Mastodon The Writing Desk: 2017

31 December 2017

Book Review ~ Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scots: The Life of King Henry VIII's Sister, by Sarah-Beth Watkins

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Sarah-Beth Watkins latest book brings together much of what is known about the life of Henry VII’s daughter, Margaret Tudor. It’s important not to apply the values of today to a father who begins negotiations to marry his daughter off to the King of Scotland – when she was barely six years old. Henry wished to secure peace with the Scots and his daughter’s hand in marriage was a reasonable price to pay, as what better match for her than his neighbouring king?

I was disappointed to see Henry VII called a notorious miser, as he spared no expense providing Margaret with everything she might need in Scotland. Similarly, her paternal grandmother Lady Margaret Beaufort is described as formidable, although I understand they were close – and Lady Margaret delayed the consummation of her granddaughter’s marriage until she reached the age of fourteen. 

The book is subtitled The Life of Henry VIII’s Sister and I was particularly fascinated by the details of Margaret’s relationship with her younger brother. They grew up together yet, once he became king, it seems Henry viewed both his sisters as political assets and never tired of trying to keep their jewels and gold plate for himself. 

Sarah-Beth’s main achievement is to explain the complex world of the Scottish Court, where Margaret’s new husband, King James IV, kept a string of mistresses and made no secret of his illegitimate children. The early portraits of Margaret show her as a fresh-faced, cheerful girl but it’s little surprise that her experiences in Scotland make her bitter in later life - and determined to see her son take his place as the rightful King of Scotland. 

At 141 pages, this highly readable book inevitably raises many interesting questions, and I would have liked more of the analysis in Chapter ten – about Margaret’s legacy. Her son became King James V and her daughter by her second husband, Lady Margaret Douglas, was prominent in the Tudor court and became close to the future Queen Mary I. Margaret’s granddaughter was of course Mary, Queen of Scots. 

I recommend this book to anyone who with an interest in the Tudors, as it will help more people to understand the life of this remarkable woman who was the daughter, sister and mother of kings.

Tony Riches

Disclosure: I was provided with a review copy by the publishers, Chronos Books.
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About the Author

Sarah-Beth Watkins grew up in Richmond, Surrey and began soaking up history from an early age. Her love of writing has seen her articles published in various publications over the past twenty years. Working as a writing tutor, Sarah-Beth has condensed her knowledge into a series of writing guides for Compass Books. Her history works are Ireland's Suffragettes, Lady Katherine Knollys: The Unacknowledged Daughter of King Henry VIII, The Tudor Brandons and Catherine of Braganza. You can find Sarah-Beth on Twitter @SarahBWatkins

24 December 2017

Special Guest Interview with Author Helen Carey

           on  Amazon UK                   and Amazon US

It's 1944. London's citizens are weary of air raids and rationing. But there are rumours of an invasion of France. 
Is the tide of war turning?

Today I would like to welcome author Helen Carey

Tell us about your latest book

My latest book is THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET. It is the fifth novel in my wartime Lavender Road series.  Set in London in 1944, (the year of D-day and V1 rockets,) THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET can either be read alone or as part of the series. Like its predecessors it follows the lives of a number of people living in one south London road. 

This time the main focus is on Louise Rutherford, a headstrong, somewhat spoilt young woman, who is desperate to escape her strict, well-to-do family home, and in particular her overbearing, chauvinist father. When an opportunity occurs for her to join a top secret unit working on a defensive weapon, she jumps at the chance, not realising that it will involve her enlisting in the strict, disciplinarian ATS, the women’s army.   

Putting characters in difficult circumstances is always interesting, and for Louise Rutherford, the grim realities of an ATS training camp come as a nasty shock!

What is your preferred writing routine?

I’m often asked to describe my writing routine, but my typical day depends on where I am in the writing process. If I am planning or researching a novel, I lead a relatively normal life of working during the day and socialising or relaxing in the evenings and weekends. Sometimes there are nice little research trips (recently I spent a few highly enjoyable days with my French cousin researching wartime Grenoble), or talks to give, lunch with my editor, or even the occasional fancy award ceremony to attend. But as soon as I knuckle down to the actual writing, then I work full time, generally well into the evening and often including weekends.

Once I’m involved in a story I find it hard to switch out of it to do anything else. Even when I’m having supper with friends or watching a film, my plot lines are always lurking in the back of my mind. I am very lucky to have a patient husband and dog who don’t mind being ignored for days on end! Each morning I jot down all the ideas that have plagued me during the night and revise what I wrote the previous day, then I take a deep breath and push on to the next scene. If I’m lucky, and I’m on a roll, I manage about 2000 words a day.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

My advice would depend a little bit on what sort of novels they are writing. I like to write tightly plotted novels where everything intertwines and the decisions one character makes impact the other characters, and that means working out the key scenes and turning points before I begin. That’s not to say I know every detail of the novel before I start writing, but I have a definite framework, a theme and a final scene that I keep in mind and work towards. I work out what needs to happen in each chapter before I start writing it, but then I let creativity take over.

For me, planning out a novel is a bit like embarking on a big puzzle, or a three-dimensional game of chess, but I will only start a new book if I am sure I have a really compelling story to tell. The characters are obviously key to that. They don’t have to be all good, or even nice; the main protagonist of THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET, pretty, spoiled Louise Rutherford, is far from good, or nice! But they do have to be interesting. If they entertain me then I feel more confident they will entertain my readers!

Six tips for new writers:

1. Make sure you have an interesting theme.
2. Work out a page-turning story structure.
3. Know your ending and make sure everything leads towards it.
4. Check out the motivations of your characters.
5. Use dialogue that pushes the story along (not just characters telling each other things they already know).
6. Read everything you can and work out how good writers make you want to keep turning the pages.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books? 

I’m not sure there is a best way! There are lots of opportunities to raise initial awareness about new books, from basic posts on Twitter and Facebook through blog tours, review sites, giveaways, promotions right up to expensive press and online advertising, but the only thing that keeps books selling in the longer longer term is word of mouth. And that means writing a really brilliant book that makes people want to recommend to their friends!

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research.

At the beginning of the Second World War, Anti-Aircraft fire was terribly inaccurate. In 1940, during the Battle of Britain, approximately 18,500 rounds were expended for each aircraft shot down. It was therefore almost impossible to protect British cities from German bombers, which was why they caused such devastation. But in the summer of 1944 a top secret Anglo American collaborative project developed a new technology called the Proximity Fuse, which reduced the rate to 40 rounds per hit, and as a result the Luftwaffe and the V1s rockets were quickly routed.

Heralded as an achievement ‘transcending anything of the time’, the top secret Proximity Fuse was believed by Dwight Eisenhower to have reduced duration of the war by at least a year. By the end of the war over a million people in the UK and the US were working on the production of Proximity Fuses. There wasn’t one single security breach, and neither German nor Japanese intelligence ever found out about them.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

I enjoyed writing THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET. There is quite a lot of humour in the book and lots of tension and excitement which I like, but there was one bit I did find quite difficult. In 1944, just before D’Day, a number young Polish Jewish soldiers ran away from a free Polish regiment stationed in Scotland. Due to the odd vagaries of war, many of the Polish regimental officers were almost Nazi in their views and their violent anti-Semitism had caused the Jewish conscripts to fear for their lives. The soldiers had been told that once the regiment arrived in France it would be ‘one bullet for the Germans and one bullet for each of them’.

This seemed an interesting area to explore, but when I read about the treatment of these Jewish soldiers and what they had been through, I found it quite harrowing, and that made writing the scene where it all came to light quite emotional for me.

Many of these young men, having fought for their country in the early stages of the war, had been captured and held in horrendous conditions in Russian POW camps, before being released and sent back to fight again on the Allied side. Back in Poland, their families had been hounded out of their homes, and either confined in diseased ghettos or sent to death camps. Now the soldiers themselves were about to be shot as deserters, when all they wanted to do was join British or American regiments where they could fight alongside men who wouldn’t turn their weapons on them at the first opportunity.

I suppose this was just a small example of the horrors that were going on in Europe, but it somehow seemed particularly shocking that it all took place in the UK. Thankfully, before the death sentence was carried out, a number of British MPs got involved and pressure was put on the Polish government in exile to spare the deserters’ lives. And, in the end, the soldiers did indeed go on to fight in France, in British regiments, where they acquitted themselves with honour.

What are you planning to write next?

I am just working on the final details of the sixth book in the Lavender Road series, VICTORY GIRLS, which will be published next year. VICTORY GIRLS will bring the series to a conclusion at the end of the war. It will be sad to say goodbye to my characters, but once I have finished VICTORY GIRLS I will have written over a million words in the series, and I think that is quite enough! Once it is all done and dusted I am going to take a nice long holiday before deciding what to do next!

Helen Carey
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About the Author

Helen Carey is best known as the author of the popular wartime Lavender Road series. The previous novel in the series, London Calling, was shortlisted for the RoNA Award for best Historical Romance. Helen also writes travel articles and short stories, and from time to time she teaches Creative Writing at various universities, specialising in story structure. She is also a fellow of the Royal Literary Fund. Before being published herself, she worked for a literary agency and as a reader for several publishers. Having spent quite a lot of time in different parts of the world, Helen now lives mostly in Pembrokeshire in West Wales where she and her husband run their small coastal farm as a conservation project.  For more information about her and her books please visit her website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @HelenCareyBooks.

Special Guest Interview with Author Jason Pope

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

With powerful enemies are closing in from all sides and vying for power; the marauding Saxons in the east, the wily Vortimer, son of High King Vortigern has designs upon securing Dumnonia for himself while in the north Fiachu mac Niall and his murderous Pictish warband plan their revenge.

Today I would like to welcome author Jason Pope:

Tell us about your latest book

Guardians of the Sword is an historical fantasy ​trilogy ​ set in post-Roman Britannia just before the coming of Arthur. It follows the adventures of Fergus ​M​ ac Fiontan, a disinherited Irish noble who is forced to flee his homeland at a young age. He rises from his humble beginnings to become the protector of Uther Pendragon, a boy destined to become High King of Britannia.

I was inspired after reading Bernard Cornwe​ll’s Warlord chronicles and became fascinated with the period. I had the idea for the story for a long time and after several false starts, I eventually knuckled down and got on with it.

What is your preferred writing routine?

As I currently work full time, it ​'​ ​s​ pretty much wherever and whenever I can find time. I tend to write using Google docs as I can tap away on my phone whenever I get a spare ten minutes .​ It’s amazing how quickly you can get a chapter down​ in this way! I then download it into Word for final editing.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Just get writing. Even if what you write initially is absolute tripe it doesn't matter.​ You will make a number of false starts or hit dead ends several chapters in, but that's all part of the process. Enjoy it.

Another useful piece of advice is ​always save a backup of your novel.​ ​It sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised at the number of people who don't and end up losing everything.​ The Cloud is an amazing invention, but you never know what might happen. I’ve got a number of backups saved on flash disk, on laptops and on my pc at work. There’s nothing worse than that cold feeling in the pit of your stomach when you think you’ve accidentally deleted five chapters!

The other thing is do your research, especially if you’re writing an historical novel. ​This is where authors like Karen Maitland and Bernard Cornwell excel as their attention to the smallest detail is amazing. ​ Granted, a good story is more important than historical accuracy, but it annoys me when authors get things blatantly wrong. I remember reading one novel, set in Arthurian Britain where the protagonist was eating potatoes!

One final thing I would add is that, like a cruise liner, your novel needs a destination. ​How you get there is up to you, but i t is far too easy to ​get​ carried away by your characters antics and drift off on a tangent. Letting your characters tell their story is fine and can lead you down unexpected routes, but you must be ready to drag ​the story​ back on course if ​it ​ start ​s​ to drift.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

I have only discovered the wonders of Twitter relatively recently and it seems to be working for me fairly well. Follow like minded people, tweet and retweet other people’s tweets ​, comment review, do all the things that you would like other people to do for you​ and over time try to build ​your​ fan base.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

One of the most surprising things I found out was while I was researching High King Niall of Ireland. ​In my novels, he is the late father of Fiachu mac Niall, the hero's sworn enemy. ​ He was a 5th Century ruler who was said to have captured St. Patrick and brought him to Ireland, but that’s not the surprising thing about him. He was extremely fertile, fathering nine sons by different women ​ and his​ lineage was so successful that one in five modern Irishmen ​can claim direct male line descent from him.

I recently had my DNA Tested on Ancestry and it turns out I’m 25% Irish myself, so who knows? Perhaps I’m one of his great great great etc. grandsons!

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

There is a scene when Nivian, the lover of Fergus is brutally raped by a band of Picts. This was hard to write without making it too gratuitous and I had to go back and tone it down. Generally I'm not too comfortable writing love scenes. Give me a good battle any day!

What are you planning to write next?

Well, Fergus' adventures are far from over and I think there is enough material for at least one more book. After that I quite fancy having a bash at a sci-fi novel, maybe set in a future dystopian Dark Age.

Jason Pope

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About the Author

As well as being an author, Jason Pope is a also a keen archer, illustrator, marksman, sword collector and wild camper and can often be found several hundred feet below ground in the caves of the Mendip Hills in deepest Somerset. Jason is also a keen history buff, with a particular interest in ancient Roman and Early Medieval history and is a self-confessed absorber of all things trivial. Don't ever ask him to change the oil sump in your car though because he won't have a clue. You can follow Jason on Twitter here: @popius3

23 December 2017

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens' story A Christmas Carol  has never been out of print since it was first published in December 1843. Here are some things you may not know about it:

In the preface, Dickens wrote:
'I have endeavoured in this ghostly little book, to raise the ghost of an idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.'
He finished the book in six weeks, writing most of it in November (a familiar idea to some of us) and it is just under 35,000 words. (If he had lived today he may have tried for 50,000 and written it in four weeks for NaNoWriMo)

Dickens decided to self-publish the work at his own expense. (It sold out by Christmas Eve.) He originally priced his book at five shillings (equivalent to £20 or $33 today) but high costs meant low profits. (I think he would have identified with today's Indie Publishers - see David Perdue's blog for the details HERE)

Keen on active book promotion, Dickens had a specially shortened version he used for public readings. There are records of about 150 readings by Dickens of 'A Christmas Carol', despite the fact that, at the time, public readings of fiction or poetry were considered 'a desecration of one's art and a lowering of one's dignity.' (He would definitely have made a YouTube promo video.)

In the first draft manuscript, the character of 'Tiny Tim' was called 'Little Fred'. This could have been a reference to his brother Alfred who died at a young age. Dickens changed his mind and used the name Fred for Scrooge’s nephew.

We can have some insight into how Dickens wrote from the original manuscript, which has a lot of deleted words replaced with more active verbs. (We can all learn from that.)

The original manuscript was bound in red Morocco leather by Dickens and changed hands many times before ending up in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York where it is put on public display every Christmas.

The phrase 'Merry Christmas' appears twenty-one times in 'A Christmas Carol' and although not invented by Dickens, this went a long way to making it a popular greeting - particularly on Christmas cards.

The full text of A Christmas Carol is on Project Gutenberg HERE

Special Guest Interview with Author K.M. Pohlkamp

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

At the start of the 16th century in Tudor England, Lavinia Maud finds her instincts as an assassin tested by love and faith. She balances revenge with her struggle to develop a tasteless poison and avoid the wrath of her ruthless patron. With her ideals in conflict, Lavinia must decide which will satisfy her heart: love, faith, or murder
—but the betrayals are just beginning.

Today I would like to welcome author Kara Pohlkamp:

Tell us about your latest book.

Last fall, I read an article about forgotten females from history that profiled Locusta, a Roman poison assassin, who is considered to be the first serial killer. The fact the first serial killer was a woman struck me and the more I read about her, a story began to weave in my mind.

During this time, my priest gave a sermon warning about the ease of falling into a cycle of sin and penance. How often we realize our actions are incorrect, feel guilt, and then performance penance. But after guilt wears away, it becomes easy to commit the sin again. Of course he was talking about minor offenses, but as a matter of reductio ad absurdum, I applied the concept to a murderer. The essence of my novel was born in the church pew, though I’d guess that’s not what my priest had in mind.

Inspired by the notion confession could provide a source of false permission for murder, I lifted Locusta’s inspiration out of Rome and placed my novel in Tudor England, before the turn against the Catholic Church, and my favorite period of history.

Apricots and Wolfsbane is an adult, historical fiction thriller following the career of a female poison assassin. Lavinia Maud craves the moment the last wisps of life leave her victim’s bodies—to behold the effects of her own poison creations. Believing confession erases the sin of murder, her morbid desires are in unity with faith, though she could never justify her skill to the magistrate she loves.

At the start of the 16th century in England, Lavinia’s marks grow from tavern drunks to nobility, but rising prestige brings increased risk. When the magistrate suspects her ruse, he pressures the priest into breaking her confessional seal, pitting Lavinia’s instincts as an assassin against the tenets of love and faith. She balances revenge with her struggle to develop a tasteless poison and avoid the wrath of her ruthless patron.

With her ideals in conflict, Lavinia must decide which will satisfy her heart: love, faith, or murder—but the betrayals are just beginning.

What is your preferred writing routine?

I am an engineer by trade and a fan of spreadsheets. This manifests in detailed plans, outlines, categorized research, and character notes that rival the word count of the novel. Let’s just say I am a big planner. Comprehensive outlines allow me to analyze the structure of the novel and make gross corrections before investing in word count.

Regardless of how much I plan, there is always a character or plot point which surprises me during writing. That is what makes the writing fun. Planning and outlines can be great tools, but they should never tie a writer’s hands or limit where a character wants to go.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Writers should understand their strengths and weaknesses, and the genre best suited to match. My own writing can sometimes be a little prosy and a few years ago an editor suggested my style would be best suited for historical fiction. She was right and I have never looked back. My style which was a weakness in one genre, is a strength in another.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

Personal connections with readers and authors is slowly getting the word out about my novel. It is difficult for new authors to heard amongst the thousands of books published each year but I firmly believe the support of even one reader can make a difference. 

I’m asking anyone who has read and enjoyed Apricots and Wolfsbane to please tell a friend. (That includes the awesome readers of this interview!) Hopefully that person will also tell a friend, and so on. It is not an easy road, but neither was getting published. The best attributes of a writer are patience and persistence. And in the end, the best thing I can do to promote this book is to write another.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research.

While writing Apricots and Wolfsbane I ironically suffered my own bout of a severe poison ivy rash. The ordeal was awful, and gave me sympathy for Lavinia’s victims. (Seriously, natural childbirth was more pleasant.) Inspired by my own experience, I sought to add poison ivy to the plot but I uncovered that poison ivy/oak/sumac is not native to England.

Along with poisons, I ended up doing significant research into the history of glasshouses to verify a plot point. The product of that research is summarized in my guest post for the English Historical Fiction Authors blog: Plants vs. Winter: The Origins of English Conservatories. Even though the concept was first used in 30 A.D., the technology did not arrive in England until the early 16th century!

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

The first few pages are always the hardest for me. There is so much at stake: the need to pull in the reader, to start in the middle of action, but provide enough background to set the tone and the scene. The first chapter was re-written more than any other scene and eventually it sounded overworked so I had to throw it out and start again. I knew what I wanted to accomplish and the feeling I wished to evoke, but getting it all right quickly took numerous iterations and I appreciate the feedback from my beta readers and editors!

What are you planning to write next?

Inspired by my own experience as a female engineer, I took a break from poison assassins to write a short story about a female physics assistant at Harvard at the turn of the 20th century. The piece will be published as part of a short-story anthology in the spring.  But right now, I’m deep into the sequel to Apricots and Wolfsbane. I love hearing readers’ thoughts on where they think the story is heading, and if all goes well, they should not have to wait long!

K.M. Pohlkamp

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About the Author

K.M. Pohlkamp is a blessed wife, proud mother of two young children, and an aerospace engineer who works in Mission Control. She operated guidance, navigation and control systems on the Space Shuttle and is currently involved in development of upcoming manned-space vehicles. A Cheesehead by birth, she now resides in Texas for her day job and writes to maintain her sanity. Her other hobbies include ballet and piano. Pohlkamp’s historical fiction thriller, Apricots and Wolfsbane, was published by Filles Vertes Publishing in October.

Find out more at the author's website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @KMPohlkamp.

22 December 2017

A.E. Wasserman's Langsford Series Book Blast and Giveaway

1884 No Boundaries: A Story of Espionage, and International Intrigue 

Love, murder, sex, and terrorism swirl within a collapsed world economy. No, it's not today. It's London, 1884. Recently married Langsford, born of wealth and privilege, is bound by the restrictions of Victorian society. 

Dynamite has been invented, but the term "homosexuality" has not and men can be arrested for either. Langsford accompanies his visiting friend, HEINRICH, eighteen, who innocently flirts with young ANNA at London's Leadenhall Market. 

What should be the end of the story becomes the beginning, for Heinrich falls in love with her, never part of the plan. Instead it becomes the catalyst for everything that follows when he flees Germany to return to her. Events unfold that expose terrorists, espionage and international intrigue.

1885: Crossings by A.E. Wasserman

Anna’s hand holding the letter trembled as her vision rocked, going in and out of focus. She felt as though she was falling backward and at the same time rolling forward, expecting to land face first on the floor. She put her hand on the table to brace herself. She no longer heard the song birds in the buckeye tree outside the window, or the hoof beats on the cobblestones passing the front door, or any sound at all.

The world around her ceased to exist—only the paper with Henry’s written words: his own account of what happened during the past year.

The entire time, she’d known he wasn’t telling her everything—but this—she could never have imagined any of it. The hard fact was, Henry will never escape the truth.

1886 Ties That Bind: A Story of Politics, Graft, and Greed

It is 1886 as Englishman Lord Langsford travels by train to San Francisco. Newly widowed, Langsford is desperate to escape his grief, demons, and life in England. As Langsford completes the last leg of his transcontinental journey, his life unexpectedly changes once again when he crosses paths with Miss Sally Baxter, a beautiful rancher who packs a pistol in her purse. Sally has made it her mission to find the men who robbed a train and killed her brother. 

Unfortunately, no one, even the owners of the Southern Pacific Railroad seem to care. Unable to resist her pleas, Langsford offers to help Sally and soon becomes entangled in a web of politics, corruption, and greed. As murder, threats, and attacks ensue that endanger both Sally and Langsford, influential men in both California and Washington, D.C. jockey for positions of power. Langsford, who finds himself oddly attracted to Sally, now must sort through criminals and politicians alike to discover the truth behind her brother's death and prevent his own murder.

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About the Author

The daughter of a newspaperman, A.E. Wasserman grew up in a household filled with books and stories. At age 14, she wrote her first novella and never stopped writing. She is the author of a new mystery/thrillers series, the first of which takes place in London: 1884 No Boundaries, A Story of Espionage and International Intrigue. The second in the Langsford Series, 1886 Ties That Bind, A Story of Politics, Graft and Greed, has just been released. Her work, critically acclaimed as richly atmospheric, is being noticed by readers and critics alike, and has garnered international attention, not only in the U.S., but Europe and the U.K. as well. She recently received top honors from Writer's Digest for her work. After graduating from The Ohio State University, she lived in London, then San Francisco. Currently she resides in Southern California with her family and her muse, a Border Collie named Topper. For more information, please Visit the author's web site at You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


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  Langsford Series Blast

Special Guest Interview with Author Traci Robison

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

As an apprentice priest to the god Aplu, Leures Vethna learns to read omens. The moment he sees Diomedes of Thebes, Leures knows the Greek mercenary will take him from his Etruscan homeland to a greater destiny. Fate leads them to the farthermost regions of the known world, where he and Diomedes will fight as mercenaries against Alexander the Great's army. But, no matter how far he travels, Leures can't escape the curse he's carried from his youth. Death dogs his heels. Broken in battle and dwelling in a camp where men are dying nightly, he's overcome by darkness until a strange willful woman resurrects him. When Diomedes senses she is not what she seems, Leures must choose between his beloved friend and the woman he dreams holds his future.

Today I would like to welcome author Traci Robison:

Tell us about your latest book

Gates the Hours Keep is the latest novel in the Tales of Malstria series. This novel is an origin story for Leures Vethna, the bastard son of an Etruscan king. Condemned by his father, Leures flees his homeland with a Greek mercenary for a greater destiny. Fate leads them to the farthermost regions of the known world, where he and Diomedes fight against Alexander the Great's army. 

No matter how far he travels, Leures can't escape a curse he's carried from his youth. Death dogs his heels. Broken in battle and dwelling in a camp where men are dying nightly, he's overcome by darkness until a strange, willful woman resurrects him. When Diomedes senses she is not what she seems, Leures must choose between his beloved friend and the woman he dreams holds his future.

What is your preferred writing routine?

Over the years, I’ve never really developed a consistent routine. Lately, because my writing is interspersed with hours at my day job and other obligations, I’ve found it useful to begin each writing session by reading over the last scene or two I’ve written. It helps me get back into the story as well as enabling me to do a little light editing.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Above all else, keep at it. Find a bit of time each day to read or to write. Also, take some time to soak life in—that’s the fuel that will feed your imagination and keep you going.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? With so many books on the market, it’s difficult for anyone to stand out from the crowd. Though social media and online promotions can be helpful, I’ve experienced the greatest impact from doing readings of my books—in person or, once, in a radio appearance. I’ve always seen a spike in sales afterward, so I guess, people liked what they heard.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research.

In researching Gates the Hours Keep, I came across more women who played a role as warriors or leaders than I expected—especially on the Persian side or in Etruscan culture. Throughout the novel, I wove in a few mentions of these women, such as Artemisia, a woman who ruled Halicarnassus and fought for Xerxes a little more than a century before the novel’s action took place. The research also helped me develop the character of Mahamari, a powerful woman Leures meets when he is employed as a mercenary.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

The hardest scene I remember writing was in my novel The Taking—a scene where the main character Amarys is assaulted by a man one night when she’s sneaking from the keep to the stable. It was difficult and painful to put myself in her place, and it took me many false starts to do the scene justice. The first attempts were too superficial. I was afraid to dive in, and so, the scene lacked substance. Only after I concentrated on sensory details and moved away from vague descriptors of feelings, did the scene finally work.

What are you planning to write next?

I’m very excited about what I’m writing right now. Risen is the fourth installment in the Tales of Malstria series. This story takes place directly after The Taking and Tangled. Set in Norman England, this adventure focuses on Quin and Amarys’ efforts to build their lives after devastation--a struggle for survival, sanity, and redemption. When new foes arise, seeking their destruction, Quin is forced to look for help in the last place he expected.

Traci Robison

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About the Author

Traci Robison focused on medieval history and culture while completing her MA in museum studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She works as a writer and archivist, often drawing inspiration from the unique historic documents she encounters. Set in medieval and ancient cultures, her completed novels and ongoing projects blend elements of fantasy, horror, and historical genres.  Find out more at or visit Traci Robison's Facebook page and Twitter @TraciJRobison

21 December 2017

Special Guest Interview with Author Marcia Meara

New on Amazon US and Amazon UK

An angel’s work is never done—that’s part of the gig. But angels hadn’t been created to deal with such a vastly over-populated planet, rife with misery, suffering, and general chaos. Helping souls in peril has become a nearly impossible job, and even angelic tempers are frayed. The archangel Azrael has had enough. He believes he’s found a way to ease their burden while saving jeopardized humans, too—hired help. When Jake Daughtry lost his life rescuing a total stranger from certain death, he was on the fast track to Heaven. But that was before Azrael pulled him right out of line at the Pearly Gates. Now, as an Emissary to the Angels, Jake is taking to the highway in a quest to help souls in trouble. But the innate stubbornness of human beings bent on self-destruction is a challenge unlike any he’s ever faced. It’s up to Jake and Azrael to bridge the gap between humans and angels. Will they ever convince the Council of Angels this endeavor is worthwhile? Can Jake figure out how to play by Azrael’s complicated rules? Will Azrael ever master the use of contractions in general conversation? 

Today I would like to welcome author Marcia Meara:

Tell us about your latest book

Thank you, Tony, for having me as your guest today on The Writing Desk. It’s lovely to be here!. My latest release is The Emissary: A Riverbend Spinoff Novella. When Hunter Painter went off the rails in Finding Hunter: Riverbend Book 2, a mysterious trucker brought him home again. For more than a year, readers have been asking me at every event if the trucker was really an angel, as Willow Greene believes, or merely a kind-hearted man doing a good deed. I finally decided to answer their questions in this fun-to-write novella. To find out the answers, hop on board Jake’s big red-and-white semi and travel the roads from the Florida Keys to north Georgia on an adventure that will make you laugh hard and cry even harder.

What is your preferred writing routine?

I start my day at the computer early, cup of Earl Grey nearby. If left to my own devices, I will write all day long, at least until dinner, and often go back to it in the evening. I prefer to work uninterrupted, in total silence, the better to lose myself in whatever world I’m creating. Even music will bring me back to the here and now, a place I don’t want to be when I’m supposed to be standing beside MacKenzie Cole on a North Carolina mountainside, or wading in the Key West surf at midnight, keeping company with Jake Daughtry.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Read. As much as possible, as many authors as possible, in as many genres as possible. Then start writing. Every day.

Love your characters. If you don’t, who will? Let them guide your words, but study your craft, too.

Always remember, it’s never too late. Don’t be the one saying, “If I had time, I’d write a book.” Make time. I did. I was 69 when I wrote my first book, and four years later, I’ve written 5 more novels, a novella, and a book of poetry.

Write that first book, no matter what! If nothing else, it will be a learning experience for you, and the next one will be better. Aim for improvement with each succeeding book.

And finally, never give up.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

I’m still looking for the best one, but for me, nothing beats meeting readers face to face and talking about what they like. I’m very lucky that I’ve managed to establish good working relationships with several local venues, and through them, many more private book clubs and other groups.

I do presentations on all sorts of subjects, including Florida wildlife and habitat, which factors into my Riverbend books. I’ve been building a local readership this way that has done wonders for my books, and my self-confidence. Plus I love doing them. I’m booked for 2 or 3 a month halfway through 2018 already, and looking forward to every one of them.

I do the best I can on social media, too, but it’s not my favorite thing, other than blogging, which I love. Blogging is writing. Tweeting and Facebooking, not so much so, and my heart isn’t really in them, though I try.

I’ve promised myself to look into self-marketing in more depth in the months ahead, because I know I’m not doing a great job at it, other than locally. But honestly, at my age, I’d rather spend my time telling my stories. Maybe I’ll farm the marketing out one day, and simply write until I fall face down on the keyboard. For my money, that would be a pretty good way to go.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

That you can die from being shot in the foot, unlike how it looks in movies! Being shot in the shoulder can kill you, too. I had to do some research about gunshot wounds for That Darkest Place: Riverbend Book 3, and was shocked at how being “winged” could result in anything from paralysis to death. Forget Monty Python’s “It’s merely a flesh wound.” Gunshot wounds have the potential to be deadly, no matter where the bullet enters.

I’ve also run across all sorts of great and surprising things in researching Appalachian legends and ghost stories, like the legend of Boojum and Hootin’ Annie. (I couldn’t possibly make this stuff up, you know. Oh, wait. I could, actually. I’m a writer now. We make things up for a living!)

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

I don’t know that there is one in particular, but in general, I have a hard time writing any scene that makes me cry, and there are usually as many of those as there are scenes that make me laugh. My characters just seem to find themselves in some seriously sad situations, and I have no idea how it happens. It’s not my fault, honest. There I am, busily writing down what they tell me, and the next thing I know, what they’re telling me is tragic. But, hey. The stories are theirs, so what can I do but take good notes, and hope they find happy resolutions a bit farther along in the tale? (That’s my story, an’ I’m stickin’ to it!)

What are you planning to write next?

I’m working on the draft of my fourth Wake-Robin Ridge book. I don’t have a title yet, but it features the little boy introduced in A Boy Named Rabbit: Wake-Robin Ridge Book 2. This mountain series deals with a lot of Appalachian legends. Ghosts, and the Black Dog, and other things that go bump in the night. The new one will feature the infamous Brown Mountain lights as a backdrop for a murder mystery. Things will be done. Nobody will be spared. Okay, some folks will be spared, otherwise it would pretty much bring an end to the series. But things WILL be done. Bad things. And Rabbit will need to put his extraordinary gift of the Sight to use again, before all is put to rights, and justice is served.

Marcia Meara 

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About the Author

Marcia Meara is a native Floridian, and lives in Sanford, just north of Orlando, with her husband of 30+ years, two large cats, and two small dachshunds. When not working on her books and blogs, she spends her time gardening, and enjoying the surprising amount of wildlife that manages to make a home in her suburban yard. At the age of five, Marcia declared she wanted to be an author, and is ecstatic that a mere 64 years later, she finally wrote "Wake-Robin Ridge," her first novel. Making up for lost time, she has published five more novels over the last four years - find out more at her website The Write Stuff: and follow Marcia on Facebook and Twitter @marciameara.