15 July 2019

Owen - Book One of the Tudor Trilogy: On Special 99p / $1.24 Kindle Summer Reading Promotion

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Based on the true story of a forgotten hero, OWEN is the epic tale of one young man’s incredible courage and resilience as he changes the course of English history.

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.

13 July 2019

The 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2019 #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Few of us have the time to search for the most useful websites for writers, so it's helpful that for the past six years, followers of The Write Life nominate the best 100, which are listed here:

The 2019 list is organised into ten categories: freelancing, inspiration, writing tools, blogging, creativity and craft, editing, podcasts, marketing and platform building, writing communities and publishing.

All sites are listed in alphabetical order within these categories, with numbers for ease of reading (not ranking). Take a look and subscribe to your favourites.

Do you have recommendations for other useful websites for writers you would like to share? Please feel free to 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.

10 July 2019

Book Review: The Earl in Black Armor, by Nancy Blanton

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

IRELAND, 1635: When the clan leader sends Faolán Burke to Dublin to spy on Thomas Wentworth, the ruthless Lord Deputy of Ireland, the future of his centuries-old clan rests upon his shoulders. Wentworth is plotting to acquire clan lands of Connacht for an English Protestant plantation, displacing Irish families. To stop him, Faolán must discover misdeeds that could force King Charles to recall Wentworth to England.

How fascinating to see the English occupation of Ireland from the Irish perspective. The often harsh world of seventeenth century Dublin Castle is convincing and the character of Faolán Burke is perfectly placed to allow us an insight into the complex politics of the court of King Charles Ist.

I knew little of the history behind this story, and am grateful that Nancy Blanton provides such a well-researched account. I particularly liked the actual quotes at the a start of each chapter, which ground the events of the fictional narrative in reality.

The best villains can surprise us by revealing their human side, and by the end I felt some sympathy for Thomas Wentworth, despite his flawed character. Reading this book has led to me looking into the real history of the Irish Rebellion of 1641 and events leading up to the English Civil War . Highly recommended.

Tony Riches 

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About the Author

Nancy Blanton writes award-winning novels based in 17th century Irish history. Her latest, The Earl in Black Armor, tells a relentless story of loyalty, honor and betrayal in the Stuart era prior to the great Irish Rebellion of 1641. The Prince of Glencurragh, her second novel, occurs in 1634 during the English Plantation of Ireland. Her first novel, Sharavogue, is set in Ireland and the West Indies during the time of Oliver Cromwell. In non-fiction, Brand Yourself Royally in 8 Simple Steps is also a medalist, providing a valuable personal branding guide for authors, artists, and business consultants. Her blog, My Lady’s Closet, focuses on writing, books, historical fiction, research and travel. Ms. Blanton is a member of the Historical Novel Society and has worked as a journalist, magazine editor, corporate communications leader and brand manager. Her books celebrate her love of history and her Irish and English heritage. She lives in Florida.Find out more at www.nancyblanton.com and find her on Twitter @nancy_blanton 

6 July 2019

Book review: A Tapestry of Treason, by Anne O'Brien

Available for pre-order on Amazon UK and Amazon US

1399: Constance of York, Lady Despenser, proves herself more than a mere observer in the devious intrigues of her magnificently dysfunctional family, The House of York.

A Tapestry of Treason begins with an attempt to foretell the future, and I found myself trying to recall what I knew of the actual events of the time. Although I know a great deal about King Henry V, I knew less about how his father claimed the throne - and little of the story of Constance of York, Countess Despenser.

Anne O'Brien uses first-person narrative to take us deep within the troubling world of this amazing woman. It took me a little while to warm to Constance’s often cynical view of those around her. A deeply flawed character, it’s hard not to judge her against modern standards until we learn why she behave as she does.

Evocative and captivating, this wonderfully researched book is a good example of why we need historical fiction to ‘fill in the gaps’ of the historical record. On the face of it, Constance deserves everything she gets (and loses), yet we feel her frustration of having to watch from the sidelines of what is very much a man’s world.

I particularly liked the used of the tapestry of the title to provide threads of gold and silk which run through the narrative, reminding us that, even in the hardest times, this is a world of royal privilege.

This is the tenth historical fiction novel from Anne O'Brien. I have read them all, and in my view this is the best so far. Highly recommended.

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Anne O’Brien was born in West Yorkshire. After gaining a BA Honours degree in History at Manchester University and a Master’s in Education at Hull, she lived in East Yorkshire for many years as a teacher of history. She now lives with her husband in an eighteenth-century timber-framed cottage in the depths of the Welsh Marches in Herefordshire, on the borders between England and Wales, where she writes historical novels. The perfect place in which to bring medieval women back to life. Find out more at Anne's website  http://www.anneobrien.co.uk/ and find her on Facebook and Twitter @anne_obrien

5 July 2019

Guest Interview with Gemma Hollman, Author of Royal Witches: From Joan of Navarre to Elizabeth Woodville

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

I'm pleased to welcome author and historian Gemma Hollman to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

Until the mass hysteria of the seventeenth century, accusations of witchcraft in England were rare. However, in the fifteenth century four royal women, related in family and in court ties - Joan of Navarre, Eleanor Cobham, Jacquetta of Luxembourg and Elizabeth Woodville - were accused of practising witchcraft in order to kill or influence the king.

Some of these women may have turned to the dark arts, but the purpose of the accusations was purely political. Despite their status, these women were vulnerable because of their gender as the men around them moved them like pawns for political gains. Royal Witches explores the lives of these women, and the consequences of the accusations against them.

What is your preferred writing routine?

It took a while for me to truly get into a writing routine, but I found the best thing was to listen to my mood. Some people get up at 5am and write, others find they work best in the evening. I found that I do my best work during late morning and the afternoon, so I would spend the morning gearing myself up for the day and reading over what I had written the previous day to refresh my mind. Then I get to work, and make sure to allow myself regular breaks to keep my mind going! When my deadline got tight, I would use the evenings to do mundane tasks that didn’t take too much energy, like referencing.

What advice do you have for new writers?

Just do it! So many people have ideas for books, but are often scared to put pen to paper. If you think it’s a good idea, it probably is. Get words on the page, and you’ll find that the more you write the more you find your flow and your voice. You can edit and tighten up later, but there’s nothing worse than having an empty page!

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

Something all authors want to know! I think at the moment, social media and blogging is really the way to go. You are always going to have a ready market of readers who browse the history shelves in bookshops, so you want to try and market to those who may not normally consider buying your type of book. So many people are on social media today, it really is the biggest way to connect to people across the world. Make an account, talk about your book, but make sure to engage with other authors too – people are often happy to help out fellow authors!

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

That Edward IV was himself accused of using witchcraft by his brother, the Duke of Clarence! I had read plenty of books on Edward and whilst they mentioned his brother’s demise, no one thought this accusation was worth mentioning. It was only when I was reading the Parliament proceedings against Clarence that I found this nugget. Up to that point, near the end of my research, it had only seemingly been Royal women who were tangled up in the accusations, so it was certainly a surprise to see the King himself targeted, even if it was in a slightly different way.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

The hardest parts of my book to write were those where there are few sources – or few accessible sources. Although Eleanor Cobham was Duchess of Gloucester, there is very little material tracing her life in the 1430s. I had to talk about that period without losing sight of her, and having the readers wonder where she had gone to. The same happened with her predecessor in the book, Joan of Navarre. Her life in Brittany is also poorly documented, and there is very little written in English. I was able to work with some French sources but my language skills are limited! Trying to get a feel for what her life was like before she came to England was quite tricky, therefore, so I tried to just focus on some key events and bring those to life instead.

What are you planning to write next?

My passion certainly lies with strong women in the medieval period. I do have a soft spot for the royalty, so I am hoping to look at some earlier examples of women who managed to gain a lot of power in a time where it would not necessarily be expected they could do so. I have a few ideas in the works but don’t want to spoil any of them just yet!

Gemma Hollman

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About the Author

Gemma Hollman holds a Masters in Medieval History from the University of York. She runs Just History Posts blog and social media pages, and at present is working in an archive. She currently lives in Hertfordshire with her partner. Find out more at her website www.justhistoryposts.com or via Facebook and on Twitter @JustHistoryPost.

24 June 2019

Author Interview with Deryn Lake, Author of The Prince's Women

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

The story of a man of Scottish legend. Charles Edward Stuart was the Bonnie Prince from overseas, risking all to fulfil his people's destiny

I'm pleased to welcome historical fiction author Deryn Lake to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

The Prince's Women is an account of the life and adventures of Bonnie Prince Charlie, who came out of exile in Italy and landed in Scotland full of the brave intention of getting rid of the Hanoverian King and returning the land to the Stuart kings the Scots people loved so well.

When Charlie’s grandfather – King James II – was removed from the throne of England because of his Catholic views, the family were forced to live abroad. But Charles Stuart decided the time had come to win the throne back and landed in Scotland, his mind full of fabulous but foolhardy ideas to do just that. My book deals not only with that tremendously exciting period and the bloody and terrible battles, but also with the passionate Prince’s love affairs. 

It also reveals some amazing truths based on some tear-stained correspondence lodged in the Royal Archives at Windsor.

What is your preferred writing routine?

My preferred writing routine is to work every afternoon from two till six p.m.    When I was younger I used to write all day – most unhealthy! – but these days I find that the mornings are taken up with household affairs. Do I have any social life, I hear you ask. The answer is that I sneak off to London to meet friends and go out to lunch. I also go to Glyndebourne Opera House which is fairly close to where I live and to the ballet at Covent Garden. Not trendy, I hear you say, and the answer is yes, I am a trifle classically minded.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

For anyone starting out as a writer I have a theory that it’s born in you and that you will see things just a bit differently from other people. Although creative writing courses can help they can’t make spun gold out of a piece of wool. Teach yourself the difference between what is good and what is not in your writing – and just keep going at it until you know it is right. And try to write every day, even if it is only for an hour or two. Make this your special creative time and don’t let anything interfere with it.

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

There are lots of ways to raise awareness of one’s books but I must confess that I don’t do much of them. People give talks at libraries, go on chat shows, go to writer’s conferences. But does any of this help? I think in these fast-moving times the only true way is to get something on television. Then the great reading public will make the connection and you will finally have arrived. It hasn’t happened to me yet – but here’s hoping!

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

Research reveals masses of things that literally take your breath away. When writing Fortune’s Soldier – the third book in the Sutton Place trilogy – I discovered that two of the principal characters, both actual people, a married couple called Anne and Algernon Hicks, had died on the same day.    She of cancer but he, fairly obviously, must have committed suicide. Strange but true.  Dear old Algernon obviously could not live without his Anne. Unfortunately I did not discover this until after I had finished the book. Woops!  

Another exciting thing I found was that Joan of Arc left a banner on the altar as a votive offering after the coronation of Charles VII of France. It was the device of the Knights Templar, disbanded at a much earlier date. Why? In my latest book about the Young Pretender I found that he had an illegitimate son by his cousin Louise. It died in infancy. Well, well.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

I have never written a truly difficult scene.    What I do is read everything very, very carefully once I have finished it, looking for every little mistake, every word repetition, every crass error that is going to stick out like a sore thumb when it is set up in type.  Then, when I finally finish it, I leave it alone. My late great agent – the one and only Shirley Russell – told me that there comes a moment to stop improving what you’ve done – and so I do.

What are you planning to write next?

My next book is venturing into the world of legend and magic and mystery and love.     I won’t say too much at this stage other than to tell you that it will have the title All The Rhine's Fair Children.    And it is not a travel book about the mighty river.    Meanwhile enjoy The Prince's Women – and keep on reading.

Deryn Lake
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About the Author

Deryn Lake started to write stories at the age of five, then graduated to novels but destroyed all her early work because, she says, it was hopeless. A chance meeting with one of the Getty family took her to Sutton Place and her first serious novel was born. Deryn was married to a journalist and writer, the late L. F. Lampitt, has two grown-up children, four beautiful and talented grandchildren, and one rather large cat. Find out more at Deryn's website www.derynlake.com

23 June 2019

Book Review: Victoria to Vikings: The Circle of Blood, by Trisha Hughes

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

The third book in Trisha Hughes' well-researched series explores the story of Queen Victoria and her legacy. Victoria to Vikings: The Circle of Blood takes us from Victoria's ancestry to the current queen, Elizabeth II. I'd not thought about it before but they shared the experience of coming unexpectedly and poorly prepared to the throne.

It was useful to be reminded of the complex social and political environment the young Queen Victoria was faced with, as it helps explain the strange 'double standards' of the Victorian era.

Full of fascinating details, we learn that when Prince Albert was dying (probably from Crohn’s Disease, a chronic inflammatory condition of the intestine which was unknown at the time) his doctors prescribed ammonia and a glass of brandy every half hour.

The less well known aspects of Victoria's life and death can also be quite surprising. Her fondness for her gamekeeper, John Brown, is well known, yet I didn't know she left written instructions that after her death she was to be buried with a lock of his hair, holding his letter in one hand. 

I found some sympathy for Victoria's son Bertie. Surprisingly, given her own experience, it seems Victoria did little to prepare her son for the crown. After a troubled childhood, one of his first acts on inheriting the throne was to order the destruction of his mother's mementos of John Brown, including the cairn of stones in his memory at Balmoral. 

To reach the reign of the current queen, Trisha Hughes has to take us through two world wars, before tracing Prince Philip's little-known Viking heritage to bring the series in the 'full circle' of the title. Of necessity, this means some events are skimmed over, but I enjoyed reading this series and am happy to recommend it.

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Australian born Trisha Hughes began writing 18 years ago with her best-selling memoir ‘Daughters of Nazareth’. Trisha’s passion is history and she loves bringing it alive in a way that is easy to read and enjoy. Her hope is to inspire young readers and the young at heart to understand and enjoy stories and legends from the past. While living in Hong Kong, she writes for a local magazine and is involved with young writers. Find out more at Trisha’s website: www.trishahughesauthor.com and www.vikingstovirgin.com. You can contact Trisha on her Facebook page, Trisha Hughes Author and on Twitter @TrishaHughes_

Disclosure: A review copy of this book was kindly provided by the publishers.