Mastodon The Writing Desk: May 2013

19 May 2013

Book Review: The Forbidden Queen by Anne O’Brien

Isn’t it great when you suddenly discover a fascinating historical figure you really know nothing about? It doesn’t happen very often, so when it does it’s quite special – and often unexpected. My current WIP is set during the time of Katherine of Valois (the ‘forbidden queen’ of Anne O’Brien’s latest novel), so I’m very familiar with her story. No, the big surprise was her hero, the impressive Owen Tudor, (or Owain ap Maredudd ap Tewdwr as he would have preferred to be called) who of course gave his name to the Tudor dynasty. (There is a theory that the name ‘Tudor’ was actually a typo made by an English scribe who didn’t know any better. We will never know if that is true, although I did read that Henry VIII never described himself as a ‘Tudor’).

The awful way King Henry V treated his new wife has been well documented but there was great secrecy about Katherine’s relationship with Owen Tudor. This makes it all the more interesting, as we do have to ‘fill in the gaps’. Anne O’Brien’s relaxed style does this sensitively and convincingly through the eyes of Queen Katherine. Tricked by Duke Humphrey of Gloucester into a life of widowhood, she slowly becomes aware of the real man behind the role of ‘Master of the Household’. (His real title may have even been ‘clerk of the wardrobe’!)

There is a fascinating postscript at the end of the book where Anne discusses her inspiration for writing it. She says “I decided that Katherine deserves a re-evaluation. I hope I have done her justice in writing The Forbidden Queen, allowing us to see the woman behind the façade.”  Anne has certainly achieved that and more. I highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to understand what life may have been like for this remarkable woman.

Preview The Forbidden Queen on Amazon US and Amazon UK
Visit Anne O'Brien's website

16 May 2013

Book Launch - Faust 2.0 by Michael Brookes

The Internet witnesses the emergence of a new entity:  Is it the rebirth of an ancient evil in a new realm? Or something more dangerous?

A sexy looking avatar is granting wishes for people across the Internet. But nothing is ever truly free and for those accepting the gifts a terrible price must be paid. 

Sarah Mitchell must learn the truth of this creature and stop it while it can still be stopped. She must also find out why a mysterious lawyer is present at every step.

Faust 2.0 is the first book in the new Mitchell & Morton series.

Available now on Kindle:  Amazon (UK)  and Amazon (US) 

Join the Faust 2.0 Facebook page  and follow Michael Brookes on Twitter

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Michael Brookes is an Executive Producer with a leading UK games developer. Working in games and writing are two of his life passions and her considers himself fortunate to be able to indulge them both. He lives in the east of England, enjoying starry skies in the flattest part of the country. When not working or writing he can sometimes be found sleeping. Which is good as that is where many good ideas come from.

12 May 2013

Special Guest Post - Priceless: The Author-Reader Bond by Barbara Kyle

Most of us vividly recall a book that touched our lives, whether as young adults or at a crucial moment later in our life. The moment makes us feel a special kinship with the author. It's a meeting of minds, even of souls. It's a bond, and a potent one. 

Any author will tell you it's a happy day when a reader gets in touch to say how much the author's book has meant to them. Sometimes the message is moving, like the Yarmouth museum curator who told me The Queen's Lady helped him as he mourned the death of his father.
Sometimes the message brings a laugh, like the lady who cheerfully told me she got The Queen's Captive out of the library because she remembered having loved a similar book, and then realized, as she was enjoying The Queen's Captive, that this was the very book she'd read and loved!

Here are three readers whose messages to me were very special:

The Colonel

Some years ago I was in England researching The Queen’s Lady and spent a day exploring Hever Castle in Kent. This was the home of the Boleyn family, and Henry VIII came here to court Anne. That tempestuous affair changed the course of England’s history.

As I strolled the grounds in a happy haze of imagination, I picked up an acorn. What a lovely feeling to hold in my hand something living from the so-called "dead" past. I squirreled the acorn away in my pocket and brought it home to Canada, and it sat on my desk beside my computer, a sweet reminder of its place of birth as I wrote The Queen’s Lady. The acorn was still on my desk when I wrote The King’s Daughter. It had become a touchstone that spirited me back to the Tudor world. I was very fond of it.

Then my husband and I moved, and in the shuffle the little acorn got lost.

A few months later I got a cheery email from a reader telling me he was on his way to England for an Anne Boleyn Tour during which he’d be staying at Hever Castle. There would be dinners in the Great Hall where Henry and Anne ate, plus lectures, plays, and demonstrations – “A once in a lifetime experience,” he said. I replied to wish him a happy trip and told him about my acorn. He is a retired air force colonel and lives in Tennessee.

Four weeks later a small package arrived in my mailbox. It was from the Colonel. Inside was a note: “I looked for an acorn to replace the one you lost but couldn’t find one. I did get you this.” Nestled under the note was a pine cone. He had scoured the Hever grounds for it. “It’s from the area where Henry courted Anne, according to the castle staff,” wrote the Colonel.

I was so touched. The pine cone has had pride of place on my desk beside my computer while I've written three more “Thornleigh” books. Thank you, Colonel, for what you gave me. A once in a lifetime experience.

The Embroiderer

A music educator in Ontario recently emailed me with praise about my books and told me she was part of a sewing club of about three dozen ladies who get together at a shop with the delightful name The Enchanted Needle. She said they were working on Tudor period sewing techniques, and she attached images of historic Tudor-era embroidery. Now, I know little about sewing, but I know beauty when I see it, and these works were stunning.

As she waxed lyrical about bygone sewing techniques like "stumpwork" and "Assisi," "blackwork" and "bargello," "cross-stitching" and "the morphing power of color," I could only, in ignorance, try to keep up, but when she said my books inspired her in this Tudor-era needlework I was moved again by how glorious and various are the connections between author and reader.

The Boy

That's what I'll call him, the gangly pale-faced kid who showed up at a public reading I did from The Queen's Gamble and listened so intensely. He looked about fourteen, the only person there who was so young. After the reading I saw him at the edge of the knot of people I was chatting with. The others all asked lively questions, but he said nothing. He looked like he wanted to, but he never took a step nearer. When I finished talking to the people, I noticed the boy was gone.

About a week later I found in my mailbox a package: a slender book and a note. The writer of the note said he'd been at the reading, and was a high school student who loved history, and he hoped to one day be a history teacher. My novels were his favorites, he said. The book he'd enclosed was The Bloody Tower by Valerie Wilding, a young adult novel in the form of a Tudor girl's diary. It had meant a lot to him when he was younger, he said, so he wanted to share it with me.

There, now I've shared it with you. That's what the writer-reader bond is. We share what moves us. And that connection is what makes the writer's work a joy.

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Barbara Kyle is the author of the acclaimed “Thornleigh” novels Blood Between Queens, The Queen’s Gamble, The Queen’s Captive, The King’s Daughter and The Queen’s Lady, which follow a rising middle-class family through three tumultuous Tudor reigns, and of contemporary thrillers including Entrapped, a B.R.A.G Medallion winner. Over 400,000 copies of her books have been sold in seven countries. In July 2013 Barbara will be a speaker at Ontario's Stratford Festival with her talk about royal cousins Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots who feature in Blood Between Queens.  Barbara has taught writers at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies and is known for her dynamic workshops for many writers organizations and conferences. Before becoming an author Barbara enjoyed a twenty-year acting career in television, film, and stage productions in Canada and the U.S. 

Visit and  on twitter

Following her perilous fall from a throne she’d scarcely owned to begin with, Mary, Queen of Scots, has fled to England, hoping her cousin, Queen Elizabeth, will grant her asylum. But now Mary has her sights on the English crown, and Elizabeth enlists her most trusted subjects to protect it.

Justine Thornleigh is delighting in the thrill of Queen Elizabeth’s visit to her family’s estate when the festivities are cut short by Mary’s arrival. To Justine’s surprise, the Thornleighs appoint her to serve as a spy in Mary’s court. But bearing the guise of a lady-in-waiting is not Justine’s only secret. The weight of her task is doubled by fears of revealing to her fiancé that she is in truth the daughter of his family’s greatest enemy.

Duty-bound, Justine must sacrifice love as she navigates a deadly labyrinth of betrayal that could lead to the end of Elizabeth’s fledgling reign.  

Preview Blood Between Queens, Barbara Kyle's latest novel on Amazon US and Amazon UK

11 May 2013

Indie Publishers: Promote Your Books on Google Books

Google Books allows publishers and authors to submit their books for inclusion in Google’s search results. This helps readers discover your books, matching the content with user searches and connecting your books with the users who are most interested in buying them. There is no cost and, as well as increasing awareness of your books, it's a great way to tap directly into Google’s worldwide user base and increase qualified traffic to your website. Google Books previews also appear on book-related sites like online retailers and social book networks. 

Have a look HERE to see the Google Books Store, which has the top five paid and free books, as well as book recommendations and books organised by category. Each book includes an 'About this book' page with basic information but where it gets interesting is when the publisher has added all kinds of relevant information, such as a preview, book reviews, web references, maps, key terms and phrases or even a list of related books. For every book, you'll also see links directing you to bookstores where you can buy the book. If the book is out of copyright or the publisher made the book fully viewable, you can view any page and if the book is in the public domain, you can download, save and print a PDF version.

The Google Books Partner Programme

I always assumed all this was for the big publishers but you can simply sign up as a Google Books Partner HERE.  Once your account has been created, you can provide hyperlinks to where ebooks are available, upload pdf versions or even send paperbacks to Google in the mail.  Although Google Books has been around since 2008 the pdf upload is quite 'clunky' and still in ‘beta’ but worked OK for me. (It took a couple of attempts, as there are strict file naming rules and you upload the content, front and back covers as separate files.)  

Customising Your Book Information   

It takes a week or so for Google to ‘process’ your books then you will have access to Google Preview  code that enables you to embed previews of your books on your own website. Visitors to your site are then able to browse and search within your books on each book’s product page. (See example of 'The Shell' on my blog sidebar.)

Managing Your Books on Google

There is a well thought out and easy to use page where you can add or update your book files, add and manage links and produce reports on activity:

The way I see it, anything you can do to help readers find your books has to be good – particularly if it’s free. It takes a while for your books to be 'processed', so the sooner you start the quicker you’ll get results. Have a go - and let me know how you get on.

Tony Riches

1 May 2013

Blog Tour - White Swans: The New Girl in Town by Annamaria Bazzi

One important question that is always wanting an answer from readers is: has your own life influenced the subjects you write about?

Readers need to understand that writing is always an extension of the author, who he is—his experiences, influences from society, family upbringing, the peer pressures endured as a teen… and much more. The author’s personality is also a factor in his writing. When did my passion for writing start? It started when I learned to write back in Sicily, Italy. I suppose you need to understand how I ended up in Italy. Simple, my father kidnapped his three children and brought them to Sciacca, Sicily where he was born and raised, where his family lived.

I grew up there for six years, enjoying the company of all my cousins, and I have quite a few since my father was one of eight siblings. My cousins always turned to me to invent exciting games, filled with great adventures. When I learned to write, I found great pleasure in writing down many of the ideas that floated through my kiddy brain. They usually involved fairies and magical beings because, even at the age of eight, all things magical had fascinated me. Since I had no magic, it was fun to daydream about it. These pieces always ended up as part of my homework, and my fourth grade teacher felt obligated to show my writings to my father.

Well, six year later, after I had adjusted to life in a new world, my mother kidnapped my sister and me and brought us back to the states, where once again, I had major adjustments to make. But each time this happened, I saw life as an adventure to be enjoyed and to participate in it fully.

The new world theme is in practically all my writings. It’s a part of me I can’t let go. So, I let my heroes experience the wonders and tribulations of finding themselves in strange new worlds, where they need to learn to adjust to survive. It’s an expression of my life.

My adventures into untested territories continue well into my life. As a strict Roman Catholic I married a Lebanese Moslem—this adventure is still going as I raise four daughters. Moving to Virginia with my job was a completely different type of adventure and discovery—all the nuances of southern living. Yes, folks, I’m a northerner from the Midwest—Michigan.

The sense of adventure still lives in me, and I release it through my short stories and novels, and that’s why Jillian, The New Girl in Town, finds herself in a new world after wishing upon a star. However, this new world is not without perils to her existence.

White Swans is a fantasy series for young adults comprised of short stories. Why short stories you ask? My youngest daughter swears she doesn’t read because novels are just too long. Some of her friends feel the same. I wondered how many young teens use this as an excuse not to read. The thought process led me to create the short story series also perfect for very busy adults who would like to read, but don’t have the time.

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Although born in the United States, Annamaria Bazzi spent a great deal of her childhood in Sicily, Italy, in a town called Sciacca. Italian was the language spoken at home. Therefore, she had no problems when she found herself growing up in a strange country. Upon returning to the states, she promised herself she would speak without an accent. She attended Wayne State University in Detroit Michigan, where she obtained her Bachelor of Science in Computers with a minor in Spanish. Annamaria spent twenty years programming systems for large corporations. During those years, she raised four daughters and one husband. Annamaria lives in Richmond Virginia with her small family where she now dedicates a good part of her day writing.

White Swans: A Regency Era
which is book of the series:
 Preview on Amazon

Visit Annamaria at her blog 
find her on facebook and follow her on twitter
Preview White Swans:
The New Girl in Town
on Amazon