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4 February 2023

Historical Fiction Spotlight: The Art of Deception (The Lucy Lawrence Mysteries Book 3) by Pam Lecky


Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

London 1888: Stolen art and a vicious murder. Can Lucy Lawrence save Phineas Stone from the gallows?

Lucy is back in London and settling into her new life. To her delight, romance is also in the air. Meanwhile, Phineas Stone is hunting down the notorious Apollo Syndicate: a dangerous gang stealing paintings to order from art collections all over the country.

Lucy cannot resist when Phin asks for her help with the case, but her involvement triggers a terrifying chain of events. When the husband of Phin’s ex-fiancée is found brutally murdered at a house party, Phin becomes the prime suspect.

Can Lucy untangle the dangerous web that threatens to engulf the pair just as her dreams of happiness are coming true?

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About the Author

Pam Lecky
 is an Irish historical fiction author with Avon Books UK/Harper Collins. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, The Crime Writers' Association, and the Society of Authors. She is represented by Thérèse Coen, at the Hardman & Swainson Literary Agency, London. Pam has a particular love of the late Victorian era/early 20th Century. In November 2020, Pam signed with Avon Books UK/Harper Collins in a two-book deal. The first book in the historical thriller series, Her Secret War, was published in October 2021; the sequel, Her Last Betrayal, will be published in April 2022. Her debut novel, The Bowes Inheritance, was awarded the B.R.A.G Medallion; shortlisted for the Carousel Aware Prize 2016; and longlisted for the Historical Novel Society 2016 Indie Award. Her short stories are available in an anthology, entitled Past Imperfect, which was published in April 2018.  June 2019 saw the release of the first book in the Lucy Lawrence Mystery series, No Stone Unturned, a fast-paced Victorian mystery/crime, set in London and Yorkshire which was awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion. The sequel, Footprints in the Sand, set in Egypt, was released in March 2020. The third book in the series, The Art of Deception, was published in December 2021.  Find out more at Pam's website https://pamlecky.com/ and find her on Twitter @pamlecky

3 February 2023

Special Guest Post by Jon Neal, Author of The Other Path (Stanley Messina Investigates)


New from Amazon UK and Amazon US

An inquest ruled it was a tragic accident, so why does somebody believe it wasn't? In the depths of winter, a snowstorm descends upon the tiny Sussex hamlet of Littleworth. All roads are blocked. Nobody can get in. Nobody can get out.

My latest novel is called ‘The Other Path’. It’s a mysterious tale set in a fictional hamlet nestled in the south downs of Sussex. Following a heavy snowstorm, one of the local residents is found dead outside his home. Whilst an inquest rules that it was a tragic accident, somebody believes there might be more to it. 

The book introduces readers to a private investigator named Stanley Messina and draws on elements of traditional detective novels that many will be familiar with. There’s an isolated community, a closed circle of suspects, clues, and red herrings. However, it also touches upon contemporary issues in its development of characters and plot.

The Other Path’ is a bit of a departure for me. I’ve always enjoyed the traditional murder mysteries of authors such as Agatha Christie, and wondered whether I could create something for a modern audience. My interest in such stories lies in the combination of puzzle and storytelling, with the additional elements of shock twists and surprises. Therefore, this book focuses more on characters and their surroundings rather than dogged police procedures. I’m keen to tell stories in accessible ways.

To anyone else starting out as a writer, I’d recommend reading as much as possible. That might sound obvious, but it really is where all good writing starts. Books are my absolute addiction. To all other bookworms out there, I know you’ll understand. On a practical note, I’d also suggest kicking off with smaller forms such as short stories and novellas. They’re a great way to hone skills and discipline, yet also offer the opportunity to achieve a sense of achievement through quicker completion.

I’m extremely private regarding my own creativity and writing schedule. When developing ideas, I like to keep my own counsel. Discussing process or ideas with other people tends to take the impetus out of my work, so I try to avoid doing this. Only when a first draft of a novel is complete do I share with a sensitive and vigorous team of beta readers. Such critical friendships have proved invaluable in the development of my writing career.

I promote my books through social media and am planning to build a website and circulate an e-newsletter. As an indie author I’m ‘exclusive’ to Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and support my books through the use of some advertising. I’ve found the wider writing community extremely generous in offering support, guidance and encouragement. I’m tremendously grateful for this and value the progress I’ve made through the input and advice from others.

Writing full-time as an indie author becomes increasingly busy. As well as honing my craft as a writer, my time is spent on book production, business matters and promotion. Keeping all the plates spinning can be tricky at times, but I love the variety and challenge of it all. To have the opportunity to write at such an innovative time for indie authors is incredibly exciting. Publishing continues to evolve, and I relish the chance to be at the forefront of this dynamic industry.

Jon Neal 

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About the Author

Jon Neal’s first short novel ‘A Twin Room’ was published in 2022 and reached number 1 in its Amazon category, selling copies around the globe. ‘The Other Path’ is the first in a series of page-turning mysteries introducing private investigator, Stanley Messina. Jon completed a Master of Arts in Writing at Swinburne University whilst living in Australia. He also has a Music and Media Studies degree from the University of Sussex. He came runner up in the 2010 Sydney Mardi Gras short story competition and has been shortlisted for other prizes. Jon grew up in Kent, but now lives with his partner in East Sussex. You can find Jon on Facebook and Twitter @Jon_Neal_Author

1 February 2023

Historical Fiction Kickstarter ~ The White Sails Collector’s Edition, by Emma Lombard


Exclusively available on Kickstarter

The White Sails Series, where icy winter storms, opportunistic mercenaries, uncharted lands, and a colourful crew of sailors are all lashed together by an epic love story. This collector’s edition includes all four books in the series.

Why Kickstarter?

Well, firstly, let me tell you what my Kickstarter campaign isn’t. It isn’t a plea for donations, it’s not a beg for money, and it’s not just another retailer.

Okay, so what is it then?  Kickstarter is a wonderful way for me to give more to my fans. It allows fans access to a special collector’s edition that is not (and will never be) available from online retailers.

It allows fans to have each and every copy personalised, which is just not doable on retailers.
It also allows fans a more intimate view of the story behind my series.

And best of all, it allows fans to get involved in my next series, whether through an exclusive sneak peek of the first draft or even having a character named after them.

Oh, and did I mention there’s an opportunity to win the original oil painting of the cover? Where else in the world do you get all this extra cool stuff thrown in just because you bought a book?

What’s in it for you, Emma?

Without wanting to sound too cheesy, I’m beside myself to put such a pretty book out in the world. I’m mean, just look at that dreamy sunset! I’m not going to lie, I love a chunky book. This collector’s edition fulfils my ultimate author dream—to be able to hold (and smell) a weighty tome. I’m not the only one—I’ve had folks walk up to my books at the market and pick them up just to smell them! My kind of peeps!

I know it’s taboo to talk about money, but the pledges received for this campaign will help me recoup some of the upfront expenses that I have already laid out, like editing, book cover design, audiobook narration, and it will give me the momentum I need to invest in those same services for my next series, The Gold Hills Series.

You’ll be helping keep the indie publishing ecosphere turning, which in turn lets me keep creating more stories.

So, what’s The White Sails Series about?

One of my readers described it best: If Bridgerton and Pirates of the Caribbean had a love child. The idea for this series was born from a tiny nugget of family gossip that my grandmother shared with me. She told me how my 3x great grandmother left her well-to-do family in England to elope with an English sea captain, and live aboard his ship with him. 

I took the basic concept of this story and had a blast creating an entirely fictitious imagining of what it might have been like for a woman to live aboard a ship in those days. Quite ironic considering that I get terribly sea-sick myself.

Curious? Never seen what a Kickstarter campaign looks like?
 
Just looking: Take a look at Emma's campaign HERE. (Clicking on this link will not sign you up to anything, it will simply take you to the campaign page to look.)

GIVEAWAY: 

Batten down the hatches, m’lovelies, for a chance to win an exclusive, personalised, hardcover Collector’s Edition of The White Sails Series. Fill out the entry form HERE - the winner will be notified by email on February 18th, 2023.

Emma Lombard

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About the Author

Emma Lombard was born in Pontefract in the UK. She grew up in Africa—calling Zimbabwe and South Africa home for a few years—before finally settling in Brisbane Australia, and raising four boys. Before she started writing historical fiction, she was a freelance editor in the corporate world, which was definitely not half as exciting as writing rollicking romantic adventures. Her characters are fearless seafarers, even though in real life Emma gets disastrously sea sick. Discerning Grace, is the first book in The White Sails Series. Find out more ar Emma's website www.emmalombardauthor.com and find her on Facebook and Twitter @LombardEmma


31 January 2023

Book review: What Writers Read, Edited by Pandora Sykes


Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US 

This fascinating book is based on simple idea of asking thirty-five writers to talk about their favourite book. Some are well known, others less so, but I was impressed by the honesty and diversity of their choices.

Some are inspiring, some poignant, but each has something to say about the craft of writing – and what might have inspired them.

In her introduction Pandora Sykes says, ‘knowing an author’s favourite book feels like a delicious piece of insider information- like peeking behind their brain curtains to see the cogs turning within.’ 

They can be read in any order, and none are more than a few pages, with a short bio of the author at the end. Pandora suggests the format is ideal for those spare minutes in the bathroom or before nodding off for the night. My copy lives in the glovebox of the car, perfect for unexpected delays.

Al the contributors gave their work for free, and the proceeds are donate to the work of the National Literacy Trust.  

Highly recommended.

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Pandora Sykes is a journalist and broadcaster. She is the creator of multiple podcasts and audio documentaries including The High Low, and is the host of The Missing. Her debut essay collection How Do We Know We're Doing It Right? was a Sunday Times bestseller, and she has written for the Sunday Times, Vogue, Guardian, GQ and Elle. She lives in London. Find out more at https://pandorasykes.com/ and find Pandora on Twitter @PINsykes

30 January 2023

Elizabethan Rebellions: Conspiracy, Intrigue and Treason, by Helene Harrison


New from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Elizabeth I. Tudor, Queen, Protestant.

Throughout her reign, Elizabeth I had to deal with many rebellions which aimed to undermine her rule and overthrow her. Led in the main by those who wanted religious freedom and to reap the rewards of power, each one was thwarted but left an indelible mark on Queen Elizabeth and her governance of England.

Learning from earlier Tudor rebellions against Elizabeth’s grandfather, father, and siblings, they were dealt with mercilessly by spymaster Francis Walsingham who pushed for the execution of Mary Queen of Scots due to her involvement, and who created one of the first government spy networks in England.

Espionage, spying and hidden ciphers would demonstrate the lengths Mary was willing to go to gain her freedom and how far Elizabeth’s advisors would go to stop her and protect their Virgin Queen. Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots were rival queens on the same island, pushed together due to religious intolerance and political instability, which created the perfect conditions for revolt, where power struggles would continue even after Mary’s death.

The Elizabethan period is most often described as a Golden Age; Elizabeth I had the knowledge and insight to deal with cases of conspiracy, intrigue, and treason, and perpetuate her own myth of Gloriana.

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About the Author


Helene Harrison studied at the University of Northumbria in Newcastle, achieving both a BA and an MA in History before going on to complete an MSc in Library Management. Her passion for Tudor history started when studying for A Levels and completing a module on Tudor rebellions. Her Masters dissertation focused on portrayals of Anne Boleyn through the centuries, from contemporary letters to modern TV and film adaptations. Now she writes two blogs, one Tudor history and one book-related, and loves visiting royal palaces and snuggling up with a book or embroidery project. Find out more at Helene's website  https://tudorblogger.com/ and find her on Facebook and Twitter @TudorBlogger

29 January 2023

Book Launch Guest Post by Amy McElroy, Author of Educating the Tudors


New from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Today, children going to school, college and university is part of everyday life but having an interest in the Tudors made me wonder what education looked like for them?

Of course, I couldn’t write about Tudor education without including figures of the likes of Henry VIII, Mary I and Elizabeth I but I also wanted to research the education of everyday people. Did they attend school? If so, did their curriculum differ from that of royalty? 

The more I dug into it the more I became fascinated by the subject. I found the differences in education even between Henry and his siblings, let alone humble people, to be enlightening. We know from records that Henry was a well-educated young man and it is a shame there is so little evidence remaining from common people on their experience of school. Whilst we do have accounts from colleges and even small snippets from school pupils it would be wonderful to know what children of humble birth thought of education. All I could do was put together the various options available and what a day at school may have included.

I looked into the various different schools but also other methods of education including apprenticeships and household service. Service may not seem to be educational but for young people in the Tudor era it taught them the skills they needed to earn a living or set up their own household. Apprenticeships may appear to be fairly modern so I was surprised to find the Tudors had formal apprenticeships with contracts and guilds governing many of the trades.

Writing about education and work had me contemplating what they did for fun so I went ahead and included a chapter on pastimes, it is strange to think of the Tudors playing football but they did! Maybe not exactly how it is played today but they played. The Tudors also gambled, they gambled on everything and it is amusing to look at household accounts and see Henry VIII owing hundreds of pounds in a dominoes game!

The tutors were my favourite aspect, I loved researching the different people who taught the Tudors. Who were they? What did they teach? There are of course names many people will recognise such as Roger Ascham and Juan Luis Vives but I enjoyed finding out more about the more obscure Bernard Andre, John Skelton and Giles Duwes. These men were responsible for tutoring some of the most famous Tudors we know but they were not the only ones to have an influence on education. 

Sir Thomas More and Desiderius Erasmus encouraged the spread of humanism across England. Whilst writing Educating the Tudors I became captivated by Erasmus so much so that I am currently researching a book on the man himself.

There were unfortunately fewer options available to females in terms of education which led me to researching how they spent their days. My next book therefore will be The Lives of Women in the Tudor Era where you can find out how females grew up, reached adulthood, married and the occupations they had.

Educating the Tudors has been an incredible journey from writing to publication. I have made some wonderful friends along the way and been given a wealth of advice and support. If anyone is thinking about writing, my advice is to go for it, it can be hard writing around work but any progress is still progress.

Amy McElroy
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About the Author

Amy McElroy was born in Liverpool and lived there until she moved to the Midlands for university where she studied Criminal Justice followed by Post-Grad Law. Amy is currently a civil servant, working full-time alongside her writing. She also has a blog where she reviews historical fiction and non-fiction. When not researching, writing or reading you can usually find Amy binge watching Lord of the Rings, Vikings or the Last Kingdom, yet again. Amy is currently in the last stages of writing her second book and has a third on Mary Tudor, Queen of France and fourth, Desiderius Erasmus in the pipeline with a few more ideas up her sleeves for the future. Amy doesn’t have any pets at the moment but is currently making plans to steal her brothers dog Cooper. She enjoys seeing her family back in Liverpool and visiting her dad in Spain, especially in the summer. You can find out more about Amy at her blog - https://amymcelroy.blog/ and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @AmyMc_Books

26 January 2023

Book Launch Interview with Deb Stratas, Author of The Kingston Twins, Wartime Heart (The Kingston Women Book 2)


New from Amazon CA

London 1941. Identical twins Tillie and Maggie Kingston have survived the chaos of the Blitz attacks but the war grinds on. Tillie and Trevor want to seal their love with a wedding, but how can they plan during wartime? 

I'm pleased to welcome author Deb Stratas to The Writing Desk

Tell us about your latest book


My latest book, The Kingston Twins, Wartime Heart is brand-new in January 2023. It’s the sequel to The Kingston Twins, Bravery in the Blitz which tells the story of twins Tillie and Maggie Kingston, facing war in 1939 London. By the end of the first book, Tillie and Maggie are in the thick of wartime struggles. Tillie drives an ambulance, and Maggie serves on a WVS canteen. The Blitz carries on for fifty-seven nights straight, decimating Britain’s capitol, and causing heartbreak to the entire Kingston family.

Wartime Heart starts where the last book ends – as the Blitz finally ceases, and Londoners pick up the pieces of their ragged lives. Tillie has found her true love Trevor, and is eagerly making wedding plans – until Trevor joins the Royal Air Force. Maggie feels compelled to do more for the war effort, and signs up for the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). 

Surprising herself, she tests well in advanced skills and is assigned a job as an ack-ack girl. She longs for her love, Micah, but he is trapped in German-occupied France with his family. As anti-Jewish sentiment rises, she fears for his survival. Will she be reunited with her love? And what of Tillie – can she find lasting happiness with Trevor? What other wartime struggles will the Kingston family face and overcome as they all reveal incredible wartime heart?

As with all my books, I invested many months in research to bring wartime London to life – the daily challenges, life in the ATS, way of speaking, and so much more. I hope you’ll find yourself immersed in Maggie and Tillie’s lives as they navigate the drudgery of war in 1941 and beyond.

Why did you write a sequel to Bravery in the Blitz?

I always wanted to tell Maggie and Tillie’s stories in at least two parts. Bravery in the Blitz introduces us to a fascinating set of family members – each with their own internal struggles. The first book focuses more on Tillie’s story as she discovers self-worth, and finds her soulmate. Wartime Heart is Maggie’s tale. As the quieter twin, she struggles with self-confidence in the shadow of her dazzling sister. 

She comes of age as an independent woman, finding her own friends, and making significant war contributions operating anti-aircraft guns to protect London’s skies. And of course, she has her own love story! It’s not without trials and heartbreak, as we start to see the real horror of Hitler’s plans for the Jews. But Maggie is strong, and fights for a once in a lifetime love.

What advice do you have for writers interested in writing a series?

My best advice is plan out your series. I always create a high-level outline for each novel, as well as a chapter-by-chapter summary. As I write, things evolve, but I generally stick to my overall plan. Ensure you build a story arc for each character that carries through the series. Your readers get invested in them, and want to know what they are doing, and how they are progressing. 

Leave a few dangling storylines at the end of each book to leave your readers wanting more. Ensure each of your characters has a unique voice, and develop it along the way. Show progression and growth. As always, do your research so that your characters, timeframes, language, dress, way of life are realistic to the time period.

What interests you in writing women’s WWII fiction?

Like so many of you, I’ve had a decades-long fascination with World War II England –particularly the women. For me, what they did for six long years is nothing short of heroic. They sent their husbands, fiancés, sons, and loved ones to fight for freedom, perhaps never to return. 

Putting on brave faces, they took care of their families, stood in hours-long queues for dismal rations, and took on jobs to make ends meet. As the war progressed, they were also called to service. In the tens of thousands, women young and old answered the call – signing up for the army, navy, air force, land army, and special services. And all the while, staying cheerful as they “kept calm and carried on.”

I’ve read hundreds of books – both fiction and non-fiction – about these courageous women, and there are still many stories yet to be told. As the few remaining women who survive from that time are quickly fading away, it’s critical to keep these incredible tales alive. I hope I’m doing my part in raising up these women as the heroines they were.

How much time do you spend researching vs. writing?

Like most historical fiction writers, I love research. History is endlessly fascinating, and the research phase for any book is rewarding. It’s important to me to get even the tiniest details right, so I spend a lot of time researching daily life in WWII London – food, fashion, household management, even what movies were playing in the cinema – all are important to the believability of the narrative. 

With Wartime Heart, I dove deeply into ATS life, especially the role of ack-ack girls on anti-aircraft bases. I must admit, it’s hard to transition to the writing phase as research is so much fun. Roughly, I spend about 60/40 – 60% researching to 40% writing. This doesn’t include editing or marketing. I’m planning a long-postponed trip to London this summer, and I can’t wait to visit my favourite spots, as well as explore historically important locations to continually inform my writing.

Will there be a third book in The Kingston Twins series?

Of course! I’ve already started the research for The Kingston Twins, Katie’s War which will delve into the war experiences of Tillie and Maggie’s younger sister, Katie. Fingers crossed; I hope to publish it by the end of 2023.

Deb Stratas

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About the Author

Deb Stratas tells well-researched and highly readable stories about powerful women in extraordinary circumstances. The Kingston Twins, Bravery in the Blitz and The Kingston Twins, Wartime Heart are the first novels in her British WWII series about brave sisters, Tillie, Maggie and Katie. Deb is well known for her Diana Spencer historical fiction trilogy with its accompanying non-fiction At Home with Diana. Deb is based in Toronto, Canada and cherishes spending time with her two amazing adult children, their spouses, and two grandchildren. Find out more at Deb's website www.debstratas.com/ and find her on Facebook and Twitter @deb_stratas