Day 7: Those Questions! Everything you didn’t think you wanted to know about me. 🦔🦔

After an hour, the major domo entered and announced a short break for refreshments. The four players rose and moved out of the card room into the main ballroom where tables with champagne and canapes were arranged. As they circulated, greeting old friends and acquaintances alike, Jane found herself listening to a familiar voice as a body appeared behind her.

“Don’t turn around. You know he is cheating, don’t you?” she heard the voice murmur.

“Mr King, is that you?” she whispered.

“It is, my lady.”

“How do you mean – he is cheating.”

“He is very clever. I know him from several gambling clubs. He is one of those who play cards, but who cannot bear to lose. So, they make sure they do not lose – ever. They cheat.”

“He introduced himself as Mr. Thompson from York.”

“He uses many names. You note, he never wins much. To win a hand of several thousand guineas would attract attention. Instead, he wins small amounts, but constantly.”

“How does he manage the affair?”

“He deals cards from the bottom of the pack, and he has an accomplice who can advise him of the cards other players hold. Normally he uses a woman for the task. I haven’t identified her yet, but I will, eventually.”

“What should I do? I can’t accuse him of cheating without some proper proof, something that others could see.”

“I agree. You should do nothing. Leave this to me. I will speak to him and tell him he is observed. “

A few minutes later she heard raised voices, and saw Mr Thompson being ushered from the Pantheon, followed by a brassy-looking woman dressed in green taffeta. Jane remembered seeing her earlier in the card room circulating among the tables.

When they sat down to play again, the others were astonished to see that Mr Thompson did not join them. Instead, Jane was surprised to see Mr King step forward and offer to take his place.

I’m afraid Mr Thomson has had to withdraw. He asked me to make his apologies.”

  1. What makes a good story?

Character! All great stories seem to have really well developed characters. You need your readers to believe in your characters – and then the plot will almost come on its own

2            How have YOU become a better writer?

By reading! All sorts of books. Just keep reading and keep learning.

3            What inspires you?

People and their personal stories.

4            What does your family think of your writing?

I must ask them sometime. (Actually, not true – they are VERY supportive, and not to the extent of saying “everything is lovely”.)

5            What was the most surprising things you learned about yourself in creating your books?

That I could write at all!

6            If you could have written any book, what would it have been and why?

Too many! Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, Winston Graham’s Poldark, J B Priestley’s “Good Companions” just to start!

7            How much research do you do?

LOTS!!! You have to do justice to the times your characters moved in. Also, if you get something wrong, no matter how small, SOMEONE will pick you up on it. You don’t need to know EVERYTHING, but you do need to know and learn enough to make your story ring true.

8            How do you relax?

We have a 2-year-old Granddaughter! Apart from that, friends, cooking, music….

9            Do you have any writing quirks? (and if so what?)

Not particularly.

10         Why write in your genre?

I’ve always loved historical fiction and historical romance I was brought up on Georgette Heyer, Robert Louis Stephenson and the like. How could I NOT write in that genre?

11         How is your writing different now from when you started writing.

At least I’m learning some of the mechanics and basics now. Point of view and head-hopping are less of an issue.

12         What do people THINK they know about your subject/genre, that they don’t?

Time. How slowly transport moved. It might take a week to go from Dover to Calais, and it would be normal to take three days or more going from London to York.

13         Your 3 favourite authors?

Bernard Cornwell, Liz Fenwick and Georgette Heyer.

14         In what ways do you ’service’ or ‘support’ your books?

I’m very active on Social Media and really try to engage with my friends, fellow authors and readers I also make a point of supporting our libraries up here (Yorkshire) and other writers at Signing Events, etc.

15         What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

Sometimes you eat the bear – and sometimes the bear eats you! Get over it and get on. You can’t please EVERYONE!

16         What makes your book(s) stand out from the crowd?

A couple of things. I’m a man working in a largely female genre – and that’s fine by me. Also, I tend to work with “real people”. These are all actual relatives of mine, although all dead, and some of them really vile specimens of humanity.

17         Tell us something about your road to being published

I managed to join the Romantic Novelists Associations matchless New Writers Scheme, and my reader REALLY helped. A lot of very useful criticism and an almost complete line-edit. Invaluable.

I then touted the MS round looking for an agent, with no success. I also submitted the MS to a couple of the smaller publishing houses. A friend, Angela Wren, was with  Crooked Cat, and I submitted to them, and was accepted.

18         Plotter or Pantser?

Plotter. It comes with my background in systems auditing on ships.

19         Your main character. What makes him or her so special?

He or she has to be “different”. There has to be something about them that makes them interesting, be it a personal trait or something they have done.

20         What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has?

How much do you want for the film or TV rights for Heart of Stone??

Only £0.99 all week!

My publisher, Crooked Cat Books, have been transformed into Darkstroke! They are open to submissions, too, particularly if you write in any of the “Dark” genres or tropes.

Day 6, What Now? “Strange Bedfellows” 🦔🦔

“Eventually, the audience went quiet, and the play began. As the lamps around the auditorium were extinguished, there was a knock on the door to her box. Rising rapidly, she opened the door to find Harry there. He strode into the box and while keeping in the shadows and well away from the front he pulled Jane to her and kissed her passionately.

She returned his kiss, and she felt his hands moving up the outside of her dress to cup her breasts through her clothes. She grasped his hands and pressed them further to her.

“Oh my love,” he whispered. “This is a happy chance to find you here.”

“What about the rest of your party?”

“They won’t mind. In fact, they won’t even notice. They are set for an evening’s carouse. They are all younger than me, Ensigns and Lieutenants. They don’t want to be out for the night with someone so much older.”

“Sit with me then, and enjoy the play!”

“I’d much rather show you my rooms on Brook St.”

One of the advantages of a complicated and “easily findable” family tree is that, for a historical novelist, it really is “the gift that keeps on giving.”

My Work-in-progress has a working title of Strange Bedfellows – and the main protagonists certainly were that.

Jane Butler, the daughter mentioned in Heart of Stone, duly grew up and married another Irish peer – as you do. Brinsley Butler, Lord Lanesborough. They were happily married for about twenty years, and had a total of six children, when – suddenly – Jane announces that she is leaving her husband and going to live in London.

Jane Butler, Lady Lanesborough

This she does, taking her 3 youngest children with her. While in London she:

  1. Goes broke,
  2. Loses her income,
  3. Meets John King,
  4. Becomes one of the “Faro Ladies”
  5. Is involved in forging banknotes,
  6. Travelled all over Europe,
  7. Was run out of Naples, owing money to everyone.
  8. Knew Emma Hamilton there.

John King, our hero, is the antithesis of conventional heroes.

  1. He is a Jewish moneylender,
  2. He was 15 years younger than Jane,
  3. He was already married,
  4. He makes a living by broking loans for the younger sons of the Irish nobility,
  5. He was in and out of Debtors Prison at least four times.
  6. He endowed the Jewish Orphans School in London,
  7. He was a supported of Thomas Paine (The Rights of Man) – and then fought with him!

And lots more!!

Only £0.99 all week!

My publisher, Crooked Cat Books, have been transformed into Darkstroke! They are open to submissions, too, particularly if you write in any of the “Dark” genres or tropes.

Day 5: “Amazon’s Editorial Reviews” 🦔🦔

“Kitty could still feel the warmth and impact of Robert’s hands on her body.”Do you know a young girl called Mary?” she asked.

“I know several of that name,” he replied.

“Mary Molesworth? Young, pretty and just out of the schoolroom. She is always at the theatre.”

“Oh yes, I know her – and her mama.”

“Well, a friend tells me that her mama is determined that her daughter marries an earl at least.” said Kitty, stretching and purring like a kitten.

“That’s hardly news,” replied Robert. “Lady Molesworth’s ambitions for her step-daughter are well known. She has three daughters of her own to marry off. No doubt she wants Mary off her hands so she can concentrate on finding husbands for them.”

“You could do worse. The girl seems amiable, and bright. I assume you know she will come with a considerable fortune?”

“That would sweeten the pill, of course, although I’m not yet an earl. The prospect of having Lady Molesworth as my mother-in-law or being a regular visitor to Mullingar fills me with horror.” “Do you care? Get her with child, let her produce an heir, and then both of you can do what you like. Like your first marriage.”

I was checking through the reviews for Heart of Stone – as you do – and checked on the main site. I found a section there entitled “Editorial Reviews”

This is something that Amazon have put together, not me! Fabulous to read, too.

“One of those reads I didn’t want to end. I wanted to know MORE  Beautifully plotted,  such a good read”. – ★★★★★

“as debut novels go this is pretty damn good!”  . – ★★★★★

“A thoroughly fascinating read which I found difficult to put down.” – ★★★★★

” I thoroughly recommend Heart of Stone which is a well-written debut novel with rounded characterisation and pacy narrative.” – ★★★★★

“A wonderful story, very well told with an easy flowing narrative.” – ★★★★★

“Utterly loved the book, fantastic read. All who love history, passion, intrigue and love will adore this book.” – ★★★★★

“Well done for writing such a compelling debut novel.” – ★★★★★

“The real joy of this book was the amazing, yet not intrusive, historical detail.” – ★★★★★

“A remarkable tale and well deserving of the 5 stars I have given it.” – ★★★★★

“Thoroughly satisfying, well-written traditional historical fiction at its best.” – ★★★★★

For any author, it’s definitely worth checking for your “Editorial Reviews”

Only £0.99 all week!

My publisher, Crooked Cat Books, have been transformed into Darkstroke! They are open to submissions, too, particularly if you write in any of the “Dark” genres or tropes.

Day 4: Get it into the papers!

“Every year a fresh crop of marriageable maidens and scheming mamas came to Dublin for the Season. While they knew of his previous marriage, Robert found himself receiving more and more attention from those with daughters.

Among those whose attentions were becoming more and more enthusiastic was Lady Jane Molesworth. Mary, her sixteen-year-old step-daughter, was pretty, dark-haired, and vivacious. Her youth was no object for her step-mama, who had three daughters of her own to marry off. The sooner she could get Mary married and off her hands, the easier it would be to contrive good matches for her own children.

From the Westmeath Examiner, in 2018. Where do you do an interview in Ireland? In the pub, of course!

Wicked Earl’s author grandson visits seat of Rochfort ancestors

Eilís Ryan

When retired ship’s captain John Jackson decided to give his family tree a bit of a shake, he was stunned at what he found: castles, titles galore, soldiers, lords – and then the story of Robert Rochfort, the first Earl of Belvedere, nicknamed ‘The Wicked Earl’.

The portrait is actually Robert Rochfort’s father, George.

“Robert Rochfort was my five-times great grandfather,” says Manchester-born John, who was in Mullingar last week promoting his book, ‘Heart of Stone’, a fictionalised version of the tale of his evil ancestor, who locked away his wife, Mary Molesworth, over her alleged affair with his brother Arthur,

It is a tale well-known to anyone who has ever visited Belvedere House, built by Rochfort after consigning tragic Mary to confinement at the marital home – Gaulstown House – where she spent 31 years a prisoner.
Arthur, meanwhile, died later in a debtors prison after the court made a judgement for £20,000 against him after Robert sued him for “criminal conversation”.
Not generally given to colourful language – despite the maritime background – when speaking of Robert Rochfort, John Jackson finds himself resorting to epithets not generally used when we speak of our ancestors.
“He was a complete shit!” he admits, laughing.
“He was a vile human being – but that made him more interesting to write about.”

When John started his research, around 50 years ago, he was working off various handwritten manuscripts handed down in the family. Through these he came to know of Robert Rochfort, Earl of Belvedere, and of his roots in Westmeath – but nothing of the story for which Rochfort became famous locally.
Once the internet arrived, it made John’s researches easier, and stumbling across an online book about celebrated Irish beauties of the 18th century, he came across the name of Mary Molesworth, and realised she too was his ancestor, since she was Rochfort’s wife.
Rochfort and Mary Molesworth had four children.
“The line that comes down to me is through their daughter Jane,” says John.
Jane became the Countess of Lanesborough, and through her the line continues down through John’s mother.
It was the fact of his mother’s unusual surname (Dumaresq) that initially prompted John to start researching his family tree. Since it is a rare name, going back to the island of Jersey, it made researches relatively easy, even in those pre-internet days.
“[The Dumaresqs] were one of the two big families on the island, back in the day, though they’ve all died out now,” he says, going on to recount how they’d tended to marry well – the daughters of peers for example, and thus, it proved a not hugely-difficult task to follow his lineage, and thus discover the story which is the subject of ‘Heart of Stone’.
“What I like to say about their story is it’s fascinating – but nobody comes out of it looking well: nobody at all,” he says.
Rather than giving a faithful account of their story – something already done many times over by historians, John just based his account loosely on the true version: “What I like to say is I’ve perhaps given them the story they should have had,” he says.

John admits he was “fascinated” when he came across the tragedy, and even more so when he realised the leading protagonists were his direct ancestors.
“I hope that’s not too much of a recursive gene!” is the thought he sometimes has when he considers the nastiness of Robert Rochfort – but then he reminds himself that we each have 128 grandparents at the five-times-back level.
“So it’s a very small drop in the mix!” he jokes.

The book took John two years to write – but the Rochforts have proven such a rich source of material that John has another in the pipeline: “I’m 25,000 words into the next book, and the next book is about their daughter, Jane Rochfort, who married Brinsley Butler, 2nd Earl of Lanesborough,” he says.
Jane, the Countess of Lanesborough was herself a pretty colourful character, it turns out.
“They were married for about eighteen years or so; had kids; then the eldest three were married, and she said: ‘right: I’m off to London to live the high life!’”
The Earl, who was high up in the Irish Exchequer, stayed in Dublin; the Countess took off with their three youngest children and took herself a new lover, John King, a loan-broker to the aristocracy.
“And they were together for about forty years.”

John, who has lived and worked for periods in The Falkland Islands and in the Netherlands, had visited Ireland before, but until last week, never this area.
There are no family links in the area any more: “When the Rochforts died out – one of the things I mention in the book, it was in The Annals of Westmeath – when the second earl died in 1814, and having no issue the title became extinct,” says John.

What The Annals then stated was: “The Rochforts are cleared out of Westmeath, root and branch. They were a wicked race, and to this day the name is loathed and execrated in this county”.

• Heart of Stone is published by Crooked Cat books and available through Amazon.

Only £0.99 all week!

My publisher, Crooked Cat Books, have been transformed into Darkstroke! They are open to submissions, too, particularly if you write in any of the “Dark” genres or tropes.

Day 3. Heart of Stone – the Story behind the Story. 🦔🦔

“Matchmaking mamas seemed to regard Robert as dangerous, and they made a point of keeping their daughters well beyond his reach. This caused him no concern. Widowed for three years, he had no wish to marry again. It took him no time at all to set up another pretty young courtesan as his mistress in an apartment on Harley Street.

Every few weeks he would receive a summons from Mr Stafford. It soon became clear to Robert that someone was watching his daily habits.

“My colleagues tell me your instruction goes well,” he remarked on one of Robert’s calls. “Oh, and we see you have a new mistress.” “

I’ve always been interested in history and genealogy. Mother’s maiden name was Dumaresq, which is as unusual as it looks. Its from Jersey, and the Dumaresqs “married well”. No money, sadly, but lots of connections and LOTS of “rogues and vagabonds”.

Long before the days of the internet, if you were interested in your family tree, you started off searching in the old Births, Marriages and Deaths registers, then at Somerset House. You could then also find a lot of ancestral records in the offices of the various Mormon churches. Many of them had (or have) Genealogy Centres. No computers, but lots of microfiches to sort through. (remember them?)

But – sooner or later, you got drawn to the Society of Genealogists in London. They had a MASS of printed records, and an enormous Card Index with several million records. While poking around, I found a copy of this, with a couple of Dumaresqs in the index!! The Society office is still down a cul-de-sac behind an old building near the Barbican.

The “Plantagenet Roll”
FIVE Volumes!!

This is part of the same set of records that showed Danny Dyer to be descended from Edward III (as is a third of the population of the UK, so it really IS nothing special!)

A lot of the earlier links in these books are distinctly dodgy, so caution is needed, but here is a link to the first volume:

A quick search of the pdf shows lots of Fenwicks, Maynards, Osbornes and Harris’. If you want some fun, click on the link, than on Control F, and put your surname – or ANY name in, and search. You may well be surprised.

And – remember – you MAY find that you are Danny Dyer’s cousin!

My Great Grandfather, Henry William Dumaresq appears in the book (He was a Major in the Royal Engineers and married a peer’s youngest daughter) – so it was easy to trace things back and lo, and behold – what to I find but Robert Rochfort, Earl of Belvedere. For some years, nothing happened, but then I found this!

“Some Celebrated Irish Beauties of the Last Century”

Chapter 1 is about Mary Molesworth, and tells something of the tale of what a total bastard her husband was. Not for nothing was he called “The Wicked Earl”.

More research – and there it was. The story I wanted to write!!

Robert Rochfort’s home, Belvedere, is a national monument and is open to the public. Its an amazing place, and also contains the largest folly in Ireland “The Jealous Wall”. I recommend a visit if you are ever in Ireland.

When I went, the management gave me permission FREE  – to use this picture of Robert for the cover. “Ah, just give us a mention in the book. That’ll be grand!”

Only in Ireland!

Only £0.99 all week!

My publisher, Crooked Cat Books, have been transformed into Darkstroke! They are open to submissions, too, particularly if you write in any of the “Dark” genres or tropes.

Day 2: A bit about me! 🦔🦔

Although I’m now retired and living just north of York, its been a long and active path that has brought me here.

I went to sea as a Cadet in the Merchant Navy in the late 60s, and spent four years sailing between the UK and the east coast of South America. Back then, a ship might stay as long as three weeks in a port. Nowadays the same amount of cargo will be unloaded and fresh cargo reloaded on board in less than 24 hours.

I’ve always worked on the basis of trying to see as much as I could in the ports we went to, and after South America, work took me pretty well all over the world as I climbed the ladder to command. The only area I never made it to was the West coast of North America.

The Marine School, Honiara, Solomon Islands
The Northern tip of Rannongga in the Solomons

After coming ashore, I took the family off to the Solomon Islands for two years, where I was teaching at their little Marine School there, and then down to the Falklands where I ran the Fishery Protection Service for 2 years (great job).

Stanley in the Falklands
Polish Mother-ship, a reefer-vessel and a trawler, transshipping frozen fish in Berkeley Sound in the Falklands.
Surf Bay, in the Falklands.

Then to Cyprus, Holland, Scotland, the Isle of Man and London working for shipping companies on their safety and management systems.  

Disko Island, off Greenland.

These days, apart from writing, after we retired up here, we found we had hedgehogs in the garden. We still feed them, and they continue to prosper. We find them enchanting, and hedgehogs need all the help they can get.

A few odd facts:

  1. Most remote place I’ve been: Pitcairn Island.
  2. Longest trip on board: 9 months 6 days.
  3. Favourite places: Singapore, Buenos Aires, Santos.
  4. Coldest place: Disko Island, Greenland.
  5. Most Northerly place: Kirkeness(Norway) / Murmansk.
  6. Best place we’ve lived: Stanley in the Falklands.
  7. Worst place: Honiara, the Solomon Islands.
  8. Crew I’ve sailed with: British, West Indian, Maltese, Polish, Croatian, Somali, Filipino, Burmese, German, Russian, Solomon Islands, Chinese.
  9. Flags I have sailed under: British, Singapore, Cyprus, Austria, Bahamas, Antigua, Panama, Liberia, Solomon Islands.
  10. Number of Countries visited: 110

Only £0.99 all week!

And finally – my Publisher’s have a new imprint. Darkstroke Books. They are actively seeking authors, so if you write in ANY of the dark genres or tropes – feel free to submit to them!

Day 1: All Change! (Well, Not EVERYTHING)🦔🦔

My publisher, Crooked Cat Books, are running a week-long promo on their web-site for several of their authors – including ME! This seemed a heaven-sent opportunity to refresh everything, including a new Profile pic.

It’s not until you start that you realise exactly WHAT everything entails!

Updated Page on the Crooked Cat website:

Updated Profile on the RNA Website:

Updated Amazon Author Page:

Updated Goodreads Author Page:

Updated page on Promoting Yorkshire Authors: promoting yorkshire authors – john jackson

Updated Bookbub Page:

And, of course, changing all the profile pics on all my Social Media accounts! Tomorrow – much more interesting (hopefully0. A bit of info about me.

To close – seeing we are doing “Links” today – here are a few:

The Romantic Novelists Association: Celebrating 60 years of Romance right across the spectrum is ALL its forms!!

Facebook: Romantic.Novelists.Association

Twitter: RNAtweets

Only £0.99 all week!

And finally – my Publisher’s have a new imprint. Darkstroke Books. They are actively seeking authors, so if you write in ANY of the dark genres or tropes – feel free to submit to them!

Time Flies When You Are Having Fun!

I suddenly realised it was THREE MONTHS since my last update, during which I seem to have been massively busy. Since then, we’ve had Christmas with a two-year-old (!!) lots of writing bits, pieces and events all over Yorkshire, AND the RNA Winter Party. This was preceded by a truly excellent talk from Sophie Kinsella!

RNA PArties are a GREAT way of catching up with friends!

I’ve also been doing some bits and pieces for the RNA, including a Powerpoint presentation looking back over 60 years. This year is their 60th Birthday, and I’ll be joining in their celebrations with gusto. It has meant going back through their archives, back to 1960 – and long before the internet. It has been fun trying to find a picture of all of the various “Romance of the Year” award winners. Back then, the Association was set up by, among others, the redoubtable Denise Robins and Barbara Cartland. For many of the authors, their publishers never bothered with a “head shot” and its impossible to find a picture of them. The covers all had “a certain look” too.


The RNA Winter Party was at a new venue – the Leonardo Hotel at Tower Hill. Strangely, when I was working for NYK in London 13 years ago, we had our Xmas party there. I spent most of the evening talking and taking pics, as usual! A good venue – I can get on the tube there, and go all the way beck to my hotel in Ealing!! #districtline. We are back there again for the RoNAs – the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards, in 4 weeks time!

No sooner was I back from the Winter party than I was down again, this time with P, my other half, to see Bill Bailey performing in the atrium underneath the Cutty Sark. We see him every time he comes to York – and its always worth it!


We coupled THIS trip with one to the RHA Wisley for lunch, and seeing one of our oldest friends in SW London.

Apart from an excellent family Xmas, mostly spent watching our 2-year-old Granddaughter have fun with boxes, the public (so to speak) bit of Xmas included doing some readings from A Christmas Carol at a Promoting Yorkshire Authors event at Northallerton Library. A lot of fun dressing up!

My publisher, Crooked Cat Books, are doing a week-long promotion for me on their website, so I’ve recently been really busy getting everything ready for this. Watch this space from Saturday of next week, the 15th of February, when I’ll be updating this blog every day for a week!!


Children in Read – A Look-Back

Children in Read is an initiative that allows authors to donate a book (or books) to one of the best-known charities in the UK – Children in Need, through an on-line auction.

First and foremost, this is not just about books written for kids – it is very much about books written for all ages and tastes, and across pretty well EVERY genre.

These are the genres they currently divide books into:

Children’s Laureates                     Autobiography/Biography                       Children

Christmas                                          Contemporary                                                 Cookery

Crime Thriller                                   Educational                                                      Fantasy

History                                               History Fiction                                                Horror / Paranormal

Humour                                             Mystery Thriller                                              Poetry

Romance                                           Science Fiction                                                Sport

Suspense Thriller                             T.V. & Film                                                       Young Adult

Multiple books                                Dr Who

For authors, I think it’s a superb cause. You get YOUR book into the hands of someone who really wants it. It costs you 1. A book, 2, A Jiffy-bag, and 3. Postage.  AND you raise funds for a very highly regarded charity.

All you need to do to donate is to let Paddy know the title and give him an Amazon link to your book. He will put up a page for your book. This was mine for Heart of Stone

As you can see, you get links to your Web page and your Twitter handle, plus your bio, cover, headshot and, of course, the blurb for your book.

The Auction closed at 11 pm on the Friday of Children in Need, and I was advised by a DM on Twitter from Paddy of the address of the winning bidder on the following Tuesday.

Children in Read itself gets excellent sponsorship from a company called Construction Impact Framework; they sponsor the website and system architecture – and well done them.

Paddy Heron, who runs the event, tells me that some people start sending him books early in the year; their bid drive really starts in July, though. Next year I will put an alarm call out in late June that its all kicking off soon!

And finally, congratulations to ALL my fellow authors who donated or bid for books. In the words of Young Mr Grace, “You’ve All Done Very Well!” and raised over £8500.