From the Bottle to the Battlefield: A Writers Story

Writing has always been a great hunger for me but for many years, I never wrote a word because I thought I was not capable. And in some ways I wasn’t. Having excelled as a child in school at composition, everyone had high expectations of me becoming a writer or a journalist, and at the tender age of fifteen, I had begun handwriting what I hoped would be an epic historical novel. Unfortunately for me, I became involved with a very controlling man for almost ten years and just like many controlling relationships it stripped me of all my confidence and whilst he paid lip service to encouraging me to write, every spare moment I have had to be spent with him. By the time the relationship had ended, I had lost all my ambitions, aspirations and desires.

A family day out

Recovering from this, I met another man and found some self-worth, but the damage was done, and I was a broken person. I tried to pick up my writing again, and my lovely man encouraged me, buying me a word processor so I could write the book I’d always wanted to write. I slipped into needless insecurity and I found solace in the bottle which eventually led me to lose everything I had gained from escaping that first marriage. Eventually after nine years of enduring my drinking, my wonderful husband had enough, and I was left to pull myself together in a hostel with the three children I had from both marriages. And I did it the only way I knew how. I drank.

After enduring my drinking for almost a year, I finally decided to do something about it and joined Alcoholics Anonymous. But i carried on drinking whilst in between bouts of drinking. It took me awhile to understand that I was never going to be able to process alcohol like normal people.

And so I got a sponsor, determined to change the person that drank. As recovery took its beautiful toll on me, I got well. Banished resentments and got on with my life, became the best mum I could be, put my kids first for a change and decided I would do something that would better their lives as well as mine. It was my amends to them. My two youngest ones don’t remember me ever being drunk, but my oldest son does, and the sad part is, he thought that was normal, being the son of an alcoholic parents. Of course he knows today that is not so, and I know he is proud of me today, because he’s told me so.


That was almost twenty years ago, and it was in those early days of recovering from the illness of alcoholism and the trauma of my past, I found my brain and intellect was restoring itself back to some semblance of health. I wanted to do something that would make me feel better about myself as well as help others so I made my poor suffering parents proud by training to be a nurse, though they were a little confused as to why I chose to go into mental health nursing! They imagined me as some Florence Nightingale I think, floating around a ward at night comforting the dying. But still, I know that I can be proud that I was sober when my parents died and was able to be there for them.

And then came the writing. Whilst I was at university, in early my forties, learning about computers as well as nursing, I decided I was in that space where I could write a novel. And so that’s when it all started. And I did that as well as studying for my nursing qualification.

The book, though, wasn’t quite ready when I had got my first nursing job. It took another four years for me to put it out there, but not quite in the same format as it is today. I first published Sons of the Wolf with an assisted publisher and a few years later I wanted to change the cover and revise the editing. That first edition cost me a lot of money and I never recouped it in sales, so I took back the files from them, and unpublished it, so to speak so I could republish it in my own imprint for a fraction of the price it cost me the first time around. I would never have been able to publish the second one at that cost so it was a better way to go for me, and I wished I’d done so with the first one.

But what an amazing feeling that eleven years into my recovery I was able to realise my dream of publishing the book I’d always wanted to. It wasn’t the same book I’d started out writing, all those years ago when I was a teenager. But it was the book I was meant to write, and I know that there is an awful lot of me in that book, in my characters, one in particular, but I won’t mention who it is. I’ll let you guess.

And so by 2016 I have two self-published books, both having won IndieBRAG medallions and a few other awards. I’m also a senior nurse practitioner now, as well as an author of historical fiction. Not a bad achievement considering I come from a background of Anorexia, self-harm, and Alcoholism.

But writing historical novels hasn’t been easy – I still suffer with something I’ve always suffered with, imposter syndrome. I even thought that I wasn’t a real alcoholic if my story wasn’t as bad as others. It’s the same with my writing. Because I self-publish and am not with a publishing house, I often think I can’t be a real author. And I struggle with telling people that I have books out there because I still wrestle with the idea that I’m not good enough, that I am less-than – or that they might read them and think they’re rubbish.

Re-enactment – Happiness is a Spear

Today, a few more years on, I know that as I constantly work to improve my craft by learning what I can from some of my fellow writers and those who’ve been in the industry a long time, I increase my confidence. And I know that if I can’t believe in myself, I can’t expect others too. And part of what gives me that feeling of comfortability now is my involvement in re-enactment. Since I began writing, I have been a member of Regia Anglorum Reenactment Society. It was a difficult decision for me as someone who has always been painfully self-obsessed and worried about what others think of me, to join something like this, but I did, because I wanted to be able to make my books as accurate and authentic as they could be. But joining the society was probably the best thing I could have ever done for my writing and I have met some really lovely people through it. The society has a huge following, and so many of the reenactors are so skilled at what they do, I am often in awe of them. Whenever I get a comment from readers in reviews that reflects the fact that I have this connection to the society, it makes me so happy to think that this is all down to the fact that Regia has been so useful for me.

Moving on and I am still working on the third book in the series after The Wolf Banner, Wolf’s Bane. Its been a hard slog, because I don’t write quickly and there is always something to research on whenever I write. I have been writing this one for about four-five years on and off. Three years ago, I lost 20,000 words of it when my computer crashed and it took me about a year to get back into it. Last year it was put on hold, more so because I was involved in Historical Writers Forum first anthology called Hauntings. And because I still nurse in a busy A&E in the heart of Sussex, I don’t get as much time to devote to this writing lark as I would like.

However, things are getting better. I am making more time. I’m doing Zoom talks with my fellow writers in the HWF, and I have this year got off to a fantastic start having just been signed up to Pen and Sword Books to write two historical biographies on Harold Godwinson and Edmund Ironside. At last a publishing deal! What a feeling! I’m so grateful that I have been given this opportunity.

But it hasn’t always been a straight road, the path has definitely gone off track along the way a few times, and I’m not always as serene and as spiritual as I would like to be. I often tell myself that we are all a work in progress, and that emotional and spiritual growth does not often come without pain. So it is that I am trudging the road to happy destiny and am one fully signed up member of the human race.

Today I am grateful for my experiences, for the recovery and for the achievements and the knowledge that it can only get better from here on. Grateful today I have a purpose, a sense of belonging and that I care less about what people think of me and more of what I can do to make a difference to people’s lives, whether it be to help them as a nurse or a fellow addict, or to bring a bit sunshine into their lives with my writing. And if anyone out there thinking their life is hopeless, reads this and is inspired in anyway, then I have made a difference, however small and that keeps me on track knowing I can do more in life if I just don’t pick up a drink one day at a time.

For me, if I didn’t have my recovery programme, my books and writing, I wouldn’t have what I have today. My friends and family are proud of me – so what more could I ever ask for?

The Coffee Pot Book Club: Author’s Inspiration ~ Paula Lofting #HistFic #mustread @paulalofting

On September the 17th I had the privilege of visiting the blog of Mary Anne Yarde author of the The Du Lac Chronicles to talk about what inspired me to write.

Author’s Inspiration ~ Paula Lofting #HistFic #mustread @paulalofting

I have historical fiction author, Paula Lofting, on the blog today. Paula is going to share with us her inspiration behind her fabulous series…

Sons of the Wolf


Books have always been more than just words on a page and paper in a binder, for living inside those pages, is the magic that exists inside all of us. Everyone has within them the power to create anything they wish – worlds with all kinds of amazing wonderments: islands, cities, undulating hills; snow-capped mountains surrounded by lush forests with their hidden magic; sun-reflected lakes; waterfalls that cascade into deep blue lagoons that stretch into rivers that snake through valleys of green marshy slopes. I could go on, but it would take forever to list all the amazing things that a story or a fairy tale brings to our imaginations. These were the places inhabiting my mind as a child finding escape and adventure in a book.

Eagle of the 9th


I was a huge bookworm. I remember Dad would take me to the library on a Saturday, and I spent ages there, looking at the books and grabbing the ones with covers that caught my eyes. I would choose books by Rosemary Sutcliffe, C.S. Lewis and anything that looked fascinating with a historical element and I especially loved stories about dragons, faraway places, and animals that could talk, like in Rupert Bear.


By the time I was a teenager, I had discovered one of my most favourite authors. I was still reading books by Rosemary Sutcliffe, stories I adored. She kindled the spark that would one day turn into a fierce love of all things past. But by now, I had found Leon Garfield, who managed to captivate my imagination, and took me from the post Roman-British world of Rosemary Sutcliffe to the streets of London in the 18thc. Sutcliffe and Garfield both wrote books in historical settings for adolescents, and these books were extremely erudite for my tender years, even for a seasoned reader, but oh how they sparked my imagination, leaving me to fulfil my desire for more, by creating stories of my own which I would write down in an exercise book. I went on to read and discover many more wonderful authors as I grew older.

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An Excerpt from my WIP _Wolf’s Bane_, third book in my Sons of the Wolf series about the years leading up to the Battle of Hastings.


The curtain was drawn and he peered into the chamber. A woman, clothed in a plain brown woollen robe sat on a bench, sewing. A white wimple framed what he could see of her face, which was not much, since she was looking downwards watching her needle as it undulated through her embroidery. She did not look up, and it appeared she neither heard nor sensed his presence. The room was dark and gloomy, but she had candles that seemed to allow her enough light with which to see. He watched her for some moments, not knowing how to approach her for he was nervous, and did not know if he could stand to be with her again.

Suddenly, he felt the bile rise in his gullet and felt the urge to run. He had come all this way only because his sister had begged him to go make his peace with her.  On the journey, he’d promised himself that he would not think of peace until he had heard what she had to say – and now, he did not want to hear what she had to say. Nonetheless, he fought the urge to run, because when all was said and done, he needed her to hear what had burned in his heart for so long.

Finally, he coughed to get her attention. Her gaze hovered at his feet before slowly drifting to meet his eyes. He saw the alarm in her face. Felt her fear. It gave him a sense of power.

“Mother…” he said with a faint smile.

She stood up, a jerky motion, and lost her embroidery to the floor. “I prayed that you would come to see me,” she said. And the smile she gave him was genuine, unlike the mocking smile that he had given her.

“And I prayed that I would never see you again… And yet… here I am…” The words slipped off his tongue gently, much more gently than he had intended.

“Aye, here we both are.” She took a step forward holding her arms out to him as if she would embrace him. He hoped that she would not. He could not bear for her to touch him. The thought made him flinch and he stiffened, visibly.

Her smile weakened. “You have grown so tall. Now you are taller than I,” she said. She was nervous, he thought.

As she wittered on, making observations of how well he looked, his eyes swept around the room. He did not know why, but it mattered to him how she was living. Apart from the bed against the back wall, a closed wicker basket, a small table, and the bench on which she sat, the furnishings were sparse. It seemed strange to see her without her beloved wall hangings and those other pretty worldly things that had once given her such pleasure.

She stepped closer to him, and he could see her better. She had changed since he’d last seen her. Her face was less sharp around her cheek bones, and her jaw line sagged slightly. In her once vibrant green eyes, he saw the same haunted look that his father had worn in his; the look of the guilty.

“You must be in need of refreshment, come, I have some ale here. Come sit with me and tell me your news.”

She put a hand under his elbow to guide him into the room, a touch that was light enough to shake off. She ignored the rebuff and picked up her sewing to put it on her bed, then poured the ale into two cups and sat down on her bench with her drink in her hand. She patted the space beside her, and he stared at it, thinking to himself that nothing on this earth would make him sit with her. Instead, he moved into the room, cautiously, and leant against the wall by the door. With one leg bent, and the sole of his shoe supporting him on the plaster behind, he folded his arms and stood, impassive.

“Come, my son, get your ale and come sit with me. I can order some food to be brought… if you are hungry…” Her voice was encouraging and light.

“I don’t want any ale… I don’t want any food…” He gave a slight chuckle. “I don’t know why I came.”

She was looking at him with hurt eyes and he couldn’t stand it. He unfolded his arms, dropped his leg and was about to go through the doorway when she called him, “Tovi. Please don’t go, for the good of us both, please stay.”

He felt his heart leap, though why he did not know. “Why, Mother? What good will that do me?”

She was on her feet, cup still in hand. “Why did you come all this way, if you will not speak with me?”

“I came because Freyda asked me to… I promised her… I would…”

“Then please, do not let your sister down, at least.” Her eyes looked hopeful. “Listen to what I have to say, if nothing else.”

“Listen to you? I did nothing but listen to you all my life – I listened to your lies, I kept your secret from Father, and you made me suffer for it! Yes, Mother, don’t look so surprised. What do you think that day in Winflaed’s bower did to me? I begged you not to send me away!”

“I’m sorry,” she said in a low voice. “I thought it best for you – you were becoming unruly, and –”

“You wanted to punish me for your sin! You wanted me to pay because I knew what you had done!”


“Aye, Mother! You knew that I never wanted to go to Waltham, but you made me go anyway.”

“All right,” she started, in a whiny voice. “I wanted to punish you – but it was not for that, it was because you nearly killed your sister.” She began to sob.

He took some steps closer to her. “No, Mother! It wasn’t because of Winflaed, was it?”

“No…Yes! I’m telling the truth.”

“It was because of your Francisc lover, wasn’t it?”

“No!” Tears streamed down her face. She struggled to speak as incoherent mumblings spilled out of her mouth.

He was eye to eye with her now, noses almost touching. “You wanted to punish me, because I knew what you had got up to in your bed those nights when Ranulf came with the Francs, and Father was away.”

“No, never – it was because of Winflaed – she could have died.”

He spoke over her as she said the words, feeling such rage. “It was because you lay with another man. Did you think I would be too young to notice? Too stupid, perhaps? Everyone thought I was stupid back then. All of you did! Father, Wulfric, Wulfwin, Freyda… Poor, stupid, stammering Tovi. Well I’m not stammering anymore, Mother, am I?”

He raised his voice over her cries of protestation. “I hope you enjoyed those nights with your lover…”

“All right! Yes… Yes… Yes – it was because of him, Thierry…” She sunk to her knees, sobbing uncontrollably, mucus mixing with her tears.

Tovi fell silent. A tear ran down his cheek. His heart was doing somersaults, and his stomach rolled as he stared down at her, wretched, like Jezebel pleading for her life. She lifted a shaking hand up to him. He wanted to lift her and calm her, fold her in his arms and tell her that he forgave her. He almost put out his hand to take hers, but was stopped by a voice in his head that told him, she despises you… she is a trickster… she wants you to forgive her, but she will never forgive you… he could not bring himself to touch her.

Instead, he said, “I hope he was worth it, Mother, because your sin has been my cross to bear. Ever since that night, I have been torturing myself that I should have done something to stop you, to save you from being unfaithful.”

“Tovi – I –”

“Oh, spare me your excuses, I don’t want to hear them. I don’t want to even look at you –”

“Forgive me, Tovi, I’m sorry… I – You’re right, I have sinned, and I made you suffer, but I –

“It’s too late, Mother. You had your chance to make amends, just now, but you justified everything you had done to me. I was just a boy! A boy, Mother – trying to help you – and Father -but instead you have thrown everything I ever did to save you back in my face.” As his words became harsher, the worse her distress. It made no difference. She had not cared how he’d felt… ever. So why should he care about her pain. “I’m going now, Mother. And I am not coming back. I don’t want to see you again – Ever!”

He turned and went through the to the hearth-room. Some of the nuns he’d encountered earlier came hurrying in, coming to her aid. He ignored their reproving looks and walked past them, listening to the hysterical cries of his mother and the nun’s soft voices as they tried to soothe her. As he walked from the guest apartments and out into the courtyard, he could still hear her cries. It was then that the floodgates opened and his tears burst from them. Tears for his younger self, penned up inside him until the moment when he could at last let them go. With them, went the burden of carrying the sins of his parents and a great weight was lifted from him. And the one thing he would remember the most from that day, was that all through his tirade and haranguing, he never once stammered.