Mastodon The Writing Desk: May 2016

29 May 2016

Guest Post by Kristin Gleeson ~ The Inspiration Behind The Imp of Eye

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

While the storm clouds of the Wars of the Roses gather in fifteenth century London, Barnabas, a streetwise thirteen year-old orphan, dreams of sailing away to foreign countries. His mistress, Margery Jourdemayne, the Witch of Eye, and his guardian, CanonThomas Southwell, plot to use his clairvoyant talents to further their ambitions. Vain and ambitious Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester, turns to the Witch of Eye to conceive a child to secure her position as the wife of the heir to the throne, but her husband’s enemies are determined to use her actions to bring about his downfall... 

I didn’t set out to write The Imp of Eye. It began its life as a tale my dear friend and writer, Moonyeen Blakey created. Moon had become interested in the story of the witch, Margery Jourdemayne, in the course of her research for a previous book she’d started writing about and she decided she wanted to fashion a story around a young boy, whom she called Barnabas, in Jourdemayne’s household. She discussed the storyline with me several times and I followed its development.   She managed to complete a first draft of it when she fell ill with a second bought of cancer. This time, unfortunately, she was unable to beat it and she died in March 2014.  Before she died, she asked me to take on the novel and do with it what I thought best.

It was a task I took on with mixed feelings because in some ways it felt like treading in her shadow, but I wanted to honour her creation and the effort she put into writing it in order to make it a success for her.  I read through the manuscript and also all the material she’d gathered for her research.

Besides my general knowledge of Medieval history and the 15th century England, I read book on Medieval feasting like, Food & Feast in Medieval England, and also Life in the Middle Ages, Growing Up in Medieval London, as well as books on Medieval women. What was the most fun was using a replica detailed street map of London from the early 16th century.

The most compelling piece I read, however, was a journal article published in Journal of Medieval History by Jessica Freeman entitled, ‘Sorcery at court and manor: Margery Jourdemayne, the witch of Eye next Westminster.’  It told not only Margery’s story, but also the story of Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester. As a historian of women’s history I found her very intriguing as well as Barnabas. Both of them, one fictional and one not, in my view were victims of royal intrigue at court.  What great material for a novel. Though Eleanor was in Moon’s story, I wanted to give her a prominent role, alongside of Barnabas.

As I read more sources I came to the view that Eleanor’s arrest and trial for witchcraft and treason was very significant in more ways than one. Her importance lay not only in the fact she was she a tool for her husband’s enemies to use her to bring down her husband, Henry VI’s heir and uncle, but also that they charged her, a royal duchess and peeress of the realm, with witchcraft and treason. This had never happened before. The fact that the trial proceeded and a judgement was made (though she was able to refute the charge of treason) the way was paved for Henry VIII to levy charges of treason and witchcraft against peers of the realm.
After working through the draft and bringing these two characters to prominence I found that the story had taken me up and along with Moon who seemed to sit on my shoulders as I wrote, it all was directed as a joint effort. When the writing was finishing I found that I couldn’t let Barnabas go. As a fourteen year old his story only seemed to begin.  I found new stories emerging for him and so The Renaissance Sojourner Series was born.  Knowing how much Moon loved Barnabas, I’m certain she would approve.

Kristin Gleeson

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About the Author

Originally from Philadelphia, Kristin Gleeson lives in Ireland, in the West Cork Gaeltacht, where she teaches art classes, plays harp, sings in an Irish choir and runs two book clubs for the village library. She holds a Masters in Library Science and a Ph.D. in history, and for a time was an administrator of a national archives, library and museum in America. She has also worked as a public librarian in America and Ireland. Find out more at Kristin's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @krisgleeson.

28 May 2016

Guest Post by Rachael Ritchey, author of the Chronicles of the Twelve Realms

Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK

The Twelve Realms seem an idyllic nation, yet sinister powers are at work and those who’d forgotten magic existed are learning
it has never been more alive.

Audio version of blog post:

Tony, thanks so much for having me here today.  I’m thrilled to be able to spend a little time giving encouragement and sharing one of the biggest reasons I do what I do. I’m a fairly new writer in the scheme of things, but I plan to be around in the writing world forty years from now and maybe even be a recognized name, at least among certain—hopefully large—circles.

My name is Rachael Ritchey. I sing in the shower. I snore. I dance in my living room just for the heck of it, I cry and laugh at movies. I’m an author, a wife, a mom, a dog-walker (or runner. She’s fast!), a chauffeur, a fabulous laundress, and so many other things I can’t even think of right now. There’s enough in life to keep me busy and push that first one I mentioned, the author part, right out the window. I appreciate every part of my life, but writing is something I’m inspired to do, too.

It’s easy to feel guilty about doing things we enjoy where there are so many other worthy, maybe more pressing priorities to accomplish in a day, but if you love to write I want to encourage you to make time for it. Even though there are twenty-four hours in a day, 168 hours in a week, the time will never present itself without you being purposeful about taking the time. It may only be five minutes here or thirty minutes there, but if you love writing, carve out a time for it. Keep your other priorities, but set aside time to do this thing that you love, too. This is true of any pursuit enjoyed outside the responsibilities of life.

The first full-length novel I wrote, The Beauty Thief, came out of a time where I was taking care of all the necessities of life, but I’d forgotten to do what inspires me, too, and in the midst of it I lost myself. You could say The Beauty Thief is the answer to my own inner struggle. I felt ugly on the inside, selfish, and listless, but in the midst of a prayer cried out to God for a way to banish my self-centered ugliness, this story formed in my mind and stuck in my heart. After a week it was still there and I had to write it. In the midst of this unfolding story my own heart changed. I found, or I was given, this gift of something that spoke deeply to my own heart and mind: writing stories. It was something I’d given up along the path of being a contributing member of society, a wife, and then a mother, which are all worthy pursuits.

I feel a little selfish saying that doing this thing I love, when I love my family and my life so much, is the key to inspiring me to keep plugging along, but at the same time I know that the ones I love benefit from my mind and spirit being freed by also embracing the part of me that is passionate to write.

It may seem like there’s no time in your day, but if you love to write like I do, making that time, setting aside even a short fifteen minutes will be a step to realizing your passion and feeding your soul.

Be inspired today.

Rachael Ritchey

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About The Author

Rachael Ritchey was born and raised in Northern Idaho with a short, seven year stint in Alaska. Inspiration from the picturesque places she grew up has played a huge part in her imagining of the fantasy world she created. . Her enthusiasm for archaic settings of the past stems from her appreciation for true history, which influences us even today. When she's not delving in to the fantastical world of the Twelve Realms, or researching ancient weaponry and the like, Rachael is with her family in the real world on the eastern side of Washington State where there’s plenty of inspiration to dream. You can find out more about Rachael's writing at her website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @RachaelRitchey.

27 May 2016

Book Spotlight: Béla's Letters by Jeff Ingber #HFVBT

02_Béla’s Letters

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

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“Béla’s Letters” is a historical fiction novel spanning eight decades. It revolves around the remarkable life story of Béla Ingber, who was born before the onset of WWI in Munkács, a small city nestled in the Carpathian Mountains.

The book tells of the struggles of Béla and his extended family to comprehend and prepare for the Holocaust, the implausible circumstances that the survivors endure before reuniting in the New World, and the crushing impact on them of their wartime experiences together with the feelings of guilt, hatred, fear, and abandonment that haunt them.

At the core of the novel are the poignant letters and postcards that family members wrote to Béla, undeterred by the feasibility of delivery, which were his lifeline, even decades after the war ended.

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About the Author

03_Jeff IngberJeff Ingber is a financial industry consultant, who previously held senior positions at Citibank, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation. His latest book is "Bela's Letters," a family memoir based on his parents, who were survivors of the Hungarian Holocaust. Jeff also has written a screenplay entitled "The Bank Examiners." He lives with his wife in Jersey City, NJ. For more information visit Jeff Ingber's website. You can also connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Wednesday, May 25
Excerpt at What Is That Book About
Spotlight at The True Book Addict

Friday, May 27
Spotlight at The Writing Desk
Spotlight at Just One More Chapter

Saturday, May 28
Spotlight at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Monday, May 30
Excerpt at Diana's Book Reviews

Friday, June 3
Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book

Monday, June 6
Review at Book Nerd

Tuesday, June 7
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, June 8
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation
Interview at New Horizon Reviews

Thursday, June 9
Guest Post at New Horizon Reviews

Friday, June 10
Review at New Horizon Reviews

Monday, June 13
Review at CelticLady's Reviews
Spotlight at It's a Mad Mad World

Tuesday, June 14
Spotlight at The Mad Reviewer

Thursday, June 16
Review at Nerd in New York

Friday, June 17
Spotlight at So Many Books, So Little Time

Tuesday, June 21
Excerpt & Giveaway at Queen of All She Reads

Wednesday, June 22
Review at Bookish

Thursday, June 23
Spotlight at Beth's Book Nook Blog

Friday, July 1
Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views

Monday, July 4
Blog Tour Wrap Up at Passages to the Past


To win a copy of Béla's Letters please enter using the GLEAM form below.


– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 4th. 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.

Béla's Letters

04_Bela's Letters_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

22 May 2016

Book Review ~ Absolute Truth, For Beginners, by Katarina West

Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK

This impressive second novel from Katarina West is a love story - like no other I've read. Absolute Truth, For Beginners explores the overwhelming depths of one-sided, unconditional love - between a young girl and an older woman. You feel like shouting at our besotted heroine, Elisa, as she descends into a relationship which will surely end in tears.

The enigmatic central figure of Judith Shapiro rules her academic foundation like a queen bee, tended by her drones, with the entire hive dependent on her. Elisa is almost Judith’s opposite in every way, a battered Fiat to Judith’s pristine Maserati. She is on a ‘journey’ – but it’s a roller-coaster ride, with no stopping or turning back once it has begun.

What makes this book stand out is the engaging, confessional honesty of Katerina’s writing, and the way Elisa’s world is filled with flawed characters you will surely recognise. The weak-willed men fare rather badly, although this is more than compensated for by the resilience of the women. I hope Katarina might consider writing a sequel, as I want to know what became of Elisa Mancini. 

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About the Author

Katarina West is the author of Witchcraft Couture, her debut novel. She was born in Helsinki, Finland, into a bilingual family that in addition to humans consisted of dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs, canaries, rabbits and – thanks to her biology teacher mother – stuffed owls and squirrels. She spent time travelling in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and went on to study at Queen Mary and Westfield College in London and the European University Institute in Florence, where she completed a PhD in political science and published a book based on it, Agents of Altruism. During those student years she started work as a journalist, and continued writing for various Finnish magazines and newspapers for over ten years, writing on various topics from current events and humanitarian issues to celebrity interviews and short stories. She also briefly worked as a university lecturer on humanitarian issues in Northern Italy.  Katarina lives in an old farmhouse in Chianti with her husband and son and when not writing, she is fully immersed in Tuscan country life, from jam-making and olive-picking to tractor maintenance.  Find out more at her website and follow Katarina on Facebook and Twitter @WestKatarina

21 May 2016

The Gate of Dawn, a novel of Czarist Lithuania by M J Neary

New on Amazon US and Amazon UK

Welcome to 1880s Vilnius, a volatile Northeastern metropolis where Balts, Germans, Poles, Russians, and Jews compete for a place in the sun. After sustaining fatal burns in a fire instigated by his rivals, textile magnate Hermann Lichtner spends his final days in a shabby infirmary.

In a hasty and bizarre deathbed transaction he gives his fifteen-year-old daughter Renate in marriage to Thaddeus, a widowed Polish farmer who rejects social hierarchy and toils side by side with his peasants. 

Renate’s arrival quickly disrupts the bucolic flow of life and antagonizes every member of the household. During an excursion to the city, Renate rekindles an affair with a young Jewish painter who sells his watercolors outside the Gate of Dawn chapel. While her despairing husband might look the other way, his servants will not stand by and watch while their adored master is humiliated.

Taking us from the cobblestone streets of old Vilnius, swarming with imperial gendarmes, to the misty bogs of rural Lithuania where pagan deities still rule, The Gate of Dawn is a folkloric tale of rivalry, conspiracy, and revenge.

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About the Author

The only child of classical musicians, Marina Julia Neary spent her early years in Eastern Europe and came to the US at the age of thirteen. Her literary career revolves around depicting military and social disasters, from the Charge of the Light Brigade, to the Irish Famine, to the Easter Rising in Dublin, to the nuclear explosion in Chernobyl some thirty miles away from her home town. Notorious for her abrasive personality and politically incorrect views that make her a persona non grata in most polite circles, Her debut thriller "Wynfield's Kingdom" was featured on the cover of the First Edition Magazine in the UK and earned the praise of the Neo-Victorian Studies Journal. You can find out more at Marina's blog  and find her on on Facebook and Twitter @NearyMJ

19 May 2016

Book Launch ~ Ravenspur: Rise of the Tudors (The Wars of the Roses) by Conn Iggulden

NEW on Amazon UK and Amazon US 

England, 1470: A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.

The Yorkist king Edward IV is driven out of England, his wife and children forced to seek sanctuary from the House of Lancaster. Yet rage and humiliation prick Edward back to greatness. He lands at Ravenspur, with a half-drowned army and his brother Richard at his side. Though every hand is against them, though every city gate is shut, they have come home. The brothers York will not go quietly into banishment.
Instead, they choose to attack.
Yet neither Edward nor Richard realize that the true enemy of York has yet to reveal himself. Far away, Henry Tudor has become a man. He is the Red Dragon - 'the man of destiny' who seeks to end the Wars of the Roses. His claim will carry him to Bosworth Field.
There will be silence and the mourning of queens. There will be self-sacrifice and terrible betrayals. Two royal princes will be put to death. There will be an ending -- and a new royal house will stand over them all.

16 May 2016

Visiting the #Tudors at Montacute House

I visited Elizabethan manor Montacute House in Somerset because it was used as a 'stand in' for Greenwich Palace in the recent BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel - and was happy to discover an impressive exhibition of Tudor portraits. 

The fascinating 'Copying Holbein' exhibition at has been developed by the National Trust and the National Portrait Gallery in partnership with the University of Bristol. Bringing together nine sixteenth and early seventeenth-century copies of Hans Holbein the Younger’s portraits of prominent people from the court of Henry VIII, the paintings have undergone technical analysis to uncover how they were created.

Queen Jane Seymour 

Queen Katherine Parr

11 May 2016

An account of the funeral of King Henry VII, 11th May 1509

The body of the King was brought from Richmond and met at St. George's Bar, Southwark, by the Mayor and Aldermen, accompanied by a body of commoners on horseback, appropriately dressed in black. The streets were lined by members of the various "companies" carrying torches, the lower crafts occupying the first place. After the Freemen of the City came the "Strangers," Easterlings, Frenchmen, Spaniards, Venetians, Genoese, Florentines and Lukeneres on horseback and on foot, also carrying torches. In Cornhill the lower crafts were so marshalled that the "most worshipful crafts stood next to St. Paul's.

On the day following the shrouded but uncoffined body of the King was taken from St. Paul's to Westminster. "The lowest craft" was placed nearest to the Cathedral and the "Most Worshipful next to Temple Bar, where the civic escort terminated. The Mayor and Aldermen proceeded to Westminster by water to attend "Masse and offering." The Mayor with his mace in his hand made his offering next after the Lord Chamberlain, those Aldermen who had passed the chain offered next after Knights of the Garter.

Henry rests in a vault beneath his magnificent tomb in the Lady Chapel which was designed in the Renaissance style by Italian sculptor Pietro Torrigiano (famous for having broken Michelangelo's nose during a fight while they trained together as youths.) The black marble tomb base is shared with Henry's wife, Elizabeth of York, and decorated with six copper gilt medallions representing the Virgin Mary and Henry's patron saints. At either end of the tomb are coats of arms supported by cherubs. Seated angels balance on the carved frieze at each corner of the tomb, supporting coats of arms They once held pennants in their hands. 
The grille surrounding the tomb is by Thomas Ducheman. Only six of the thirty two statues in the niches of the grille now remain (Saints George, Edward the Confessor, Bartholomew, James the Great, John the Evangelist and another). The badges of the Welsh dragon and the greyhound of Richmond are also part of its decoration.
The heads of the effigies carried at their respective funerals still survive in the Abbey collection, that of the king being particularly lifelike and probably from a death mask (the bodies of the funeral effigies were damaged by water during the Second World War).
The inscriptions on the tomb have been translated as:
Here lies Henry the Seventh of that name, formerly King of England, son of Edmund, Earl of Richmond. He was created King on August 22 and immediately afterwards, on October 30, he was crowned at Westminster in the year of Our Lord 1485. He died subsequently on April 21 in the 53rd year of his age. He reigned 23 years eight months, less one day.
Around the edge of the tomb is written:
Here is situated Henry VII, the glory of all the kings who lived in his time by reason of his intellect, his riches, and the fame of his exploits, to which were added the gifts of bountiful nature, a distinguished brow, an august face, an heroic stature. Joined to him his sweet wife was very pretty, chaste and fruitful. They were parents happy in their offspring, to whom, land of England, you owe Henry VIII.

HENRY - Book Three of The Tudor Trilogy  is available on Amazon.
Tony Riches

10 May 2016

Book Launch Spotlight: Born to Treason, by E. B. Wheeler @EB_Wheeler

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

I, Joan Pryce, was born to treason. If I did not choose between betraying my country and betraying my conscience, I would betray them both. Just as my father had. 

Joan Pryce is not only a Catholic during the English Reformation—she’s also Welsh, and she comes from a family of proud revolutionaries. But when a small act of defiance entangles her in a deadly conspiracy, a single misstep may lead her straight to the gallows. 

Now, Joan must navigate a twisting path that could cost her life, her freedom, and her chance at love.

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About the Author

E.B. Wheeler grew up in Georgia and California. She attended BYU, majoring in history with an English minor, and earned graduate degrees in history and landscape architecture from Utah State University. She taught and wrote about history and historic preservation before focusing on fiction. THE HAUNTING OF SPRINGETT HALL is her debut novel. She lives in the mountains of Utah with her husband, daughters, various pets, and as many antique roses as she can cram into her yard. If she had spare time, she would spend it playing harp and hammered dulcimer, gardening, hiking, shooting archery, knitting, and reading. Find out more at and follow her on Twitter @EB_Wheeler.

9 May 2016

Annamaria Bazzi's Round Table Chat with Karina S Thomas, Author of One More Chapter

Chatting and discovering new things about our favorite authors is an activity we all enjoy. All we need is a cup of coffee, maybe a cappuccino and tune into the Round Table Chat to discover the latest news about an author. Appearing on the Round Table Chat is Karina Thomas, introducing her latest romance One Last Chapter. 

One More Chapter

To indulge in this latest news, grab your favorite drink and join Annamaria Bazzi on the Round Table Chat:

 You can find author K.S. Thomas at her website and Facebook and follow her on Twitter @friedgatortail 

6 May 2016

Guest Post by Maria Grace ~ The Trouble to Check Her: A Pride and Prejudice Variation

Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK

At my writing desk with Tony Riches

Thanks so much for having me Tony, it’s great to visit with you! You asked me about what inspired me and how I went about writing my latest book. Kind of an interesting story there. The book is the second in a series that I had never intended to be a series to start with. Trouble was, readers insisted they wanted to know what happened to several of the characters after the first story closed and the main characters got their happy ending. (I write sweet romance and happy endings are a prerequisite.) So, being the sucker that I am, I figured I could do a little epilogue that would make people happy and we could all move on with life

Great idea in my head. I published the epilogue on-line and immediately discovered I had three major problems. (1) Everyone, and I really do mean everyone—as it people coming out of the woodwork to let me know—HATED the character I’d written about. She was ignorant, selfish, irritating and troublemaking. BUT (2) They wanted to know more! Really what they wanted was to see her get her comeuppance, but that’s more, right? HOWEVER (3) sweet romance (see above) requires a happy ending.

Now I had a mess on my hands. I wanted to keep my readers happy, but that meant I had to find a way to take a character they loved to hate and make her a character they loved to love and who deserved a happy ending. And since I don’t write fairy tales (but at this point, sure wished I did) I had to figure out a way to do it in a believable fashion.

Oh, did I mention I write historical romances, set in Regency Era England (early 1800’s), so all of this had to be period appropriate to boot. Just shoot me now (with a period appropriate dueling pistol, please.) 

I did have two things working for me at this point though, thankfully. First, I have scores of digitized period references, written in that era, on my hard drive in addition to many thousands of pages of reference material from various articles (all properly cited, mind you) on the same, said hard drive. Somewhere in those bits and bytes there had to be useful information to get me through.

The other asset for this task is a PhD in educational psychology with an emphasis in human growth and development (seriously, it’s on the wall right my desk!) With any luck, that would help me figure out what this troublesome little character needed in order to change, beyond the good swift kick all the readers wanted to give her of course.

Just to make it all more fun, I gave myself a few rules so that I wouldn’t hate the story when it was over. Throughout the whole thing, no one was going to lecture my character about what she needed to do/think/be different and lead to a brilliant ah-ha moment. In fact, there would be no huge (clichéd) ah-ha moments. She’d have little gradual changes, mostly that she didn’t even notice herself at the time. And since none of us is perfect, she couldn’t be either. She’d have to experience the two steps forward, one step back that we all do as we’re muddling through. Finally, she had to keep her core personality, she could not become a completely different/perfect person out of this, she still had to be her.

Definitely made it more fun. (Insert *eyeroll* here) To do all this, I plowed through more references that I really want to mention about: girls’ schools and education, period housework, courtship rules, midwifery and period medical practice, what flowers bloom in that region during what months, and a bit of material, period and modern, on eclampsia during pregnancy and placental abruption.
My brain hurt. A lot.

But out of all of that, Mrs. Drummond’s School for Girls took shape and her students came to life. My troublesome character enrolled and 350 pages later emerged a changed woman. And I emerged a changed writer. I don’t think I’ll ever look at a difficult character the same way again. And my readers have told me neither will they.

Maria Grace

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About the Author

Maria Grace has her PhD in Educational Psychology and is a 16 year veteran of the university classroom where she taught courses in human growth and development, learning, test development and counseling. None of which have anything to do with her undergraduate studies in economics / sociology / managerial studies / behavior sciences. She blogs at Random Bits of Fascination (, mainly about her fascination with Regency era history and its role in her fiction. Her newest novel, The Trouble to Check Her, was released in March, 2016. Both Science Fiction and Fantasy projects are currently in the works. Her books, fiction and non-fiction, are available at all major online booksellers. You can follow can follow Maria on Twitter @writeMariaGrace and friend  her on Facebook.

5 May 2016

Review: Six Tudor Queens: Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen, by Alison Weir

NEW on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen by bestselling historian Alison Weir, author of The Lost Tudor Princess, is the first in a spellbinding six novel series about Henry VIII's Queens. Alison takes you on an engrossing journey at Katherine's side and shows her extraordinary strength of 
character and intelligence.

I must admit a certain empathy for Katherine of Aragon, so I’d been looking forward to this book since I first heard Alison Weir was writing it. Like many, I was failed by my history teachers, who I remember dismissed Katherine’s almost twenty-four year marriage in their haste to get on to the ‘interesting’ bits. That meant it was up to me to learn Katherine’s amazing story of courage, love, loss - and determination.

Alison recently said of Katherine on the Tudor Times website, “As a woman of high principle and integrity, she deserves to be celebrated as one of the greatest and most loved queens of England. In telling her story, I have tried not to make Katherine too much of a saint. She had failings, naturally, and she could take a blinkered approach to crucial issues, but her innate honesty, loyalty, faith and good intentions make her a most sympathetic character.

This comes through from the start, when we join the young Catalina arriving in England, unable to even speak the language yet full of hope and optimism. I like the skilled development of even the minor characters we’ve come to expect of Alison Weir, particularly her harsh Spanish ‘Duenna’, clinging on the old traditions, and Katherine’s maidservants, driven by their own self-interest.

I was unsurprised although a little disappointed to see Henry VII is yet again portrayed as sinister and insensitive, although I appreciate way all the English lack manners and refinement through Katherine’s eyes. Conversely, it’s fun to see Henry VIII as a cheeky boy who can’t believe his luck, slowly turning into the man we expect him to become.

Although I’ve studied the details of Katherine’s life, it is still harrowing and sometimes shocking to share her seemingly endless, often tragic pregnancies, with their awful consequences. I feel I have a new insight into her character and her faith after reading this book, so for that reason am happy to award it a rare five stars. 

Tony Riches

4 May 2016

Guest Post By Derek Alan Siddoway, Founder of Book Review 22

Tied in with discoverability, book reviews are one of the most vexing problems facing authors today. Aside from social proof, reviews also help kick Amazon’s and other online booksellers’ algorithms into gear, essentially helping you sell your book. Reviews are also important for most third party advertisers out there, from Bookbub all the way on down.

For many of us, however, they’re hard to collect. But much like extra lives in Super Mario World, we’ve got have them. Book reviewers/bloggers are an excellent resource and often have a reach far beyond that of a regular review, due to the fact that they’ll often post it to multiple reviews sites and oftentimes a website of their own as well. Ignoring them is a mistake but you’ve got to approach them in a certain way to get results. Here’s how smart authors work with book bloggers to get reviews.

1. Do your homework

The absolute worst thing you can do is take a shotgun approach when contacting reviewers. For one, you’ll probably get ignored if they don’t review your genre and two, reviewers are usually swamped with requests. When you try to get them to review a book you’re not interested in, it clogs up their inbox, wastes their time and contributes to less reviewers all around for everyone.

You don’t want be the author that ruins it for the rest of us. Instead, I suggest finding 3-5 books in your genre that are comparable to your book and then search for reviewers who have read those books. Next, read the bloggers’ reviews of those books (I’ll explain why in a minute).You’re much more likely to get a yes using this method and the reviewers will appreciate that you did their homework. It may seem like it’s taking more time than emailing everyone, but the result you’ll net will be much greater (and you won’t get a reputation for being THAT author).

Also make sure to find a blog’s review policy page and carefully read it. You can go to all the work of finding a great blogger only to ruin your first impression by not letting them know about your book in the way they’ve outlined in their policy. Many sites, for example don’t review indie books at all or only want hard copies. Others way ask for pdfs only, or want your book specifically in .mobi format. DON’T IGNORE THIS STUFF!

2. Prepare your pitch

A pitch is just a fancy way name for the email you’re going to send to the reviewer. You’ll want to keep this short and to the point. In as few sentences as is reasonable, let them know:
  • How you found their site (bloggers like to know where their traffic is coming from).
  • Why you’re contacting them: Make it personal. Don’t say “to review my book.” Instead, let them know your read their reviews of X, Y and Z books and give a short statement about something you liked or agreed with from one of their reviews.
  • You can also leave a comment on their site as well (note: if you do this, DON’T ask them to review your book in their comments sections. That’s spammy and dumb.) Once you’ve covered that, NOW is the time for you to say something like: “I have a book that’s similar to X, Y or Z book you reviewed. I realize you’re a busy person, but I think you would enjoy it and wanted to see if I could send you a free copy in exchange for your honest review.”
  • How they can get your book: Depending on their review policy, sending bloggers a link where they can download your book in the format of their choice is a good way to go. If your book is permafree, sending them the Amazon (or Barnes and Noble, iBooks, etc) page works great. If not, I highly recommend checking out Bookfunnel an awesome service that takes the headache out of side loading your book onto devices. You can also upload your book files on a range of places including Dropbox, your Wordpress site or many others. 
3. Keep tabs

As you start reaching out to reviewers, create a simple Excel sheet or Google sheet to track your progress. Include columns for the reviewer’s name, the name of their blog, their blog URL, their email address and what books similar to yours they’ve reviewed. Once you’ve started reaching out, also include a column for notes. Here you’ll put down every time you contact them. For example: Sent initial email 4/30. Just basic stuff to keep your wires from getting crossed. This also gives you a contact list for the next time you want to outreach so you don’t have to go back and find the blogs all over again.

When you start getting responses, I like to highlight the rows with green, yellow or red cells. Green means they’ve reviewed the book (you’ll want to add a column for review links, too when you get them). Yellow means they’ve got your book and are planning to review it and red means they aren’t interested. Color coding your system makes it easy to tell who you need to follow up with (and also keeps you from bothering someone who’s not interested in reviewing your book at the moment).

4. Don’t be shy about followup.

If you don’t hear back from a reviewer, there’s nothing wrong with following up. I recommend doing this every 5-7 days until you get a response. Although you might assume people are ignoring you, most of the time they’re just busy and will appreciate a reminder. If you’re bugging them, you’ll likely hear about it. Be polite in these responses and, along with including your original pitch, say something like this: “Hey (reviewer name) just wanted to drop a quick line to see if you’d seen my email. Looking forward to hearing from you!”

That being said, know when it’s time to give it a rest. If you send 7-10 emails with no response, it’s best to respect a reviewer’s time and try again in a few months. Following up doesn’t mean being a stalker!

5. Let the pros do it for you

Aside from the above process, there is another option for authors looking to outreach to book bloggers. Let us do it for you!

At Book Review 22 we’ve developed and continue to grow a vibrant rolodex of book reviewers that we work with to help authors get reviews. All you’ve got to do is submit some information about your book and we’ll handle the rest: outreach, pitching and follow-up. This saves you countless hours you could spend writing (something you’d rather be doing) instead of getting reviews (something that needs to be done but takes hours of time). To learn how our process works and to get us started helping you out, visit

Getting reviews doesn’t have to be a pain. Using the above steps, you’ll be working with bloggers who are excited to reads your books and see those stars popping up in no time!

Derek Alan Siddoway
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About the author

Derek Alan Siddoway is the author of the Teutevar Saga, a “medieval western” series combining elements of epic fantasy with the rugged style and folklore of American Westerns (read: John Wayne meets Game of Thrones). His journey as a storyteller began over a decade ago with a particularly thrilling foray into Pokémon fan-fiction. Ten years later, Out of Exile, his debut novel, and the first book in the Teutevar Saga, was published. An Everyday, Undaunted Author, Derek spends his time reading, obsessively filling notebooks, adventuring outdoors and celebrating small victories. You can find out more at Derek's website and follow him on Twitter @D_Sidd.

3 May 2016

Spotlight on Red Roses, by Amy Licence

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

The Wars of the Roses were not just fought by men on the battlefield. Behind the scenes, there were daughters, wives, mistresses, mothers and queens whose lives and influences helped shape the most dramatic of English conflicts.

This book traces the story of women on the Lancastrian side, from the children borne by Blanche, wife of John of Gaunt, through the turbulent fifteenth century to the advent of Margaret Beaufort's son in 1509, and establishment of the Tudor dynasty. From the secret liaisons of Katherine Swynford and Catherine of Valois to the love lives of Mary de Bohun and Jacquetta of Luxembourg, to the Queenship of Joan of Navarre and Margaret of Anjoy, this book explores their experiences as women. 

What bound them to their cause? What real influence did they wield? Faced with the dangers of treason and capture, defamation and childbirth, read how these extraordinary women survived in extraordinary times.

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About the Author

Amy Licence is an historian of women's lives in the medieval and early modern period, from Queens to commoners. Her particular interest lies in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century, in gender relations, Queenship and identity, rites of passage, pilgrimage, female orthodoxy and rebellion, superstition, magic, fertility and childbirth. She is also a fan of Modernism and Post-Impressionism, particularly Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group, Picasso and Cubism. Amy has written for The Guardian, the BBC Website, The English Review, The London Magazine, The Times Literary Supplement and is a regular contributor to the New Statesman and The Huffington Post. She is frequently interviewed for BBC radio and made her TV debut in 2013, in a BBC documentary on The White Queen. You can follow Amy on twitter @PrufrocksPeach or like her facebook page In Bed With the Tudors. Her website is