28 May 2020

Book Launch Spotlight ~ Lionheart: (Richard the Lionheart Book 1) by Ben Kane

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US


1179. Henry II is King of England, Wales, Ireland, Normandy, Brittany and Aquitaine. The H3ouse of Plantagenet reigns supreme. But there is unrest in Henry's house. Not for the first time, his family talks of rebellion.

Ferdia - an Irish nobleman taken captive during the conquest of his homeland - saves the life of Richard, the king's son. In reward for his bravery, he is made squire to Richard, who is already a renowned warrior.

Crossing the English Channel, the two are plunged into a campaign to crush rebels in Aquitaine. The bloody battles and gruelling sieges which followed would earn Richard the legendary name of Lionheart.

But Richard's older brother, Henry, is infuriated by his sibling's newfound fame. Soon it becomes clear that the biggest threat to Richard's life may not be rebel or French armies, but his own family...
'A rip-roaring epic, filled with arrows and spattered with blood. Gird yourself with mail when you start.' Paul Finch 
'Ben's deeply authoritative depiction of the time is delivered in a deft manner.' Simon Scarrow
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About the Author

Ben Kane is a bestselling author and former veterinarian. He was born in Kenya and grew up in Ireland (where his parents are from). He has traveled widely and is a lifelong student of military history in general, and Roman history in particular. He lives in North Somerset, England, with his family. Find out more at his website www.benkane.net and find him on Facebook and Twitter @BenKaneAuthor

27 May 2020

Special Guest Interview with Carmen Radtke, Author of Walking in the Shadow

Available on Amazon UKAmazon US

Quail Island, 1909. Jimmy Kokupe is the miracle man. On a small, wind-blasted island off the east coast of New Zealand a small colony of lepers is isolated but not abandoned, left to live out their days in relative peace thanks to the charity of the townspeople and the compassion of the local doctor and matron of the hospital.

I'm pleased to welcome author Carmen Radtke to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

My latest book is in reality my oldest. I wrote Walking in the Shadow while living in New Zealand. I’d come across the ruins of the lepers’ camp on Quail Island in 2010, during a day trip with my child. We had a picnic where these men once walked and dreamt of the times when they were healthy and free to roam.

That idea kept me awake at night, and in true journalist manner (I’m a trained newspaper reporter) I started to dig into the past. When I read that one of the leprosy sufferers had been cured and still, he returned to the camp, I knew I had to write about them. What would make a man who’d experienced something like a miracle in an age without antibiotics, give up his freedom again?

I wrote on the first draft during the scariest period of my life, when Christchurch was rocked by the earthquakes the killed 185 people and destroyed much of the city centre. I hunkered under the dining table, typing away between aftershocks, desperate to tell this story and keep the memory of these men alive. (Last year, an excellent non-fiction book about the subject, written by historian Benjamin Kingsbury, came out, eight years after I’d finished Walking in the Shadow.)

My draft was selected for the New Zealand Society of Authors’ mentor programme, and mentor Stephen Stratford loved it. The first agent I approached came back within two hours, asking for more. It was long-listed for the Mslexia competition and just missed out in being a finalist in the Be A Bestseller competition. Everyone loved it. And, for years, nobody wanted to publish it, until I decided to take the matter into my own hands, together with an Australian novelist and former publisher.

What is your preferred writing routine?

I wish I had one … Somehow, years and years of journalism have taught my brain not to get into writing mode before ten am. Nine, if I’m very lucky. I drink tea while writing, and for the first half hour or so have to fight the urge to maybe check my emails, or tidy a bookshelf, or organise my research notes … Once I’m in the story, though, on very good days, I hate having to stop when there are meals to be cooked, or the cat needs attention, or the phone rings, or my eyes smart.

I admire writers who can write a novel in a month. I’m not one of them.

What advice do you have for new writers?

Be kind to yourself. Those golden words I hear in my head in the middle of the night look leaden when I write them down. I used to let that stop me, when a paragraph sat there in the page, lifeless and taunting. The best advice I received is, First get it written, then get it right.

Ask for feedback when you’re ready, but choose your audience well. Friends and close family will tell you what you want to hear, not what you need to be told. If anybody’s words hurt you, take a step back (easier said than done). Critique should never be personal and always be constructive. And learn to ignore notes you don’t agree with, after thinking about why you don’t agree with them. Pouting and saying, well, it’s my book, and that’s how I want it, is tempting but not really helpful.

Another important thing: Find the courage to cut everything that doesn’t belong and file it away. Most writers use discarded scenes and lines in another book. Nothing is ever wasted, even if it’s only as a lesson learned.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

That is the trickiest part. Some people are naturals at marketing themselves; I’m not. But I love to interact with other writers and readers and writing blog posts is fun. I sometimes get private messages on Facebook from readers who tell me they loved a book or a character. That’s amazing, although I wish they’d tell the rest of the world, too.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

The leprosy sufferers on Quail Island weren’t really stuck there. They could easily have escaped, in a boat or walking across the mud flats. I can’t imagine the willpower it must have taken.

One of the men, who was the original Will in my novel, was confined first to the camp on Quail Island and later to the colony on a Fijian island where the men were relocated. Altogether he spent 31 years in a lepers’ hut. Thirty-one years! He was the first patient on Quail Island, and he spent two years on his own, with only occasional visitors. Today, we struggle with social distancing and find that an almost intolerable hardship. Despite all this, Will was described as the most cheerful, happy patient. My heart broke when I read that.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

The hardest scene in Walking in the Shadow was having Jimmy think he might have infected someone he loves. There was so little known about leprosy, but I think anybody who’s ever been diagnosed out of the blue with a contagious disease or been close to someone will understand that panic.

What are you planning to write next?

I’m writing the next cozy historical mystery in my Jack and Frances series – fun and lighthearted. But I’m also working on a historical novel set in Berlin during the rise of the Nazis. It’s a story I’ve wanted to tell all my life, and it’s already breaking my heart because I know what horrors await my characters.

Carmen Radtke
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About the Author

Carmen Radtke has spent most of her life with ink on her fingers and a dangerously high pile of books and newspapers by her side. She has worked as a newspaper reporter on two continents and always dreamt of becoming a novelist and screenwriter. When she found herself crouched under her dining table, typing away on what was to become Walking in the Shadow between two earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand, she realised she was hooked for life. She’s the author of the cozy historical mysteries The Case of the Missing Bride, Glittering Death, A Matter of Love and Death and the upcoming Murder at the Races. When Carmen is not writing, reading or dreaming of travel, she is busy acting as resident cat servant. Her website (very much a work in progress) is carmenradtke.com and you can follow Carmen on Bookbub  and Twitter: @carmenradtke1

23 May 2020

Historical Fiction Spotlight ~ The Judas Blade (Betsy Brand Mystery Book 2) by John Pilkington

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

London, 1671. The threat of war with Holland looms. And King Charles II is becoming increasingly unpopular.


Spirited actress Betsy Brand is pulled away from the stage to help her father. The bailiffs are threatening to put him in debtor’s prison. Desperate, she turns to enigmatic spymaster Lord Caradoc for help.

He will save her father, but it may cost Betsy her life.


Betsy must travel to Delft, Holland, to spy for her country.

What starts out as a simple fact-finding mission soon becomes a deadly game. Betsy will need all her acting skills to come out of it alive.

She meets Captain Mullin, a reckless fellow agent, and the two must work together to confront an unseen killer and unravel a plot that strikes at the heart of England itself.

But will Betsy survive to return to the family she left behind?

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About the Author

John Pilkington has written plays for radio and theatre, television scripts for the BBC and now concentrates on historical fiction, reflecting his passion for the Tudor and Stuart periods. A writer for over thirty years, he has published around twenty books including the Thomas the Falconer Mysteries (republished by Sharpe Books), the Marbeck spy series (Severn House) and two Restoration-era mysteries featuring actress-turned-sleuth Betsy Brand (republished by Joffe Books). He is also the author of a children’s series, the Elizabethan Mysteries (Usborne). Born in the north-west of England, he now lives in a quiet Devon village with his partner, and has a son who is a musician and composer. Find out more at his website, www.johnpilkington.co.uk, and find John on Twitter @_JohnPilkington.

21 May 2020

Special Guest Interview with Louise Fein, Author of People Like Us

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Leipzig, 1930s Germany: Hetty Heinrich is a perfect German child. Her father is an SS officer, her brother in the Luftwaffe, herself a member of the BDM. She believes resolutely in her country, and the man who runs it. Until Walter changes everything. Blond-haired, blue-eyed, perfect in every way Walter. The boy who saved her life. A Jew. Anti-semitism is growing by the day, and neighbours, friends and family members are turning on one another. As Hetty falls deeper in love with a man who is against all she has been taught, she begins to fight against her country, her family and herself. Hetty will have to risk everything to save Walter, even if it means sacrificing herself...

I'm pleased to welcome author Louise Fein to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

My debut novel, Daughter of the Reich (US title) also known as People Like Us (UK title) is a historical fiction novel, telling the story of impossible love set in the tumultuous background of 1930’s Leipzig. Hetty, the daughter of an SS officer, is the epitome of a perfect German child. With a brother in the Luftwaffe, herself a member of the BDM, she is keen to play her part in the glorious new thousand year Reich. Until, that is, she encounters Walter, a friend from the past who once saved her life. A Jew. As she falls more and more in love with a man who is against all she has been taught, Hetty begins to question everything. Will the steady march of dark forces destroy their world, or can love ultimately triumph?

What is your preferred writing routine?

In ‘normal’ times, I work during school hours, beginning straight after the school run, and taking a break mid-morning to walk the dog. This walk is a useful part of my writing day because it allows me to mull over what I have written and where I need to take the story next. Somehow the process of walking allows my brain the freedom to think and it’s the time I am able to find solutions where maybe I have got stuck while sitting at my desk! If necessary, I’ll perhaps edit what I’ve written earlier in the day during the evening. At the moment, with homeschooling my youngest daughter, my routine is rather different, and I find I have to do the bulk of my writing from mid-afternoon into the evening. With my older children (one in the last year of school and one at university ) at home and my husband also working from home, there are other people who can do the cooking!

What advice do you have for new writers?

Writing is a skill which needs practice like any other, so keep writing! Some days the writing will flow, other days it will feel hard, like walking uphill through treacle! But that is the same for every writer, whether new or not. It is also a long-game, so don’t be in too much of a rush. It takes time to write something good, and it will need lots of revision. That is the part I love best - honing a rough first draft into something better. Never compare your first draft to all the wonderful finished books you read - they have been through multiple revisions and have had the input of professional editors. Seek advice and feedback - critique of our work is vital and any criticism is not a reflection of you as a writer, but simply how your work could be improved. Remember to enjoy each step and don’t give up! Patience and perseverance is the key.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

I’m still fairly new to this game, so I might be better able to answer this further down the line! But from my perspective at this point, I think being connected to the author and the blogging community is very important. Authors are also readers and champions of each other. I’ve found the community to be super supportive and especially at this time, many well known authors are supporting debut or less well known authors getting their books talked about. Bloggers and on-line influencers are increasingly important and some have huge followings which can be key for books to reach readers.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research?

I was lucky to be handed a large family archive of documents (which I had not perviously known existed) during the course of my research. This consisted of twenty-four boxes of diaries, letters, journals etc, which ran from the early 20th century through to the 1960’s.  They formed a useful resource of contemporaneous material. Many of the documents were in German, but once my family had fled to England and America during the 1930’s, they were written chiefly in English. Amongst them I found some poignant items, including my father’s first tooth and a lock of his hair his mother had kept. The most unexpected were the transcript of a broadcast my father had made for the BBC during the war years, and some documents regarding my father’s cousin who had been in the secret service during the war.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

I think the hardest scene I had to write for this book was the one which covered the events of Kristallnacht. There was some extreme violence and this was not easy to write, both emotionally but also in order to get the tone and pace of it right. I went over and over the scene to ensure I had the balance right.

What are you planning to write next?

I am at the final stages of my second book which I’ll be sending to my publishers soon! It is also a work of historical fiction, but rather different to this one. It is set in 1920’s England and covers some little discussed, but I think important, aspects of society which are still relevant and have repercussions today. That’s all I can say about it for now!

Louise Fein
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About the Author

Louise Fein was born and brought up in London. She harboured a secret love of writing from a young age, preferring to live in her imagination than the real world. After a law degree, Louise worked in Hong Kong and Australia, travelling for a while through Asia and North America before settling back to a working life in London. She finally gave in to the urge to write, taking an MA in creative writing, and embarking on her first novel, inspired by the experience of her father's family, who escaped from the Nazis and arrived in England as refugees in the 1930's. Louise lives in the beautiful English countryside with her husband, three children, small dog and the local wildlife who like to make an occasional appearance in the house. Find out more at Louise's website https://www.louisefein.com/ and follow her on Twitter @FeinLouise

20 May 2020

Historical Fiction Spotlight ~ After The Fire (Betsy Brand Mystery Book 1) by John Pilkington

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Before Jack the Ripper, there was the Salamander.

London, 1670. The Great Fire is all burned out. Now the city lies in ruins and a series of chilling murders is playing out on the London stage.


Betsy Brand is an actress performing in Macbeth at the new Dorset Gardens Theatre. Every night she watches Joseph Rigg, the company’s most dazzling talent, in the throes of death as Banquo.


Betsy watches in horror as Rigg collapses mid-performance, poisoned. London’s theatre world turns upside down as more deaths follow.

The authorities are baffled. But Betsy is determined to get to the bottom of it all.


Betsy hears rumours that a shadowy figure called the Salamander has returned. He had haunted London during the Great Fire and now he is wreaking revenge on his enemies. But her foe is more cunning than Macbeth himself. And time is running out.


Perfect for fans of Erin Morgenstern, Sarah Perry, Laura Shepherd-Robinson, S. J. Parris, C. J. Samson and Rory Clements.


‘A master of the historical mystery.’ Publishing Weekly

‘A likeable hero, an intriguing plot and a fine sense of period ambience.’ Booklist

‘Loved every one of his novels . . . hope there are more to come. What a talented writer.’ Pamela

‘A very well-crafted read which was unputdownable. The characters and settings transported me back in time . . . the best entertainment I have had for a long time.’ Helen

‘Polished and enjoyable . . . a page-turner of a story . . . more, please.’ MyShelf.Com

‘Inventive and amusing . . . the action rattles along at a good pace and the novel tells a good yarn.’ Historical Novels Review

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About the Author

John Pilkington has written plays for radio and theatre, television scripts for the BBC and now concentrates on historical fiction, reflecting his passion for the Tudor and Stuart periods. A writer for over thirty years, he has published around twenty books including the Thomas the Falconer Mysteries (republished by Sharpe Books), the Marbeck spy series (Severn House) and two Restoration-era mysteries featuring actress-turned-sleuth Betsy Brand (republished by Joffe Books). He is also the author of a children’s series, the Elizabethan Mysteries (Usborne). Born in the north-west of England, he now lives in a quiet Devon village with his partner, and has a son who is a musician and composer. Find out more at his website, www.johnpilkington.co.uk, and find John on Twitter @_JohnPilkington.

19 May 2020

Setting up Amazon Author pages #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Your Amazon page should be an important part of your ‘author platform’, as readers like to find out more about the writer behind a book – yet many authors are so busy writing they don’t have time to keep their page up to date. The good news is this only takes a moment once you have an Amazon Author account and at least one book published on Amazon. All you need to do is visit https://authorcentral.amazon.co.uk/ 
or https://authorcentral.amazon.com/ (US) and follow the instructions. 

You probably have a short author ‘bio’ and a suitable picture somewhere already. (I’ve seen research suggesting that readers like to see a picture of the author, so try to resist using a book cover, as I have seen some people do.) Readers can click on any of your books and be directed to the Kindle store where they can download the book in less than a minute. Also, any time you update your biography or 'claim' a new book through Author Central, About the Author will update on Kindle giving your readers access to the most recent information.

Make sure all your books are linked to the page

Amazon leave this to you as they can’t always be sure which are your books. Simply click on the ‘Add More Books’ button and search for books you've written by title, author, or ISBN and add them. While you’re there you can also click on any of your books to check and add information about them.

Copy and paste your details to the other Amazon countries

Unfortunately, updates you make to any Amazon site don’t automatically find their way to the other twelve countries – but all you need to do is copy and paste the bio and update your list of books and add videos when you have the time. (I use Google translate to understand the prompts on the non-English sites.)

Add your promotional videos

Promotional videos can bring your author platform to life and your Amazon pages are a great place to showcase them. Unlike some sites, you need to upload the video, rather than just add the YouTube embed code or link. You can ‘manage’ the order they are displayed and easily update them. I've had feedback from readers that they made the decision to buy my book after seeing the video, so they definitely work!

Create your personal Author Page URL

Your Author Page URL is an easy to share link to your Author Page on Amazon.com. You can use your Author Page URL in blog posts tweets. On your Profile, click add link next to Author Page URL. You can add any text up to 30 characters but it’s good to secure your author name before anyone else does. Check out my author page at this easy to remember url: Amazon.com/author/tonyriches

See 'Customers Also Bought Items By...'

And finally… under your bio you can see a list of other authors your readers are interested in. I find it helpful to see who these are and what I can learn by looking at their books:

If you have any more ideas on how to improve Amazon Author Pages please comment below

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 May 2020

Book Review ~ The Runaway: a gripping family drama by Linda Huber

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Bad things happen in threes – or so it seems to Nicola. The death of her mother-in-law coincides with husband Ed losing his job and daughter Kelly getting into trouble with the police. Time to abandon their London lifestyle and start again by the sea in far-away Cornwall.

This fast paced psychological thriller is the perfect weekend read, with a great location which I knew well, and believable characters with complicated back stories. 

The subject is any parent's nightmare, and the sense of helplessness is convincing. I guessed the harrowing outcome early in the book, but then couldn't wait to find out if I was right. I particularly liked the way Linda Huber teases the reader by nearly resolving the mystery - then backing off to keep you guessing. 

Another great book from an accomplished author, which would make a great TV thriller. Recommended. 

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Linda Huber is an ex-physiotherapist who grew up in Glasgow but has lived over half her life in Switzerland, where she writes psychological suspense novels as Linda Huber as well as feel-good novellas under her pen name Melinda Huber. The inspiration for her books comes from everyday life - a family member's struggle with dementia, the discovery that a child in her extended family drowned in the 1940s, and more. Find out more at Linda's website https://lindahuber.net/ and find her on Facebook and Twitter @LindaHuber19