Mastodon The Writing Desk: March 2015

22 March 2015

Guest Post ~ The Girl from Cobb Street, by Merryn Allingham

It is 1938 and Daisy Driscoll is forging a lonely path through the world, struggling to make ends meet as a sales girl in a London department store. She has been raised in an East End orphanage and has never known the warmth of a real home – something she craves. When she meets Gerald Mortimer, a cavalry subaltern on leave from the Indian Army, it seems that her dreams are about to come true. She has finally found someone of her very own to love. But fate was never going to give her an easy ride. When she finds she is pregnant, the dream begins to disintegrate. She travels to India to marry, but discovers almost immediately that Gerald is not all that he claims. Daisy is an innocent in a wicked world, and is led down a path of deceit and danger. As the menace grows, she is forced to call on every ounce of strength and courage in order to survive.

Available from Amazon UK  and Amazon US 

Research has always been the part I most enjoy in writing historical fiction. I usually have a comfortable ‘nest’ on which I can build, and it’s only the smaller details that I need to discover - what kind of butter churns were in use in the Regency, for instance, or whether madeleines were eaten at the time. But when I came to write The Girl from Cobb Street, my nest was bare. It consisted of one very old marriage certificate and a single visit I’d made to Rajasthan.

The certificate recorded my parents’ wedding. My mother travelled to India in April 1937 and was married in St John’s Afghan Church, in what was then Bombay. Even now India hits you in the face with its difference. But in the 1930s, the journey took three weeks and most people rarely ventured far beyond their home. I tried to imagine how it must have been for a working-class girl, who had never been further from London than a day at the Southend seaside, to travel to such an alien world and marry a man she hadn’t seen for six years. Out of that imagining came my heroine, Daisy Driscoll. Daisy is reunited with her lover far more quickly, but she faces many of the same hazards in settling to her new life in India.

Memories of my Indian trip and the countless photographs I took, gave me the setting – the look, the smell, the colour and texture of the region. But I had no idea what it must have felt like to live in 1930s British India. My mother had rarely spoken of it. I guess she’d filed India away as a past that was no longer relevant. We were an army family, constantly on the move, and there was always another place to get used to – Egypt, Germany, Cyprus. All I knew was that she hated the curry, was terrified of frogs in the bath and loved the cool beauty of the hill station. And that her social life as a sergeant’s wife had been great fun. By the end of the Second World War, though, my father had climbed to the rank of captain and she was forced to become a part of the Officers’ Mess, with all its subtle discriminations. Her reaction to this very different social world was stark. She never felt she belonged and every mess ‘do’ was an enormous trial for her.

It was into this milieu that I plunged an ill-prepared Daisy. Her husband is a very junior officer but still part of a world in which hierarchy and status are all important, and where iron backed memsahibs rule. I spent several weeks reading first-hand accounts of life in the Raj: a huge amount of fascinating material most of which, fortunately for readers, doesn’t appear in the trilogy. Army life, at least in India, was narrow and insular, the main topics of interest being sport and gossip. Intellectual discussion was largely absent. The occasional Gilbert and Sullivan musical evening was about as cultural as it got. Some of the women were intelligent but had to pretend they weren’t, and I felt genuine sympathy for them. Admiration, too, for their fortitude in making a home often miles out in the bush, coping with the intense heat and the constant fear of disease, and bearing children but seeing them die or sent ‘home’ at a very early age.

Their attitudes to the colonised, however, though orthodox for the time, made me cringe and I couldn’t let Daisy share them. So I read on – trying to get a handle on the political situation in the late Thirties, when Europe was threatened by war and Indian nationalism sensed an opportunity to throw off the yoke of empire. Daisy’s sympathies were clearly going to lie in this camp, so for all kinds of reasons she was never going to fit the world into which she’d married. Add a deceitful and desperate husband, and you have the seeds of disaster. In comparison, my mother’s marriage was blissfully uneventful!

Merryn Allingham 
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About the Author

Merryn Allingham worked for many years as a university lecturer and between job, family and pets, there was little time to do more than dabble in writing. But when the pressures eased, she grabbed the chance to do something she’d always promised herself – to write a novel. She’d taught 19th century literature and grown up reading Georgette Heyer, so it seemed natural to gravitate towards the Regency period. That was over five years ago and in that time, she has published six Regency romances under the name of Isabelle Goddard. It has been a splendid apprenticeship but it left her wanting to write on a larger canvas and more mainstream fiction. In 2013, she adopted a new writing name, Merryn Allingham, and a new genre. Daisy’s War, a suspense trilogy, is the result. The books are set in India and wartime London during the 1930s and 1940s and the first in the series, The Girl from Cobb Street, was published in January this year. Books two and three will come out in May and August, 2015. Find out more at Merryn’s website and find her on Facebook and Twitter

17 March 2015

Guest Post by David K Saunders, Author of The Dreams of Kings

In the year 1464, the Kingdom is engulfed by civil war as the renowned houses of Lancaster and York fight to the death for the crown of England. Richard, Duke of Gloucester, the future ‘Richard III’, arrives, aged twelve, for the safety of Middleham Castle to begin his training for knighthood. His new companions discover he can change from kindness to cold rage within the wink of an eye. Men, it was said, watched him with wary eyes, for they knew when the young pup found his teeth, he would make a dangerous enemy. 

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

My journey to writing The Dreams of Kings started when my mother, an avid lover of history wanted to see the Laurence Olivier films of King Henry V and Richard III, which had been re-released. I have three sisters and a brother, and none of us wanted to spend an afternoon watching Shakespeare but I ended up being the one who agreed to keep mum company and so I towed along. I was 13 or 14 and thought I was in for a really boring time. I’d read Shakespeare at school and had found it all rather dry and boring. But as soon as it started I fell in love with the language, the history, the story. And when we went back to see Richard III that just cemented it for me.

I was enthralled and have been in love with our history ever since. From this point on I began researching history and my fascination for the war of the roses grew, until I just had to put pen to paper and write this book. I found that some of the history from the period of Richard III was missing, questions went unanswered and historians did not know the whole story. I decided to fill these gaps with that he surmised may have happened, and so the book ‘The Dreams of Kings’ was born.

David Saunders
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About the Author

David Saunders was born in Plymouth, UK, in 1949. After attending a grammar school, he spent six years serving in the Royal Air Force, followed by eight years of working for Estee Lauder, before starting his own manufacturing business. For David, the most difficult aspect of the writing process was finding time between life and family commitments. David hopes that people who read his story will be inspired to love history, and they will go on to read and study the factual period and the people who lived in it. Find out more at David's website

16 March 2015

Review of Root of the Tudor Rose, by Mari Griffith

When King Henry V and his bride, Catherine de Valois, are blessed with the birth of a son, their happiness is short-lived. Henry’s unexpected death leaves Catherine a widow at the age of twenty-one. Then her father, King Charles of France, also dies, and her son inherits both crowns. Henry VI, King of England and France, is just ten months old and needs all his mother’s watchful care to protect him from political intrigue. The queen, an attractive young widow, is a foreigner at the English court and now finds herself regarded with suspicion, particularly by the Duke of Gloucester, who will seemingly stop at nothing to protect his own claim to the throne. But lonely, vulnerable Catherine has found true friendship with another foreigner at court, a young Welshman named Owen. Their friendship deepens, but their liaisons must be kept secret at all costs, because Catherine, Queen of England and forbidden to remarry, is in love with a servant …

"Immensely readable and compelling…Highly recommended!"
Alison Weir, bestselling author

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

I could hardly put down Mari Griffith's debut novel Root of the Tudor Rose, which offers us a new slant on the relationship between Queen Catherine of Valois and her love affair with her Welsh servant Owen Tudor.

Covering Catherine’s life from her marriage with King Henry V until her untimely death, I found Mari’s writing style very readable and engaging. There are significant gaps in the historical accounts of Owen Tudor’s life – and no record that he even married Catherine, so we have to rely such clues as can be gleaned from ballads and letters, often written much later.

I have spent a year researching Owen Tudor for the first book of a new Tudor Trilogy, so am definitely more familiar with primary and secondary sources than most. It was therefore reassuring to see that Mari has declared what she calls her ‘flights of fancy’ in an author’s note at the end of the book. Yes, she does have Owen drunkenly falling into the queen’s lap – but redeems herself with doing an excellent job of getting all the clergymen right, (not so easy as it may seem). I was particularly interested to see how Cardinal Henry Beaufort is portrayed as caring and compassionate.

Although Mari's descriptions are evocative and convincing, I would have liked to see more details of what it must have been like to live in this fascinating period. My heroine of The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham featured quite prominently, although she is described as ‘gimlet eyed’. (I was happier when I looked it up and found it means to look at things very carefully and not miss anything.)  

I would heartily recommend this book to anyone interested in digging a little deeper into the origins of the Tudors - and look forward to seeing what Mari Griffith turns her hand to next.

Tony Riches

Book Launch Guest Post ~ MOMO by Kevin M. Kraft

In the wake of his father’s death, Mark Taylor thinks he and his son, Evan need some quality time together. He is certain that a weekend at the family cabin in the Missouri woodland presents the perfect opportunity and will strengthen their bond. But as darkness falls, their stay becomes a terrifying fight for survival against a savage night creature straight out of the annals of cryptozoology, with little more than faith, desperate courage and a single cabin door providing their only means of defense. With Mark badly injured, dawn too far away, their generator running out of power, and no means of calling for help, they are ultimately left with a single heart-rending option that might let one of them survive to see another day. 

Available on LuluAmazon US and Amazon UK

It’s been a long time coming, since I conceived of MOMO as a film, when I was a boy, inspired by the 1951 thriller, TheThing From Another World, and the 1976 “docudrama,” Sasquatch:The Legend of Bigfoot. I determined then to one day make “a real good and scary Bigfoot movie.” This came to pass in 2010, when, after studying the subgenre of “hairy hominid” films and flicks, quantified what engendered an effective thriller, resulting in, MOMO, my award-winning script.

However, when efforts to crowdfund the feature film project were unsuccessful, my wife suggested I “write the book and get it out there.” And, while screenwriters today debate the question of whether, or how, to adapt their screenplays into novels, I found the prospect daunting, even though I had experience in adapting novels into screenplays. You see, writing novels and scripts employ two very different approaches—so much so, in fact, that I personally cannot work on a novel at the same time I’m writing a screenplay. It just messes up my equilibrium.

Having said that, I can tell you that I have read novels that were written by screenwriters, and scripts by novelists, who were obviously unaware of the differences between the two formats. The uninitiated screenwriter might copy and paste his script to Word and then change the tense of the text from present tense to past tense, add some italicized thoughts to the characters and be done with it. On the other hand, a novelist might unwittingly approach a script like a novel, including the thoughts and feelings of the character—or even the writer’s own, instead of writing only what can be seen and heard on-screen. But I digress.

I quickly realized that while the novel needed to be faithful enough to the script to satisfy would-be MOMO movie aficionados, there were differences that had to be employed. The opening of MOMO the screenplay, for example, is different that the novella, because I felt that one worked better cinematically than it did in the novelization.

Since I knew well the plot, the main challenges had to do with how to flesh out the characters, which, in the script, could only be characterized by dialog and action. This actually gave me freedom to expand and go deeper into the characters’ psyche from the perspective of each of the two main characters, alternating between them.

I knew the novelization, would require equal parts science and talent. Effective writing is sculpting prose that compels the reader to continue the journey you offer to them, to care about your protagonist, to become invested in the world between the book covers. It’s one thing to write the facts: “The little boy was sad and cried.” It’s another to write the facts effectively (I keep using that word) and evocatively, that makes a reader want to continue to read: “He felt as though his chest would burst and hot tears burned rows through the soot on his cheeks.” Additionally, using active, rather than passive words and phrases, can’t be overemphasized.

As in screenwriting, using passive words—“the boy was sad and crying” reads less smoothly than an active alternative—“the boy was sad and cried” and that less than “the boy cried.” It’s psychological, but passive words that end in I-N-G, after was, “slow down” the reading when the reader desires a need to find out what’s going to happen next. In fact, in screenwriting, a bit of advice I give writers is to go through the script and, wherever an I-N-G word is found, replace it with the active alternative. This can work similarly in other creative writing, and I guarantee that it will improve your work in the eyes of your readers. They may not even be able to verbalize why it reads better. But it does.

Of course, the Taylors themselves had to not only be believable but empathetic. While I couldn’t relate to their specific interpersonal problems, I could put myself in their places, transferring, like an actor might to a role, my evoked emotions to them, thus making them immediately identifiable to my readers. One cares about what happens to them

Employing what I’ve described has resulted in my novella being lauded as, “a page turner,” a “thriller novella done right,” “a powerful novella,” and an “inspirational story of love and faith,” I invite you to read MOMO to see my techniques demonstrated and perhaps adopt them yourself to create your own effective thriller.

Now, if I can just get the movie made…

Kevin M. Kraft
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About the Author

Kevin M. Kraft is an award-winning author, novelist and screenwriter, as well as a singer-songwriter, cigar box guitar guru (and founder of the annual KC Cigar Box Guitar Festival), actor, motion picture director and producer in Kansas City, Missouri, where he currently resides with his wife and children, for whom, despite all he does, he still makes plenty of time for. With the publication of his novel, S: A Contemporary Religious Fantasy, he introduced a new type of novel: the "contemporary religious fantasy." With a love for great storytelling, he hopes to set a new standard for broad-based, inspirational fiction with the publication of his inspirational thriller, MOMOMr. Kraft enjoys getting feedback from readers and welcomes you to do so either at Lulu, Facebook or at his official website. You can follow Kevin on Twitter @kevkraft

12 March 2015

Book Launch Guest Post - Over the Deep: A Titanic Adventure, by Samantha Wilcoxson

Ten year old Edwin is surprised to learn that he will be travelling to America on the famous new Titanic. Even more shocking is that he will be going with grandparents he has never known. Why does his mother want to send him away?  Soon he is caught up in exploring the safest, most luxurious ocean liner ever built as it crosses the Atlantic for the first time. What could go wrong?

Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK

The story of the Titanic’s tragic maiden voyage is one that continues to capture the hearts of people across the world even a century later. This retelling focuses on a young Welsh boy who explores the ship, meeting men such as Thomas Andrews, Bruce Ismay, and Captain Smith. Edwin learns secrets about his own family’s past and forms relationships with his newly discovered grandparents along the way as well. 

This novel is filled with historical facts about the Titanic and many of the people who were on board, all woven into Edwin’s fictional story. Edwin befriends Douglas Spedden, Frankie Goldsmith, and Jack Thayer Jr., who are real Titanic survivors. The reader is also introduced to Walter, a fictional character who becomes Edwin’s best friend. When the ship sinks, and Edwin ends up in a lifeboat separated from everyone he knows, he wonders if he has survived the worst only to be abandoned in the middle of the Atlantic.

Over the Deep is my second novel for children and my first adventure into writing historical fiction. It is said that you should write the book that you want to read, and that is why I redirected my writing this way. I am an avid reader of historical fiction that is packed with facts and real historical figures, so that is how I wrote Over the Deep.

In writing No Such Thing as Perfect and Over the Deep I strive to write for children but without condescending to them. I believe in using interesting vocabulary, sharing life’s truths, and giving each reader something to think about while entertaining them with a great story. The main character of Over the Deep is Edwin. He may be only 10 years old, but he undertakes a voyage of epic proportions and meets many exciting people along the way.

The story of the Titanic is a tragedy, and I do not sugarcoat that for my young readers but I do leave them with a message of hope. This novel is appropriate for readers of a 4th or 5th grade reading level and is available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

I firmly believe that there is no such thing as a child who does not enjoy reading, but many give up before finding the right book. By creating my story around that of the Titanic, I hope to captivate a few young readers who may have been tempted to give up searching for books that interest them. In Edwin, I hope that they can see a little bit of themselves.

My next novel, which will be released later this year is biographical fiction featuring Elizabeth of York. As a daughter, sister, niece, wife, and mother of kings, this Plantagenet Princess and Tudor Queen makes an exciting study. I look forward to sharing this with my adult readers.

Samantha Wilcoxson
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About the Author

Samantha Wilcoxson is an American writer and history enthusiast. Her writing style, which has been greatly influenced by the writing of Sharon Kay Penman, weaves together historical facts with fascinating fictional characters and entertaining adventure. Samantha also works as a freelance writer, providing a wide variety of articles and web content to clients across the globe. Living on a small lake in southwest Michigan with three children, two dogs, and two cats, Samantha has plenty of writing inspiration. To find out more connect with Samantha on Goodreads or on Twitter @carpe_librum.

11 March 2015

Guest Post ~ Balo's War, A Historical Novel About the Plan of San Diego by Alfredo E. Cárdenas

Balo's War uses a variety of characters, real and imagined, to tell the story of a people who went from being Spaniard to Mexican to American in a short span of 30 years. They struggled to hold on to their land, their language, their culture, and their history—against insurmountable odds. At times this struggle resorted to violence.

Available at

Writing a historical novel presents many challenges, not the least of which is to get the history right. In my first novel, Balo's War, A Historical Novel About the Plan of San Diego, I had no problem getting the overarching history right from the start. I had been researching this obscure event, on an off, for 30 years. There was plenty of material to draw from as building blocks.
The real challenge for me did not come to light until I started the final edits of the manuscript. It was the little things that needed to be checked and rechecked. Too often we subconsciously slip into our present day way of thinking and we resort to words and idioms that were not in use at the time of the novel.
My novel took place n 1915. It is a novel steeped in political and regional antagonisms. I resorted to phrases such as 'fascism', 'human rights' and others that did not come into use until later on. I had to double check to see if Lone Star Beer was already a product, what were the types of rifles in use, how much did a suit and tie cost, etc.
But the area where I had the most problems was in transportation and travel. I assumed that I could go from Brownsville, Texas to McAllen, Texas̶ a distance of 60 miles̶ in about a day, after all I could do it in less than an hour today. But, wait, I had my characters in a wagon pulled by a mule. Just how fast can a mule go pulling a wagon. Well as it turns out that trip would take about three days. I had characters walking, riding a horse, taking a train. Just how fast can you get to a place by those means of transportation? It was a little daunting trying to make sure the timelines were right, depending on what mode of transportation my characters were using.
Another challenge that I had not anticipated was making sure the age of my characters aligned with events in the novel. If my main character was 10-years-old in 1888, he could not have been 24 in 1915. So how old did that make his brother and sister and his parents. Did all that align as the story unfolded. And then there was the issue of making sure your descriptions of the characters matched throughout the book. In one chapter I had one of my characters with brown hair but towards the end of the book I had her with black hair. My protagonist had black hair in the beginning of the book and later he had auburn hair. One character I had at 6'3” and later at 6'2”.
Getting all these little facts to work was the bigger challenge than getting the history right. That was the easy part.
Early on I sought the opinion of others regarding my writing style. I'm an old newspaper man and have done quite a lot of writing of government reports. I feared I could not write in a literary style. Sure enough, the biggest criticism I got was that my story did not have enough description. I was telling the reader rather than letting the reader discover through the description. Aside from coming from the Joe Friday school of writing̶ “give me the facts, just the facts ma'am,” when I read a book I gloss over the descriptions. I want to know what happened; how did it happen; who said what to whom. I'm a meat and potatoes sort of guy; I don't pay attention to the garnishments.
So my novel is strong on dialogue, history, culture, geography, politics, ethnic relations, etc., but if you are looking for classic literature, Balo's War may not be for you. But if you want a good read, on an important piece of the history of South Texas, then this certainly will be worth your time. But I am out of time and word count, so you will have to buy the book to find out the rest of the story.

Alfredo E. Cárdenas
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About the author

Alfredo E. Cárdenas was born, raised in San Diego, Texas. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. He served as director of community and economic development for Duval County before founding and publishing the Duval County Picture, a weekly newspaper in San Diego. He also served as mayor of San Diego for two terms, from 1992-1999. Find out more at and find Alfredo on Twitter @SoyDeDuval.

10 March 2015

Guest Post ~ The Taking (Tales of Malstria Book 1) by Traci Robison

Amarys of Rensweald wants to live without limits. Three generations have passed since the knight LeMerle carved out his realm but legends of his atrocities during the Norman Conquest have only grown in the years between. When the castle he built becomes her home, Amarys is terrorized by increasingly violent dreams and begins to sense she is changing. Now she must face the monster she has released.

Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK

Inspired by classic gothic literature, The Taking is a young woman’s coming of age story set in 12th century England. It is an old-fashioned gothic tale with a new twist. What happens when the novel’s heroine does not want to be saved?

I began writing The Taking while I was in graduate school, working toward a master’s degree in museum studies. Studying medieval culture, history, and iconography filled my mind with the details that bring the settings and characters to life. Like many traditional gothic novels, The Taking blends an artistic conception of history with uncanny, supernatural qualities and considers difficult moral questions. Purposeful ambiguity allows readers to experience the novel in a unique way based on their personal beliefs and experiences.

The Taking is a novel of secrets. Throughout the book, subtle clues reveal another story behind the central action. Dreams reveal subconscious knowledge. Artwork, colors, scents, and settings work as secret codes. On the surface, The Taking is the story of a girl swept away from home to be caught up in love and danger. What lies beneath is raw, sometimes ugly, and fearlessly honest.

Traci Robison
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About the Author

Traci Robison focused on medieval history and culture while completing her MA in museum studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She works as a writer and archivist, often drawing inspiration from the unique historic documents she encounters. Set in medieval and ancient cultures, her completed novels and ongoing projects blend elements of fantasy, horror, and historical genres. Learn more about her work and find links to historical sources at For the latest updates, follow her blog Jots Beyond the Margin and the Traci Robison author page on Facebook. You'll also find her on Twitter @TraciJRobison.

9 March 2015

Guest Post ~ Idealism is an Attractive Flower, by Oneida Morningstar Cramer

Idealism is an attractive flower, the first published collection of poetry/photography by Oneida Morningstar Cramer, contains 87 individual “photopoems,” which is a term introduced by Cramer to describe the form of her works combining original poetry and photography. 

Available on Amazon

I first had the idea for this project when I was working as a journalist in the ‘90’s, writing articles for People Newspapers in Dallas. I wrote the text of the articles and also took photographs to accompany them. Over time, I became distinctly aware of how the presence of a picture next to an article subtly affected the text, how the nature of the picture changed ever so slightly your perception of the words and of the article as a whole.

I had been writing poetry, and I began to be intrigued by the idea of putting poetry together with pictures, in order to explore this interesting dynamic between word and image. I’ve always loved playing with words, and I’ve written a lot of poetry in a variety of styles. When I first began experimenting with the photopoem technique, I had a hard time finding the right approach. The balance of forces that exists in the photopoem format is fundamentally different than that of conventional poetry

The ideal flower is not here just any flower, is not the perfect flower; it is a flower that is strangely present and actual, and that affects the way you can write about it. My approach to photography has changed as well. I have found a new freedom to take lots of different kinds of pictures, to exercise the versatile power of the photograph to create not just views but spaces, however small, for the voice to reverberate; spaces as varied as the experience of life itself.

Oneida Morningstar Cramer

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About the Author

Oneida Morningstar Cramer was born in Virginia, raised in Maryland, and educated at the University of Maryland, where she earned a doctorate in physiology. A longtime Dallas resident, Cramer has worked as a scientist, homemaker, teacher, journalist, and has held professional and volunteer positions in the field of non-profit arts business. She has been active as a poet and a photographer for many years. This volume is her first published collection of works.

8 March 2015

Book Launch ~ The Simulations, by John Forelli

When Ray Ality arrives for a job interview at Simulations Inc. he's immediately drawn to Delilah, the cute receptionist. Only one problem: she's engaged. Ray soon concocts a plan to win Delilah over, as he and his new, eccentric coworker Bob use the company's software in an attempt to simulate the process of courting her. 

Ray soon discovers that the simulations aren't exactly what he expected, and as he sinks deeper into virtual reality it becomes harder to distinguish real life from the imaginary.

This novel is Office Space meets The Matrix--an existential discourse told among keyboards and cubicles.

New on Amazon US and Amazon UK


  Something Bob said echoes in my mind. In my head I repeat it. 'Reality is what you make it.' If my reality is to be an endless line of reformatting requests, then perhaps I should make some good of it. And so I proceed quickly through the maze of cubicles as the corners of corporate tedium trace my path on either side. I walk past the company’s receptionist in the foyer. She’s not the one I want, and she’s probably too occupied with an episode of The Office anyway.
  Through the door and into the elevator I go, nervously tapping my foot as the floors tick past. 9...8...7...
  What should I say? It’s not like me to be so spontaneous, but Bob’s speech was strangely inspirational. I can feel butterflies beating against the walls of my stomach in time with my heart against my chest. They’re playing a symphony of apprehension in time with the elevator’s metronome. 6...5...4...
  In my mind I go over what I’ll say. ‘Delilah, if we’re both going to be working here, maybe we should get to know each other better. I was wondering if you’d like to get a coffee one day after work?’ In my heart it’s the apex of romance. In my head it’s the apex of anti-climax. 3...2...1.
  The doors open and the lobby is bathed in the natural light utterly lacking upstairs. The rays shine through the windows opposite Delilah’s reception desk. The revolving door refracts the light into a twirling, glowing symphony that lights the desk as though it’s heaven.
  Delilah stands there, and my heart jumps for a split second when I think about how perfectly romantic the moment is.
  Then I see the man standing there facing her, his facial hair coarse and obscene next to her smooth, dimpled cheeks. He stands there like an oaf, hands in his pockets as Delilah reaches over the reception desk to kiss him. She reaches up with her left hand to touch the scruff and that’s when I see it: a diamond ring, glinting in the sunlight and blinding me with jealousy and disappointment.
  The elevator doors close, confining me in blank sterility under sickening artificial light. I was right. The moment was perfectly romantic. It just wasn’t mine.

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About the Author

John Forelli is 24 years old and lives in Philadelphia. He worked a stuffy corporate job out of college before quitting to write this novel. He enjoys drinking with friends at Fado and Tavern on Broad in Philly and boring them with existential ramblings. John's ideal day would be spent eating pizza and watching Game of Thrones down the Jersey Shore. Find out more at his website and find him on Twitter @JOHNFORELLI 

#Writing Contest: Win a Full Manuscript Evaluation by Bestselling Author Barbara Kyle

Bestselling author Barbara Kyle is offering a contest for writers in which the Grand Prize is a full manuscript evaluation: a value of $1200. The contest is open to anyone with a work of fiction or narrative nonfiction. It's free to enter by sending a writing sample of up to 1500 words.

* * * (Entry deadline 30 April 2015 * * *

"And here’s the great thing," says Kyle. "Winners will have up to a year to send me their manuscript. If the work is ready now, that’s fine, they can send it as soon as they get word they’ve won. But if they need more time to complete it, that’s fine too. They have up to a year."

The Grand Prize is Kyle's evaluation of a full manuscript. Second prize is her evaluation of a manuscript’s first 50 pages. Third prize is her evaluation of the first 25 pages.

For further details about the contest and how to enter, see

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Barbara Kyle is the author of the acclaimed Thornleigh Saga series of historical novels ("Riveting Tudor drama" - USA Today) and contemporary thrillers including Beyond Recall (under pen name Stephen Kyle), a Literary Guild Selection. Over 450,000 copies of her books have been sold around the world. Her new novel, The Traitor's Daughter, will be published in June 2015. Through her mentoring, Kyle has launched many writers to published success, including bestselling mystery author Robert Rotenberg, historical novelists Ann Birch, Tom Taylor, and Barbara Wade Rose, award-winner Steven T. Wax, and debut novelist Marissa Campbell.

"Now it's your turn," Kyle tells aspiring writers. "Enter the contest for a chance to win an in-depth analysis of your work - your first step toward success."

For full details about the contest visit and find her on Facebook and Twitter @BKyleAuthor

7 March 2015

Guest Post ~ How I came to write a medieval mystery, by Cassandra Clark

The Dragon of Handale is the fifth novel in Cassandra Clark's acclaimed mystery series set in the 14th century.

Available 17 March 2015 at Amazon UK and Amazon US

How I came to write a medieval mystery series is something of a mystery to me.  Until the idea for Hangman Blind came to me I was a playwright and author of contemporary fiction.  It had never occurred to me to write crime and certainly not to write an historical novel of any kind.  Yet, after a very dark period of my life when both my parents died, things changed.  It was a time when I was beginning to feel I would never smile again, let alone write, but one night I woke myself up, laughing aloud. Lol?

The cause was a dream where a tough and ribald knight called Roger de Hutton, a tall, blond, rangy Saxon called Ulf, and a feisty young woman with no name but clearly a nun, were sitting in Roger’s solar, drinking wine and having a party.  I fumbled for a pen and notebook as writers do in the middle of the night and wrote down the dialogue that had made me chuckle into wakefulness.  Then I went back to sleep.

Next morning I rolled over onto my notebook and discovered a little scene that still made me smile. I could feel my face crack.  The whole story soon followed and Hildegard of Meaux, as I discovered the nun was named, set off on her sleuthing adventures, putting wrongs to right and always getting her man.
Very quickly, and to my astonishment, it turned into a series set in the reign of Richard II.  I started from the year after the Great Revolt of 1381 (misnamed by the Victorians as The Peasants’ Revolt) because I was curious to know what happened to all those thousands of people from all levels of society and every corner of the kingdom who survived the brutal repression set in motion by Richard’s uncles, John of Gaunt and the Duke of Gloucester in particular. Where did they go?  How did they survive outside the law?  They are a constant theme throughout the series because even after Richard’s eventual murder the rebellion continued until it merged into the Wars of the Roses.

I’ve just started book 7, The Scandal of the Skulls, set during the Merciless Parliament of 1388 – which was as merciless as they come, with 21-year old Richard being the victim of his brutish uncle, the duke of Gloucester, who beheaded or otherwise did to death every one of Richard’s allies within the three terrifying months of that dark spring.

I should say I’m now totally fascinated by Richard II’s reign as even a cursory glance at the records - the chronicles with their authors’ time-serving prejudices, uncensored Parliamentary Rolls, city records and so on - show a very different young man to the one Shakespeare portrays.  That period of English history, too, deserves to be better known. It wasn’t the barbaric witch-burning epoch we might imagine. Not until Richard’s regicidal cousin Henry Bolingbroke authorized the first judicial burnings in England were you likely to finish up at the stake.  And then of course, later, the psycho Tudors really got out their tinder boxes.

As a one-time history tutor for the Open University I discovered the importance of first-hand accounts and how to sift them to link up the facts.  Secret histories lie in the archives to be revealed when historians have time to sleuth through the scrolls.  I’m passionate about discovering how people with no real power managed to survive in such extraordinary times.  The pressures they were under and the decisions that meant life or death make a never-ending saga about our ancestors.

But my main characters are fictional.  Although you might be reminded of the story of Abelard and Heloise when you meet the sexy Abbot of Meaux, Hubert de Courcy, being monastics doesn’t stop Hildegard and Hubert from having a red hot passion for each another.  Of course, as good Cistercians, they are bound by their vows…aren’t they?

What I love about writing this series is that I have an excuse to rootle through dusty archives, haunt ancient ruined abbeys and listen to early music -  and call it research.  I’m just so glad I had that dream.

Cassandra Clark
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About the Author

Cassandra Clark has an M.A. from the University of East Anglia and taught for the Open University on the Humanities Foundation course in subjects as diverse as history, philosophy, music and religion. Since then she has written many plays and contemporary romances as well as the libretti for several chamber operas. The Dragon of Handale is published on 17th March 2015. Find out about Cassandra's other books on her website at and follow her on Twitter @nunsleuth

5 March 2015

Blog Tour ~ How to Bake a Chocolate Soufflé, by Carly Ellen Kramer

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Madeleine LaBlange, Annie Anderson, and Audrey Navarro shared formative years as roommates at Chicago’s Catholic haven for women, the historic Abbott College. If only they could have predicted the collisions between their carefully crafted life plans and the realities they discover beyond campus…

Madeleine harbors dreams of becoming a concert pianist while Dr. Reynold Fenwick, her mercurial graduate school mentor, harbors fantasies of Madeleine. Will pursuing her dreams be worth the cost? Will an evening in Budapest change her life forever?

Annie plans to build a perfect family with her perfect husband in the cutthroat news media industry, until an abrupt tragedy shakes the foundations of her marriage. What happens when she feels pulled between the two men she loves most, her husband and her father?

Audrey leaves her religious, restrictive parents behind and aims for Chicago’s downtown skyline, dating recklessly and staring down each grueling workday one Chicago Dog at a time. Will an island respite lure her away from her corporate future? When she finds herself in the arms of an unexpected lover, will she have the courage to stand up for her own evolving sense of self?

Follow the journeys of these remarkable women, and cheer them on as they navigate life, love, and chocolate soufflé.

Includes over a dozen decadent new recipes from Crowded Earth Kitchen!

Carly Ellen Kramer
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About the Author

Carly Ellen is a food traveler and writer who loves incorporating delicious recipes into her stories.  She has a minor obsession with French boulangeries, and is sublimely happy with a fresh baguette and cup of espresso in any European cobblestoned square. Because she can't resist weaving food into her fiction, Carly Ellen has included over a dozen new recipes in her book, How to Bake a Chocolate Soufflé.   For hundreds of fabulous recipes, free book giveaways, author signed books and more, visit Carly Ellen’s food blog at!  Additional free book giveaways and author discussions are available at Carly Ellen's Goodreads page and author website.  Don't miss out on author updates and fun freebies - follow Carly Ellen on Facebook and Twitter!