26 July 2015

Book Launch: Owen - Book One of The Tudor Trilogy #Tudors #Histfic


New on Amazon UK and Amazon US
and all formats on Smashwords

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.

17 July 2015

HFVBT Guest Post ~ Doctor Margaret in Delhi: The Azadi Series Book 2, by Waheed Rabbani


Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK

In Book 2 of The Azadi Series , this historical fiction novel continues with Margaret's journey from the time she and her Canadian husband participated in the 1854 Crimean War. Events leading up to the Indian Mutiny/Rebellion that breaks out in 1857 profoundly affect not only Margaret's life, but also of those who love her and others’ who wish her harm. The Azadi Series covers the turmoil that enflamed India from 1857 to 1947, and led to her independence. Those incidences engulf the characters of this story at that time, and then later their descendant's lives, again in the 1960s.



Today I have the pleasure of interviewing the author, Waheed Rabbani:

What inspired your interest in the Indian Mutiny?

Having studied mostly science and engineering subjects through my High School and University days, my knowledge (hate to admit it!) of Indian History was rather poor. Hence, during my retirement years, I started reading up on it. And, the more I read those dry history texts, the more interested I got, particularly how the Indian independence movement initiated with the “Mutiny.” By the way, most Indian historians prefer to call it “The First War of Independence.” Since I found the history texts rather tedious, I took up the challenge and began retelling the independence story in a fictional novel, which has evolved into “The Azadi Series.” (for those of you, who don’t speak Hindi, “azadi” means, freedom.)

You were born near Delhi – but how did you research life there in the mid nineteenth century?

While many of that period’s primary sources (diaries, historical accounts, and novels written at that time) are available in reputable university libraries’ archives, but these being out of copyright are now accessible on the internet! They provided valuable information about the life in India and Delhi during that era. Also, the largest depository of Indian historical archives is at the British Library in London. Again, the Internet has helped me out here as well, for the BL has put some of the material on-line, and for the payment of a modest fee they will send you photo copies, or download, some of the requested items. Hence, apart from visiting the local libraries, I did not have to travel to the BL in London, as some of the authors of earlier novels set in India, had to pour over the thick old volumes in the stacks there! Of course my visits to Delhi helped as well, if at least to visit the ruins of the old historic sites. 

Where and how do you like to write?

All through my engineering career, I worked the ‘early hours,’ from about 8 am to 4 pm. Which meant I had to get up early, and I’m happy that, now during retirement, this habit hasn’t fallen by the wayside! Initially I did sink into the ‘trap’ of doing my emailing, and social networking in the mornings. But soon realized that, being too tired by the afternoon/evening, I wasn’t getting any writing done. So listening to sage advice of other writers, I now devote the mornings strictly to novel-writing. I did purchase the most recommended software to assist writers, Scrivener, but don’t use it much. I am most comfortable writing using Word, and (still know how to) develop character information charts, time and plot lines, and other administrative spreadsheets, using Excel. Although, I mostly write using the ‘pantser’ and a basic outline approach, for I find it more creative, I am starting to outline (and timeline!) in some detail. Yes, these techniques have helped to speed up my writing and achieve my daily writing (ever changing) goal. 

Which historical fiction authors have influenced you most?

There are many. But to name a few: I was ‘blown away’ by M. M. Kaye’s novels (The Far Pavilions, The Shadow of the Moon), and loved Valerie Fitzgerald’s “Zemindar.” I’ve read and watched Paul Scott’s “Jewel in the Crown” several times. And of course, although not a novelist, the non-fiction writings of William Dalrymple (The Last Mughal). I reread most of the classical novelists, Dickens, Brontes, Austen, Tolstoy, Pasternak and others, regularly. And I’ll be amiss if I fail to mention some of our fine HNS authors. Being on the HNR Book Reviews Team, I get to read and review ‘a lot.’ 

What does the future hold for the Azadi Series?

So far I’ve covered, in Book 1, Doctor Margaret’s early life in the US and Canada and, following her graduation and marriage, travel to and service in the Crimean War of 1854. In Book 2 her story starts from her arrival in India, and after a brief period of stay with her parents at the American Mission at Futtehgurh, she serves at the Civil and Military Hospital in Delhi. Book 2 takes the readers up to the eve of the Indian Mutiny. Book 3 will cover the 1857 Mutiny, and Margaret getting caught up in it, in greater depth. Following books in the series will cover the Great Game (the Russian-British conflict in Afghanistan) and India’s Independence in 1947.

Thank you for this opportunity for an author interview.

Waheed Rabbani
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About the Author
Waheed Rabbani was born in India, close to Delhi, and was introduced to Victorian and other English novels, at a very young age, in his father's library. Most of the large number of volumes, in the library, had been purchased by his father at 'garage sales' held, by departing British civil service officers, in the last days of the Raj. Waheed attended St. Partick's High School in Karachi, Pakistan. He graduated from Loughborough University, Leicestershire, England, and received a Master's degree from Concordia University, Montreal, Canada. While an engineer by profession, Waheed's other love is reading and writing English literature. He also obtained a Certificate in Creative Writing from the McMaster University. Waheed and his wife, Alexandra, are now settled on the shores of Lake Ontario in the historic town of Grimsby. More information is available on his website and you can find him on Twitter @WaheedR2009 and Facebook.

16 July 2015

Goodreads Giveaway ~ The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham


To celebrate the success the success of my best selling historical fiction novel, two paperback copies are free on Goodreads
until the end of July.


England 1441:  Lady Eleanor Cobham, Duchess of Gloucester, hopes to become Queen of England before her interest in astrology and her husband’s ambition leads their enemies to accuse her of a plot against the king. Eleanor is found guilty of sorcery and witchcraft. Rather than have her executed, King Henry VI orders Eleanor to be imprisoned for life.

More than a century after her death, carpenters restoring one of the towers of Beaumaris Castle discover a sealed box hidden under the wooden boards. Thinking they have found treasure, they break the ancient box open, disappointed to find it only contains a book, with hand-sewn pages of yellowed parchment. Written in a code no one could understand, the mysterious book changed hands many times for more than five centuries, between antiquarian book collectors, until it came to me. After years of frustrating failure to break the code, I discover it is based on a long forgotten medieval dialect and am at last able to decipher the secret diary of Eleanor Cobham.

12 July 2015

Historical Fiction Spotlight ~ Wars of the Roses: Trinity, by Conn Iggulden


Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

The retelling of the Wars of the Roses continues with Trinity, the second gripping novel in the new series from Conn Iggulden.

1454: King Henry VI has remained all but exiled in Windsor Castle, struck down by his illness for over a year, his eyes vacant, his mind a blank. His fiercely loyal wife and Queen, Margaret of Anjou, safeguards her husband's interests, hoping that her son Edward will one day know the love of his father. Richard Duke of York, Protector of the Realm, extends his influence throughout the kingdom with each month that Henry slumbers. 

The Earls of Salisbury and Warwick make up a formidable trinity with Richard, and together they seek to break the support of those who would raise their colours in the name of Henry and his Queen. But when the King unexpectedly recovers his senses and returns to London to reclaim his throne, the balance of power is once again thrown into turmoil. The clash of the Houses of Lancaster and York will surely mean a war to tear England apart . . . 

Following on from Stormbird, Trinity is the second epic instalment in master storyteller Conn Iggulden's new Wars of the Roses series. Fans of Game of Thrones and The Tudors will be gripped from the word go.



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About the Author

Born in London, Conn Iggulden read English at London University and worked as a teacher for seven years before becoming a full-time writer. Married with three children, he lives in Hertfordshire. Since publication of The Gates of Rome, Conn has written a further thirteen books including the wildly successful The Dangerous Book for Boys. Find out more at his website and follow Conn on Twitter @Conn_Iggulden.

9 July 2015

Guest Post ~ Fia Essen’s Journey to Becoming an Author


New on Amazon

Radical life changes and too much champagne at high altitude can take a girl to the most interesting places. Anna’s journey is just getting started when she takes a chance on a new friendship of the handsome male variety and winds up in a tiny village in Crete. It turns out she’s not the only one who has that idea...


My name is Fia Essen and I’m an author… That sounds like a confession, doesn’t it? Some people know that they’re meant to be writers from an early age. I didn’t. When I was a little girl, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. My parents put me in ballet classes so I would say I wanted to be a ballerina. I knew my parents liked hearing that answer. But I also knew that I didn’t really want to be a ballerina.

I spent most of my twenties doing a little of this, a bit of that, and some of the other. None of it was useful. I drifted aimlessly through life, without a passion or a goal. I was lost. In 2009, at the age of twenty-six, I started writing. I had recently left the hustle and bustle of Singapore and relocated to a tiny village on a Greek island. Why? Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. But it wasn’t. It didn’t suit me anyway.

This Greek village had a population of about 250 people. It had very little to offer in terms of entertainment. So I started writing because there literally wasn’t anything else to do, not because I had a particularly burning desire to become an author. I’d been a bookworm my entire life. Why not try to write a book?

I finished my first novel and sent it out to more than 100 literary agents. All of them rejected my manuscript. Eventually, a small ePublishing company offered me a three-year contract and published my book. All in all, only fifty copies of that book were sold over the three-year period. When the publishing contract ended, I was equal parts disappointed and relieved. Disappointed because my book hadn’t become a bestseller and relieved because, now that the book was off the market, I could bury the disappointment and move on.

I continued my aimless drifting for some time, growing increasingly dissatisfied with my life and disappointed in myself. I would see posts from people I used to know on social media, notifying their online friends about engagements, upcoming weddings, brilliant new jobs, and the arrival of their first child. Me? I was twenty-nine years old and I still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Then I turned thirty and something happened. I consciously acknowledged that I was stuck in a rut and that I was miserable. I hadn’t admitted it to myself before. Of course, part of me knew I was stuck and wasting my life. These thoughts would enter my head in the dead of night when there were no other distractions to focus on. But I hadn’t said “I’m stuck” out loud in broad daylight.
Once I made the confession and said the words out loud, things began to change. I began to change. I began to take charge of my own life.

Finally, I knew what I wanted to do. And what was that? I discovered that I did have a burning desire to be an author after all. It was quite the surprise.

Every writer has heard the phrase “write what you know” at some point. So that’s exactly what I did. I wrote what I knew. I knew what it was like to be stuck in a rut so I wrote a book about a woman who was stuck, lost, and wasting her life. That book is called Ariel and it was published on the 1st of April 2015.

My second novel, Anna, takes place on a Greek island. The story was originally a diary. Anna is a fictionalized account of a phase in my own life. Events beyond Anna’s control force her to take a good look at her life. She discovers there’s more to herself and those around her than she had ever imagined. And, of course, there’s romance in the story too.

These days I’m writing because I’m 100% sure that it’s what I want to do. It’s no longer a case of “Why not write a book?” because I don’t have anything else going on. “Why not” is never a good enough reason to do something.

I want to write. No one else pushed me into making the choice to write. I made the choice. I’m all grown up now and I’m an author. 

Fia Essen  
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About the Author

Fia Essen has been an expat since childhood. She grew up in the stables of the Middle East and Southeast Asia, surrounded by horses, philandering polo players, and bored expat housewives. Currently, she lives in Athens, Greece with her Yorkshire Terrier. You can connect with her at http://www.fiaessen.com or follow her on Twitter @FiaEssen. And you can find Anna on Amazon in Kindle format and paperback: http://mybook.to/anna

8 July 2015

The Migrant Report (Book One, Crimes in Arabia Series) by Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar


Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK

Against the glittering high-rises of the capital, Manu, a recent arrival from Nepal, drips his days away on a construction site, cut off from the world outside the labor camp. His sister despairs of finding him among the thousands of migrant workers flooding into the Arabian Gulf to build the country’s infrastructure. Manu and Sanjana must keep their younger siblings out of poverty, even if at their own expense. 

Police captain Ali's hopes of joining the elite government forces are dashed when his childhood deformity is discovered. His demotion brings him face to face with a rising pile of unexplained dead bodies and also an aspiring journalist who is unlike any local girl Ali knows. In danger of flunking out of university, Maryam is searching for an original story that will appease her professor and keep her family’s machinations for marriage in check. 

Can the unlikely trio fit the pieces of the puzzle together before agency thugs get to Manu? 

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About the Author

Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar is a South Asian American who has lived in Qatar since 2005. Moving to the Arabian Desert was fortuitous in many ways since this is where she met her husband, had two sons, and became a writer. Her coming of age novel, An Unlikely Goddess, won the SheWrites New Novelist competition in 2011. Her recent books have focused on various aspects of life in Qatar.  Learn more about her work on her website at www.mohadoha.com or follow her latest on Twitter: @moha_doha.

7 July 2015

Book Review ~ The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen, by Stephen R. Bown


Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

"Amundsen! The very name carries the song of the Arctic winds, the mystery of the white places of the earth. Of all men, he alone had stood at both frozen tips of our spinning world."

Boyden Sparkes, December 1928. 


I remember as a schoolboy being led to believe that Robert Falcon Scott’s expedition was 'cheated' of their moment of glory at the South Pole by the Norwegian, Roald Amundsen. I urge you to read this book to set the record straight.

Canadian biographer Steven R. Bown shows us a flawed hero, worshipped by his men yet a womaniser, careless with his money, who lived his life to the full. The fascinating accounts of Amundsen’s adventures are balanced with details of the considerable effort and planning behind each of his voyages.

Early on, Amundsen realised that there was inevitably tension between the ship's captain and the expedition leader, so he promptly gained his captain's papers to solve the problem. For similar reasons he never included doctors on his teams, a policy that almost cost him his life. In the Arctic he was attacked by a polar bear, which smashed his shoulder and ripped great gashes on his back. He had the ship’s cook stitch him up as best he could but suffered from his injuries for many years.

Amundsen's fascination with the Inuit culture is a perfect example of his attitude to exploration. As well as learning how to survive in the ice, how to manage sled dogs and the secrets of their reindeer-hide clothing, he studied their whole approach to life. This proved invaluable when he reached the Antarctic. While Scott struggled with unreliable snow-tractors, 'man-hauling' sledges and ponies, Amundsen's small team travelled light from one 'storage depot' to the next, with teams of dogs ideally suited to the conditions.

Although he never met Scott, Amundsen’s party were visited by the Terra Nova shortly before they left for the pole. Almost obsessive about keeping his own ship, the Fran clean and well-ordered, Amundsen was appalled by the condition of Scott’s ship and thought it did not reflect well on the leadership of the British expedition.

Captain Roald Amundsen at the wheel
during the North Pole expedition, 1920
(Wikimedia Commons)
The global interest in his adventures meant he could earn a fortune from his books and lecture tours, which he used to finance new expeditions. Less easy for modern readers to understand is the way he took two young Chukchi Eskimo girls to America, and then to Norway, apparently to prove they were capable of gaining a 'proper' education.

I knew little of Amundsen’s achievements in discovering the North-West passage, or of his high-risk attempts to fly to the North Pole in various aircraft. His ultimately successful voyage in an Italian airship is one of the most gripping accounts in the book.

Thanks to Stephen Bown, Roald Amundsen is now one of my all-time heroes. I would like to leave the last word to another, Earnest Shackleton, who responded to Amundsen's speech to the Royal Geographic Society, saying, "throughout the lecture tonight I never heard the word 'I' mentioned, it was always 'we'. I think that is the way Amundsen got his men to work along with him, and it brought the successful conclusion."

Tony Riches
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About the Author

Stephen R. Bown is an award-winning author of historical non-fiction with eight books published internationally and translated into many languages. His book Scurvy: How a Surgeon, a Mariner and a Gentleman Solved the Greatest Medical Mystery of the Age of Sail was an international critical success and was selected as one of the Globe and Mail's Top 100 books of 2004. Stephen lives in Canmore in the Rocky Mountains with his wife Nicky and two children. When not writing he enjoys reading, mountain biking, hiking and camping in the summer, and downhill and cross country skiing in the winter. Find out more at his website www.stephenrbown.net  and find him on Facebook

6 July 2015

Childhood Mischief in Wartime Birmingham, by Eric Yates


Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

This treasure trove of Second World War stories is a must read for those wanting to know about the lives of ordinary families in the history of Britain – or indeed, anybody wanting a good laugh to brighten up their day.

In the history of Britain there is a shortage of Second World War stories detailing the lives of ordinary families living in poverty, the children’s games and the black market profiteering that history has forgotten.

The story of young Eric and John is here to set the record straight. Two boys growing up in the midst of rationing, with a flair for mischief and a sense of humour history will never see again – what could happen? Quite a lot, apparently, if the exciting family life of Eric and John is anything to go by. 

Telling of their family life in war torn Birmingham where poverty was rife, Eric’s account is full of wit and the kind of humour history should remember. From the infamous Bread Pudding Incident to the charming children’s games like ‘Penny on the Brick’, you will find laughter and warm memories of time spent in an age before computers, when children had to entertain themselves. Yet there is poignancy here, too, as Eric and John find themselves swept up in the greater tide of war as evacuees, made to travel to the country with no chance of looking back...

For review copies please contact PublishingPush at http://publishingpush.com

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About the Author

Eric served two years' National Service as an Army Education Officer in Cyprus, and seven years with the Kenyan Police in East Africa where, as a Customs & Excise Investigation Officer, he swam in shark-infested waters looking for hidden contraband. Whilst living in Africa, he joined the National Theatre of Nairobi where he performed in Shakespeare, the Classics and drama. At one time a presenter for BBC Radio Birmingham, Eric spent ten years with the Monitoring Section of the BBC World Service in Berkshire, becoming well-known locally for his acting talent, especially mimicry and humour, winning numerous awards over the years. Eric was married twice and met his second wife in Henley-on-Thames, when she directed him in J.B. Priestley's When We Are Married. At that time he was semi-retired working as a warden at Windsor Castle, where he endeared himself to his colleagues but was often reprimanded for displaying his unique brand of humour to the general public. Retiring to Devon in 2001, Eric enjoyed boat restoration, brewing very strong cider, cultivating rare trees and plants and reading. He began writing his stories in 2004 - and also began tales from his adult life, regrettably unfinished.

5 July 2015

Connecting with readers on Goodreads



Goodreads is for readers, so is not the place for authors to engage in self-promotion but there are over 25 Million registered users, looking at 750 Million books, who have created 29 Million reviews.  So how should you build this into your author platform? I've been on Goodreads for over four years and offer some thoughts on some things to consider:

1. Create your Goodreads author page

Your author page is separate from your member profile page, which lists your bookshelves friends and reviews. It doesn't take long and it’s free, so search for yourself and click on your published author name, then send a request to join the Goodreads Author Program. If you haven’t set up your page, Goodreads offers readers a disappointing silhouette, so switch that for your favourite photo. You can also add a bio, links to your blog and Twitter user name. I sometimes see authors who put the wrong links, so test them to make sure they work properly. (My Goodreads author page is HERE if you’d like to see what they look like.)

2. Make sure your books are listed

Your books don’t just appear on Goodreads, someone has to list them in the first place. The best person to do that is you, as soon as your book is launched. You can make sure the details are all correct, with the best cover image. If you added the book it is also much easier to update it in the future. Check before adding a book by searching by author and title – and read the guidelines. If your books need to be added, you will be given access to the online form.  You can also upload eBooks in epub or pdf and allow readers access to the whole book or an extract.

3. Start adding and reviewing books you read

The whole point of Goodreads is for readers to share thoughts about books they read, so please join in. I sometimes forget but am trying to make time to write a short paragraph and cross post on Amazon as well as Goodreads, so you have double value from your time and, depending on your review, may be helping other authors and readers.

4. Join and interact with Goodreads groups that match your genre(s)

There is a discussion group for everyone on Goodreads, including many led by Goodreads Authors so start exploring – just go to http://www.goodreads.com/group and type some keywords into the search box. Some groups offer book useful book promotion advice and are a great place to link up to other indie authors and find new ideas. (I recently formed a useful group of 'beta readers' for my new novel on a special interest group.)

5. Link to your writing blog with RSS

I have a lot of visitors to my writing blog via Goodreads, so it is definitely worth hooking up the RSS feed. (If you don’t know how to do it, here is step-by-step guidance) 

6. Post your promotional videos

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a one and half minute video worth? I’ll be posting later in this series on my experience with YouTube, but if you have a promotional video it makes sense to add it to your Goodreads author page.


7. Make time to update your status

This is one of the under-used areas of Goodreads, which means if you have time to bother your input stands out. All you need to do is go to http://www.goodreads.com/update_status and you’ll be presented with any books you’ve marked as currently reading, but you don’t have to limit your updates to that.

8. Send friend requests to like-minded reviewers and authors

Goodreads recommends that you only add someone as a ‘friend’ after you’ve interacted with them in a group or in a book discussion thread. I rarely bother sending friend requests to readers unless I have a really good reason, but it’s a useful way to keep tabs on other authors who share your interests.

9. Accept friend requests

Unlike Twitter, where you need to be a bit careful about who you follow back, I’m happy to accept any ‘friend requests’ on Goodreads. If I have the time I usually check out their blog and add them on Twitter if they have a Twitter username you can be fairly sure they’ll follow back.

10. Help other authors

One of the Goodreads groups I like is Authors Helping Authors described as is a place where authors and bloggers can come together and help one another out. If you have a writing blog this is a great place to find authors interested in guest posting.


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Do you have more ideas and suggestions on how to get the best from Goodreads? If so, please feel free to add a comment below

4 July 2015

Guest Post: Marina Julia Neary, Celto-Slavic disaster writer‏


Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK

1830s Bermondsey, London’s most notorious slum, a land of gang wars and freak shows. Dr. Thomas Grant, a disgraced physician, adopts Wynfield, a ten-year old thief savagely battered by a gang leader for insubordination. The boy grows up to be an idealistic opium addict who worships Victor Hugo.

Author Interview


America's most Irish author to come out of Eastern Europe - that has become Marina Julia Neary's tagline. A privileged albeit maladjusted only child of classical musicians, she came to the US at the age of thirteen. Her literary repertoire revolves primarily around the Anglo-Irish conflict, namely the events around the Easter Rising. She has a day job in foreign exchange. Today she joins me for a brief interview.

Q: You mentioned having to defend and explain your interest in Irish history.


A: When people find out I'm not Irish by blood, they ask me, "Why do you write about Ireland? You're not Irish." But then, does one need to be a vampire to write about vampires?  Does on need to be a serial killer to write a murder mystery? My parents were a mixed couple, ethnically and ideologically, so I have first-hand experience of tension.  With a Russian pro-imperialist mother and Polish nationalist father, the atmosphere in the house was always heated.  It's both humorous and dramatic.  My Irish last name is from my husband.  I've been with him since my late teens.  We met at the height of Celtic revival in the late 1990s. He's my hero and my muse, the most exquisite other-worldly male specimen. 

Q: Your debut novel Wynfield's Kingdom set during the Crimean War took you 16 years to write.

A: I often joke that the novel has been through more revisions than Michael Jackson's nose.  I wrote the first draft at the age of 15 and set it aside.  Then more than a decade later, I revisited it and made some significant changes to the storyline.  It was published by Fireship Press when I was 31.  The main character stayed the same.  It was my goal to create an iconic Victorian child-hero.

Q: You dub yourself as a disaster writer.

A: They say "write what you know".  I say, you should write what comes naturally to you.  I am a very tense, aggressive, negative person, and writing about disasters is second nature. You can tell from my picture. Each of my novels features some sort of disaster, be it political, military, natural or psychological.  I've written about the Irish Famine, the Charge of the Light Brigade, the Easter Rising, and, last but not least, the Chernobyl explosion.  

Q: Tell us about your latest novel, Saved by the Bang: a Nuclear Comedy. I understand, it's autobiographical?



A: Correct. My friends and readers have been begging me to write something autobiographical.  So I have to give people what they want, even if it's something they are not ready to palate. Set in the radioactive swamps of Belarus in the aftermath of the Chernobyl explosion, Saved by the Bang is tagged as a nuclear comedy.  Like I said before, I believe that tragedy and comedy go hand in hand.  If you hear a boo-hoo, chances are, there's a ha-ha around the corner. Some readers find my sense of humor disturbing. I've been called heartless and insensitive.  And yes, there is a lot of unsavory material in the novel: second trimester abortion, cancer, birth defects, rape. I don't depict those things to shock the reader. I write them because that's how it was in a society where human life is not valued.  I know I come across as a cynic, but actually I have profound respect for God and life.  I'm staunch pro-life activist, even though the tone of my works is not always life-affirming. 

Marina Julia Neary 
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About the Author

Marina Julia Neary spent her early years in Eastern Europe and came to the United States at the age of thirteen.  She now lives in Stamford, Connecticut with her husband and young son. An award-winning historical essayist, multilingual arts & entertainment journalist, she is a published poet, playwright, actress, dancer and choreographer. A specialist on the obscure works of Victor Hugo, Marina's novel Wynfield's Kingdom is a narrative version of Hugo in London. Her poetry has appeared in literary journals such as First Edition, Alimentum and The RecorderIn addition to her writing career,Marina has starred in independent art and horror films, and she is currently working on an adaptation of one of her novels. Find out more at Marina's blog.

3 July 2015

Historical Fiction Spotlight ~ The Banneret's Blade - Revenge is Sweet, by Nick De Rothschild


Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

The year is 1339, King Edward III is on the throne, French and Genoese warships continue their attacks on the English coast, and Sir Roger de Bohun, the Banneret, has been asked by the king to steal back his crown from the Prince-Bishop of Mainz and replace it with a counterfeit.
This epic tale picks up where The Banneret’s Blade: Trouble Brewing left off—the early days of the Hundred Years’ War, on the eve of the all but forgotten great naval Battle of Sluys.
Full of mutinous sailors, great sea battles and land wars, pirate raids, double-crossing spies embroiled in political intrigue, passionate affairs, and men caught up in forces beyond their control, this meticulously researched novel brings the history of medieval Europe to life.
The Banneret’s Blade: Revenge is Sweet invites readers into a world seemingly descending into chaos and introduces them to fascinating and complex characters driven by all manner of motives. Fans of sweeping works of historical fiction by genre masters such as Ken Follett and Bernard Cornwell will delight in the emergence of another great new voice on the scene.


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About the Author

Nick de Rothschild graduated from Cambridge University with a degree in Archaeology, Anthropology, and History of Art. Despite being a scion of the famed Rothschild banking dynasty, he never became a banker. Instead he was a pioneer in the video industry in London, before moving to the New Forest in Hampshire to look after his family's estate at Exbury, where his grandfather created the world renowned Exbury Gardens. An avid filmmaker, Rothschild occasionally makes movies about the Gardens and likes to think of himself as 'the man who lives in paradise.' In his spare time, he enjoys collecting nerines and photographing South African flowering bulbs. Find out more at www.banneretsblade.com and you can follow Nick on Twitter
@rothschild_nick.

2 July 2015

Authors: How to create a free smartphone optimised 'showcase' for your books


"Our behaviour as consumers is evolving." This comes from a recent report on the exponential rise in smartphone use, which predicts over six billion users by 2020. Research in the US also concludes, 'nearly two-thirds of Americans are now smartphone owners, and for many these devices are a key entry point to the online world.' 


I've been aware of the significant rise in smartphone use by book buyers for some time, (and I've even heard of people reading books on smartphones!) so was interested to experiment with the free facilities in WiX to see what was possible. In particular, I wanted to see how quick and easy it was to set up - and how well my promotional YouTube videos would run.

If you're not familiar with WiX, they are have grown to over 60 million users in 190 countries and claim to offer the only 'drag and drop' website building platform with HTML5 capabilities - and guarantee that your experience is simple, fun and code-free. Although you can pay for premium services, their business model allows WiX to provide full websites free of charge.

You can see what I created here:



There are seven simple steps as follows:

1. Sign up for a free WiX account at WiX.com and choose a free layout template and background. (You don't need to pay as long as you don't mind having a small WiX advert in the corner)


2. Add your book cover images, with a short 'blurb' in a text box. (You can link the images to Amazon.)





3. Add alternative purchasing sites and your promotional videos from YouTube, if you have them:




4. Switch to the WiX Mobile Editor:




5. Now you can arrange your book layout by simply 'dragging and dropping' the elements:


(Purple guidelines appear as you move things, to make alignment easy)

6. Preview the results and test all the links to make sure they work.

7. Publish the new site and test on a smartphone.

You don't need any coding or technical skills, as it is all really intuitive and I didn't need to refer to the help files. Once you have the basic page working properly, you can add pages for an author bio etc. I also spent a few minutes improving the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) by adding keywords and put some social media links in the footer.

The whole thing didn't take long - and like me, you would probably copy and paste the contents from your main website. Most importantly, this approach enables you to extend your author platform at no cost, which is always worth considering. I can't see myself switching from blogger to the still rather 'clunky' blogging features of WiX - but my new 'experiment' has already replaced my Wordpress author site as the main showcase for my books. 





1 July 2015

Book Launch - The Artificial Anatomy of Parks, by Kat Gordon


New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

At twenty-one, Tallulah Park lives alone in a grimy bedsit. As Tallie grows up, she learns the hard way about damage and betrayal, that in the end, the worst betrayals are those we inflict on ourselves. This is her story about the journey from love to loss and back again.

A Family Secret

I think writing fiction is a great way to try to understand people. If you create a little world for your characters, and you make things happen to them, then they have to respond appropriately, and that really forces you to consider their perspective as opposed to your own, and how they might not only see but feel things differently to you, the writer, about these events, and about the world in general. So I think I’ve always been inspired by people, and in particular by families – which force you to look beyond your own point of view in a similar way.

Families are so important in shaping who we are, both in terms of genetic inheritance and environmental experience. Usually we feel that these people know us better than anyone else, so we feel able to act “ourselves” around them and free to say things to them we might not to others – such a gift for a writer!

Also, while we might look alike, or have similar character traits, we all tend to play different roles within our family unit. So in The Artificial Anatomy of Parks there’s the peacekeeper, the worrier, the drama queen, the loving figure, the bully, the figure of authority, etc. I decided to include a family secret, because I wanted to explore its knock-on effect on all the characters, and how their roles in the family can dictate their responses (and because it can make for great dramatic tension!). I’m sure, too, that every family has a secret. Especially when you look at people from my grandparents’ generation (born early 20th Century): they were growing up in the aftermath of Victorian society and its particular set of morals, so illegitimate children, affairs, homosexuality, etc would usually have been hushed up in case of scandal.

I started off with the character of Tallie. When I knew her inside out, I knew the bones of the story. (I’m not sure I believe that your character can completely take over your writing, but I think there comes a point where the plot can only move in one direction because the character would only realistically react in a certain way to people and events.)

I always knew I wanted to write about a large family, including uncles and aunts and cousins. Mine is quite different – both my parents were only children, so I don’t have any extended family. That also decided for me that Tallie would be an only child, because in the absence of siblings, my mum and dad were both really close to their parents, and especially their mothers. Tallie’s relationship with Evie, her mother, is in honour of the bond between my mum and my granny.

I also knew from the beginning that I wanted two separate narratives – one in the present day that would take place over a period of a week or so, and one in the past, that would follow Tallie from age five until twenty-one (her age in the present-day narrative). I wanted to be able to write both from the perspective of a child and an adult – a child for the humorous possibilities (asking inappropriate questions, misunderstandings, etc), and an adult for the analytic possibilities (being able to really think about other characters’ actions, and their motivations).

I wrote the novel as it reads, alternating between the present-day and past storylines. It took me about two years to finish my first draft, and then another few years to edit. The story itself didn’t change too drastically throughout, because the main thrust was always going to be leading up to the revelation of the family’s secret, but parts of the story needed to be beefed up, or cut down, and one character disappeared altogether while another was brought back from the dead.

Something I found really helped me was drawing up a detailed synopsis, where every single scene was accounted for. Reading over that, I was able to make decisions about pacing, whether the revelations were happening at the right times, whether to give the secondary storylines more or less emphasis, and whether they had too much or too little “page-time”.  

It’s been a fairly lengthy process, but I’ve loved all of it: the writing, the editing, even the tearing-out-the-hair moments when I’ve realised that changing a scene on page 39 has affected something on page 290 and I have to think of a way around it. And I’m so excited that all my friends and family can read it now as a proper book! Although my dad did call me up the other day to say, “So hang on a minute... the story starts when she gets a call that her dad has had a heart attack....?”
    
Kat Gordon 

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About the Author

Kat Gordon was born and grew up London, attending Camden School for Girls. She read English at Somerville College, Oxford and worked at Time Out briefly after graduating, before travelling around America for three months then returning to Africa to travel and work as a teacher and HIV counsellor. Since finishing her MA in Creative Writing in 2009 she also worked as a gymnastics coach. She lives with her boyfriend (also a writer), and their cat. Find out more at https://katgordonwrites.wordpress.com/  and follow Kat on Twitter @katgordon1984.

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