1 June 2012

Welcome to author Derek G. Rogers

and Blackmore's Treasure 

Derek submitted his excellent children's novel, Blackmore's Treasure to the Historical Novel Society's Indie Reviews. As UK editor I loved the cover - read the book, and loved that as well - so I selected it as my Editor's Choice.
This is the sort of book that proves Indie and Self Published books are every bit as good as Mainstream!

Here's my review
I am a fan of Barbara Erskine’s time slip novels – and this is a superb equivalent for younger readers, boys especially, but adventure-loving girls (and adults!) will also enjoy this engrossing read.
It is June 1995. Thirteen-year-old Tobias Allinson is at his grandparent’s farm near Naseby. His ancestor of the same name founded the farm soon after the English Civil Wars, and ever since, his descendants have been hoping to find the treasure that was supposed to be buried there.
Following a great storm Tobias has an accident – and wakes to find himself a grown man in 1645 wearing the uniform of Captain Tobias Allinson, a servant of Parliament, on Cromwell’s personal staff. He has an important message for Sir Thomas Fairfax but has been captured by deserters. One of his captors is Sergeant Blackmore, whom Allinson easily outwits, and ultimately befriends. The Royalists and Roundheads are preparing for battle – Naseby - and Tobias finds himself in the thick of adventure and a series of exciting escapades, mostly revolving around the scurrilous Blackmore. Allinson is to meet Cromwell, Fairfax and Prince Rupert, take part in the battle and eventually settle in an old, abandoned farm where, so Blackmore boasts, he hid some treasure. Awakening from unconsciousness, young Tobias in the present day is determined to find it.
I enjoyed this adventure from the opening page right through to the last. The time slip transference from present to past was smoothly, and believably, done and while some of the story is predictable from an adult’s point of view, this is for younger readers who will be engrossed in the action and motives of the characters. And all while learning a bit of accurate history. The cover is fabulous, the writing spot on. This is a book which should be in every school library and on the curriculum reading list. Good stuff.
(2nd edition copy reviewed)

So without further ado - over to Derek...

I came late to writing fiction. Most of my business life was concerned with the marketing of national newspapers and magazines. It was an exciting career that enabled me to meet many famous people and of course journalists and authors too, but there was neither room for writing fiction nor the time to do so. In the newspaper business everything runs to a deadline and is factual. Research, promotional activities, board reports, all had to be accurate and supported by evidence. Creative thinking was the province of the Editorial and Publicity Departments, and of course the PR and Advertising Agencies. The sums of money riding on even the smallest decisions were enormous and mistakes therefore costly. So writing anything tended to be only after much thought and generally in short sentences. The object of every document was to communicate information or generate action.
But the creative instinct will out. On holidays during long car journeys, the inevitable questions  “Are we nearly there” and “How much longer will we be” from my children were made bearable by telling them stories made up as we went along, and that lasted as long as the holiday. Some were even carried over from one holiday to the next. One went on for about seven years and even then didn’t reach a conclusion! I never wrote any of them down, thinking them too outlandish to commit to paper. I have since my retirement re-visited some of them and turned them into short stories. None have yet been published though. My first novel Blackmore’s Treasure was not one of the stories that came from that period. That came much later.
On retiring I determined to keep busy both physically and mentally. Encouraged by my wife, I set about learning how to use a computer and having done so to a workable level of competence, began to study genealogy and research the history of my family. It’s a hobby I share with my wife who at the same time traced her own family back into the seventeenth century. The hobby still fascinates us both.  I also began to create and write stories for my grandchildren in which they featured as the main characters. They seemed to like them and I certainly enjoyed writing them. Then one afternoon following what must have been a difficult day at school, my eldest granddaughter told me that she thought ”The English Civil War was boring.”

© Chris Collingwood
They had been talking about it all afternoon and the most important thing that came out of it as far she was concerned was that Oliver Cromwell had cancelled Christmas! This particular celebration has great significance in our family so she could see that if the edict was repeated in the modern day all the mystery, fun …and the presents, would vanish like mist in hot sunshine.
I tried to explain how important the Civil War was, both at the time and in the effect it has had on England since, that it still governs much of our lives and our thinking. But she was twelve and about to leave junior school, become a teenager and go to senior school, so my words fell, if not on deaf ears, then certainly on ears that weren’t listening. I decided to write a story that might…just might, make her think a little more deeply  about one of the most eventful periods in English history. Blackmore’s Treasure was that story.
I’d like to be able to report that she read the story with interest, understood the points I was trying to make and evinced just a small amount of interest in the subject…but I can’t. Like most people who try to influence a teenager I found that they have what almost amounts to an obligation to disagree, she liked the fictional story but remained bored with the subject of the English Civil War. For all I know she still feels the same, though she’s now in her mid-twenties. I filed the story and frankly, forgot all about it.
© Chris Collingwood
But history has a way of repeating itself and some fifteen years later, another of my granddaughters (I have eight grandchildren) came home from school and informed me that her class had been studying the English Civil War. It was she confidently told me “Very boring” and did I know that a man called Oliver Cromwell had cancelled Christmas? Oh yes and he killed the King too.

I hurried to my computer and dug out the file labelled Blackmore’s Treasure printed it off and gave it to her…. she thought the war was horrible but liked the story and the treasure hunt.
I felt encouraged by her reaction and put the first few chapters on a website called YouWriteOn.com, it’s a writer’s site backed by the Arts Council and a major publisher. The idea is that writers review each other’s work and make comments about the content, style etc. The extract seemed to find favour with many of the other writers and I accepted some of the comments, made adjustments and finished the book to a higher standard. Then the site asked if authors would like to publish their work. I haven’t met an author yet who wouldn’t like his or her work published, so I did what anyone else would do and said “Yes Please”.
So, Blackmore’s Treasure was eventually published.

The reaction to the publication astonished me. The local paper sent a photographer and a reporter to interview me, local radio invited me to take part in a programme on air, the County’s leading monthly magazine wrote a half page about me and how the book came to be published and - wonder of wonder - the name of the book was all over the internet, telling me that it was available in virtually every country I could think of. All this because I had written a book and the publication date coincided with my 78th birthday!
Even more exciting things were to come. 

The book was available on Amazon and Kindle, was sold through Waterstones and Smiths and people wrote to Amazon with reviews I couldn’t have written better myself. Then Helen Hollick was kind enough to read the book, and in her capacity as UK Editor of the Historical Novel Society chose it as her Editor’s Choice for the month of May. A big thank you to Helen for that. (Helen: my pleasure - it's a fabulous book!)

© Chris Collingwood
I have been asked if it is my intention to write a sequel to Blackmore’s Treasure. I’d like to, I will certainly try to….. I’ll borrow a phrase from the newspaper industry….. “Watch this space.”
(Helen: I'm waiting excitedly for the sequel..... and I have to say: Mainstream Publishing has missed out on a book that is every bit as good as any Rosemary Sutcliff, Henry Trease or Alan Garner!)

My Guests for dinner

The venue for my dinner party will be the Salon Privée upstairs at the Ivy Restaurant in London. I ask for a circular table because it will enable my guests to exchange views more easily and prevent any one of them dominating the conversation. I have always been fascinated by people who make a difference; to the world of which they are a part and to the world at large. What motivates them? What causes them to hold the thoughts and opinions they so easily write and speak about? Are they aware of the influence they have? Do they seek to change things for their own gratification or for the betterment of their fellow beings? Their talent for creating, communicating and leading both thought and action has left its mark etched in granite. I have met such people in my career in newspapers and magazines and the wider business world, and when acting as host always sought to bring together minds that were wide apart and that engaged in debate and conversation for the simple joy of doing so, and the need to express their opinions and ideas. I would have little to add to the exchanges between these particular guests, but I would learn so much that I bet I’d be able to write a hell of book about it afterwards.
Oliver Cromwell

Eleanor Roosevelt

Charles Dickens

Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire

Sir Winston Churchill

Beatrix Potter

Lord Cudlipp

Lady Antonia Fraser

Ian Hislop

My Wife, Jean Margaret
 (Unthinkable to hold such a party without her there.)

Blackmore's Treasure is available from:

Civil War images are by permission of Chris Collingwood Historic Art
© Chris Collingwood

other images from a Google search

Naseby as it is today
Have you got a self / indie published historical novel you would like to submit to the HNS for review?

more historical fiction wanted from 
UK Indie Writers!
e-mail HELEN HOLLICK for details

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