Read an excerpt HERE.

Click on image to buy PERFIDITAS.BRAG

Read an excerpt HERE.

Click on image to buy INCEPTIO. Amazon bestseller

Summer vacuum (or the time of little writing)

Summer relaxationHooray! Summer is here; warm, lazy days, extra wine, days out with the family and friends, a holiday away, mmm.

But you still have a deadline looming, your fans are waiting, your muse is bashing away in your head with fantastic scenes you simply must write. And then you are speaking or attending conferences and festivals. No time to have time off. Guilt sets in…

But let’s get some balance here…

1. Nobody can work 365 days of the year. Well, they can, but what a dull person they’d be, and probably an early inhabitant of the graveyard.

2. Set realistic goals; halve your usual target and prepare for that goal to be disrupted as friends visit, children return from university, or neighbours invite you to barbecues every few days.

3. Sales dwindle in the summer, so don’t stress about the sales figures.

4. View your holidays as research trips, if your conscience is bothering you. Not just castles or mosaics, but an opportunity to watch people out of their normal environment or see other environments altogether. And swimming in the warm, salty sea gets you in touch with your tactile side.

5. Snatch time when doing other things to do small writing tasks like looking things up, sending an email to a blogger, drafting a dialogue. Amazing how you can think through a scene while mixing a salad!

6. Work on a little project. I’ve just put together ‘The 500 Word Writing Buddy‘. It’s a compilation of articles from the past three years of my writing and publishing column in The Deux-Sèvres Monthly.  I’ve worked on it intermittently over the past month. Now I’ve printed out some paper copies for selling at local fairs and fetes and sold three yesterday!  It will be going up on Kindle once I can snatch a half-day to format it for ebook. ;-)

So, relax a little while the sun is shining and read a good book or two…


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Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, and PERFIDITAS. Third in series, SUCCESSIO, is out now.




What’s in a (Roman) name?

Me and G.J.Caesar

Me and G.J.Caesar

An awful lot!

This is only a brief introduction, but hold on tight because this may seem a little confusing…

Even in the earliest times, Romans used a different system of names from most other European and Mediterranean countries. They used two names, one of which became a hereditary surname. Over time, this expanded to include additional names and even nicknames.

The most familiar version of the Roman name is the tria nomina, or “three names” – praenomen, nomen, and cognomen – used by male Roman citizens for over a thousand years. Gaius Julius Caesar is a good example.

What means what?
A praenomen (plural praenomina) was a personal name, often following family or tribal tradition, e.g Marcus, Gaius, Aulus, Quintus, and used mostly within the family and close friends. but outside of this circle, they might be called by their nomen, cognomen, or any combination of praenomen, nomen, and cognomen that was sufficient to distinguish them from other men with similar names.

The nomen (plural nomina) designated a Roman citizen as a member of a gens - a ‘race’, ‘family’, or ‘clan’ – which constituted an extended Roman family claiming descent from a common ancestor, e.g  Julius, Flavius, Claudius, Cornelius.

The Continence of Scipio_Poussin

The Continence of Scipio (Nicholas Poussin 1594 -1665)

The cognomen began as an additional personal name but the gradual decline of the praenomen as a useful means of distinguishing between individuals made the cognomen a useful means of identifying both individuals and whole branches of Rome’s leading families. Additional cognomina were added if a person was adopted into another (often socially superior) family; in his will, the dictator Gaius Julius Caesar adopted his great-nephew, Gaius Octavius, who became known as Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus. Sometimes an agnomen (similar to cognomen) was added as a result of a heroic act, e.g. Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus, who took the Second Punic War to Africa, and defeated Hannibal.


Antonia Minor, Mark Anthony’s daughter, mother of emperor Claudius

Roman women’s names
In the earliest period, Roman women shared the same name format as men, praenomen and nomen. By the end of the Republic, the majority of Roman women did not use praenomina. Most women were called by the nomen alone, in the feminine form, e.g. Cornelia, Claudia or Julia.

For men, who might hold public office or serve in the military, the praenomen remained an important part of the legal name, and a way of distinguishing them from other members of their family who might also be serving. But although they sometimes exerted significant influence behind the scenes, Roman women played practically zero role in public life, so were not thought to need an individual name.

Moreover, a praenomen was not usually seen as necessary to distinguish between women within the family. If there were multiple sisters in the same household then a cognomen or a combination of nomen and cognomen was used e.g. Julia Tertia (third) or Volusenia Minor (younger). Roman women did not change their original (father’s) nomen when they married, so a new daughter in law’s nomen alone was usually sufficient to distinguish her from every other member of the (new) family. This blatant lack of individualisation seems alien to us today when our first or given name is extremely important to our sense of ourselves.

Etruscan couple

Etruscan couple (tomb sculpture)

Although women’s praenomina were infrequently used in the later Republic, they did continue into imperial times, especially among the other peoples of Italy, until the populace was thoroughly Romanized. In the Etruscan culture, for example, where women enjoyed a markedly higher social status than in Rome, inscriptions referring to women nearly always include praenomina. (Read Elisabeth Storrs’ excellent The Wedding Shroud)



Changing times
When Caracalla turned all free inhabitants of the Roman Empire into full-blown citizens in AD 212 (mainly to be able to tax them), new citizens adopted the nomen ‘Aurelius’ in recognition of the emperor’s ‘gift’ (his proper name was Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus Augustus, with Aurelius as the nomen). ‘Aurelius’ quickly became the default nomen in the east and the second most common after ‘Julius’ in the west.

Caracalla’s ‘New Romans’ and even many established Romans either dropped the nomen from their name or, in some cases, treated the nomen as a praenomen. Although a nomen would long be required for official purposes, and in isolated corners of the empire and in parts of Italy, its everyday use would continue into the 7th century, the nomen was generally omitted from the name by the close of the 3rd century.


Flavia Iulia Helena Augusta, known as Helena of Constantinople or St.Helena

With the infusion of Greek culture into the Roman Empire, the use of patronymics (‘son of’) and by-names such as ‘the wise’ or ‘the short’, and descriptive, such as ‘of Antioch’ or ‘the tailor’, began to displace inherited surnames; the Greeks did not have such a keenly developed sense of genealogy as the Romans did. Family names are completely missing or rare in documents and seals dated from between the 7th and 10th centuries. Eventually, family names were seen as a quaint custom.

Later, Roman women, like men, adopted signa, or alternative names, in place of their Roman names. With the fall of the Western Empire in the 5th century, the last traces of the distinctive Italic nomenclature system began to disappear, and women, like men,  reverted to being known by single names.

And Roma Nova? The Twelve Families’ members kept their nomina (of which they were very proud) and developed the custom of adding a personal name or praenomen to give each family member an individual name; they were only a few hundred at the beginning, and each individual was needed, and valued, for the colony to survive. Over the centuries, other Europeans added surnames, developed from occupation, locality or nicknames, to their personal names; these often chopped and changed, becoming extinct or hyphenated. Roma Novans adopted descent and inheritance through the female line and retained a family/tribal system of sharing a nomen with all members of their family. Their most treasured possessions included their family records, whether on parchment, paper or digital.

And so our heroine’s name has followed Roma Novan tradition:  her personal name is Carina and her family name Mitela - the nomen used in the fourth century AD by her far-off ancestor, Gaius Mitelus.


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Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, and PERFIDITAS. Third in series, SUCCESSIO, is now out.

Are the Roma Nova books feminist?

boy_girl readingYes, but ‘feminist-lite’. Let me explain…

First, where do I stand?
I believe that women and men should be treated equally. We are different from each other biologically and studies have shown that we have broadly different aptitudes, strengths and approaches dating back well beyond the Stone Age to when we were evolving from the primates. But there’s no doubt that women’s roles and lives through history have been defined by their gender, and by the power and control exerted over them by men, particularly in harsher times. And women have been, and often still are, lumped together as ‘the women’, e.g. who will the women vote for, and what do the women think of X? I deal with people as individuals, irrespective of their gender. And being a feminist doesn’t mean you are a man-hater. I like men and have been married to the same one for 29 years!

Lieut_exercise_smHow did my time in the male-dominated armed forces affect my outlook?
My family has always served in the military; both grandfathers (Army), my father (Royal Army Medical Corps), three aunts (two in the WRNS, one WRAF), uncles (RAF and Army). I had the great good luck to have a feminist for a mother who brought us up gender-blind. It never occurred to me that a girl couldn’t be a soldier. I had a brilliant time doing exciting things all over the NATO area. It was more important to carry out your task irrespective of whether you were a man or woman. Of course, there was sexism and sexist language, but you learnt to give it back. Serving in a mixed unit gave each gender an appreciation of what the other could do.


Photo courtesy of Britannia

How does my version of a feminist military in Roma Nova differ from a traditional one?

The core value of my imaginary Roma Nova is based on service to the state being the highest virtue. Putting the collectivity before the individual has been a survival strategy in Roma Nova since earliest times when daughters and sisters had to step up to fight alongside their menfolk to protect their new home and way of life. In the 21st century, the Roma Nova military continues to be a mixed one with promotion on merit and capability; gender is not an issue. Although there are probably equal numbers in the Roma Nova military leadership with a possible bias towards men, in civilian life women head families, the senate and commercial organisations; the ruler is female and inheritance is through the female line. After all, we can usually be sure who a child’s mother is…

Alternative words and timelines
Writing fiction means you can invent your own world – a great privilege. This means, of course, you can tilt and slant to your heart’s content within ‘da rulz’ of your genre. Like most forms of speculative fiction, alternative history is particularly generous in that you can explore any theme or possibility you can think of. And putting the female members of a society on completely equal terms with the men is such a tempting one…

The ‘feisty’ heroine issue
A kick-ass female protagonist does not a feminist heroine make. Some feminist heroines are the quietest and most thoughtful characters around, e.g. Jane Eyre. Some tough action heroines do their stuff and then melt into the hero’s arms and transform into the wimpiest beings ever. This is not a feminist narrative. Of course, feminists need love and relationships – they wouldn’t be human otherwise – but they don’t sacrifice their personal integrity and sense of individuality, nor their beliefs.

Carina Mitela_smHowever, the key to writing fiction that readers will want to buy is to give them a cracking story with characters so attractive and a plot so full of heart-breaking crunches that they’ll be captivated up to the last page. What they don’t need is an ‘in your face’ academic treatise on social and gender politics. Like world-building and description, social themes such as feminism should seep into the narrative, not clobber it like a wrecking ball; it’s so  much more effective. Roma Nova is an idealised egalitarian society with a feminist bias, but one that seems natural to the characters who live in it. And it seems to resonate with readers of both/all genders.

Are you happy to use the ‘fem-word’ if writing a book? And when reading, do you like to see feminism as a theme?


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Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, and PERFIDITAS. Third in series, SUCCESSIO, is out now.

The Historical Novel Society picks SUCCESSIO!

HNSlogo_fullWell, this is exciting!

The Historical Novel Society indie review team has reviewed SUCESSIO and given it a wonderful write-up. But the cream on the cake is that it has been awarded the accolade of “Editor’s choice”!

Not only is there that glory, but SUCCESSIO will automatically be longlisted for the HNS Indie Award 2015, the results of which will be announced at the HNS Conference 2015 in Denver USA.

Selection by your peers is the hardest test. Well, after that by readers!

The HNS is an open and welcoming organisation with strong presence in many countries, especially the US and Australia. It embraces some of the most ‘famous names’ in writing e.g. Diana Gabaldon, Bernard Cornwell, Elizabeth Chadwick, Simon Scarrow, among others, but also enthusiasts and readers of historical fiction.

Open to readers, big name, small press, mainstream and indie authors, here it is in its own words:
We are a literary society devoted to promoting the enjoyment of historical fiction. We are based in the USA and the UK but we welcome members (who can be readers or writers) from all round the world. Through our print magazines, conferences, website, social media and through the dynamism of our membership we help bring the excitement of these novels to the widest audience.’

And I’m off to the conference in September (5th to 7th), and I’ll speaking about social media. See you there!


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Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, and PERFIDITAS. Third in series, SUCCESSIO, is now out.

How I developed the Roma Nova titles...

Minerva:Athene, goddess of wisdom

Minerva/Athene, goddess of wisdom (Capitoline Museum, Rome)

A poster “in another place” commented about the Roma Nova books:  “They sound great, but I can’t help but cringe at the titles. Not quite Latin. I suppose that’s probably the point, but ouch. Intriguing, though.

I admit, I thought ‘ouch’ back, but also smiled to myself. Perhaps she hadn’t looked them up on one of the excellent online dictionaries such as
Perseus (Tufts University)LatDictNotre Dame University or a good paper Latin dictionary (OLD or Collins).

So what’s the Latin behind the Roma Nova titles?

inceptio, inceptionis
noun, 3rd declension, gender: feminine
Definitions: start, beginning, an undertaking, enterprise
Age: In use throughout the ages/unknown
Area: All or none
Geography: All or none
Frequency: For Dictionary, in top 20,000 words
Source: “Oxford Latin Dictionary”, 1982 (OLD)

successio, successionis
noun, 3rd declension, gender: feminine
Definitions: succession (to position/ownership w/GEN), successors collectively
Age: In use throughout the ages/unknown
Area: Legal, Government, Tax, Financial, Political, Titles
Geography: All or none
Frequency: For Dictionary, in top 10,000 words
Source: “Oxford Latin Dictionary”, 1982 (OLD)

Perseus also gives us

successio Lewis & ShortElem. Lewis 56 56 a taking another’s place, following after, succeeding, succession

I’ll admit PERFIDITAS is partly made up! It’s based on
perfidia, perfidiae
noun, 1st declension, gender: feminine
Definitions: faithlessness, treachery, perfidy
Age: In use throughout the ages/unknown
Area: All or none
Geography: All or none
Frequency: For Dictionary, in top 20,000 words
Source: General, unknown or too common to say

The trouble was there was a very popular song called ‘Perfidia‘ written by Mexican Alberto Dominguez and which has been recorded by countless artists. I didn’t want the book to look as if it was about a girl called Perfidia, so I piggy-backed perfidia onto the form used in romanitas (‘Roman-ness’) to change the word but retain the meaning. 

Two and a half out of three ain’t too bad, I think.


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, and PERFIDITAS. Third in series, SUCCESSIO, is out now.