Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Monday, 16 December 2013

Longhand versus Keyboard: How To Write

Working on my latest Tudor novel, I occasionally resort to more creative methods of generating inspiration than simply staring at the computer screen and hoping something will happen, that another sentence will be added to the last, and in a reasonable amount of time.

Back when I only had to write about a hundred thousand words a year, I used to write longhand all the time. I would saunter along to a café I favoured, order a latte, put on my headphones, and write to my heart's content. It felt leisurely and rather ladylike, as though I had been transported back a century and was part of the Bloomsbury set.

But then I grew more successful, my book contracts outstripped my handwriting speed, and production rates became an issue. So I dropped the whole Virginia Woolf pretence and just banged the words down, straight to keyboard.

Recently though, I have started writing new sections longhand again, only transferring them to the computer later that day or the day after. I also rather cunningly expand and revise this written work as I type it up, so that 500 words by hand can grow and develop organically into 1000 words on screen.

This seems an ideal solution to keeping up with the daily word count, which can feel inexorable at times, especially since I have been known to become inexplicably blocked at the mere sight of my laptop. Association of object with activity, I suppose.

Though 'blocked' is the wrong term, and misleading to boot; I am lazy rather than blocked. I can chat online with ease, but knuckling down to my novel requires considerably more effort than Twitter and Facebook!

The old ways can be soothing when you have had surfeit of technology. It's so nice and undemanding for a writer, sweetly old-fashioned, to be penning a few carefully-chosen words in a specially designated notebook. Especially when those words can later grow, line by line, into paragraphs, and thence into pages and chapters.

I couldn't write a whole book like this, of course. It would probably kill me - and take over a year to do so. Let's face it, I can type much faster than I can write longhand. Legibly, at least.

But when it's cold and damp outside, as it is today, and I can curl up on the sofa with a notebook and ink pen, there's a Virginia Woolf feel to the process of writing a novel.

Shh, if you listen carefully, you can hear the birds singing in Greek.

A short version of this post first appeared on Raw Light.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

HIS DARK LADY Giveaway Winners



The winners this time are:

Anne Harvey
Juliet Azahara
Sally Quilford


Winners, please get in touch and ensure I have your current snail-mail address - victoria.lamb44 AT - so you can receive a signed copy of HIS DARK LADY.

Commiserations to those who didn't win. Maybe next time!

Please do keep watching the blog for further giveaways, as the final book in my Lucy Morgan trilogy HER LAST ASSASSIN is out in hardback early in 2014.

Victoria x

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The Identity of Shakespeare's Dark Lady

William Shakespeare's sonnets from 127-152 are popularly known as his 'Dark Lady' sequence, being dedicated to a problematic female muse whom Shakespeare both insults and adores by turns.

But what precisely does 'Dark Lady' signify, and was there ever such a person?

Tudor court beauty, Mary Fitton, a candidate for Shakespeare's 'Dark Lady'
Experts tend to disagree on her identity. Some believe Shakespeare's mystery woman must have been a dark-haired, dark-eyed beauty - possibly even Mary Fitton, one of Elizabeth I's maids of honour in the late 1590s, whose apparent promiscuity makes her a likely candidate for some of his more insulting sonnets about her lack of faithfulness.

Others take Shakespeare's descriptions of his mistress more literally, i.e. that she was exotic and darker-skinned rather than simply an English brunette. The poet Emilia Lanier has been considered as one possible candidate for this - a notorious Tudor beauty, Emilia was descended from Venetian Jews, and may even have inspired one of Shakespeare's most famous plays, The Merchant of Venice, and perhaps the character of Rosalind in Love's Labour's Lost.

Possibly a portrait of Emilia Lanier, nee Bassano, a courtly poet and one of the candidates for Shakespeare's 'Dark Lady' - it should be remembered that Tudor women often painted their skin to look fashionably pale.

Another possibility is the shadowy figure of Lucy Morgan, one of Elizabeth's lesser-known ladies at court, whom some historians have associated with a 'Lucy Negra' of more dubious fame in Tudor times. According to contemporary records, Lucy Morgan married a Thomas Parker in the late 1500s. This would also fit, given how angrily Shakespeare refers to his Dark Lady's cruelty, i.e. that she teased him and would not return his love, but loved another instead.

It could be that Shakespeare was deliberately writing anti-romantic sonnets in this sequence, and that a dark-skinned mistress merely made a strong contrast with the pale beauties of Elizabethan fashion. After all, Sonnet 131 finishes with the assertion, 'In nothing art thou black save in thy deeds', which would seem to negate his previous references to her darkness.

But the case for his Dark Lady being nothing more than a literary device is weak, given the sheer number of sonnets that mention her - and their emotional vehemence. Besides, darker-skinned peoples and those of African descent were far from unknown in Tudor England, as demonstrated by a 1575 painting by Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder which depicts a group of black musicians and entertainers performing before Queen Elizabeth herself.

Of course, none of this proves the assertion that Shakespeare's mistress was dark-skinned, nor that she even existed outside the poet's admittedly fertile imagination. But since we have no absolute proof that she wasn't dark, or even actually 'Moorish', nor any way of determining her identity for sure, it's certainly both fun and exciting to speculate who Shakespeare's Dark Lady was - and what their fiery relationship might have been like!

My own take on the identity of Shakespeare's 'Dark Lady': out now in paperback.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Thoughts on Writing: the Revision Process

It's always been a secret thought with me that prose rhythms are akin to poetry, or ought to be. Certainly I take my time over sentences that don't sound 'right' to me in their context, whatever that may be.

A good sentence should flow, should be both elegant and fit for purpose - by which I mean it should communicate whatever the writer needed it to communicate, which might be nothing or everything, or any point in between.

Clumsy writing is the last thing I want to find when looking back over what I've written.

Unfortunately, it's almost unavoidable in early drafts.

This is how it happens. You need to present a thought or a situation or a mood, and the words don't want to come, but you don't have time to coax them. You're a professional writer, you have deadlines, you have bills to pay. So you bodge it. You write what is needful and make a mental note to return later - preferably after dark when no one but the cat is there to witness your shame - and rewrite the damn thing so that it says what is needful without leaving mental splinters in your reader's head.

That's one part of the revision process. Sanding off the rough edges.

I'm joking, of course. But when you change even one detail, you quickly realise that nothing happens in isolation. Everything in the novel is interconnected. This is where we get our word 'text' from, a marvellously hard-working word which is related to 'textile' and the idea of weaving.

A less pleasurable part of revision is having to rejig characters who now have beards, or no longer have beards, or whose motivation is entirely changed, or who must now swim the moat instead of swinging across it with the help of trailing creepers.

So once you decide, at the revision stage, that a minor change needs to happen, you also need to find places where a knock-on effect will occur following that change, and to make sure everything remains consistent within the world of your novel. Once you have six or seven 'minor' changes like this to make, the process of scouring the book for places where further changes need to happen becomes quite time-consuming and fiddly.

Meanwhile, you can't help little dabs with the language sander ...

But once you are at revision stage, the hardest work is more or less over. Then you only have the next book to plan and begin. The sunny uplands to climb, where anything is still possible. Until you start writing.

A version of this post originally appeared at Raw Light, February 2011

Friday, 6 December 2013

WITCHFALL Cover Reveal

Available for pre-orders 

In Tudor England, 1555, Meg Lytton has learned how powerful her magick gift can be. But danger surounds her and her mistress, the outcast Princess Elizabeth. Nowhere is safe in the court of Elizabeth's fanatical sister, Queen Mary. And as the Spanish Inquisition's merciless priests slowly tighten their grip on the court, Meg's very dreams are disturbed by the ever-vengeful witchfinder Marcus Dent.

Even as Meg tries to use her powers to find guidance, something evil arises, impervious to Meg's spells and hungry to control England's fate. As Meg desperately tries to keep her secret betrothed, the Spanish priest Alejandro de Castillo, out of harm's way, caution wars with their forbidden desire. And with her most powerful enemy poised to strike, Meg's only chance is a heartbreaking sacrifice.

(The UK edition is already available)

Thursday, 5 December 2013

His Dark Lady GIVEAWAY!

Leave a comment below to enter the draw for a FREE UK paperback of HIS DARK LADY
I am thrilled that PUBLICATION DAY is here at last!

To celebrate the publication of HIS DARK LADY in paperback today across the United Kingdom, I am giving away THREE copies to UK readers.

You can also find the novel in Tesco supermarkets, most good bookshops and from online retailers.


"A powerful portrait of the pain incurred by the queen who turned herself into a living legend" (The Lady) 

HIS DARK LADY: out NOW in paperback

To go in the draw for a FREE copy of this 528 page novel of intrigue and romance at the court of Elizabeth I, told by Queen Elizabeth, William Shakespeare, Lucy Morgan and spy Master Goodluck, just leave a comment below this blog post.

In your comment, please let me know why you think Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen, never married!

HIS DARK LADY, Book Two in the Lucy Morgan, Shakespeare's Mistress trilogy

London, 1583

William Shakespeare has declared Lucy Morgan the inspiration for his work. But what is he hiding from his muse?

Meanwhile, Lucy has her own secrets to conceal. Tempted by love, the lady-in-waiting also bore witness to the one marriage forbidden by the queen.

England is in peril. Queen Elizabeth's health is deteriorating, her throne under siege. She needs a trusted circle of advisors.but who can she turn to when those closest have proved disloyal?

And just how secure is Lucy's fate, now she has learned the dangerous art of keeping secrets?

Please note: this Giveaway closes on Thursday 12th December, when the winners will be revealed!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Taverns and Inns of Tudor London

Tudor London was awash with inns and eating houses. Some were galleried and doubled up as playhouses - like the famous Cross Keys Inn, used by many theatrical companies before the dedicated theatres began to spring up - and others were shadowy establishments where drinking and gambling habitually went on and prostitutes openly plied their trade, much to the disgust of local residents and the city fathers.

The Swan, one of many bustling theatres on Bankside in the Tudor era

The south bank of the Thames, particularly in the Southwark region of Bankside, was the most popular with visitors to the capital in the later Tudor era, largely because it was outside the city bounds and therefore not subject to the restrictive laws of the city fathers. That was where old London Bridge stood, its narrow gate opening to allow a steady stream of vendors, city workers and tourists back and forth across the bridge during daylight hours. The only other mode of transportation across the broad dirty river - the Thames was much wider in Tudor times than today - was in a boat. Bankside in the late Tudor and early Jacobean eras was among the busiest areas on the river, especially on feast or holy days when there might be a play or bear-baiting to see, beyond the reach of the conservative city fathers.

So where might you go for a drink or a bite to eat in busy, disreputable Southwark with its many inns and brothels? The choice was almost limitless, depending on the depth of your pocket, with the names of the establishments both traditional and fanciful to suit every taste.

Here are a few names of Southwark inns in the mid-late Tudor era, some of which I reference in my forthcoming novel His Dark Lady:

The Dolphin
The Swan with Two Necks
The Green Dragon
The Saracen's Head
The Salutation
The Blue Maid
The White Cock on the Hoop
The Axe
The Goat
The Tabard

"In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay": Chaucer's General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales

This last one, The Tabard, was a very old and famous inn even in Shakespeare's day. Referenced by Chaucer, it stood at the end of Long Southwark, just before St Margaret's Hill, and welcomed visitors travelling towards the capital from the south - or vice versa, in the case of Chaucer's pilgrims. Its name was later changed to the Talbot, before the rickety old building was finally demolished in 1876. By then it must have seen many thousands of customers spending the night under its well-known roof - charged at perhaps six shillings a night - drinking ale at its counters or consuming a bowl of hot beef and carrots on their way in and out of London.

'Shakespeare and His Friends at the Mermaid Tavern': John Faed, 1851
Back in the city, the Mermaid Tavern, found on Cheapside with entrances on both Bread Street and Friday Street, is celebrated as a place where leading literary figures, particularly playwrights, were known to gather on the first Friday of every month, for a jar of ale and a 'solemne joviall disputation' as Richard Braithwaite put it in his 1617 book, The Law of Drinking. (See partial title page below.)

But if you could not afford a sit-down meal, or had to eat on the hoof - literally! - London's tireless hawkers were always working the streets with a generous array of stewed or fresh fruit, chestnuts and hazelnuts roasting on braziers, various types of cooked fish and shellfish, and of course the kind of hot greasy takeaway food you might expect to find there today, though without a global franchise behind it.

Title page illustration of The Law of Drinking by Richard Braithwaite (1617): many believe from the hanging sign that this is a depiction of London's infamous Mermaid Tavern. (Note the long-stemmed pipes!)
For the better class of merchant or city-worker, there were more elegant taverns to be found in the commercial areas north of the river. Some perennially popular areas with the well-heeled visitor, such as Covent Garden, had busier and more impressive premises which sometimes got into trouble with residential neighbours for spilling out noisy customers late at night. There a wealthy man could hire a large private room for a party, or demand a more intimate space for a discreet dinner with his latest mistress.

London then, even in Tudor times, was a city of great variety, especially in terms of its eating places and watering holes. Whether you were a poor man looking for a quick bite to eat in your daily search for work, or an important merchant wishing to impress your clients or entertain a courtesan behind your wife's back, London had the perfect spot for you. Which perhaps indicates how little times have changed.

You can read more about the history of this amazing city in London: The Illustrated History by Cathy Ross and John Clark (Penguin Books).

This post was originally published on 11/10/12. 

HIS DARK LADY, the story of Shakespeare's mistress set against the backdrop of theatrical Tudor London, is out in paperback this week. 

HIS DARK LADY: out in paperback THIS WEEK.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Writing Your Synopsis

Be a great synopsis writer: it's never too soon to start taking your work seriously.

What's the Point of a Synopsis?

Writers hate the synopsis. It interferes with the old illusion that writing fiction is a mysterious creative process, handed to us by a lyre-playing Muse, to be messed with at our peril. It makes our writing feel like a grubby commercial venture.

But you have to tell agents and publishers what's in it for them, just as a blurb tells the reader what to expect inside the covers of a book. Though a synopsis is more than an extended blurb. It has to achieve a number of goals. First, and most importantly, it should tell the person reading it what happens in the book. Note, not what the book is about, per se, but what happens and in what order.

Produce professional-looking synopses

Don't Include Everything

That's trickier than it sounds. Good novels often have sub-plots that weave through the main plot. So should we mention those or leave them out? If they have a genuine bearing on the main plot, they need to be in the synopsis. If not, then we can safely leave them out.

Some synopses are only a page long. With two to three pages, you can afford to mention the milk-maid's dalliance with the master, which provokes the son to leave home and join the army, which makes the wife hate the husband - and the freckle-faced milk-maid - when her beloved boy is subsequently killed in action. Otherwise, just start with the granddaughter packing her bags years later ...

Only mention these subsidiary details in passing. A few words should suffice.

Basically, a synopsis should sketch out the plot, location and main characters without going into too much detail. It should convey genre, where appropriate. Best not to open though with 'This is a funny book.' Keep that for the 3-minute pitch.

But Always Tell Them How It Ends

One common thing writers feel instinctively when describing their stories in advance is that they shouldn't reveal the ending. 'I won't tell you what happens after that ... but it's very exciting.'

We don't do that in the synopsis. It's a non-fictional document. It's like packaging; it should tell the would-be buyer what's inside, and how many grams of fat, and is that saturated or Omega-3? In the synopsis, we tell the editor and agent precisely what happens at the end, and why. Yes, even if it's going to spoil it for them.

Be A Little Imperfect

Having said all that, the synopsis must be a flexible document above all else. It should be constructed like a house in an earthquake zone, to move subtly with changes of mind and heart. It should not resist such changes and tumble down, killing your protagonists in their beds. Agents and publishers have an infuriating tendency to ask for changes. Sometimes they ask for them at the start of the writing process and sometimes halfway through. (Or later, when the book is actually finished.) You will need to be open to those changes, and not have your story so tightly bound together that no daylight can be admitted between plot points.

So the ideal synopsis is a little imperfect: it should err on the side of being too lightly written, kept flexible, with gaps - rather than holes - left for the editor's input, and neither too pithy nor over-ornate. A synopsis should always suggest rather than state baldly.

Keep things flexible

A Collaborative Document

Never forget that your synopsis will become, in many cases, a collaborative document. Writing a novel isn't quite like writing a screenplay, but by the end of the process, a number of different experts - often with clashing views on how a novel or even a synopsis should be written - will have stuck their fingers in the pie of your story and cheerfully wiggled them about. So be prepared for interference and try to view it as helpful in most cases. By the end, you may no longer recognise the novel you intended to write. C'est la vie!

Not Written On Loo Roll

Rather sadly, the days of the writer as eccentric genius who goes off into a hotel room for ninety days and emerges with a ground-breaking novel handwritten on a roll of perforated paper - which is then published to great acclaim without the agent or editor having done much beyond changing a few commas and lighting a congratulatory cigar - are long gone.

So the synopsis is unavoidable, and one of the banes of a writer's life; it represents the key to the first gate of the novel, beyond which a writer may not pass without permission. Get typing!

This article previously appeared in a longer form at Raw Light.

Monday, 25 November 2013

His Dark Lady paperback

His Dark Lady arrives to brighten up a grey Cornish morning

I'm delighted to remind you all that His Dark Lady will be out in paperback very soon.

December 5th is the date of its UK release, which is next week. No US edition so far, but I'm still hopeful it will be picked up for North American release at some point.

His Dark Lady is book two in my Lucy Morgan series.

Lucy Morgan is a young black singer at the court of Elizabeth I, brought up by a spy, her guardian Master Goodluck. In this book she meets William Shakespeare again as an adult ... and is soon ardently pursued by the would-be playwright, unnoticed by Master Goodluck, who is busy running a traitor to ground.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Authors for the Philippines

In order to raise money for the disaster fund for relief in the devastated Philippines, authors, editors and publishers have been donating books and services to the AUTHORS FOR THE PHILIPPINES website.

How It Works:
You browse for books, swag-bags, meet-an-author, get your manuscript appraised and other writing-related items and services, then BID for what you want.

The money raised goes to the Red Cross and will help those in the Philippines.

Witchstruck and Witchfall:

I have signed copies of WITCHSTRUCK and WITCHFALL up for auction. Do please visit and bid either for mine or another book or service, and help this worthy cause.

Follow the link and SCROLL DOWN to see the books. They are below the visible screen on entry.

The online auction ends WEDNESDAY 20TH NOVEMBER.

The highest bid on each item at that time wins.

 Good luck!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Elizabethan Birthdays

It's possible William Shakespeare may have died on his birthday in 1616.
Today is my birthday!

In Tudor times, one of my favourite historical periods, people did not tend to celebrate birthdays in any overt way. They did not say, 'Happy Birthday!' to each other, they did not present gifts, they did not appear to have a special meal associated with the day, nor even a gathering of friends and family to mark an important birthday like 'coming of age'.

Famously, William Shakespeare appears to have died on his 52nd birthday, 23rd April 1616. But we cannot say for sure if he died quietly in his bed or suffered a heart attack while performing an ill-advised jig at a riotous birthday party!

This may seem strange to us, when birthdays have become such commercial - and often very expensive - family events for us in the twenty-first century. But historians have found no evidence to suggest that gifts were given in Tudor times as birthday presents, even among noble families and royalty - though often lavish gifts were exchanged by all ranks of society at New Year.

"Here's my gift, sire ... My own severed head!"
This giving of gifts at New Year is well-documented by historians, especially at the royal court, where gifts to - and from - Queen Elizabeth, for instance, were meticulously noted down in an annual list. It is a tradition also mentioned in the medieval epic poem Gawain and the Green Knight, where the legendary King Arthur and his noble courtiers exchanged delightful gifts, kisses and songs on New Year's Day - suggesting that such exchanges were common in the real world of the poet too. It was not until much later that gifts began to be given at Christmas instead, when this New Year tradition fell away, perhaps due to the change in date when New Year was celebrated.

So it's possible some Tudors celebrated birthdays. It's just we have no record of what they might have done. Perhaps a nice meal in the evening, or a sing-song, or just a quiet acknowledgement that another year had gone by. Perhaps they thought it bad luck to point out someone's birthday! Who knows?

Personally, I shall be hoping for a more modern celebration of my birthday today, as it would be rather dreary not to get any gifts at all!

Saturday, 9 November 2013


My Tumblr blog is KITTENNESS.

Follow KITTENNESS on Tumblr!
Do come and have a look, and if you're on Tumblr consider following me - I mostly follow back if your interests match mine. Which means reading, writing, fantasy novels and films, historical tidbits, television drama etc.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Astrology and Heroes

Please do check out my ASTRO HEROES post at the Totally Random website, which went up during the summer. It's possibly the coolest blog post I've ever done, which is why I'm reposting this.

If you've read any of the books mentioned, do comment here on whether you think I got the hero's star sign right.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Spare a Thought for Witches at Halloween

Strangled, hanged, burnt or boiled alive, and drowned: the fate of witches
Halloween in modern times has become a time to celebrate monsters of all kinds, particularly fictional ones like vampires or Frankenstein monsters. Indeed, dressing-up in any fun costume - even non-monster ones! - is now part of this wider celebration of putting on a mask and adopting another identity for a few hours. But Halloween was traditionally a time when ghosts and spirits walked abroad - All Hallows Eve - and later, an evening when witches were thought to worship the darkness. And in earlier times it was definitely not a celebration of those things, but a night when decent folk stayed in their houses and left the forces of darkness to rule the wildness outside.

Of course, English attitudes to witchcraft during the Tudor era were always less extreme than those of Europeans. Indeed, under the right circumstances, the British witch could occasionally become an acceptable – if not quite respectable – member of society. Acceptance was not universal, however, and those who attracted the attention of the witchfinder – or even the Inquisition under Mary I’s reign – often ended up on trial for their lives.

Happily, many of these ‘witches’ escaped conviction, since most English tests tended to favour the accused. One common test was ‘swimming the witch’; in a village pond test, the guilty floated and the innocent sank (and were pulled to safety, one hopes). Another test was to weigh the accused against the Bible; if the Bible was heavier, she was clearly a witch. The unfortunate few convicted by such bizarre methods were generally spared the flames. Whereas the Europeans burnt or even boiled their witches alive – occasionally strangling them beforehand as an act of mercy – the more usual sentence for a British witch was death by hanging.
Yet there was a deep ambivalence surrounding the figure of the Tudor witch, for even occult powers had their uses. A Christian-Cabalist, Dr John Dee suggested the date for Elizabeth I’s coronation and enjoyed her patronage as court astrologer most of his life, despite openly conjuring ‘spirits’ from the ‘super-celestial sphere’ using rituals found in ancient magical grimoires. Dee’s abilities as an astrologer and his potentially lucrative experiments with alchemy kept him above the law, despite Elizabeth I’s punitive statute in 1563, enforcing the death sentence for the practice of witchcraft.

All witches were equal under Tudor law, it seemed, but some were more equal than others. Particularly perhaps if they were male. Indeed, it was not until after James I came to the throne in 1603, with his treatise Daemonologie  and his fear of the supernatural, that the witch-hunting craze in England really took off.

So this Halloween, while trick-or-treating with the kids, spare a thought for those unfortunate women accused of witchcraft in earlier centuries, whose fate was often sealed by nothing more sinister than a birthmark where the Devil was thought to have suckled ...

NB. A longer version of this article appeared at History Today in August 2012. 

WARNING: Witches are variously depicted as hanged, burnt alive and 'floated' in WITCHSTRUCK.

WITCHSTRUCK is now available in the USA.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

PERFIDITAS: Alison Morton guest blog

Browse PERFIDITAS on and

The Second One
When I launched my first novel, INCEPTIO, on the unsuspecting world earlier this year, it was the end of three years’ slog, some of which was writing, rewriting and polishing the book, but an equal part was learning How To Be A Novelist. I went on specialist courses, to conferences, joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association (where I met the fascinating Victoria Lamb who kindly endorsed INCEPTIO!), networked and drank a lot of coffee and wine in the process. 

There followed a frantic period of a high-profile launch with Sue Cook the broadcaster, blog tours, library talks, speaking at conferences and events, signings, shortlisting for the International Rubery Book Award and the award of a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM for excellence. Oh, and I sold a few books.

Seven months later and the next book is out. Set in the same imaginary country of Roma Nova, it bursts with spies, intrigue, Roman themes, romance and derring-do, all tied together with a tough, but sometimes bewildered, heroine. And betrayal and rebellion are in the air.

When you write a book, you hope someone will read it. In fact, you hope a lot of someones will enjoy it and tell their friends, workmates, family, their local reporter, the cousin who works on the national newspaper – you get the picture. Fellow writers can be especially supportive; as purveyors of literature they know a good (or bad) thing when they read it.  So I’m honoured by Victoria’s second invitation to be a guest here today and blather about my new book. 

What’s PERFIDITAS about?
Captain Carina Mitela of the Praetorian Guard Special Forces is in trouble – one colleague has tried to kill her and another has set a trap to incriminate her in a conspiracy to topple the government of Roma Nova. Founded sixteen hundred years ago by Roman dissidents and ruled by women, Roma Nova barely survived a devastating coup d’état thirty years ago. Carina swears to prevent a repeat and not merely for love of country.

Seeking help from a not quite legal old friend could wreck her marriage to the enigmatic Conrad. Once proscribed and operating illegally, she risks being terminated by both security services and conspirators. As she struggles to overcome the desperate odds and save her beloved Roma Nova and her own life, she faces the ultimate betrayal… 

PERFIDITAS: what others have said
“Sassy, intriguing, page-turning. Roma Nova is a fascinating world” - Simon Scarrow
Powerful storytelling, vivid characters and a page-turning plot”
– Jean Fullerton
Scenes and characters are sometimes so vividly described that I felt I was watching a movie” – Sue Cook
 And here’s a PERFIDITAS book trailer with some exciting music:

PERFIDITAS is available through your local bookshop (paperback), on your local Amazon (paperback and ebook) and on other online retailers.

You can read more about Alison, Romans, alternate history and writing here on her blog at
Twitter: @alison_morton

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

North Cornwall Book Festival: THIS Friday!

My latest paperback Tudor novel - about Shakespeare's mistress - is out December 5th: pre-order from Amazon here.


North Cornwall Book Festival, St Endellion

I'm delighted to announce that I'll be appearing at the North Cornwall Book Festival this October, along with a host of other writers, both local to Cornwall and from further afield.

I'm delighted to be delivering the opening event at the North Cornwall Book Festival this coming Friday 25th October. The Festival is held in the beautiful location of St Endellion, North Cornwall.

Friday 25th October: 3.00pm Victoria Lamb

A talk by the award winning author of The Queen's Secret and Witchstruck, which was voted Young Adult Novel of the Year 2013 and has been described as "Twilight meets The Other Boleyn Girl", Victoria Lamb talks about her latest title and how she researches her historical and romantic novels. She also explores the contrasts between writing historical romance for grown-ups and for young adults.
Event lasts one hour. Tickets are £5 unreserved.

 I'll be talking about these books and others...

Hope to see you there!

Monday, 14 October 2013

The Tweeting of Fictional Characters

For those who have become interested in my evolving Tudor Witch Trilogy, you can now chat with characters from WITCHSTRUCK and WITCHFALL on Twitter!

Meg Lytton, English witch

Alejandro de Castillo, Spanish priest in training

Richard, apprentice to John Dee

Marcus Dent, English Witchfinder 

To enable these Twitter accounts to have a full and interesting life, dear tweeps, please follow, chat and occasionally RT so they can get more followers and chat going as they build up.

Many thanks!


Friday, 11 October 2013

Manx Lit Fest trip in photos

I was recently invited to the Isle of Man for the second Manx Lit Fest. I had a fabulous time, and when not going round schools, signing books or giving talks on writing and Tudor fiction, I was driving about the beautiful island where I was once a resident and snapping photos in some very familiar spots.

My grateful thanks go to the various sponsors of the Manx Literary Festival, especially the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company and the Isle of Man Bank, and to the very generous sponsors of my individual events, Lingua Franca, a translation company run by the charming Franca Fritz. Without such generosity, literary festivals could not be run, and authors like myself could not attend them.

Here are some of the highlights of my trip. I'm afraid I didn't snap any pics during actual events, but perhaps I will be sent some photos taken by other people, and be able to blog them later. If using any of these elsewhere, please attribute them to this blog.

All these photos were taken by yours truly with a humble iPhone. None have been edited, they are straight from the can.

Between Heysham and the Isle of Man. Aboard the Ben-My-Chree, or Woman-of-my Heart in Manx Gaelic.

An inspired mirror tile ceiling on the boat over. It took my mind off the incessant pitching ...

Port Erin beach, Bradda Head in the distance. An iconic scene from my 23 years on the island, living just a few minutes' drive from this spot.

Further along Port Erin beach, the small harbour and headland.

A fantastic indie bookshop opposite Port Erin beach, always there for as long as I can remember.

This is the Darrag. A tiny hilltop cut-through for locals between Port Erin (straight ahead) and Cregneish (behind). Above this spot is an ancient stone circle and burial ground with fantastic views around the south of the island.

View from the Darrag (towards Cregneish) looking at the Calf Sound, a famous bird sanctuary.

Hango Hill, Castletown: site of the execution by firing squad of Illiam Dhone, popularly considered a Manx martyr, for his part in surrendering Castle Rushen, last Royalist stronghold in the English Civil War, to the Roundheads. I wrote a poem sequence about him once.

Next to Hango Hill, a selfie with King William's College in the background: I didn't 'quite' go to school there, it was the all boys' equivalent to the all girls' public school I attended nearby. So we mingled a lot, you know ...

Castletown beach, from the head of the promenade at Hango.

This was the best view I could get of my mother's old home, Crogga Castle, on the Old Castletown Road. They have a miniature railway running round the grounds there now. Shock, horror!

Under the railway bridge ... taken while driving. Tsk, tsk.

The view from my hotel bedroom. I stayed at the Station Hotel, Port St Mary. I could see my old cottage up at Glen Chass from the back landing window. A nostalgic visit ...

I went back on the faster craft to Liverpool, the Manannan. The sea was very choppy. Meh.

See the man on the ceiling playing cards ... ?

Quocunque Jeceris Stabit: 'Whichever way you throw, it will stand.' The motto and 3-legged symbol of the Isle of Man, spotted on a glass panel in the ferry cafeteria; that's the food counter behind it.

The chairs on the Isle of Man Steam Packet ferries are chained to the floor. This should give you an idea of how rough the seas are in winter. Just as well the Manx Lit Fest - who very kindly invited me back to the island for this 2013 visit - is held in early autumn!