26 August 2016

Guest Post by David Dunham, writing The Silent Land

Available on Amazon US, Amazon UK

‘Rebecca Lawrence reached a count of sixty in her head and slid her finger into the back pages of her mother’s diary. Mistaking the diary for a book granted her innocence the first time she’d opened it. She had no argument for innocence now.’

I admit, I’ve done it. In the early days, that is: the searching for novelists’ daily word counts. I felt dirty doing it, ashamed even, ashamed that I was comparing myself to others and matching my own average to that of the masters. And then I stopped, not through sudden disinterest, but because it was futile. My environment for writing The Silent Land was different to others’. 

At times, it was ideal in that it was quiet, I had an antique desk and there was a kettle close by. At other times, not so, in that my office was the laundry room at the back of the house where the noise from the building site was not as violent as at the front, and my desk was an ironing board, and there was no kettle, just an iron. And then there was the method. 

The Silent Land is set in the early 20th century and so I was to write as if I was in the early 20th century myself - with paper and pen. A good pen, mind you, not a Biro or one of those in the stationery aisle of the supermarket, a proper pen, one that had a nib with a crest, a sleek barrel and required cartridges (I prefer long, not short) that when changing deposits ink on your fingertip and gives you a little buzz as you push it down and you feel the subtle click. Me and my fountain pen. Best of friends, workmates, allies, and my means to an end: a handwritten first draft of my debut novel, all written on the finest of paper.

In my head, I pompously called it parchment for a while. Champagne in colour with a linen finish and summoning images of dripping candles and quills, it was the finest paper in all town and I live in a big town. It is also expensive and would have left me penniless had I not snapped out of my Dickensian romance. To the regular A4 pad I charged and released my fountain pen upon it. 

There were moments when I watched that nib stroking letters onto the lines (I’m a thin lines kinda guy and the pad has to be punched and 64 pages or more) and wondered who was doing the work: me or the pen. The word count was low. Very low. Ostensibly because of my method. I would write one sentence and then another, and possibly a third, and then stare at them, cross them out, huff and puff, and write them again. And I would do this for page after page until eventually a chapter would be finished and the moment arrived that I had dreaded since breakfast: the removal of the computer from the cupboard.

The computer always started with a protest, jilted as it was by my preference for the pen. Slowly, painfully so, it opened a document and begrudgingly allowed me to type my day’s work. And then once done I put it away back where it belonged. And so on and so forth this was the rhythm until one day, one happy, open a bottle of wine day, The Silent Land was completed.

The files are on memory sticks and a hard drive and other things that have drives and clouds, but the real copy, even more important than the copy with a spine on the bookshelf, is the one in a box under the stairs, being kept company by other boxes filled with lines of crossed out sentences and scribblings, and ringed numbers; the daily word count numbers. This is the copy I cherish. Perhaps I’ll do it again. Perhaps, I shan’t. But perhaps you should. Just get a good pen and put the computer in the cupboard.

David Dunham
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About the Author

David Dunham was raised in England and now lives in New Zealand. He has worked in the media industry as a reporter, sportswriter, deputy editor, chief reporter, senior producer and homepage editor. You can find David on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidDunhamAuthor and follow him on Twitter @DDunhamauthor

21 August 2016

The Tudor’s Road to Bosworth Part 7: The Battle of Bosworth

In this series I have followed the progress of Henry and Jasper Tudor from Pembroke Castle to their long exile in Brittany and return with an army to Wales. Their long march, covering as much as twenty-six miles a day, ended when they encountered King Richard’s army camped at Ambion Hill, close to Sutton Cheyney.

The Battle of Bosworth is poorly documented, with no first-hand accounts surviving. Anything we read about the battle therefore has to be looked at closely to see who wrote it and when. One of the best summaries of the often conflicting accounts is Chris Skidmore’s book, Bosworth - The Birth of The Tudors. Even as Chris was writing the book, news emerged of a new location for the battlefield site, and the bones of Richard III were discovered in a car park as he completed the first draft.

I visited the at Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre for the special anniversary weekend events, which now attract visitors to the area from all over the world. As well as a re-creation of the march to Bosworth, there was a full scale re-enactment of the battle, complete with the hundreds of archers and the artillery of the Wars of The Roses Society.

It was also fascinating to visit the ‘living history’ encampment and see the soldiers preparing for battle. I spoke to several of them and they take great pride in achieving historical accuracy – even to the extent of sleeping in their flimsy canvas tents overnight, despite the strong winds.

There was a poignant moment as we all held a one-minute silence in memory of the men who died at Bosworth Field.  I’d be interested to know what Henry Tudor would have to say if he knew the battle was still being re-enacted 531 years after his amazing victory!   

Tony Riches 

See Also:

About the Author: 

I am an author of historical fiction and non-fiction books. I live in Pembrokeshire and specialise in the fifteenth century, with a particular interest in the lives of the early Tudors. For more information please visit my website and find me on Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches.

18 August 2016

Guest Post ~ A Harvest Passion, by Emily Murdoch

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Boy meets girl, girl likes boy, boy loves girl, trouble, boy gets girl. That’s how it always goes, doesn’t it? Not in real life of course, but in almost every single romance the ending is pretty formulaic. Now, I love a good happy ever after ending as much as the next person, but as a romance writer sometimes writing that perfect last chapter rings a little hollow. Because when boy gets girl, there’s often a third person in the story who doesn’t get their happy ending – and often by definition, because they are not the hero or the heroine. They are not allowed their happy ending.

For those of us who read and write romances all the time, this starts to become the norm and it is hard to pull it out as a negative trope. Of course there’s only one happy ending – and the hero and heroine were made for each other. How could you drag them apart? But just as in fiction as in real life, things are rarely as clean up as that. Some people can fall in love twice; others never have their affection returned; some meet their perfect partner and discover that they are already married. This is the complexity that I love to pour into my books.

I used this device in particular in one of my latest Regency romance novellas, A June Wedding, but the more that I thought about Hestia Royce, my girl who didn’t get the boy, the more I realised that the next story that I wanted to tell was hers. What happens when you don’t get the boy, and he goes off into the sunset with the other girl, the girl that he loved more than you?

This is the story of A Harvest Passion. During the Regency period, the idea of a girl returning to her home town unmarried about her own wedding was a deep source of shame, and the speculation about exactly why her intended had decided in the end not to marry her would have been rife. Gossip and intrigue were two of the most essential facets of good society during that time, and so poor Hestia Royce was thrown into the deep end somewhat when she returned home.

Being able to hold up a mirror to this strange world of tittle tattle was my aim with another character, Leo Tyndale. After spending five years in India, Leo has a much more different approach to the people of the town, and as the two outsiders in the community, neither one fitting the expectations of their society, they cannot help but be drawn to each other. I found exploring Regency era India far more exciting than I could have imagined, and I can’t help but feel as though I will return to it before long.

Exploring the slightly darker and sadder side of a romance has been a fascinating experience for me as an author, and it’s certainly made me think twice about how I leave/abandon my secondary characters in future novels! Sadly though, there is only ever one happy ending to go around, and so far Hestia Royce hasn’t found hers.

Emily Murdoch

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About the Author

Emily Murdoch is a medieval historian and writer. Throughout her career so far she has examined a codex and transcribed medieval sermons at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, designed part of an exhibition for the Yorkshire Museum, worked as a researcher for a BBC documentary presented by Ian Hislop, and worked at Polesden Lacey with the National Trust. She has a degree in History and English, and a Masters in Medieval Studies, both from the University of York. Emily has a medieval series and a Regency novella series published, and is currently working on several new projects. You can follow her on twitter and instagram @emilyekmurdoch, find her on Facebook and read her blog at www.emilyekmurdoch.blogspot.co.uk.

16 August 2016

Book Launch: Time and Regret, by M.K. Tod @MKTodAuthor

New on Amazon US

When Grace Hansen finds a box belonging to her beloved grandfather, she has no idea it holds the key to his past—and to long-buried family secrets. In the box are his World War I diaries and a cryptic note addressed to her. Determined to solve her grandfather’s puzzle, Grace follows his diary entries across towns and battle sites in northern France, where she becomes increasingly drawn to a charming French man—and suddenly aware that someone is following her…

A few years ago, my husband and I travelled to northern France to visit the battlefields, monuments, cemeteries, and museums dedicated to World War One. We went to Bailleul, Lille, Amiens, Ypres, Mont St. Eloi and other towns and villages, and to memorials at Vimy, Courcelette, Thiepval, the Somme and Passchendaele. We visited the shops, stayed in a former chateau, enjoyed wonderful French cuisine in all manner of restaurants and cafes. Those places and the landscape of the region engaged every sense and, along with the hundreds of pictures taken, have fuelled descriptions of meadows, villages, windows, tastes, gardens, houses, and other parts of my latest novel Time and Regret.
But of most significance to the story is the night we spent at a café in the small town of Honfleur across the mouth of the Seine from Le Havre. Shortly after the waiter poured our first glass of red wine, I wrote a few words in a pocket-sized notebook I had in my purse.
“What are you writing?” my husband said.
“An idea for a story,” I replied.
Refusing to be put off by my cryptic response, he persisted. “What’s the idea?”
“Nothing much. Just thought it might make a good story to have a granddaughter follow the path her grandfather took during World War One in order to find out more about him.”
Ian took on a pensive look and no doubt had another sip of wine. “You could include a mystery,” he said.
Now, you should know that mysteries are my husband’s favourite genre. Indeed, I suspect mysteries represent at least eighty percent of his reading. So I played along.
“What kind of mystery?”
And that was the birth of Time & Regret, as ideas tumbled out and the plot took shape. Needless to say, the bottle of wine was soon empty.
I’d already written two historical novels, but a mystery is a very different beast. Mystery lovers have expectations, specifically the expectation that you will keep them guessing until the last possible moment and equally the expectation that the smart reader should be able to figure it out. They expect clues strategically sprinkled throughout the novel, many red herrings, a few plot twists, and more than one potential culprit. They expect the excitement to build and build, and the protagonist to have his or her own life problems to add depth to the story.
To make matters more complicated, I decided to structure the novel using two time periods: one quasi present day (1991) and the second during World War I which meant I had two main characters to incorporate plus all the expectations of historical fiction fans. I didn’t appreciate how difficult the task would be until I had completed three drafts and the mystery still didn’t hang together or have enough complexity.
My solution was to map the clues and red herrings against the chapters in both timelines. No doubt such a solution will sound obvious to a seasoned mystery writer, however, I thought it was brilliant. This map helped me examine the placement of elements critical to the mystery against the overall story, to create balance in terms of pacing, to add a few twists, and to validate that I hadn’t given too much away too early.
Did it work? Time will tell, however, I can say that several readers have told me they didn’t anticipate the ending or figure out ‘who dunnit’ until the very end.

M.K. Tod
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About the Author

M. K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter @MKTodAuthor and on her website www.mktod.com.

15 August 2016

New Audiobook - OWEN Book One of The Tudor Trilogy

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

England 1422: Owen Tudor, a Welsh servant, waits in Windsor Castle to meet his new mistress, the beautiful and lonely Queen Catherine of Valois, widow of the warrior king, Henry V. Her infant son is crowned King of England and France, and while the country simmers on the brink of civil war, Owen becomes her protector.
They fall in love, risking Owen’s life and Queen Catherine’s reputation—but how do they found the dynasty which changes British history – the Tudors?
This is the first historical novel to fully explore the amazing life of Owen Tudor, grandfather of King Henry VII and the great-grandfather of King Henry VIII. Set against a background of the conflict between the Houses of Lancaster and York, which develops into what have become known as the Wars of the Roses, Owen’s story deserves to be told.

10 August 2016

Book Review: Henry VII The Maligned Tudor King, by Terry Breverton

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Terry Breverton’s passion for the subject shines through in his much-awaited new book on King Henry VII. I was fascinated by the fresh perspective of this weighty book (at over 400 pages). With a good collection of colour illustrations, this is a ‘must’ for anyone with an interest in the Tudors. Terry has taken the interesting approach of examining Henry’s life through a narrative of where he was at each point in time, and addresses the many errors often repeated about Henry Tudor.

Henry’s path to the throne of England is an amazing story, told with Terry Breverton’s well-informed and engaging style. How could this unassuming man, who had been imprisoned one way or another for most of his twenty-eight years, lead a rebel army to victory at Bosworth? Terry describes Henry as ‘a good man in bad times, always thankful to God for his good fortune and never vengeful.’

I recommend reading this book in conjunction with Terry’s other work, Richard III: The King in the Car Park and his excellent Jasper Tudor: Dynasty Maker (both of which have pride of place on my bookshelf).  I have set out to collect every published work I can find on Henry VII and, in my view, this is the definitive account. My only quibble is with Terry’s choice of title, which I completely understand, although readers are likely to agree that while Henry is the most unlikely King of England, he is also one of the most important in British history.

Tony Riches 

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About the Author

Terry Breverton is a former businessman, consultant and academic and now a full-time writer. Terry has presented documentaries on the Discovery Channel and the History Channel.and has written over forty books, with his main focus being upon Welsh history, heritage and culture.

9 August 2016

Book Launch: Story Genius, by Lisa Cron

New on Amazon US and Amazon UK

Following on the heels of Lisa Cron's breakout first book, Wired for Story, this writing guide reveals how to use cognitive storytelling strategies to build a scene-by-scene blueprint for a riveting story

It’s every novelist’s greatest fear: pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into writing hundreds of pages only to realize that their story has no sense of urgency, no internal logic, and so is a page one rewrite. 

The prevailing wisdom in the writing community is that there are just two ways around this problem: pantsing (winging it) and plotting (focusing on the external plot). Story coach Lisa Cron has spent her career discovering why these these methods don’t work and coming up with a powerful alternative, based on the science behind what our brains are wired to crave in every story we read (and it’s not what you think). 

In Story Genuis Cron takes you, step-by-step, through the creation of a novel from the first glimmer of an idea, to a complete multilayered blueprint—including fully realized scenes—that evolves into a first draft with the authority, richness, and command of a riveting sixth or seventh draft.

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About the Author

Lisa Cron is a story coach and the author of Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers From the Very First Sentence. Lisa has worked in publishing at W.W. Norton, as an agent at the Angela Rinaldi Literary Agency, as a producer on shows for Showtime and CourtTV, and as a story consultant for Warner Brothers and the William Morris Agency.  Since 2006, she's been an instructor in the UCLA Extension Writers' Program. Find out more at Lisa's website wiredforstory.com and follow her on Twitter @LisaCron.