Category Archives: Newsletter

Newsletter March 2014

It seems to have been a short month, perhaps because we were away for the first few days. Since then I have been very busy, one way and another. For one thing, the garden requires a good deal of attention at this time of year. We were lucky to escape the worst of the rain over the winter and it had been a joy to see the crocuses and daffodils coming into bloom. Now the magnolia is coming out and we have a huge bush of pink camellias by the house. The downside of the mild winter is that the weeds have not died off and it has taken a lot of time and effort to get them under control.

I am just back from an interesting couple of days recording the audio version of OPERATION KINGFISHER. All my books are on audio but this is the first time I’ve volunteered to read one myself. I was a bit nervous about it as this work is usually done by professional actors but I must say it all went very smoothly. We were scheduled to spend three days on it and completed it in two. The producer kept asking me ‘Are you sure you’ve never done this before?’ So I guess all those lectures in radio technique at Rose Bruford must have stuck in my mind. I had to go to Whitley Bay to do it, which is where Soundings, the company which produces the audio books, is based. They are very nice people and they provide a cosy flat for their readers to stay in. Only one snag. It’s b… cold up there in the North East. We shared the flat with two actors who were there to do other books and any Archers fans may be interested to know that one of them plays the part of Adam, Jennifer’s illegitimate son.

We had a real treat last night. We went to see Adam Levy, an ex-pupil of mine, playing Orsino in Twelfth Night, the opening production at the refurbished Everyman Theatre in Liverpool. It is a superb production, full of wit and energy and the whole cast is excellent. We were able to meet Adam before the performance and it was great to catch up with his news. It is a great pleasure to see someone whose early talent I helped to nurture making a successful career in such a difficult and demanding profession.
It is a remarkable fact that Adam was one year behind Daniel Craig when I taught them both at Hilbre School. It really was a vintage couple of years!

I did my audition for the Lancashire WI yesterday. They had a number of potential speakers all lined up to do a 20 minute spot, but I couldn’t stay to listen to the others. It’s a 40 mile drive to Leyland, where their HQ is, from here and I had to get back in time to get to Liverpool for the play. My talk seemed to go all right, so I hope I’ll be accepted. Now I have to prepare for a talk at Sheffield library next Tuesday and Ilkely Playhouse the following Sunday.

All this doesn’t leave much time for writing. I keep thinking I can get on with the Matilda book but there is always something else that needs to take priority. I hope I shall get a chance to have a good run at it soon.

Newsletter January 31st 2014


It is going to be a busy year! This is largely, though not entirely, due to the coming commemorations of the outbreak of World War 1, which have aroused interest in my ‘Leonora’ trilogy. At present I have invitations to talk as follows:

March 14th. Talk to Ellesmere Port Library book group.

April 8th. Talk at Sheffield Library.

April 13th. Talk at Ilkely Playhouse.

July 15th Talk at High Wycombe library.

Tuesday Sept 9th. Ellesmere Port Ladies Luncheon Club.

Thursday Oct 2nd. Manor Gatehouse Club, Burton.

But please note I am still open to offers!

Apart from this, I shall be recording the audio version of OPERATION KINGFISHER for Soundings which will take three days in March; and I have been invited to teach a course on Historical Fiction at the City Literature Institute in London over the weekend of July 12th and 13th.

Also, my next novel, APHRODITE’S ISLAND will be published some time in April.

In the middle of all this I am trying to get on with a new book. It’s a bit of a departure from my previous work, in that it is set in the 12th century and tells the story of Queen Matilda and her battle for the throne against her cousin King Stephen. It is not a period that has been much explored but I am finding Matilda a really fascinating character – married off at the age of 8 to the Emperor of Germany, widowed at 23, forced into a new marriage with Geoffrey of Anjou by her father Henry 1. She was his only legitimate heir after the death of his son by drowning but was beaten to the throne by Stephen and has to fight for her rights. What an extraordinary life!

Add to this an expedition to Canada to attend my son’s wedding in Edmonton, with an extension into the Rocky Mountains afterwards, and it seems I am not going to be at home very much this summer. Looks as if the garden is not going to get as much attention as usual!

No temptation to get out in garden today! It’s blowing a gale and pouring with rain. No excuse not to get on with some writing!

Newsletter August 28th


Hello everyone,

Doesn’t the summer go by quickly? I can hardly believe autumn is just around the corner.

Things are looking up a bit on the sales side for THE LAST HERO, though they are still slow. I’ve been doing a lot of publicity on various social websites, including facebook and bookblogs. There is an interview with me on Catalina Egan’s site and another on Prue Batten’s and also a very good one with Richard Lee, the chairman of the Historical Novel Society, on their site. If anyone wants to have a look the links are here: ; ; ;

I’m still hoping for a few more reviews on Amazon, so if you have read the book please review it.

My new website is now up an running and I think looks very smart. The address is the same – – so do pop in and have a look.

The printed version is causing me a few headaches. The first batch, as you know, came out with print that was far too small and I also discovered that the designer had misspelled my name on the spine, so I am having to get a new print run done. It should be available in just over a week, but I am away from Sept.9th, so if you are planning to order a copy it might be best to wait until after I get home on the 17th.The original version is still available at £5.50, if you don’t mind using a magnifying glass to read it!

I have just come back from giving a talk to the Liverpool Jewish Luncheon Club, who were all very receptive and seemed to enjoy it. I like talking about my work and the talks always seem to go down well. My next date is as part of the Wirral Bookfest on Oct 7th and I am hoping to get some more invitations, particularly to talk about the Leonora books with the centenary of the outbreak of WWl coming up.

Now I really must get back to doing some new writing. I’m working on a book about Queen Mathilda (or Maud as she is sometimes called). She was Henry 1st’s daughter and married to the German Emperor at the age of 12; but when Henry’s son was drowned she disputed the succession with her cousin Stephen. She’s a complex character and her life was full of twists and turns, so it should make a good novel.

I hope you are all having a good summer and look forward to hearing from anyone about the books, the website or any other matter.

Best wishes



Hello everyone.

 Well, it has been a very disappointing month for me. In spite of all my efforts, THE LAST HERO is not selling. It’s heart breaking after all the effort I have put into it, and the love and care that has gone into the writing. My heartfelt thanks go to those few loyal readers who have bought it. Can I now ask you to do me a further favour? Please will you go to Amazon and post a review of it? A few good reviews will undoubtedly boost sales. Just in case some of you are having difficulty finding the book, the link is .

 I am going ahead, however, with the printed version, which should be available within a week or two. The cost will be £7.99 plus £1.50 for p&p. .

My other big project this month has been a re-design of my website, which is ongoing. I can’t afford the exorbitant prices the professionals ask for this work, so I’m doing it myself, which means a steep learning curve. The old site will still be accessible until the new one is ready.

As a relief from all this, there is always the garden. Hasn’t it been lovely to have some proper summer weather? Officially, David is in charge of the vegetables and I’m i/c flowers but at this time of year it does mean a lot of time spent harvesting and preserving the crops. We have had a big crop of raspberries which have to be frozen or turned into ice cream or jam. (I do the jam, my other half is in charge of the ice cream.) Now there are blackcurrants – more ice cream, and summer puddings – mange tout peas which need to be picked every day, heaps of courgettes to be made into ratatouille, and French beans. I feel like Barbara Good from the Good Life! But it is nice to be able to go into the garden a pull a lettuce for lunch, and get tomatoes and cucumbers from the greenhouse.

The family (Number 1 son plus wife, daughter and son) are away on holiday, so I don’t have to cook Sunday lunch as I usually do. Instead, I have to feed the rabbits. Well, at least their food doesn’t require cooking!

So, there it is, for another month. I hope to write more cheerfully next time.

Kind regards


Newsletter June 28th 2013


This month has been devoted almost entirely to preparing for a new venture. I am going to publish a novel independently, as an e-book. It has presented a steep learning curve, partly because fellow writers tell me that marketing is as important as writing the book and social media are the channels to use. So, as some of you already know, I am now on Facebook and also trying to make sense of Goodreads and find sites which might let me do a guest blog. I have also had to find someone to design the cover. The difference in the prices I have been given is incredible, but I have now found someone whose charges are reasonable and who has produced what I think will be a very effective cover. All this has been taken care of by my publishers previously. Actually uploading the book seems to be the easiest bit – I hope!

Let me tell you about the book. It has a long history, which will explain why I have decided to go it alone.

It is called THE LAST HERO and is set in Bronze Age Greece, around 1200 b.c. Many years ago I read THE KING MUST DIE by Mary Renault and was immediately fascinated by her idea that the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur might have had a foundation in fact. This led me along two complimentary research paths. One took me to Robert Graves’s two volumes of interpretations of the whole cannon of Greek mythology, where he suggests that all the stories are based on misunderstandings of ancient religious rituals. The other led me to the facts uncovered by archaeological digs at Troy and Mycenae and other Greek sites of that period. I knew, sort of, that these digs had proved that the story of the Trojan War probably had some foundation in fact but my researches revealed an amazing civilisation, centred on Mycenae, the city of Agamemnon, but extending all through Greece. It was so rich that its rulers were buried with masks of beaten gold on their faces and so powerful that its cities and palaces were surrounded by massive walls. Yet two generations after the victory at Troy those cities began to be destroyed. Pylos, on the west coast, the city of King Nestor of Iliad fame, was the first to go and soon after, the archaeologist’s digs revealed, Mycenae underwent extensive rebuilding to improve the defences. Yet within a hundred years it, too, had been razed to the ground. All that remained visible was the Lion Gate which had led into the city and for two thousand years Mycenae and all those who lived in it were consigned to the realm of myth. How did this happen?

My research into this question eventually inspired a long novel, the first I ever wrote. I was lucky enough to be given an introduction to an agent, who loved the book. For more than a year he touted round every publisher in London, but always with the same result. ‘We love it. It’s very well written. But we can’t see a market for it at the moment.’ Disillusioned, I put it aside and got on with my life. Years passed. I had three slight thrillers published, which sank with scarcely a ripple. More time passed and I almost gave up writing. Then one day I read a small item in the Writers’ News. The Historical Novel Society was offering a prize for a short story. The title was to be ‘The Conquerors’ and the prize was two weeks on the Greek island of Kythira on a writing course, and the tutors would be Helen Carey, the author of the Lavender Hill quartet, which some of you may have read, and Louis de Berniere, then at the height of his fame after ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ . I kept thinking how wonderful it would be to win, but I couldn’t think of a story. The deadline was Jan. 1st and about a week before Christmas I forced myself to sit down and think. The Greek venue gave me the clue and I remembered my old interest in the myths, so I wrote a story which retells the myth of Odysseus and Circe, using Renault’s technique of interpreting it as a real event. I got it in the post just in time for the deadline and sat back to wait. Months later, when I had given up hope, I got a letter to say I had won!

Since the Greek idea had been a success, I got my novel out and started a rewrite. I took it with me to Kythira and Louis fell in love with it and encouraged me to finish it. It is, he maintains, as good as anything by Mary Renault. I finished the rewrite and began the soul destroying business of sending it round to agents. Eventually, it as taken by Vivien Green of the Sheil Land agency, who remains my agent to this day. History couldn’t repeat it itself, could it? It could! The MS did the rounds, with the same results as before ‘love the book, but can’t see a market’. I put it away in the cupboard again.

Eventually, as you know, I found success with WE’LL MEET AGAIN, which led on to the FOLLIES quartet and then the Leonora stories. I had almost forgotten THE LAST HERO, until Richard Lee the chairman of the Historical Novel Society remembered it and suggested the possibility of e-publishing. So that is what I am going to do, and I hope and pray that all you folks out there will prove the publishers wrong and show that there is a readership for it. Please don’t be put off by the distant era. It may be far away in time, but I think you will find the book has all the qualities you love about the others. It is still Love and War, after all. And I think you will find the heroes, Alkmaion and Alectryon, as real and sympathetic as Merry and Felix, or Tom and Ralph.

The book will appear on Kindle initially and then, I hope, in other digital formats. I apologise to those of you who still love the feel of a ‘real’ book and don’t read digitally; but I do plan to have a short run printed for anyone who wants one. Perhaps if you could let me know if you would be one of those it would help me to know how many to print.

So what else have I been doing? Well, there is always the garden. The azaleas are over, but now the roses are coming into bloom and the herbaceous borders are beginning to look good. If only we could have some warm weather! I’ve read Kate Atkinson’s ‘Life After Life’ – if you want to read my review go to my blog on the website. I am currently in the middle of ‘The Emperor’s Spy – Rome 1’ by M.C.Scott. Manda Scott is one of my favourite writers. Her Boudicaa quartet had me in an iron grip from start to finish.

That’s about it for this month. I’ll let you know when THE LAST HERO is published.

All the best