan Partridge. A great follow up to I Partridge. Very, very funny.

8) No Way Out by Den Barry. A great debut novel following the life of a punk rocker negotiating middle age. Read it and enjoy!


Read Through History: November and December 2016

Happy Christmas to you all! Doesn’t time fly, eh? I didn’t even get round to writing anything on here!

Anyhow, here’s what I’ve been reading the last two months:

1) Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor. This is a very atmospheric ghost story set in the eighteenth century. Perfect for Halloween or Christmas.

2) The Flame Bearer by Bernard Cornwell. The latest in the Saxon Stories. I won’t say too much as I don’t want to spoil it but it’s very good.

3) The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. This is a very gripping family saga with lots of twists and turns.

4) Time of Terror by Seth Hunter. This is the first in the Nathan Peake series that takes place in France, 1789, when the Revolution is in full swing.

5) Kydd by Julian Stockwin. The first in this series set during the Napoleonic Wars. If you want to learn about life on board a ship in these times, this is the book for that.

6) Tide of War by Seth Hunter. The next book in the series which takes place in the Caribbean. Just as good as the first.

7) The Damned Utd by David Peace. I’ve seen the film and decided to read the book.

8) Bodies of Water by V. H. Leslie. I like a ghost story to read at Christmas and this was perfect.

9) Portsmouth Fairy Tales by the Portsmouth Writers’ Hub. A little something to round the year off.

And there we are. Happy New Year to one and all and enjoy 2017!

Darkfest Falls Across the Land

Happy Halloween everyone! Or Samhain, if you prefer. Or Dia de los Muertos. Whichever way you want, have a good one.

And if you want to carry on this Season of Spookiness, why not go to some of these events from Portsmouth Darkfest?

From talks, songs, spoken word and artwork there is something for everyone.

Don’t have nightmares…

Read Through History: October 2016

Halloween is almost upon us so, while you’re trick or treating, eating pumpkin pie and watching scary films, here’s what I’ve read this month while surviving the Great South Run.

1) Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg. This is one I found in a library by chance and is a guide for getting into writing and overcoming the stumbling blocks we can encounter. Always worth reading this kind of work regardless of what level you are at.

2) Heartstone by C. J. Sansom. The fifth book in the Shardlake series which sees the lawyer come on down to Portsmouth around the time the Mary Rose makes her last, ill-fated voyage.

3) The Fort by Bernard Cornwell. This story is set during the American War of Independence and looks at the Penobscot Expedition from both sides.

4) Eye Contact by Fergus McNeill. This is the beginning of a very interesting crime series where a man kills the first person he makes eye contact with that day.

4) I Remember You by Yrsa Sigurdardottir. This is a very spooky ghost story set in the Westfjords of Iceland. Perfect for Halloween.

Stalking Leviathan: A Bestiary of Tales

Yes, my friends, there is a New Anthology in Town! The good people that are the Random Writers have written a rip-roaring round of tales (not tails) that go in search of mythical and legendary creatures from all over time and space. There are stories set during the Irish Civil War, Elizabethan England, Persia, France, the wide open sea, and many more.

The cover is also an amazing work of art, take a look here. It is available in print and electronic formats.

Featuring the brilliant authors Karen Ginnane, Martin J. Gilbert, Matthew Willis, Shell Bromley, M. E. Vaughan, J. A. Ironside, Gail Jack, L. Wilson and William Angelo this is not a book to be missed.

And I’ve got something in there too.

Also, be sure to check out the other two anthologies the Randoms have put together: A Seeming Glass and Something Rich and Strange too.


Read Through History September 2016

So, during festivals, day job and scribblings, here is what I’ve been reading during the thirty days that September had:

1) 1066 Turned Upside Down by Various Authors. This is a collection of stories that imagine if the events of 950 years ago took a different turn. We have several very interesting pathways that are taken here and I recommend you have a look.

2) Skein and Bone by V. H. Leslie. Here is a collection of some really good and chilling short stories from an up and coming author. This is perfect for Halloween and Christmas.

3) Dark Eden by Chris Beckett. A bit of science fiction now which imagines a lost colony of humans marooned generations ago on a distant planet.

4) Collaborator by Murray Davies. This is an alternative history that imagines a Nazi Occupation of Britain and follows a man who works as a translator for the occupiers but falls into the Resistance Movement. I liked this very much.

5) Scent of Death by Andrew Taylor. This is a historical crime novel set in Revolutionary America where a British lawyer investigates a murder.

6) Revelation by C. J. Sansom. The fourth installment in the Shardlake series where the lawyer investigates a series of religious themed murders.

7) Black Powder by Ally Sherrick. This is a novel set in 1605 that is aimed at younger people but it can be enjoyed by adults too.

And that’s September. Now Autumn is coming! (Doesn’t have the same ring as winter, really, does it?)

Festival of Writing 2016 Part Eight

The next session was about the art of the rewrite with our host Julie Cohen.

Writing a first draft can be a very long and drawn out process of failure but rewriting is the golden opportunity to make your work better. Therefore it is essential that you do not share your first drafts with anyone (I really must remember not to make a treasure map showing where mine are buried). The first draft is also essential for getting the story down and facts can be checked later (I always worry I might put out a book with <CHECK> written all over it…) Anyhow, some very helpful advice we were given was, when finishing the first draft, the first thing to do, other than put it away is have a drink.
In fact, when you’ve reached any milestone, have a drink.
After the first draft and drinking, leave it for a month then make a list of revision points. Then make some more and cross them off as you go. There are two types: macro (whole text alterations such as structure, characters, plotting, pace, start and finish and continuity and consistency) and micro (showing/telling, dialogue, descriptions, verbs, spelling and grammar, repetition, repetition, repetition and research).
Then there’s the next bit that involves a visit to the art shop: scissors, colouring pens and post-it notes. Post it notes can show the different stages of a story and different colours can show how the sub-plots can be woven in.
Then get some writers to have a look through it for you and come up with their own comments.
After covering the house in post it notes, rewriting, getting people to criticise, editing again through your tears, you can then celebrate.
And that brings us to the end of another Festival. My thanks go to the organisers, the workshop givers, the agents who took the time to read through my work and to all the friends I’ve made to make the weekend so much fun!

Festival of Writing 2016 Part Seven

The first of Sunday’s workshops I attended was Kerry Fisher’s Pipe Dream to Publication which looked into how to increase a book’s chances of success.

Rejection is a big part of the writing process. It can be soul destroying but it can also help you learn where you went wrong and how to get better. It is important to keep believing in yourself and to keep practicing and learning.
One way of getting noticed is to publish your work yourself. You are in control of everything, you can learn the publishing business and it can be done at a low cost.
Other tips we were given included making sure there was conflict in each chapter that tested the characters until the end. It is also important to weave in the backstory when relevant and to skip the boring bits. Going on courses and joining writers groups are helpful too.
It is important to be on good terms with everyone you meet at an event or over the Internet as the world of publishing is a small one.

Festival of Writing 2016 Part Six

Sunday Morning began with Futurecast 2016 where a panel of authors, agents and publishers, both traditional and independent, discussed the future of the publishing industry for the next twelve months.

The session began with a poll as to whether or not the audience thought the publishing industry was in trouble. Twenty percent said yes while eighty percent said no.

The panel discussed this question. There has been much closer work with film and television and other artistic industries where in the past they would have been further apart. Self publishing has also been growing steadily over the last few years with a big surge in electronic books being published as e-readers are useful things to have but print is still going strong.

A new initiative is Bookouture, an e-book publisher, which is selling as many as the big five traditional publishers. There is a quick turnaround between a book being accepted for publication and it being available to buy while on Amazon e-book sales from independent authors are rising while traditionally published books are falling.

After the discussion the audience were asked the same question again. Only a few changed their minds to say the publishing industry was in trouble but we were asked to agree to disagree and be terribly polite in doing so.

Festival of Writing 2016 Part Five

This post comprises two sessions, both dealing with the basis and application of the role of a character in a plot: Character is Destiny.

C. M. Taylor discussed the three parts of a story: the theme (what the writer says about the world), the character (who lives in it) and the plot (what happens to them). The way a plot moves is how the relationships change. To illustrate this we were shown the four-act character arc where the crucial moment in the story is the midpoint, which can be seen in the Godfather where Michael saves his father from a second assassination attempt and joins him. Another is Gladiator where Maximus confronts Commodus, vowing revenge for the murder of his family. At this point the old self dies and the new self is born.