Mastodon The Writing Desk: November 2013

27 November 2013

Book Launch ~ The Tudor Tutor: Your Cheeky Guide to the Dynasty @tudortutor

Barb Alexander presents the long-awaited must-know info of the Tudor age and its players in an entertaining fashion. Like any good teacher, she leaves judgement of events and individuals open-ended, encouraging the reader to draw their own conclusions on commonly debated 16th century topics. 

“A wonderfully irreverent and engaging introduction to the Tudors. Barb Alexander manages to be both jaunty and authoritative, a winning combination that will attract and beguile many a reader. Wearing her learning lightly, Alexander adds an ever-entertaining fresh new voice to the history world, which deserves to be heard.”

Suzannah Lipscomb, author of 1536: The Year that Changed Henry VIII

“An entertaining yet highly accurate guide to this larger-than-life royal dynasty. Alexander is spot-on with her descriptions of these monarchs and their reigns, and injects humor to keep readers of all ages entertained."

Claire Ridgway, author of The Fall of Anne Boleyn

"The Tudor Tutor brings the 16th century to roaring life for even the most jaded 21st century observer. Putting the events and people of 500 years ago into a clear, modern context, this is as witty and punchy an introduction to the period as you could hope for."

Justin Pollard, historical consultant for Showtime’s “The Tudors”

Now available on and Amazon UK, 

22 November 2013

Guest Post by P.M. Leckie ~ Stumbledirt: Creating From Catastrophe

 Walls are not built solely to keep people out; they also keep people in 

The inhabitants of the village of Everdirge believe that the Thorns have it all. Money, privilege and power. But within the stone facade of the family home, Stumbledirt, a family struggles, governed by tyranny, virtually held prisoner by their patriarch.

Widower, Hero Thorn, cruelly rules over his brood with a rod of iron and a heart of stone. None of his children, Wallis, Esme or Cyrus, dare to speak out against him. Love and hope are luxuries, absent in the Thorn household, until a tragic accident brings the arrival of the wayward cousin, Rook, and life at Stumbledirt is never the same again.

Stumbledirt is available on Amazon US and Amazon UK

As a writer, I’m often asked about the inspiration behind my novels. Answering such a query can sometimes be difficult. Many of my stories seem to appear, then grow in my head and I have little clue where the seed for them came from.

With my first mainstream fiction novel, Stumbledirt, pinpointing the source of my motivation was a little more easy.

I found myself at a point of crisis in my life. My world had been turned upside-down. But my sudden upheaval prompted me to draw on the issues I was facing and the turmoil of emotions caused by them, to create a story. Something which I hoped would address an underlying concern for me at the time.

How does one recover from personal catastrophe?

My main character, Wallis Thorn, finds himself destitute. He turns to his family for help and old conflicts resurface, causing him to question his past actions and future intentions. The fact that we both suffered loss and turned to our nearest and dearest is where the similarities between Wallis and I end.

My family were supportive and wonderful. The Thorns have many skeletons in the closet and all are let loose in the process of a somewhat enforced reunion. While my situation was certainly peppered with amusing moments, his is filled with sometimes hilarious events.

But both of us ultimately come to the same conclusion. Life is not something to go through alone and the importance of having close family and friends around — albeit that they sometimes make you crazy — should never be underestimated.

P.M. Leckie

P.M. Leckie (aka Katsura) is a Scottish writer with a penchant for dark humour and classic British movies. Her comedy scripts have been performed in the Scottish Stand-up scene but she’s never taken to the stage herself. Latterly, her projects have mostly been collaborative works with the German artist, Yuramei, the most notable of these being the bestselling illustrated Yaoi prose series, Big Deal. But her latest novel, Stumbledirt, is a solo venture.

An avid reader of biographies and all things Joe Orton, she’s always got a few books on the go at a time. When not reading or writing, she loves to cook and spend time with her family. Passionate about politics, equality and the rights of the working class, she often rants about some or all of these topics and is best avoided at those times.

Guest Post by Alexander Kreator ~ Traditional and Self Publisher Authors Meet

I met Eifion Jenkins at the Tenby Arts Festival book fair in September 2013 and knew a conversation with him might prove a sparkly discussion.  On my unexpected visit to Tenby again last week we met over lunch.

The meeting was a first for me with a real ’proper’ author. Someone who has climbed higher up ahead by being tested in the heat and fire of agents and publishers, experienced rejection and finally acceptance and has been paid for his book and publishing.

Eifion has spent a lifetime with words in business and pleasure and has published factual books as well as his first long fiction book - If you fall I will catch you. He informed me he started this book after coming out of the dark of a cinema into the light some 30 years ago. Since meeting Eifion in September I read his book and in an echo of an editor’s comment about my writing I found the book “enjoyable and unusual” with a satisfying ending.

Then me, a figures mechanic all my life involved in the world of building and funding with my only experience of writing fiction all those business planning reports and projections. I started writing after a bad dream in June 2010 with a target of writing a million words, so I know I am an old beginner eager to learn before the grim reaper arrives. One perspective as a new writer and a reader is scepticism of the huge literary production machine between me and my potential readers.

We at least share the wish to concentrate on our creative writing as a start. Up to our meeting I had not realised how much space one appears to have as a proper writer once a publisher has taken on all those nitty gritty things to do with preparation for printing, distribution and a share of marketing.

Perhaps, as Eifion suggested, I have become too deeply involved in the detail of self publishing blinded by my wish to learn by doing and have control or know in depth the detail of all the processes, because after all it is MY book. When working freelance I stopped working for clients I advised who decided not to take my professional advice or did the opposite of what I recommended. I fear in many ways in self publishing I have done just that and can only laugh at my double standards.

Looking back on my work career I know life continues to change. The days when one trained and one’s professional word was accepted are now long gone. It is hardly a surprise with designers producing houses which leak and when users and those who pay are dissatisfied today with many professional and personal services. My self publisher said to me some things in the printing process which used to cost tens of pounds now can be done for a few pence with new technology.

Eifion’s view of my cover on Ywnwab! - Autumn Story-book did not come as a surprise “Something which looks like a holiday brochure of the 1970s because you have not used current technology to the full.” My self publisher’s adverse comment is unprintable, but then he would have liked my book to be printed in Times New Roman font. The only comfort I have is most other readers who have purchased and or read my book have praised the simple clean cover design, fonts and layout. My cover is not something run up in an instant, but the result of three years looking at other people’s efforts and twenty years involvement in the rough and tumble of an “eye balls” environment. I dislike most of the neat and tidy wispy picture and text designs of the thousands of new books on Waterstone’s sales tables. I did accept Eifion’s useful comment about technology and another about the need for the text extract to be in larger type. If I were to do it again it would also be cut to 10 to 15 words.

Eifion also offers editorial services and at least we agreed editors should not change your book into their book. I have found the real value from editors and readers who are prepared to be provocative about my writing is the potential improvement triggered by thinking about what they say and taking their advice.

We did try to put the world to right in other areas, talked about e books, genre pigeon holing, the power of Amazon and book writing and publishing in Wales. Overall a useful two hour discussion to be resumed I hope next year when I come to Tenby again.

In a change of view I think I may also at least try the traditional route when I have a long fiction book to offer and also look at a co operative for marketing e books.

 Alexander Kreator aka Douglas Burcham of the Allrighters

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Eifion Jenkins 

Eifion Jenkins is a freelance writer and journalist living in West Wales. He has a passion for ancient stones and myths, as well as outer space. Those fascinations are reflected in his first novel If You Fall I Will Catch You published in 2008. He was also commissioned to write a short story to mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in December of that year.His previous published and performed works include a stage play, stories for radio, short stories and poetry. He is the author of a social history of South Wales in the 20th century, Through the Decades. He is a member of Academi, the national literature promotion agency and society of writers in Wales. More current work, including ebooks, can be seen at his website 

8 November 2013

Book Review ~ Wars Of The Roses: Stormbird by Conn Iggulden

Conn Iggulden was interviewed by Mariella Frostrup for the BBC programme 'Open Book' recently and said, "The wonderful thing about historical fiction is it has to entertain and inform."  Stormbird is the first in his new series about the Ward of the Roses and certainly achieves both. 

I've read quite a few books about this period but this the first to explore what it must have been like for the English settlers who suddenly found their lands in France had been given back to the French. Conn Iggulden  keeps up the pace by interweaving several plot lines (including one about Jack Cade's rebellion that could be a whole book in its own right.)

I was also intrigued by the way he made Richard Duke of York the villain and the Duke of Suffolk, William de la Pole, into a tragic hero.  Most authors are quick to dismiss de la Pole as an inept blunderer but it all looks very different from his point of view.

In his end notes Conn comments on how historical fiction often involves filling in the gaps and unexplained parts of history.  When this is done well, as in Stormbird, it can really help to see the known facts in the context of the attitudes and conditions of the times. This is particularly the case with the complex ‘Wars of the Roses’, where the history was of course written by the victors.

It's clear how Conn Iggulden has become one of our best-selling historical fiction authors - and I'm looking forward to the next in the series, which he says he is planned as a trilogy but will probably end up as a four or five parter.

Stormbird is available on Amazon US and Amazon UK

You can find his website at  
and  follow him on twitter @Conn_Iggulden