Mastodon The Writing Desk: March 2017

31 March 2017

Guest Post: The Other Side of the Street (Lavender Road 5) by 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?

The Other Side of the Street is my fifth Lavender Road novel. Set in London in 1944, it can either be read alone or as part of the series, and like its predecessors it follows the lives of several people living in one London street. This time the focus is on two young women, who now, as victory finally begins to edge nearer with the Allied invasion of France, find that the war seems determined to throw a spanner in their plans for future happiness.

I love writing about the Second World War. For me it is a fascinating period of history. So much happened in those eventful years, even for those who weren’t actually fighting. With almost constant Luftwaffe bombing, plus Hitler’s V1 and V2 revenge missiles, people on the Home Front were also in considerable danger.

I have always been impressed by the extraordinary courage and resilience that Londoners showed at that time, and I think, more than anything else, that is what has always drawn me to the period. As well as the almost constant fear of death or injury, they had to cope with hardships that most of us would certainly find unacceptable these days; rationing, the black-out, property damage or destruction, reduced fuel and water, lack of petrol and gas, conscription into boring (or sometimes even hazardous) war work, restrictions on clothing and make-up, censorship, and of course the worry about loved ones serving overseas.

My research this time led me to the fact of young women being enlisted, often against their will, into the female sections of the armed forces. It made for fascinating reading, and then, by a stroke of luck (something which often seems to happen when I am embroiled in research!), I discovered that one of my neighbours (now a celebrated artist) actually served in the ATS, the Auxiliary Territorial Army, and she kindly allowed me to base some of my character’s exploits on her own real life experiences.

Putting characters in difficult circumstances is always interesting, and for the pretty, well-to-do, and somewhat self-centred young widow, Louise Rutherford, the grim realities of an ATS training camp come as a nasty shock!

My aim in writing is always to entertain, and to try to evoke the atmosphere of the war years, but I am also keen to focus on more general issues that my readers might find interesting, and I have used Louise to explore an aspect of life that I think we probably experience from time to time. That what we think we are like is not always the same as what other people think we are like. I’m sure we all occasionally feel misunderstood, especially perhaps by our friends and family. (In my experience doggedly held presumptions and faulty suppositions are often at the root of many a family rift!)

It’s as though people have made up their minds about our innate character and and can’t or won’t ever really accept that we might have the capacity to change. In THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET, as well as struggling with military discipline and other wartime issues, Louise also finds herself struggling to try to convince people that she has (for various reasons) become a nicer person.

The Other Side of the Street will be published in hardback and as an eBook on 6 April 2017. The paperback will follow later in the year. In the meantime I am already hard at work on the next Lavender Road novel! This time my research has taken me to France, to visit the Musée de la Resistance in Grenoble, to see for myself the extraordinary courage and resilience that many local people in France showed in facing up to German occupation.

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. 

30 March 2017

Book Review ~ Through The Barricades, by Denise Deegan

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

She was willing to sacrifice everything for her country.
He was willing to sacrifice everything for her. 

'Make a difference in the world,' are the last words Maggie Gilligan's father ever says to her. They form a legacy that she carries in her heart, years later when, at the age of fifteen, she tries to better the lives of Dublin's largely forgotten poor.

Set in Dublin during the outbreak of the first war, this fast paced book had me gripped from the first page to the last. Irish author Denise Deegan has an eye for detail and a talent for creating memorable characters. The feisty Maggie Gilligan is torn between love and duty, her country and her family, and her conflict affects everyone around her.

Many authors have made creative use of letters but these will bring a tear to the eye of the most hardened reader. In turns touching and shocking, this story of unconditional love is a great example of how fiction can reveal the human side of events as complex as the Easter Rising of 1916.

When I next visit Dublin I will feel I have a richer understanding of its history - and the people who made it one of my favourite cities. One of the best books I’ve read in a long time, I’m happy to award Through the Barricades a well-deserved five out of five stars. Highly recommended.

Tony Riches
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About the Author

Award-winning author Denise Deegan lives in Dublin, Ireland with her family. Her novels have been published by Penguin, Random House, Hachette and Lake Union Publishing. Writing under the pen name Aimee Alexander, Denise's contemporary family dramas have become international best-sellers on Kindle. Under her own name, Denise has written a contemporary Young Adult trilogy, The Butterfly Novels: And By The Way, And For Your Information, And Actually, the second of which was nominated for an Irish Book Award. Denise's most recent novel, Through the Barricades, won the international SCBWI Spark Award for best indie book published in 2016. Find out more at Denise's website and find her on Facebook and Twittter @denisedeegan.

29 March 2017

Blog Tour and Giveaway: The Varangian - Book Three of Odd Tangle-Hair's Saga, by Bruce Macbain #HFVBT

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

The Varangian is the final entry in Bruce Macbain's Odd Tangle-Hair Saga and brings Odd's challenging adventures to a climactic and satisfying finish. On a secret diplomatic mission to the Emperor's court in Miklagard, the Viking's name for Constantinople, Odd meets the members of the fearsome Varangian Guard whose elite Viking members served as the Emperor's personal bodyguards. Harald, his former master and the man he's been sent to murder, now serves among the guards. Court intrigue and imperial dynastic disputes provide the backdrop for the conflict between Odd and Harald. Like Odin's Child and The Ice Queen before it,The Varangian
is dictated by Odd to a young scribe whose own life
is changed by the telling of the tale.

Tony suggested to me that I write something on the craft of writing. This took me by surprise because none of the writers that I hang around with ever want to talk about craft. At a recent meeting of my local writers’ group I suggested that we talk about writing—which, after all, is what we do everyday. This suggestion was met with crashing silence. Instead, we plunged into yet another mind-numbing discussion of how to promote ourselves on social media: the only thing we ever seem to talk about.

So what gives? Why don’t writers want to talk about writing? Are we jealously guarding the recipe for the secret sauce that only we know? Or, do we think there is simply nothing new to say on the subject? That Elmore Leonard and Stephen King have said it all and there is not a jot to be added? Who knows, maybe painters never want to talk about the craft of painting. 

It seems to me, that as the author of five novels (which I will now immodestly name: Roman Games, The Bull-Slayer, Odin’s Child, The Ice Queen, and The Varangian, two of which were Editor’s Choices in the Historical Novels Review) I ought to be able to say something about how I do what I do. But it’s difficult. I’ve taught a lot of things in my life but creative writing is not one of them, nor have I ever taken a course in it. Still, let me mention, for what it’s worth, a couple of things that I do find helpful. 

For one, I carry a small digital voice recorder in my pocket everywhere I go. (Mine is an Olympus and it’s seen me through five novels and into the sixth.) I find that ideas come to me in no particular order, at no given time, and never when I try to force them. These can be a single word, a line of dialog, a fragment of description, or a major plot twist. And if I don’t nail them down right away, they’re gone. So I tell them to my little recorder.

I used to be embarrassed to be heard doing this in public places, but nowadays everybody is talking into a device of some kind so I don’t stand out. If I’m overheard saying, “Ingigerd and Odd make love in the sauna” or “Zoe has remarkably firm breasts for a woman of sixty”, I might just be talking to a friend about some mutual acquaintances. Then, when I sit down at my computer, I play them back, organize them, reject the ones I don’t like anymore, and feed the rest into my outline.

Which brings me to my second point: outlining. I spend a lot of time outlining before I start to write. Of course, the outline can change as I work, and always does. But I need to have the feeling that there is a roadmap, or safety net, or choose your own metaphor. And I play a mental trick on myself: everything is an outline. As long as I tell myself that I’m only outlining, I feel very free and the words flow. But as soon as I tell myself that I’m going to write the damn chapter, I freeze. This is true; I just went through this this morning on my work in progress, Shanghai Blues.

I do know one or two writers who claim that outlining for them takes the fun, or the spontaneity, out of their writing. But I think it just depends on what you call an outline. And one only has to think of the plot snarls that Dickens (my favorite author) often got himself into as a result of not having one.

What else? Although I write on a computer, and I frankly wonder how anyone ever wrote anything before there were computers, I find that I can only correct on a printed copy. I just see things on the page that I never see on the screen. Maybe this is just because I’m an old guy.

Let me conclude with my philosophy of writing historical fiction—not that you asked. Do thorough research; use all the facts you can; bend them a little if you have to; when you run out of facts, make them up. But always—and this is the point I insist on--append an Author’s Note in which you offer some information on the sources and explain briefly what is real and what isn’t. I think if you do that, you’re playing fair with your reader.

Bruce Macbain
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About the Author

Bruce Macbain holds degrees in Classics and Ancient History and was formerly an Assistant Professor of Classics at Boston University. He decided to stop writing scholarly articles (which almost no one read) and turn his expertise to fiction—a much more congenial medium. His previous novels include two mysteries set in ancient Rome (Roman Games, The Bull Slayer) and the first two novels in the Odd Tangle-Hair series (Odin’s Child, The Ice Queen). For more information, please visit Bruce MacBain’s website. You can also find him on FacebookGoogle+, Goodreads and Twitter @BMacbain.

Blog Tour Schedule:

Monday, March 20
Kick Off at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, March 21
Review at Rainy Day Reviews
Friday, March 24
Interview at Dianne Ascroft’s Blog
Sunday, March 26
Excerpt at T’s Stuff
Wednesday, March 29
Guest Post at The Writing Desk
Friday, March 31
Excerpt at What Is That Book About
Tuesday, April 4
Review at Book Nerd
Friday, April 7
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Tuesday, April 11
Review at A Book Geek
Thursday, April 13
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Tuesday, April 18
Excerpt at Books, Dreams, Life
Wednesday, April 19
Guest Post at Myths, Legends, Books and Coffee Pots
Thursday, April 27
Review at Broken Teepee


To win a copy of The Varangian by Bruce Macbain, please enter via the Gleam form below. Three copies are up for grabs!
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on April 27th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US & Canada only.
– 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.

The Varangian

23 March 2017

Book Launch - Tattletale, by Sarah J. Naughton

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

We're all hiding something

Sarah J Naughton's stunning breakthrough thriller about deceit, betrayal and revenge.

One day changes Jody's life forever. 

She has shut herself down, haunted by her memories and unable to trust anyone. But then she meets Abe, the perfect stranger next door and suddenly life seems full of possibility and hope.

One day changes Mags's life forever.

After years of estrangement from her family, Mags receives a shocking phone call. Her brother Abe is in hospital and no-one knows what happened to him. She meets his fiancé Jody, and gradually pieces together the ruins of the life she left behind. But the pieces don't quite seem to fit...

'a fast paced, brilliant page-turner...I predict a hit' Liz Nugent

'...deliciously clever - I still haven't stopped thinking about the magnificent, twisted construction of it' Emma Kavanagh, author of THE MISSING HOURS

'It's one of the best debuts I've read. It deserves to be MASSIVE.' Julia Crouch

'Lies, mystery and murder wrought by childhood trauma in this compulsive, twisty thriller.' Helen Smith, author of BEYOND BELIEF

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About the Author

Sarah J Naughton grew up in Dorset, on a diet of tales of imperiled heroines and wolves in disguise. As an adult her reading matter changed but those dark fairytales had deep roots. Her debut children's thriller, THE HANGED MAN RISES, featured a fiend from beyond the grave menacing the streets of Victorian London, and was shortlisted for the 2013 Costa award. TATTLETALE is her first adult novel, and has a monster of a different kind. Sarah lives in Central London with her husband and two sons. Find her on Twitter @SarahJNaughton.

21 March 2017

Book Review - The Du Lac Devil: Book 2 of The Du Lac Chronicles, by Mary Anne Yarde

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

The feisty Du Lac brothers are reunited at the old family home in Brittany - what could possibly go wrong?  Well, quite a lot actually. For a start, author Mary Anne Yarde has a liking for deeply flawed characters. Secondly, you need to be thinking George R.R. Martin rather than Sir Thomas Malory. Chivalry is hanging in by its fingernails and treachery is in the air.

Book two of the Du Lac Chronicles would work perfectly well as a stand-alone novel but to really understand the complex web of relationships I recommend starting with the first book. You also need to keep your wits about you, as a fast pace is achieved with short chapters and plenty of action.

I don’t want to include any ‘spoilers’ but at one point I was reminded of those TV programmes that begin with a warning viewers might find some scenes disturbing. There are also tantalising glimpses of the Arthurian back-story, which I’d really like to hear more of – perhaps a ‘prequel’ to the chronicles?

The Du Lac Devil is Mary Anne Yarde at her best  - five out of five stars.

Tony Riches 

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About the Author

Mary Anne Yarde grew up in the southwest of England, surrounded and influenced by centuries of history and mythology. Glastonbury—the fabled Isle of Avalon—was a mere fifteen-minute drive from her home, and tales of King Arthur and his knights were part of her childhood. At nineteen, she married her childhood sweetheart and began a bachelor of arts in history at Cardiff University, only to have her studies interrupted by the arrival of her first child. She would later return to higher education, studying equine science at Warwickshire College. Horses and history remain two of her major passions. Mary Anne Yarde keeps busy raising four children and helping run a successful family business. Find our more at her website and follow her on Twitter @maryanneyarde

18 March 2017

New Book Launch – HENRY Book Three of the Tudor Trilogy

(Audiobook coming soon)

Bosworth 1485: After victory against King Richard III, Henry Tudor becomes King of England. Rebels and pretenders plot to seize his throne. The barons resent his plans to curb their power and he wonders who he can trust. He hopes to unite Lancaster and York through marriage to the beautiful Elizabeth of York. With help from his mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, he learns to keep a fragile peace. He chooses a Spanish Princess, Catherine of Aragon, as a wife for his son Prince Arthur. His daughters will marry the King of Scotland and the son of the Emperor of Rome. It seems his prayers are answered, then disaster strikes and Henry must ensure the future of the Tudors.

I began the Tudor Trilogy with a challenge. The known facts of Owen Tudor’s life are so sparse it’s little wonder so few writers have tackled his story. There are no images of him and historians even debate his name. Undaunted, I persevered and uncovered an amazing life of adventure which ended in tragedy when Owen was about the same age I am now.

The records were far more detailed for the second book, the story of Owen’s second son Jasper Tudor, and although he spent many years in exile I had no shortage of material. As my research progressed I began to wonder how the story would end. Henry was born in the first book, comes of age in the second and becomes King of England in the final book of the trilogy.

The problem now was too much information. Henry left a wealth of detailed records, often initialling every line in his ledgers, which still survive. At the same time, I had to deal with the contradictions, myths and legends that cloud interpretation of the facts. It troubled me to realise how, even in my own history lessons, we skipped over Henry’s contribution to learn about his son (and his six wives).

How could I begin to do justice to the life of such a complex and little understood man? Why did his son turn out as he did? I decided the only way was to immerse myself in Henry’s world and explore events as they might have appeared from his point of view. I stood in the small room in Pembroke Castle where Henry Tudor is thought to have been born, (within sight of where I was born) and began three years of intensive research about this enigmatic king.

I bought every book I could find about Henry and his times. I travelled to remote Brittany to visit the cobweb-festooned chateau in theforest where he lived in exile. I stood on the pebble beach at Mill Bay wherehe landed with his invasion fleet. I walked across Bosworth field and watched hundreds of re-enactors recreate the battle, complete with cavalry and cannon fire. I saw the Torrigiano bust of Henry at the V&A Museum, his portraits at the National Portrait Gallery and finally visited his tomb at Westminster Abbey.

My hope is that I can offer readers an insight into Henry’s life and make them want to learn more about one of our least understood kings. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the readers around the world who have been on this journey with me. Although this is the end of the Tudor trilogy, I am now researching the lives of Henry's daughter Mary and her husband Charles Brandon, so the story of the Tudors is far from over.

Tony Riches

16 March 2017

Maid of the King's Court, by Lucy Worsley

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US
In the vibrant, volatile court of Henry VIII, can even the most willful young woman direct her own fate and follow her heart in a world ruled by powerful men?

Clever, headstrong Elizabeth Rose Camperdowne knows her duty. As the sole heiress to an old but impoverished noble family, Eliza must marry a man of wealth and title — it’s the only fate for a girl of her standing.

But when a surprising turn of events lands her in the royal court as a maid of honor to Anne of Cleves, Eliza is drawn into the dizzying, dangerous orbit of Henry the Eighth and struggles to distinguish friend from foe.

Is her glamorous flirt of a cousin, Katherine Howard, an ally in this deceptive place, or is she Eliza’s worst enemy? And then there’s Ned Barsby, the king’s handsome page, who is entirely unsuitable for Eliza but impossible to ignore.

British historian Lucy Worsley provides a vivid, romantic glimpse of the treachery, tragedy, and thrills of life in the Tudor court.

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About the Author 

Dr Lucy Worsley is Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, the charity which looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, and other historic places. Her first paid employment after studying history at Oxford was at a minor stately home called Milton Manor, near Abingdon, where she fed the llamas. After that she became an Inspector of Ancient Monuments at English Heritage, doing historical research at Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire: this led to her first book, 'Cavalier', about a dissolute Royalist duke. Her work as a curator at Kensington Palace led to 'Courtiers', which was followed by 'If Walls Could Talk', 'A Very British Murder', and her first historical novel for young readers, 'Eliza Rose', which is set at the Tudor court. For more information visit Lucy's website and find her on Twitter @Lucy_Worsley,

10 March 2017

Guest Post: Ambition & Destiny Part 1: Hooks & Eyes, by Val McBeath

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

To start again, you must leave the past behind...
England 1846: Widowed with two small children, Mary Jackson fears for the future. Moving to the town of Birmingham, she hopes to put her troubled past behind her. Mr Wetherby craves respectability. His only priority is growing his hooks and eyes business, and he'll stop at nothing to get his own way. When their paths cross, Mr Wetherby is not prepared for the impact Mary has on him. 

Set in Victorian England, Hooks & Eyes is Part 1 of 
The Ambition & Destiny Series. 

Often when books, films or TV depict the 19th century, they focus on either the upper classes/aristocracy or the impoverished lower classes. It is much less common to come across stories about the aspiring working or middle classes. In reality, however, the 19th century saw a phenomenal rise in the number of middle-class households.

My interest in the Victorian era started when I was researching my family history. I was intrigued to know if there was any truth to the rumour that our family had once been very wealthy. Based on our circumstances during the 20th century, it seemed highly improbable, but this begged the question. If my ancestors were wealthy, where did the money go? Did it pass out of the family as a result of a death and re-marriage as we had been lead to believe?

As I picked my way through an assortment of historical records, it appeared that, yes, the family had once been very wealthy, but no, the money did not leave the family as a result of a re-marriage. It was much more complicated than that. As I delved deeper, the story I uncovered astounded me. The more I learned, the more I needed to know and within a couple of years the idea of turning it into a book started to build. With no clue about where to start, however, I pushed the idea to the back of my mind … for a while at least. 

Eventually, the idea wouldn’t leave me alone, and I started to write. Initially, didn't expect to produce more than about a hundred pages, but now, six years later, I have a five-part family saga entitled The Ambition & Destiny Series. Part 1, Hooks & Eyes, was published on March 9th, 2017. 

The story takes place in and around Birmingham, England, and was triggered by an event in 1839 that changed the family’s future forever. This event is the basis of a short story prequel to the series, Condemned by Fate, and is based on three months in the life of my great, great, great grandfather. 

The main series (Hooks & Eyes) starts in 1846 with the family moving to the town of Birmingham. At first, they struggle to survive among the back-to-back houses, but eventually, they leave their working-class origins and become part of the affluent middle classes. Unfortunately, the good life doesn’t last and with one fateful event in 1882, followed by a second in 1885, everything changed.

As the story started almost two hundred years ago there are no living relatives who have any knowledge of the people involved. That means I have no idea how close to the truth the story comes. All births, deaths and marriages are correct, and most of the major storylines are based on fact. Many of the sub-plots and all characterisations, however, are fictitious. Not wishing to cause any upset, names and places have been changed to protect the identity of the real individuals.

Initially, one of my biggest regrets was that I didn’t find out what happened in time to tell my grandfather. I think he spurred my interest in the whole story because he lived with the shame of being made homeless as a child when his father couldn’t pay the rent. Knowing what I know now, however, I think it’s perhaps as well he didn’t know the truth.

Hooks & Eyes is Part 1 of The Ambition & Destiny Series. A compelling family saga of love, loss and betrayal set in Victorian England. The eBook is now available on Amazon and is free as part of Kindle Unlimited. The paperback is due in April 2017.

Val McBeath
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About the Author

Val McBeath is a scientist by training and has worked for the pharmaceutical industry for many years. Born and raised in Liverpool she now lives in Cheshire with her husband, two daughters and cat. In addition to Family History her interests include rock music and Liverpool Football Club. Her Ambition & Destiny Series is set in Birmingham (UK) between 1846 and 1890 and is very much a work of fiction. Find out more at Val's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @valmcbeath.

9 March 2017

Book Launch - My Name Is Victoria, by Lucy Worsley

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US
'You are my sister now,' Victoria said, quietly and solemnly. 'Never forget it. I love you like a sister, and you are my only friend in all the world.'

Miss V. Conroy is good at keeping secrets. She likes to sit as quiet as a mouse, neat and discreet. But when her father sends her to Kensington Palace to become the companion to Princess Victoria, Miss V soon finds that she can no longer remain in the shadows.

Miss V's father has devised a strict set of rules for the young princess, which he calls the Kensington System. It governs her behaviour and keeps her locked away from the world. He says it is for the princess's safety, but Victoria herself is convinced that it is to keep her lonely, and unhappy.
Torn between loyalty to her father and her growing friendship with the wilful and passionate Victoria, Miss V has a decision to make: to continue in silence, or to speak out.
By turns thrilling, dramatic and touching, this is the story of Queen Victoria's childhood as you've never heard it before. 

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About the Author 

Dr Lucy Worsley is Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, the charity which looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, and other historic places. Her first paid employment after studying history at Oxford was at a minor stately home called Milton Manor, near Abingdon, where she fed the llamas. After that she became an Inspector of Ancient Monuments at English Heritage, doing historical research at Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire: this led to her first book, 'Cavalier', about a dissolute Royalist duke. Her work as a curator at Kensington Palace led to 'Courtiers', which was followed by 'If Walls Could Talk', 'A Very British Murder', and her first historical novel for young readers, 'Eliza Rose', which is set at the Tudor court. For mre information visit Lucy's website and find her on Twitter @Lucy_Worsley,

7 March 2017

Be the Gateway: A Practical Guide to Sharing Your Creative Work and Engaging an Audience, by Dan Blank

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Too often we think about the creative process as separate from the marketing process. Instead, view them as the same. Replace the inclination to “promote” with the desire to share and engage. How and why you create is a story — and your best asset to truly engage people.
Be the Gateway shows you how to use that gift with joy
and with confidence.

Something I have been thinking a lot about this month is the word “threshold.” With my book coming out and the upcoming birth of my second child in April, I feel like everything I do is moving through a threshold. A moment where things will be different than they were before.

Most people are apprehensive of change. With change comes uncertainty, and at times, risk. This month I have been embracing the idea of moving through the threshold. Of welcoming what comes next. 

When my first son was born back in 2010, I had just left my corporate job to start my company. Much like today, it was a massive threshold to move through, and one that I am so thankful I embraced. 

What threshold would you like to move through? How can you shift your perspective from being apprehensive about it, to approaching it with vigor and openness? 

Dan Blank
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About the Author

Dan Blank is the founder of WeGrowMedia, where he helps writers and creative professionals share their stories and grow their audience. He has worked with hundreds of individuals and amazing organizations who support creative people such as Random House, Hachette Book Group, Sesame Workshop, Workman Publishing, J. Walter Thompson, Abrams Books, Writers House, The Kenyon Review, Writer's Digest, Library Journal, and many others. Dan's work has been featured by Poet's & Writers magazine, the National Endowment for the Arts, Professional Artist magazine, and 99u. You can find Dan on his blog at and on Twitter at @DanBlank.

5 March 2017

Book Review: Thrown to The Blue: An Indigo Flame Novel (Indigo Flame Series Book 1) by K.J Chapman

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Foretellings have no place for goodness, only greatness. Princess Ezrahli is far from good, but she is a great woman in a conventional Kingdom, followed by whispers and scorn. However, across the waters is un-convention, magic, and fable. Her existence has been foretold in the battle against dark magic, and destiny shall weave itself into her life because darkness cannot be fought with goodness, only greatness.

I like to learn from other genres while my current work in progress is in the editing process, and this time I chose the memorable dark fantasy Thrown to The Blue, by Kay Chapman. We are literally plunged deep into the unfamiliar world of Princess Ezrahli when she murders her father.

The best ‘world building’ is achieved when you aren’t really aware of it. Somehow we have no difficulty understanding the invented words of this strange world. Clues slip into the reader’s subconscious on every page and we start forming out own theories about how it all might end.

Kayleigh Chapman is a skilled story teller and I soon found myself choosing to continue reading when I should have been doing other things. This is book one of a series I look forward to following – highly recommended.

Tony Riches

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About The Author

Born and raised in Cornwall, England, Kayleigh Chapman is an avid tea drinker, writer, blogger, book reviewer, When not writing novels, she is blogging on various subjects that peak her interest, musings, tips, advice, and journals of her writing and reading experiences. Chapman is a keen book reviewer, beta reader, and ARC reviewer. You can find all reviews on her blog Writerly Bookish Stuff and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @KJ86Chapman.

3 March 2017

Guest Post by Mickey Mayhew, Author of The Little Book of Mary, Queen of Scots

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Mary Queen of Scots is perhaps one of the most controversial and divisive monarchs in regal history. Her story reads like a particularly spicy novel, with murder, kidnap, adultery, assassination and execution. To some she is one of the most wronged women in history, a pawn used and abused by her family in the great monarchical marriage game; to others, a murderous adulteress who committed regicide to marry her lover and then spent years in captivity for the crime, endlessly plotting the demise of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I of England. 

This new edition covers the entire breath-taking scope of her amazing life and examines the immense cultural legacy she left behind, from the Schiller play of the 1800s to the CW teen drama Reign. Temptress, terrorist, or tragic queen, this book will give you the lowdown on one of history’s most misunderstood monarchs.

The Murder of Henry, Lord Darnley

The second husband of Mary Queen of Scots, Henry, Lord Darnley, was murdered in Edinburgh 450 years ago. It was a spectacular demise for the 21-year old king, with the house he was staying in blown to bits by several barrels of gunpowder. His naked body was found strangled in a nearby orchard, along with that of his valet; they’d been caught in attempting to escape the house and quickly silenced.

Lord Darnley and Mary, Queen of Scots circa 1565
(Wikimedia Commons)

The list of suspects read like a who’s who of the Scots nobility of the time, with Mary and her trusted councillor Bothwell at the top. Several months later they would be married and that would mark the end of Mary’s brief and turbulent reign. Mary had more reason to despise Darnley than anyone; the good-looking, buff blond boy who’d first sashayed into sight at Weymss Castle turned out in the end to be a spiteful bisexual syphilitic with a penchant for calling her out when he’d had a few too many ales.

Add in the fact that he’d developed a pathological jealousy for her Italian secretary Rizzio and then helped in the plot to slay the poor little papist in Mary’s presence only added to the reasons for wanting him gone. When she gave birth to their son James – the future James VI of Scotland and I of England – she was derisory enough of the boy’s father to inform her entire court that it would be much the worse for her son because of who his dad happened to be.

After Mary’s marriage to Bothwell broke down and she fled to England, Darnley’s death was the pretext that Elizabeth I used for holding her in captivity for 19 years until her eventual execution in 
1587. But did Mary really have anything to do with her husband’s death or was she merely guilty of sticking her fingers in her ears and averting her eyes at the appropriate moment?

The Case For the Prosecution

1. Darnley had threatened to impugn their son’s legitimacy; in order to save baby James’ title to the throne, he would therefore need to be silenced.

2. He couldn’t be bothered with state affairs, leaving Mary to have a stamp made bearing his signature; lazy wasn’t quite the word.

3. She herself went to Glasgow to bring him back to Edinburgh when he fell ill; to keep an eye on him, or to lure him to his death?

4. On the very night of the explosion she was meant to be staying with him at the house he was convalescing in – Kirk O’Field – but ‘remembered’ at the last minute that she had a wedding to attend.

5. Her first mother-in-law was that mistress of Machiavellian machinations, Catherine de Medici; didn’t she teach her daughter-in-law anything during those long years at the French court?!

6. Mary had also been in attendance at a conference at Craigmillar Castle wherein her lords debated what to do about Darnley and had warned them not to undertake anything that might impugn her honour – that didn’t rule out doing away with him on the quiet, though.

7. Mary pardoned Darnley’s Rizzio co-plotters even though they were baying for his blood after he’d double-crossed them during the culmination of said plot; she even gave them license to return to Scotland in the months leading up to Darnley’s death.

The Case For the Defence

1. Mary may have been suffering from postnatal depression during the plotting that led to Darnley’s death, significantly swaying her judgement if she was aware of the plot.

2. Apart from having her royal reputation to consider, it seems unlikely Mary would have undertaken anything so preposterous when she wanted to keep her cousin Elizabeth Tudor sweet and hopefully be named as her eventual heir.

3. The whole thing might in fact have been in some way engineered by Cecil, Elizabeth’s chief 

advisor, in attempt to further destabilise Mary’s rule and get rid of her (he’d known about the assassination plot against Rizzio beforehand, for instance).

4. It’s unclear to what extent Bothwell had a hold over Mary. How much is romance imagined by centuries of swooning female writers, and how much might in fact be the brutality of a real-life abusive relationship, with Mary powerless to stop him clearing a path to the throne as her consort.

And let’s not even get started on the convoluted controversy that is the Casket Letters…

All in all Darnley’s demise was a spectacular point in Scottish history, one of those ‘you couldn’t make it up’ moments, when you factor in the whole Bothwell business and series of calamities that Mary herself was soon to endure. But at the heart was a spoilt, politically naïve 21-year old – pretty much a child still today – but back then a grown man, thrust into the backstabbing heart of sixteenth century Scottish politics. Even if he was a brat, he didn’t deserve to die like that.

Mickey Mayhew
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About the Author

Autistic author and lifelong Londoner Mickey Mayhew is currently completing his PhD on the cult surrounding 'tragic queens' Anne Boleyn and Mary Queen of Scots. He was co-author on three books relating to Jack the Ripper and his first non-fiction work, The Little Book of Mary Queen of Scots, was published by The History Press in January 2015. I Love the Tudors - also by THP - was released in January 2016. Fiction includes the urban fantasy trilogy 'The Barrow Boys of Barking', beginning with 'Jack and the Lad' and concluding, for now, with 'Jamie's Big Bang'. His next Tudor book is scheduled for release some time in 2017. Find out more at Mickey's website  and find him on Twitter @Mickey_Mayhew.

2 March 2017

Book Launch Guest Post - A Series Is A Family by Marie Lavender

New on Amazon US and Amazon UK

If anyone had told me back in August of 2012 that by now, I’d not only have completed and published three full-length historical romance novels, but also have numerous works out along with the launch of three other series, I probably wouldn’t have believed them. Yet it’s true.

In 2002, I had this thread of an idea for a Victorian maritime story set in France. That book became a long project which somehow morphed into an empire. In 2013, Upon Your Return was released. I was ecstatic! Not only was my first historical romance on the market, it was traditionally published to boot. Not too long after receiving the book contract for UYR, an image of a young woman stowing away on a ship materialized in my mind. Before I knew it, I was planning book two in the series, Upon Your Honor. The third book, Upon Your Love, came to me then as well.

Quickly, the entire project transformed into a compelling period drama, with elements of romance and suspense, about a family in New Orleans. Of course, the books were set in various locations besides that city. Yet each individual had his or her own trials to face. So, I guess you could say none of this was planned. The muse took on a life of its own, and the Heiresses in Love Series came to fruition. The same thing occurred with my other three series, the Magick Series, the Blood at First Sight Series and the Code of Endhivar Series. Even though they all landed in different genres or subgenres, there was one underlying theme.

Not only are the books about families, in a sense, I’m a reader myself. And whenever I read a series by one of my favorite authors, I rapidly become hooked on the stories and the characters. You warm up to them like a relative you’d see at family gatherings. Maybe you’re not with that person every day, but he or she inevitably becomes a part of you. They give your life meaning. Think of it like a TV series. You connect with the characters, so you keep cheering them on in all their life’s successes, as well as sympathizing with their failures or tragedies.

For me, writing a series has a similar purpose. As authors, we spend so much time getting to know our characters. They become friends, or even family members, and after a series is finished, there is a mourning period. I suppose it’s like moving out on your own. Sure, you love your parents, and you experience a little sadness at the idea that they’ll no longer be close at hand. But you know you must become the person you’re meant to be. You have to fly, though your parents will always hold a special place in your heart. And you’ll go back to visit now and then.

Writing a series is somewhat like loving your family. You grow close to them, even have occasional tiffs, but the familial bond can never be broken. And the Heiresses in Love Series will always be dear to me, for a number of reasons. I love the characters as if they were my own family.

Feel free to call me crazy; I’ll own up to it. I think writers need a touch of madness to write good stories. Yet we can’t deny that our characters become a vital part of us, even if they sprouted from our minds and came to life on the page. They are more than a fragment in a book, though.

They are family.

Marie Lavender
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About the Author

Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats. She has been writing for a little over twenty-five years. She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands. Since 2010, Marie has published 24 books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, fantasy, science fiction, mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry. She has also contributed to several multi-author anthologies. Her current series are The Heiresses in Love Series, The Magick Series, The Blood at First Sight Series and The Code of Endhivar Series. Find out more at Marie's website and find her on Twitter @marielavender1