19 February 2017

Visiting King Henry VII in London

I’ve spent the past four years researching and writing about Henry Tudor’s life. During this time I’ve collected every book I can find about him, visited his birthplace in Pembroke Castle and followed his exile to Brittany. Henry was born in the first book of the Tudor trilogy, Owen, and came of age in the second book, Jasper. As I prepare for the launch of the final book, Henry, where he becomes King of England, I decided to visit his tomb and pay my respects.

Henry’s Tomb in Westminster Abbey

There is something quite surreal about making your way through Westminster Abbey to the Lady Chapel at the far end. There are many amazing distractions, as you pass the tombs of earlier kings and Henry’s granddaughter Elizabeth I in a side chapel. Henry’s tomb dominates the centre of the Lady Chapel and is surrounded by a high bronze grille. His effigy is raised too high to see, so I climbed a convenient step and peered through the holes in the grille. There lay Henry with his wife, Elizabeth of York, their gilded hands clasped in prayer.   

After visiting Henry, I entered the side chapel to visit his mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort. Her tomb is lower and as I stood looking at it a shaft of winter sunlight came through the stained glass windows and lit up her face. I think she would have been pleased to know she is still remembered.

I find it quite amazing that Henry’s final resting place has survived the fire of London, the English Civil War and the two World Wars in such good condition, more than five centuries after his death. The bronze grille from Henry's tomb was removed and taken to safety during WW2 when the stained glass windows were blown out by bomb blasts in 1940. You can still see the signs of damage where it was hastily taken apart and reassembled.

There is an admission charge for Westminster Abbey and no photography is allowed. The Abbey museum is closed for refurbishment until 2018, so I was unable to see the wooden funeral effigies of Henry and Elizabeth. All the same, it was an unforgettable visit and I chose to take the tour a second time using the excellent audio tour narrated by Jeremy Irons. For more information about charges and opening times please see www.westminster-abbey.org 

Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery is within walking distance of Westminster Abbey and has free admission. I particularly wanted to see the famous 1505 portrait, which proved to be the first one in Room 1 when I reached the top of the stairs. At sixteen inches high it was smaller than I’d imagined but just as vibrant as the day it was painted. The earliest painting in the National Portrait Gallery's collection, the portrait is thought to have been painted as part of Henry’s unsuccessful marriage proposal to Emperor Maximilian's daughter Margaret of Savoy.

Nearby are two later portraits of Henry. One is a small oil on panel. The other is an ink and watercolour preparatory cartoon by Hans Holbein the Younger, with Henry peeping out from behind his son Henry VIII, who commissioned the work in 1537. Room 1 also includes an amazing selection of Tudor portraits, with a spectacular life-sized Elizabeth I dominating one wall.  For more information about charges and opening times please see www.npg.org.uk 

The Torrigiano bust at the V&A Museum

The final place I visited was the Victoria & Albert Museum, where I wanted to visit the medieval gallery to see the bust by Pietro Torrigiano, one of the first Italian Renaissance sculptors to work outside Italy. Torrigiano came to England in 1507 to work on the tombs in Westminster Abbey. Housed in a large glass case, the life-sized bust was probably cast from a death mask of Henry, with the shoulders and chest modelled later. One of the reasons for the good preservation of the detail is the removal of later over-painting. (Interestingly, this is one of a set of three busts, and the other two, of an unknown man and Bishop John Fisher, are now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York.) For more information about charges and opening times please see www.vam.ac.uk

Tony Riches

17 February 2017

Historical Fiction Spotlight: Tristan & Isolde: Book One. Love Is Stone by RR Gordon

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

The Legend Of Cornwall’s Star-Crossed Lovers

Saxons are spreading across southern England, squeezing the Celts into the corners of Cornwall and South Wales. Is it simply a matter of time until a race that once covered most of Europe is driven into extinction?

Two teenage Celtic brothers from a small border village attack a band of Saxons who venture across from Wessex. King Marke of Cornwall hears of their deeds and recruits them into his royal guards, the younger Tristan rising over a few short years to become his champion swordsman.

King Vortipor has recently united all of South Wales into a single kingdom, but when he falls ill, the old factions begin to re-surface. His queen, Elen, struggles to keep the kingdom together while hiding the true seriousness of her husband’s condition.

Isolde, a young Irish princess, is betrothed to a man she hates. Isolde plots to overthrow her father in order to determine her own destiny, but little does she know that her actions will set four kingdoms on a collision course that is likely to have a profound impact across the whole of the known world.

The Celtic legend of Tristan & Isolde’s love has endured a thousand years and is part of the folklore of nearly fifty countries. Some believe the story inspired Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, making Tristan & Isolde the original star-crossed lovers.
Weaving legend into historical fact, the best-selling author RR Gordon has created a spell-binding tale featuring battles, romance, political intrigue, engaging leading men and strong heroines.


‘An epic tale in the style of Game Of Thrones’

‘Interlaces historical fact and storytelling fiction like Bernard Cornwell, combined with the epic intrigue and crisscrossing plot lines of George RR Martin – a glorious, sumptuous story’

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About the Author

Rod Gordon grew up in Yorkshire and now lives in the Cotswolds with his wife & four children. He writes books that might be described as thrillers, but with a twist of humour and romance. Find our more at http://www.rrgordon.com/ and find Rod on Twitter @RRGordonDotCom..

9 February 2017

Book Launch - The Somme Legacy: A Jayne Sinclair Genealogical Mystery by M J Lee

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

From the author of the best selling, The Irish Inheritance, comes a gripping new book revealing family secrets hidden in the fog of war. The Somme Legacy is the second book in the Jayne Sinclair genealogical mystery series, but it can be enjoyed as a stand-alone story. 

July 1, 1916. The Somme, France:  A British Officer prepares to go over the top on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

March 28, 2016. Manchester. England: Genealogical investigator Jayne Sinclair, a former police detective, is commissioned by a young teacher to look into the history of his family. The only clues are a medallion with purple, white and green ribbons, and an old drawing of a young woman.

Her quest leads to a secret buried in the trenches of World War One for over 100 years. Who was the real heir to the Lappiter millions?
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About the Author

Martin Lee has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a University researcher in history, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, TV commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites.He has spent 25 years working outside the North of England. In London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai, winning awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and London Festivals, and the United Nations. When he's not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, researching his family history, single-handedly solving the problem of the French wine lake and wishing he were George Clooney. Find out more at writermjlee.com and folow Martin on Facebook and Twitter @writermjlee.

1 February 2017

Book Review – Jane Austen At Home, by Lucy Worsley

Available for Pre-Order on Amazon UK and Amazon US

This new telling of the story of Jane's life shows us how and why she lived as she did, examining the rooms, spaces and possessions which mattered to her, and the way in which home is used in her novels to mean both a place of pleasure and a prison. It wasn't all country houses and ballrooms, in fact her life was often a painful struggle.

I can say with some confidence that, after reading this book, you will never read Jane Austen’s works in quite the same way again. I also wonder if, like me, your mental picture of Jane Austen is a blend of the famous ‘portrait’ by her sister Cassandra and Anne Hathaway’s memorable portrayal in TV’s (historically inaccurate) ‘Becoming Jane’?  If so, you must read this brilliant new work by Lucy Worsley.

Lucy’s lively style and relish in fascinating details shines new light on the real Jane Austen. Most of what I thought I knew was right – but lacking the vital context provided as we study the reality of Jane’s home life. In the modern vernacular, we would say she was ‘just about managing’ for most of her time, although Lucy helps us understand what was considered normal in Georgian society – and what was not.

Jane’s sister destroyed many of her letters deemed ‘personal’ and those which survive have been described as ‘mundane.’ Lucy Worsley disagrees and finds delight in the trivia. She says, ‘...her personality is there, bold as brass, bursting with life, buoyant or recalcitrant as each day required. These letters are a treasure trove hiding in plain sight.’ I was also fascinated to realise Jane knew her letters could be read aloud, often over breakfast, so used a code known to her sister to ensure discretion.

To return to what Jane might have looked like, Lucy suggests she was around five feet seven, with a twenty-four inch waist (the alarming consequence of wearing tight stays as a girl). She rebukes biographers who describe her as a ‘plump, dumpy woman’ based on Cassandra’s portrait rather than the evidence.  Similarly, the romantic image of a lonely writer fits poorly with the known facts.

I was intrigued by the glimpses of the author’s own formative years. By wonderful coincidence Lucy attended the Abbey school in Reading where Jane Austen was sent as a border at the age of thirteen. (She also stayed at the same house as Jane Austen by the sea in Lyme Regis.)  As we approach the two hundredth anniversary of Jane Austen’s death on the 18th of July, I highly recommend this new book, which establishes Lucy Worsley as one of my favourite authors.

Tony Riches

(A review copy of this book was kindly provided by the publishers, Hodder & Stoughton, at my request)

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About the Author 

Dr Lucy Worsley is Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, the charity which looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, and other historic places. Her first paid employment after studying history at Oxford was at a minor stately home called Milton Manor, near Abingdon, where she fed the llamas. After that she became an Inspector of Ancient Monuments at English Heritage, doing historical research at Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire: this led to her first book, 'Cavalier', about a dissolute Royalist duke. Her work as a curator at Kensington Palace led to 'Courtiers', which was followed by 'If Walls Could Talk', 'A Very British Murder', and her first historical novel for young readers, 'Eliza Rose', which is set at the Tudor court. For mre information visit Lucy's website www.lucyworsley.com and find her on Twitter @Lucy_Worsley,  

31 January 2017

Book Review ~ MURDER, Now and Then, by Diana Jackson

Available on Amazon UK and on Amazon US

Think Midsomer murders meets Bergerac, set in the near future and based on an actual murder that took place in 1919, and you'll have a good idea of what to expect from Diana Jackson's latest thriller. Unlikely coincidences keep you guessing and, in classic murder mystery style, have you changing your mind several times about the killer's identity - or who the next victim might be.

I particularly liked the evocative scenes set in Diana's much-loved Channel Islands and could easily imagine this book as a successful  TV drama. The eventual denouement is original and inventive - I definitely didn't see it coming!  Highly recommended, Murder, Now and Then is one of those books you can't put down until the mystery is solved.

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About the Author
Diana Jackson is a full time author living in Scotland, UK. When not writing, Diana’s other passions are social history, gardening and cooking her own produce, Inspired by her great grandmother, an Alderney girl, her  ‘Riduna Series’ novels take the reader from the mid Victorian era through to 1920. To find out about Diana Jackson’s other writing projects, you can visit her blog 
http://dianamj.wordpress.com/ and find her on Twitter @Riduna

27 January 2017

Be the Gateway: A Practical Guide to Sharing Your Creative Work and Engaging an Audience, by Dan Blank

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

 - released on March 7th, available for pre-order now - 

Many people feel the drive to do creative work, but get overwhelmed by the process of connecting with an audience. They follow “best practices” in marketing that never seem to pan out, don’t produce results, and make them feel lost and oftentimes, frustrated. Be the Gateway offers a powerful way to have an impact. 

If you want to share your voice and inspire people with your writing, art, craft, or creative idea, you have to be the gateway for them. Instead of throwing “products” out into the marketplace, you open them up to a new way of looking at the world, of knowing themselves, and connecting with others. You unlock new experiences for them -- not just through what you create, but through the unique way you share it with the world.

Too often we think about the creative process as separate from the marketing process. Instead, view them as the same. Replace the inclination to “promote” with the desire to share and engage. How and why you create is a story — and your best asset to truly engage people. Be the Gateway shows you how to use that gift with joy and with confidence.

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About the Author

Dan Blank is the founder of WeGrowMedia, where he helps writers and creative professionals share their stories and grow their audience. He has worked with hundreds of individuals and amazing organizations who support creative people such as Random House, Hachette Book Group, Sesame Workshop, Workman Publishing, J. Walter Thompson, Abrams Books, Writers House, The Kenyon Review, Writer's Digest, Library Journal, and many others. Dan's work has been featured by Poet's & Writers magazine, the National Endowment for the Arts, Professional Artist magazine, and 99u. You can find Dan on his blog at http://wegrowmedia.com and on Twitter at @DanBlank.

26 January 2017

How to Successfully Market your eBook: A Beginner's Guide by Jo Harrison

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Want to know how to get your self-published eBook in front of people who might be interested in purchasing it? 

This extensive eBook has been created using Jo Harrison's popular, four-part eBook Marketing Mini-eCourse for Authors. The advice you’ll find within is guaranteed to be easy to follow and help bring you those all-important sales.

This short eBook will show you how to:

- Keep energising and promoting your work
- Achieve eBook marketing success
- Become a successful self-published author

Also include marketing tips from previous authors Jo Harrison has worked with, which will provide some extra food for thought

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About the Author

Jo Harrison is a British Virtual Assistant who lives in South West France with two dogs and cat. Over the past 5 years, Jo has worked with both self-published and bestselling authors alike helping them format their books for print and eBook publication. As a virtual assistant, Jo's experience covers designing websites and marketing, including social media and email campaigns, for her clients. For more information see http://joharrison.rocks/ and follow Jo on Twitter @JoHarris0n