15 May 2019

Stephen King: On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ is a useful read for anyone who writes – or would like to.  I grew up on Stephen King’s thrillers without really knowing anything about the man who wrote them.  I read ‘On Writing’ when it was first published but have written many books since then, so it was interesting to see if it was still as good.

It was better.  The years have done nothing to diminish the power of the story telling that runs through this book.  There are also some great quotes that passed me by on the original reading (or perhaps slipped into my subconscious)  such as ‘the editor is always right’ and ‘2nd draft = 1st draft – 10%.’  

It’s easy to see how King has drawn on his childhood experiences in character development.  Growing up in poverty was an adventure - and no TV seems to have been a distinct advantage.  Undaunted by his growing pile of rejection slips, Stephen King just knew he was meant to write and nothing was going to stop him.

I liked his description of the moment he had his first big advance  (for Carrie).  The early draft had been rescued from the waste bin by his wife. (She smoothed out all the crumpled balls of paper and said she wanted to hear the rest of the story.  The film version made $33.8 million in the U.S. alone).

Although there are plenty of useful tips for writers throughout, the most thought provoking part of this book is the final section, ‘On Living: A Postscript.’  King explains, ‘Writing is not life, but I think that it can be a way back to life.  That was something I found out in the summer of 1999, when a man driving a blue van almost killed me.’  You have to read it.

Tony Riches

Do you have recommendations on books 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. 

1 May 2019

Author interview with mystery and suspense author Tony Lee Moral

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

A supernatural mystery, a coming of age story with romance, faith and hope. The biggest theme in the novel is what it means to be alive, focusing on Alice as she tries to navigate her grief for her mother, her new relationship, and her family. As history, a curse and ghosts plague the town, life and death are tackled in a unique way.

I'm pleased to welcome mystery and suspense author Tony Lee Moral to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

The Haunting of Alice May is a mystery and suspense story between a ghost and a human. When Alice May Parker moves to Pacific Grove, California, she is rescued from drowning by Henry Raphael. Handsome, old fashioned and cordial, he sees straight into her soul. Soon the two are involved in a romance but destructive forces threaten to tear them apart. Themes in the novel include what it means to be alive, what it’s like to lose someone you love, and the possibility of an after life.

What is your preferred writing routine?

I write often during the evenings or weekends in my study. Actually I wrote an article on “Blue Sky Thinking” which you can read on my Ghost Maven website. I interviewed a psychologist who told me that creative thinking is best done in wide-open spaces which is where the phrase Blue Sky thinking originated. But if you want to be detailed and analytical, or if you have a looming deadline, confined spaces work best. As I lived in Pacific Grove for two years, where my novel is set, I would visit and write scenes on location in note books so I could capture the sights, smells and vistas of Monterey Bay.

What advice do you have for new writers?

Build your author platform and cultivate your readership and followers. In today’s social media age, your readers are everything. Nurture them and you will see the fruits of your labour. Read books, watch films, and delve deep into your own lives for inspiration. Travel is very important for my writing and I have been lucky enough to visit many places for my other profession as a documentary filmmaker.

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

Through book tours, social media, ad campaigns, but most of all getting reviews on Amazon and GoodReads. GoodReads is especially useful as you have a whole community of authors and readers who are supportive and willing to read your book and recommend it to others.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

Reading The Haunting of Alice May makes me realize how incredibly personal it is to me. I drew upon my own childhood fears of drowning, a sense of the afterlife and also my interest and appreciation of nature, especially marine life. As I lived in Monterey Bay for two years, the locations became very central to the story and I use them when plotting my mystery and suspense, which I learned through my studies of Alfred Hitchcock.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

Definitely the opening chapter was the hardest, which I continually rewrote, as it is vital to pull the reader in. I wanted to plunge Alice in immediate danger and surrounded by her greatest fear, that of drowning. So I thought how could I use the location in an imaginative way, and what better place than placing the heroine in the middle of the Bay.

What are you planning to write next?

I have three more novels which I am planning to publish. Two are suspenseful murder mysteries set in New York and Rome and follow an American heroine and her Italian boyfriend. They were great fun to write and of course I enjoyed visiting the many glamorous places when I was plotting my novel.

Tony Lee Moral
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About the Author

Tony Lee Moral is an author specialising in mystery and suspense. He has written three books on the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock: Alfred Hitchcock's Movie Making Masterclass (2013) published by MWP books; The Making of Hitchcock's The Birds (2013) published by Kamera Books and Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie (2005) published by Scarecrow Press. Hitchcock was a master storyteller, using plot, character, location and props to tell engaging stories of mystery, suspense, crime and retribution. Tony was born in Hastings, England in 1971, before moving to California. He lived in Monterey and Big Sur for two years which forms the inspiration for his latest thriller The Haunting of Alice May, which is published in March 2019 in Paperback and Kindle. Find out more at Tony's website www.tonyleemoralbooks.com and find him on Facebook and Twitter @TonyLeeMoral

25 April 2019

Special Guest interview with Toni Mount, Author of The Colour of Lies: A Sebastian Foxley Medieval Murder Mystery

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

It is late summer and London is all a-bustle for St Bartholomew’s Fayre, with merchants arriving from faraway lands. When an old friend returns with fabulous items for sale, it can only mean one thing: trouble. As thievery, revenge and murder stalk the fayre, Sebastian Foxley – artist and sometime-sleuth – has mysteries to solve. In uncovering the answers, he becomes enmeshed in a web of lies and falsehoods.

Today I'm pleased to welcome author Toni Mount to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

The Colour of Lies is the seventh Sebastian Foxley medieval murder mystery. Seb is an artist-cum-scribe whose eye for detail that others miss make him fifteenth-century London’s answer to Sherlock Holmes. In the series so far, Seb has progressed from being doubtful about his abilities and reliant upon his elder brother, Jude, to having a wife, a workshop and becoming a father but things never go smoothly for Seb.

In this book, he returns to London after a brief but necessary sojourn in Norfolk to discover Jude has ruined the business and the Foxleys’ reputation. With London’s famous St Bartholomew’s Fair in full swing, there are soon crimes to be solved and the possible suspects come too close to home, leaving Seb to have to choose between seeing justice served and protecting those dearest to him. Revenge, passion, infidelity and a great many lies complicate Seb’s life. Will our hero solve the crimes and save the day? All is revealed in The Colour of Lies as readers share in the fun of the fair, suffer the stinks of medieval London, go aboard a merchant ship and visualise life in the Middle Ages.

What is your preferred writing routine?

I don’t really have a routine because so much is always going on in my life: teaching, lectures, library volunteering, freelance writing for magazines, research and events but, if I’m at home then I plan to have done daily chores such as washing up, washing, meal prep, shopping by ten a.m. Then I’m at my desk. I skim emails for anything vital and then forget about it.

I work for an hour, take a coffee break. Work, take a lunch break, work until 4.30-5.00 then cook dinner. That’s it. I don’t work in the evenings or my head is too busy to sleep. That said; I often have my best ideas in bed or in the shower. The trouble with the latter is it’s too wet to make notes, so I have to remember them!

What advice do you have for new writers?

Three things. Firstly, if you want to write, just get on with it. Nobody else can do it for you or it won’t be the book you want to write. Secondly, be prepared to persevere. A book is a long haul and even once it’s written, there will be editing and checking to do. If your manuscript is accepted for publication, there will be more editing, tweeking, rewriting and proof reading, so be ready for that. And finally, don’t be shy. Get your work out there. If you enjoyed writing it, people will enjoy reading it.

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

The short answer is that I’m still working on that. Being published by MadeGlobal, they don’t have a big publicity budget so events like this ‘blog-tour’ on other people’s websites are great. Facebook and other social media, listing on Amazon and reviews in magazines like GoodReads, Red Herrings (the Crime Writers’ Association monthly) and any other virtual magazines all help.

Author talks and competitions with freebie books as prizes get your name known. But I’m still open to ideas and looking for the ‘big break’. Although my book sales are in the tens of thousands, I’ve a way to go to catch up with JK Rowling and Lee Child, etc.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research.

Unicorn horns. In The Colour of Lies I wanted some really exotic items to be for sale at St Bartholomew’s fair where much of the action takes place, something worth stealing that might also be used as a weapon. Extremely rare and lethally pointed, I decided a unicorn horn was perfect. Unicorn horns were reckoned to counteract every known poison in medieval times, so they were carved into cups for royalty to drink from, dipped into food in case it was tainted to make it safe to eat, or powdered and taken as a medicine – an extremely expensive one – to cure all ills, from plague to piles.

But from where and from which creature did the horns come? Arabian oryx, rhinos... Summer 2018 saw us holidaying in Iceland and we visited the ‘Whales of Iceland’ Museum in Reykjavik. Imagine my delight when I found the narwhal. Narwhals are fairly small members of the whale family, usually white with a single long tooth that grows out of one side of the mouth like a tusk. Examples of these tusks on display were exquisite spirals of ivory, 8-10 feet in length, and then I read the information card. ‘Narwhal tusks were often exported to England in the fifteenth century to be sold as unicorn horns.’ Perfect.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

At one point in the book, Seb reaches rock bottom in a state of emotional dilemma. I won’t say too much – you’ll know which bit when you read it and I don’t what to spoil it for you – but, fortunately, I’ve never been in quite so desperate a situation. I had to recall my saddest moments ever, add a big dash of conflicted interests and multiply by ten to get close to Seb’s emotional predicament. I hope I never experience anything like it for real: I had to take the afternoon off to recover from writing it.           
What are you planning to write next?

I’m currently writing a factual history book, The World of Isaac Newton, commissioned by Amberley Publishing, deadline 1st October 2019. Then I have two commissions from Pen & Sword Books Ltd: How to Survive in Medieval England, deadline 1st June 2020, and Sex and Sexuality in Medieval England, (which should be fun to research), deadline 1st March 2021.

Then there is the next Sebastian Foxley mystery, The Colour of Shadows, currently evolving. This has no definite deadline but my publisher blithely added the words to the preview snippet at the end of Lies, ‘due out later this year!’ So, fingers crossed for that. And then there are all the other ideas brewing in my head: a sequel to my Victorian murder mystery, The Death Collector; an Isaac Newton mystery suggested by Heffer’s Bookshop in Cambridge; an off-shoot novel for one of the secondary characters in the Seb Foxley series and then The Colour of Evil, if I’m still here... Phew!

Toni Mount
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About the Author

Toni Mount is a history teacher, a writer, and an experienced public speaker - and a member of the Richard III Society Research Committee and a library volunteer, where she leads the creative writing group. Toni attended Gravesend Grammar School and originally studied chemistry at college. She worked as a scientist in the pharmaceutical industry before stopping work to have her family. Having enjoyed history as a child she joined an adult history class and ultimately started teaching classes herself. Her BA (with First-class Honours), her Diploma in Literature and Creative Writing and Diploma in European Humanities are from the Open University. Toni’s Certificate in Education (in Post-Compulsory Education and Training) is from the University of Greenwich. She earned her Masters degree from the University of Kent in 2009 by the study of a medieval medical manuscript at the Wellcome Library. Toni is married with two grown up children and lives with her husband in Kent, England. When she is not writing, teaching or speaking to history groups - or volunteering - she reads endlessly, with several books on the go at any one time. Find out more at Toni's website www.ToniMount.com and find her on Facebook and Twitter @tonihistorian

23 April 2019

Guest Interview With Kelcey Wilson-Lee, Author of Daughters of Chivalry: The Forgotten Children of Edward I

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

I'm pleased to welcome Kelcey Wilson-Lee to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

Daughters of Chivalry tells the forgotten life stories of the five daughters of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile - Eleanora, Joanna, Margaret, Mary, and Elizabeth. These women travelled extensively and independently from early ages, managed large estates and commanded castle garrisons, undertook diplomatic and trade missions, and promoted England's cultural and military might throughout Europe. They were utterly unlike the powerless princesses familiar from fairy tales, and their lives help to shatter many of the myths that continue to surround understandings of the opportunities open to and constraints upon medieval noblewomen.

What is your preferred writing routine?

I work full-time (as a major gifts fundraiser at the University of Cambridge), and also have two small children, so I research, plan and write whenever I can. Because it's hard to find consecutive hours to really sit down and write, I sketch the narrative progression of each chapter extensively, bundling together the notes and key sources I'll use along with any major interpretive angle I want to feature. This means that by the time I am writing you can pretty much plow through a first draft even on those days when the words aren't flowing smoothly - which is a necessity when you have little time to write and a fixed deadline!

What advice do you have for new writers?

Find a story that you believe in, one that you feel needs to be told, and be creative in thinking about how to make that story as accessible as possible. If the first idea doesn't work, ask why and then come up with a second idea that better addresses the market.

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

Many underestimate the value of word-of-mouth recommendations - one reader who likes the book and mentions it to friends can set in chain dozens of book purchases that really add up. Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads can also do wonders to give potential readers an idea of what a book is really like.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research.

Given Eleanor of Castile's own exceptional learning, it was not unexpected that her daughters would learn to read (and even to write) in their native Anglo-Norman, and perhaps also in Latin. But much rarer was the tutor who taught some of her grandchildren - including her granddaughter, Margaret de Bohun - to read Greek, a truly exceptional skill for a secular woman in early fourteenth-century England.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

A little over halfway through Daughters of Chivalry, the eldest of the five sisters, Eleanora, dies. We can piece together quite a lot about her from surviving sources: she was a dutiful student of diplomacy, a strong advocate for her father's imperial ambitions, a patient sister and a formidable wife, as well as a lover of almonds with a penchant for dresses with bling. But her death is barely acknowledged in the sources, and no cause is given. It was exceedingly frustrating to have to write such a rounded person being essentially snuffed out without being able to offer any more sense of what her final days were like.

What are you planning to write next?

I am presently sketching an idea for a biography - of only one person this time rather than five! Like Daughters of Chivalry, it will be influenced by art, artefact, spaces, and literature, as well as strict documentary history.

Kelcey Wilson-Lee

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About the Author

Kelcey Wilson-Lee is a historian of medieval Britain, its art and architecture. Following completion of her doctoral research on late-medieval tombs, she has written and lectured on this subject, as well as topics including the development of the country house and the representation of medieval women in positions of power. She is a keen advocate for the preservation and enjoyment of Britain's outstanding surviving heritage. Originally from America, she has lived in the UK since 2003, mostly in Cambridge, where she resides with her husband and two sons. Find out more at Kelcey's website https:/å/www.kelceywilsonlee.com/ and find her on Twitter @kwilsonlee

18 April 2019

Tudor Book Of The Garden

New on Amazon UK 
or direct from the Tudor Times Shop

The Tudor Book of the Garden has been designed as a practical garden journal for the twenty-first century whilst sharing extensive information about the Tudor garden and gardener. Its dedicated sections allow gardeners to plan and record their horticultural efforts and refer back to them in this high-quality production diary for years to come.

Sections include: Tudor Garden Designers Tudor Tools, The Tudor Gardener, Popular Tudor Gardening Books, Essential Tudor Plants Plants found in Shakespeare, Year Planner with Seasons Favourite Plants, My Garden Layout and Features, My Favourite Gardens.

16 April 2019

Historical Fiction Spotlight: Of Knights and Dogfights: A WWII Novel, by Ellie Midwood

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Austria, 1938: On the verge of the most devastating war of all times, four young men found themselves sharing a room in a flying school dormitory. A bohemian Berliner, a Flieger-Hitlerjugend member, a prodigy pilot, and a butcher’s son, with nothing in common but their love for the Luftwaffe and the freedom the sky has to offer. 

The bond they develop is put to the test by what might be a stronger adversary - war itself. Over the English Channel, in the dusty skies of Africa, on the brutal Eastern front, they will discover where their loyalty lies, and what true bravery means. 

“It’s Großdeutsches Reich, soldier. When one has a family at home, it doesn’t leave him many chances for the revolt.” 

As the war progresses, Willi and Johann grow more and more disillusioned with the regime they’re protecting with their lives. An SS unit appearing on their base to claim one of their own; bits of conversation revealing the truth about the extermination program accidentally overheard during the official reception - the pieces of the puzzle are slowly coming together, but it’s too late to do anything but fight to the bitter end, whatever it may bring. 

Set during one of the bloodiest wars in history, “Of Knights and Dogfights” is the story of the shattered illusions of youth, tyranny and freedom, friendship and love guiding one out of the darkest hell of Soviet captivity.

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About the Author

Ellie Midwood is an award-winning, best-selling historical fiction writer. She's a health obsessed yoga enthusiast, a neat freak, an adventurer, Nazi Germany history expert, polyglot, philosopher, a proud Jew and a doggie mama. Ellie lives in New York with her fiancé and their Chihuahua named Shark Bait.
Find out more at http://elliemidwood.com and find her on Facebook

My Top Five Blogging Tips For Authors #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

As busy writers, it’s easy to forget the value of blog posts as a tool to raise awareness. This blog, for example, averages over 10,000 visitors a month, as well as countless shares across social media. It doesn't cost anything, except time, so here are my top tips, based on my experience of blogging over the past ten years:

Keep it simple

Develop a format and stick to it. As well as saving time, regular visitors know what to expect. For example, I like to start with a book cover with purchase links and end with a short, third-person bio with website and social media links.

Invite other authors

Be selective and invite authors who are broadly within your target readership to guest post. Remember they are busy, particularly if they have a new book to launch, so make it as easy as you can for them.

Develop good ‘interview’ questions

I’ve ‘evolved’ a set of questions that work well – and authors seem comfortable with answering. In the past I’ve been asked all sorts of odd things in blog ‘interviews’. Sometimes the quirky questions can reveal something of the writer, but it’s best to keep them relevant.    

Share your posts on Goodreads via RSS

There are over eighty million readers on Goodreads – who manage and amazing four hundred and thirty million monthly pageviews, so it’s well worth taking the time to set up a feed to automatically post there.

Learn from others

Make the time to visit other blogs and leave comments. Invariably you'll learn something new - and what works well today could change next month, so it's a great way to keep up with new and emerging ideas and developments.  

Happy blogging!

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Do you have some great tips on blogging 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