21 July 2017

Interview with Stephanie Churchill, Author of The King’s Daughter


Available for pre-order
on Amazon US and Amazon UK

In this gripping sequel to The Scribe's Daughter, a young woman finds herself unwittingly caught up in a maelstrom of power, intrigue, and shifting perceptions, where the line between ally and enemy is subtle, and the fragile facade of reality is easily broken.

Today I'm talking to Stephanie Churchill about her second book, The King’s Daughter, a sequel to The Scribe’s Daughter.

There may be readers who haven’t read the first book yet, so why don’t you start off by telling us a little bit about it?

The Scribe’s Daughter is fantasy, though it will appeal to historical fiction readers because everything about it echoes the historical without actually being historical.  I used my comfort and familiarity with history and historical novels to recreate a world that would be similar in feel.

At the beginning of the novel, we meet Kassia, a seventeen year-old orphan who is faced with a tough decision in her daily quest for survival.  She is a younger sister but finds herself in the position of providing for both herself and her older sister, Irisa.  The sisters cannot afford to pay rent, and when their landlord gives them an ultimatum -- pay up or become whores -- Kassia must make a difficult decision.  Events become complicated when very soon after, a stranger shows up at her doorstep to hire Kassia for a job that is ridiculously outside her skill set.  Not seeing any other choice, she takes him on.  Before long, Kassia finds herself swept away on a sometimes treacherous journey where she must use her resourcefulness and every measure of witty bravado to survive.  Along the way, mysteries of the sisters’ family history, a history they never knew existed, are realized and revealed.

Tell us a little bit about The King’s Daughter.

Much of this book overlaps the timeline of the first book as the sisters’ perspectives weave together to form a more complete view of what readers learned earlier.  Kassia and Irisa part ways early on in The Scribe’s Daughter.  The first few chapters of The King’s Daughter follow that overlapping timeline as Irisa learns about the same mysteries her sister did in the first book; however, Irisa’s story continues on from there, and she discovers even deeper mysteries than Kassia ever knew existed.  Facts are twisted sideways so that the mysteries take on new life.  Ultimately it is a character-driven book.  Irisa grows and develops as a person, but in her strength, she helps the development of the other significant protagonist in the story as well.  All of this is wrapped in mystery, political intrigue, a little love story, as well as action and adventure.

Your book reads like historical fiction.  Did you base any of the plot or characters on any real figures from history?

Without giving too much away for the sake of the plot, I’ll say that Edward IV and his daughter Elizabeth of York, who married Henry Tudor, were probably the biggest influences on two of my characters, though only loosely.

Did you plan to write multiple books when you started The Scribe’s Daughter?

When I began work on The Scribe’s Daughter, I had no long-range plan.  It was simply an experiment in writing first person.  Once I started writing Kassia however, I fell in love with her character and couldn’t stop.  Irisa was originally just a sub-character, and I had no real plan to develop her.  Once I got nearly half way through writing the first draft though, I realized that Irisa had a tale of her own to tell, and it was going to be very compelling.  I was intrigued by the idea of perspective and the differing views multiple people can have of the same events.  This was really the seed idea for the second book.  Once I got writing it, I discovered another selfish perk: I found that I missed Kassia terribly, and creating a book for Irisa allowed me to revisit the same world while taking off in a new direction even while inventing new people and places.  I can totally understand now why so many authors write a series!

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are there necessary connections between each book?

One of my advanced readers thought The King’s Daughter could be read as a stand-alone.  It’s hard for me to judge that as the author since I can never read the book with new eyes.  I would say however, that if a person wants to read it without having read the first one, it’s probably doable.  My caution would be though, that they would miss out on a lot of depth.  The second book weaves many tiny details from the first book: characters, places, mysteries, back stories, etc.  In fact, there are so many connections that many of the details may even be missed by most readers!

I have a plan for a third book, the story of Naria, Irisa and Kassia’s mother.  I left some dangling threads at the end of The King’s Daughter, and I really want to tie those up for readers.  This third book will have even more connections, ties, and connections to characters and events from the first two books.

Who should read your books?

I have found that my audience is more women than men, but both audiences have very dedicated fans.  The books were written for adults, though I tried to be sensitive to a wide audience so wrote it with that in mind, including teens.  Genre is difficult to pin down.  As I said earlier, the books read like historical fiction but are no doubt fantasy, even if not traditional fantasy.  There is no magic, no dragons or other fantastical beasts.  Everything is based in reality.  Readers of historical fiction should feel right at home with the books however, because I love history and historical fiction and attempted to inject the feel of that genre into my writing.  I often tell people that my books echo historical fiction even if they aren’t history.  More than that though, if you love deep characters, evocative settings, and a good plot, it doesn’t matter what genre you read.  You’ll enjoy the books!

The King’s Daughter will be released on September 1 and can be ordered from Amazon.

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About the Author

Stephanie Churchill grew up in the American Midwest, and after school moved to Washington, D.C. to work as a paralegal, moving to the Minneapolis metro area when she married.  She says, 'One day while on my lunch break from work, I visited a nearby bookstore and happened upon a book by author Sharon Kay Penman.  I’d never heard of her before, but the book looked interesting, so I bought it.  Immediately I become a rabid fan of her work. I discovered that Ms. Penman had fan club and that she happened to interact there frequently.  As a result of a casual comment she made about how writers generally don’t get detailed feedback from readers, I wrote her an embarrassingly long review of her latest book, Lionheart.  As a result of that review, she asked me what would become the most life-changing question: “Have you ever thought about writing?”  And The Scribe’s Daughter was born. Find out more at Stephanie's website www.stephaniechurchillauthor.com and find her on Facebook and Twitter @WriterChurchill.

20 July 2017

Guest Post by Dylan Callens, author of Interpretation


Available for pre-order on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Interpretation is a dystopian fiction that explores hope and happiness in the bleakest of conditions and what happens when it’s torn away.

Dreams.  We all have them but we don’t really know what they are. Scientifically speaking, the explanation is pretty lame.  According to WebMD, “Dreams are basically stories and images our mind creates while we sleep. Dreams can occur anytime during sleep. But most vivid dreams occur during deep, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, when the brain is most active. Some experts say we dream at least four to six times per night.”

That’s great and all.  But it doesn’t help us to understand our dreams. Many people put great stock in their dreams, believing them to be linked to daily events or some hidden truth about life.  But maybe they mean nothing at all.

According to an article in Time (Why Dreams Mean Less Than We Think, 2009), countless experiments have been conducted that link the way we feel to external data.  We make dumb choices based on things that we see all the time.  For example, in one study, people were asked to guess at how many African nations were members of the UN.  The researcher then spun a wheel of fortune which landed on a random number between zero and one hundred.  Respondents typically picked a number that was close to whatever number was on the wheel, even though it was obviously not tied to the question.  This suggests that what we see may have an impact on what we think, especially when we are not conscious of the association.

Even if that is the case, wouldn’t our dreams still mean something?  The external data that we see every day, the stuff that we are not even aware of, helps shape who we are.  It’s also not clear if the waking mind and sleeping mind necessarily processes that information the same way.

In my novel, Interpretation, there is some examination about dreams and what they could mean.  In one part, an artificial intelligence examines Carl Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections in search of creating its own plan for a dreaming humanity.  In his book, Jung says, “…In addition, I discussed her dreams with her. In this way I succeeded in uncovering her past, which the anamnesis had not clarified. I obtained information directly from the unconscious…”

According to Jung, he was able to interpret this patient’s dream and uncover details about her past that otherwise weren’t known to the patient.  Can this actually be done?  Do our dreams reveal secrets that we’ve hidden away in our subconscious?

In another part, Jung says, “…dreams with collective contents, containing a great deal of symbolic material...”  The collective contents in this case are those things which are common to mankind as a whole.  Although it’s not entirely clear what things these are, Jung believes that we inherited these ideas from our early origins and are hardwired into our brain.  While we might not be aware of what these things are in our day to day lives, these ideas exist at an unconscious level.

“…These dreams show that there is something in us which does not merely submit passively to the influence of the unconscious, but on the contrary rushes eagerly to meet it, identifying itself with the shadow…”  In Jungian psychology, the shadow is the stuff about ourselves of which we are not necessarily aware.  Jung wrote, "Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is."  While these are typically things that are negative and we don’t want to admit to ourselves, it is possible that we are not aware of our positive attributes.  For example, people with low self-esteem may not be able to identify what they are good at.  Dreams, then, are a way for us to see what is in that shadow.  Dreams let us reconcile some of the traits that we are unaware of, yet are heavily influenced by.

Whether you see dreams as revealing more about yourself, entertainment, or a waste of sleep, is obviously up to you.  I just enjoy incorporating them into writing.  In writing, they present an opportunity to let the imagination run wild and have fun.

Dylan Callens
# # #

About the Author

Dylan Callens lands cleanly. That would be the headline of a newspaper built with an anagram generator. And although Dylan is a Welsh name meaning god or hero of the sea, he is not particularly fond of large bodies of water. His last name, Callens, might be Gaelic. If it is, his last name means rock. Rocks sink in the sea. Interestingly, he is neither Welsh nor Gaelic, but rather, French and German. The inherent contradictions and internal conflict in his life are obvious. Find out more at Dylan''s website www.cosmicteapot.net and find him on Facebook and Twitter @TheNitzsch.

19 July 2017

Echoes – a journey: Guest Post by P.J Roscoe


Echoes is due for release July/August 2017
and is available for pre-order from
https://squareup.com/store/doce-blant-publishing/item/echoes
and will be available through www.doceblantpublishing.com,
B&N, Gardner’s, Ingrams and Amazon. 
A signed copy is also available through www.pjroscoe.co.uk

‘Echoes’ the award-winning novel due for re-release this summer has had one hell of a journey since I first began to write it twenty years ago. It began as ‘Ruined Echoes’ a short story of a woman as she travelled through time and how she survived as a 21st century woman in medieval Britain – been done to death, so changed it and changed it again to become, ‘Echoes’, a paranormal historical thriller moving between present day and the Tudor period when Henry Tudor won the battle of Bosworth. Bronwen Mortimer moves to the secluded village of Derwen to escape her past, but when she witnesses murder and becomes a serial rapist’s next target, she must face her past to have any chance of living in the present as the echoes of history move through time.

Echoes first began in June 1997 following the sudden death of our unborn son, Jac, my husband had to return to work and I was left alone, pondering how I was going to get through the rest of my life. I remember vividly, sitting at my kitchen table, a mug of coffee going cold beside me and a pencil in my hand as I stared into space, tears flowing down my cheeks. At some point, I began doodling on an old A4 scrap of paper and an image came into my head. With the image, came words and within an hour or so, a short story had emerged. The next day, when I realised I had survived a day without my son, I ran out and bought a new pad of A4 paper and began expanding the story. Within eight weeks I had a novel and was pregnant again.

With my pregnancy came a new surge of writing. I wrote short stories for magazines, historical articles for a Welsh magazine, ‘Country Quest’, but Echoes remained untouched for years, as my new daughter had special needs and needed my full attention. Many years later, I started an online writing course and was asked about a novel, Echoes resurfaced and worked on and my tutor encouraged me to send the first three chapters off to agents. Rejections were forthcoming, yet my enthusiasm did not wane and I persisted. Working on it, expanding it, changing it, all the time knowing it had to be read.
By 2008 I self-published on LULU, yet I was so self conscious,

I held a book launch, without any books!! I figured if they liked the copy I had, they would order it online – 13 people did. By 2012 I re-did Echoes and launched it on Amazon and held a proper book launch at a local theatre. 24 people came. That year ‘Echoes received an Honourable mention in the new England book festival. In 2013 it won the e-book category in the Paris book festival and in 2014 it was awarded an Honourable Mention in the London book festival and received five stars from Reader’s Favourite.

By this time I was ecstatic and trusted a publisher with my novel. Alas, she was a fraud. However, it got me in touch with another author who had begun her own publishing company, Doce Blant publishing and through her, I have had support and brilliant editing, a book cover and Echoes is at its full potential for the world.

And so, although Echoes was born of sorrow, it taught me strength, resilience and courage to see my own true path is to write.

Thank you

P.J Roscoe
# # #

About the Author

P.J Roscoe lives in Wales with her husband Martin and daughter Megan. Starting out as an author of several historical articles published in 'Country Quest' a Wales & Border magazine, she moved onto writing short faerie stories for her daughter whilst penning Echoes following the death of her son at birth. She worked for Cruse Bereavement care as a trainer and volunteer whilst qualifying as a person-centered counsellor. She is a holistic therapist, a Chakradance facilitator and a drumming facilitator along with being a medium and mother to a child with Autism and Dyspraxia and it is these experiences that have helped to shape her stories. Find out more at her website www.pjroscoe.co.uk and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @derwenna1

18 July 2017

Guest Post by David Ebsworth, author of Until the Curtain Falls, a new thriller set during the Spanish Civil War.


Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

October 1938, and foreign correspondent Jack Telford is on the run in northern Spain, territory now controlled by Franco’s fascists. And he’s killed somebody close to the Generalísimo’s heart. Telford’s a hunted man, and hunted by three different and deadly enemies. In a climactic chase from Madrid to the Republic’s last outpost, in Alicante, during the closing days of the Spanish Civil War, Jack will learn hard lessons about the conflict between morality and survival.

“The image of the woman Telford had just killed would not leave him. He was almost sure she deserved to die. And, if he hadn’t drowned her first, he was fairly certain that he himself would now be dead.”  

I suppose that Spain and its civil wars are in my blood. An ancestor, Francis Crook Ebsworth, died there in 1837, fighting for the liberal Isabelino faction against the more reactionary Carlists. And then, as a trade union activist from the early 1970s onwards,

I worked closely with men who had volunteered to fight as part of the International Brigades – Merseysiders, like Jack Jones and Frank Deagan – on behalf of the Spanish Republic in the terrible conflict from 1936 until 1939, which was, itself, the opening chapter of the Second World War. That struggle began when, in July 1936, four insurgent generals, including Francisco Franco, launched a military coup to overthrow the elected Popular Front Government.

Three brutally cruel years followed, and sadly ended with Franco’s eventual victory and the establishment of yet another dictatorship for Spain, one that would last until 1975.

Meanwhile, I’d grown close to our ‘extended Spanish family’, many of whom had themselves supported the Republican cause. And so, when I was thinking about writing my second novel, during 2012, it seemed natural to think about the Spanish Civil War as the background – though I was obviously keen to find a “new angle” for the tale.

I began researching different aspects and, through sheer serendipity, came across a paper by American Professor Sandie Holguin, in which she’d uncovered the bizarre story of Franco’s Battlefield Tours, organised from mid-1938 onwards, while the outcome of the war was still in the balance – tours which attracted thousands of international tourists between 1938 and 1945. That’s right, all the way through the Second World War.

The result of all this was the publication of The Assassin’s Mark in 2013 and, this year, its sequel, Until the Curtain Falls – although, to be honest, Until the Curtain Falls can just as easily be read as a stand-alone story.

Between the two novels, I’ve been able to tell some generally untold and “stranger than fiction” stories of the Spanish Civil War: about the way that Franco used Battlefield Tourism and the Camino de Santiago as international propaganda tools; about Franco’s lair in Burgos and the barbarity of the neighbouring prisoner-of-war concentration camp at San Pedro de Cardeña; about the final months of the two-and-a-half year Siege of Madrid; about the secret story of Britain’s dirty involvement in the war’s politics; and about the tragedy of the closing chapter, in Alicante Province.

Then I needed some major characters through whom these stories could be told: left-wing correspondent for the weekly Reynolds News, Jack Telford; Franco’s Irish tour guide, Brendan Murphy; Jack’s mysterious travelling companion and fellow-journalist, Valerie Carter-Holt; Republican army Captain Fidel Constantino; and, in Madrid, the British consulate’s staff member, Ruby Waters.

I like to know my protagonists very well before I start writing and then, with only the most flexible of plot outlines, let them loose on the historical timeline – the “stranger than fiction” incidents I mentioned earlier – to see where their characters take the yarn.

In this case they rewarded me with enough material to fill the pages of these two thrillers: a suspicious accident in San Sebastián; a hostage siege in Spain’s most holy sanctuary; assassination attempts; an unexpected murder; mayhem in Burgos; enough guerrilla activity to rival For Whom The Bell Tolls; espionage and skulduggery in Madrid; a life-and-death chase to Spain’s Mediterranean coast; and twists galore during the finale in Alicante and beyond. Hopefully, Until the Curtain Falls will live up to its reputation as “a roller-coaster” ride, as a simple thriller, but might also serve – as historical fiction should always do – to bring this important period of history to a wider audience.

David Ebsworth
# # #

About the Author

David Ebsworth is the pen name of writer Dave McCall, a former negotiator for Britain’s Transport & General Workers’ Union. He was born in Liverpool but has lived in Wrexham, North Wales, with his wife Ann since 1981 – though they now spend a significant part of each year in Alicante, Spain. Each of Dave’s six novels has been critically acclaimed by the Historical Novel Society and been awarded the coveted BRAG Medallion for independent authors. His work in progress is a series of nine novellas, covering the years from 1911 until 1919 and the lives of a Liverpudlian-Welsh family embroiled in the suffragette movement. Until the Curtain Falls is also the first of Dave’s books to be translated into another language, with the Spanish edition due for publication in November this year. For more information on the author and his work, visit his website at www.davidebsworth.com. and find him on Twitter @EbsworthDavid.

Hemingway Editor Reviewed #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #writing


I've been using the previous version 2.0 of the Hemingway app to improve the draft of my latest novel, before sending it to my editor, so was interested to see what's new in version 3.0.

Originally an online tool, it was written by writers for writers. The app highlights long, complex sentences and common errors; if you see a yellow sentence, you can shorten or split it. Phrases in green have been marked to show passive voice:


You can write directly into the app but I prefer to copy and paste a chapter at a time and see how my writing is improving. I also found the readability functions useful for spotting long sentences and words with better alternatives. Over the course of a full length novel I reduced the number of errors, so my editor can focus on content rather than style.

New Features

Version 3 adds a new feature of publishing directly to WordPress blogs, either as a draft or live post, from the Hemingway Editor. You can also now import and export HTML Microsoft Word and pdf files The new feature I'll be using most is to have more than one file open at the same time,

The Hemingway App doesn’t turn you into Earnest Hemingway overnight but has proved a useful tool which I recommend to all writers. You can use it online or download it from www.hemingwayapp.com.

Tony Riches

Do you have some great writing tips you would like to share?
Please feel free to comment


The #AuthorToolboxBlogHop is a monthly event on the topic of resources and learning for authors. Feel free to hop around to the various blogs and see what you learn! The rules and sign-up form are below the list of hop participants. All authors at all stages of their careers are welcome to join in.

17 July 2017

Great Video About "The Making of Jane Austen" by Devoney Looser



New on Amazon US and Amazon UK

Just how did Jane Austen become the celebrity author and the inspiration for generations of loyal fans she is today? Devoney Looser’s The Making of Jane Austen turns to the people, performances, activism, and images that fostered Austen’s early fame, laying the groundwork
for the beloved author we think we know.

British women writers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries fascinate me. And yes, there were hundreds of them publishing their work. It wasn’t only Jane Austen and Mary Shelley. From the way the two of them are dominating the conversation today, however, you might be forgiven for thinking they were the only females in all England who ever thought to put pen to paper. They’re in the news now because each author is about to celebrate an important bicentenary: Austen for her death in July 1817 and Shelley for Frankenstein’s publication in January 1818. 

So much has been written about Austen’s and Shelley’s lives and works. Surely all of the best ideas have been expressed and the most significant research has been completed? It would take audacity on the part of a writer to sit down at the keyboard and think she might have anything new to add. Yet that’s exactly what I decided to do when I embarked on my book, The Making of Jane Austen (to be published 27 June). Previous literary critics have written about how Austen became an icon in the decades after her death. What I wanted to know is whether we might have overlooked a few things in our recording what is, after all, an incredibly complicated story of her remarkable rise to posthumous celebrity.

I discovered that we’d missed a great deal. I’m excited to report that I’ve corrected a few errors in previous scholarship and have dug up some strange skeletons from the Jane Austen afterlife-closet. I like to imagine this book as a history not only of Austen’s changing public image in the decades after she died but as a collective biography of her earliest devotees, entrepreneurs, and fans. My book charts how Austen’s fiction and characters morphed into every successive new popular medium and how important that transformation was to her reputation. I look at how Austen’s nineteenth- and twentieth-century image was shaped by book illustration, dramatization, film, politics and activism, and teachers, students, and schools. We just haven’t looked as carefully at those popular aspects of her fame as we have at her critical history.

There have been some terrific previous accounts of Austen’s fame; they deserve their due. But most focus squarely on the big names who loved and hated her: Rudyard Kipling and Winston Churchill loved Jane Austen, Mark Twain and Charlotte Brontë hated Jane Austen, and so on. We’ve described her most important scholars and critics, including pioneering editor R. W. Chapman and celebrated critic George Saintsbury, the man who’s said to have coined the word “Janeite.” We quote Virginia Woolf and Rebecca West on Austen. Then we call it a day.

But it wasn’t just famous authors and establishment critics who catapulted Austen to immortality. There were many lesser-known people who were working with great care and no small success to popularize her stories and characters, long before Longbourn or Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. My book shows that we can’t possibly understand how Jane Austen became an icon without learning about her popular innovators and their motivations and stories, too. Hundreds—thousands--of lesser-known writers, artists, actors, teachers, and fans shaped her image and told her history in new ways. They made Jane Austen. We’re still making and remaking her, as her stories inspire many to ask difficult questions, not only about who she was but about who we are or might be with her. That’s cause enough for celebration.

Devoney Looser
# # #

About the Author

Devoney Looser is Professor of English at Arizona State University. Her recent writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The TLS, The Independent, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Entertainment Weekly. Devoney grew up in Minnesota and now lives in the desert, near a fantastic roller rink, and teaches women's writings and the history of the novel. She says, 'I met my husband--also an English professor and Austen scholar--over a conversation about Austen, and together we're raising tween sons who find Austen tolerable but un-tempting.' Find out more at http://www.devoneylooser.com/ and find Devoney on Twitter: @devoneylooser and @Making_Jane.

13 July 2017

Historical Fiction Spotlight: The King's Daughter, by Stephanie Churchill


Available for pre-order
on Amazon US and Amazon UK

In this gripping sequel to The Scribe's Daughter, a young woman finds herself unwittingly caught up in a maelstrom of power, intrigue, and shifting perceptions, where the line between ally and enemy is subtle, and the fragile facade of reality is easily broken.

Irisa's parents are dead and her younger sister Kassia is away on a journey when the sisters’ mysterious customer returns, urging Irisa to leave with him before disaster strikes. Can she trust him to keep her safe? 

How much does he know about the fate of her father? Only a voyage across the Eastmor Ocean to the land of her ancestors will reveal the truth about her family’s disturbing past. Once there, Irisa steps into a future she has unknowingly been prepared for since childhood, but what she discovers is far more sinister than she could have ever imagined. Will she have the courage to claim her inheritance for her own?


# # #

About the Author

Stephanie Churchill grew up in the American Midwest, and after school moved to Washington, D.C. to work as a paralegal, moving to the Minneapolis metro area when she married.  She says, 'One day while on my lunch break from work, I visited a nearby bookstore and happened upon a book by author Sharon Kay Penman.  I’d never heard of her before, but the book looked interesting, so I bought it.  Immediately I become a rabid fan of her work. I discovered that Ms. Penman had fan club and that she happened to interact there frequently.  As a result of a casual comment she made about how writers generally don’t get detailed feedback from readers, I wrote her an embarrassingly long review of her latest book, Lionheart.  As a result of that review, she asked me what would become the most life-changing question: “Have you ever thought about writing?”  And The Scribe’s Daughter was born.'

Find out more at Stephanie's website www.stephaniechurchillauthor.com and find her on Facebook and Twitter @WriterChurchill.

11 July 2017

New Book Review: Carol McGrath’s The Woman in The Shadows: Tudor England through the eyes of an influential woman

  

Available for Pre-Order from Amazon UK and Amazon US

When beautiful cloth merchant’s daughter Elizabeth Williams is widowed at the age of twenty-two, she is determined to make herself a success in the business she has learned from her father. But there are those who oppose a woman making her own way in the world, and soon Elizabeth realises she may have some powerful enemies – enemies who also know the truth about her late husband.

Carol McGrath’s The Woman in The Shadows is my latest favourite book. I recall being intrigued by the character of Elizabeth Cromwell after reading Wolf Hall, particularly after David Starkey’s assertion that the notion of Thomas Cromwell as a loving family man is total fiction.

Now we have a new book siding with Hilary Mantel – from Elizabeth’s point of view. Written in the first person, this touching and evocative account makes impressive use of the few known facts of Elizabeth’s life.

We are transported to a dangerous and dirty Tudor London, where you need to look over your shoulder and watch for cutpurses. I loved the details of daily life, of the Tudor attitudes to birth, marriage and death - and feel I understand what life was like as a medieval cloth merchant.

In an inspired break from the conventional timeline, we dip into the past for entire chapters. It reminded me of watching a skilled portrait artist at work, with increasing detail over broader brushwork until the result is three dimensional.

I cared about Elizabeth Cromwell. I worried about the way women were treated. I cheered at Elizabeth’s achievements and groaned at her mistakes. I could not put this book down. Highly recommended.

Tony Riches

Disclosure: I am grateful to Accent Press
for providing a review copy

# # #

About the Author

Based in England, Carol McGrath writes Historical Fiction. She studied History at Queens University Belfast, has an MA in Creative Writing from the Seamus Heaney Centre, Queens University Belfast and an English MPhil from Royal Holloway, University of London. The Handfasted Wife is her debut novel, first in a trilogy titled The Daughters of Hastings. The second and third novels The Swan-Daughter and The Betrothed Sister have followed and are now available on Amazon and in bookshops. Carol is an historian specialising in the medieval era. Her first love, however, is writing. She is an avid reader and reviewer. Find out more at Carol's author website www.carolcmcgrath.co.uk and find her on Twitter @carolmcgrath.

10 July 2017

The story of the new statue of King Henry VII in Pembroke


The magnificent castle where Henry Tudor was born has dominated the town of Pembroke for centuries. Inside, visitors will find a ‘recreation’ of Henry Tudor’s mother, the fourteen-year-old Lady Margaret Beaufort, cradling her new born son—but they could be forgiven for driving past without realising the importance of our first Tudor king.

A small group of Pembrokeshire residents met to discuss raising funds to address this. The vision was to unveil a life-sized statue of Henry Tudor on the Mill bridge approaching Pembroke Castle. We wanted it to provide visitors with a great photo opportunity - and turn the area at the side of the Mill Bridge into an attractive public space with improved seating and flowers.

It seemed an ambitious challenge when we began. Led by Pembroke Town Councillor Linda Asman, we commissioned a talented local sculptor, Harriet Addyman, to develop small maquettes to show what the statue might look like. Local people and important local employer Valero, operators of the nearby oil refinery, donated £20,000 towards the cost of the statue, with Pembrokeshire County Council’s town centre support programme contributing match funding. One of the painted versions of the maquette found fame on TV with historian Lucy Worsley.

Lucy Worsley talking to Nathen Amin, Author of Tudor Wales
After many meetings and fundraising activities we were ready to progress to a full-size sculpture in clay. The result was one of the most impressive representations of Henry Tudor yet made, eight feet high, with his loyal greyhound at his side.



At last after many hours of work, the statue was cast in bronze by foundry specialist Martin Bellwood in nearby Clunderwen – so this statue of a King born in Pembroke has been entirely made in Pembrokeshire.

Casting the new statue at MB Fine Arts Foundry


Henry Tudor is assembled!


...and finally returns to Pembroke Castle


Unveiled on June 10th, by Sara Edwards, Lord Lieutenant of Dyfed, the statute is already a focal point for the town.


A feasibility study is now being developed to create a Henry VII visitor centre, to tell the story of how he secured a victory at the battle of Bosworth Field to become our first Tudor king.

Mill Bridge in Pembroke today

8 July 2017

What being a finalist in the Amazon UK Kindle Storyteller Award means to me


Amazon KDP changed my life, as over the past five years I’ve finally enjoyed the success I once dreamed of. In truth, I never dreamed of having a series of books about the early Tudors selling in thirteen countries. I used to write for magazines and always thought it would be great to have a novel published.

I had a great novel idea, inspired by one of my favourite books as a child, Alice in Wonderland. I would take the most famous chess game ever played, between Donald Byrne and Bobby Fischer in New York City, and ‘bring it to life’. The whole of medieval Wales was the ‘chessboard’ with two kings and queens, four great castles, bishops and knights. Each of the sixteen ‘pawns’ would have a backstory and the narrative would be driven by every move of the original game of chess.

The result was my first novel, Queen Sacrifice – and there wasn’t a publisher or agent who wanted to read it. Then I decided to publish my book on Amazon KDP and the rest is literally history. I wrote and published another two novels, learning my craft and building a readership. I continued querying agents and publishers, then my first offer came in. I celebrated until I read the small print. In return for one tenth of the royalties I receive from Amazon, they would take control of every step of the process.

The thing is, I like having control of every step, from deciding the keywords to cover design. I turned the offer down and became an ‘indie’ author. I’ve never looked back – and have since turned down other offers of traditional publishing. I mastered the art of CreateSpace publishing, then worked out how to produce audiobook editions at no cost in partnership with ACX.

My big break came when I realised there were no novels about Owen Tudor, the young Welsh servant man who married a queen and founded the Tudor dynasty. I was born in Pembroke, birthplace of Owen’s grandson Henry Tudor, and realised Henry could be born in the first book of a Tudor trilogy, come of age in the second and become King of England in the third.

OWEN reached #1 in several Amazon categories in the UK, US and Australia. The second book of the Tudor Trilogy, JASPER did the same and the success boosted sales of my other books. After publishing the third book of the trilogy I had a call from Darren Hardy, UK Manager for Kindle Direct Publishing. HENRY had been selected as one of six finalists in the Amazon Kindle Storyteller Awards and Darren asked what it meant to me to be shortlisted.

I’ve thought about the answer to that question since Darren’s call. I used to hesitate to say I was a ‘writer’ before I could earn a living from it. I only felt able to say I was an ‘author’ after I left my job to write full time. Now, whatever the result of the awards, I can call myself a ‘storyteller’. It’s the storytelling which makes a successful novel and although many writers become authors, not all become storytellers. I’d like to say thank you to everyone on the team at Amazon and to all my readers around the world who’ve made this possible.

Tony Riches

Click HERE For details of all the authors shorlisted
for the Amazon UK Kindle Storyteller Award 2017 

7 July 2017

Guest Post by Angela Petch, Author of Tuscan Roots: A tangle of love and war in the Italian Apennines


Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

In 1943, in occupied Italy, Ines Santini's sheltered existence is turned upside down when she meets Norman, an escaped British POW. In 1999, Anna Swilland, their daughter, starts to unravel accounts from diaries left to her after her mother's death. She travels to the breathtakingly beautiful Tuscan Apennines, where the story unfolds. In researching her parents' past, she will discover secrets about the war, her parents and herself, which will change her life forever...

Some thoughts about writing.

The area in Tuscany where I live speaks to me about its history but my local friends are very modest about sharing their experiences. “Why are you interested in our past?” the elderly ask. “It’s over and done with.” 

I understand their reluctance to speak about past hardships; they suffered dreadfully during the Occupation. They were hungry, there were atrocities and it is a poor area, the land difficult to work. The winters are harsh and life has been a battle. “Young people don’t know the half of what we’ve been through,” I hear so often from their lips.  Precisely because of this, I feel it is important not to let their anecdotes, snippets of stories and wisdom disappear.

Apart from my interest in local folklore, recipes, life style, remembering the past helps us with our present and future. I came across a couple of sentences written by CICERO as far back as 46 BC:
“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?”  

I write fiction, not history books, so the difficulty is how to make sure my plots are not pulled out of shape by too many facts? I don’t think there is an easy answer. But I have a few notices pinned on the board above my desk to help me focus:

My favourite:
 “Don’t tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
The following was written about short stories, but can equally apply to the novel:

“Short stories pull us into their world and shake us up. They don’t hang about. They don’t waste any time. They swoop down and get you like a sea gull diving down to take the bread from your hand. They stay with you, the ones you love, forever.” (Jackie Kay)

“You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate.” And, “The fiction writer states as little as possible.”

Here are a couple of other thoughts to bring to the table as we pour another glass of wine for each other. The first is simply “Just write”.  I’ve written that on a stone I found by the river that flows past our watermill. Just get on with it. There are days when you think it is simply not working, the words are heavy, boring, whatever. Keep on writing. Treat it as a work-out, a run on the treadmill to limber up and to keep your writing muscles warm. 

Put the words away until the next day. When you look at it again: A) You might find a couple of sentences or even words that are not half bad B) As in any project, you need to have bits to assemble. If you had no bits, then you would never have a finished project. So keep going and don’t be too critical until you’ve completed your first draft. Then the hard work of pruning and editing begins.

My other tip concerns Social Media. SM (Sad-masochism, I want to call it at times). It’s a necessary aspect of publishing nowadays. That has slowly but surely dawned on me. Get an old fashioned kitchen timer and put it on for the limited time you think you need to spend on Twitter, Facebook etc. and be strict with yourself. Switch off when the bell goes and get on with that masterpiece.

Above all, enjoy your writing! 

Angela Petch
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About the Author

Angela Petch lives half the year in a remote valley in the Tuscan Apennines and six months by the sea in West Sussex. She has travelled all her life: born in Germany, she spent six years as a child living in Rome, worked in Amsterdam after finishing her degree in Italian, moved to Italy for her job, then to Tanzania for three years. Her head is full of stories and she always carries a pen and note-book wherever she goes to capture more ideas. The action of both her novels takes place mostly in her corner of Tuscany. The first, “Tuscan Roots” is a Second World War story of romance, partisan activity, hardships of ordinary people caught up in the cruel tangle of battle and the difficulties of a mixed marriage in grey, post-war Britain - all pieced together from diaries. Angela’s own Italian mother-in-law was a war bride and the book is laced with research, memoirs and embroidered with fiction. From her house by the river, Angela can walk up the mule tracks to ruins of the Gothic Line, a defensive barrier constructed by the Germans during the last years of the war. The area resonates with history. In May, Angela won PRIMA’S monthly short story competition and recently had a story accepted by The People’s Friend but she is concentrating on her third novel. A fourth Tuscan idea is knocking at her door. Find out more at her blog and follow Angela on Facebook and Twitter @Angela_Petch.

6 July 2017

Book Launch Spotlight: La Vie En Rose: Notes From Rural France, by Susie Kelly


New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Living the French dream – vineyards, sunflowers, lavender fields, glasses of wine and platters of fromage. French ladies slender and chic, French men wearing berets and riding bicycles with baguettes clamped under their arms when they are not flirting outrageously, and all the while the sun shines down benevolently upon uniform rows of ripening vegetables.

Dreams are strange and unpredictable, and sometime so is la vie en rose.

A pick from some of the best bits of the popular travel author's blog diaries reveal the minutiae of expat day to day life in rural France. A must-read for Susie Kelly fans and anybody thinking of, or dreaming of, moving to France.

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About the Author

Susie Kelly was born in grey post-war London, and spent much of her childhood and young adulthood in the beautiful country of Kenya. She now lives in south-west France with a menagerie of assorted animals, and is passionate about animal welfare. Since 2011 Susie's books have been published by Blackbird Digital Books, whose theme is strong, adventurous women living life to the full. Blackbird Digital Book people love birds and animals, travel, history, romance, natural health and environment, resourcefulness, humour, the surreal and magic. Find her on Twitter @SusieEnFrance

5 July 2017

Historical Fiction Spotlight: The Competition: Da Vinci's Disciples - Book Two, by Donna Russo Morin


Available on Amazon UK and Amazon UK

Donna Russo Morin returns with a follow-up to Portrait of a Conspiracy, called “a page-turner unlike any historical novel, weaving passion, adventure, artistic rebirth, and consequences of ambition,” by C.W. Gortner. 

 In a studiolo behind a church, six women gather to perform an act that is, at once, restorative, powerful, and illegal. They paint. Under the tutelage of Leonardo da Vinci, these six show talent and drive equal to that of any man, but in Renaissance Florence they must hide their skills, or risk the scorn of the city. 

A commission to paint a fresco in Santo Spirito is announced and Florence’s countless artists each seek the fame and glory this lucrative job will provide. Viviana, a noblewoman freed from a terrible marriage and now free to pursue her artistic passions in secret, sees a potential life-altering opportunity for herself and her fellow female artists. 

The women first speak to Lorenzo de’ Medici himself, and finally, they submit a bid for the right to paint it. And they win. But the church will not stand for women painting, especially not in a house of worship. The city is not ready to consider women in positions of power, and in Florence, artists wield tremendous power. Even the women themselves are hesitant; the attention they will bring upon themselves will disrupt their families, and could put them in physical danger. 

All the while, Viviana grows closer to Sansone, her soldier lover, who is bringing her joy that she never knew with her deceased husband. And fellow-artist Isabetta has her own romantic life to distract her, sparked by Lorenzo himself. Power and passion collide in this sumptuous historical novel of shattering limitations, one brushstroke at a time.


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About the Author

Donna earned two degrees from the University of Rhode Island. In addition to writing, teaching writing, and reviewing for literary journals, Donna works as a model and actor; highlights of her work include two seasons on Showtime’s Brotherhood and an appearance in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. Donna is the proud mother of two sons, one a future opera singer, the other a future chef. Donna's titles include The Courtier's Secret, The Secret of the Glass, To Serve a King, The King's Agent, Portrait of a Conspiracy, and The Competition. Donna enjoys meeting with book groups in person and via Skype chat. Visit her website at www.donnarussomorin.com. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


Blog Tour Schedule


Monday, June 26 Interview at The Book Junkie Reads
Tuesday, June 27 Review at A Bookaholic Swede
Wednesday, June 28 Spotlight at Passages to the Past
Thursday, June 29 Spotlight at The Lit Bitch Spotlight at A Holland Reads
Friday, June 30 Review at The True Book Addict
Monday, July 3 Review at Pursuing Stacie
Wednesday, July 5 Guest Post at Books of All Kinds
Thursday, July 6 Spotlight at The Writing Desk
Saturday, July 8 Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views
Monday, July 10 Review at History From a Woman's Perspective Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book
Tuesday, July 11 Spotlight at A Literary Vacation
Friday, July 14 Interview at Dianne Ascroft's Blog
Monday, July 17 Review at Let Them Read Books
Tuesday, July 18 Guest Post at Bookfever
Thursday, July 20 Spotlight at What Is That Book About
Monday, July 24 Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Wednesday, July 26 Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews
Thursday, July 27 Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Friday, July 28 Review at Just One More Chapter

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a paperback copy of The Competition & a Key Pendant necklace! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below. Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open to residents in the US only. – Only one entry per household. – All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. – Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen. The Competition

4 July 2017

Tips for new writers Part One - Repetition, by Wendy Janes

Lady Writing - Albert Edelfelt (Wikimedia Commons)

Previously Tony invited me to write a post for his blog about how to have a positive proofreading experience. I’m so pleased to be invited back to write this series of four posts for new writers.

As a proofreader I come across the same types of errors over and over again and thought it would be helpful to group some by theme and share them. The themes are repetition, dialogue, rules and consistency, and although they’re not intended to be comprehensive guides, I hope they’ll help you improve elements of your writing.

These suggestions are things you can do when you’ve finished pouring the first draft of your story onto the page/screen and you’re revising, editing or proofreading prior to sending your work to an editor or proofreader. The more polished your work is before it goes to the professionals, the better job they can do.

So, let’s get on with the first post: Repetition

Discover, search for, and eliminate your crutch words – words we overuse in our writing. We all have them. My worst one is ‘just’. I just can’t stop using it (see what I did there?), closely followed by ‘smile’. When I’m writing a first draft, my characters smile all over the place, whether it’s to show happiness or to cover anxiety, you name it, they’re smiling. After a good edit, they’re no longer so smiley!

Here’s a short list of common ones: believe, feel, felt, glance, grin, just, look, nod, now, realise, really, that, think, turn and very. These can be deleted or replaced, sometimes with minimal reworking of a sentence. The word ‘just’ can often be deleted or it can be replaced by ‘only’ or ‘merely’, depending on context.

Many authors have their characters repeatedly sitting or standing or laughing or walking, or biting their nails, running their hands through their hair, raising their eyebrows. This type of repetition can be almost invisible to authors, but it can irritate readers and take them right out of the story.

I’ll pause here to say that when handled carefully, repetition of words and phrases can work wonders to help set a scene, bring out a character trait, create an atmosphere, add drama, anticipation and pathos to a story. There are some wonderful examples of the effective use of repetition here: http://thejohnfox.com/repetition-examples/

Back to repetition that doesn’t enhance anyone’s writing: repeating the same words within the same sentence or paragraph. Let me introduce you to Daisy and Horatio to illustrate this:

Daisy heard a knock at the door. She walked to the door and opened it to find Horatio standing in the door, a huge bouquet of roses in his arms.

You could turn the above into something like:

Daisy answered a knock at the door to find Horatio standing there with a huge bouquet of roses in his arms.

Another handy search you can carry out is for sentences beginning with the same word or phrase. These and other repeated words will jump out at you when you read your work through to yourself, or better still, when you read it out loud. There’s absolutely no problem in starting a sentence with ‘He…’ or ‘She…’ or ‘I…’ , but when every sentence in a paragraph begins ‘He…’, unless it’s done on purpose for effect (see above), the writing starts to sound a bit samey.

Avoid having your characters thinking something and then repeating that thought immediately or a few lines later in dialogue or narrative. This often happens when an author has been editing and they haven’t realised that the same information has been given twice in quick succession. Let’s pop back to Daisy greeting Horatio at the door:

Seeing his sparkling green eyes peeking at her over the bouquet banished all her fears that these past weeks of silence from him meant he had lost interest in her.

‘Darling, I’ve missed you so much. All these weeks of silence, I’ve been fearful you were losing interest in me.’

Here I would advise an author to choose which information to relate in dialogue and which in narrative.

One more thing to avoid is having characters repeating information again and again throughout a novel. After we’ve heard Daisy telling Horatio that the reason her favourite flower is the rose is because her beloved grandmother grew them in the grounds of her childhood home, we don’t need to hear her saying it again in chapters 3, 5 and 8. Although, what could work is if the author ensures that it’s clear that Daisy is either oblivious to this repetition or she’s doing it on purpose and how this impacts on her relationship with Horatio. In this case the repetition is being used specifically for character development, and basically shows the reader that the author is on top of their material.

When searching for repetition, I find Word’s ‘find’ function extremely helpful.

I hope you’re now feeling ready to return to your manuscript, eager to hunt down those repeated words and phrases. If they’re enhancing your writing, then great, otherwise, off with their heads.

Wendy Janes 
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About the Author

Wendy Janes is a freelance proofreader for a number of publishers and many individual authors. She is also a caseworker for The National Autistic Society’s Education Rights Service. Author of the novel, What Jennifer Knows and a collection of short stories, What Tim Knows, and other stories, she loves to take real life and turn it into fiction. She lives in London with her husband and youngest son. You can connect with Wendy online and discover more about her via her Facebook author page, her website, Amazon author pages (UK/US) and Twitter @wendyproof.  

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