Thursday, June 30, 2016

100 Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme

I am a lover of history and I have a special interest in WWI. I'm not a scholar or an historian. I write stories. I would have liked to have had a career as a WWI historian. Instead, I feature it in my writing.
Books about WWI sit on my bookshelves, I read them for research, and every time I look at them I am in awe of what those men and women went through - the first world war.

It was a time of new awakenings. The world had never experienced anything on such a grand scale before. Wars had been fought before, but they were country against country. This time, this war, it was united armies fighting across vast areas, something not ever seen or done in history.

I can't imagine, or though I do try, how the people felt at this time. Each side believed it was in the right. I don't get into the politics of that era. I believe that unless you lived in that period with the mind set belonging to that era, then we can only surmise how they thought and why.
I prefer to concentrate on the effects of what was happening to the common people.
When I am writing about the war in my stories, I hope I can capture the feeling of what it was like to be in that world at that time.  There was fear, certainly, but also hope and belief in that they were all fighting for the right cause.

My research is based on the English and Australian people and armies. I am Australian born to English parents and I've attended many ANZAC parades and services on ANZAC day in Australia. However, my heritage is completely British and Irish. I had ancestors who fought and died in WWI. I was amazed to find, while researching my family's genealogy, that one my mother's side, there were great + uncles who fought - six brothers from West Yorkshire went to war, and surprisingly four came home as far as I can find out by the records so far. They bet the odds, but still, that family, my family, lost two, maybe three, young men.

Alfred Ellis - King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Died - 2 May 1915

Arthur Ellis - King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Died - 1 July 1916

Arthur died on the first day at the Battle of the Somme. One of the worst battled with the biggest loss of men in British military history. You can find out more about the battle here.

WWI is, without doubt, a changing point in history. A time when women were asked to take the roles only held by men. Women worked in factories, on the land, learned to drive ambulances, became battlefield nurses. They stood up and were accounted for. No longer told to stay by the kitchen sink and look after the children, they had a job to do - they kept the country going.
Strong women and brave men.
We, the future generations, should be so proud of them, our ancestors, for fighting to stay alive, both at home and on the battlefield.

As the years roll by and WWI becomes even more distant, a mere event in history, we should never forget such courageous people who suffered, who buckled down, who stuck together, who got on with the job they were asked to do. They saved us from tyranny. They saved us from invasion. They fought for their country to keep it safe and free.

We should never ever forget their sacrifices.

 We should, and always continue to, educate the younger generations that they live this wonderful carefree existence because of the people who fought, and those that died - for us.

Lest We Forget

Friday, June 24, 2016


The inspiration for my latest historical romance, Witchchild, came from the myths and legends of Robin-the-Devil, a Major Robert Philipson who was reputed to have ridden down the aisle of Kendal Parish Church seeking his enemy, Colonel Briggs. The pair had been in conflict for some time, and Briggs laid siege to Robin’s island home and even sacked his family church at Windermere during the civil war. A house still stands on Belle Isle on Lake Windermere but not the one of the legend.

Sir Walter Scott used this myth to write his poem – Rokeby.

When through the Gothic arch there sprung 
A horseman arm’d, at headlong speed 
Sable his cloak, his plume, his steed.

My research unearthed no real information about the feud and so my writer’s mind devised my own, making the story family and romance oriented. I have changed the names of all characters as they bear no relation to any family in the Lake District. Apart from the inclusion of some of these myths and legends, is entirely fictitious.

Lady Rowanna Blamire, the spirited and much-cherished daughter of a Royalist has lived for much of her life in Yorkshire because of a family feud, about which she knows little. But now her grandfather has died, her Parliamentarian uncle, Carus Blamire, has brought her home to Lakeland. His motive is to lay his hands on his niece’s fortune by marrying her to his stepson. When Rowanna refuses, he punishes her rebellious disobedience by auctioning her off for a month’s hard labour to the highest bidder. 

Sir Robert Pennington, a cavalier known as Robin-the-Devil, makes a bid and carries her off to his island home. Is he too seeking possession of her fortune, or simply wishes to bed her? She finds him irresistible, but with the outbreak of civil war hostilities erupt to a far more dangerous level, and the family feud becomes a mystery she needs to resolve. 

WHO would buy her? Lady Rowanna’s fearful gaze focused desperately on the distant horizon, the glorious range of mountains bringing some ease to her troubled heart. She felt the June heat of the marketplace thicken as the throng of inquisitive farmers pressed suffocatingly close, making her heart beat all the faster. What was she doing here? What had brought her to this pretty pass? She really didn’t care to consider.

If she turned her head she could see the stocks beneath the ancient oak. It stood in a shady corner of Kendal’s main square where many a recalcitrant daughter or sharp-tongued wife had endured punishment. As she must endure hers. She supposed she should be grateful that her uncle had not subjected her to such pillory. Despite the stocks having been little used in this England of 1645, not since the last witch had been stoned there half a decade ago, Rowanna had feared she might be about to set a new precedent. She’d heard worrying talk lately of witch-finders stalking the land, tormenting innocent girls but none in Westmorland so far, praise be to God.

But what had possessed her uncle to flout family tradition of loyalty to the monarchy and embrace a brand of politics and religion that allowed such diabolical practices, and with such fervour? Could it be hysteria and superstition, or simply his desire for power?

Rowanna looked at the beads of moisture glittering upon his brow, the curl of disdain about his thin mouth, and the hardness in his narrowed eyes. Carus Blamire was lean and scrawny, a man who did not believe in excess, not even in his own flesh. He showed no loyalty or affection, not even towards family members, but believed utterly in his right to dictate and control. She shuddered to think how she was vulnerably in his hands now that her father was dead. Her uncle seemed stubbornly determined to marry her off to his stepson, her cousin by marriage. If he had his way they would be wed before the month was out, thereby giving him the pleasure of revenge on his dead brother. This alliance he planned struck a presentiment of dread in her heart. Nothing would induce her to agree.

Read more of an extract here:


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Friday, June 17, 2016

The Earliest of England's Castles: Motte & Bailey Castles by Regan Walker

In the course of doing research for my Medieval Warrior series, I learned much about 11th century castles in England. For the most part, the castles erected by William the Conqueror after 1066 were not the stone edifices we think of today, the monuments that remain. The castles the Normans first constructed, the ones built in mere days, weeks or months, were timbered structures erected upon a “motte,” or a mound of earth with a flat top, and surrounded by a deep ditch sometimes filled with water (a moat).

These timbered castles were enclosed with a “palisade”, a fence of wooden poles sharpened to a point at the top. The land inside this palisade would be the “bailey” and would house the outbuildings like the stables, smith and armory. The castle itself included a central tower, the donjon or “keep,” used as a lookout post and built on top of a summit. We call the structures “motte and bailey” castles.

At the end of William’s reign, over eighty such castles had been built throughout England. By 1100, it is believed 400 motte and bailey castles had been erected. To build his castles, William confiscated the land of English nobles and their heirs and gave it to his loyal barons. (By the end of William’s reign, a small group of his tenants had acquired about half of England’s landed wealth.) Typically, that land had a castle as its governing center.

Whenever William the Conqueror wanted to make a statement (or a threat) to the local population, he erected a castle. This happened following the Siege of Exeter and the Battle of York featured in book 1, The Red Wolf’s Prize.

Artist's depiction of the timber castle erected in York
Typically William would leave a garrison of his knights with orders to erect and hold a castle. He had 5,000 knights at his command who could put down rebellions and guard his fortifications. The king was making his point with the populace that he was there to stay and any hope of rebellion was futile.

In Rogue Knight, the Conqueror built two such castles in the city of York in the course of my story.

Building a motte was a skilled achievement. The large mounds of dirt were constructed layer upon layer, with a layer of soil capped by a layer of stones that was capped by another layer of soil. The stone layers were needed to strengthen the motte and to assist drainage.

The larger mottes took longer to build…months, not weeks. The motte at Hampstead Marshall contains 22,000 tons of soil and took fifty men eighty days to construct. The motte at Dover, constructed in eight days, would have required 500 men.

Often, the local people were conscripted into the work, which must have been humiliating for the defeated Anglo-Saxons. There were three phases of castle building under William’s reign, about 80% of which were the motte and bailey castles. Eventually, many of the wooden castles were fortified or replaced with stone structures.

Tamworth Castle
Tamworth Castle in Staffordshire overlooks the River Tame. Its sandstone and herringbone walls are all that survive of the “curtain wall” of the bailey. The first castle was a wooden structure, constructed by the Normans in 1070, but later, it was fortified with stone. Today, it is one of the best preserved Norman motte and bailey castles in England. 

In Rebel Warrior, book 3 in the series, the royal court of Scotland is in a tall stone tower, a fortified hillfort that was considered impregnable. You’ll have to read the book to experience it! 
The Medieval Warriors Series:

  “This series captures the medieval era perfectly, creating the true sensation of traveling back in time to experience epic, riveting love stories that ignite the imagination. Beautifully written, perfectly paced and action-packed with passionate love affairs...
What more can you ask?”   —  The Book Review

The Medieval Warriors on Regan's website
On Amazon.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Researching the First World War

For some years I have had a fascination of what is known as the First World War, or the Great War. (World War I 1914 – 1918)
This was a time of enormous change in the world. For the first time countries banded together to fight a common enemy. I’ll not go into the politics of the time or the reasons why the war happened, that is for professional historians to determine, but the effects of the war were far reaching, particularly in Europe.
In Great Britain the changes impacted on all walks of life, from the wealthy to the poor. Women were asked to step into the space left behind by the men who went to war. Not only did they have to work the men’s jobs, but they also had to keep the home running as well. Not an easy task to a female population who was expected to simply marry and have children and keep a nice house. Women of that time were sheltered from the world, innocent. All that was soon to change.

In my book, Where Dragonflies Hover, modern woman, Lexi, finds a diary written by an Australian nurse, Allie.
Allie wrote about her time as a nurse in Great War, and of falling in love with Danny, an English officer. She wrote of her struggles to help injured and dying men who came to her straight from the battlefield, covered in mud and blood.

To write Allie’s story I had to do a lot of research about World War I. I enjoy researching, and because the Edwardian Era is one of my favourite eras, it was no hardship to spend hours reading sources from that time.  
I really wanted to make Allie’s story as real as it could be. One of my research sources was reading, The Other Anzacs by Peter Rees. A truly extraordinary book detailing the true stories of Australian nurses in WWI. A lot of my inspiration came from that book. What those nurses went through was simply remarkable.

Another book I read was The Roses of No Man’s Landby Lyn MacDonald. Another interesting account of what the allied nurses and VADs from other countries went through. These women went from the comfort and security of their homes to the heart of battle zones.  They had to learn new skills swiftly, for even dedicated career nurses had never experienced before the types injuries and wounds they encountered only miles from the front line. Those women had to sustain difficulties they never thought of, for example at times they were food shortages, hygiene hardships, danger from bombings, homesickness and many more problems. Yet, these women, some just young girls, dutifully headed into an alien world without the promise of survival.

It is, of course, impossible for me, or anyone, to know exactly how these women felt during this challenging time, we can only read about their experiences. However, simply reading about them is enough for me to give them my heartfelt gratitude and admiration for what they endured.
I hope I did justice to their stories, to what they gave up and for the sacrifices they made to help us win the war.

Where Dragonflies Hover blurb:

Sometimes a glimpse into the past can help make sense of the future …
Everyone thinks Lexi is crazy when she falls in love with Hollingsworth House – a crumbling old Georgian mansion in Yorkshire – and nobody more so than her husband, Dylan. But there’s something very special about the place, and Lexi can sense it. 
Whilst exploring the grounds she stumbles across an old diary and, within its pages, she meets Allie – an Australian nurse working in France during the First World War.
Lexi finally realises her dream of buying Hollingsworth but her obsession with the ho
use leaves her marriage in tatters. In the lonely nights that follow, Allie’s diary becomes Lexi’s companion, comforting her in moments of darkness and pain. And as Lexi reads, the nurse’s scandalous connection to the house is revealed …

The late sunshine enveloped the house in a golden glow. Again, it seemed to call to her, begging for attention. A path on the left of the drive looked inviting as it meandered through a small strand of poplars. Lexi grabbed her keys, locked the car and took off to explore again. She had nothing to rush home to now, and if she got caught for trespassing, then so be it.
The overgrown pathway brought her out on the far side of the grounds near the end of a small lake. She gazed over the water towards the back of the house and noticed a paved terrace area. From there the lawn then sloped down to the water. She’d not been around the back before and fell even more in love with the property. She could imagine the serenity of sipping a cool drink on a hot summer’s day and looking out over the lake.
Lexi stepped out along the bank. A lone duck swam by, its movement serene on the glassy, dark surface. This side of the lake was in shadow from large pine trees, and she stumbled on fallen pinecones hidden in the long grass. On the opposite side of the water were some small buildings, a garage, fruit trees in early blossom, and an overgrown vegetable patch, complete with a broken, rejected-looking scarecrow.
She wandered over to a narrow shed on her left and peered through its sole, dirty window. Unable to make out much in the dimness, she walked around to the front and was surprised when she was able to pull the bolt back on the door. Why didn’t people lock things? A covered rowboat took up most of the space inside. She smiled, seeing herself rowing it on the lake. Growing more excited, Lexi edged around it to peer at the workbenches and the odd assortment of tools and useless things one found in abandoned sheds. It was like treasure hunting in an antique shop. She used to love doing that with her grandfather.
She glanced about and spied a dusty painting leaning against the wall. The scene was of a child and a brown dog. Behind the canvas were more paintings, some framed, some not. Lexi flicked through them. The ones that caught her attention she took out and set aside.
She looked for somewhere to sit and study the paintings. A small tin trunk wedged under a workbench seemed the only offering. Thinking it empty, she went to tug it out, but it remained fast.
Using both hands, she heaved it out and was showered in a puff of dust. Squatting down, she inspected the latch that was held tight with a small lock. ‘Why are you locked?’ she murmured. The shed was open to anyone passing by, yet this ugly little chest had a lock on it. The trunk was nothing special, plain and in parts rusted. No ornament or writing hinted at its use.
Intrigued, she grabbed a hammer from the workbench, but then hesitated. She had no right to open someone else’s property. Lexi closed her eyes momentarily.What was she thinking of breaking into the trunk? What am I doing? Never had she broken the law and here she was guilty of trespassing and breaking and entering! She looked around the rowboat as though expecting someone to jump out and arrest her.
Something inside urged her on. She knew she couldn’t stop now. Sucking in a deep breath, she bent and hit the lock hard. The ringing sound was loud in the quiet serenity of the garden. The metal dented and with another few solid whacks the lock gave.
Shivers of excitement tingled along her skin. Gently, she eased up the lid.

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