Friday, 31 August 2012

Romancing the Hop -all about Romance!

What is your favorite thing about Romance? We authors are sharing our romantic tips and favorite romance reads! Starting today August 31 and ending on September 3rd, over 200 Authors and Bloggers will share their favorite things about romance, reading romance, and dating.
And while we do that, we are EACH doing a giveaway. Yep. There will be over 200 giveaways by authors or bloggers.
But that's not all....
We have THREE grand prizes. You as a reader can go to EACH blog and comment with your email address and be entered to win. Yep, you can enter over 200 times!
Now what are those prizes?
1st Grand Prize: A Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet
2nd Grand Prize: A $130 Amazon or B&N Gift Card
3rd Grand Prize: The following Swag Pack! (USA only - sorry!)
Yep. ALL of that! Be sure to leave a comment here, and then visit some of the other writers. Enjoy stories and facts about our favorite Romance events and leave comments for more chances to win!
Why do I write romance?
Short answer – because I’ve always written romance!
Well, not always. My first stories, as a pre-teen, were school or theatre stories, but once I hit adolescence, I read romance and I wrote romance. My teenage stories, written for my friends, had 1940’s movie-type romance, usually with our current heart-throbs as the male heroes. I wrote stories inventing romances between our favourite teachers, and later, about the boys my friends and I liked. I’m sure I could be sued if any of those had ever gone further than my friends’ hands!
Of course, even those stories were supposedly based on ‘real’ people, they were still imaginary. In fact, my first published novel was a re-hash (and fuller development) of a story I’d written in my teens – names and places changed, of course! In later novels I developed my own characters, who became as real to me as the earlier characters in my stories.
I’m a romantic at heart, maybe because (or despite the fact that) real life has proved different for me. Writing romance allows me (and hopefully my readers, too) to relive the magic of falling in love – the delicious anticipation as you wait for the next time you’re going to meet up, the simple pleasure of holding hands, even the lightest touch on your back as he escorts you into a restaurant, the exchange of glances across the table.
The most sensually romantic scenes aren’t the bedroom scenes. They’re the scenes where tender looks and the briefest of contact can make your heart sing. Your heartbeat quickens, you feel those delicious tingles down your spine, that shiver of excitement, and the whole world’s a magical place because you’re in love.
Here’s an excerpt from my contemporary romance ‘Fragrance of Violets’ when Abbey’s sister Louise has asked her if she’s fallen for Jack:
Abbey hesitated.  “I – I honestly don’t know. There’s a kind of attraction but that could simply be because he oozes confidence and charisma or –” She shrugged helplessly. “I just don’t know.”
“So does your heart beat faster when you’re with him? When you think about him? Do you get a tingle deep down inside you, and then start wondering what it would be like to go to bed with him?"
“Well, do you?”
“No!” This time the denial came out too strongly. Quickly she went on, “And even if I did, that would be lust. Not love.”
“Falling in love starts with being attracted to someone, for whatever reason. Then, as you get to know them, you find you like them as a person – or not, as the case may be. But you already know Jack, you know what he thinks and believes and likes and doesn’t like.”
Abbey shook her head. “That was when we were teens. We’re different people now.”
“I bet you’re not all that different. Does he still look the same or is he fat and bald now?”

Abbey laughed. “Of course he isn’t, and he does still look the same except –” She considered for a moment then smiled. “He’s matured. He still has those gorgeous blue eyes, of course, and sometimes you can read what he’s thinking, but other times they’re more guarded. And his hair’s slightly darker than it used to be, it’s kind of golden now but he has the same mannerism of pushing it back from his forehead and then taking his hand right down to the back of his neck. And when he grins, he reminds me of teenage Jack, it’s a kind of quirky grin that makes him look younger. His shoulders seem broader but his hips are slim and he looks good in jeans because he’s got a real sexy walk – What?” She broke off as she saw Louise grinning at her. “What? You wanted to know what he’s like, and I’m telling you.”

“You’ve fallen for him.”

“Why on earth do you think that? I’m just describing what he’s like now.”

“If you were just describing him, you’d simply have said ‘oh, pretty much the same, maybe broader than he was’ and left it at that. But you’re aware of everything about him, aren’t you?”

Abbey looked at her sister for a moment and then nodded. “Yes – yes, I suppose I am.”

It was true. Jack set all her senses on fire, not just when she was with him, but whenever she thought about him too.

And here, from my recent release ‘Changing the Future’, are Lisa’s thoughts when she’s sitting at a lecture with Paul, having met him again six years after their acrimonious breakup.

Paul’s nearness distracted her, especially the faint musky scent of his aftershave which was disturbingly familiar. Carefully she moved her arm away from the armrest between their seats where his elbow rested, but she couldn’t stop herself from glancing at his firm thigh. How many times had she stroked his thigh, sliding her hand sensuously back and forth? Sometimes she’d tormented him by almost, but not quite, reaching his groin; other times she’d put her hand over the bulge in his trousers and he’d given her his smouldering sexy grin.

Heavens, why was she thinking about that now? Her cheeks grew hot. She had to distance herself from this agonising awareness of him. There were moments she could hardly believe it was all really happening, and she wanted to look round to convince herself it really was Paul sitting next to her. Moments, too, when she longed to put her hand on his leg again, feel his hand covering hers, and then lifting it to kiss her fingers, sending delicious electric shocks through her. Moments when she wished they could wipe out the past and start again.

I think many women need some kind of escapism into a world where the heroes are gorgeous and romantic, and say and do all the things they’d love real-life men to do (but often – usually? - don’t).  Otherwise why would romantic fiction be so popular?

What do you think is the most thrilling aspect of falling in love? Leave your answer here (and your email address) for the chance to win a PDF copy of one of my contemporary romance novels (your choice).

Then visit some of the other romance authors for more chances to win books and other goodies. Click here for the list.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Thursday tour of NW England - Roman Ribchester

Ribchester is a village in the Ribble Valley. It lies at the foot of Longridge Fell and on the banks of the River Ribble about 12 miles from my home town of Preston. As a child, I used to go there quite frequently, often for picnics on the banks of the river.
I think we simply took it for granted that there were Roman remains scattered around the village and at the time there was a small museum, just one room with some dusty artefacts. Since then the museum has been enlarged and modernised with innovative displays, and you can now follow a Ribchester History Trail around the village.
The village was once an important Roman cavalry fort called Bremetenacum. The first fort was built in timber in AD 72/73, renovated in the late 1st century AD and rebuilt in stone in the early 2nd century. During the life of the fort, a village grew up around it. The Romans remained at Ribchester until the 4th century AD.

The most famous artefact discovered in Ribchester is an elaborate cavalry helmet. It was discovered in 1796 by the son of the local clogmaker, buried in a hollow, about three feet deep, on some waste land by the side of the road leading to the church. The “Ribchester Hoard” (as it became known) also consisted of a bust of the goddess Minerva, and fragments of vases, basins and plates. They were thought to have survived so well because they were covered in sand. Later the hoard was sold to the British Museum.
The original church of St Wilfred was built in the 7th century over the site of the Principia (headquarters building) of the Roman fort and was replaced by a stone church in the 13th century. The remains of Roman granaries have been found next to the churchyard.
Early archaeological work concentrated mainly on the area of the fort, but during the latter part of the 20th century, the ‘vicus’ (civilian settlement) beyond the fort walls was explored more thoroughly. Excavations have revealed rectangular wooden buildings used as workshops and dwellings where craftsmen, especially metalworkers and leatherworkers provided essential goods for both civilians and military personnel.
The vicus was also the site of the baths, the most substantial stone built construction outside the fort, and at least two temples.
Ribchester’s later history was dominated by cotton weaving, firstly hand-loom weaving when the villagers worked in their own cottagers, and later in two mills (Bee Mill and Corporation Mill) on the northern edge of the village.

Today the village is primarily a ‘dormitory’ village for commuters to the nearby towns of Blackburn and Preston. Probably its most recognised building is the White Bull Pub in the middle of the villager,  well known for its portico, which is said to be supported by two pillars taken from the Roman fort.
Photos in public domain and/or licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Six Sentence Sunday

Six more sentences from ‘Changing the Future’. At the end of the first week, Lisa and Paul are forced to meet again when a group of staff go to an Italian restaurant for lunch. It seemed to Lisa that Paul was making references to their past life together. Back at college, she accosts him, and asks him whether he'd made a deliberate point of mentioning her ex-boss, Ralph Glover.
“I’ve always told the truth about Ralph, but you refused to believe me.”
“But you still see him?”
“Why shouldn’t I?”
Paul looked at her for a long moment and then shook his head. “No reason—absolutely no reason at all.”
Somehow he’d wrong-footed her and she didn’t know how to respond.
Blurb: Lisa Marshall is stunned when celebrated volcanologist Paul Hamilton comes back into her life at the college where she now teaches. Despite their acrimonious break-up several years earlier, they soon realise the magnetic attraction between them is stronger than ever. However, the past is still part of the present, not least when Paul discovers Lisa has a young son. They can’t change that past, but will it take a volcanic eruption to help them change the future?
'Changing the Future' is available at $3.99 on Amazon
Read more 6 sentence excerpts from the other Six Sentence Sunday authors here.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Thursday Tour of NW England - A Quaint and Quirky Custom

Last week I wrote about one tradition in my home town of Preston. Today, with Q as my letter of the week, I’ll tell you about another ‘quaint and quirky’ tradition in the town, as it’s one I took part in as a child – egg-rolling.
The tradition of rolling decorated eggs down a grassy slope goes back hundreds of years. Evidently, in pre-Christian times, the Saxons had a spring goddess called Eostre, whose feast day was held in March. The rebirth of the land in the spring was symbolised by the egg. When England became Christian, a lot of pagan traditions were incorporated into Christian festivals. Thus, the celebration of the death and resurrection was named Easter, and rolling eggs became symbolic of the rolling away of the stone from the tomb.
In Preston, egg-rolling has taken place on Easter Monday (ever since Victorian times) at Avenham Park, near the town centre. The grassy area in the middle of the park is a natural amphitheatre, with a long slope down towards the River Ribble. Hundreds of children brought their hard-boiled eggs to roll down the slope. Some wore homemade ‘Easter bonnets’ too, but I don’t recall ever making or wearing one.
When my mother was a child, she said her egg was wrapped in an onion skin and boiled, which gave it a mottled yellowy-brown colour. I seem to remember we tried that once, but must have done something wrong as the egg was hardly coloured at all! Instead, I used to paint my egg (with watercolour paints – felt-tipped pens didn’t exist then!).  Sometimes I painted it in stripes or squares, other times I drew squiggly, criss-crossed lines in different colours.
Once the egg had been rolled down the grassy slope (and I’d chased down down after it, usually several times), I could peel the shell and eat the egg. My mum always told me to crush the egg shell. Otherwise (according to an old Lancashire tradition), the witches would steal the shell and use it as a boat!
If, as sometimes happened, it was raining on Easter Monday, I still had to roll my egg – but across the carpet in the living room until it cracked against the metal fender of the hearth. Not quite the same somehow! Nowadays, children roll chocolate eggs down the slope – again, not the same as the ‘real’ thing.
Here’s a link to a video of last year’s egg-rolling at the park.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Ten Rules for Writing Fiction

I can do no better today than to direct you to an article which appeared in the UK newspaper 'The Guardian' a couple of years ago. Called 'Ten Rules for Writing Fiction', it contains many more than ten!

Various authors, ranging from Margaret Atwood to P.D. James were asked for their personal dos and don'ts, and the results make very interesting reading.

Some of my favourites include:

Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. (Elmore Leonard)

Read it aloud to yourself because that's the only way to be sure the rhythms of the sentences are OK (prose rhythms are too complex and subtle to be thought out – they can be got right only by ear).(Diana Athill)

Hold the reader's attention. (This is likely to work better if you can hold your own.) But you don't know who the reader is, so it's like shooting fish with a slingshot in the dark. What ­fascinates A will bore the pants off B. (Margaret Atwood)

Do be kind to yourself. Fill pages as quickly as possible; double space, or write on every second line. Regard every new page as a small triumph ­– until you get to Page 50. Then calm down, and start worrying about the quality. Do feel anxiety – it's the job. (Roddy Doyle)

Finish the day's writing when you still want to continue. (Helen Dunmore)

Have more than one idea on the go at any one time. If it's a choice between writing a book and doing nothing I will always choose the latter. It's only if I have an idea for two books that I choose one rather than the other. I ­always have to feel that I'm bunking off from something. (Geoff Dyer)

Only bad writers think that their work is really good.(Anne Enright)

Don't read your reviews. (Richard Ford)

Never use the word "then" as a ­conjunction – we have "and" for this purpose. Substituting "then" is the lazy or tone-deaf writer's non-solution to the problem of too many "ands" on the page. (Jonathan Franzen)

Cut out the metaphors and similes. In my first book I promised myself I wouldn't use any and I slipped up ­during a sunset in chapter 11. I still blush when I come across it.(Esther Freud)

Remember: when people tell you something's wrong or doesn't work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.(Neil Gaiman)

Style is the art of getting yourself out of the way, not putting yourself in it.(David Hare)

Don't just plan to write – write. It is only by writing, not dreaming about it, that we develop our own style. (P.D.James)

Remember you love writing. It wouldn't be worth it if you didn't. If the love fades, do what you need to and get it back. (AL Kennedy)

Read these and dozens more pieces of advice at
(and don't forget to click for Part Two!)

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Six Sentence Sunday

Six more sentences from ‘Changing the Future’. At the end of the first week, Lisa and Paul are forced to meet again when a group of staff go to an Italian restaurant for lunch. It seemed to Lisa that Paul was making deliberate, although veiled, references to their past life together. Back at college, she accosts him, and he accuses her of lying in her responses to his comments.

“You’re saying I lied?”

“You said you didn’t remember where we first met, but I don’t believe you’ve forgotten Luke’s party.”

Her cheeks grew hot because they’d shared their memories of that night so many times, but now attack was her best means of defence. “You were deliberately trying to embarrass me.”

“You probably won’t believe me but actually I said it without thinking.”

“And you also mentioned Ralph and Berlin without thinking, did you?”

Blurb: Lisa Marshall is stunned when celebrated volcanologist Paul Hamilton comes back into her life at the college where she now teaches. Despite their acrimonious break-up several years earlier, they soon realise the magnetic attraction between them is stronger than ever. However, the past is still part of the present, not least when Paul discovers Lisa has a young son. They can’t change that past, but will it take a volcanic eruption to help them change the future?

'Changing the Future' is available at $3.99 on Amazon

Many thanks to everyone for visiting my blog each Sunday and leaving such encouraging comments!

Read more 6 sentence excerpts from the other great Six Sentence Sunday authors here or just click on the name of anyone who has already left a comment!

See you all next Sunday!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Thursday Tour of NW England - Once in a Preston Guild

Preston is my home town, where I lived for the first 18 years of my life, and where my parents continued to live for the rest of their lives. I could write a lengthy blog about Preston, which was raised to city status 10 years ago, but as 2012 is the year of the Preston Guild celebrations, I’ll concentrate on this long-standing tradition. It’s the only Guild still celebrated in the UK and is therefore unique.

The 2012 Guild Logo
This picture file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

First the background to the Guild:
King Henry II granted Preston the right to have a Guild Merchant in 1179 and gave the town its first royal charter.
The Guild was an organisation of traders, craftsmen and merchants. Only its members could carry out a craft or business in the town and it updated its membership lists from time to time to ensure that people weren’t falsely claiming the right to trade in the town. Anybody who claimed to be a member of the Guild had to swear loyalty to the Mayor and the Guild Merchant. He would then be admitted or re-admitted.
It was accepted that this confirmation or renewal of membership was only needed only once in a generation and, as a result, from 1542, the Preston Guild Merchant ‘ceremony’ took place every 20 years.

Traditionally, traders and craftsmen held processions to demonstrate the power of the Guild. They wore colourful costumes and carried banners and emblems of their trades. These displays gradually became more and more elaborate.
There was also a civic procession at the start of every Guild, with the Guild Mayor and members of the Corporation wearing their robes of office, accompanied by trumpeters, mace bearers and sergeants in traditional costume.
The rarity of the celebration, and the fact that large numbers of people congregated in Preston for the occasion, made the Guild a special opportunity for feasting, processions, and great social gathering.

By the end of the 18th century, there was free trade in the town, but the Guild celebration survived, as it had become a prestigious social occasion. During the 19th century, the Guild celebration was widened to become a celebration for the whole town, and churches and schools started to hold their own processions. In 1922, the schools held a pageant in the large park in the town centres, and this tradition has continued ever since (I took part in one of these, in 1952!). More recently, the multicultural nature of the town has also been celebrated.

Now the Guild draws thousands of visitors to Preston, to see the processions and take part in all the other events that take place – concerts, plays, exhibitions, food and drink festivals, sports, activities in the parks, a fun fair, and firework displays, to name but a few.

The expression ‘Once in a Preston Guild’, meaning ‘infrequently’, has become common especially in North West England. Since 1542, the only time the 20 year tradition was broken was in 1942 because of the Second World War. Instead, the Guild celebration was held in 1952 and, of course, in each succeeding 20th year since then, at the end of August/beginning of September.

And this is me (arrowed), taking part in the church procession in the 1952 Guild. I was so proud of my frilly, white organdie dress and my pink rosebud headdress!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Heroines in Romance Novels

During the ‘Hero Blog Hop’ at the end of last month, someone asked me if there was going to be a ‘Heroine Blog Hop’. As I haven’t seen one advertised anywhere, I thought I’d take a look anyway at my heroines.

First of all, what’s my ideal romance novel heroine?

Gone are the days (thank heaven!) when heroines in romance novels were wimps, waiting for the alpha heroes to seduce (if not actually rape) and dominate them. Ugh, not my scene at all.

I want my heroines to be independent and intelligent women. They don’t:
(a) think they’re ‘incomplete’ without a man, but they do find joy in loving and being loved.
(b) want to dominate or be dominated, but consider themselves equal.
(c) think of themselves as someone’s ‘other half’ but want to bring to the relationship their whole self, and they want their man to do the same.

They want a relationship with mutual respect, caring, understanding and, of course, love. Of course, they’re not perfect – they may have their inner insecurities or they make mistakes, but they’re prepared to admit to these and do whatever they can to put things right.

In ‘His Leading Lady’, Jessica Harper is very much her own person. She understands her twin sister Lora in a way no-one else really does and her loyalty leads her to cover for Lora who’s gone missing on the eve of rehearsals for a new West End show (in which Lora has the lead role). Jess can hold her own with super-confident theatre director Kyle Drummond too, and overcomes her own lack of confidence about taking on a lead role in London’s West End. It’s her personality which eventually leads Kyle to show the tender, more compassionate side of his nature.

One reviewer wrote: Jess is by far my favorite character...strong willed, smart, and most of all REAL! You can really connect to her character.

In ‘Fragrance of Violets’, Abbey Seton is at a low point in her life. She’d had a successful acting career, but now she’s failed to get the role she’d set her heart on, so she’s suffering a confidence crisis. She’s also aware of her inability to ‘forgive and forget’ – first the father who abandoned his family when she was younger, and then her best friend Jack Tremayne who, in her mind, had ruined their friendship when they were in their teens. When Jack comes back into her life, she’s forced to explore her own issues of forgiveness and trust.

One reviewer wrote: Abbey's prejudice is cleverly explained and my heart went out to her. I felt her anger and disgust, her pain and disillusionment as she remembers how her father abandoned his family and let them down time and time again.

In ‘Changing the Future’, Lisa has made a new life for herself and her young son after Paul walks out of her life. When they meet again, she has to come to terms with her anger and resentment, and eventually with her realisation that Paul wasn’t the only one responsible for the break-up of their earlier relationship.

In ‘Her Only Option’ (my next release in November), Neve Dalton loves her life as a River Nile cruise ship tour guide. She loves her independence too, and isn’t ready to settle down with her Egyptian boyfriend. She’s not ready, either, to have her life turned upside-down by the compelling archaeologist Ross McAllister. But she then has to make a heart-breaking decision in order to protect the man who has set her soul on fire.

All my heroines commit themselves, heart and soul, to the men they love – and at the same time, they learn more about themselves as they struggle to overcome the problems which threaten to keep them apart.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Six Sentence Sunday

Six more sentences from ‘Changing the Future’. At the end of the first week, Lisa and Paul are forced to meet again when a group of staff go to an Italian restaurant for lunch. It seemed to Lisa that Paul was making deliberate, although veiled, references to their past life together. Back at college, she accosts him:

“What kind of game are you playing, Paul?”

He stopped, one foot still on the bottom step, and looked back. “What do you mean?”

After a quick glance around the lobby to make sure no-one was in earshot, she forced herself to look directly at him. “Last Monday you said we should forget about the past.”

“I suppose it’s inevitable there are going to be reminders from time to time—and at least I didn’t lie about anything.”

Blurb: Lisa Marshall is stunned when celebrated volcanologist Paul Hamilton comes back into her life at the college where she now teaches. Despite their acrimonious break-up several years earlier, they soon realise the magnetic attraction between them is stronger than ever. However, the past is still part of the present, not least when Paul discovers Lisa has a young son. They can’t change that past, but will it take a volcanic eruption to help them change the future?

'Changing the Future' is available at $3.99 on Amazon

Read more 6 sentence excerpts from the other Six Sentence Sunday authors here.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Thursday Tour of NW England - Ormskirk

Ormskirk is a small market town in West Lancashire, about half way between Liverpool and Preston. Its name is Old Norse from ‘Ormres kirkja’ meaning the church of Ormre. One source suggests that Ormre may have been a Viking who converted to Christianity and founded the church, but there is no archaeological evidence to support this.

There is no reference to Ormskirk in the Domesday Book of 1086, but about a century later the lord of Latham granted the church at Ormskirk to Burscough Priory. Ormskirk was at the junction of the main roads to Liverpool, Preston and Wigan, and by the 13th century, it had developed into a small town. Its market charter was granted by Edward I in 1286.

With its weekly markets, the town became a focal point for local farmers to trade their goods, and shops and inns also catered to the needs of the market visitors. Later, an engineering industry grew up, based on making and mending agricultural machinery.

The market is still held twice weekly, on Thursdays and Saturdays, in the now pedestrianised centre of the town.

The church of St. Peter and St. Paul is believed to be on the site of the original church. Its exact age is unknown but it does have some fragments of Norman architecture.
It has many links with the Stanley family who owned land in North West England (and became the Earls of Derby). Many family members are buried in the Derby Chapel, including Thomas Stanley, the first Earl, who betrayed King Richard III by changing sides during the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. He failed to bring his troops to support the royal forces and this, together with his brother William’s last minute intervention, led to the death of Richard and victory for Henry Tudor.

A later Earl, James Stanley, was beheaded during the 17th century Civil War. His body is buried in one coffin, and his head in a separate casket.

The church is unusual is that it has both a tower and a spire, and is unique in that both are at the same end of the building. Legend has it that Ormre had two sisters, one of whom wanted a tower, the other a spire. In fact, the steeple dates from the 15th century and the tower from the 16th century.

Photos of Ormskirk Market, Thomas Stanley, and Ormskirk Church all from Wikimedia Commons and released into public domain.    

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Six Sentence Sunday

Another six from Chapter 2 of my contemporary romance ‘Changing the Future’.

After a very barbed conversation with Lisa, Paul asks whether there has to be war between them all the time. He then goes on:

“Maybe it would be better if we forgot about the past and treated each other simply as colleagues.”

Lisa opened her mouth to reply, closed it again, and stood up. “Yes, fine, and now, if you’ll excuse me, I really do have to leave.”

“Of course.”

He fumed as he went out to his car. Damn it all, she’d treated him as if it was all his fault, when she was the one who’d refused to go to South America, and she was the one who’d cheated on him.

Blurb: Lisa Marshall is stunned when celebrated volcanologist Paul Hamilton comes back into her life at the college where she now teaches. Despite their acrimonious break-up several years earlier, they soon realise the magnetic attraction between them is stronger than ever. However, the past is still part of the present, not least when Paul discovers Lisa has a young son. They can’t change that past, but will it take a volcanic eruption to help them change the future?

'Changing the Future' is available at $3.99 on Amazon

Many thanks to you all for your comments each week.

Read more 6 sentence excerpts from the other Six Sentence Sunday authors here.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Thursday Tour of NW England - Newchurch and the Pendle Witches

Newchurch in Pendle, a small village in the shadow of Pendle Hill, is famous for being the home of the Demdike family of ‘Pendle Witches’.
© Copyright Peter Standing and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The story is that, in 1612, Demdike's granddaughter, Alizon Device, approached a pedlar called John Law and asked him for some metal pins but he refused. A few minutes after their encounter, he stumbled and fell badly. He recovered enough to reach a local inn and a few days later, his son took Alizon to see him and she confessed to him that she had told the Devil to lame him. The Law family then complained to the local Justice of the Peace, Roger Nowell, that John had been injured by witchcraft.

At the time, village ‘healers’ who dabbled in herbs and home-made medicines were often thought of as witches, because of their seemingly magical powers, and Alizon’s grandmother, Elizabeth Southern, known as Demdike, had long been considered a witch.

In the investigation which followed, Roger questioned Alizon about another family, the Whittles, who were also suspected of witchcraft. There was no love lost between the two families, and so Alizon accused Anne Whittle, known as Chattox, of killing four men by witchcraft. She also claimed that her father had been so scared of Chattox that he had paid her an annual gift of oatmeal in return for her promise not to hurt his family. On his deathbed, he claimed his illness was because he had not paid the annual fee of protection.

An illustration of Ann Redferne and Chattox,
 two of the Pendle witches, from Ainsworth's novel
The Lancashire Witches, published in 1849
(public domain, copyright expired)
When both Demdike and Chattox were summoned to appear before Nowell, they were both in their eighties, and both confessed to witchcraft, saying they had sold their souls to the Devil many years earlier. Witnesses said they had seen Demdike sticking pins into clay figures, and one said her brother had fallen ill after having an argument with Chattox’s daughter, Anne.

Based on the evidence and confessions, Demdike, Alison, Chattox, and Anne were committed to Lancaster Gaol to await trial at the next Assizes for causing harm by witchcraft.

A few days later, Demdike’s daughter Elizabeth organised a meeting at the family home, Malkin Tower (thought to be near the village of Newchurch). Family and friends attended, but Roger Nowell was suspicious about the purpose of the meeting, and following further investigations, eight more people were accused of witchcraft and sent for trial.

The trial was held at Lancaster Castle in August 1612. One of the key witnesses was the Alizon’s nine-year-old sister Jennet Device (something that would not be permitted in other trials at that time but was allowed in cases of witchcraft). Jennet gave evidence against her mother, sister and brother, and also identified all those who had been at the Malkin Tower meeting. She claimed that both her mother both had ‘familiars’ in the shape of dogs.

One of the accused died in prison, another was found not guilty, but the remaining ten were found guilty and hanged.

Was it ‘witchcraft’? Or was it simply local suspicion about eccentric old women, compounded by the bad blood between the two families which led to them accusing each other of witchcraft?

The story of the Pendle Witches has been immortalised in novels and plays, and has provided the Pendle area with a tourist attraction. The only shop in the Newchurch village, Witches Galore, sells all manner of witch-themed dolls and other gifts.
© Copyright Dr Neil Clifton and licensed
for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

This year is the 400th Anniversary of the Witch Trials and there have been several events and exhibitions, both in the Pendle area and in Lancaster, where the trials were held. Last weekend, a statue was unveiled at the village of Roughlee of Alice Nutter, one of the so-called witches, who pleaded not guilty to a murder but was neverthless convicted because she had been at the Malkin Tower meeting. Here's a link to a local newspaper article, with a photo of the state

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

And the winner is ...

Many thanks to all who left comments on my post in the Hero Blog Hop at the weekend. I'm so pleased you all liked my heroes!

In the final count, Kyle (from 'His Leading Lady') received the most 'votes' with 16.  Paul (from 'Changing the Future') got 8, and Jack (from 'Fragrance of Violets') and Ross (from my not-yet-released 'Her Only Option') tied with 7 each.

Which is my favourite? Hard to say, as I fall in love with each of them while I'm writing about them!

And now for the winning commenter!  As my grandson will be 18 this month, I scrolled down to the 18th comment - which came from .... drum roll......M.S.Spencer!  Many congrats, Meredith!  I've sent an e-copy of 'Changing the Future'  to you and hope you will enjoy it.

Commiserations to everyone else, but hope my heroes prove attractive enough for you to download one (or more!) of my books. You can find them all by visiting my Amazon page

If they live up to your expectations, please let me know - you can find me on Facebook at

Many thanks to all who participated!