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Traci Sanders Multi-award-winning Author is my Guest Author with Tips on Colons and Semicolons

Traci Sanders

I thought I’d do something different with my Guest Author Spot – something I think you will find useful – especially those of us who write and possibly find themselves struggling with Grammar and Punctuation at times.

For those who don’t know her, Traci Sanders is a multi-genre, multi-award-winning author of ten published titles, with contributions to three anthologies. An avid blogger and supporter of Indie authors, she writes parenting, children’s, romance, and non-fiction guides.

Her ultimate goal is to provide great stories and quality content for dedicated readers, whether through her own writing or editing works by other authors.

Welcome Traci and thanks for being here to share some of your tips with us today

Thanks for featuring my new books on your blog. I am going to share a tip which is focused on the technical side of writing, discussing usage of colons and semicolons.

TIP 128: Colons and Semi-colons

The following tips, and many more on writing and editing, can be found in Before You Publish, now available in digital and paperback format.

You can think of this as a reference guide, rather than a book you need to read from cover to cover. It will become your new go-to guide for all things writing, grammar, and editing. The tips are easy to follow and explained in simple terms that anyone can understand and put to use right away.
I’ve seen colons and semi-colons thrown around in a haphazard manner within several books recently. It’s time to stop the madness!
Here are some rules broken down in simple terms, with examples for each one:
Semicolon – Basically, this mark symbolizes a point in the sentence that is not strong enough for a period but is too strong for a comma. Hence, it combines both (;).
A semicolon can replace a period when linking two similar, complete thoughts.
Her heart led her back to her childhood home; it was the only place she felt safe. A period could also be substituted here, but the semicolon closes the gap more effectively. Also, if this sentence were shortened—say the words “it was” were taken out—the sentence could be constructed differently.
Her heart led her to her childhood home—the only place she felt safe.
Either of these would suffice.
A semicolon can differentiate between two separate (complete) thoughts an author wants to convey in a relational way. Example: Your heart belongs to music; mine belongs to sports.
She thought she’d found the love of her life; she was wrong.
Use a semicolon to set apart sentences that are introduced (or divided) by conditional words such as: however, therefore, consequently, etc.
I wanted to marry a doctor; therefore, I dated only medical students.
You can date anyone you want; however, don’t be surprised if your heart gets broken.
Use a semicolon to break up a sentence in which one or more commas are present, or where a coordinating conjunction has been omitted (as in a series or list of items).
I called my mom and told her that I loved her, and I promised to take care of Daddy for her; it was one promise I intended to keep.
These are my three favorite movies of all time: Untamed Heart, starring Marisa Tomei and Christian Slater; Pretty Woman, starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere; and The Bodyguard, starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner. 
Don’t fall into the trap of using a semi-colon to replace a colon.
Incorrect: Most teenage boys have only one thing on their minds; girls.
Correct: Most teenage boys have only one thing on their minds: girls.
Colon – An easy way to remember when to use a colon is, only use it at the end of a complete sentence, never following a sentence fragment. Colons are most often used to signify the beginning of a list or series of items. They can also be used to signify that an important document is about to be read, or a speech is about to take place.
Here is a list of the things I need you to pick up from the store: bananas, milk, sugar, eggs, and rolls.
I’ve only had one dream since I was a little girl: to be a professional writer.
She opened the letter, and it read: “Dear John…”
I’ve provided several ways to properly use semicolons and colons in this tip. There are a few other, more-specific rules; however, this is a good starting list for those who are confused on proper usage.
 You can find out more about Traci Sanders, award-winning author of parenting, children’s, and romance titles here:
~Reviews keep authors writing~
Traci thanks so much for sharing some of your expertise with us. I do hope everyone has enjoyed your post and will visit your pages and books as a result. This has been so interesting.
Jane x

Dave Sivers: My Guest Author – A Day in the Life of Det. Insp. Lizzie Archer.

Dave Sivers Author 2017

Dave Sivers is my Guest Author and we are going to explore

A Day in the Life of Detective Lizzie Archer with him, but first:

Dave, tell us about yourself, why you write, and why you write in this particular genre. What is your inspiration?  What is your next project?

I grew up in West London and spent my working life in the civil service until I took early retirement from the day job a few years back. I’ve always been a reader and have been writing stories since I was about six, so during that first career – when I wasn’t moonlighting as a bouncer or a bookie’s clerk, or studying for my Open University degree – I was busy with a number of writing projects, with varying degrees of success.

When I found myself with more time for writing, I followed my dream of writing novels in earnest, and then the digital revolution offered me a business model where, as an Indie author, I could manage my own brand the way I wanted. I’d always had quite eclectic tastes, and this has been reflected in the fiction genres I’ve tried my hand at – but I’ve always been drawn back to crime – I think most people like a mystery.

Writers who have inspired me include Stephen King, who always does such a great narrative voice, Val McDermid, who really knows how to structure a crime novel and carry a series forward, and Stephen Booth, who first showed me rural crime doesn’t have to be cosy.

My next project is the fifth Archer and Baines novel, and then I might take a short break from the series to do something that’s been in my head for a while – but Archer and Baines will be back after that!

The Blood that Binds

I’ve asked Dave to take us through a Day in the Life of Detective Inspector Lizzie Archer:

How does your character’s day usually begin? Let us know how your character might spend a typical day, working or being a parent, whatever it is they might get up to.  Perhaps they have two jobs, or are retired?

Detective Inspector Lizzie Archer’s alarm is perpetually set for 6.00 am, weekends included. It’s a hangover from her days in the Met, before she transferred to Buckinghamshire’s Aylesbury Vale a few years ago. The area hasn’t turned out to be quite the sleepy hollow she expected, but it does have its relatively quiet patches. Even so, she just can’t break that early morning habit.

Her morning routine is longer than most people’s because she has to artfully apply make-up (as taught by a TV make-up artist) and arrange her carefully cut hair to conceal the crescent scar on her left cheek, a souvenir from a bottle-wielding drunk she arrested in a London pub. The hair and make-up help with her confidence, even though she can’t hide the droop on that side of her face where the facial muscle was severed.

That’s interesting Dave, giving her a scar. I have given Ms B a scar down her left leg because at some point, in another book, I can write about how she got it. 

Right now, her team has one case on its books that’s a bit more urgent than the run of the mill car thefts, garage and shed break-ins, and petty drug dealing. Archer’s attention today will be focused on catching the piece of scum that, two nights ago, forced his way into an old lady’s bungalow and left her half-dead, all for a couple of hundred quid and a bit of jewellery that he’ll get next to nothing for, if he can even find anyone to fence it.

It’s a case that has enraged the community, and has the team determined to get the culprit off the streets before he goes for a repeat performance.

Fortunately, they know who they’re looking for. It really isn’t smart for a career criminal to leave bloody fingerprints all over the crime scene. By yesterday afternoon, they’d known they were looking for one Bradley Fane. But he hadn’t been at home when they’d gone looking for him there, and then someone must have tipped him off that the police had been round.

They haven’t found him in any of his usual haunts, either, but wherever he’s laying low, it won’t be for long. The team has spoken to Fane’s ex-wife, who hates his guts, and she’s promised to drop off a list of associates this morning. Archer would have liked it last night, but decided it was worth the wait to secure the ex’s co-operation.

Dead in Deep Water

Archer hits the office in Aylesbury nick just before 8pm. At 8.30 there’s a catch up briefing with the team – there’ll be a couple more during the day – and then, just as Archer is thinking about getting stuck into her mountain of paperwork, Melanie Fane turns up with the promised list.

Archer divides the names and addresses up amongst the manpower at her disposal. She decides to get DC Joanne ‘Joan’ Collins, who’s always first in the office and last out, away from her desk partnering DC Jason Bell. Archer has never been a hands-off, desk-driving DI, so she goes with DS Dan Baines. As usual.

At the second address they call at, the woman living there, Shelley Parks, seems decidedly nervous and is obviously stalling. They hear a crash at the back of the house. Baines shoulders Shelley Parks aside and charges through, with Archer right behind him. The rear door is still swinging on its hinges.

They catch up with Fane as he’s trying to scramble over the back fence. Baines drags him down, but Fane’s a big man. He shoves Baines to the ground and turns towards Archer, his face ugly. Whatever he intended to do to her, Archer will never know, because she kicks him full-on in the balls and all the fight goes out of him. His eyes are still watering as she snaps the cuffs on.

Even with the support of the duty solicitor, and even with his slim intellect, Fane doesn’t make much effort to deny what he’s accused of. He shrugs a lot when confronted with the obvious evidence against him and asks if he can get a lighter sentence if he pleads guilty. The infuriating thing is, he probably can, to avoid putting his victim through testifying.

By mid-afternoon, Baines is typing up the report and Archer is finally knee-deep in that paperwork. Tonight there’ll be a celebratory drink or two. And, unless anything horrendous happens in the next couple of hours, it might even be an early finish for a change.

Not that she has much to rush home to.   

 Does she juggle a career and a family? If  she has either/both, does her career drive her to the detriment of everything else, home life for example?

 Archer is a bit of a loner, although not by choice. Both her parents are dead, and her brother cut himself and his family off from her after their mother’s death. The man she thought she would make a life with broke up with her after she was disfigured in an arrest that went wrong. She was off duty at the time and her then lover witnessed the whole thing and then couldn’t stand the guilt when he looked at her scarred face. Since then, she’s had one disastrous affair. She doesn’t have too much of a home life, because she usually works long hours, but the house she bought in a small Buckinghamshire village has never felt too much like a home to her anyway.

Evil Unseen

Does Archer have a love interest?  How does this ‘interest’ impact her story? Does this significant ‘other’ often drive the story, interfere with his character and his plans?  Are they important to the story or just there in the background?  If there are kids, how do they fit into Archer’s story?

 Archer doesn’t exactly have a love interest, although one of the few friends she has is her next door neighbour, Dominic. She does fancy him, but she vowed at the outset that she wouldn’t get involved with him – she feels it would be too awkward for them both if it went wrong. They do cook for each other – Dominic does a mean curry – when she’s got a free weekend, and he’s one of the very few people she can relax and be herself with. He and Dan Baines are the only two people she really trusts. She has no kids, and isn’t interested in having any, although Dominic’s cat, Monty, has adopted Archer’s property as an extension of his territory.

When you first envisaged Archer’s character, did you have her whole life mapped out?

I wouldn’t go quite that far. I knew her back story pretty well from the get-go, and I have a story arc for the main characters roughed out over a number of books. But, whilst the plot for each book is mine, the story is theirs – and  once in a while they can still surprise me. They nearly always do something unexpected, which will tweak the trajectory a little.

Does she have political views?  Strong views about controversial topics for example?  Perhaps you steer clear of involving your character in strong viewpoints, being vocal about them – why?

I guess she does have quite strong views – she has very strong feelings about justice – and they must include politics. It just hasn’t figured much in the stories, because there are bad guys to be caught and whatever’s happening in the characters’ lives to handle. If there was something controversial impacting on a story that Archer would have strong views about, I wouldn’t shy away from her expressing them.

Do you think Archer’s views might alienate her in some way from her readers, or perhaps stimulate their interest in her character even more, even though Archer’s views and opinions might be worlds apart from their own?  Are you worried about writing anything too controversial?

I think any writer who doesn’t care about alienating their readers has a problem. But Archer, for all she isn’t perfect, is a character readers like. She might have some views that don’t coincide with theirs, but nothing extreme. I think she and the reader would amicably agree to differ.

What made you decide upon the physical attributes of Archer’s character?  Is she the amalgamation of several people you know, or have you created her from scratch?  Your perfect woman for example – someone you might/might not care for if you met them in real life?

I suppose there’s something of me in both Lizzie Archer and Dan Baines. But I insist to this day that both characters, and my mental image of them, came to me fully formed. Archer is quite tall, blonde and blue-eyed, but that’s all the description I’ve really given in the books. I think readers like to have their own mental picture. She has her disfigurement, obviously. I haven’t consciously based her looks or her personalities on anyone.

What made you decide upon Archer’s personality/character?  Was her profession or personality the driving force behind you creating him?  Is she a music fan?  Which genre and why? Does he read?  Which authors and why?   Help us get to know something about DI Lizzie Archer.

The key to the personality Archer has at the start of the series is the incident that led to her being disfigured. Before then, she was confident, fearless and marked as a high flyer in a profession that’s in her blood – her late father was a copper too, and very proud of her. After the injury, she lost confidence, both because of her looks and their impact on her self-esteem, and because her sense that she could deal with any situation had been shattered. She fled London for the Met to try to rebuild her life, her career and her confidence. It’s happening, but slowly. I think she came to me in this form because I wanted two cop characters with strong back stories that influence their behaviour, but I didn’t want angst-ridden cops in the stereotypical sense. She’s not much of a reader, although she might pick up the odd crime novel. Her musical tastes are evolving. She’s just turned 40 and is playing a lot of the CDs that belonged to her father – Dire Straits, The Police. But Dominic is turning her into a bit of a country fan, too. She’s discovered the Dixie Chicks and now has everything they’ve recorded. You’ll find Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle on her iPod too. She gets that from me.

What are Archer’s character’s flaws/faults or failings?  You’ve created her with these if she has them, why was that?  Did you want a perfect all rounded lead character or a flawed one?  Is she kind and caring or a bully, arrogant, cruel….?

She knows she doesn’t take enough interest in other people’s lives and their problems. She doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and isn’t very good at finding out whether the other person has a problem. She’s also quite driven, which can give her tunnel vision. But she’s not actually unkind or uncaring, and certainly not arrogant. She can be too defensive sometimes. I didn’t set out to give her these flaws. They just flow from her history. But then, I’d hate for her too be perfect.

Does your character, Lizzie Archer, convey a moral message or aren’t you bothered about that sort of thing?

I like to have a bit of a theme in my head for each book, even if only I know about it. I don’t really want to convey deep moral messages.

Does your story write itself or do you plan and outline in advance, every aspect about your character and their life and exploits? Was this difficult to write, especially if it was not part of your ‘plan’ for them originally?

The story usually has a spark – it could be a thirty-second news item or something overheard – and a ‘what if? or two. When I sit down to make a start, I know what happened, usually how and why, not always who. I can’t do a big outline – just can’t. I have to sit on the characters’ shoulders and watch them investigate. What they do is in character, as affected by the case and what’s going on in their lives. If the direction I’d thought their lives were taking has deviated by the end, that’s fine. That’s what real life is sometimes like.

The Scars Beneath the Soul

Setting for a character and their story is important.  What made you decide upon the setting you have chosen?  Is the setting fictional or one you are familiar with?

The Archer and Baines novels are set in Buckinghamshire’s Aylesbury Vale, where I live. I grew up in West London, but I’ve lived here almost a quarter of a century now, and I know and love the area. I wanted to set a crime series here, and wouldn’t let suggestions that country crime is cosy crime put me off. Bad, brutal things can happen anywhere.

I agree. My Ms Birdsong Investigates is set in Oxfordshire, in the Vale of the White Horse, and is anything but a Cosy/traditional mystery often associated with beautiful rural locations. As you say, bad, brutal things can happen anywhere.

 Is your life style similar to your character’s life style in any way? Similar background/family/occupation/profession, education?

Well, I live in the same part of the world! And Archer hails from a part of London not far from where I’m from. My family background couldn’t be more different, but I was a civil servant for a whole career, which I suppose gives me a sense of public service ethos and a public sector way of doing things – although a very different part of that sector.

Would you like to be your character?  What do you like/admire about Archer the most?

Well, I’m the wrong gender to be her, but would I like to be a character like her? As I said earlier, I’m sure there’s a healthy dollop of me in her. I like the way she’s come through a horrendous experience and is gradually getting a new life on track, even though she makes a lot of mistakes, and is often disappointed, along the way. Sure, she ran away from her old life – but, having burned those bridges, it’s like she’s doggedly determined to lie in the bed she made for herself. I admire that about her.

Please write a little about your recent book/story involving Archer and why she is experiencing what is happening to her in this particular story.  Is Lizzie Archer part of a series?  List all your books featuring her.

DI Lizzie Archer is one half of the Archer and Baines duo of which The Blood That Binds is the fourth in the series. In this book, she’s come a fair way from the woman who arrived at Aylesbury Police Station for the first time in The Scars Beneath The Soul. The other books in the series are Dead in Deep Water and Evil Unseen.

In The Blood That Binds, she’s still self-conscious about her disfigurement, but it doesn’t define her so much, and she’s learning to trust people. She’s also trying to give members of her team a little more responsibility, to develop and stretch them, although part of that is necessity, because her quiet patch suddenly finds itself juggling several major investigations at the same time. A 12-year old girl has been killed by a hit-and-run driver, and now the two girls who were with the victim that night have both disappeared. The team also has the naked body of a women, discovered in woodland, to contend with. 

Dave Sivers Author

Dave Sivers:

Dave’s civil service career took him to exotic places like Rhode Island USA, Cyprus, Brussels, Northern Norway and Sutton Coldfield. Along the way, he moonlighted variously as nightclub bouncer, bookie’s clerk and freelance writer, as well as picking up a first class honours degree from the Open University.

Writing has always been his passion and, since giving up the day job, he has launched a second career as a novelist.

The Scars Beneath the Soul, the first book in his popular Archer and Baines crime series – set in Buckinghamshire’s Aylesbury Vale – and the follow-up, Dead in Deep Water, both hit the top three in Kindle’s ‘Serial Killers’ chart. The Blood That Binds is the fourth in the series featuring DI Lizzie Archer and DS Dan Baines.

Dave has also won prizes and publication with his short fiction, written for newspapers and magazines, and writes material for the amateur stage.

Dave lives in Buckinghamshire, England, with his wife, Chris.

You can discover Dave and his books here:

Twitter: @DaveSivers

Facebook: @davesiversauthor1

Goodreads: Dave Sivers

 The Blurb:

 “Two intriguing cases – one twisted plot.” – Alison Bruce

“Stylish, skilful and packed with suspense.” – Sharon Bolton


 The quiet Buckinghamshire village of Houghton is reeling. Soon after twelve year old Leanne Richards is killed by a hit and run driver, the two classmates who were with her that night disappear, one by one.

Jade and Becky said they couldn’t identify the car or the driver. Does someone want to make sure it stays that way? Or are other, darker motives in play?

As DI Lizzie Archer and DS Dan Baines search for the truth, buried pasts and secret loves begin to reveal themselves. But is time running out for the girls? Or is it already too late?


 ‘You’ll enjoy this if you liked Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley Mysteries, Gillian Hamer’s Gold Detectives series and Val McDermid’s Wire in the Blood’
– J J Marsh, author of the Beatrice Stubbs novels.

 Thanks so much for entering into the spirit of this Dave. I have really enjoyed it and I am sure our readers will too and I hope this will inspire them to discover your books – if they haven’t already – and get to know Lizzie Archer more.

Do pop back to answer comments and likes and get to know the wonderful folk who kindly drop in here to meet new authors.  I am sure there will be many new followers for you.

Jane xx

Lesley Cookman, Traditional Mystery Author, is my Guest Author talking about her Writing and Panto.

Lesley Cookman Author

Traditional Mystery Author Lesley Cookman is my guest today.

I think you’ll find she is a fascinating lady and author.

Lesley Cookman Author of Traditional Mysteries

Let’s get to know her:

Thanks for agreeing to do a guest spot on my blog. It is great having you here. Welcome.

Please provide some background to your life and career for our readers, some of whom may not know anything about you. For example your love of horses…

I grew up in what is now inner London and very expensive! I was an only child, and both my parents worked full time, which was unusual back when Adam was a lad. My mother was a former dancer turned lingerie designer (yes, really!) and my father an actor, half of a night club duo and finally a proof reader in the days when it was a really skilled job. They were both great readers and let me loose on their bookshelves when I was about nine. Dad joined a local amateur dramatic group (PLEASE don’t say am-dram – almost as bad as chic-lit) by invitation and very soon, if there was child’s part, I was involved too. Two of the members bought a riding stable when I was twelve, and my best friend and I became unpaid stable girls. The day the horses and ponies arrived, we were there at six o’clock in the morning getting things ready for them. I loved it. In our part of London, we were between three huge commons, so we had loads of places to ride.

You’ve had a fascinating life, what gives you the most pride and sense of achievement and why?

Golly – I don’t know! I suppose Libby Sarjeant, really, although her start in life was so precarious, she rather took us all unaware. I would have to say, though, that Shirley Valentine was my crowning achievement. Only the audiences could say if she was a success, but I was asked to do it again for another theatre!

You have successfully published so many books: The Libby Sarjeant series and The Alexandrians, various novellas and Pantomime books, is it difficult to switch from writing one long standing set of characters to another – in the Sarjeant/Edwardian Alexandrians series – and do you ever find yourself mixing up the plots and characters and finding yourself having to change what you have written because you’ve got the characters/locations muddled?

I very sensibly chose to use a town and a building and back story I had already invented for the Libby series for The Alexandrians, so I was comfortable with the geography, and to an extent, the people involved. So, no, although I was worried about the mixing-up aspect, it hasn’t happened so far!

Murder in Steeple Martin

Libby Sarjeant has been a great success for you as a character and series. Has she turned out as you expected or has her evolution as a character surprised you at all? If you could change anything about her, what would it be?

Would I change anything? No, I don’t think so. I didn’t, of course, expect her to be a series when she first came into my mind, but when Hazel Cushion bought the first one – unfinished – she asked if it could be a series. I don’t think either of us expected her to be still going after 18 books.

I absolutely loved Murder in Steeple Martin I must add, and I have many of your other books on my TBR pile on my Kindle. Never enough time…

Do you have many more adventures for Libby lined up or do you see her coming to an end, and how far in to the future do you think that might be?

Given my extreme age (!) I think we’ll come to an end together. I have no plans to give up yet – especially as I do that heinous thing – Writing For Money. Libby pays the bills, bless her.

Murder on the Run

Tell us something about Libby Sarjeant – her background which fans might not know – and what you love about her most?

Libby has, obviously to those who know me, quite a few things in common with me, although I deny strenuously that she IS me. She’s an ex-actor, an artist and theatre director, involved with her partner Ben’s converted Oast House theatre in their home village. She moved from London with her ex-husband and three children to the Canterbury area, and after her husband left her for Pneumatic Marion and the children had left home, her friends Peter and Harry found her a cottage near their home and restaurant. I’m not an artist, I have two cats and Libby has only one, I have four children and I’m a widow. The thing I like about her best is that she doesn’t age. We started out the same age, but now…

Where did the inspiration/idea for Libby come from? Can you pinpoint a moment when she popped in to your head?

Sort of. I had delivered my younger daughter to her friend’s house (and stables!) deep in the countryside and drove past a village green. Why the first few lines of the first book popped into my head I have no idea. The scene stuck, but it was several years before they became anything like a story – minus the original few lines. Libby herself, like most of my characters, popped fully formed into my head.

Murder in Mid-Winter

Is she based upon (loosely I am sure) someone real or a complete figment of your imagination?

Complete figment, although I originally envisaged her as a young Miriam Margolyes.

Tell us more about your Edwardian series, The Alexandrians. Do you plan many more? Where did the inspiration for this series come from?

I have recently been asked to write a third in the series, and the idea came, as I’ve mentioned earlier, from the background story of an early Libby book. This, is turn, had come from the plot of a musical I wrote for The British Music Hall Society called Summer Season. (Still available for performance, folks…) I was the editor of the Society’s Magazine for some time, and my particular love in the theatre was, and is, pantomime and Music Hall.

Tell us more about your love of Pantomime and which is your favourite and why?

Do you know, I have no idea. I loved it in a vague way when I was younger, but it was after being cast as a chorus member in a production of Cinderella that it really got going. Then I was cast in principal parts, mainly wicked, and finally, to direct, which terrified me. After I had rewritten a whole scene in that one (with permission from the author), I decided to write one of my own. Cinderella, of course. I was lucky enought to have it produced, and subsequently bought by a specialist theatre publishing company, who went on to buy all the rest of my scripts, and even to commission a couple.

Summer Season with Roy Hudd

Lesley as Baroness Penny Pinch

You are published by Accent Press. Is this your first publishing gig or have you been published before?

I have been writing for money for donkey’s years! I wrote for various trade, business and computer magazines (Which Computer, for one), short fiction for the weekly women’s magazines, the scripts, and a commissioned book on pantomime with a foreword by Roy Hudd, among other things. I always said I was a writing whore.

Tell us how you came to be published by Accent; did you submit to many publishing houses before deciding upon them? Why Accent, what attracted you?

I’m afraid it was nothing like the normal submission process! Hazel Cushion and I met at university doing a Master’s Degree and produced a charity anthology together called Sexy Shorts For Christmas. My late husband designed the cover, and after that, Hazel decided this was the career she wanted. I stayed to become commissioning editor for the second book, then backed down. A couple of years later, Hazel got in touch and asked after a book, of which the first twenty thousand words had been my dissertation at uni. I resurrected it, added a thousand more words and sent it to her, whereupon she offered for it if I could finish it! So, we chose each other and have grown together. It was a gamble on both sides. Now I’m only one of Accent’s authors – and I promise you, I don’t get any privileges!

Murder Dancing

Murder in the Blood

Do you have a designated writing space and if so, how important is it to have one?

I have an office which is half of an extension on the side of my small semi. The other half is a utility room. Both are messy. But they are very important to me. During a recent illness I tried writing in all sorts of other places, but without success. I can, however, write in my room when I’m on holiday in Turkey. I go every year (royalties permitting) and my routine is breakfast by the pool and, if I’m not going on a boat trip or other jollification, back to my room for a couple of hours writing. I lose momentum if I don’t keep going.

Tell us a little about your writing process (Typewriter/computer/long-hand?) and do you write every day – do you have a set routine? How many books do you write/publish per year?

Straight to screen, and I try to write every day. I write best in the afternoon, simply because I’m lazy and spend most of the morning on the laptop in the kitchen with tea doing emails, social media and anything else which is distracting. Currently I think it’s two a year, but it varies.

All my titles start with “Murder” so I or one of my children will come up with a title. Or possibly a situation or setting, like a running club, a ukulele group, a May Day celebration or a beer festival. Then I have to find a scenario that fits, and as I rarely have that long between books I more or less have to write on the hoof.

Murder at the Laurels

Murder in a Different Place

How long does it take you to write a book? Which has been the most challenging to write? Which has been the easiest?

Actual writing five or six months, I suppose. And they are ALL challenging and ALL hard to write. Believe me! I’m always saying I’ll give up if I win the lottery, but the children tell me I wouldn’t…

What do you enjoy about writing the most and what do you like the least?

Living in my own world, which is a comfort when the world is in the state it is at the moment, and hate? The self discipline, of course!

If you could be another author, who might that be? Whose career do you admire, envy, or long to emulate?

I don’t. I admire a lot of authors, but I envy none and certainly wouldn’t wish to emulate any.

Who are your favourite authors and name a favourite book(s) by them and why?

Ngaio Marsh, all her books are wonderful, John Dickson-Carr/Carter Dickson – again, all of them. They, and many other Golden Age detective authors have always been my inspiration.

If one of the TV production companies came calling or a Hollywood production company, and they wanted to make a series or movie of the Libby Sarjeant books, who do you imagine might play her, and why? You can pick a modern actor or a favourite from times long gone – just for fun.

Um – if Brenda Blethyn hadn’t already been snapped up, she’d be good! And Miriam Margolyes, of course, when she was younger. Libby aint’t glam!

If you were not writing at this point in your life, what do you imagine you might be doing instead? Do you have interests other than Panto?

I don’t know what I’d be doing. Living from hand to mouth I suspect. Panto isn’t a hobby, though, and I’m not connected to the theatre these days. I occasionally get dragged out of retirement to do a cameo, but it’s rare.

Which of /or any of your careers do you wish you’d started earlier and stuck with, and why?

I wish I’d carried on acting professionally, but that was impractical. Otherwise, I’m quite happy. My many and varied jobs – DJ, model, actor, air crew – have all provided experiences that can feed into my books.

Thanks so much Lesley. I do hope our readers will find out something about you which has whetted their appetite for Libby Sarjeant or The Alexandrians. Lesley has a vast selection of books available to read some of which are shown here.

Murder in Bloom


Lesley started writing almost as soon as she could read, and filled many Woolworth’s exercise books with pony stories until she was old enough to go out with boys. Since she’s been grown up, following a varied career as a model, air stewardess and disc jockey, she’s written short fiction and features for a variety of magazines, achieved an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Wales, taught writing for both Kent Adult Education and the WEA and edited the first Sexy Shorts collection of short stories from Accent Press in aid of the Breast Cancer Campaign. The Libby Sarjeant series is published by Accent Press, who also publish her book, How to Write a Pantomime, with a foreword by Roy Hudd. Lesley is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Society of Authors and the Crime Writers’ Association. Links to their sites are listed below.
Lesley’s pantomimes are published by Jasper Publishing. Have a look at her panto pages.

As always please comment and let Lesley know you have visited today. Your visit is always appreciated. 


Hardwick Hall: another ‘jolly’ from 2016 – Part One – Bess of Hardwick, a force to be reckoned with.

Hardwick Hall Oct 2016 (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Another of my ‘jollies.’

I hope if you have arrived here in search of Jane, the writer,

you will linger a while longer or take a good trip around my blog – the other parts – where you will find writing-related content.

Either way I hope you won’t be disappointed and will come back again.

My ‘jollies’ have taken me to many fascinating places (I think) and I enjoy sharing my experiences with you.

You’ll find my ‘jollies’ posted under Blog….scroll down and enjoy.

I have had to divide the posting of my ‘Jolly’ to Hardwick Hall into more than one due to the sheer volume of items to see and, as usual, I went crazy taking photos. Sadly I don’t have information for every item but I hope just seeing everything will be enjoyable and might even tempt you in to visiting yourself.

Keep an eye out for the next instalments.

Hardwick Hall Ruins Oct 2016 (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Hardwick Hall is a great Elizabethan House,

built to create and proclaim the impression – and fact – of great wealth  and status of a great woman,

Bess of Hardwick

Fine tapestries and decoration throughout (c) Jane Risdon 2016

who – four times married – became the most remarkable Elizabethan woman in England, next to the Queen herself.

Bess was born at Hardwick Hall, then a small manor house in the mid-1520s, her father was John Hardwick, a country squire who died when she was under a year old, leaving his family of five young children in reduced financial circumstances.

Hardwick Hall Gatehouse with elaborate finials and decoration (c) Jane Risdon 2016

He left money but due to the cash strapped Henry VIII reviving tax rules, the estate was seized by the Crown and at least half sold into ‘Wardship,’ meaning the family lost control of their land until an heir, Bess’s little brother James, came of age.

Unfortunately the family was squeezed so hard, by the appointed ‘Wards,’ for revenue from the farms, that there was nothing left for the family. The lands and Hardwick Hall were valued at £20 remained with the Crown, although the family remained there, it is possible they were paying rent for the privilege.

The Penelope Tapestries (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Bess’s mother, also Elizabeth, to keep her family together, re-married. Her husband was Ralph Leche, the younger son of a Chatsworth family. He owned very little but had a small annual annuity of just under £7 per year and an income from some scattered leases.

Fine tapestries throughout (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Learning from her childhood adversity Bess’s lessons stood her n good stead. For the rest of her life she fought for what was rightfully hers, dealing skillfully with financial and legal matters.

Hardwick Hall is magnificent, inside and outside.

This ‘jolly’ was in October 2016.

This amazing woman knew that her hill-top mansion, with tall turrets, stone carved initials and fabulous display of costly glass glittering as visitors arrived (even today) would be marvelled at and discussed at every level of society. People came to stare at the mansion as it stood golden on the hill-top.

Bess had so many windows which need to be glazed that it proved expensive to pay the glaziers to do the whole house, so she went into business making and fitting window glass, and was soon supplying vast numbers of customers. Such was her entrepreneurial skills and ambitions.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

The architecture, the grand chambers and furnishings of precious tapestries and rare needlework hangings are awesome now and I can only imagine the impact they made back in her day.

In the State Rooms the fabulous wall hangings are topped by rural scenes of forests and we were told by one of the guides that the trees on the decoration were in fact real trees, which Bess had placed along the top of the walls creating a 3D effect.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

There is so much to see inside, that you really need more than a day to do it justice, but I had only an afternoon.

I took dozens of photos as usual, and this is going to have to be spread over several different postings.

So far in the Autumn of 2016 alone, you have been with me as I visited Dovedale, Ilam, Kedleston Hall and now here we have Hardwick Hall.

Still more interesting ‘jollies‘ to come by the way, so keep an eye out for them as I post them in the next couple of months.

The State Rooms (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Prior to Dovedale I visited an old friend in Cornwall, and also visited Chartwell, home of Sir Winston Churchill, so do go back as far as you like on my blog menu, to discover many other past jollies too.

 If you do, let me know your thoughts. Always welcome.

Just a word – it was taken over by the National Trust fifty years ago and the volunteers who occupy each room as you move around this wonderful house, go out of their way to inform, answer questions, and generally make the tour so very interesting. One elderly gentleman also filled us in on his own family history as he followed us from room to room, which was riveting, but a little time-consuming.

The introductory talk by one such gentleman outside in the rain-soaked entrance porch was so entertaining, we didn’t realise how hard it had begun to rain.

Beautifully carved table (c) Jane Risdon 2016

They like to natter up North. Not that we minded at all.

As a young girl Bess explored the hillsides and pastures at Hardwick with her siblings and half-sisters. She enjoyed playing with wooden toys, games and chanting nursery rhymes so we were told.

She learnt her letters and arithmetic from her mother who was reading from a ‘hornbook‘ which I discovered is paper protected by a thin layer of translucent horn.

The State Rooms (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Bess could play a keyboard instrument, given lessons in deportment (I had those at school, the Nuns had us carrying books on our heads with a stick down the back of our clothes ensuring we walked straight, head held high) I imagine Bess had to do the same.

She was encouraged to express herself confidently. As she got older she helped her mother manage the household.

Early financial difficulties taught her that she should take her chances when she could and the world owed her nothing. A very modern woman.

Apparently she was a popular and personable woman, formed friendships easily (four husbands don’t forget) and she was very ambitious, determined that the hardships she endured in youth should never be inflicted upon her own children and step-children.

Hardwick Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Her marriages brought her wealth and grand houses, she honed her architectural skills (which were plenty)  on Chatsworth which was her first building project.

Her other family houses included Bolsover, Welbeck, Sheffield, Tutbury and Worksop.

She had dynastic ambitions and these were realised through her children with the dukedoms of Devonshire,

Norfolk, Portland, Newcastle and Kingston.

As a matriarchal figure Bess fought her way to the top of society in Elizabethan England.

With each marriage she gained more power, more land and more security for her children.

Steps to the State Rooms (c) Jane Risdon 2016

I won’t turn this into a history lesson, I wanted to share the beauty of Hardwick Hall and some of Bess’s Achievements internally. If this has whetted your appetite to visit this wonderful house or to know more about Bess, do go online, there is so much information about her there.

I shall be posting part two soon – do keep an eye out – for more photos and information on this remarkable woman


Bess of Hardwick: Portrait of an Elizabethan Dynast – David N Durant (revised 2001 – Peter Owen)

Bess of Hardwick –  Mary S Lovell (Abacus 2006)

Arbella: England’s Lost Queen –  Sarah Gristwood (Murray 1991)

 Hardwick Hall, Doe Lea, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, S44 5QI

+44 (0)1246 850430

Also on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube

National Trust:

If you have enjoyed this ‘jolly’ you might like to take a look at some of my other outings to great gardens, houses, churches and cathedrals.

Go to Menu and Blog and scroll down. Let me know your thoughts, thanks so much.

All photos (c) Jane Risdon 2016 All Rights Reserved.

Sheryl Browne – My Guest Author – Exploring the Darker Psyche in her Psychological Thrillers

Sheryl Browne

My Guest Author this week is Sheryl Browne.

I do hope you enjoy reading about her and that you will find her work and  enjoy it.

I thought I’d let her tell about herself in her own words:

Thank you so much for inviting me to share a little about my new thrillers,

After She’s Gone and Sins of the Father, Jane.

I’m often asked what prompted me to SWITCH TO THE ‘DARK SIDE’. 

In all honesty, I’m not sure I have switched. Even in my contemporary romance, I tend to write about people and the gamut of emotion that comes with them, gravitating towards family and family dynamics and just how strong a family unit can be. I find there is usually a bad guy or girl in all of my books. Sometimes the hero will start out as seemingly bad, which gives him room to grow. I think in writing psychological thriller, I’m exploring the darker psyche of some of my characters, looking at the nature vs nurture conundrum. Is badness in the genes? Is it brain function or childhood experience that creates a monster? A combination of all three?

So, am I ‘writing what I know?’ In short, no. I don’t want to write about what I know. I find that terribly stifling. We have a world of information at our fingertips nowadays. We can travel anywhere. If you ‘feel’ a character, if that character is calling to you, you don’t need to shy away from writing about a job, era, or situation that might challenge your experience of it. You can research it. A writer’s mind thrives on exploration. Every scenario, every face, every place tells a story. A glimpsed situation, an argument between a couple, for instance, a verbal ‘slanging match’ in the street, and you have your inspiration for a story, upon which your overzealous writer’s mind will weave fictional facts. You simply can’t help yourself. So there it is. I have a need to explore the human psyche – and apparently I also have a scary insight into the mind of a psychopath. Thank you, Rachel at Rachel’s Random Reads. I think.  


After She’s Gone by Sheryl Browne

After She’s Gone

He’s killed your child and kidnapped your wife. What would YOU do?

There’s evil and then there’s Patrick Sullivan. A drug dealer, pimp and murderer, there are no depths to which Patrick would not sink, and Detective Inspector Matthew Adams has found this out in the most devastating way imaginable. 

When Patrick’s brother is shot dead in a drug bust gone wrong, the bitter battle between the two men intensifies, and Matthew finds it increasingly difficult to hold the moral high ground. All he wants is to make the pimping scum suffer the way he did … the way Lily did.

But being at war with such a depraved individual means that it’s not just Matthew who’s in danger. Patrick has taken a lot from Matthew, but he hasn’t taken everything – and now he wants everything.


Sins of the Father by Sheryl Browne

Sins of the Father

What if you’d been accused of one of the worst crimes imaginable?

Detective Inspector Matthew Adams is slowly picking up the pieces from a case that nearly cost him the lives of his entire family and his own sanity too. On the surface, he seems to be moving on, but he drinks to forget – and when he closes his eyes, the nightmares still come.

But the past is the past – or is it? Because the evil Patrick Sullivan might be out of the picture, but there’s somebody who is just as intent on making Matthew’s life hell, and they’re doing it in the cruellest way possible.

When Matthew finds himself accused of a horrific and violent crime, will his family stand by him? And will he even be around to help when his new enemy goes after them as well?


Sins of the Father and After She’s Gone.

Sheryl Browne brings you edgy, sexy contemporary fiction and psychological thrillers.

A member of the Crime Writers’ Association, Romantic Novelists’ Association and awarded a Red Ribbon by The Wishing Shelf Book Awards, Sheryl has several books published and two short stories in Birmingham City University anthologies, where she completed her MA in Creative Writing.

Recommended to the publisher by the WH Smith Travel fiction buyer, Sheryl’s contemporary fiction comes to you from multi-award winning Choc Lit.

Thanks so much for being my guest Sheryl. It’s really interesting finding out about you. Feel free  to reply to any comments from readers here. Good luck with all your books. Jane x

Author Links

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon | Amazon US | Pinterest

Choc Lit

Trailer Link:

DI Matthew Adams series:

Buy Links:

After She’s Gone:

Sins of the Father:





Kedleston Hall: Part three of my ‘jolly’ there last year – inside All Saints Church with skulls under the floor

Kedleston Hall Derbyshire (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Kedleston Hall Derbyshire (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Kedleston Hall – Part Three

Another break from my writing-related posts.

I hope you enjoyed parts one and two of my post about my ‘Jolly’ to Kedleston Hall at the end of 2016.

As promised here are my photos of the inside of the church of All Saints,

the only survivor of medieval village at Kedleston which Sir Nathaniel Curzon demolished to make way for his new home.

He didn’t want to disturb the burial-place of his ancestors so the church was saved.

All Saints at Kedleston Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

All Saints at Kedleston Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

One enters the church through its oldest surviving feature, the Norman south door.

Door to All Saints (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Door to All Saints (c) Jane Risdon 2016

All Saints (c) Jane Risdon 2016

All Saints (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Most of the late 13th century building is constructed from local Derbyshire sandstone,

when the early English style was giving way to the more elaborate Decorated style. 

The Church is now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.

In about 1700 Sir Nathaniel Curzon, 2nd Bt. employed Smith of Warwick to classicise the east wall facing the house.

He put up a sundial inscribed

‘Wee shall [soon died all]’ next to a skull and crossbones.

All Saints (c) Jane Risdon 2016

All Saints (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The 4th Lord Scarsdale was rector there from 1855-1916, and in 1884-5 he commissioned John Oldrid Scott to undertake a major restoration, which entailed removal of the box pews and the two-decker pulpit.

All Saints (c) Jane Risdon 2016

All Saints (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The Curzon monuments inside the church reflect the antiquity of the family.


The earliest is to Richard de Curzon (active 1297-1306), but is now concealed beneath the floor.

Two skulls found here at All Saints in Kedleston Hall: Richard Curzon (d 1275) and wife (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Two skulls found here at All Saints in Kedleston Hall: Richard Curzon (d 1275) and wife (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Richard Curzon Skull found in floor with his wife (died 1275) and removed (c) Jane Risdon

Richard Curzon Skull found in floor with his wife (died 1275) and removed (c) Jane Risdon

In the South transept there is an alabaster tomb chest with life-size figures of a knight and his lady,

who are thought to be John Curzon (died 1512) and his wife Elizabeth.

Their seventeen children appear in a relief on the side.

Curzon Tomb: A Knight and his Lady (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Curzon Tomb: A Knight and his Lady (c) Jane Risdon 2016

On the East wall:

 Sir John Curzon, 1st Bt. (1598-1686), his wife Patience and their seven children can be seen.

Sir John Curzon (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Sir John Curzon (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Opposite there is a bust of Sir John Curzon, 3rd B. who died hunting in the park in 1727.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

In the North transept on the West wall:

Sir Nathaniel Cuzon 2nd Bt. (1635-1719), and his wife Sarah, by the leading sculptor, Peter Scheemakers.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

East Wall:

Sir Nathaniel Curzon, 4th Bt. (1676-1758), his wife, Mary, and their three sons, by Michael Rysbrack.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

The North Chapel:

Lord Curzon added this chapel in 1906-13 as a memorial to his first wife, Mary Leiter.

When she died at the age of 35, he wrote: 

‘There has gone from me the truest, most devoted, most unselfish,

most beautiful and brilliant wife that a man ever had,

and I am left with three little motherless children and a broken life.’

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

The whole chapel is decorated in the sumptuous Edwardian style.

The architect was G.F. Bodley, who designed the estate church at Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire.

Sir Bertram Makennal (Australian sculptor) carved the recumbent effigies of Curzon and his wife in white Serravezza marble which is in contrast to the floor which is made from green Aventurine from the Ural mountains in Russia. 

I hope you have enjoyed my trip to Kedleston Hall and that it might inspire you to visit as well.

Let me know what you think.

My next ‘jolly’ is almost ready to post…be back with it soon.

All photos (c) Jane Risdon 2016 All Rights Reserved.

Tel: +0044 (0)1333 842191

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

Nicky Wells Brook Cottage Books Blog Tour: My Guest today – She’s Rocked herself into Crime Writing

Dead Hope Blog Tour

Today I am pleased to host Nicky Wells on my blog as part of her Brook Cottage Books Blog Tour.

I first ‘met’ her on-line on Facebook a few years ago

when she was asking for advice about Rock bands touring and recording for a book she was writing:

Sophie’s Encore…from her Rock Star Trilogy.

I stepped forward and offered advice, we got nattering, as you do – we both love music, rock especially.

I have guested on her blog and we’ve been nattering ever since.

So I am chuffed she has turned to Crime writing and is here today.

Let’s find out about Nicky:

Leaving the romance behind…?

Romance has been my genre ever since I crashed onto the scene in July 2011. And not just any old romance, romance with rock stars. Because I love my golden-voiced bad boys with their mind-blowing voices and secret soft hearts. For five years, I poured all my love and adoration into a succession of novels and novellas, as a result of which I have seven published works to my name. That’s about six more than I had ever dared hope, and still the ideas kept coming.

However. (You knew there was a ‘but’, didn’t you?)

Just when I was starting to feel a little cornered in my niche, life threw one of these tiny wrinkles at me that simultaneously flooded me with ideas for other stuff and enabled me to see beyond my self-imposed fictional horizon. It was one of those blinding ‘aha’ moments after which nothing is ever quite the same.

That said, when I first conceived of what is now DEAD HOPE, it was meant to be a romantic comedy and yes, it still sort of had a rock star in. It was going to be called “Deep Cover” and was going to transplant my rock star from his normal glittering habitat into a rural backwater to hide from… something. I had all the comedy moments worked out, all the mishaps and bizarre incidents that would befall a rock god cruelly ripped from his privileged surroundings and dumped in ‘real life’. The only problem was, I hadn’t quite worked out how he’d have got there. And why would he go along with the charade in the first place?

I went back to the drawing board (I’m an OCD planner, me) and came up with scenarios to drive the story. I allowed myself to really think out of the box, and soon my ideas grew darker and more sinister. I bade farewell to the comedy and said hello to the romantic suspense. Oh yes, and I also bade farewell to the rock star hero (that was a Big Step!) and introduced a leading lady instead who, while the daughter of a famous rock star couple, isn’t a celebrity in her own right.

So far, so good. I was excited about this turn of events. I could handle a heroine. I could get used to relegating the rock star theme to the backstory. It made sense. It was different. I felt energised.

But the evolution wasn’t over. When I started writing, I discovered a burning curiosity for the darker details that would weave my story together. The forensics, the court procedures, the police processes. I started researching, interviewed some knowledgeable people, and started fleshing out the crime aspects. I accumulated a lot more knowledge than I needed for the project, but it’s all stored for future reference. And meanwhile I got so engrossed that without me noticing at first, the novel turned itself on its head and became a thriller. Of course, I didn’t kill the romantic element (see what I did there?) and the romance subplot continues to move events forward, but the emphasis had shifted, and I liked it. So much so, in fact, that before I even finished writing, I had not one but two more thrillers planned, each one getting a little bit more thrillery than the one before.

I shouldn’t have been surprised at my nascent desire to turn my writing hands to thrillers, really. I read crime and thrillers by the truckload. Lee Child, David Baldacci, Kathy Reichs, Tim Weaver, Robert Ludlum, Sue Grafton, Jeffery Deaver, John Grisham, Dean Koontz… the list goes on and on. And on! And who knows… maybe you all will eventually add me to your library of thriller writers. I’d love to know!

P.S. I forgot to answer one tiny unasked question. Will I never write romance again? Of course not. Never say never! I have a little black book full of ideas, and they all want to be written. Some are thrillers, some are romance and, if you really want to know, there are a few children’s books in me as well. Watch this space! 




Dead Hope Nicky Wells

Genre: Thriller/Romantic Suspense

Release Date: 23 February 2017

Cat Hope doesn’t want to go to prison. She needs a job, and she needs it fast: judge’s orders. Caught in a drugs raid while trying to dull the pain of her parents’ deathaversary, Cat is serving a ‘rehab’ sentence under a new identity in the deepest depths of rural nowhere.

Kay Mahon, office worker by day and hacker by night, is on the run from a past life that he’d rather not remember.

When their paths cross, they discover that the night that derailed Cat’s future nineteen long years ago also changed the path of Kay’s life. Confused and intrigued, they begin to investigate the truth behind the deaths of the successful rock star couple Jackie and Adam Hope. Little do they know that their quest is putting Cat in grave danger.

After Cat goes missing, Kay finally puts the pieces together. But how is he going to find Cat and her abductor in a place as big as London before it is too late?


Amazon Kindle UK:

Paperback UK:

Amazon Kindle US:

Paperback US:



Author Nicky Wells

About Nicky Wells: Love & Thrills 

Nicky Wells writes captivating romance and breathtaking thrillers featuring famous (or infamous!) feisty heroes and extraordinary villains. DEAD HOPE is her eighth book and the first published novel in her “Wake Up Dead” themed thriller series, with the next two books scheduled for release through the course of 2017 and 2018. Nicky has previously published seven works of romantic fiction both with US publishing house, Sapphire Star Publishing, and independently. 

Born in Germany, Nicky moved to the United Kingdom in 1993 and currently lives in Lincoln with her husband and their two boys. She loves listening to rock music, dancing, and eating lobsters. When she’s not writing, she’s hopelessly addicted to reading crime novels by the truck load. 

 Nicky all the best with your new genre and books and thanks so much for being here today, it’s been a blast!

Do leave Nicky your comments and she’ll drop in and answer them all through this week.

Jane x









Sophie’s Turn | Sophie’s Run | Sophie’s Encore | Spirits of Christmas

| Fallen for Rock | Fairy Tale in New York | Seven Years Bad Sex 


Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon | Goodreads | Pinterest | Google+


Prize 1: £10.00 Amazon voucher and 1 signed bookmark

Prize 2: £5.00 Amazon voucher and 1 pen

Prize 3: 1 mug, 1 signed bookmark, 1 pen

Prize 4: 1 mug

5 runner up prizes: signed bookmarks


Dead Hope Giveaways

Dead Hope Giveaways                                                                                                                                                                     Blog Tour Dates: 27th February
Brook Cottage Books
–  Celtic Connexions
Victoria’s Pages of Romance
Date: 28th February
Best Chick Lit
Date: 1st March
Jo Lambert
Date: 2nd March
– Rachel Brimble
– Ali The Dragon Slayer
– Read Along With Sue
Date: 3rd March
Simona’s Corner of Dreams
Comet Babes Books
Date: 6th March
Date: 7th March
Coral McCallum
Date: 8th March
Pauline Barclay
A Chance to Blog
Date: 9th March
– Jane Ridson
Date: 10th March
Fiction Dreams
Rachel’s Random Reads

 JB Johnston (Debbie Johnston)
Writer, Book Reviewer, promoter and Book tour coordinator.
Shortlisted for Romance Blogger of the Year 2013 (Festival of Romance)Brook Cottage Books  LinkedIn   Facebook Twitter Author Services

Kedleston Hall – more photos from my ‘jolly.’ Part two: Peacock dresses, Eastern Museums and more…

Kedleston Hall Derbyshire (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Kedleston Hall Derbyshire (c) Jane Risdon 2016

I know this is my Author Blog about my writing and with guest authors, but every now and again I think it is nice to share some of my little trips – what I call ‘Jollies,’ to some of the fabulous houses, gardens, countryside, villages, churches and cathedrals in England.

So here I am sharing a ‘Jolly’ with you all.

My visit to Kedleston Hall

last year was a wonderful experience and I wish I could have spent longer there.

Displayed in the Eastern Museum (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Displayed in the Eastern Museum (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The house is beautiful and so are the grounds, but there is also a fabulous collection of artefacts inside, some of which I managed to photograph as well.

Since I didn’t have room to post more photos on Part One of my ‘jolly’ to Kedleston, I’ve decided to continue with Part Two.

‘Grant me ye Gods, a pleasant seat,

In attick elegance made neat,

Fine lawns. much wood, and water plenty,

(Of deer and herds, and flocks not scanty)

Laid out in such an uncurb’d taste,

That nature mayn’t be lost but grac’d.’

In his youth the 1st Lord Scarsdale dreamt of creating such an idyllic landscape at Kedleston, and with Robert Adams help, he succeeded.

The park is man-made but looks completely natural.

It was created almost completely to Adam’s unique design at the same time he worked on the house.

Lord Curzon was fascinated by art and architecture, and accumulated his collection of Eastern artefacts during his tours of Asia in 1887,1890 and 1894 and whilst Viceroy of India, 1899-1905.

Kedleston Hall front view (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Kedleston Hall front view (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The Library (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The Library (c) Jane Risdon 2016


Front view from Kedleston Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Front view from Kedleston Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

As per his Will, he divided his collection between the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the museum he created at Kedleston – The Eastern Museum.

The Eastern Museum (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The Eastern Museum (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Some of the items I saw on display reminded me of artefacts my own Grandfather brought back from India where he served with the British Indian Army from about 1927 until Partition in 1947. 

When I was a little girl I was fascinated by some of his wonderful carved tables,

ornaments and rugs for the walls;  too many amazing items to list here.

I can recall the smell of the wood (camphor, I think) that filled the rooms of his house.

I could smell the same smell in the Eastern Museum.

Centrepiece of the Eastern Museum is a dress worn by Mary, Lady Curzon in 1903.

The Peacock Dress worn by Lady Curzon at the Dehli Durbar in 1903. (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The Peacock Dress worn by Lady Curzon at the Dehli Durbar in 1903. (c) Jane Risdon 2016

It is famous and is known as The Peacock Dress.

She wore it to the evening ball which followed the Coronation of Durbar in Delhi 1903 – the high point of Curzon’s term as Viceroy.

The dress was embroidered by Indian craftsmen with metal thread and jewels on cloth of gold in the pattern of a peacock’s feathers, so that it would glisten in a room lit by electricity.

The dress was acquired by HM Government in lieu of Inheritance Tax when her daughter died.

Ivory Furniture (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Ivory Furniture (c) Jane Risdon 2016

In the Eastern Museum (c) Jane Risdon 2016

In the Eastern Museum (c) Jane Risdon 2016

In the Eastern Museum (c) Jane Risdon 2016

In the Eastern Museum (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The Trophy Corridor was originally an arcade, glazed and made wider by Lord Curzon who hung his game trophies there and  displayed his natural history specimens.

In the Trophy Corridor (c) Jane Risdon 2016

In the Trophy Corridor (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Lord Curzon also had a collection of taxidermy. Delightful!

In the Dining Room (c) Jane Risdon 2016

In the Dining Room (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Collection of feathers (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Collection of feathers (c) Jane Risdon 2016

From the Eastern Museum (c) Jane Risdon 2016

From the Eastern Museum (c) Jane Risdon 2016                                                                                 

Door with hidden hinges Kedleston Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Door with hidden hinges Kedleston Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Chair from Trophy Corridor (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Chair from Trophy Corridor (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Every room had something of interest but there wasn’t much information of the printed variety. Each room was occupied by a person knowledgeable enough to explain everything on view and to answer many questions. My companions were particularly interested in the way the doors were made, how the furnishing were crafted, and asked many questions to which they sometimes received very complex answers which thankfully made total sense to the gentleman asking. One question involved the door shown which does not have any visible hinges. I wish I could recall how it was done, but after about ten minutes of detailed discussion I am afraid my mind glazed over. It was fascinating but it got a bit too technical for me.

From the Trophy Corridor (c) Jane Risdon 2016

From the Trophy Corridor (c) Jane Risdon 2016                                                                                                                                                                                      There is also a lovely church right next to the house and in my next post I will post my photos and some information about it so do come back soon.  Let me know what you think so far…                                                                     All Photos (c) Jane Risdon 2016 All Rights Reserved.                                                     

Margot Kinberg, Mystery Author, Blogger and Academic, is my Guest Author today: Her second appearance

Margot Kinberg,:Mystery Author Blogger and Assistant Professor

Margot Kinberg: Mystery Author Blogger and Associate Professor

Today I am excited to present

Mystery Author Margot Kinberg

as my guest.

This is her second appearance here.

She is the only author I’ve hosted twice.

Welcome Margot, do tell us what you have been up to since your last visit here:

Thanks so much for hosting me, Jane.

It’s my pleasure.

The publishing journey never quite works out the way we think it will. Ask any author, and you’ll hear that things often don’t go as planned. But sometimes, just when things seem to be going all wrong, something good comes of it all.

That’s basically what happened with my third Joel Williams novel, Past Tense. Let me tell you about it, and you’ll see what I mean.

Past Tense, A Joel Williams Mystery by Margot Kinberg

Past Tense, A Joel Williams Mystery by Margot Kinberg

A few years ago, I began work on what I thought was a very promising Joel Williams story. I had the characters, scenes, everything sketched out, and I was busily writing the first draft. I was optimistic about the plot, and I did like the main characters.

Then came disaster.

My hard drive died. Completely.

I had several things backed up on memory sticks, but not the novel.

I sent the drive to a data recovery firm, and they did recover bits and pieces of the novel, but not anything useful, really.

Word to the wise: if you don’t already have an account with Carbonite or another data backup company, today is the day to get one.

I learned my lesson the hard way.

As I said, though, good really did come out of the whole situation. Since I didn’t have my original story any more, I had to start anew.

That meant I had to re-think everything.

And that was a good thing. The result of beginning again was Past Tense.

A bit of my original idea found its way into Past Tense. Both stories are about past murders that come to light years later. And I do think Past Tense benefited from my having sketched out the earlier novel (I may yet return to that original cast of characters). So, in that sense, losing my data actually ended up making my writing better – well, in a strange, roundabout sort of way.

So, besides that lost novel, what inspired Past Tense?

I’ve always thought ‘cold cases’ were fascinating. They require an entirely different sort of approach to solving contemporary cases, and the police can’t rely on the same sources of information that they tap for current cases.

Even if ‘cold case’ witnesses are still alive, and still willing to cooperate, time does have an impact on their memories. There’s also the issue of forensics and other identification challenges.

But ‘cold cases’ are at least as important as current cases. That’s especially so for those who’ve lost loved ones and have never had the closure that comes with knowing the truth. And, for me, one of the most important aspects of any murder case, real or fictional, is the impact it has on the people involved.

Put that all together, and you have the reason I wanted to include a ‘cold case’ in my Joel Williams series.

What about the historical context?

The focus of Past Tense is a murder that took place in 1974.

The mid-1970s were pivotal years for US college campuses.

Many social issues (e.g. women’s place in society, the Vietnam War, race relations) were being debated. Student activism was an important part of campus life.

The Watergate scandal that brought down the Nixon administration made many people question what they were being told by those in authority.

With everything going on, it was, to say the least, an eventful time for colleges and universities, and a time of great change. So, what better time period for a ‘cold case’ sort of story?

With that background, here’s the blurb for Past Tense:

A long-buried set of remains…a decades-old mystery

Past and present meet on the quiet campus of Tilton University when construction workers unearth a set of unidentified bones.

For former police detective-turned-professor Joel Williams, it’s a typical Final Exams week – until a set of bones is discovered on a construction site…

When the remains are linked to a missing person case from 1974, Williams and the Tilton, Pennsylvania police go back to the past. And they uncover some truths that have been kept hidden for a long time.

How much do people really need to know?

It’s 1974, and twenty-year-old Bryan Roades is swept up in the excitement of the decade. He’s a reporter for the Tilton University newspaper, The Real Story, and is determined to have a career as an investigative journalist, just like his idols, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

He plans to start with an exposé article about life on the campus of Tilton University. But does everything need to be exposed? And what are the consequences for people whose lives could be turned upside down if their stories are printed? 

As it turns out, Bryan’s ambition carries a very high price. And someone is determined not to let the truth out.

If you’d like to listen to an excerpt from Past Tense, it’s right here.

As you can see, the journey to publication for Past Tense was a bit rocky, especially at the start. But the end result was, I think, a lot better than it might have been if I hadn’t had to re-think the novel.

Sometimes, it takes a step or two back to help a person move forwards.

Thanks again, Jane, for hosting me!

Margot it has been my pleasure. Thanks so much.

I love reading about the publishing journey other authors have undertaken.

None of the trials and tribulations in achieving a published book is apparent to a reader when they turn the first page of something which has taken blood, sweat, and tears to write and get on the shelves. 

Reading about your hard-drive problems and your having to write the book again from scratch rings so many bells with me, and others I am sure.

I’ve just completed two books which have taken forever to get finished – after many re-writes – and to my Publisher much longer after I’d intended, I know exactly how you felt when confronted with the loss of your work.

I am so happy you managed to complete Past Tense which I am reading and thoroughly enjoying at the moment.

It is especially enjoyable for me as you touch on Forensics and DNA and, as you may well have guessed, I love anything scientific to do with crime.

I do hope those visiting here and reading your guest post, will dash over to Amazon and purchase Past Tense. They won’t regret it I am sure. I am loving it.

In A Word: Murder - Margot Kinberg and others

In A Word: Murder – Margot Kinberg and others

Early in my writing adventure Margot kindly accepted two stories from me for inclusion in the Anthology, In A Word: Murder and I am forever grateful to her for giving me the opportunity to share my stories alongside her and so many other talented authors. 

Links are on Amazon for the Paperback and e-Book editions.

I hope everyone enjoys reading about Margot and her writing and that you’ll leave her any comments or questions you might have for her in the usual manner.

If you’d like to read her earlier Guest Post with me: A Day in the Life of Joel Williams, here is the link:


Margot Kinberg is a mystery novelist who writes the Joel Williams series. She is also the editor of In a Word: Murder, an anthology of short crime stories. She has also written several non-fiction books and articles. Margot is also an Associate Professor, who’s been working in higher education since 1988. You can connect with Margot at her blog Confessions of a Mystery Novelist, where you can read her daily posts on crime fiction and find out more about the Joel Williams series. Margot’s also on Twitter, on Facebook and on Google+. You can also read her short crime fiction stories on Wattpad.

B-Very-Flat by Margot Kinberg

B-Very-Flat by Margot Kinberg


Publish or Perish by Margot Kinberg

Publish or Perish by Margot Kinberg

Ms Birdsong Investigates: inspired by Assassination with Polonium-210 and A Family Wedding: I’ve written The End.

Cob Web Cottage where Ms Birdsong lives in Ampney Parva

Cob Web Cottage where Ms Birdsong lives in Ampney Parva – her dream home.

Things rarely go as planned I’ve discovered. When they go haywire, where I am concerned anyway, they go seriously haywire.

 Four years ago I started writing the first novel in what I planned to be a series of novels,

an epic undertaking for me in so many ways, orginally I wanted it to be about a 

former MI5 Officer, Lavinia Birdsong,

and she was going to be a Miss Marple for the 21st century and I happily wrote my first story to fit this idea.

But, I kept having a niggling feeling that she wasn’t fulfilling my expectations for her, yet I couldn’t put my finger on how to rectify this.

Thames House home of MI5 (c) attributed to Cnbrb English Language Wikipedia

Thames House home of MI5 (c) attributed to Cnbrb English Language Wikipedia

Her back story was of someone who’d been working for twenty years with the dream of one day, perhaps, becoming only the second woman to take over as Director General of MI5.

She aspired to be the next Stella Rimington. 

However, after a failed operation with her MI6 partner, Michael Dante, Lavinia finds herself ‘voluntarily’ retired and Dante posted to Moscow.

Lavinia moves to a rural village – somewhere she’d dreamed of eventually retiring to, but not quite so soon – and boredom is nearly driving her nuts. She misses her old life, the adrenaline surges and knowledge that she is doing her bit to keep Britain safe…

The White Horse at Uffington in The Vale of The White Horse

The White Horse at Uffington in The Vale of The White Horse

I continued to write her story but I wasn’t happy.

Then everything changed. I was going to re-write her and she’d be very different.

The new

Ms Birdsong Investigates

popped in to my head one day when I was watching the BBC News about the Assassination in London in November 2006, of the former Russian Spy,

Alexander Litinenko.

Those who follow such matters will recall he had taken tea in a London hotel with two former FSB (Federal Security Service – formerly known as KGB) defectors before falling sick with what was eventually found to be the effects of poisoning with Polonium-210, traces were later found in  the tea, and all over London and on an aeroplane – wherever the two men had been. 

There is a lot about this poor man on the internet if interested, do go and look.

I have no idea why his plight inspired me, I hadn’t any plans to write a Spy novel,

and I haven’t  written a Spy novel,

but something went ping in my brain and I sat down to write about someone – a woman – who worked and lived in the world of Espionage and Organised Crime.

A new Ms Birdsong was unfolding on the page.

I am sure you know that way back in my younger days I worked at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, at a time known as The Cold War when The Soviet Union (USSR) and The West were engaged in a power struggle.

I/we lived through interesting times.

Since then I’ve been fascinated by our Secret Intelligence Services (SIS) and those of other Nations.

We no longer have a Cold War as such. I call what we have today a Phoney Tepid War, which may well be ratcheted up by recent events. Today the worlds of Espionage and Organised Crime have grown and become intertwined often.

We (The West) now suspect ‘unfriendly’ Governments of engaging in the procurement and sale of arms to our enemies, often funded by the illegal manufacture and sale of Drugs and the earnings of the People Trafficking and Sex industries. 

I am in no way an expert on any of this but I am interested as I said, and as I mulled over the idea for Ms Birdsong, I had no idea that writing my series was going to be such an epic undertaking.

By the end of 2012 I’d more or less got book one – Ms Birdsong Investigates Murder in Ampney Parva – near to completion. Very rough around the edges, but the basic story was there.

I’d moved in the early Spring and had put off doing a lot of things which needed attention after the move, to deal with Ms B and also with family matters.  Plus the move had resulted in a temporary loss of reliable internet for a few months, so I thought I’d pick up where I’d left off with her after Christmas.

You’ve heard of the saying,’ Never put off until tomorrow, what you can do today…’

Boxing Day 2012 changed my life in so many ways I have only just realised and come to terms with. I fell down some stairs and broke my shoulder and collar-bone so awkwardly my surgeon thought I’d either been in Afghanistan on active duty, or had come off a Harley Davidson doing a ‘ton.’

He’d never seen such injuries on a woman and not one of my age, so he – jokingly – asked if I’d done any of the former, because the only time he’d seen such injuries was as a result of young men doing the latter. He is not only a Professor in his given field, but also an Army Colonel, so I guess he knew what he was taking about when I eventually saw him in 2013.

Little did I realise how my life had changed. I eventually had an operation on my shoulder and collar-bone in late 2014. Until then my left arm was virtually useless, so writing was very painful and difficult for me, let alone any of the normal day-to-day things one does using ones arm. After the operation I was still unable to use my arm fully and, even today, I have limited use. It gets painful and tired if I over-do things.

Yes I know,

Ms Birdsong was taking way too long.

The 'Safe House' book three Ms Birdsong Investigates (c) Jane Risdon 2013

The ‘Safe House’ book three Ms Birdsong Investigates (c) Jane Risdon 2013

I’ve been working on Ms Birdsong almost constantly, the research I’ve undertaken has been considerable and not at all what I imagined I’d need to do to write her stories.

 I was happily writing my first Ms B novel when I attended a family wedding in 2013 in a very grand stately home, in the depths of the countryside. 6,000 acres of fabulous farmland, fields, woods and formal gardens. To die for.

View across The Vale of The White Horse (c) Jane Risdon 2011

Views across the Vale of The White Horse from White Horse Hill (c) Jane Risdon 2011

Anyway I won’t ramble on – I’ve written about it in a earlier blog – here is the link:

But suffice to say that my experiences there also contributed to the new direction Ms Birdsong was taking especially for her next outing:

Ms Birdsong Investigates: The safe House

I’ve also started another book in the series: Ms Birdsong Investigates: Murder at the Observatory.

The Observatory Science Centre, Herstmonceux. (c) 2010 Science Projects Ltd.

The Observatory Science Centre, Herstmonceux. (c) 2010 Science Projects Ltd.

But the good news, news I seriously wondered I’d be sharing is that

yesterday I wrote


for the first book in the series Ms Birdsong Investigates: Murder in Ampney Parva.

It will be on its way to my publishers on Monday.

I shall be back hard at work with the other two books immediately afterwards.

Watch this space.







I’ve been at it again – Eternal Lovers: Ghostly Writes Valentines Anthology 2017 – it’s FREE

I’ve been at it again.

Ghostly Writes Valentines Anthology 2017

Ghostly Writes Valentines Anthology 2017

This time I have contributed a short story for

Ghostly Writes Valentines Anthology 2017

published by Plaisted Publishing House, New Zealand.

As with all my stories it isn’t what you think it is – just saying!

FREE to download from 14th Feb 2017

To read a preview:

From Amazon where it is on sale in several countries and the information on each site can be translated into several languages with the click of your mouse.

(too cool for words)

A PAPERBACK will be published for sale, soon.       

My short story is called

Eternal Lovers.

Eternal Lovers, Ghostly Writes Valentines Anthology 2017 available 14th Feb 2017 FREE

Eternal Lovers, Ghostly Writes Valentines Anthology 2017 available 14th Feb 2017 FREE

It is set in a 5o room Manor house situated in 6,000 acres of forest, field and formal gardens.



It is a romance (I know I don’t do romance), but not as you know it.

If you are familiar with my efforts you’ll know that there won’t be anything ‘usual’ about this romantic tale.


I don’t want to give the story away; suffice to say it features Oil paintings and Music.


And there’s a …well, I won’t spoil it.

Crispin's CAr

Crispin’s Car

You will be able to buy it in Paperback soon but until then you an download it FREE from Kobo, Amazon, iTunes and more…it’s even in several languages on iTunes and Amazon. So cool.

If you download it and read the stories do let me and the other authors know what you think.

Including me the authors are:

Ghostly Writes, C. A. Keith, Audrina Lane, Karen J Mossman, Adele Marie Park, Lynn Mullian, Jennifer Deese and Kyrena Lynch, Jane Risdon

Here are some of the links for your FREE download.



The Paperback will be published soon. Watch this space for links to purchase.



David Cousland: Self-published writer of mysteries and more, is my guest author today

David Cousland

David Cousland

The Black Country Murders

The Black Country Murders

David Cousland

is my guest author today and I thought I’d ask him to tell us about his route to writing and self-publishing.

Do take a look at his work which is available on Amazon. 

David, welcome and thanks for agreeing to chat to me and everyone. 

Please tell us about yourself, your background and former occupation.

I see your Dad was a bespoke tailor and that due to colour blindness you couldn’t follow him into the business:

Thanks Jane, great to be here.

I was born in 1950 in the heart of the industrial West Midlands (The Black Country), my early life spent in Tipton and Dudley.

I was educated at Dudley Grammar School where in retrospect I was one of those pupils who “must try harder / does not apply himself” and so on.

Despite being partially colour blind I managed to achieve a Grade One pass in my Art “O” level, thank goodness for modern art back in the 60s.

My father was a craftsman, a bespoke tailor and would probably have liked me to follow in his footsteps but colour blindness would never have allowed me to do that.

However, I did have a part-time job for 18 months in John Collier Menswear when customers would often ask “does this tie go with this suit?” and so on.

My regular answer was “it looks fine to me”, in my world every colour goes with every other, it’s never been much of a problem to me but drives others crazy.

The Portofino Incident

The Portofino Incident

I joined Midland Bank in 1967 and worked my way up to the heady heights of managing a team within the plastic card world and took early retirement at 53 when our entire department was closed down.

I was a white van man for a year and a carer for my mum for two more.

Since then my golf has finally had chance to take more of my time and effort and my handicap is very slowly reducing.

Married for a second time after being widowed in 2005, I have two daughters and three grandchildren. They certainly add a different dimension to life.

Other than golf I love music although have no talent to play or sing whatsoever.

I’m an old rocker but happy to listen to most styles from rock music to classical and love Led Zep; Pink Floyd; Moody Blues and Rick Wakeman to Andrea Bocelli. Heather Headley and Cher would be at the top of my ‘ladies list’ and have been lucky enough to see both.

I love travel and have been fortunate to visit many different places from Hawaii to Hong Kong. Sharing a breakfast room in Hong Kong with The All Blacks must be a highlight.

 Have you always wanted to write, and if so, have you written all your life – for your own enjoyment/with a view to publication? Were you a late developer and if so why?

I was very much a late developer, with work and family there was little time for leisure, for many years, other than football and cricket, my girls’ youth marching bands took all of my time.

I never harboured ambitions to be a writer and only started when I couldn’t sleep one night. My head was full of a story and I needed to write it down.

Despite revisiting and reworking that one a number of times it still remains on my “to do” list. Having worked in banking for most of my life, looking back there was never an opportunity to use my imagination. I’m catching up rapidly.

 Describe your genre – or do you write in several?

I still consider myself a beginner and finding my feet, I have tried a number of genres and continue to look at almost anything.

Black Country Murders was ‘my patch’ the area I grew up in but everything else was fictional.

I have a 3 book series with a secret agent, Matt Stewart (Crack) – ready sometime soon; Wes Griffin in “The Water Carrier” is a private detective set in the 60s; “Faces of Ashwood Court” my first horror story and so on.

The Faces of Ashwood Court

The Faces of Ashwood Court

The Water Carrier

The Water Carrier

I’m part was through a sci-fi / fantasy story; another murder story set in Birmingham and will be planning a 4th Matt Stewart book soon. On balance I’m tending to favour the Agent – action type of story more and more.

I enjoy making my characters flawed, they may get the correct answer but may not always have a clue why or sometimes a team colleague will figure it out.

 What/who inspires/inspired you to write in your chosen genre?

Alistair MacLean / Ian Fleming. I’ve always loved this type of story even Flint / Matt Helm films of the 60s. Loved watching Michael Crawford as Condor Man with my girls and there’s another inspiration.

I loved reading MacLean too, and enjoyed the Matt Helm and In Like Flint movies back in the day. Such fun David.

 Who are your favourite authors and why?

MacLean because of his variety, action, suspense and his knowledge.

Thor Heyerdahl has been a favourite since I was a youngster. I loved reading about his back to nature and back to history adventures, Kon-Tiki; Rah; Fatu Hiva and so on. Cricket biographies are always of interest too.

 I notice that some of your publications are 5 pages long and others over 100 pages long. Fascinating.

So you consider yourself a short story writer?

When I first started out, my stories varied in length so much. I enjoy writing a quick short story but have realised that a reader is looking for value for money as well as wanting to be entertained and gripped by a story.

Carnage at Clifton Court

Carnage at Clifton Court

Nowadays, I wouldn’t publish anything below 10,000 words.

 Do you have plans to write a full length novel?

Although I still enjoy writing a short story of anything up to 20,000 words

I think I’ve found the right length for me to be between 40 and 70,000 words, Novella length.

 I don’t know if your read James Patterson at all, but of late he has published several very short books – I think he calls them ‘Short Shots’ and they are available for about £1.50.

A relative has read them and she loves them, just long enough for a bus ride, or to read in bed before falling asleep apparently.

Is this what your shorter length intend to do, be a quick read?

The short stories I’ve written in recent years have usually been 1000 words or less and almost a distraction from whatever else I’m working on. Part way through one story, something else pops into my head and bingo. I may post it to Facebook or just hold on to it. Short stories are great for “reading” events.

I have been fortunate enough to attend several author events at my local library.

It’s a great opportunity to meet new authors and also those already established and when they also read from their books, that is special I always think.

You published your first book in 2013 – what made you decide to self-publish?

Had you considered submitting to publishing houses or was it your intention to do it yourself?

I had an expensive and bad experience with my first two books, I employed a publisher for my first story with no knowledge of the business whatsoever and paid out £500 for the privilege.

I used the same people to do the same work for my second (Face of the Viking).

Faces of Viking

Face of the Viking

The story was very much an English story and they translated the lot into American English. It took me a month to re-format and translate back during which time I attempted to self-publish one of my shorts (Faces of Ashwood Court) and discovered that I could do it all myself (with a little outside help).

Hindsight is great and so is talking to other authors for their experiences. I’m currently looking for a publisher as having ‘real paper books’ opens more doors and hopefully creates more sales opportunities.

Did you seek advice/help from other self-published authors? How did you go about the process? Did you use a specific programme to format and upload your work?

Initially – no as I didn’t know any at that time, but I do talk to many more these days. Having said that, quite a few of them are very secretive and will tell you – nothing. Others are much more helpful, thank you Jane xx

I’ve used Word until now but have just purchased a MacBook. It is so different, I guess I’ll understand more in the coming months.

Amazon is quite helpful with self-publishing but I do get so frustrated with technology and always want to finish before I really get started.

How do you work?  Do you have an office/allotted space for writing?

 Computer/typewriter/long-hand – how do you put your words down?

Always on my computer. Have you seen my handwriting?

I have the lap top / MacBook on an old tray of my mum’s and tend to work in the lounge or conservatory.

 Do you have a favourite time of day and do you write every day and for how long?

I’m a morning person, often up at or before 6:00. Having worked in the plastic card business where deadlines were key, these days I never impose them on myself.

I love playing golf and will often go for days without writing a word and then put down four / five thousand per day for the next week.

Do you do a lot of research? I see you know the West Midlands well, and your stories are set there, such as The Black Country Murders, set in 1958.

The landscape and towns must have changed a great deal since then.

Do you use old photos to aid you?

And do you plan and make notes, elaborate graphs and write a rough outline of the story you are going to write, or do you fly by the seat of your pants and write at the keyboard – as it comes?

My locations are a mix of real and fictional.

Actual locations are based either on my own knowledge from my youth/travelling/holidays etc.,

but almost always with the help of Google Earth or Maps and fictional are often close to a real location.

Old photos are fabulous if/when you can find them.

The Water Carrier is set in 1960’s Norton Crest, a fictional village north of and near to York and Harrogate.

Ha, seat of my pants mostly.

I can start a story and have an idea of the ending but more often than not the middle part wanders and has to be brought back in to line.

The Michaelangelo Legacy

The Michaelangelo Legacy

My Michelangelo Legacy (Portrait of Francesca) was different, I knew where that was heading right from the start, loved creating the story and the mystery throughout.

I discovered that the number 13 fitted the story and used it as the base for my calculations.

The years in between given dates and events are all multiples of 13 – check them out, maybe Michelangelo already did.

Anastas is an erotic horror story and grew from the opening chapter but I always had a plan, albeit unwritten.

 Where do you get your inspiration?

Do you get an idea and the rest follows or do you find your stories from Newspapers, News broadcasts, or from over-hearing conversations and so on?

“I Don’t Like Decaf” came from a conversation at a wedding.

A friend complained that her hubby always got her coffee wrong, she spoke those very words and I said – “That sounds like a book title.”

A good photograph or painting will portray a powerful image and yes, it can generate the beginning of a story. Michelangelo’s David was the inspiration for that story.

I guess my imagination took 60+ years to wake up.

 Who is your favourite author and why?

These days I love Rebecca Branch’s work.

She writes lengthy stories in her “Art Historian” series, in “Summer of 71” she takes you on tours of Ancient and Modern Rome and develops her characters and the relationships between them, and when you least expect it she hits you with some of the most erotic passages I’ve ever read.

I became a friend through Facebook, so maybe I’m a little biased. She’s different and copies no-one.

 If you had to liken your writing to a successful author, who might that be and why?

Crikey, a tough question and I don’t have a clue.

We all know people like to give writers labels/put us into boxes:

I would love to be a modern-day Alistair MacLean but those days are a long way off, I have neither his talent nor ability but I’ll keep trying.

 Have you done any personal appearances?

I mentioned earlier how wonderful it was for me to have authors visit my local library and give talks and readings.

How do you get your own publicity or do you employ someone? 

I’ve had five reading slots at Church/men’s/ladies groups and so on and have a booking at a Rotary Club function in a month or so.

On Sunday (29th Jan) I had an hour at the first Wolverhampton Literary Festival

and I am already working on getting an invitation to be there in 2018.

Publicity is tough, with relatively small numbers of book sales to generate income to cover costs, paying for publicity is yet another expense to add.

You have had some really great reviews and some 5* reviews too.

One or two have suggested your thrillers would make great movies. Pick one of your books and tell us who you would like to play your lead character and why?

I’m so grateful for the reviews, readers do not have to say anything but when they do, it is heart-warming. I do have a mental picture of “Black Country Murders” making a six part TV series (dream on) – my lead character needs to age by fifteen years, how about Neil Morrissey?

There’s no reason by you shouldn’t write the screenplay and send it to him!

“I Don’t Like Decaf” I can picture as a stage play, Rachel would have to be a sexy thirty year old such as Jenna-Louise Coleman.

 Please list your publications and tell us something about each one:

Coming soon – Two more Matt Stewart stories:

The Portofino Incident  

Carnage at Clifton Court

Already published:

Barclay's Losing Hand

Barclay’s Losing Hand

Barclay’s Losing Hand   (Short Story)

In the end it was more straightforward than I had anticipated. I simply marched in, took the business from under his nose and finished him. The summary of a murder, revenge is sweet for the glamorous, sexy and deadly Cara Alessandro. Her father’s trial was a farce, those responsible would face her wrath, one man was wholly responsible and he was going to pay.

Anastas and the Black Rose   (Novella)

Anastas and the Black Rose

Anastas and the Black Rose

Anastas is one of an exclusive family, the Serpentés – a family with many secrets and powers. She wants revenge to correct wrongs of a century ago. With her man and her beautiful but deadly nieces at her side she cannot fail but will she have the time to complete her tasks? A semi-erotic tale of tortured killings, horrible cruel deaths and fulfilment for all concerned. Join the realms of part human, part serpents and hiss your enjoyment and appreciation.

The Water Carrier: A Wes Griffin Mystery   (Novella)

Wes Griffin a Private Detective hired by Melanie to find her father. A story of attempted murder, intrigue, family mistrust and a hidden past life. Rare and valuable antique vases stolen from the Emperor’s Palace in Tokyo along with a statue during the 64 Olympics. Arnie Cook building an empire in gangland London in 1966 and a blossoming affair make this a tangled web, but who is at the centre? Who’s waiting to pounce?

Sarah Marshall’s Double Quest   (Short Story)

Sarah Marshall was a lady with a mission. She needs a man, a particular, special man and has £20million as the carrot to dangle in front of him. Will he take the bait, will she land her catch? Will they make it to Rio? What is the twist? Read their fascinating story.

I Don’t Drink Decaf   (Novella)

Can bringing the wrong coffee be a reason for murder? It can if it is the final straw. Augusta and Diana have had enough of their husbands. The very deadly but sexy and glamorous Rachel can offer a way out, for a price. Rachel has had more sexual experiences than most, she has the body for every occasion and makes use of it. Will the men be able to resist? Follow them from conspiracy to plans to action. Can it really work out?

Black Country Murders; The Killer on the Canal   (Novella)

The Black Country Murders

The Black Country Murders

Ruby Williams murdered on Christmas Eve, Barry and Anita killed after a dance, Willie Watson’s life taken at Dudley Zoo. What or who is the connection? How many more will there be before the murderer is caught? What will the final twist be? Read on ….

Scent of the Dragon Queen   (Novella)

Scent of the Dragon Queen

Scent of the Dragon Queen

“You’re too slow etc” were the words Matt (Crack) Stewart did not want to hear from his boss. Within a week his life has changed, a gorgeous, sexy new boss and team, investigation, deception, a traitor or two. The search begins, taking them from London to Hong Kong, mainland China to New Zealand. The needle in the haystack has to be found, but who and where? Who or what is the Dragon Queen? What is the scent? The beautiful Sophia and her new team cannot fail on their first mission. A “Crack” in the orient, a giant of a man, could he be the key to unlock the secrets?

The Michelangelo Legacy: A Portrait of Francesca   (Novella)

The Michaelangelo Legacy

The Michaelangelo Legacy

She could never have imagined that a simple glass of red wine would change her life forever. Her living portrait; David, a new man in her life; Florence; Arrezo; a sensuous and dramatic but all too brief encounter; impossibly making love at the bottom of her pool; twins. Her best friend’s revelations; it was nonsense or was it? Her world was out of control, turned upside down. What is the significance of the number thirteen?

The Wrong Man’s Ring   (Short Story)

The Wrong Man's Ring

The Wrong Man’s Ring

Crystal wakes as a married woman, but can’t remember anything about the wedding. Her husband is a multi-millionaire or more, but now he’s dead and Sgt Santos investigates. Who killed him, why? Read the story and discover the answers.

The Faces of Ashwood Court    (Short Story)

The Faces of Ashwood Court

The Faces of Ashwood Court

The Wainwright-Smiths’ home at Ashwood Court was not a place for the faint-hearted. For more than two centuries, family evil piled upon family evil, mysterious and horrendous deaths. A blood dripping sickle hung in the barn. Heads roamed at will, their faces would stop at nothing until …. A very funny tale of abuse of power, greed, murders and death.

Snake Eyes Allison   (Short Story)

Snake Eyes

Snake Eyes

A western with a difference.  One hot dusty afternoon a stranger walks into Mama Rita’s bar carrying a sack. Ridgeway needs to know what it contains; one hell of a shock and his last breath is what.

Face of the Viking  (Novella)

Faces of Viking

Face of  the Viking

Freya Campbell had often dreamt of becoming a model but had always been too shy or timid to try, the arrival of Stefan, a tall, good-looking, blond-haired Viking on a motorbike at the office door could change her life forever; her first real man and a love life perhaps, bright lights, fortune and fame with her face on the cover of magazines; the world was at her fingertips if she only had enough courage to go for it.

Overture for Revenge   (Short Story)

Overture for Revenge

Overture for Revenge

Friends and neighbours, Lucy Turner and Anna Henderson put all of their energy into music, their local festival featuring bands and orchestras from the south of England, was to be the final performance of the school year and they were determined to enjoy themselves. They could never have foreseen what was to follow their performance of the 1812 Overture, this was to be a night they would never forget.

 What plans do you have for future books? Anything in the pipeline?

Plenty of work in progress.

The Portofino Incident – A Second Matt Stewart Story is currently being proof read. 

The Portofino Incident

The Portofino Incident

Carnage at Clifton Court – Third in the Matt Stewart series has just been finished.

Carnage at Clifton Court

Carnage at Clifton Court

The Highwayman and The Princess An 8-year-old black girl rescued from the horrors of the slave trade in 1700 and brought to London. A chance encounter with a highwayman years later, he holds a passion / lust for her as well as his trade, can they have a future together?

The Valentine Murders. A young couple, (white solicitor married to a black nurse) the guy is murdered in the street, the court case is a shambles leaving Josie and Grandpa Valentine to take action of their own.

Contrastes and the Capture of Time – my first attempt at Sci-Fi / Fantasy and proving a challenge but an enjoyable one.

I have a vague outline of a 4th Matt Stewart story but nothing written yet.

 Do your stories feature the same detective and partner?

Matt Stewart yes in three books, his boss Sophia is a major character in The Dragon Queen but a minor character in the two (above). She may be back in book four.

Would you consider contributing towards an anthology at all?

Yes – sounds like fun, anything in the pipeline?

Just keep your eyes open, people are always looking for contributors here and on Facebook David,

I’ve found Social Media a great help for getting my work included.

 Would you consider writing with another author – co-written book?

Yes – I’ve co-written a lengthy story over some three months on Facebook with a Texan lady.

I appreciate it’s not the same but we worked well together and created a popular serial.

There you go, Social Media can introduce us to new people and opportunities.

 Do provide a short segment/example from one of your books for our readers to enjoy which will give us a flavour of your writing and style:

“Anastas and the Black Rose”

Anastas and the Black Rose

Anastas and the Black Rose

Anastas plans to acquire her former family home , nothing or no-one will stop her. S short spell cast on a second viewer will be the end of him, the agent is distraught.

“May I use your phone please Miss? I don’t have a signal and I’m afraid the old gentleman has had either a stroke or heart attack, he’s collapsed.”

Anastas took her phone from her handbag and handed it over after keying in her password – VESPA. As he dialled a number, she raised her body towards him a little, sliding her fingers in and out of her lace, patterned stocking tops and touching a suspender clasp. Although he could not fail to have noticed her womanly charms, the agent appeared too busy or shocked to look closely. She sighed, stood and placed her fingertip delicately below his chin, lifting his face to look at her.

“You won’t need it, it’s too late now,” She casually remarked, “and by the way, you should secure your phone, you have no password protection and I suggest you never let your wife read those text messages. Karen is rather delicious though I must agree, I can see the attraction.”

“What? How do you know anything about my phone?”

She smirked once again, raised her left eyebrow and ran her fingers along the side of his neck.

“He’s dead Charlie, very dead. You are wasting your time. Why don’t you just run along to Karen, she’s desperate for you to have her again– is that not so?”

Wow, that is going to whet some appetites to read more I am sure.

 Finally, David, please show links to your Facebook Author Page, Twitter, and Amazon Author Page with links to any other Social Media you use.

Facebook –

Amazon –

Linkedin –

Although I have a Twitter account, I don’t like it and never use it.

David, thanks so much for being my guest and for telling us so much about yourself and your writing. 

Do leave a comment for David after reading this. Every little helps and we all need feedback. Thanks.

I’ve really enjoyed having him as my first guest for 2017.

For anyone interested in reading David’s books,  here are the links to where to buy them.





Kedleston Hall, a grand house, parkland and pleasure grounds built to impress: another ‘jolly.’ Part One

Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire.

Kedleston Hall (c) Sally Duffell 2016

Kedleston Hall

This is the third of my final ‘jollies’ in 2016.

I hope you enjoyed the previous two.

As you probably know I was fortunate enough to go on several towards the end of last year.

Kedleston Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Kedleston Hall – the rear. (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Kedleston Hall River (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Kedleston Hall River (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Here is the latest. Let me know what you think.

Another chilly and damp day saw us take a trip to Kedleston Hall (Derbyshire) former home of the Curzon family and now owned and run by The National Trust.

The Drawing Room (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The Drawing Room (c) Jane Risdon 2016

We visited the restaurant first to warm up and have a light lunch. After which we took a tour of the house.

There has been a house at Kedleston since medieval times.

The north front has been called ‘the grandest Palladian facade in Britain.’

25 foot Derbyshire Marble Columns in the Marble Hall. (c) Jane Risdon 2016

25 foot Derbyshire Marble Columns in the Marble Hall. (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Front view of Kedleston Hall 2016

View across the front grounds Kedleston Hall 2016

Drawing on the monuments of ancient Rome and the designs of the 16th century Italian architect Andrea Palladio, Robert Adam was chosen to be the architect ‘resolved to spare no Expence, with £10,000 a year, Good Temper’d & having taste himself for the Arts.’

(c) Jane Risdon Dining Room

(c) Jane Risdon Dining Room

Adam set out to build a house that would rival Chatsworth.

Great Staircase Kedleston Adams Design (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Great Staircase Kedleston Adams Design (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The Curzon family came to  Britain from Normandy at the time of William the Conqueror and have most likely lived at Kedleston since 1150 and probably since 1198/99 when they were granted ‘all the vill of Ketelestune.’

Great Stair-case (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Great Stair-case (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Marble Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Marble Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

They established their position in Derbyshire by gradually adding to the estate and by serving as MP (Member of Parliament) for the county from the mid-16th century.

From 1640 onward the estate grew rapidly until it comprised 10,000 acres in Derbyshire and the neighbouring counties. 

Ceiling and wall paintings Marble Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Ceiling and wall paintings Marble Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Music Room (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Music Room (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Mostly due to Sir John Curzon (1598-1686) who also raised the family’s status by being created a baronet in 1641.

Four years later he became the head of the family following the death of Mary Curzon, the former governess of James II, the chatelaine of the great Sackville house of Knole and the last of the Curzons of Croxall.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

Funny how these families are all intertwined somehow.

Do take a look at my ‘jollies’ to the homes of Vita Sackville-West at  Knole and at

Sissinghurst as I am sure if you enjoy this you will enjoy those ‘jollies.’

A little more historical background and then I’ll get on with the photos.

The Marble Hall Kedleston (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The Marble Hall Kedleston (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Sir John sided with the Parliamentarians during the Civil War, but from the early 18th century his descendants were loyal supporters of the King,becoming the great Tory family of Derbyshire, just as the great houses of Chatsworth and Hardwick (the Cavendishes) were the leading Whigs.

Ceiling Marble Hall ceiling (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Ceiling Marble Hall ceiling (c) Jane Risdon 2016

I visited both on my ‘jolly’ and will post about them later in this series. 

In 1671 Sir John’s son Nathaniel, 2nd Bt. married Sarah Penn, daughter of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, establishing the family’s long ties with America.

I am reminded of being asked, with my husband and a few others –  I forget exactly when but I think sometime in the late 1970s –  to take part in the very first Fiber-optic telephone call to America from Reading, Berkshire to Reading Pennsylvania.  

It was great fun. We were allowed to make a phone call (to America) to whomever we wished.  We called an aunt of mine and, typically, she wasn’t at home and didn’t have an answering machine. Don’t laugh.

Back to the house. Wow! I am sure you are saying it too. Wow!

MIrror image of drawing room (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Mirror image of drawing room (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Apparently the house was never meant to be a home, but a place to show off, to parade wealth, power and influence.

The family had their own private state rooms, with most of the house was not lived in as a home, but used to hold parties, receptions with formal ‘rooms to parade.’

Music Room, organ and kettle drums (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Music Room, organ and kettle drums (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Guests were allowed to walk through them admiring the furniture, upholstery and enjoying the fine paintings.

 Kedleston was one of the original ‘bling palaces,’ I think.

As always I took way too many photos, I couldn’t resist.

The parkland and pleasure grounds are magnificent and enormous and we didn’t get round them all because of the weather.

The Lake (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The Lake (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The sun did come out from time to time, but mostly it was damp with some drizzle. To be expected so late in the year. 

We also went into the church and I’ll post about that later too.

I’ve just had a look at the number of photos I took inside the house and if I want to do my piece justice I think I must stretch this to part two, because there were so many interesting artifacts and things inside the house I’d like you to see, so you can get an idea of the sort of people lived in Kedleston Hall. 

The Library - Desk. (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The Library – Desk. (c) Jane Risdon 2016

So, stand by for Part Two with some of the collections the family gathered.

The Saloon (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The Saloon (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Meantime if you feel the urge to make a visit yourself, here are the details:


Tel: +44 (0) 1332 842191

Kedleston Hall, near Quarndon, Derby,Derbyshire DE22 5JH

As ever all photos are (c) Jane Risdon 2016 All Rights Reserved.

Chess Set Kedleston Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Chess Set Kedleston Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The Trophy Corridor (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The Trophy Corridor (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Another ‘Jolly’ in The Peaks: Saints, Saxon Princes and Ilam Hall Estate.

Ilam (Manifold)

 Ilam Hall, (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Another ‘Jolly.’

Pop the kettle on, make a brew, and put your feet up for a few minutes and relax.

Comfy? Here we go:

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016


ILam Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Ilam Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The latter part of 2016 was really hectic for me with several writing projects to be completed, and my recent Uni courses taking up my time –Archaeology and Forensic Science – so getting away for a few ‘jollies,’ was really welcome.

Grounds of Ilam Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Grounds of Ilam Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

2017 is going to be a busy year with another

Forensic course – my 5th – and the publication, possibly in May of Only One Woman which I’ve co-written with author Christina Jones. 

I hope you enjoyed my first ‘jolly,’ to Dovedale in this series. Thanks to all those who took time to read it and leave me comments. It is great to know you are out there and enjoying my ‘jollies’ with me.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

 As promised here is my next post.

Let me know what you think.

After our wet and rather energetic morning in Dovedale we went on to visit the lovely Ilam Hall and Park just a short drive down the road from Dovedale. If it had been dry we could have walked.

llam Park is a 158-acre country estate situated in Ilam on both banks of the River Manifold, five miles north-west of Ashbourne. The property is managed as part of The National Trust’s South Park Estate.

Ashbourne is situated in Derbyshire and so is Ilam’s postal address, but the Park and Ilam are in Staffordshire –  the county boundary being the River Dove.

River Dove (c) Jane Risdon 2016

River Dove (c) Jane Risdon 2016

River Dove (c) Jane Risdon 2016

River Dove (c) Jane Risdon 2016

 I know it’s confusing, but we do things like that in Britain, just to keep you on your toes.

The property consists of Ilam Hall and remnants of its gardens, an ancient semi-natural woodland, Hinkley Wood, designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), noted for its small-leaved and large-leaved Limes and their hybrids.

The estate was owned for over 250 years by the Port family from the 16th century until it was sold to David Pike Watts in 1809.

On his death in 1816 the old hall was inherited by his daughter who had married Jesse Russell.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

Jesse Watts-Russell, High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire in 1819, and Conservative MP for the ‘rotten borough’ of Gatton, commissioned James Trubshaw to build a new Hall to designs by John Shaw; the Hall, now a Grade 11 listed building, was built between 1821 and 1826.

By the early 1930s it had been sold for demolition.

The demolition was well advanced when Sir Robert McDougal bought it for The National Trust on the understanding that the remaining parts: the entrance porch and hall, the Great Hall, and the service wing, should be used as an International Youth Hostel. 

Today Ilam Hall is leased to the Youth Hostels Association England and Wales (YHA).

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

Therefore our visit was confined to the park and grounds only.

The rain didn’t stop and so our first visit was to the Manifold Tea Rooms for a welcome snack and hot drink. 

Manifold Tea Rooms (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Manifold Tea Rooms (c) Jane Risdon 2016

By the time we had finished our refreshments the rain had stopped and the sun had come out so we ventured outside and took a wander through the grounds.

The grass was rather wet and slippery but it didn’t matter, we were enjoying ourselves too much.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

We took a wander down to the river via some very steep steps from the lawns above, and we walked along the path – Paradise Walk – running alongside the river bank leading eventually alongside fields with sheep grazing. 

Following the river upstream a little way on our right, in the woods, lies a grotto where the playwright William Congreave is said to have written his first play, ‘The Old Bachelor’ in 1689.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

The path emerges from the trees moving away from the river bank. This is still ‘Paradise Walk’, created as a place where the hall guests could take their exercise.

Paradise Walk (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Paradise Walk (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The path takes you past ‘The Battlestone’, a Saxon cross unearthed during the building of the new Ilam village and thought to commemorate a battle with the Danes.

The trees were still reluctant to indulge in Autumnal changes we noticed, few had their gold and russet leaves yet, but the sun which had come out was a lot warmer than you’d expect so late in the year. Apart from the sounds of the sheep grazing, our feet hitting the ground, and just the distant tinkle of the river, there was total silence. Wonderful.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

I stopped to take photos of the sheep and the fungi growing along the path. Trees towered over the path and on the other side of the huge field the sides of a cliff were covered in forestation – Hinkley Wood. A picture perfect place to be and to commune with nature.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

We came to a natural place to turn around and head back to the huge lawns and the Italian themed grounds near the house, as we wanted to see the Church before it got too dark.

We climbed the steep steps again and turned to our right to take a wander over St. Bertam’s bridge so we could watch the river a while.

Bertram's Bridge (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Bertram’s Bridge (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The church was a delight and we found ourselves running inside as another downpour, much more intense than earlier, began as we began to look around the churchyard.

Ilam has been a place of pilgrimage since the days of St Bertram, a Saxon saint and hermit who lived there. Today there are more ‘pilgrims’ (in the form of tourists) than ever.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

Saxon Stone (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Saxon Battle stone (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The saint was a Saxon Prince of Mercia who travelled to Ireland to marry an Irish Princess. On their way back to Mercia she had a child and they rested in the forest at Ilam while Bertram went off to seek food.

When he returned he discovered that wolves had killed both his wife and child. Broken-hearted, he lived as a hermit around Ilam for the rest of his life.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

The saint’s tomb lies in the church, a trim little building sitting apart from the rest of the village. The church was originally within the village, but the village was moved by Jesse Watts Russell to improve the view from the hall he built-in the 1820s.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

The Font (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The Font (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Some small parts of Saxon architecture may still be traced on the south wall where there is a walled-up old Saxon doorway. There are the stumps of two Saxon crosses in the churchyard.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

Inside the church there is a magnificent Saxon font, which is worth a visit for itself.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

When the rain eased off a little we left the church and made our way back to the car-park and headed for home.

Tired from all the exertions and fresh air I didn’t finish dinner and was in bed before nine o’clock.

I cannot remember the last time I did that unless I was unwell.

Next morning bright and early we set off for our next ‘jolly.’

Pop back soon and discover more about my week away in Derbyshire and Cumbria. I am writing it up now.

I really hope you enjoyed this, let me know.

All photos (c) Jane Risdon 2016 All Rights Reserved.

To visit Ilam:

Ashbourne, Derbyshire DE6 2AZ

Tel:  +44 (0)1335 350503


The Peaks: Breathless in Dovedale – another ‘Jolly’ before the end of 2016.

Dovedale in the Peaks (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Dovedale in the Peaks (c) Jane Risdon 2016

My first blog of 2017. Happy New Year one and all.

Towards the end 2016 I managed to fit in several ‘Jollies,’ and as promised I shall be sharing them with you during the next few weeks.

Those familiar with my ‘Jollies’ know that when-ever I go anywhere I find interesting I like to share my experiences and photos with my friends here. 

I wasn’t joking when I said several ‘Jollies.’

I’ve managed to visit lovely countryside, lakes, historical houses,

and enjoyed the run up to Festive Season in a famous Church and a historical house

which is in ruins at the moment, but with the love and care of volunteers it’s slowly being restored to its original state.

But I rush ahead.

The first of my ‘Jollies’ took me to the Peak District. I’ve passed through there before but never visited and looked around due to hectic schedules.

For those who don’t know:

The Peak District is an upland area in England at the southern end of the Pennines.

It is mostly in northern Derbyshire, but also includes parts of Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Staffordshire and Yorkshire.

 The Peak District is supposedly the second most visited National Park after Mount Fuji in Japan which is saying something.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

The National Park hasn’t any mountains the stature of Mount Fuji, yet it can boast some impressive hills, moors, outcrops, and gritstone edges with many having different characteristics, some being in the bleak gritstone moorland of the Dark Peak whilst others nestle into the beautiful scenic limestone country of the White Peak.

I don’t want to jump ahead so will leave talking about seeing spectacular views such as the rock outcrops of  The Roaches – which I passed on my way to Buxton, and Curbar Edge which I climbed in the rain on a misty afternoon until next time.

I want to share the experience of visiting a lovely, seemingly unspoiled area on the edge of the Weaver Hills and surrounding area: Dovedale.

Dovedale is a valley in the Peak District of England.

The land is owned by the National Trust, and annually attracts more than a million visitors annually.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

The National Trust acquired its first property in Derbyshire exactly 100 years ago when it was gifted the 17th century Market House in Winster in 1906, but Dovedale was not acquired until 1934 when, mainly owing to the generosity of landowners Sir Robert and Lady MacDougall, Mr. F. Holmes, and I.C.I. it was gifted to the National Trust along with a proposal to make it Britain’s first ever National Park. It was eventually included within the Peak District National Park in 1951. 

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

Dovedale is the name given to an area of the Dove valley between Milldale and Thorpe Cloud, which has some of the most spectacular limestone gorge scenery available in this country.

The name Dovedale is from the Norse ‘dubo’ meaning dark.

Vikings settled in the area around 800 AD. Local place names such as Thorpe are of Scandinavian origin. These settlements became permanent, and Thorpe is mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086

Everywhere the river is flanked by steep cliffs, with many caves and rock pillars, of which Ilam Rock is the most spectacular. 

My visit with relatives newly moved into the area was undertaken on a wet and misty morning with a distinct chill of Autumn in the air. The trees were on the turn and I kept thinking that had I visited a week or two later I would have been party to that wonderful show of colour and shades Autumn treats us to each year. I’m not complaining because what was on show was still beautiful…but  just imagine the photos I would’ve taken!

Not one for climbing or hiking – I am more the strolling or brisk walk type of person – I determined to climb and amble and hike with my younger, more energetic companions, even if it meant puffing red-faced to the top of some pretty steep and rock strewn hills, ever mindful of staying upright and not falling and making myself look a complete idiot or worse still, injuring my shoulder which is still recovering from breakages following a tumble-down stairs some time ago.

My first challenge of the day was to cross the river Dove via a set of stepping-stones. Quite daunting when the stones are rather high, slippery, with nothing to hold on to. Another opportunity to make a complete ass of myself by falling in.  I managed it but was filled with dread at the thought of returning later, after our walk and climb, to do it all over again. It’s not an age thing. Had I been twenty I’d have not wanted to cross. Me and water –  not great pals –  add in height and slippery surfaces and it is a recipe for disaster. Seriously, I am not safe.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

The steps were built by Italian prisoners of war captured in WW2. 

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

The river is a well-known trout fishing area, made famous by Izaak Walton in his classic 17th century book ‘The Compleat Angler’, and you will often see anglers by the side of the river I am assured.

Having crossed the river in one piece without shaming my companions by making a big splash, we walked along the river enjoying the sounds it made as it gently meandered past. Birds were singing and wind rustled the trees about us. We could smell the earth under our feet as we navigated rocks jutting from the pathway. On one side the river and a steep bank was covered with trees,  on the other side a steep incline with rocks jutting out loomed high above us. If only they could talk. Imagine.

In places the water rushed over boulders and large stones and was quite deafening when up close.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

We came across a Heron which was sitting on the opposite bank of the river, quietly doing whatever Herons do whilst remaining completely still. It allowed us to get quite close to take photographs. 

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

More huffing and puffing (me, not the youngsters) up a steep incline with steps, passing others huffing and puffing either going up or coming down, each red-faced and concentrating on not slipping or falling.

After what seemed a lifetime in which I grew hotter and hotter and wanted to rip everything off in spite of the cold and damp, we reached the top and glory be, a seat. I almost ran to it anxious to get off my aching legs and knees. Climbing was never a problem just a few years ago.

I almost forgot:

On the steps beneath our feet as we climbed I could see fossils which were embedded in them. So clear to see. Really fascinating.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

We sat and enjoyed the view of the steep cliffs opposite and the various trees rising high above the river, covering the sides dense and mysterious. My lungs eventually ceased hurting and I began to forget thoughts of oxygen masks and para-medics – well you never know.

If ever I was on the run, I thought, what a great place to hide out. Mind you, I might never make it if I had to climb the cliffs opposite to hide deep within the forest. Perhaps I’d be better trying the New Forest; far more civilized.

The rain started again and the mist began to descend as we made our way back down. Mindful of the slippery stones and gravel which didn’t help when trying to place one’s feet, we made it back all in one piece.

Back at the stepping-stones we encountered a queue to cross (in both directions), so it was  good thing we came early. We started chatting to an American couple who’d escaped their large family to holiday in England. Both were anxious to tell us they didn’t vote for Mr Trump. A long discussion followed and we parted laughing and wondering what on earth was going on in the world.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

Imagine coming to such a lovely spot to discuss politics and the new President Elect. Way too much culture in one day.

That is it for this part of the day. It was a lovely visit and I recommend it if you ever get chance. Wear good walking shoes and waterproofs (in-case you can’t manage the stepping-stones) and take your camera. Well worth it. 

Part two to follow soon:  A visit to Ilam is next.

All photos are (c) Jane Risdon 2016 All Rights Reserved.

2016: A Year of Jollies, Anthologies and Forensic Criminology.


Seasons Greetings

to all my wonderful friends, old and new, who have been kind enough to join me here and who have read and enthusiastically commented on my posts.

Your visits are so very welcome and much enjoyed by me and obviously by those dropping by.

Thanks so much for all your support and kindness throughout this last year

and earlier years I’ve dabbled in this blogging lark.

It has been a busy year for me once more.

Eltham Palace (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Eltham Palace (c) Jane Risdon 2016

I’ve been treated to some really fabulous ‘jollies,’ and I have a lot more to post here as soon as time permits.

I’ve recently been on several – I’ve been spoiled rotten and it’s been fabulous.

Mevagissy (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Mevagissy (c) Jane Risdon 2016

I’m really encouraged by the reaction my little forays garner, especially the photos and the historical snippets I try to include with each post. It’s great to share my experiences and it seems that my posts have inspired many of you to visit some of these places.

Churchill's home (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Churchill’s home (c) Jane Risdon 2016

I really hope you weren’t disappointed.

The feedback you give is really encouraging. Thanks so much.

Virginia Waters (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Virginia Waters (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Virginia Waters (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Virginia Waters (c) Jane Risdon 2016

After a very long pregnancy


has left the computers of both myself and Christina Jones (my co-author),

and is now with our publishers Accent Press Ltd and the delectable Greg.

The plan is for the novel to be published in May 2017 – watch this space. It should be in Paperback  and eBook and I understand there are plans for an Audio-book too.

A departure – for me –  from Crime fiction, OOW is a story we have both been itching to write for many years.

Only One Woman for lovers of music, fashion and everything late 1960s

Only One Woman for lovers of music, fashion and everything late 1960s

Chrissie and I have been friends since our teens – we move fast as you can tell!

She was my husband’s band Fan Club Secretary as well as a successful Rock Journalist interviewing the rich and famous, and the most gorgeous Rock stars. I’m not jealous at all.

She also wrote for a lot of the Teen magazines at that time.

Christina Jones is now an award-winning successful author of over 30+ books.

The 1960s setting for Only One Woman

The 1960s setting for Only One Woman

More details as and when we get them.

Christina Jones and her books:

In addition to the ongoing Work in Progress -‘Ms Birdsong Investigates’ – which seems to be taking me forever to write, I am been very privileged to have been included in three anthologies.

The first, Madame Movara’s Tales of Terror, still on sale but only until January 2017, has been the work of 29 authors and 2 illustrators and was the brain child of author Kelly Hambly.

Madame Movara's Tales of Terror: Hardback and Paperback in aid of Save The Children

Madame Movara’s Tales of Terror: Hardback and Paperback in aid of Save The Children

Her link:

All proceeds go to Save The Children (The International Children’s Charity).

So far sales have exceeded expectations and this can only be good news for Save The Children.

Caroline Munro with Madame Movara's Tales of Terror

Caroline Munro with Madame Movara’s Tales of Terror

The hardback edition is fully illustrated throughout. I love it.

The Paperback edition comes with a choice of 2 covers and they are both illustrated throughout as well – in colour.

Madame Movara’s Tales of Terror is published by Willow Creek Publishing.

My story is called ‘Haunting Melody.’

I got the inspiration for the story when looking at some photos of  one of my favourite places, Big Bear Mountain and Lakes in San Bernadino, California.

The foreword has been written by iconic Hammer Horror movie actress and former Bond (007) girl Caroline Munro who has been a wonderful asset and has helped gain interest from many established and iconic Horror magazines such as Scream.

The links for these are:

I have also contributed towards

The Beneficiaries of Secret Cottage by Jane Risdon 2016

The Beneficiaries of Secret Cottage by Jane Risdon 2016

Ghostly Writes Anthology 31st Oct 2016

Ghostly Writes Anthology 31st Oct 2016

Ghostly Writes Anthology 2016

published by  Claire Plaisted, Plaisted Publishing House.

Along with 26 other authors from around the world I contributed my story

‘The Beneficiaries of Secret Cottage.’

The inspiration for my story came thinking about Wills and those who have expectations and those who find themselves inheriting something out of the blue, from someone they didn’t even now existed.

Ghostly Writes is available in Paperback and eBook.

the eBook is FREE

for Paperback price follow the links. 

The links are:

Barnaby Rogers PI and the Case of the Singing Canary: Cue Murder

Barnaby Rogers PI and the Case of the Singing Canary: Cue Murder

I have also written a short story for another anthology, A Stab in the Dark: Cons, Dames and G-Men

which is due for publication in early 2017 and is the brain-child of Adam Mitchell.

A Stab in the Dark: Cons, Dames and G Men

A Stab in the Dark: Cons, Dames and G Men

This eBook will be FREE

The Golden Age of Detection is the theme for these stories and this is a first for me.

I love the GAD but have never written anything set in the late 1930’s before.

My story is called ‘Cue Murder,’

and I was inspired by the story of Movie Star Lupe Velez – The Mexican Spitfire.

The Mexican Spitfire Lupe Velez

The Mexican Spitfire Lupe Velez

One of my husband’s great aunts, Elizabeth Risdon, was a movie actress, acting with some of the great leading men of the age and she starred in several movies with Lupe Velez and talking about her recently reminded me of how Lupe died.  

I shall be posting more about Lupe and Elizabeth nearer the publication of Stab in the Dark.

Elizabeth Risdon

Elizabeth Risdon

Earlier in the year I was fortunate enough to contribute my short story

‘A Walk to Destiny’ to dottyandthedreamers online magazine.

The magazine is FREE

Here is the link:

Late December 2016 they will also be publishing two more short stories I’ve written. 

‘You can run, but you cannot hide.’


‘Murder by Christmas.’

If you read any of these stories or buy any books, do be kind and let me and the other authors know your thoughts and if you are able to leave a review anywhere, that would be wonderful. Thanks.

Whilst beavering away at all this I have been busy educating myself.

Crime Scene Investigations

Crime Scene Investigations

Last September (2015) I started the first of four Forensic Science Online University courses and in early December 2016 I completed my last.

I also managed to fit in another course in Archaeology.

Time Team was a huge favourite and I am still mourning its loss from TV.

I wanted to better understand Crime Scene Investigations, Forensic Anthropology and  Forensic Science in relation to Criminal Justice, so that I might write Crime stories with more accuracy.

Jane Risdon is May Super Star Author 2016

I may not actually include what I’ve learned in my writing – never one to blind people with science I hope – but for my own understanding of what happens at the crime scene (who is there and why for example) and during examination of unidentified bones, and also how to identify a victim given no items were left in a shallow grave for example, other than bones. Also the investigation of Witness Statements and eventual Prosecution of someone accused of Murder.


It has been so interesting, informative and enthralling to study this and have tutors world-renown for their expertise in their field.

I have learned so much. Even my Archaeology Course came in handy!

As soon as I get my act together I shall be posting more ‘jollies,’ undertaken since the summer which I hope you will enjoy.

Most activities, especially in the early Autumn, involved a lot of physical effort and outdoor activity. 

The Lake District (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The Lake District (c) Jane Risdon 2016

I managed to amaze myself just how high I can climb in pursuit of ‘that view.’

Peak District (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Peak District (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The Peak District (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The Peak District (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Well, now you can see what I have been up to this year and I am looking forward to a busy 2017.

I’d like to thank you all for being here and for your kind participation in my blog. It’s been another blast!

I look forward to seeing you all again next year and do bring your friends along too.

For those celebrating


and to you ALL a very


I am not packing up shop just yet

I am hoping to feature an interview with an Accent Press Crime Writer here before the end of December so keep ’em peeled. 

Do drop in and leave a comment – always welcome and appreciated.

All photos (c) Jane Risdon 2016 except book covers which are (c) to the artists/publishers  and Lupe Velez and Elizabeth Risdon

Ghostly Writes Anthology: The Beneficiaries of Secret Cottage – October 2016 via Plaisted Publishing

Ghostly Writes Anthology 2016

Ghostly Writes Anthology 2016

Ghostly Writes Anthology Published by 

Plaisted Publishing House                 ghostly-writes-banner-with-owl

 31st October 2016


My short story:

The Beneficiaries of Secret Cottage.

by Jane Risdon

The Beneficiaries of Secret Cottage

The Beneficiaries of Secret Cottage

The bed vibrated as if on some sort of mechanical device and her body shook and convulsed as she tried hard to hang on to the sides to prevent falling off.

She sensed that the room was still pitch black and she knew she wasn’t alone.

She couldn’t open her eyes, they felt glued shut, and anyway she was too afraid of what she might glimpse.

Faster and faster the bed vibrated beneath her making it almost impossible to keep hold of the mattress. 

She prayed for it to stop but knew it would be a while longer. It always went on for an eternity it seemed and then, just as suddenly, all would be still.

And the terror would begin….


I do hope this has whetted your appetite enough to lead you to this anthology and the many stories on offer, and to reading the rest of my short story.  The other authors are all blogging about this anthology and you can follow them by clicking on their names further down.



  The eBook  is FREE and will be available world-wide from the 31st October

and the Paperback edition is available for purchase:

And many other book sites.

A fantastic opportunity to discover new writers and their work; a great keepsake.

Claire Plaisted, of Plaisted Publishing says:

It is that time of year again when authors love to haunt you with our scary, horror filled books that will thrill anyone who loves Halloween.

Ghostly Writes Anthology is presented to you by Plaisted Publishing House, Ltd, New Zealand, with a contributions by 26 Authors from around the world.  

Each story has its own focus, be it a haunting or not. There are creepy cottages, houses and creatures. Some you won’t want to read at night.

One thing you will notice is that we have left the English Grammar and Spelling in the country of origin – like it or not, it is what it is – English from around the globe.

This year our authors and their stories are:

A Dying Scream – J G Clay

Cabins – J B Taylor

Caedes – Adam Mitchell

Canvas – Sarah Mosier

Chaconne – Neil Newton

Death has a Sound – Rocky Rochford

Embers of Webber Street – Karen J Mossman

Eternally Connected – JLC Roche

Ghost in the Machine – Eve Merrick-Williams

Ghost of a Chance – Wendy Steele

Haunted House Arrest – Jennifer Deese

Hello Dear – Stewart Bint

Luella – Kyrena Lynch

Mother Called Today – Mike Elliott

Natatorium-Adele Marie Parks

Play Time – Amy Budd

Ruby Kisses – Jessica Wren

Sitting on a Cloud – C A Keith

Soul Man – Claire Plaisted

Spools of Thread – Ashley Uzzell

The Beneficiaries of Secret Cottage – Jane Risdon

The Curse of Havencrest – Cayleigh Stickler

The Ghost of Rose Cottage – Marjorie Hembroff

The House on the Hill – Jim Adams

The Thin Place – Elizabeth H Newton

Here are a few of the teasers to enjoy.

                             14641957_10209669863876063_4361141069408314893_n      14650519_10154551260284417_6215954267062495740_n14650530_1281950171855181_6756112078895065085_n

         14681845_10209600757788454_6668877050703082724_n        14706760_10154062165774389_8885436568396514746_o             14721726_10154610613582533_4236590918974838748_n        14696898_1838742316412219_1501415758_n

If you wish to have more information: 

Our official book trailer is on YouTube along with two others made by authors who are participating in this years anthology.

I do hope you enjoy this anthology. It was fund writing for it. A change from Crime writing for me. 

Thanks for dropping in, let me know what you think.

Jane xx

Chartwell: home of Sir Winston Churchill – another ‘jolly.’

Churchilll's Golden Wedding (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Buying Chartwell for  Churchill (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Chartwell from the rear (c)Jane Risdon 2016

Chartwell from the rear (c)Jane Risdon 2016

Churchill's home (c) Jane Risdon 2016

                 (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Late September I was fortunate enough to visit Chartwell, home of Sir Winston Churchill.

‘Some day, some year, there will be old men and women whose pride it will be to say “I lived in Churchill’s time”.’ The Evening Standard on the day of Churchill’s funeral.

A friend’s father – in the Navy at the time – was one of the men to carry Churchill’s coffin to the train for his final journey to Bladen, Oxfordshire, where he is buried.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

Churchill lived at Chartwell with his family from 1922 until his death in 1965. In common with most people he moved home several times during his life-time, progressing gradually to a larger and grander property as circumstances and his finances allowed.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

 Those with an interest in Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill will know he was born at Blenheim Palace on November 30th 1874. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was the second surviving son of the 7th Duke of Marlborough. His mother, Jennie Jerome, was the daughter of a New York financier.

‘I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.’ Churchill

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

Although born into the

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

English aristocracy he did not inherit vast riches and for most of his life he was only moderately wealthy. He made his living as a writer. Politics did not bring him great wealth either.

He received almost every honour his country and many others could bestow upon him. Knight of the Garter, Companion of Honour, Order of Merit, Nobel Prize, Fellow of the Royal Society, Honorary Citizen of The United States – voted for by the public, Man of the Century, and The Greatest Briton – the list is almost endless.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

He neither sought nor received a Peerage which would have taken him to The House of Lords as that would have taken him from his beloved The House of Commons.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

‘I could not live without champagne. In victory I deserve it. In defeat I need it.’ Churchill

Winston took part in many battles during his younger years, either as a war correspondent or as a soldier – in Cuba, on the North West Frontier of India (at the same time one of my relatives was also fighting in the same places), and in the Sudan, South Africa, and France.

‘Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result.’ Churchill

 Clementine, Lady Churchill, entered The House of Lords after she’d been created Baroness Spencer-Churchill in 1965 in recognition of her work for charity. She also 

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

received many accolades and awards including The Order of the Red Banner of Labour, awarded by Stalin in recognition of her wartime work raising funds for aid to Russia.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

Winston went to school at Harrow and from there entered the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst (a place well-known to my family because so many of them have also Passed Out as Officer Cadets, or have been Instructors there).

Sir Winston subsequently joined the cavalry.

(c) Jane Risdon 2011

(c) Jane Risdon 2011

‘History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.’ Churchill

RMA (c) Jane Risdon 2016

RMA (c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2011

(c) Jane Risdon 2011

During his time at Sandhurst it is well-known that his family kept him short of funds and he often wrote heart-breaking letters home begging for money to pay his way.

My Mother, a member of the local Historical Society, when researching information about Sandhurst for a book the Society was writing about the village, was given access to records (in the College archives) which included a viewing of Sir Winston’s letters home and the replies he received.  She told me they were really quite upsetting to read.

Anyway, with all this information I was looking forward to seeing his home and the glorious grounds surrounding it. Unfortunately the day of my visit was a wet one.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

It rained all the time. There was also scaffolding erected to the rear of the house which made getting a decent photo of it a tricky, and I was a little disappointed to learn that taking photos inside the house was prohibited.

The photos I took are of the grounds, his studio – where he liked to paint – and some other buildings in the grounds. I do hope you like them.

A collection of Sir Winston’s paintings are on show in his studio.  I have to say a child could paint just as well, but I know appreciation of art is a personal matter. I know many love his art.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

There is an appeal for his possessions to be kept at Chartwell. Funds are being raised to enable his paintings and other items in the collection, at Chartwell, to be saved by purchasing them from the Churchill family who loan them to the National Trust at the moment. 

Text WINSTON to 70123  (in UK) to give £5 donation or donate at

‘Just to paint is great fun. The colours are lovely to look at and delicious to squeeze out. Matching them, however crudely, with what you see is fascinating and absolutely absorbing. Try it if you have not done so – before you die.’ Churchill, Painting as a Pastime.

Because of the heavy rain (at times) a thorough investigation of the more than 816 acres, which included several individual farms at one time, was not practical. It was a mud bath on the walks and in the woodland.

Chartwell is older than it looks and although the external appearance of the house has the unmistakable 1920s look, the actual site, according to records, dates back to 1362 and there has been a house on the site since at least the early 15th century. Roof timbers surviving from the earlier house were ring-dated to between 1515 and 1546, and can still be seen in Winston’s study.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

The house changed hands many times since the Middle Ages, and before Winston and his wife lived there.  It had been a foundling house in the 18th century, a home for deserted children and for a long time was known as Well Street. It wasn’t known as Chartwell until the middle of the 19th century, taking its name from the Chart Well, a spring feeding the uppermost of a series of ponds north of the house.

The word Chart is Old English for a ‘rough common overgrown with gorse, broom and bracken,’ and occurs in place names throughout  The Weald of Kent.

Churchill engaged architect Philip Tilden, who’d completed a new house for Lloyd George, to modernise and extend Chartwell when he and Clementine purchased it. It took longer than expected and they couldn’t move in until 1924.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

‘A day away from Chartwell is a day wasted.’ Churchill

Over the years they made some small changes but today it is presented to the public by the National Trust, as it looked in the 1920/1930s.

‘Garnished and furnished as to be of interest to the public.’Churchill

The tour of the house takes in his library where he contemplated the D-Day Landings. it is a comfortable room, and like the rest of the house, is very much a family home.

‘Nothing makes a man more reverent than a good library.’ Churchill

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

The Churchills entertained many famous and influential guests at Chartwell including Charlie Chaplin, Harry Truman, Harold Macmillan, Bernard Montgomery, Friedrich Prince of Prussia, The Queen Mother, Laurence Olivier, Lady Diana Cooper and Ethel Barrymore, Lawrence of Arabia, The Mitfords, Astors, Guinesses, Randolph Hearst and many more.

Chartwell was given to the National Trust in 1946 on the understanding that Sir Winston and Lady Churchill could live out their lives there. It has been open to the public for 50 years (2016).

There are medals, awards and so much more to see inside the house. Wonderful Art Deco furnishings and many paintings by famous artists. I’d be here until Christmas describing it all and so I suggest you visit yourself and take the tour.

In addition to the house, there are gardens, grounds, and lakes to explore with beautiful views across the Weald of Kent in a relatively unspoiled part of England. It is nestled between the chalk hills of the North and South Downs in one of the most densely wooded areas of the country.

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

Upon seeing Chartwell for the first time Clementine wrote she could ‘think of nothing but that heavenly tree-crowned hill.’

Sadly in the storms of 1987 23 trees were blown over and many acres of woodland were laid waste. But there is still much to see, far too much to take in on one visit.

I’ll just post the photos I have taken for you to see, and leave them to tell their own story.

Chartwell is beautiful.

Lady Churchill left Chartwell in 1965.

If you’d like to visit or know more about Chartwell here is the information:

Chartwell: Mapleton Road, Westerham, Kent TN16 1PS


+44(0) 1732 868381

Entry to the house is by timed tickets which are available from the visitor centre from 10am.

There are toilets, but not in the house or studio, for the public – also baby changing facilities. Breast feeding is welcome (I saw the signs so I thought I’d let you know, in case)…

There are picnic tables in the meadow or you can sit on the lawns, a gift shop and garden shop, a kitchen garden, a cafe and dogs on short leads are welcome but not in the kitchen garden.

There is a Canadian camp where the kids can play and they can build their own dens in the woodland area. 

Fabulous walks (even when raining, just be suitably attired) with lots to see and enjoy. One walk is a 5 mile circular walk and of course there’s lots for budding gardeners to enjoy.

I hope you enjoy my short ‘jolly.’ As ever do let me know.

I’ve been rather busy of late undertaking an Archaeology course (now completed) and another Forensic Science course (my 4th) – still underway, to keep me out of mischief. Not to mention various short stories for inclusion in anthologies and my co-written novel with Christina Jones has gone off to our publisher…

I’ll share some more ‘jollies’ soon. During the last month I’ve had trips to the Lake District and other lovely places, so I’ll be posting about these as soon as time permits.

As always all photos are (c) Jane Risdon 2016 All Rights Reserved.


Another Jolly: the lull before the storm – Mevagissy and Fowey Cornwall

Mevagissy, Cornwall. (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Mevagissy, Cornwall. (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Those of you who pop in here regularly know that in addition to writing related posts, I often include photos and information about my ‘jollies,’ – my trips out and about this beautiful country.

It’s been a hectic time for me of late. I needed a short break to recharge my batteries and when an old school friend invited me to stay with her, I couldn’t resist.

Mevagissy (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Mevagissy (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Mevagissy (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Mevagissy (c) Jane Risdon 2016

I will get to the ‘jolly’ in a while.

Not only have I been beavering away at Ms Birdsong Investigates (getting there, I promise) and other projects in the pipeline,

I also have the honour to be included in several anthologies of short stories. 

My story, Haunting Melody

will be published on October 20th 2016


Madame Movara’s Tales of Terror

which is a 300 page collection of some fabulous short stories by 29 authors, including yours truly.

Hardback and Paperback editions (limited). Paperback has two different covers from which to chose.

Hardback and Paperback editions (limited). Paperback has two different covers from which to choose.

Ghostly Writes Anthology Oct 2016 Plaisted Publishing

Ghostly Writes Anthology Oct 2016 Plaisted Publishing

The book is in aid of Save The Children

and is published for hard and Paper back for a limited period only.

Madame Movara has been graced with a foreword by Hammer Horror Icon and former Bond girl,

Caroline Munro.

My inspiration for this story, which starts on Big Bear Mountain, California, comes from a true experience in a recording studio some time back.

Going up Big Bear

Going up Big Bear

Caroline Munro

Caroline Munro

There will be Limited editions of the Hardback and Paperback copies available, illustrated throughout. 

The paperback version has two different covers from which to chose.

Madam Movara’s Tales of Terror is already available via


Later in October one of my short stories is to be published in another anthology which is FREE.

Ghostly Writes anthology is published by Plaisted Publishing and features many fabulous stories including mine:

The Beneficiaries of Secret Cottage.

Be careful what you wish for when an unknown relation dies and bequeaths you all their world goods.

The Beneficiaries of Secret Cottage

The Beneficiaries of Secret Cottage

Ghostly Writes Anthology Plaisted Publishing

Ghostly Writes Anthology Plaisted Publishing

It is possible this will also be in paperback. Details as soon as I have more.


In November there’s another anthology, more in keeping with my writing as a Crime writer, which I have been included in:

A Stab in the Dark: Cons, Dames and G Men.

A Stab in the Dark: Cons, Dames and G Men

A Stab in the Dark: Cons, Dames and G Men

There are in excess of 16 authors contributing stories and mine is called:

Cue Murder.

Set in the 1930s of Hollywood and the Movie business.

Inspired by the death of The Mexican Spitfire, Lupe Velez with whom Elizabeth Risdon, one of my husband’s aunts, appeared in many movies.

The Mexican Spitfire

The Mexican Spitfire

The anthology is a tribute to The Golden Age of Detection and Film Noir.

And it is FREE and will be for Kindle. More details to follow as soon as I have them.

A Stab in the Dark anthology including my story, Cue Murder.

A Stab in the Dark anthology including my story, Cue Murder.

More details about all these publications later in the month. Do keep an eye out.


So as you can see I really needed to take a break.

Cornwall is gorgeous any time of the year.

I’ve spent many years in the county visiting friends, working and visiting many

National Trust properties and gardens. This trip I didn’t have time for such visits.

The weather was amazing considering Autumn had just started.

There was only one wet, cold, and windy day but I didn’t mind, we stayed in and nattered and caught up with all the news.

It’s been a while since we’ve been in the same country at the same time.

We had a lovely visit to Mevagissy where I used to spend a great deal of time some years ago.

I found it more crowded than it had been before, even though the ‘season’ is more or less over.

I hope you like some of the photos I took of the fishing village.

View from my window to the left (c) Jane Risdon 2016

View from my window to the left (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Morning in Gorran (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Morning in Gorran (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Here is the view from my bedroom window early morning with the sun playing off the sea. Magic.

To the left and right over the fields and down the cliff you can spot the sea.

Gorran early morning sunrise (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Gorran early morning sunrise (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The silence is endless and the sky is vast in every direction.

I recall seeing the Solar Eclipse from the same balcony in 1999 when we were staying there.

Our artist was performing at the Eclipse festival in aid of the charity, Surfers Against Sewerage.

Next we visited another famous fishing village, Fowey, famous for some many reasons including being the home of Agatha Christie.

Fowey (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Fowey (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Fowey, Cornwall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Fowey, Cornwall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Not far away is what was the home of Daphne Du Maurier, but this trip I didn’t get to visit Par where Menabilly (her huge home) used to be.

I was a little disappointed at both Fowey and Megavissy this visit.

Fowey (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Fowey (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Everything seemed so much more commercial and tourist-driven, which of course it has to be in this day and age. But the very quaintness, the real fishing village quality, seems to have been lost in endless tea shops, restaurants and novelty shops.

I know the fishing industry is almost non-existent and people have to make a living, don’t get me wrong. But the thing we all went there to experience, has been lost.

Because there were so many people (and dogs, dozens of dogs) everywhere it was almost impossible to take a photo without strangers in them and the number of cars up and down the ‘car-free’ streets was just too off-putting.  

Boat trips around the coast Foewy (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Boat trips around the coast Foewy (c) Jane Risdon 2016

My friend told me that huge cruise ships come into the area just outside the harbour and boats of tourists now disembark and throng the streets most of the year.

So, not as peaceful and attractive as I remembered from my many visits and stays there in the past.

Also the popularity of the POLDARK TV series has caused an influx of fans looking for the locations of various episodes in the villages of Cornwall.

I recall the original series on BBC in the 1970s, with Robin Ellis in the role of Ross Poldark – who never had to strip to gain viewers – and it strikes me Cornwall was a bit slow back then to capitalise upon the popularity of an excellent series. I have read all of Winston Graham’s Poldark stories and I have to say I prefer the 1970s adaptation…personal taste of course.

Since the Cornish Pasty has been given a special status by the EU (European Community) bakeries have taken the utmost advantage and I nearly dropped on the spot when I checked out and compared Pasty prices from bakery to bakery.

I couldn’t find one under £6.50 – you have got to be joking! Not that I actually like them, but even so….

Cornwall is still beautiful, if somewhat crowded, even off-season. 

My school friend lives on a wonderful spot high about the sea and with green fields, trees and hedgerows around her and not a sound to be heard other than the birds and the cows nearby. It reminded me of how things were down there less than 10 years ago.

My next ‘jolly’ took place a few days after my return and I shall post the photos and information soon.

I hope you enjoy the photos, not as many as usual but at least a taster.

Meantime keep an eye out for the anthologies I have mentioned. Links and details follow soon. Madame Movara’s Tales of Terror can be pre-ordered at for the hardback edition


for the Scream paperback edition 


Spider’s Web edition

all available

for a limited period only.

Thanks for dropping in.

Jane x

As usual all Cornwall photos are (c) Jane Risdon 2016 All Rights Reserved.

Madame Movara’s Tales of Terror:A Bond Girl and Hammer Horror Movie Icon, An International Children’s Charity and 29 willing Authors

dare u read

Only Available until January 2017

All Proceeds in aid of Save The Children

Hardback and Paperback (choice of two covers)

Illustrated throughout. 

Sitting bolt upright in bed, Spike listened hard. There it was again, a thin airy melody drifting just above the sound of the storm outside. He concentrated hard trying to pin-point where it was coming from this time. A few weeks ago when another storm hit he’d heard the same melody playing in the library of his ancient cottage, but when he’d entered the room the sound had gone. He’d put it down to his imagination. Now he wasn’t too sure. Now he was getting scared; it seemed as if the melody was in the room all around him, stronger, seeping into his very being.

He shivered. Surely someone was in the room. Dread creeping over his now sweating body, his eyes gradually adjusted to the darkness, and yes, in the corner he could swear he saw…something.  Gripped by increasing terror he found himself paralyzed as, whatever it was, moved closer to him, the tune getting louder and louder almost bursting his eardrums. Feeling the weight of something pushing him down on the bed Spike fell into darkness, unable to breathe.


Madame Movara’s Tales of Terror Anthology

in aid of The International Children’s Charity

better known to most of us as Save The Children.


Early this year multi-genre Welsh author Kelly Hambly put out a call for authors to contribute to a book she wanted to put together in aid of a children’s charity and, having written for several other charity anthologies in the past, I couldn’t  say no.

I know, I write mainly crime.  But what a challenge for my imagination and in aid of such a brilliant cause.

 So like the man from Del Monte, I said Yes.

 Kelly is the power behind everything: she is project coordinator and editor of the Madame Movara’s Tales of Terror Charity Anthology.

13122945_961081430672242_8709709667915856710_o Madame Movara

So far as an author in her own right she has published ten novels, mostly Young Adult.

Her novel The Town Halloween Forgot is now set to be a feature film.

Kelly says:

Back in February I  had an idea to put together a book for a children’s charity. I’ve always wanted to create one but other things had got in the way.

What made this particular time apt was that I had read an article about a child who had been saved from starvation by this fantastic lady – (I forget the details now) and it was then that I thought – hey, why don’t I do this for real and give something back.

With a little encouragement I thought I’d give it a go and posted that I was looking for a 1500 word horror story and would anyone be kind enough to donate.

I honestly expected nothing and prepared to go and hide in a corner out of embarrassment.

What followed was nothing short of a miracle (for me anyhow) and since then the project has snowballed.

Madame Movara's Tales of Terror

Of course, no project of this size can be done alone.

We’ve had a talented illustrator to work on the cover, horror artist and writer Charles E Butler and also

Artist, Jamie Jones, whose created the interior artwork for the paperback and the best of all – a foreword by

Hammer Horror and Bond actress Caroline Munro.

Our thanks to her.

Caroline Munro                                                                                                                    14192014_1040492009397850_4440646809528383740_n

Not forgetting the 29 talented authors who have given their time to write for us  and without whom this book would not have been possible.

Andrew Scorah, Richard Gurl, 

Erik Hofstatter, 

Simon Burnell, Ailsa Abraham
Jane Risdon, David Monk

Charlotte L R Kane
Eric Mcfarlane
Loraine Von Tonder
JC Michael, Nell Peters, Alice J Black, Emily H King, Regina Reil, Beverley Lawman, 

David Owen Hughes, Jack Rollins, Calvin Demner, Charles E Butler, K.A Hambly, Kevin Wimer, Kevin Kennedy,

Michelle Ledford, James Kinsbury, Alice La Roux, Ross Jones, Sue Barnard and Peter Oliver Wonder.

Since then we have been featured in the world’s number one horror magazine, Scream Horror Mag with more to follow.

The Anthology is in Hardback and is illustrated throughout.

Hardback edition:

Paperback editions are available soon and are Size A5, with a gorgeous glossy covers. You get a choice of two different covers for paperback:

Spider’s Webb edition:

Scream edition:

Buy from

Follow Madame over on: facebook

I hope you will check out the contributing authors too, who write in a variety of genres. And also the illustrators and artists involved in creating this wonderful cover.

For information about Caroline:

So, not long now to publication date 20th October 2016.

I know I am excited and I hope you will be excited enough to rush over and pre-order your copy now.

In Aid of The International Children’s Charity.

 Don’t forget to give me your feedback once you have read all the stories.

Mine is called Haunting Melody.

I chatted to Kelly about it earlier this week:

Enjoy our anthology and thanks for benefiting

The International Children’s Charity.

Jane, Kelly and everyone involved in

Madame Movara’s Tales of Terror.

dare u read



Photographs: I dabble. I aim and shoot….when I am not writing

(c) Jane Risdon 2009 Wakehurst Place

(c) Jane Risdon 2009 Wakehurst Place

As you know I love to take photos and quite often they are visual notes for my writing.

Taken at Beaulieu

Taken at Beaulieu                                   

But, I also take photos as reminders of places I’ve visited and experiences I’ve had.

Autumn in a local Park

Autumn in a local Park

Cowdray House, Midhurst Sussex. (c) Jane Risdon 2007

Cowdray Park, Midhurst Sussex. (c) Jane Risdon 2007

Some I use to illustrate my blog and others are just filed away for me and family to look at now and again.

Hedgerows along my walk

Hedgerows along my walk

I always take far too many.

Thanks goodness for the digital age.

(c) Jane Risdon 2010 Beauleau House

(c) Jane Risdon 2010 Beaulieu House

If I had to take photos on film and have them developed, I’d think twice before shooting a couple of hundred at a time.

Beachy Head, Sussex (c) Jane Risdon 2009

Beachy Head, Sussex (c) Jane Risdon 2009

These are not in any particular order or even taken at the same time or place, but here goes – let me know what you think.

Oh, and my camera isn’t fancy,  often just my phone camera.

I just aim and shoot.

Wakehurst Place

Wakehurst Place

These photos are all taken by me during various visits to places of interest, or  on my various walks. 

Simba (c) Jane Risdon 2011


The Garden (c) Jane Risdon 2010

The Garden                                                                                                                                           

Alaskan Malamute (c) Jane Risdon


Several visitors here tell me they love my photos which is so kind of them. 

They tell me they love the little snippets of history or points of interest that go with each photo.

I must say, I enjoy posting them too.

I thought I’d take a break from writing today, to share some photos. No snippets today, I’m in a visual mood.

I’ve visited Wakehurst Place twice now and simply adore it.

I blogged about one such visit a while back.

You can see more photos and read all about it at

My visit to Canterbury Cathedral where I visited the tomb of a distant relation, a former Arch-bishop of Canterbury, can be found at

There are two parts, this is the link to part one.

Canterbury Cathedral where a relative is buried

Canterbury Cathedral where a relative is buried

St Michaels and All Saints where I got to wind the ancient clock

St Michaels and All Saints where I got to wind the ancient clock

 My visit to Cowdray Park (one time palace) was wonderful too.

So much history and Midhurst was just so pretty.

I’ve written more and posted photos at

Beaulieu House has the most amazing  motor museum as well as wonderful gardens and ruins, not to mention the house itself.

I am yet to blog about my visit there.

Taken at Beaulieu

Taken at Beaulieu

I have not posted photos of animals before.

I don’t have any but friends owned the Alaskan Malamutes pictured, who are sadly no longer with us.

They were ancient.

Molly, Lola and Simba belong to a relative.

I do hope you have fun looking at these and taking a peep at my blog posts. Let me know.

All photos have been taken by me. (c) Jane Risdon 2016 All Rights Reserved.










Autumn Walk

Autumn Walk

Beaulieu National Motor Museum

Beaulieu National Motor Museum

Alaskan Malamute


Flowers by the roadside (c) Jane Risdon 2010

Flowers by the roadside 

Crime Writer Nell Peters is my guest author today: discussing research and the suspension of disbelief.

Crime Writer Nell Peters

Crime Writer Nell Peters

Ann Polhll Nell Peter book blurb 4

Today I am very pleased to welcome fellow Accent Press Author and Facebook pal, 

Crime writer

Nell Peters.

Hi everybody! I’m very happy to be Jane’s guest today – she writes such informative and interesting blogs (with great pics!), I will have to mind my Ps and Qs and make sure I don’t send everyone running for the nearest stash of alcohol and or cake.

I thought I’d combine and discuss two already closely associated elements of writing here – research and whether fiction should always be 100% factual, as it were.

It was last autumn that I really started to mull over the latter in some depth, when I was a reader for the Romantic Novelist Awards, presented in March 2016. Though I don’t tend to read romance per se, that’s not because I feel it doesn’t warrant my attention – it’s simply that I have very little leisure reading time and I usually go for crime, which is what I write.

However, as a contest reader, I could legitimately sit and read other peoples’ books for most of the day without feeling the slightest twinge of guilt – such luxury! I was allotted five books in various categories and given strict scoring criteria to follow – so, there I sat like Lady Muck in a very dilapidated (but oh so comfy) big leather chair, with everything to hand, including the all-important pen and notebook, lest I forget anything along the way.

Ann Polhill Nell Peters Book Blurb 9

If someone else were judging my book, I’d want them to be scrupulously fair and that’s what I aimed for.

However, the first book I tackled had me bitterly regretting volunteering for the assignment. I drank far too much tea and ate many more biscuits than were good for me, just to sustain myself sufficiently to reach those longed-for words, The End.

I may not read the romance genre as a rule, but I do know a cliché-ridden, overly contrived plot when I see it. And there were a hefty number of inconsistencies in terms of the heroine – I don’t want to say too much, for obvious reasons, but the daffy woman supposedly had impressive qualifications all the way up her arm, well before the age of thirty.

I don’t question that someone can be academically able and daffy at the same time – I am reasonably well qualified, but a complete ejit when it comes to practicalities. I possibly shouldn’t be allowed out on my own and it never ceases to amaze me that I have actually reached my great age intact.

What I did question was the author’s blatant lack of investigation into exactly how long it takes to achieve these accolades – so, I did her digging for her and she was out by quite a few years, even allowing for the fact that parts of one qualification taken might preclude the need to complete some modules of another.

But this was a fictional tale – did it really matter? For many other reasons, that book received a minus score from me – the only one that did.

The other four books were much more enjoyable – one historical, one epic (though I couldn’t quite see why it would be called that) and two contemporary.

The subject of research was obviously a factor in the historical novel, but it was a well-written book with an intriguing then-and-now plot, and I was happy to assume the author had got her facts straight and woven her fictional tale around them.

One of the contemporaries had as a main character a young woman who was terminally ill with a very rare, degenerative disease. It was a stroke of extremely bad luck for the author that, having studied that particular disease, I remember quite a bit about it.

The author had obviously explored her subject to some extent, though not enough, and for me that grated.

But if I hadn’t had prior knowledge, I’d have accepted the facts as presented and read the otherwise agreeable book without a negative thought.

The score I awarded did not reflect what I felt was my unfair medical knowledge advantage (for want of a better term).

I do varying amounts of research for my books – as much as I feel necessary. For instance, I use a lot of psychology and so more often than not, I check data just to make sure the old memory bank is not playing tricks. Or sometimes to confirm the spelling of those seventeen-syllable words that social scientists are so fond of bandying around – Phenomenological anyone? And that’s one of the less-daunting terms.

Ann Polhill Nell Peter Book blurb 3

With the world at your fingertips via the Internet, it’s hardly difficult to ensure you aren’t committing dreadful clangers to print in your name.

Putting me to shame, Jane is a positive demon in terms of the research she undertakes as background for her WIP.

Last year she took several CSI-type online courses in forensics, passing with a noteworthy high score, and more recently she was looking into the forensic psychology of witnesses to crime. Respect.

Nell, it’s not my aim to bamboozle readers with facts and figures, but I felt I needed to understand some basic facts about the processes undertaken by the experts and detectives following the discovery of a body;  what anthropologists and archaeologists and crime scene investigation officers do at the scene of a crime, and how DNA and Fingerprints are used and what the implications are of keeping all this information on the National Data Base.

It led me to Criminal Justice and Forensic Science and as you say, latterly, Forensic Science: Witness Investigations. I’ve learned so much which I can draw upon in order to try and make my writing as accurate as possible, but my readers won’t necessarily ever see any of it in print.

Nell, sorry for the interruption:

However, knocking us all into a cocked hat (whatever that expression means!) is fellow Accent author Kirsten McKenzie, who lives in Auckland, New Zealand. Last year, Kirsten flew to the UK to take part in an archaeological dig – all in the name of research for her WIP.

I’d love to do that. Sounds awesome.

Maybe I could blag a trip to Barbados to check out what the effects of sunbathing on a white-sanded beach, surrounded by palm trees and cocktails with lewd-sounding names for a month, has on the human psyche – for inclusion in my next masterpiece, natch…

Ann Polhill Nell Peters book blurb 7

Hang on, I’m coming too….

All this swotting takes time and it’s easy to fall into the waiting trap of hitting the reader over the head with way too much information, just because you’ve invested the hours and effort necessary to read around your subject in depth, in order to appear informed in print.

Several days’ toil may end up condensed into a sentence or two – they will be significant sentences to move the plot forward, of course, but it’s not much to show for all the blood, sweat, gnashing of teeth and hair-tearing.

I agree.

I read a lot of crime, thrillers, and espionage books and one thing I cannot stand, as a reader, is page after page of description of missile systems, crime scenes with lots of blood and gore, and the actual violent act itself.

I like to use (or not) my own imagination when it comes to a lot of what I read. I love Robert Ludlum, but sometimes he can write pages and pages of complex technological detail about weapons and such, which has me skipping great chunks of his books.

When the TV series Broadchurch aired in the UK, there was outcry over plot inaccuracies, in particular court procedure and the way solicitors conduct their business.

Like me with the terminal illness, I can see that if you happen to be a judge or other form of law officer, howling errors might gall – but do we not read or watch fiction with the sole purpose of being entertained, or as a diversion from the monotony of everyday life?

Authors of fiction are essentially taking the place of the storytellers of yesteryear who, without the dubious benefit of Wikipedia to check their every syllable, probably made it up as they went along.

Ann Polhill Nell Peters Book Blurb 6

And why not? A good novel will grab the reader’s interest from the first page, if not paragraph, its required function to transport imaginations to another place, time, dimension, culture, whatever – pure escapism and distraction, and if there’s a bit of thought-provoking going on in the background, that’s great.

The reader can identify with, root for, or disapprove of the characters manufactured by the writer and accept or reject the plot, however feasible or unlikely it may be – it is their choice whether to suspend reality and go with the flow, or give up on the book as a waste of time, possibly even an insult to their intelligence.

We ask our readers to suspend their disbelief, Nell, so I agree that it is possible to have some unbelievable events take place, and we hope the reader will go with it and enjoy the plot, getting caught up in the story. We do it watching television and movies all the time.

I am minded of the TV series Midsomer Murders for example – three murders in rural communities every week – and we all swallow it.

Enjoyment of all genres of fiction is a very subjective thing, as it is with art, music, fashion, sport and a whole host of other stuff – just as well, as it wouldn’t do for us all to be identical in our tastes. How dreadfully boring that would be …

Thanks for having me, Jane.



It has been a pleasure Nell.

I have read By Any Other Name and loved it.  It’s a very clever plot which has me guessing all the way through. 

I have Hostile Witness on my Kindle.

Ann Polhill Nell Peter books blurb 2

Wishing you much continued success.

Nell Peters writes crime novels for Accent Press and has other assorted publications festering on Amazon KDP.

Nell Peter: Hostile Witness

Nell Peters: Hostile Witness

She lives in Norfolk with a husband who works away a lot and (temporarily, she hopes) #3 son, who returned to stay at the family home for three months – a year ago. Nell has three beautiful granddaughters – quite a novelty after four strapping sons, and three handsome grandsons. If only she were rich and famous (easy on the famous), she’d be deliriously happy.

Her Accent books can be found at: and

Nell Peters: Hostile Witness

Nell Peters: By Any Other Name


Samantha Connolly is my Guest Author today: she just got married on a Ski Slope and Taught English in China

Samantha Connolly Author

Samantha Connolly Author

Please welcome my guest author Samantha Connolly who is going to tell us about her writing journey.

She has just published her first book so I thought it would be interesting to chat to someone at the beginning of their career.

Let’s find out about her – here is Samantha in her own words:

I’m born and raised in England, travel part of the year to the US, and I love to write. Since as far back as I can recall, I was talking away to myself, telling myself random stories or whatever. I suppose I was a weird child!

I read a lot, got into writing poetry, and prose followed later. I’ve always loved writing. I find, too, that as an adult I really need to write. When I’m happy, sad, stressed, overwhelmed, I write.

I write fiction and struggle to journal because I always re-read what I’ve written and think that it’s just too personal. I almost hate to see it on the page – something I wish I’d hurry up and get over to be honest!

Whilst I filter some of myself into my writing in one way or another, there are times when I like to jump right outside of this world and myself altogether.

Fantasy comes in very handy for this – and I love fantasy, so it makes sense.

I have eclectic tastes in my own and others’ writing, and I also blog, as you’ll see from my website.

Samantha Connolly Blog colour photos

I’ve been working in offices off and on my whole adult life, taught English as a Foreign Language in China for all of a heartbeat – a heartbeat that I’ve never forgotten and am still so grateful for – and  I work as a Writer and Editor.

Samantha, forgive the interruption:

We spent a lot of time (hubby and I) in Taiwan and Singapore working with Chinese artists.We picked up a few words in Cantonese and Mandarin, but they were so keen to speak English it was hard to get anywhere with it. I can, however, sing a whole album we recorded in Mandarin and apparently I sound very convincing. Just saying…

I got married to my long-term partner last year on the slopes; he had a ski and I rode the gondola up to meet him and marry him! It was amazing.

Other than that what can I say… lots of interests…currently trying to be a better baker than I have been in times past … I do love the process of baking. It’s therapeutic, and I’m (slowly) getting better at it! And as an overall? Screwy teen becomes real adult person should cover it – and here I am!

Samantha Connolly blog photos

Sounds quite sane to me and fun. I love the marriage on a ski slope idea. But knowing me I’d break something.

Many congratulations.

What kinds of things have you written to date?

Tons of things!

My earlier work is all nicely hidden away in notebooks and computer files. But a lot of my stuff’s on my website.

Like me then, so glad I am not alone in hoarding material.

I write in all kinds of genres. I’m really interested in issues surrounding mental health and I like things that are a little off the wall, quirky.

I like deep and meaningful. And fantasy… and whilst I’ve not gone the route of having my own kids, I love childhood stories!

The Sister Worlds

I recently published my first novel, The Sister Worlds, a young-adult fantasy, and this is available on ibooks

Good luck with The Sister Worlds, how exciting. I have never heard of anyone publishing on iTunes before.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently researching for and starting work on a new novel, whilst working on poetry and short stories. I’m also focusing on some lovely ideas that my close friend, Artist & Yogi Expert, Tracy Long, and I have been coming up with.

It’s so much fun! Let’s just say it’s a little magical! And it brings out all the best feelings in us Jane.

It sounds wonderful, I am sure you will have lots of interest.

In addition, an exciting development is my new role as Prose Sub-Editor for the magazine, Under The Fable, who previously published one of my short stories, and I’m just embarking on freelance copywriting.

Good luck with that also, I am sure you’ll find clients after being on here. Fingers crossed.

Is your novel writing focus on fantasy only?

No, I love to write fantasy, love all things mystical and magical, but I also want to produce works that focus on the human condition, so a more literary fiction, and historical fiction also.

What/who is your inspiration? 

Philip K Dick, Virginia Woolf, Margaret Atwood. All very different!


Philip K Dick’s famous ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’ inspired Ridley Scott’s film ‘Blade-runner’ and I loved the book and the film was great. In that story, Dick focuses on what it means to be human and for me it reminds us what is good about humanity and all we take for granted, whilst being a truly impressive work of science fiction.

I hadn’t heard of Woolf until I was at uni – quite strange to think of that really now, as she’s an ingrained habit to re-read at this point of my life. Her first published short story ‘The Mark on the Wall’ was also the first of her works I ever read,  and that was it, I was hooked. Woolf enjoyed exploring literary themes and her experimentation with the narrative mode stream of consciousness reeled me in.

Margaret Atwood is a wonderful Canadian author who focuses on society in so many varying ways and very much deals with issues of human relationships. One of her early works, ‘The Edible Woman’ remains my favourite with ‘Lady Oracle’ a close second.

Who is/are your influence? Why?

Life is my influence, not a person or people. Life is complex, straight forward, bizarre, mundane, and downright extraordinary. If I don’t write I will go mad making up stories in my head and mumbling them on the tube!!

Samantha Connolly photos 2016.jpg colour shots

What do you read mostly?

I read a lot of novels and short stories, and occasionally poetry. My tastes are in many genres.

I like to read the kinds of things I like to write although I absolutely love to be gripped by a good crime thriller. When I try to write those, however, I just wind up getting caught up in the detail of the lesser characters, and they become my focus.

I’m more about the weirdness or profoundness you find in the backdrop. Poetry is always my go to when I need to re-connect with my writing and have slightly lost my way…at those times I find it hard to consume longer works.

I tend to read several books at once, moving between them depending on my concentration span and mood. For example