fiction, Novel, Uncategorized

Author Spotlight: Nicky Clifford

Today I’m delighted to welcome author Nicky Clifford into the spotlight. Welcome, Nicky! Tell us a little about yourself.


Hello and thanks for inviting me. I’m married with two children and I work part-time for a local charity. Writing has always been my passion, but I never felt confident enough to pursue my dream so I entered the corporate world of HR & Training. Now my sons are teenagers, and with the amazing support of my husband, Mark, I finally feel able to focus on my writing.

What genres do you write and why?

Never Again is a romance, as are my three other completed and three half-finished novels hidden away in my ‘to be revamped at some stage’ folder! I have always been intrigued by the numerous and bumpy paths to romance, combined with the complex ‘will they, won’t they’ couples’ dance as they journey towards their ‘happy ever after’.

When did you first become aware of wanting to be a writer?

At primary school, I loved writing poems and making up stories. I was always told that I had a “lively imagination”; I’m not sure that was thought to be a good thing! Everywhere I went I had to have a pad with me (and still do!) in case some line for a poem or some other idea popped into my head. My mum used to keep all my letters; by the time they spilled out of the biggest box you can imagine, I had to do some much-needed culling!

Which authors do you feel have influenced you the most?

When I was a teenager, I went through Mills & Boon at the same speed as most other teenagers go through tubes of sweets, although I did go through sweets as well, but maybe not at quite the same pace . . .  Enid Blyton was one of my favourite authors; the suspense and magic that she weaved through her words gave me hours and hours of wonderful escape, which ignited my imagination.

Please tell us about your latest published book or your current WIP. 


Never Again is a contemporary romance: Mountains, Mystery, Romance: Can you run from your past? Harriet Anderson’s life is spiralling out of control. Unused to such mayhem, she ditches her high-powered job to take refuge in the Swiss Alps where she meets Philippe Smith, a crime writer with a dark and shadowy past. Thrown together by chance, is their fate intertwined? Will the karma and romance of the mountains and the quaintness of the Alps soothe their troubled souls? Or will their rocky paths create avalanches that cannot be avoided…

What do you love the most about writing and what do you dislike?

I love it when my writing flows, and when I look back at what I’ve written, I’m often astounded that this is something I created. What I dislike are certain aspects of life that interrupt my writerly flow, particularly the boring admin and house-cleaning, gardening-type things, but excluding, of course, friends, family and my husband and sons! Seriously though, I do have to execute more discipline when I am in the midst of editing my book, particularly if it is for the 5th, 6th or 7th plus time!

What do you love most about being an author and what do you dislike?

Holding my book in my hand is the most indescribably amazing feeling – that is what I love the most, oh and of course when someone loves reading my book – that is pure gold! I’m not so fond of the complicated process of self-publishing and the times when self-doubt whispers persistently in my ear.

Can you share with us the next book on your reading list?

I have started reading The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes. I haven’t got that far in but am already engaged in the story. The other book I am starting this week is The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory – for me, she brings history alive with plenty of drama and a lot of swishing of underskirts and the regular partaking of gigantic feasts! I now have a compelling incentive to ensure I fit in more reading as, following my interview this week with Bill Buckley at BBC Radio Berkshire, Bill has invited me back to join their Book Club next month!

Do you have a favourite time of day to write?

I am much better at everything in the morning, as my energy starts to flag later in the day. I also particularly like it when I am alone in the house, and I can completely lose myself in my world of words without a breath of interruption, that is until the phone rings!

A little extra about Nicky

Having completed a writing course at Reading University, she is a member of her local writing group who have been instrumental in Nicky reaching ‘The End’ of her debut novel, Never Again. Nicky was a keen ice skater, managing to perfect backward crossovers and one-foot turns but has recently hung up her boots to spend more time cycling by the canal and practising ballroom dancing with her husband, as well as relaxing with her friends and family at home in Berkshire.She has decided to make a donation from the book royalties to the charities, Auticulate and Childhood Tumour Trust.

Never Again launched on 21st October and is available in Kindle and Paperback from Amazon:




Hilary Custance Green & Surviving The Death Railway


Today I’m so thrilled to welcome author Hilary Custance Green, who recently released her latest book, Surviving the Death Railway.


Welcome, Hilary and please tell us a little about you…

I’m a Jack of all Trades. I spent twenty years as a sculptor, then went back to university and became a Research Psychologist. To balance the academic life I started writing and publishing fiction. I found it enormously satisfying, so since retiring from the Medical Research Council, I have continued to write.  What I write is fiction, but I try and look honestly and realistically at the way individuals cope with what life throws at them.

What genres do you write and why?

This is always a difficult question to answer. I guess it is literary, but at the lighter end of the genre or maybe you would say it is the literary end of general fiction. I explore some serious themes, but I like to write about love and adventure.

When did you first become aware of wanting to be a writer?

I was a reader first ­– the original bookworm. I dreamt of becoming a poet, but found my own efforts embarrassingly bad. I scribbled endlessly through my teens, but was frustrated by my inept writing skills. The real breakthrough came with the typewriter and then – utter bliss – the computer. Writing became three dimensional, like a sculpture. I could shape ideas, move words, paragraphs, and whole pages. I could clothe a skeleton outline in any order I liked, without losing track of it.

Which authors do you feel have influenced you the most?

My biggest influence during childhood was Kipling – the most mesmerising storyteller, who climbed into the skin of different peoples and animals with ease and made a feast of language. Then there is Mary Renault who combines history, love and the mental life of her protagonists, so satisfyingly. I think she nails that meeting point of erotic and enduring love. Nevil Shute remains a favourite because of the way he is interested in low profile characters – ordinary people who become heroes and heroines in spite of themselves. I admire Sebastian Faulks’s writing, both fiction and non-fiction, and his research is exemplary.

How has your own family history shaped your writing?

In terms of subject matter, not at all. Yet my mother’s social conscience travels with me. My father’s attitude that it is possible to make absolutely anything is certainly built in. Both of them were Cambridge graduates and though neither were academic high achievers, they gave me a respect for reading and thinking and an assumption that there is no fundamental difference between a man and a woman or between nation and nation – except cultural ones.

What do you love the most about writing and what do you dislike?

I think I remain at heart a builder (as I was as a sculptor), someone who loves to take a skeletal idea and clothe and shape it until it comes as near to the original vision as possible.  There is a moment in every novel where it tries to fall apart. It is three-quarters written, the major turning points and climaxes are in place, but the glue between them starts to dry out too soon, parts fall off, the balance shifts too far from the centre. Belief is hard to hold onto at this stage.

Like most other writers, I also dislike the aftermath – the promoting and marketing.

Can you share with us the next book on your reading list?

The truth? The book that has just risen to the top of the pile by my bed is Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers! A non-fiction book, by journalist Mary Roach, looking at what happens to bodies after death. The opening line is: The way I see it, being dead is not far off from being on a cruise ship.

Although I read a great deal of fiction, I have a long list of non-fiction waiting, I am also about to read Midge Gillies Army Wives From Crimea to Afghanistan: the Real Lives of the Women Behind the Men in Uniform.  This subject is dear to my heart and my mother’s story appears in it briefly.



Some of Hilary’s father’s men (Royal Signals 27 Line Section) in Malaya in November 1941, before capture.


Please tell us about your latest published book.

During my childhood my father, Barry, talked about my mother’s role in WWII. while Barry and his men were prisoners of the Japanese in the Far East, my mother, Phyllis, had kept in touch with the wives, mothers and other relatives of the men in his Signals Unit (69 men).


Picture of Phyllis which Barry preserved for 4 years & carried through the jungle


Phyllis died in 1984, but it was only after Barry’s death in 2009 that I began to search for her papers. I found them, at last, hidden in the archives of a military museum. They included newspaper cuttings, notebooks, address books, a dossier and some 250 letters written to Phyllis from the tenements of Glasgow and the East End of London. I used these letters, along with Barry’s memoirs and Phyllis and Barry’s personal correspondence, to piece together the experiences of the men and women separated by 6000 miles over four long years. These years lasted from the day when the men danced eight Eightsome Reels simultaneously on the platform of Liverpool docks in July 1941, to the autumn of 1945, when forty-one men limped home in ones and twos. What emerges from this and from the post-war letters to Barry and Phyllis is the amazing, unceasing support these men and women gave each other.Surviving the Death Railway: A Far East POW’s Memoir and Letters from Home is my first non-fiction book, and was published this summer by Pen and Sword.


One of the rare ‘letters’ (they were only permitted to write 25 words in capitals) from Phyllis to Barry that arrived in Thailand. It took over a year to reach him. 


In the larger, more settled camps, the men put on shows, which Japanese guards enjoyed too. Barry was a chorus girl (Custance Baker) in this one. 



Discover more about Hilary and where to find her books here:




Via Author Christoph Fischer


It’s taken me far too lfullres the beaufort bridecoverfinalong to get round to this amazing piece of historical fiction. Why am I publishing this on Welsh Wednesdays?
Not only is the book partly set in Wales, in Caldecot Castle, I’ve actually met Judith in Wales in the run up to the Llandeilo Book Fair in April and have secured myself a signed copy of her book.
At last I got time to read this and must say I am very impressed.
From the first page onwards the prose hooked me into the story of young Margaret, only 12 years old when she is married to someone twice her age. Although the brother of the king, her husband, like his mad brother, is not a great catch.

Told from the young woman’s perspective we gain a great insight into the life of the 1440s court, the life of women and nobility, politics and…

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How To Work Twitter


Just lately a few people have asked me how I managed to grow my Twitter followers from around the 2000 mark to 8000, over the last six months. I’m quite sure that others can do so much better, but I thought there might be some people interested to know what I do, so here goes.

Twitter, like any social media platform, requires input. I decided to start using Twitter earlier this year, I mean really use it. That means reading tweets, acknowledging retweets, thanking new followers for actually thinking you might be worth engaging with. Remember when you were a child, how you were taught ‘manners’? Well, it’s a lesson in manners. You need to be polite, say please and thank you and you’ll find it goes a long way all around the globe.

Now, I hear what you’re thinking – this takes up so much time. You’re right, it does, so you have to prioritise, and do whatever you can to manage it in the best way. When you’re starting out, you probably won’t have a large following so it won’t be as much work. However, now that I’ve reached 8000, I don’t mind sharing that I’m struggling. There are some management tools such as which are perfect for keeping track of new followers and formulating tweets for you to send out so you keep up with followers and retweets, but you have to pay, and that’s simply not an option for many people, including me.


So, how do you grow? I can only speak for myself, and the key is to engage each day or most days. If you need a break, put a pinned tweet on your page letting everyone know you’ll be back and thank them for their support in the meantime. It’s not rocket science – it’s about thinking of how you relate & engage with people face to face and taking that over to Twitter.

Engagement also requires you sharing content. I share many tweets about writing, history and books for sale. I also share blog posts -mine and others – and anything I come across online such as news and history articles. Twitter is fast and furious and once you hit the send button, your tweet is swallowed up in the belly of the whale, but it’s not gone – it’s around and people are going to see it.And while most will ignore it, some will engage. Another good tip is to share yourself with your followers/friends. This means sending out a tweet about your day – how it’s going, what you’re doing, a picture of where you are, a sunrise, sunset, whatever you like. It allows people to see the real you and often that’s far more interesting.

A note on retweets. If someone retweets you, you have options – you can either retweet one of their posts – and a pinned tweet is better -that’s why we pin, to get retweets. Or, you can retweet them and say thanks. All good. Finally, you can say thanks, but I believe most would love you to reciprocate by retweeting them – especially if they have a business or a product to sell – it’s all word of mouth and marketing.

If you do have something to sell, then the general advice is to tweet perhaps 60-70% other content and the remainder your own, whether it’s a product or a service. People don’t want your products dominating the feed.

If you read a tweet that captures your interest, retweet it with a comment -for example, if it’s a beautiful picture, say so. Often I thank people for sharing links to books and articles – it’s a rich resource for all sorts, including history and music. What’s not to love?

Another nice acknowledgement is to do a weekly or twice-weekly round up of tweets to thank your followers for their support. Now here, what you’ll find is that you’ll establish a regular group of retweeters with a few fresh faces every day, so for me, I don’t have all 8000 followers retweeting me, but I have a small group of around 50-100 who retweet daily. This enables me to keep up and retweet them. In a single tweet, you can add five people usually with a message of thanks.


A final word on reciprocation. If people retweet you, it’s great. But if you never retweet them, or rarely do so, they’ll lose interest. Similarly, if they retweet you but you only like their post, that’s barely meeting them half-way. Retweet for a retweet. A like is better than nothing, but it doesn’t have much influence.

Reciprocation is key, and I can’t stress enough how vital this is. You have to play the game and abide by the rules. If you do, you’ll go from strength to strength. I can’t keep up with 8000 followers. It’s just impossible, and I lose a steady stream daily, of between 20-50, but my new followers are greater in number daily so my following is still increasing. However, many people stick with me for which I’m so grateful because here and there we do engage.

One thing I will say about being a follower – I NEVER unfollow someone merely because they are termed inactive. If you use certain management tools such as Tweepi or Crowdfire, you can see who followed you, unfollowed you and who you’re not following back. That’s great, but they also suggest inactive followers who you can unfollow. I don’t bother. I’m happy to follow them even if they remain silent forever. What does it matter? Often it comes down to the fact that they are like me, struggling in a sea of followers, thrashing around in a desperate attempt to stay afloat, either that or they left the building.

I also keep lists for writing, authors, history, social media etc, which is great for filtering tweets from individuals and allows you to stay in touch, assisting you with engagement.

What I love about Twitter is that it is immediate – you don’t get that with Facebook so much and also Twitter enables you to connect and meet people far more fluidly and it’s exciting, especially when you connect with like-minded people.

As a writer, I love connecting with other writers and readers, which I do on a daily basis, but as a lover of history, I can reach out to others who are equally passionate about history. What else is there to say? I work Twitter because it’s in my interest to do so. Having just placed my novel on pre-order I have also secured some orders through Twitter in the last 2 weeks. For me, that’s fantastic. What I’ve explained here really covers the basics. You learn more as you go, such as the benefit of using hashtags to gain wider attention. I’m still learning myself.

And for those who feel it’s a waste of time, well, all I can say is that it’s like anything – you only get what you put in. Give, and you shall receive. And for me, even if it does nothing to help me sell books, I gain far more such as friendships, daily chats, new discoveries in history, aviation, events, music, writing, literature, editors, proofreaders and so much more. I have to tell you that for me, it’s my favourite platform and I can’t see that changing anytime soon.

I’ve probably left out many useful tips, but this is all I can think of for now. And remember:




A Plain Russet-Coated Author

Via Author M.J. Logue

A Sweet Disorder

For reasons which are not mine to speculate on, the Historical Novel Society is no longer undertaking indie book reviews at the current time

And a very dear friend of mine has suddenly become a Kindle bestseller.

It’s rather given me food for thought – because, you know, I’ve never achieved more than mid-list success (albeit consistently – that’s not a complaint!), the reviewers are not beating a path to my door, there’s no possibility of a Rosie film.

-There’s the distant possibility of A Cloak of Zeal making it to the silver screen, but that’s different.

The most successful, most widely-shared blog post I’ve ever written, even more so about the one about being mental, was about a bloody Royalist.

My publisher says I’m a good writer, but he’s not keen on the historical definition.

And yet…

That’s what I am. That’s what I do.

My thing is the…

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