Mastodon The Writing Desk: October 2015

31 October 2015

Halloween Guest Post by Ann Victoria Roberts, Author of Moon Rising

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Who was Bram Stoker – and why did he write Dracula? Through the words of Damaris Sterne, daughter of an old seafaring family, we meet a man escaping from the pressures of his life in London. As the two become involved in a passionate but dangerous affair, he is introduced to the wild sea, the wrecks, and Whitby’s local legends – while she is shown glimpses of the wider world beyond. 

Evocative and mysterious, Moon Rising opens out to become not only the gripping story of a tragic love-affair, but a revealing commentary on the genesis of an immortal classic.

Moon Rising, Bram Stoker and Dracula

In Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula, the vampire count’s arrival in Whitby is one of the novel’s most dramatic episodes. The ferocious storm, the wreck of the Russian ship, the great hound leaping ashore, is so vivid it seems like something that really happened.

Shipwrecks abound along that coast, but the one described in the book is curious. Stoker’s Demeter, of Varna, appears to have been taken directly from an actual wreck which occurred during a violent storm in October 1885 – the Dmitry of Narva.

The name leapt out at me from a book of photographs by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe. His picture of a Russian ship, wrecked below the east cliff, led me to an account of the day’s events in the Whitby Gazette. Comparing that with Stoker’s description of how his Russian ship came into the harbour, suddenly I could picture him watching as the drama unfolded.

With that, my vague ideas for the novel that was to become Moon Rising suddenly had focus. I re-read Dracula and began researching in earnest. Whitby’s 19th century remoteness, its dramatic location with church, graveyard and ruined abbey standing atop the cliffs, made it popular with Stoker and the London literati – while local folk tales had clearly provided the author with a stock of material. Certainly, the great spectral hound – the Barghest – said to haunt both the town and moors, was utilised in Dracula to great effect.

Born and raised in Dublin, Bram Stoker trained as a barrister, and in his 25 years as business manager to the Shakespearean actor, Sir Henry Irving, Stoker combined the attributes of lawyer, accountant, secretary and playwright. In his spare moments – largely on holiday – Stoker wrote novels, most of which have slipped into obscurity.

The exception, of course, is Dracula, which everyone knows but few people have read. Nowadays we tend to regard it as a Gothic novel – yet Stoker was at pains to anchor it as a ‘modern’ work, set clearly in the 1890s. The story unfolds through a collection of papers: diary entries, letters and newspaper accounts, like snapshots capturing the movements of a nightmare being.

Stoker doesn’t spell it out – he heightens the suspense by suggestion, leaving the reader to assume the worst. Dracula’s activities in Whitby are conveyed by mere glimpses – the bat, the gleaming red eyes of a figure seen close by – enough for us to suspect that this is the Count at work. All very unsettling.

By contrast, later, sexually suggestive scenes are dwelt upon – some shockingly erotic. But while the modern reader is able to spot references that Stoker’s original readers may have missed, Dracula the novel is far more than a tale of sexual aberration. Like an early James Bond, it concerns the abuse of power – and it plays on Victorian fears of invasion, of the occult, of sex. Most of all perhaps, fear of powerful, dominant male figures.

Vampire legends aside, who could have inspired the central character? My choice is Henry Irving, Stoker’s friend and employer. Irving fits the description like a glove: aquiline features and autocratic manner; his passion for sitting up talking all night after a performance; and most of all, his ability on stage to transform himself into another being. As Stoker once reported, ‘his eyes were like cinders glowing red…’

It’s impossible not to see the Count’s blood-sucking activities as a metaphor for the actor’s ability to feed off other people’s creativity. Famous, powerful, Irving demanded, and got, everything from the people around him. He could not have succeeded without Stoker’s wide-ranging talents. In the end, Irving sucked Stoker dry – and then dropped him.  

Irving, hypnotic, powerful; Stoker his star-struck acolyte, working literally all hours to further the great man’s career; his wife cold and resentful – the rush of possibilities fired my imagination.

As it happened, I was living in Whitby for several weeks of a long, hot summer, walking the town and cliffs, learning the place as well as its history – all of which became a haunting background for my novel. But with Bram Stoker in the foreground, and Irving lurking in his background, what might have been a Victorian romance became a Gothic tale of passion and possession.

In Moon Rising, Stoker has reached breaking point, escaping to Whitby before his life in London tips him over the edge. Young Damaris Sterne, rebellious daughter of an old seafaring family, is working as a fisherlass and posing as a photographer’s model. As she attracts his attention, thus begins a dangerous affair which changes the course of both their lives.

Sensual, sunlit afternoons become moonlit nights with disturbing encounters. Damaris soon discovers that everything has a cost; and, on meeting Irving, that her rival is not the one she imagined…
Relating the tale from a distance of twenty years, Damaris tells how Stoker went on to write his most famous novel, while she pursued her own ambitions, battling memory and consequence along the way. But only as chance throws them together again does she begin to understand the truth, discovering the disastrous effect Dracula had on Stoker, Irving and the whole theatrical company…
As though,’ Stoker says, ‘in writing about evil I had given it life…’

Ann Victoria Roberts
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About the Author

Ann Victoria Roberts’ first historical novel, Louisa Elliott was translated into seven languages and shortlisted in 1989 for the prestigious RNA Award. Now an independent author, she is still writing and publishing her out-of-print work for new readers. Moon Rising, her fourth novel, is now available as an ebook. Her fifth novel, The Master’s Tale, based on the life of Capt Smith of the ‘Titanic’, explores themes of time and coincidence. Born in York, Ann is married to a Master Mariner, and now lives in Southampton. Find our more at Anne's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @Ann_V_Roberts.

30 October 2015

Historical Fiction Spotlight ~ Aurelia (Roma Nova, #4) by Alison Morton #HFVBT


Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK

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Late 1960s Roma Nova, the last Roman colony that has survived into the 21st century. Aurelia Mitela is alone – her partner gone, her child sickly and her mother dead. Forced in her mid-twenties to give up her beloved career as a Praetorian officer, she is struggling to manage an extended family tribe, businesses and senatorial political life. But her country needs her unique skills. Somebody is smuggling silver – Roma Nova’s lifeblood – on an industrial scale. Sent to Berlin to investigate, she encounters the mysterious and attractive Miklós, a suspected smuggler, and Caius Tellus, a Roma Novan she has despised, and feared, since childhood. Aurelia suspects that the silver smuggling hides a deeper conspiracy and follows a lead into the Berlin criminal underworld. Barely escaping a trap set by a gang boss intent on terminating her, she realises that her old enemy is at the heart of all her troubles and pursues him back home to Roma Nova...


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About the Author

03_Alison Morton_AuthorEven before she pulled on her first set of combats, Alison Morton was fascinated by the idea of women soldiers. Brought up by a feminist mother and an ex-military father, it never occurred to her that women couldn’t serve their country in the armed forces. Everybody in her family had done time in uniform and in theatre – regular and reserve Army, RAF, WRNS, WRAF – all over the globe. So busy in her day job, Alison joined the Territorial Army in a special communications regiment and left as a captain, having done all sorts of interesting and exciting things no civilian would ever know or see. Or that she can talk about, even now… But something else fuels her writing… Fascinated by the mosaics at Ampurias (Spain), at their creation by the complex, power and value-driven Roman civilisation started her wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by strong women… Now, she lives in France and writes Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with tough heroines:

INCEPTIO, the first in the Roma Nova series

– shortlisted for the 2013 International Rubery Book Award – B.R.A.G. Medallion – finalist in 2014 Writing Magazine Self-Published Book of the Year

PERFIDITAS, second in series

– B.R.A.G. Medallion – finalist in 2014 Writing Magazine Self-Published Book of the Year

SUCCESSIO, third in series

– Historical Novel Society’s indie Editor’s Choice for Autumn 2014 – B.R.A.G. Medallion – Editor’s choice, The Bookseller’s inaugural Indie Preview, December 2014

Fact file

Education: BA French, German & Economics, MA History Memberships: International Thriller Writers, Historical Novel Society, Alliance of Independent Authors, Society of Authors Represented by Annette Crossland of A for Authors Literary Agency for subsidiary and foreign rights.



Monday, October 19 Spotlight at Unshelfish Tuesday, October 20 Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews Thursday, October 22 Interview at Back Porchervations Friday, October 23 Spotlight at Teatime and Books Tuesday, October 27 Review at History From a Woman's Perspective Wednesday, October 28 Spotlight at Broken Teepee Friday, October 30 Spotlight at The Writing Desk Friday, November 13 Spotlight at Passages to the Past


To win a signed paperback of Aurelia by Alison Morton please enter the giveaway via the GLEAM form below. Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on November 13th. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open internationally. – Only one entry per household. – All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion – Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen. Aurelia
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Book Launch Guest Post ~ At Water's Edge (Water Rushes Book 1) by S. McPherson

S. McPherson

New on Amazon US and Amazon UK

The tale of two lovers trapped in two different worlds. One world is Earth, and the other is Coldivor; a dimension full of magic and danger. When Dezaray Storm is mistaken for the most powerful sorceress of this other realm her life changes forever. She finds love in the arms of Milo Thor, but this love can also lead to her death and the destruction of seven empires. ‘At Water’s Edge’ is book one in the ‘Water Rushes’ series.

To live in a land of magic has always been a dream of mine. The idea of being immersed in a world where anything goes and where all of my wildest imaginings are possible makes my heart race and my skin tingle. I become the very essence of excitement. When I was younger people liked to call me mad. ‘Head in the clouds that one.’ They’d say. But I’d just smile and shake my head. They don’t believe in magic.

For a land where anything goes is not far from here. It exists in the pages of every book. No matter the genre, whenever I read, my mind created something wonderful. Images of things that didn’t exist.

It constructed faces that would never be seen, voices that would never be heard. Every page I turned sparked the self-proclaimed seventh sense: Imagination.

The magic on Earth was only enhanced by the many days and nights I spent watching and reading classic Disney Fairy tales. There is no possible way for me to know just how much time I spent falling in love with love, I just know that I did. I was drawn into the infamous Cinderella story that showed that even in the darkest times, love can be your guiding light. 

I was entranced by one of my all-time favourites; Beauty & the Beast who’s message of finding love where you least expect it and the ability to see past someone’s outer shell and truly get to know their inner beauty was inspiring.  In both these tales and many others like it – Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty; the list is endless – love conquered all, even obstacles that seemed too great to ever overcome. It did not slip my attention that a bit of magic was involved in each either. I believe Peter Pan said it best when he said, ‘All you need is faith, trust and a little bit of pixie dust’

As I grew, my reading material switched from fairy tales to full-length manuscripts and like so many before me, I studied Shakespeare in high school. Naturally this involved the world-renowned phenomena ‘Romeo and Juliet’. 

That’s where I discovered another side to love. The side that absorbs you so completely (like all love) but instead of bringing you up, giving you the strength to overcome any and all challenges, it drags you down; making you lose yourself and exist for only one purpose: your love. Shakespeare showed me the pain of love; the price of magic. He showed me that sometimes they do not all live happily ever after, instead tragedy befalls all those love touches; friends, family, soulmates.

It was a culmination of all of the above that inspired me to write. I wanted to create the land of magic I craved on Earth. I wanted to put my tales in the pages of a book and travel to my far-off realms. As I said: to live in a land of magic has always been a dream of mine and so ‘At Water’s Edge’ was born, for to me there is not a thing more magical than imagination, love, tragedy and magic combined.

S. McPherson
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About the Author

S. McPerson
S. McPherson is a young British expat living in Dubai and working as a Foundation Stage 1 (FS1) teacher. When she was younger S. McPherson travelled a lot with her family, though, no matter how often her surroundings changed, one thing never did. And this was her love of writing and dreaming up the impossible. After combining her two loves of teaching children and writing, S. McPherson self-published her first book; a rhyming verse children’s story titled ‘Shania Streep wanted to Sleep’. Thus fuelling her love of seeing her work in print and sharing her stories. This is S. McPherson's first novel. Find out more at her website: and find her on Facebook and Twitter @SMcphersonBooks.

Follow the 'At Water's Edge' by S. McPherson Tour:

Teddy Rose Book Reviews Oct 5 Tour Kick off & Giveaway Through Eyes Of A Book Goddess Oct 6 Review, Excerpt & Giveaway Sunshine Book Promotions Oct 7 Excerpt, Interview, & Giveaway Cassandra M's Place Oct 9 Review & Giveaway Infinite House of Books Oct 12 Interview Tome Tender Oct 13 Review & Giveaway Binding Addiction Oct 15 Excerpt Father, Writer, Logistical Wizard Oct 19 Review Bookishly Me Oct 20 Review & Interview Buffy's Ramblings Oct 21 Review & Excerpt Rockin' Book Reviews Oct 22 Review & Excerpt Pomegranate Radio Oct 23 Review Books, Authors, Blogs Oct 26 Review What U Talking Bout Willis? Oct 27 Guest post & Excerpt Books, Books, & More Books Oct 29 Review The Writing Desk Oct 30 Guest Post Little Read Riding Hood Nov 2 Review, Excerpt  & Giveaway Happy Tails and Tales Nov 4 Review & Giveaway I Can Has Books? Nov 10 Review Deal Sharing Aunt Nov 11 Review Avenue Books Nov 12 Interview Ashley's Bookshelf Nov 18 Review Alpha Book Club Nov 23 Spotlight Teatime and Books Nov 24 Interview A Room Without Books is Empty Nov 25 Review Self-Taught Cook Nov 27 Excerpt Universal Creativity Inc. Nov 30  Interview

  S. McPherson  

28 October 2015

Pieces Like Pottery: Stories of Loss and Redemption, by Dan Buri

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

The first collection of short fiction from Dan Buri, Pieces Like Pottery is an exploration of heartbreak and redemption that announces the arrival of a new American author. In this distinct selection of stories marked by struggle and compassion, Pieces Like Pottery is a powerful examination of the sorrows of life, the strength of character, the steadfast of courage, and the resiliency of love requisite to find redemption.

Filled with graceful insight into the human condition, each linked story presents a tale of loss and love. In Expect Dragons, James Hinri learns that his old high school teacher is dying. Wanting to tell Mr. Smith one last time how much his teaching impacted him, James drives across the country revisiting past encounters with his father's rejection and the pain of his youth. Disillusioned and losing hope, little did James know that Mr. Smith had one final lesson for him.

In The Gravesite, Lisa and Mike's marriage hangs in the balance after the disappearance of their only son while backpacking in Thailand. Mike thinks the authorities are right—that Chris fell to his death in a hiking accident—but Lisa has her doubts. Her son was too strong to die this young, and no one can explain to her why new posts continue to appear on her son's blog.

Twenty-Two looks in on the lives of a dock worker suffering from the guilt of a life not lived and a bartender making the best of each day, even though he can see clearly how his life should have been different. The two find their worlds collide when a past tragedy shockingly connects them.

A collection of nine stories, each exquisitely written and charged with merciful insight into the trials of life, Pieces Like Pottery reminds us of the sorrows we all encounter in life and the kindness we receive, often from the unlikeliest of places.
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About the Author

Dan Buri is an active attorney in the Pacific Northwest and has been recognized by Intellectual Asset Magazine as one of the World’s Top 300 Intellectual Property Strategists every year since 2010. He lives in Oregon with his wife and two-year-old daughter.  Dan’s first collection of short fiction, Pieces Like Pottery, is an exploration of heartbreak and redemption that announces the arrival of a new American author. His non-fiction works have been distributed online and in print, including publications in Pundit Press, Tree, Summit Avenue Review, American Discovery, and TC Huddle. You can find Dan on Goodreads.

27 October 2015

Book Review ~ Writing Habit Mastery - How to Write 2,000 Words a Day, by S.J. Scott

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Even though I'm now writing my tenth book I'm still interested in ways to improve my productivity, so was attracted to this book by its title. There are, of course, some familiar ideas here – but also a few I’d not come across before, including one which worked for me right away.

I recognised several bad habits I've developed over the years. I'm sure I'm not alone by being so diverted by my research I forget what I was looking for in the first place! I also realised how much interruptions can slow down your writing - and will try some of the suggestions for avoiding them.  

As we approach National Novel Writing Month there are plenty of writers out there who don’t need reminding that two thousand words a day is where you need to be to have any chance of hitting the magical fifty thousand in November.  

I like S. J. Scott’s writing style – and there are plenty of links to explore for further information. I am happy to recommend this book to any writers, as it can really help you develop good writing habits.

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About the Author 

In his books, S.J. provides daily action plans for every area of your life: health, fitness, work and personal relationships. Unlike other personal development guides, his content focuses on taking action. So instead of reading over-hyped strategies that rarely work in the real-world, you'll get information that can be immediately implemented. When not writing, S.J. likes to read, exercise and explore the different parts of the world. Find out more at his website and find him on Twitter @habitsguy.

26 October 2015

Guest Post ~ A Kind of Mad Courage: Short Stories About Mothers, (S)mothers & Others

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Nineteen authors from around the world were given six weeks or less to produce “a story involving a mother somehow.” The result is a gorgeously eclectic collection of tales that will make you laugh, cry, and truly appreciate the “mad courage” of motherhood. 

Early in 2014, I saw a call for submissions to an anthology of short stories on the theme of motherhood. By chance I’d been working on something that I thought might fit, but I was fairly new to short story writing, so I ummed and ahhed as to whether I should submit it.

As I read further I discovered that the anthology would be raising money for the Guthy-Jackson Charitable Foundation. They fund research into an autoimmune disease (NMO), looking for methods of prevention, treatment programmes and a potential cure (

I loved the idea of my writing contributing to such a good cause, but feared my story might not be good enough. The umming and ahhing continued. What was the worst that could happen? My story could be rejected, and I’d learn to cope with a bruised ego.

On reading the call for submissions again, I discovered that Francine LaSala (, the wonderful person organising the anthology, had lost her mother to an autoimmune disease and was putting the book together in her memory.

Feeling a strong wish to be part of something so personal, so heartfelt, I sent off my story.

A short while later, there was much dancing round the living room when an email arrived telling me that my story had been accepted. When I saw the calibre of the other authors involved, I felt proud and humbled to know that my little story was going to sit alongside those of authors who had already published a number of books. Many that I’d read and enjoyed.

I was in awe of how Francine, with the help of her editorial “partner in crime”, Samantha Stroh Bailey (, efficiently organised the editing and proofreading stages, gathered together blurbs, biographies and photos, and set up a website for the book ( Along with its super cover, the anthology was first published in April 2014 as an ebook and paperback. The result is a wonderfully eclectic collection of stories about motherhood. Some will make you laugh, others will make you cry.

Nineteen authors from different continents came together for this wonderful project. It was a privilege to be one of them. A Kind of Mad Courage is still available, raising money for its worthy cause, and can be purchased on Amazon.

Wendy Janes
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About the Author

Wendy Janes spends her time running her freelance proofreading business, writing novels and short stories, and volunteering for the National Autistic Society’s Education Rights Service. She has recently published her first solo novel, What Jennifer Knows. You can connect with Wendy online and discover more about her writing via Twitter, her Facebook author page, and Amazon author pages (UK/US).

24 October 2015

The Mystery of a Queen, Two Bishops and a Secret Tudor Wedding

One of the big questions I had to answer in my latest novel OWEN (Book One of the Tudor Trilogy), was did Owen Tudor, a Welsh servant, really marry Catherine of Valois, Dowager Queen of England?  

Historians have so far failed to track down any irrefutable evidence of Owen’s marriage to the young widow of King Henry V, so I had to do some real historical detective work.

To set the scene, it is useful to know that King Henry VI is a minor, so the Regency of England is shared between two great political rivals, Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, younger brother of the late king, and Cardinal Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester.

It is documented that Owen and Catherine's first son, Edmund Tudor, was born in 1430 at Much Hadam in Hertfordshire – and is sometimes referred to as ‘Edmund of Hadam.’ Much Hadham was best known for the Bishop's Palace, the country home of the Bishops of London. In 1430 it was the residence of Bishop William Grey, a close friend of Queen Catherine’s trusted spiritual advisor Philip Morgan, Bishop of Ely.

I have Owen say in the book:
    ‘Bishop Philip Morgan of Ely is a Welshman, wealthy enough not to need Cardinal Beaufort’s support—and influential enough not to worry about upsetting Duke Humphrey. I could ask Catherine to write to him, requesting his help.’
Bishop Morgan agrees to meet in secret with Queen Catherine and Owen. He enjoys taking about his past as Rector of Aberedowy in Wales with Owen and agrees to officiate at their secret wedding, saying:
    ‘I will ask my good friend William Grey, the Bishop of London, to act as our second witness. It may be helpful if the validity of the marriage is ever challenged. You must understand that it is consummation which truly seals a legally binding marriage. Let us imagine you were to have another child, soon after you are married.’
    He pauses to allow us to think about what he is saying. ‘There would be little point in their challenging that, would there?’ There is a twinkle in his eye when he sees our reaction.
    Catherine brightens as she understands his point. ‘Any children of my marriage will be members of the royal family.’
The bishop continues:
    ‘You will find William Grey is both discreet and sympathetic. He has little time for Cardinal Beaufort’s politics or the way he conducts himself as Bishop of Winchester. William may even agree that you can stay at his palace until all this blows over. He lives in London now and his country residence would be the perfect place to escape the attention of those in Westminster.’
    Catherine is interested. ‘Where is his country palace, Bishop?’
    ‘It’s a manor house in a village called Much Hadam, in Hertfordshire.’ He gives me a knowing look. ‘Out of sight is out of mind, Tudor, remember that. They will have their hands full with this coronation in France and will be too busy to go searching for the mother of the king.’ 
Their second son, Jasper Tudor (subject of the second book in the Tudor Trilogy) was not born at the Much Hadham but instead at the Bishop of Ely's manor at Hatfield in Hertfordshire nearby in 1431. After trawling through all the possible reasons for the move I discovered Bishop Grey was replaced at this time by Robert Fitzhugh as Bishop of London by Cardinal Henry Beaufort.

Owen Tudor is understandably concerned and raises the question at a supper with Bishop Morgan:
    ‘You said that Bishop Grey’s tenure is coming to an end?’
    The bishop finishes his mouthful of ham before replying. ‘Robert Fitzhugh is to become the new Bishop of London. I knew his father, Baron Fitzhugh. A good man, I worked with him on the Treaty of Troyes.’
    Catherine remembers him. ‘I travelled with Baron Fitzhugh from France. He helped escort the late king’s body back to Westminster Abbey—and now he too is dead.’
    ‘Does this mean that we need to move from here, if Bishop Grey’s tenure is ending?’ I have mixed feelings at the thought, as I am comfortable at Much Hadham and it is where my son was born.
    The bishop lays down his knife and looks at us both. ‘That depends. Robert Fitzhugh’s appointment is supported by Cardinal Henry Beaufort.’
    ‘So we cannot rely on him to keep silent?’
    Bishop Morgan shrugs his shoulders. ‘All I am saying is... we can’t be certain. William Grey is a trusted friend, while Robert Fitzhugh is young and ambitious.’
    Catherine looks around the great hall which has become their home. ‘I don’t want to be too far from Windsor. Now we have taken Sir Richard into our confidence it should be easier to visit Harry.’
    Bishop Morgan drains his goblet of mead. ‘I am to join the king in France for his coronation visit—and expect it could be some time before I am able to return, so you are welcome to stay at the manor of the Bishops of Ely in Hatfield. My house is not as grand as this,’ he waves at the high ceiling self-deprecatingly, ‘although it has the advantage that no one will expect to find you there.’
So there you have it – two of the leading Bishops of England, both known to be opposed to Cardinal Beaufort’s politics and loyal to the young King Henry VI, allowing Owen and Catherine to live in their palaces.  I find it impossible to believe they would have been happy for this to happen out of wedlock, or that they were not party to a secret marriage.

Owen and Catherine’s grandson was, of course, Henry Tudor, King Henry VII (subject of book three of the Tudor Trilogy) and I have never found any evidence of his legitimacy being challenged.

Tony Riches

23 October 2015

Historical Fiction Spotlight ~ Wars of the Roses: Bloodline: Book 3, by Conn Iggulden @Conn_Iggulden

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Winter 1461:  Richard Duke of York is dead, his ambitions in ruins, his head spiked on the walls of the city. King Henry VI is still held prisoner. His Lancastrian Queen rides south with an army of victorious northerners, accompanied by painted warriors from the Scottish Highlands. With the death of York, Margaret and her army seem unstoppable. Yet in killing the father, Margaret has unleashed the sons.
Edward of March, now Duke of York, proclaims himself England's rightful king. Factions form and tear apart as snow falls. Through blood and treason, through broken men and vengeful women, brother shall confront brother, king shall face king.
Two men can always claim a crown. 
Only one can keep it.

Praise for Conn Iggulden's Wars of the Roses series:

'Pacey and juicy, and packed with action' Sunday Times

'Energetic, competent stuff; Iggulden knows his material and his audience' Independent

'A novel that seamlessly combines narrative, historical credence and great knowledge of the period' Daily Express

22 October 2015

Guest Post ~ the inspiration behind Roman Mask, by Thomas M. D. Brooke

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Rome AD 9: Augustus Caesar rules Imperial Rome at the height of its power, as the Roman Empire stretches across the known world. Cassius, son of one of her most powerful families, is the personification of Rome's imperial strength: wealthy, popular, a war hero with a decorated military career - none of Rome's fashionable parties are complete without him - except, he hides a secret.

Turning a negative into a positive – the inspiration behind writing Roman Mask

It was an October night, and I was returning home from a night out with a few friends in my local pub in London, when something happened that changed my life dramatically.  The nights were closing in, so it was already dark by the time I left the pub, but I was in a good mood.   I’d recently returned from a trip to Pompeii , so I’d been telling everyone of my excitement at walking through the Roman streets, marvelling at the murals and depictions on the well preserved houses, and laughing about the seedier aspects of the ancient city – the brothels and street graffiti that had also survived the great volcanic eruption of AD 79.
It was probably because I was so preoccupied with these thoughts, that I didn’t see the guy who came out of an alcove and wrapped an arm around my neck.  My first thought was, ‘Am I being mugged?  Who’s going to mug me??’ – I’m a big guy, over six foot tall and I keep myself in pretty good shape, so I’d always thought the chance of this happening in London were pretty remote.  But I was wrong. When the second guy came out from behind a car, then the third from behind a bush I knew I was in trouble.  This was no ordinary street robbery; these guys were out for blood, and the three of them surrounded me and between them punched, kicked, and smashed me to the ground, beating me to an inch of my life.
Afterwards, as I tried to hobble home – one of them had crushed my foot, to prevent me from getting up – another passer-by saw me covered in blood and called an ambulance.  I was lucky, I got to live another day.  And within a few weeks, my bruises healed, and I began to walk without a limp, all physical signs of my encounter disappeared.  But that was just the start of my nightmare.
I was completely unprepared for the mental-trauma that such an incident inflicts on you.  That winter was torture for me.  After any night out, I was terrified to go home; I found I was scared of the dark, constantly thinking that people would jump out of the shadows at me.  I’d never previously been a heavy drinker, but over that winter I found I needed to drink a lot just to give me the courage to walk home.  I could have called a taxi, but then people would wonder why I was taking a cab for such a small journey – this became another all-encompassing fear:  that others would find out about my terror. This might seem irrational, but at the time, that fear was almost as great as being mugged again.
Those first six months were very difficult, but then as the nights started getting lighter, an idea came to me.  After visiting Pompeii I’d been searching for a character to be a lead in a novel set in ancient Rome – someone who fully embraced the entirety of Rome, its seedier aspects as much as its magnificence.  Why not put my experiences to good use, rather than having it a weight bearing me down, let it be something that produces something positive. 
At the time, the news on the television was full of stories of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress and it made me think how soldiers dealt with such issues in the ancient world.  My experiences had shown me the power that traumatic events can play on the mind, and I quite simply didn’t believe anyone who claimed that in the ancient world such a thing was not a concern because life was different back then.   The human mind was biologically exactly the same then as it is now, and just as fallible to conditions we now diagnose and understand the importance of.
So I came up with the character Cassius, a great soldier, but someone who’d been affected by a terrible battle a few years before in the forests of Germany.   I knew from my own experiences how easy it was to fall into a trap of blaming yourself for your own perceived weakness, and I knew how living a lie to hide that same weakness became a part of life.
I then started my novel in Rome so I could show Cassius being seduced by the many vices of that city – something that is all too easy to do under such circumstances.  I then returned Cassius to the forests of Germany where he learns to understand and come to terms with his fears, just as I did whilst writing my novel.
I’m now pleased that fateful night in October happened.  It was a terrible experience, but it gave me something so much more – I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Thomas M. D. Brooke
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About the Author

Thomas M. D. Brooke lives in London where he works in the exciting, and sometimes crazy, fashion world.  He is also a committed writer and he spends as much time as he can in his beloved Northumbrian hills, where up until recently could be seen walking with his black Labrador Fergus, who sadly passed in January 2015.  Fergus was a constant companion to the writing of the novel and prevented many writers’ tantrums. Roman Mask is Thomas Brooke’s second novel, although this will be the first available for sale. As well as writing novels, he also writes a blog on both historical and fantasy genre novels.  For more information please visit and you can follow Thomas on Twitter

20 October 2015

Historical Fiction Spotlight ~ Almost a Millennium, by Jeanbill

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Almost a Millennium is an eclectic novel about the unlikely connection between an English monk and an American physician that lived nearly 1,000 years apart, one of today and one in the medieval period. It begins at their birth, traveling through time to their adulthood.

Using cryptography, Paul, a monk at Llanthony Abbey in Wales, writes a four-page document about his life and a harsh critique of the crusades. He places his writings in safekeeping in the hope that it will survive the crusades and eventually land in the hands of someone who can decipher his secrets. When Fred unexpectedly comes across Paul’s book and ciphers Paul’s cryptic message, he has no idea that four pages of millennial history will challenge him to rethink Christianity.

Almost a Millennium by Jeanbill is a deeply compelling historical fiction novel. Although a work of fiction, the story is a depiction of England's history and the power dynamics at the time. It is a richly detailed story and many times I found myself forgetting that I was reading a work of fiction as the historical events described felt very authentic. The setting of the story and the character development were simply amazing as we dived into Paul and Fred's compelling background stories. Paul and Fred were two people so different and yet so alike. The pace of the story was set from the beginning and this held true to the very last page. Jeanbill used a unique and very captivating style in developing this story.” - Reviewed by Faridah Nassozi for Readers’ Favorite.

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About the Author:

Jeanbill has been associated with medicine for more than 50 years, practicing as a general practitioner. He studied many hours in the medieval library of University of Notre Dame, researched and wrote over a period of 20 years in his spare time. His debut novel Almost a Millennium was published in January 2015. Jeanbill resides in Lynden, WA. Married to his other half for 57 years until cancer separated them, he has four children and 14 grandchildren. Readers can connect with him on Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter @AuthorJeanbill.

18 October 2015

Historical Fiction Spotlight ~ The Remorseless Queen, by Susan Appleyard

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Margaret of Anjou was Queen of England during the period known as the War of the Roses. As a fifteen year-old bride she had many difficulties to face. 

She brought no dowry to her adopted land, which was still at war with her native land. Not least of all, her husband was reluctant to come to her bed. 

With a weak and ineffective king on the throne, rival parties tilted for power. When the struggle escalated into war, Margaret realized she had no choice but to suppress the feminine side of her nature in order to protect her feeble-minded husband and helpless son.

Leading her party, dictating policy, dealing with foreign princes, she became, in fact, king in all but name.

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About the Author

Susan was born in England, which is where she learned to love English history, and now lives in Canada in the summer. In winter she and her husband flee the cold for their second home in Mexico. Susan divides her time between writing and her hobby, oil painting. Writing will always be her first love. You can find more information about Susan's books on her blog and follow her on Twitter @susan_appleyard.

17 October 2015

Book Review ~ Meditations in Wonderland, by Anna Patrick

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

A twenty-four-year-old interior designer living in New York finds herself down a rabbit hole that is far different from the one she remembers from her favourite childhood story. Guided by clues in Wonderland, Elizabeth comes face to face with her inner light and darkness, and, discovers that Alice's secret might be what she has been searching for all along.

This innovative debut novel from Anna Patrick lulls the reader into thinking they know how it will develop, before descending into the depths of Anna's vivid imagination. Dark and often surreal, I found myself drawn into the half-familiar world of Wonderland. 

A journey of self-discovery for the lead character Elizabeth, I liked the parallels with the original Alice in Wonderland and was intrigued to discover a page on Wikipedia which lists such a wealth of re-tellings, adaptations and even computer games one could be forgiven for thinking it has all been done before.

Anna Patrick has shown there is still plenty of mileage in the original story to inspire new works which bring fresh and contemporary perspectives to this timeless classic:  
As she held the letter in her wet palms she could feel the beating of her heart inside her chest. It hummed along with the sound of a distant clock, both emitting a beat like a war drum—a harsh reminder of her seclusion and that Alice was getting farther and farther away. She tore at the letter’s seams and extracted the folded paper inside, which read:
So, you want to see my world? Look around you. Honestly, did you really think that you were going to come and do a little sightseeing? There are no maps down here, but I’ll tell you what one would look like if such a thing existed. What you see around you is the white, tender underbelly of the subconscious. This is where all of the skeletons, ghosts, and demons hidden in your closet and up your sleeve come to tuck themselves in at night. And don’t think for a second that they’ll be easy to spot, because everyone wears a mask here. And you do, too, gorgeous, even if you don’t think so. I’m not the one who looks in the mirror and then quickly looks away.
In an author's note at the end if the book, Anna says, "As Carroll reminds us: 'Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.'”

I wonder what Lewis Carroll would say if he knew that quote (from the Cheshire Cat) was now popular as a tattoo, sold on T-shirts and is continuing to inspire new writers such as Anna Patrick?

(I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review.)

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About the Author
Anna Patrick  was born and raised in Northern Virginia, and after living in three other cities during her college and post-grad years (New York City, Boston and London) she now lives in the suburbs of Washington D.C. Graduating from Boston College with a degree in communications, she also had the first draft of the manuscript that would become her first novel, Meditations In Wonderland. She is also the creator of a popular Tumblr under the same title. Now a full-time book publicist, Patrick lives in Northern Virginia with her boyfriend and their French bulldog. For more on Anna and the book, visit You can also find Anna on Twitter @loveannapatrick.

16 October 2015

Guest Post ~ Kickstarter Campaign for A New Look at Old Words, by Catherine Thrush

When I first came across a reprint of a book written in 1860 by John Camden Hotten called A Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant and Vulgar Words. I thought to myself, oh my God! This is exactly what I need!  At the time, I was writing my first historical fiction pirate novel set in the early 1700s and I was looking for colourful and authentic language to salt the dialogue of my pirate crew.

The book was perfect. Not only was it about history, it was history. I ordered it on the spot and waited impatiently for it to arrive. When it did finally appear, I read the introduction and the entire -A- section with excited interest.

However, when I sat down to write with the book next to me, a problem arose. To use a dictionary, one must know the word one wants to look up. I knew the definition, not the word. For example, I wanted a colourful name for a black eye. The only way to find what I wanted would be to read the entire book.

Undaunted, I embarked upon a nine month project to categorize all the words so I could find them quickly and easily when and if I should need them. That was a number of years ago. Recently it occurred to me that this might be a useful resource for other writers and fun for any lexicographers, linguists, or lovers of old words. So after some spit and polish, here it is.

This is not a book of the namby-pamby, hoity-toity words one would expect to hear in the London drawing-rooms of the 1600s through 1800s. This is the street slang, the flash patter of seamen, street-sellers, Gypsies and thieves. As Carl Sandburg once said, "Slang is a language that rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands and goes to work."

A few of my favourite words to give you the flavour:

DIMBER DAMBER: very pretty; a clever rogue who excels his fellows; chief of a gang. Old cant in the latter sense. English Rogue.

KILKENNY CAT: a popular simile for a voracious or desperate animal or person, from the story of the two cats in that county, who are said to have fought and bitten each other until a small portion of the tail of one of them alone remained.

LITTLE SNAKES-MAN: a little thief, who is generally passed through a small aperture to open any door to let in the rest of the gang.

SUCK THE MONKEY: to rob a cask of liquor by inserting a straw through a gimlet hole, and sucking a portion of the contents.

KISS-ME-QUICK: the name given to the very small bonnets worn by females since 1850.


The organization process was subjective to say the least. I had to make a lot of decisions on what should be included where. I aimed for being inclusive rather than exclusive, in the hopes of making finding the perfect word as easy and as natural as possible. I also wanted to avoid being stuffy or formal, while still being informative and useful. I think the original coiners of these words would appreciate that. These words are a lark, I hope I've made learning about them fun as well.

Of course, being an author and an artist, I couldn't resist adding a few paragraphs of commentary and an illustration for each chapter.

While this book started out as a convenience to improve my work as a writer, it turned into a labour of love. Over the course of organizing this book I've come to adore these words. Some are lyrical, a few are frightening, many are funny, and all of them give us a glimpse into life – both the good aspects and the bad – in the 1600 and 1800s. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Catherine Thrush

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About the Author

Catherine Thrush is a San Jose, California based writer and illustrator. Her book, A New Look at Old Words is now on Kickstarter.  Her as-yet-unpublished historical fiction novel/screenplay Lady Blade has won numerous awards including 1st in Category from The Chaucer Awards, and the Emerging Talent Award from the Monterey County Film Commission. To learn more follow her blog and find Catherine on Facebook and Twitter