Mastodon The Writing Desk: November 2016

23 November 2016

Cover Reveal ~ Lost in Time, by Alyssa Richards.

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Searching for the answers she needs,
will Addie lose everything she has?

Adeline “Addie” Montgomery is searching for the truth. As she and Blake travel back to 1920, she expects her nemesis Otto is behind a string of art forgeries. The only problem is that the villain has completely disappeared. Addie must now find Otto without blowing her cover to keep the past intact, as long as a lover from a past life
doesn’t get in the way…

Blake Greenwood wants nothing more than to catch Otto and return to the present with Addie, the love of his life. When his mother goes missing as well, he leaves Addie alone with his half-brother to save his family. As the future begins to change in unexpected ways, Blake and Addie begin to question everything. Can they find Otto and save their relationship before what they had disappears for good?

Lost In Time is the third book in an absorbing series of paranormal romance time travel novels. If you like museum capers, psychic powers, and romance that’s both steamy and sweet, then you’ll love Alyssa Richard’s thrilling conclusion to the Fine Art of Deception Series.

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About the Author

Alyssa Richards is the Amazon best selling author of The Fine Art of Deception series and upcoming The Haunting of Alcott Manor series - a contemporary gothic trilogy due out in 2017. She loves living in the South with her husband and two children. She also loves good espresso, her rescue dogs, magnolias and gardenias, and, of course, reading a great book. She grew up running barefoot in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, where her favorite weekly adventure was a trip to the library with her mom.  Find out more at: and follow Alyssa on Facebook and Twitter @1AlyssaRichards.

18 November 2016

Guest Post by Eli Kale, Author of Needless: Book Four in the "Faces of the War" Collection

Available for Pre-order on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Benjamin, a youthful man working at the U.S. Consulate-General in Barcelona, finds himself in a world of danger, vengeance, and intrigue in the early autumn of 1942. His position as cultural attaché will prove to be merely a stepping stone in his European post. Only time will reveal what perilous stepping stones await him, as well as what consequences will arise from his decisions. But will those consequences prove to be too much for him?

What inspires me to write? How do I approach my writing? These question, among many others, have been asked by many people over the past three years since I began writing historical fiction. The genesis of my writing, at least my published writing, began in college when I enrolled in an Introduction to Fiction course. For an assignment, I had to create a short story from scratch and implement various components that were discussed up to that point in the course (theme, tone, characterization, and so on). Due to my growing passion for history, especially of the Second World War, I decided to do a little research and set my story during that time period. It turned out to be a ‘great story’ in the words of my professor. Long story short, that short story got my gears turning about taking writing more seriously.

That was in the spring of 2011. Almost six years later, I find myself on the cusp of self-publishing my fourth book in three years, all the while couching it in my passion for history. Being that I’m a high school history teacher by day, I’m able to be more enveloped by the content in which I write than if I wrote, say, steampunk novels. I quickly found that historical fiction is my niche and I’ve stuck to it. When it comes to history, I am of the belief that we can learn something from it. Sure, that sounds cliché and overused, but it is indeed true. And it’s not just the study of history that can teach, but also the manipulation of it. By intertwining creativity with historical fact, an author can oftentimes subtly and easily teach a reader about life, the world, history…without the reader even picking up on it. And for me, gearing my storytelling toward that end is exhilarating.

I admittedly can sometimes get carried away by the romanticism of such familiar historical events like D-Day or Stalingrad or Pearl Harbor or the activities of resistance movements or the secretive acts of the OSS, but it’s in those moments that I usually find a starting point for my ideas. In the context of my upcoming book Needless, I approached the writing in a way that allowed me to learn as I wrote. I knew a fair amount of information, at least basic information, on the subject, but reading into it more led me to want to develop a story that would exist in the same vein as the previous three in the Collection, but would also stand alone in its own right. I went out on a limb at times in the storytelling, while at other times I played it safe. I tried things I hadn’t done before in the name of creativity and adventure. And over the course of about three months, I cranked out over 46,000 words.

Writing can sometimes be hard, but I think that’s what keeps it interesting – trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t, how I should or shouldn’t develop a plotline, when I should write in the climax or throw in a twist. It’s definitely a craft, and one that is always being refined. Writing two books the exact same way is a sign that I’m not growing as a writer. In my work, I strive to tell stories that evoke emotion and realities of the time period in which they’re set, and to do so in a creative and appealing manner. Given that I don’t write full time, I have to pick my moments to write. Maybe one day, though, I’ll get to a point in life where I can write every day.

Eli Kale
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About the Author  

Eli Kale is an author, educator, and traveller. “Needless” is the fourth book in his collection entitled “Faces of the War,” where the Second World War is seen through the perspectives of different people. In addition to his WWII historical fiction, Eli writes short stories for one of his ongoing projects, “The Short Story Collection.” Eli graduated from the University of Mount Union with a history degree and a teaching license. He lives in Ohio with his wife, Sarah, and their pets, Nika and Zazu. Find out more at his website and find him on Twitter @Eli_Kale

16 November 2016

Blog Tour and Giveaway ~ Cesare Borgia in a Nutshell, by Samantha Morris

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

On 24th June 1502, the Florentine politician and diplomat Niccolo Machiavelli came face to face with Cesare Borgia. Borgia's name had long been known to Machiavelli and indeed the Florentine people – he was the son of Pope Alexander VI and an exceptional military tactician, whilst stories of his macabre and evil doings (many of them brought on by nothing more than rumours whispered by his enemies) had been heard throughout Italy for years. 

"It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both"
-Niccolo Machiavelli

It had always been a wish of mine to sit down and write a book – even as a child, I would forever be writing stories. But as I grew, completed my education and left University, even though I wanted so very badly to sit down and write a non-fiction book, I believed wholeheartedly that I wasn't good enough. After all, how could I write something that would compare to the great historians whose books graced my shelves? I'm no David Starkey, Suzannah Lipscomb or Dan Jones.

It was when I was at university studying archaeology that I first discovered the Italian Renaissance. I'd been poking around the library looking for books to help me with one essay or another and inadvertently found myself in the Renaissance section. I was instantly drawn to a book that would become my bible when it comes to Cesare Borgia – Sarah Bradford's biography of the man himself.

After reading it (admittedly whilst I should have been reading for one of my archaeology modules), I found myself sucked into the world of the Italian Renaissance and particularly the Borgia family. I'd fallen in love with the corruption of the Church at the time, fallen in love with the murderous young man who had once been a cardinal. An obsession was born, and I often wondered whether or not me writing something on the period, on the Borgia family, would be worth it.

Even after I graduated University and ended up working for the local archaeology unit, my love of the Renaissance stuck and I knew that was what I wanted to concentrate on. I even got myself tattooed with Cesare Borgia's motto. The Renaissance, and the Borgia family, in particular, became what I now consider to be my life's work – I wanted to share my knowledge of the era, and what better way to do it than write a book?

A few years back now, not long after I first started The Borgia Bull, I contacted a gentleman by the name of Hasan Niyazi who ran a fantastic Renaissance blog by the name of Three Pipe Problem. The two of us became friends and would often chat about the myths that surrounded the Borgia family and the best ways to show people that those myths were entirely wrong.

We would call ourselves ‘myth busters', which became something of a little in-joke between us. It was after one of these conversations with Hasan that I decided I would finally try and write the book I had been wanting to write for so long. I would try and write a book that would tell Cesare Borgia's story in a way that would dispel some of the awful myths surrounding his life, that would be accessible reading to both academics who didn't want a massive tome to wade through and the general public. Truthfully, without Hasan, Cesare Borgia In A Nutshell would never have been written.

A few months after starting to write, I put the book down. Life caught up with me and the book was forgotten about. When I heard the sad news that Hasan had passed away, I knew I had to finish the book. Yet it still took me longer than expected to actually pick up the writing again – with only weekends and evenings to be able to write, I was often far too tired to actually do anything. That and there was still the niggling doubt in the back of my mind that anything I wrote would be the worst thing ever.

When I eventually did pick things up again, I found that the words began to flow in a way that they hadn't since I'd written my BA Dissertation on the 1644 Battle of Cheriton. In my break from writing, I had spent my spare time reading books on the Borgia family and watching documentaries on them – I even expanded my horizons and dipped into Medieval and Tudor history.

It was when I re-read Suzannah Lipscomb's works on Henry VIII and began to read Dan Jones' work on the War of the Roses, I realised that I could do it. Whilst I still believe that I will never be in the same vein as them, I look up to the fact that they have been able to make something of themselves in the history world through hard work – they are of the younger generation of historians who have proven that you don't have to be old and dressed in tweed to make something of yourself in the field of history.

The moment I finished the final sentence of Cesare Borgia In A Nutshell, I won't lie here – I was proud of myself. After thinking for so long that I'd never be able to write a non-fiction book, I'd done it. And I couldn't have done it without Hasan's myth busting and our talks, I couldn't have done it without those top historians whose work inspired me.

More so, I couldn't have done it without the encouragement of my publishers, MadeGlobal. The writing of my first book has been a journey and a half, sometimes difficult and full of self-doubt. But it's a journey that I completed with the help of some amazing people, and for that, I owe them all the gratitude in the world.

Samantha Morris
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About the Author

Samantha Morris studied archaeology at the University of Winchester where her interest in the history of the Italian Renaissance began. Since graduating University, her interest in the Borgia family has grown to such an extent that she is always looking for new information on the subject as well as fighting against the age-old rumours that haunt them. Samantha describes herself as an accountant by day, historian and author by night. Her first published book is Cesare Borgia in a Nutshell, a brief biography which aims to dispel the myths surrounding a key member of the Borgia family. She runs the popular Borgia website https: // and you can find Samantha on Facebook and Twitter @TheBorgiaBuIl.

Want to win a copy of Cesare Borgia in a Nutshell? To enter the prize draw, simply leave a comment below this post saying what historical figure you’d like to see included in Samantha's 'History in a Nutshell' series. Leave your comment by midnight on Saturday 26th November 2016. One winner will be chosen at random and contacted for their details.

12 November 2016

Guest Post ~ Inspiration for writing The Merchant's Pearl, by Amie O’Brien

 * * * The Merchant's Pearl Saga Book 1 * * *
Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

The opinionated, only daughter of a missionary, is enslaved and gifted to an Ottoman prince who has an inner vow to win her affection. Sarai was led to believe that the whole world could exchange their beliefs for hers. But when her parents are murdered, she quickly learns that the world never stops for just one person

It’s probably common sense as a writer to write what you know. I mean, it makes for a better explanation when you tell others you’re writing a fat novel about it. I tried that once, maybe a decade ago. I told no one, of course, but got about 3 chapters in and immediately became aware that my high school years weren’t very riveting. My writing wasn’t very riveting either, more like…literary stumbling. I promptly hid my work in a basement storage bin. (I’ll be pretty embarrassed if we ever clean that dungeon and my husband finds it.)

But still, there has always been this need (perhaps stirring is a better word) where I walk out of a perfect movie like Becoming Jane, Pride & Prejudice, or even The Hunger Games and I am literally burning with envy. I want another heroine to believe in, to keep me glued to my seat or turning pages at a stoplight. Sure, it’s great if she’s beautiful, but what I really want is someone who struggles with the same confusion, same angst and identity issues, same pinned up aggression for society telling them things around them are acceptable—or not acceptable—that their heart tells them good and plenty otherwise.

I love, love, love Jane Eyre. It just doesn’t get better. But the truth is, the story stopped there. I can’t get any more of that beautiful, taunting, sweet, Victorian, bitter pill. But as I was standing in the shower one morning it occurred to me, there are things—deep things—that still utterly confuse me. They have my entire life. They’ve been in my childhood, carved their way into my marriage, sent me to my knees at times, wondering if I must change myself and my mind in order to make it, to be sensible. And why…why is it so impossible for me—not everyone else apparently—but for ME to do that?

So that morning I wasted a whole lot of hot water thinking about it. Thinking about why love must seemingly always share a road with lust. Why a daddy’s little girl can open Christmas presents in his lap, see the tears of joy at her mother unwrapping a too-costly diamond ring, yet hours later see him slip into a quiet corner of a closet, showing off his prized pile of Hustler magazines to her favorite uncle. Why the church can’t seem to protect men’s minds from choosing to stay a little behind at the office to see things they know they shouldn’t see. Why the news is filled with shocking reports of men and women, once very good men and women, caught taking girls and boys barely at their puberty, as if the experience is some kind of pinnacle of sexual experiences.

I cannot fathom the countless women and children trapped behind closed doors forced to be bend to others’ wills, again and again and again. It’s heartbreaking. It is, without a doubt, my worst nightmare.

If you knew me, really knew me, you would know that I am actually quite fond of sex. I am not fearful nor disenchanted by it by any means. I am not a prude. I wish I could say that I waited until marriage and saved myself for my husband, but in all actuality, I gave myself away to a couple of guys in high school. Then I torturously survived eighteen months of dating my husband in college, holding out by a single thread until marriage. (By the way, they were the BEST months EVER.)

But there is an ample amount of jealousy and insecurity that runs through my blood. Enough that little things like a man comically pointing out Hooter’s as a date night dining option can instantly put a fat chip on my shoulder. Seeing a sitcom portray that perfect, loving girlfriend who rents porn for her man is a surefire way to set my thumb to channel surfing. But the hardest part is when my stomach sinks when I’m sitting in church and yet another pastor teaches the story of Esther. Seriously, did they teach them in seminary to portray her like a Disney princess story?

Esther was not a pageant queen. She was a slave, taken from her home, trained as a royal concubine for King Xerxes. She was a teenager as she learned all of her lessons within the palace and painfully took her turn with Xerxes, then waited for him to sleep with a different girl every night for almost three years before he finally chose her as the best of them. Then he made her queen and the Bible says he continued to take on more concubines. We know this because she went as much as six months at a time without seeing him for her turn again.

Esther, aside from Jesus’s mother, Mary, is probably one of the most famous females of the Bible. She was eventually able to save tens, if not hundreds of thousands of her people because she had won Xerxes favor. It’s where the phrase “born for such a time as this” appears in the Bible. Ultimately, Esther was born to be a king’s sex slave. So…it’s pretty darn safe to say that this confuses and vexes me too. (Sorry God.)

Long story short, this is why I wrote The Merchant’s Pearl. It’s why the story flowed out of me like an unstoppable fountain. I drew not from what I knew, but what I could not understand. I can’t understand my world, and I definitely couldn’t understand Esther’s.

I made it my character’s conflict. I knew the exact injustices and insecurities I would wrap around Leila, and I placed her in a time and place in history where it was impossible for her to run or even so much as veer from it. Then…I made her experience the confusion of love in the midst of it.

That last part was cruel, I know, and completely unplanned. It sort of happened like a whisper in my ear. I was driving, not showering, but I instantly knew it made for quite a story.

I can’t say that I finished this story and felt completely whole again and all of my fears have fallen away. But somehow, writing it, even researching it, has healed me. I found a purpose to my feelings. Having Leila confront the things, head on, that I wrestle with, has helped me find not only security in myself, but also compassion for others.

Amie O’Brien

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About the Author

This is the first novel from Amie O’Brien, but she would tell you her characters are constantly nagging her for their future instalments. Madly in love with her husband and children, she hopes to spend more time petting horses, reading books, and pursuing her addiction with world travel. Find ut more at and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter @merchantspearl.

11 November 2016

Historical Fiction Blog Tour & Giveaway ~ The Devil’s Chalice, by Derek Wilson

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

In the steaming summer of 1549 two men languish in the Tower of London. William West is accused of attempted murder. Robert Allen is under investigation for dabbling in the Black Arts. Meanwhile, England is in the grip of rebellions against the boy king, Edward VI. The connections between these facts remains a mystery.

The great 19th C historian, Lord Macaulay, said that two qualities are necessary for good history writing – reason and imagination. Reason is obviously necessary to ensure thorough and intelligent research. But historiography is not the bare recital of dry, authenticated facts. The writer has to ‘enter into’ those facts in order to help the reader grasp their implications for the characters he is describing.

This, I guess, is obvious to all history lovers. I know that I was switched on to the subject as a teenager by reading gripping works of narrative history such as C.V. Wedgwood’s The Thirty Years War. But Macaulay then went on to say that the same requirements hold true for good historical fiction. The novelist may legitimately give his/her imagination freer rein BUT the responsibility still exists to get the factual framework right. Anything less is fantasy fiction, not historical fiction.

Most of my writing career has been devoted to ‘straight' history but in recent years I have turned my attention increasingly to fiction. This is partly for the pleasure I derive from storytelling but also because I hope to engage the reader's imagination so that he/she will both ‘know' and ‘feel' what it was like to be living in a different age. Currently, I am involved in a series of stories set in the mid-Tudor era – and, boy, was that era different from ours!

One major contrast between the 16th and 21st centuries was, as Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch has said, ‘We don’t do God; they did God all the time’. Until we grasp that, we haven’t a snowball’s chance of getting inside the heads of our ancestors of 500 years ago. That means that, as well as telling the reader what my characters ate and wore and what their houses looked like, I have to indicate, to the best of my ability, what they believed; what their attitudes were towards, not just religion, but sex, children, social hierarchy, crime and punishment, etc., etc., etc.

Some authors had their imagination fired in the schoolroom by such sagas as ‘Henry VIII and his six wives'. Fine, it's an emotive story and not without its importance in the great scheme of things but how many romantic novels have been written about Catherine, Anne, Jane, Anne, Catherine and Catherine? Answer: too many! Most of them are fairy tales for grown-ups, all about heroines and heroes and villains living out their convoluted love lives against a background of banquets, royal bedchambers and horse riding in the park. It's fantasy. It's escapism.

OK, let’s not get too po-faced about this. What I write is also escapist. But the escape I offer is not away from drab 21stC reality into a glittering world of 16thC high society. I take my readers (or I aspire to take them) into the everyday world of ordinary people, as far removed from romance, as your life and mine are removed from the lives of Hollywood stars and TV celebs. I hope to engage history lovers in a world which, though invented by the author, yet feels authentic because the author has done his research.

The kind of critique that gives me most satisfaction is: ‘He has an ability to translate Tudor England, accurately detailed, onto the page and bring it to recognisable and sometimes quite spectacular life … his hero is just an ordinary, if privileged, young man and it is this sheer humanity which makes the book so outstanding’ (Crime Review 30.1.2016)

That gratifying assessment was of The Traitor’s Mark, the second in my series of mid-Tudor crime novels (I could say more about the sub-genre of ‘historical crime’ but that will have to wait for another time). The central character of this ongoing series if Thomas Treviot, a London goldsmith. I chose him because his position enables him to walk the ‘mean streets’ of the capital, while also having professional contacts with members of the royal court and the political class.

Each story takes its origin from a real unsolved crime or mysterious event. Thus, in November 1536, London merchant, Robert Packington really was assassinated with a handgun (the first recorded such crime in England) and no-one was ever brought to book for it. Thomas Treviot, Packington’s friend, tries to unmask the murderer and what follows takes the reader into the world of political intrigue, religious conflict and illicit Bible-smuggling. That, in a nutshell, is the plot of The First Horseman.

The Traitor’s Mark explores the mystery of whatever happened to Hans Holbein. The royal portrait painter simply disappeared from the record in the autumn of 1543. The ‘explanation’ that the artist died of plague only emerged sixty years later. What if there was another reason for his abrupt exit – a more sinister reason? Treviot becomes involved because Holbein is overdue in producing some jewellery designs for the goldsmith’s workshop and when he sends an associate to find him the poor man is set upon by murderous thugs and then finds himself on the run from an officious constable for a related crime. Of course, Treviot has to go to his friend’s aid, doesn’t he?

In The Devil’s Chalice we enter the world of Tudor magic – a world very real to all classes of society. The jumping-off point for this yarn was the records of the Tower of London for 1549, recording the incarceration of William West, suspected of trying to murder his uncle, Lord De la Ware, and also of Robert Allen, a dabbler in black magic. Could there be a connection between these two prisoners?

That is what Archbishop Cranmer, one of Thomas's most important clients, employs the goldsmith to find out. Soon the reader is drawn, not only into the world of arcane activity but also of civil rebellion, for a mob of malcontents, led by Robert Kett, have seized Norwich and may be about to advance on the capital. It was a pleasant challenge to try to recreate the widespread panic felt by thousands of people at this time of very real crisis.

I hope this brief essay indicates some of the ways I try to respond to Macaulay’s formula of bringing reason and imagination to bear in writing historical fiction.

Derek Wilson
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About the Author

Derek Wilson has been writing historical fiction and non-fiction since the mid 1970s and is the author of 70+ books, as well as work for radio and television and innumerable newspaper and magazine articles. After graduating from Cambridge in History and Theology, he spent some years teaching and travelling abroad before settling to a freelance writing career. He specialises in the Reformation but his large output includes studies of the Rothschild family, the Plantagenets, Peter the Great, Charlemagne and the history of circumnavigation. He lives in Devon and is the patriarch of a family of three children and six grandchildren. Find out more at Derek's website and find him on Twitter @DerekAlanWilson 

The Devil's Chalice Giveaway

Want to win a copy of The Devil’s Chalice? To enter the prize draw, simply leave a comment below this post saying what historical event/time you’d like to use as a setting for a novel. Leave your comment by midnight on Saturday 26th November 2016. One lucky winner will be chosen at random and contacted for their details.

7 November 2016

Book Launch Guest Post by Barbara Kyle ~ Page-Turner: Your Path to Writing a Novel That Publishers Want and Readers Buy

New on Amazon US and Amazon UK

 "Brings alive almost every tough issue a writer of fiction must confront . . . friendly and fun to read."— Albert Zuckerman, founder of Writers House literary agency

The following is an excerpt from Page-Turner.

by Barbara Kyle

I once heard an interview with bestselling author John LeCarré in which he spoke about the necessity of conflict in a novel. He said, “The cat sat on the mat—that's not a story. But, the cat sat on the dog’s mat—that's the beginning of a story."
  All stories spring from conflict. A character who has no problems, no obstacles to overcome, is a boring character, and they are living in a non-story. So, as a writer, you want to make choices about plot that highlight the conflict between your story’s protagonist and antagonist. These counterbalanced characters are at the heart of all compelling fiction.
  Science fiction author Nancy Kress puts the concept succinctly: "Fiction is about stuff that's screwed up."

Emotional Bonds

Why do we, as readers, love to see characters thrown into crisis, forced to grapple with problems. I don't think it's because we're sadists. Rather, it's because we want to experience the emotional bond with a character who faces a dilemma. We get that intense feeling: What would I do in that situation? It’s one of the reasons we read stories.
  Yet new writers often shy away from depicting their characters’ conflict. This only undermines the power of their stories. Instead, I advise you to embrace all the richness that conflict gifts you as a writer.
My Mantra

When I'm planning a book, scene by scene, I focus on what the characters do to try to get what they want and how the results of their actions increase the conflict. I do this so constantly, it's become a kind of comic mantra: "What could possibly go wrong?" I slyly mutter.
  But I’m dead serious. And I recommend that you ask yourself the same question, very soberly, about every step of the story you're developing: "What could possibly go wrong?" Then, make that happen.
Remember, nothing moves forward in a story except through conflict.


Even more important, conflict under pressure is the only way that characters truly reveal themselves.
Here’s a guiding principle: The compelling novel is built on situations that put increasing pressures on characters, forcing them to face more and more difficult challenges, so that they must make increasingly risky choices, leading them to take actions that eventually reveal their true natures.

Three Tips about Conflict

Tip #1. Conflict does not mean combat.

Don’t be intimidated by the word conflict. Conflict isn't about fighting. It just means “problems.” What problems does your protagonist—your main character—face in trying to achieve his or her goal?

Tip #2. Escalate the conflict gradually.

To be believable, characters in a story, just like people in real life, will naturally start by taking the most conservative action to get what they want. If they don’t—if they instantly leap into taking extreme action—they’ll come across as unrealistic, maybe even a little crazy, and you’ll lose your reader.
  Therefore, the long middle section of your book will be composed of a series of events that spring from conflict that escalates gradually. That is, events force the main character to make choices in an ever-escalating succession of risks to try to achieve their desire.

Tip #3. Your protagonist can be in conflict on three possible levels.

1. Internal: conflict with oneself.
2. External Level 1: conflict in interpersonal relationships such as with family, friends, colleagues.
3. External Level 2: extra-personal conflict with the larger community in the form of institutions, such as the government, the church, the school system, the army—institutions that have power.
The most compelling stories, the stories that move us most deeply and stay with us forever, often involve conflict on all three levels: personal, interpersonal, and extra-personal. That’s partly what creates the enduring power of books like David Copperfield, Frankenstein, A Passage to India, Heart of Darkness, The Age of Innocence, The Grapes of Wrath, Gone With the Wind, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

In contrast with those potent stories, it's instructive to examine the form of "soap opera." The term is often used as a pejorative. Why? After all, soap operas are highly engrossing stories that are loved by millions of viewers. I think the reason we sense weakness in the soap opera form is that it shows us conflict on only one level: the interpersonal. It does that with great panache; it's soap opera's tremendous pull, because interpersonal relationships are so engaging.
  But it’s also incomplete. Characters in a soap opera hardly ever face internal conflict; there’s rarely a crisis of conscience. And they never do battle with the larger community. For example, if a cop enters a storyline in a soap, you can be sure he’ll soon be caught up in the highly personal concerns of other characters; the story will not be about corruption in the police department. So, there's virtually no conflict with the self, nor with society. It’s all one level—momentarily highly engrossing, but ultimately unsatisfying.
  Not every story can involve conflict on all these levels, but if you can bring all three into your story, I recommend it.
  The important point is this: never shy away from catching your characters up in the swirling currents of conflict. It will prove their mettle, and make them reveal their true selves. That's what enthralls readers, and leaves them saying, “I couldn’t put it down!”
  In other words, you’ll have created a page-turner.

Barbara Kyle
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About the Author

Barbara Kyle is the author of the acclaimed Thornleigh Saga series of historical novels, and of award-wining thrillers, with sales of over half a million books. She has taught writers at the University of Toronto, and is a popular presenter at international writers’ conferences. As a story coach, she has launched many writers on the path toward published success. Find out more at Barbara's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @BKyleAuthor.

3 November 2016

Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey, by Nicola Tallis

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Good people, I am come hither to die, and by a law I am condemned to the same.
These were the words uttered by the seventeen-year-old Lady Jane Grey as she stood on the scaffold awaiting death on a cold February morning in 1554. Forced onto the throne by the great power players at court, Queen Jane reigned for just thirteen tumultuous days before being imprisoned in the Tower, condemned for high treason and executed.
In this dramatic retelling of an often-misread tale, historian and researcher Nicola Tallis explores a range of evidence that had never before been used in a biography to sweep away the many myths and reveal the moving, human story of an extraordinarily intelligent, independent and courageous young woman.

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About the Author

British Historian Nicola Tallis graduated from Bath Spa University with a first class BA Hons. degree in History in 2011, and from Royal Holloway College, University of London in 2013 with an MA in Public History. Since 2013 she has been studying for her PhD at the University of Winchester, where she teaches History. Nicola also worked as a historical researcher, most notably for Sir Ranulph Fiennes whilst he was working on his 2014 book, Agincourt: My Family, the Battle and the Fight for France. and is the resident historian for Alison Weir Tours. Find out more at Nicola's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @MissNicolaTal .

2 November 2016

Book Launch Interview With E.E. Bertram, Author of November Fox

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What inspired your novel?

Writing my first novel was driven by a deeper yearning beyond self expression. I felt a strong desire to do my part in inspiring the next generation of readers to find their purpose in life and ask deeper questions, ultimately so they can live more fulfilling lives. In a way November Fox is a self-help book yet it is wrapped up in a crazy sci-fi fantasy story. My travels as a touring and recording singer songwriter around the world have also influenced the writing.

My extensive lucid dream experiences have also been fundamental in what inspired me to write in the first place. Within the lucid realm, where you can actively manifest desired realities, I learnt the art of intention and conscious creation, so a lot of the book is based upon my Insights and direct experience with thought power.  What is the genre?  Visionary Fiction. It wasn't a conscious decision to become a visionary fiction author.

My first editor was actually the person who told me that I fall within this genre. I haven't even heard of it until after the book was written. The most famous Visionary Fiction book is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, and I suppose November Fox has some similarities in the fact that it is a fable and it has ancient wisdom mixed within the quest like tale. Other reviewers have said it has Alice in Wonderland like qualities, purely for its idiosyncratic nature and the fact November Fox tumbles through a rainbow portal into the other dimensions, and meets fantastical characters along the way.

There are quite a few sci/fi elements as I have curiosities with quantum physics and artificial intelligence and the future of mankind, so that’s all wrapped up into the mix as well.  What was the hardest part to write in the book?  The hardest part is the endurance required to stick at it, year after year until the art form is ready for the world.

I'm quite sure the next books I will write much faster as I learn so much along the way. Living a somewhat hermit lifestyle for so long was also quite tough. There were many days and weeks and months where I hardly saw any friends or left the comfort of my dressing gown. It's such a cathartic and intense experience to write a book and I compounded my workload by deciding to have the augmented reality components as well as connected music project.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Find the right balance between learning your craft and mastering technique and following your creative freedom and passion. Learn the rules yet don’t be afraid to break them. That's when the magic happens. You need to know the box before you break out of the box, it's only then you understand the full nature of what the box is in the first place.

What are you currently reading?

What is Art by Leo Tolstoy, The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Norman Doidge and next on my list is The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson and The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot.

Tell us about your favourite character from your book.

My favourite character is The Architect, he is the otherworldly narrator of the story. I wasn't even sure he was male until quite far along the path, yet at one point of the writing, the story required him to take a form. I like him the most as I felt his energy almost as if I were just facilitating his voice, to be spoken through me. I felt a presence around me when I was writing his parts. It may  have been me tapping into a deeper wise aspect of myself, or some kind of external force? It is hard to tell. It was quite a peculiar experience. Similar to when I write songs, yet his voice was very distinct and had a calming effect on me every time he spoke and I wrote his words. I like him as he questions things, he is very philosophical and also a little rebellious.

How would you describe your book?

November Fox is quite a mind-bending journey that has many layers and eclipsing realities. It follows the journey of Vegan orphan Rockstar November Fox after she finds a teleporting cube on her doorstep. The chapters are almost like different levels of the game where she has to work out how to get from one reality to the next. If you like quest style books or books that make you question your perceptions of reality, you may like this story.

Because of my interest in technology, I have infused the book with augmented reality so all of the 39 pictures can be scanned with your phone or device and you can go further in this into the story and view November Fox's journey from the perspective of the other-worldly Architect, the narrator of the story. The 3D elements you will see through this method are interactive. Because November Fox is a rockstar there is a connected music project, which can also be accessed through the augmented reality layers. The book isn't dependent on this extra technology component, yet I wanted to experiment with new ways of storytelling and better represent the multiple layers of consciousness we have as human beings.

Esther Bertram

About the Author

Esther Bertram is an Author, Musician & Media Artist. After more than a decade of touring Europe and recording as a professional singer/songwriter and producer of electronic music, Esther has spent 5 years creating the media-fusion, metaphysical, fantasy, science fiction novel November Fox.She says, 'I like to inspire people to challenge their mental models of reality for the sake of growth and entertainment; to probe into the cosmic depths of existence, bring back my insights and express them in creative form. With a mother from Lapland/Finland and father from Melbourne/Australia, dualism has been in my genes from day one, and I have always felt best when balancing contrasting worlds.' Find out more at her website  and find Esther on Facebook and Twitter @EstherBertram.