Being a contributor: historical short story collections

You write a novel, say 80-90,000 words. It goes through a writing and editing process, acquires a cover, gets published and marketed. And hopefully, the money starts trickling in, at least to cover the cost of production and possibly some additional revenue. Shocking fact: 95% of writers don’t make a lot of money.

So why, when you are invited to participate, should you contribute to a collection where your wonderful words will be mixed in with other writers’ wonderful words? You will only be one of many and perhaps even missed in the rush.

I see four main benefits:

  • an opportunity to stretch your writing muscles
  • fun to join in a project with writing colleagues (new and old)
  • a chance to strut your stuff to their readers and beyond
  • sometimes you make a few bob

I’ve done three collections: an alternative history one around the 1066 Norman Conquest (or not…!), a Roman one and a multi-period one focused on betrayal. Let’s take the first as an example.

1066 Turned Upside Down 

This was wonderful – my ‘home territory’ of the world of ‘what if?’ But suppose there had been a Roma Novan around trying to intervene in 1066 between Harold’s Saxon England and William’s Normandy? Could she have influenced either of these tough, ambitious and determined men and changed history? What a challenge!

1066 is such a turning point in English history that Helen HollickJoanna CourtneyAnna Belfrage, Richard Dee, G K HollowayCarol McGrathEliza Redgold, Annie Whitehead and I couldn’t miss the fantastic opportunity to play around with history, masterminded by Helen Hollick and Joanna Courtney. We had a diverse lot of stories between us!

What if King Edward’s great-nephew, Edgar, had been thought old enough to rule, and chosen as king? What if the Northern Earls has defeated the Norwegian, Harald Hardrada and King Harold’s own brother, Tostig, at Gate Fulford – or what if Harald Hardrada had won the Battle of Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire? What if Harold had defeated the Normans at sea? What if Svein of Denmark had invaded, or a tough negotiator and woman warrior from a European political power like Roma Nova had intervened? What if William had died when he was unhorsed at Hastings or had been defeated at London Bridge in November? What if the Bayeux Tapestry carries a hidden, secret meaning about the truth of 1066 – or a time  machine could alter the past?

Here’s an extract from my story, A Roman Intervenes:

Galla Mitela, Countess of the South and councillor to the Imperatrix of Roma Nova and Claudia Apulia, the Imperatrix’s daughter have been sent first to Saxon England then to Normandy to attempt to stop William invading England.

The ducal palace built by Duke William’s father was imposing; the stone tower dominated but as we were shown into the Aula Turris, the Grande Salle, I was struck not only by the heat but also by the sheer luxury of its proportions and decoration. Here ruled a man of power indeed. At the top of the walls ran a blind arcade of semi-circular arches under which were hangings of rich reds, blues and greens, some embroidered with gold and silver thread. But even richer were the gowns and jewelled belts of the women in the hall and the tunics and mantles of their men. And at the far end on a raised dais were William and Matilda.

A slim figure, her eyes were full of curiosity. Like the other women present her hair was hidden beneath a veil below a gold circlet, but of such softness it could only have been the nearly sheer silk from Constantinople. But William had none of the delicate elegance of his wife. From the heavy gold circle with a large cabochon shining from its centre on his head, down the dark crimson robe and over mantle clothing his sturdy frame, belted by gold, down to his dark boots, he exuded wealth and strength. His eyes fixed on us from the moment we stood on the threshold of the hall until we reached the two thrones where they sat.

‘Salvete dux ducissaque,’ I began. William frowned, but Matilda smiled although she said nothing. De Boscville stepped out of the lines of courtiers, his face creased in irritation. He translated my greeting into French, then turned and said in Latin, ‘Continue.’

‘Forgive me, Duke William,’ I said in French. I paused and smiled. ‘I had not realised you did not speak Latin.’

William frowned again and shot a hard look at me. I knew perfectly well he couldn’t even read or write his own native tongue.

‘I present Claudia Apulia,’ I said. ‘She brings greeting from her mother, the imperatrix of Roma Nova.’

He nodded curtly and stared her up and down like a piece of meat. She flushed slightly, but looked back steadily at him. Matilda laid her fingers on his forearm.

‘We have been asked to convey a message to you from Harold the Saxon King.’

‘The only message I want from the earl is the surrender of my rightful crown.’

‘That, Duke William, is not for negotiation.’ Some of the courtiers present murmured, and one man, another priest who I thought must be Lanfranc, his Galilean councillor, bent and whispered in the duke’s ear. I waited until the murmuring had stopped and I had their attention again. ‘Harold does not wish for warfare, but as you know from his campaign against the Welsh, he will not hesitate to enter the field in force if England is threatened. He proposes a treaty, starting with a calming period over the winter.’

‘He is forsworn. That is an end on it. You are women but even you as Romans understand an oath is an oath.’

‘Of course, but some would say he swore under duress.’

‘You push too hard, woman.’

‘I merely state the obvious, Duke.’

‘We will think about it.’

‘All the while you are mustering your invasion fleet?’

The murmuring rose to a clamour. Somebody muttered ‘godless bitches’. Claudia took a sharp breath in at that but we stood still and waited.

‘Peace!’ the duke’s voice rang out. ‘The countess and princess are our guests. We will eat.’ He stood and beckoned me to accompany him, Matilda smiled at Claudia, took her arm and followed us, the courtiers trailing in our wake.

A hard, uncompromising man with few social manners but willing to talk of common interests, he was deeply interested in how Roma Nova had been founded and in my own early career, sword in hand. I think he almost forgot I was a woman as we discussed campaigns and tactics. His eyes gleamed when I showed him the intricately worked pugiodagger. His acquisitiveness wasn’t merely for a crown.

‘Please accept it as a gift, Duke,’ I said. ‘Whatever happens in the future, it will be a souvenir of the Romans who once visited you.’

‘I accept, most willingly.’ He gave a half-smile. ‘But you will not cozen me with your words and gifts.’

‘I regret we cannot convince you of a peaceful way. I urge you to reconsider the advantages of a treaty. It will bring you more security in the end.’

‘As your people have found.’ He gave me a sardonic look. ‘But you are now at the beck and call of the Greeks in the East.’

I bit my lip. ‘Only for the moment, Duke. Sometimes, we have to endure discomfort for the sake of peace. The Eastern Romans have many troubles and have lost the earlier resolution of the times of Constantine. Roma Nova may yet outlive them.’

‘Ha!’ He searched my face while a servant refilled my cup. ‘You are a strong woman, Countess, but why are you here? Should you not be tending your family?’

‘I am the imperatrix’s chief councillor, Duke. My children are grown and my life is given to the service of my ruler.’


That’s him told! But does she succeed in stopping him?

Buying links for 1066 Turned Upside Down:   Amazon Kindle    Nook    Kobo    Apple

More next time about the other two collections 😉

STOP PRESS: 1066 Turned Upside Down is on tour 3-6 January 2022 where you can read extracts from all the stories!


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. Double Identity, a contemporary conspiracy, starts a new series of thrillers. Double Pursuit, the sequel, is now out!

Download ‘Welcome to Alison Morton’s Thriller Worlds’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be among the first to know about news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.