Mastodon The Writing Desk: July 2017

28 July 2017

Tips for new writers Part Two - Dialogue, by Wendy Janes

As a proofreader I come across the same types of errors over and over again and thought it would be helpful to group some by theme and share them. The themes are repetition, dialogue, rules and consistency, and although they’re not intended to be comprehensive guides, I hope they’ll help you improve elements of your writing.

These suggestions are things you can do when you’ve finished pouring the first draft of your story onto the page/screen and you’re revising, editing or proofreading prior to sending your work to an editor or proofreader. The more polished your work is before it goes to the professionals, the better job they can do.

Welcome to the second post in the series: Dialogue

I don’t like to begin with a moan, but I can’t tell you how much time I spend correcting punctuation of speech. Honestly, you really don’t want your editor or your proofreader to be adding masses of missed commas and quote marks when they could be using their skills more efficiently and effectively. So, I’m going to start with some basics.

As a general rule, if you have a dialogue tag following speech, the dialogue ends with a comma, or question mark or exclamation mark, followed by the close quote, and the dialogue tag begins with a lower case letter. For example:

‘I seem to have forgotten my wallet,’ said Vincent.

And if you have an action tag following speech, the dialogue ends with a full stop, or question mark or exclamation mark, followed by the close quote, and the action tag begins with an upper case letter. For example:

‘I seem to have forgotten my wallet.’ He patted his jacket and trouser pockets.

Although the differences between action tags and dialogue tags seem very clear, readers and writers have different tolerance levels when characters are doing things like laughing or crying or sighing. To demonstrate my own preferences, let’s continue with Vincent and Anton.

‘I can’t believe I’ve done it again, Anton. This is so embarrassing.’ Vincent laughed.

‘Oh,’ sighed Anton, reaching for his credit card.

I would suggest that the above is correct because Vincent couldn’t have laughed all those words, and so his laugh is something that happens after his speech. I also think it’s quite reasonable for Anton to sigh a single word.

Modern dialogue tends to avoid too many he said/she said tags, and definitely shuns anything flowery such as ‘she implored beseechingly’. Ideally the words themselves will convey the drama, not the dialogue tag. A neat way to get around too many tags of the he said/she said variety is to choose an action tag instead. Let’s continue the story of Vincent’s missing wallet:

‘You’ve got to be kidding me. Not again,’ said Anton, crossing his arms and fixing Vincent with his ice blue eyes.

The above could be altered to:

‘You have got to be kidding me. Not again.’ Anton crossed his arms and fixed Vincent with his ice blue eyes.

Another issue I often come across is when the author states the obvious, and the dialogue is merely taking up space on the page. For example:

‘Hello,’ said Carla.
‘Hello,’ replied Duncan.

Simple greetings usually aren’t needed. However, greetings can be useful when they convey significant information, such as something unusual or interesting about the relationship between the two characters.

I suggest you also cut down on exclamation marks as much as possible. Ideally the words should convey the drama.

In order to avoid writing unrealistic dialogue, it can help if you read it out loud. Most characters will speak using contractions and it’s only very well-spoken formal or historical characters that will require the usual contractions to be written out in full. And when writing dialect, it’s a good idea to try and make it accessible and not stereotyped. Too many dropped aitches for your Londoner could be difficult to read, and slightly irritating too.

Make sure your characters speak in the language of their time. A word such as teenager has only been around since the mid-1930s, so if your book is set any earlier it’s important that none of your characters use that term to refer to anyone of that age.

Thinking carefully about your characters’ voices will really enhance your writing. Their style of speech can convey their personality or mood. For example, while it would be great for a professor of English to use the word ‘esoteric’, it would be out of character for someone who hadn’t completed high school or picked up a book since then. It’s also important to consider how each of your characters differ in their speech in terms of choice of language, vocal tics, style and length of sentences. If everyone in your novel sounds the same it’s difficult for the reader to tell them apart.

I hope you’re now ready to return to your manuscript with lots of ideas about the words you want to put in your characters’ mouths.

Wendy Janes 
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About the Author

Wendy Janes is a freelance proofreader for a number of publishers and many individual authors. She is also a caseworker for The National Autistic Society’s Education Rights Service. Author of the novel, What Jennifer Knows and a collection of short stories, What Tim Knows, and other stories, she loves to take real life and turn it into fiction. She lives in London with her husband and youngest son. You can connect with Wendy online and discover more about her via her Facebook author page, her website, Amazon author pages (UK/US) and Twitter @wendyproof.  

26 July 2017

An Irish Fiction Omnibus, by Orna Ross

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

An Irish Fiction Omnibus is a collection of three bestselling novels from Orna Ross, perfect for fans of The Irish Heart series by Juliet Gauvin and An Irish Family Saga series by Jean Reinhardt.

After the Rising, book one in The Irish Trilogy is a historical murder mystery of love, revenge and redemption.

Twenty years ago, Jo Devereux fled Mucknamore, the small Irish village where she grew up, driven away by buried secrets and hatreds, swearing never to return

Now she is back and wants to uncover the truth…

What really happened between her family and their friends, the O’Donovans, during the Ireland’s bitter Civil War?

The consequences of that bitter division in the 1920s carried down into Jo’s own life, shattering her relationship with Rory O’Donovan, the only man she ever loved, and driving her to leave Ireland.

Now, Jo’s estranged mother has died, leaving her a suitcase full of letters and diaries that seem answer some questions about the past.

Over the course of a long hot summer, Jo is astonished to read about her grandmother and great-aunt, their part in Ireland’s fight for freedom and the repercussions that echoed throughout their lives.

She has learned how the passion of rebellion sweeps people up but what happens after the rising?

Her Secret Rose is the first book in The Yeats-Gonne Trilogy, chronicling the passionate relationship between W.B. Yeats and Maud Gonne.

Willie Yeats was 23 years old in 1889, when Maud Gonne, six feet tall, elegantly beautiful and passionately political, came calling to his house and “the troubling of his life” began.

He spread his dreams under her feet, as they set about creating a new Ireland, through his poetry and her politics, and their shared interest in the occult.

Packed with emotional twists and surprises, Her Secret Rose is a novel of secrets and intrigue, passion and politics, mystery and magic, that brings to life 1890s Dublin, London and Paris, two fascinating characters — and a charismatic love affair that altered the course of history for two nations.

Blue Mercy is a literary family drama, with a murder at its heart, full of emotional twists and surprises

When Mercy Mulcahy was 40 years old, she was accused of killing her elderly and tyrannical father. Now, at the end of her life, she has written a book about what really happened on that fateful night of Christmas Eve, 1989.

The tragic and beautiful Mercy has devoted her life to protecting Star, especially from the father whose behavior so blighted her own life. Yet Star vehemently resists reading her manuscript.

Why? What is Mercy hiding? Was her father's death an assisted suicide?

Or something more sinister?

In this book, nothing is what it seems on the surface and everywhere there are emotional twists and surprises.
Will you side with mother or daughter?

Praise for Orna’s novels:

“A highly ambitious, engaging and evocative novel and a hauntingly captivating read.” — Sunday Independent

“The sort of massive book you could happily curl up with for the entire winter, an impressive canvas interweaving a contemporary story of love, emigration and loss with the complex world of civil war politics, emerging women's rights and buried secrets… in literary, lyrical language, while still being a captivating read.” — Irish Independent

“This expertly crafted novel is an important work in terms of Irish social history, but it will also be enjoyed by anyone who appreciates intelligent and profound family sagas that make the reader count his own blessings.” — Historical Novel Society

“Epic sweep...ambitious scope... an intelligent book”. — Sunday Tribune

“A riveting story...vividly brought to life.” — Emigrant Online

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About the Author

Orna Ross writes novels, poems and the Go Creative! books and has been described as "one of the 100 most influential people in publishing" (The Bookseller) for her work with The Alliance of Independent Authors, an association of the world's best self-publishing authors and advisors. Born and raised in Wexford in the south-east of Ireland, she now lives in London. Find out more at Orna's website is and find her on Twitter @OrnaRoss.

23 July 2017

New Book Spotlight: The Tyrant's Heir (Desertera #3) by Kate M. Colby

New on Amazon US and Amazon UK

Should a king elicit love or fear? Lionel inspires neither… and it could cost him everything.

Lionel Monashe believes he's a terrible king. After ordering his father's execution and taking the throne, he struggles to reconcile his royal duties with his innate compassion. His insecurity and inconsistent ruling lead prominent subjects to challenge his authority.

Chief among his adversaries is a self-proclaimed prophet, whose religious zealotry launches the kingdom into economic crisis and civil unrest. When Lionel attempts to make peace, he sparks even more discord and ignites the greatest tragedy in Desertera's history.

Blame for the disaster falls on the king, sending Lionel in a desperate pursuit to find answers before he loses his crown… and possibly his life.

The third book in the Desertera series, The Tyrant’s Heir portrays a desperate power struggle in an equally desperate, steampunk dystopian world. This political thriller will keep readers guessing until the end.

Will Lionel save his crown? 

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About the Author

Kate M. Colby is an author of science fiction, fantasy, and nonfiction. Her first series, Desertera, consists of steampunk fantasy novels with themes of socio-economic disparity, self-empowerment, romance, and revenge. Kate’s writing contains everything she loves about fiction – imaginative new worlds (the more apocalyptic the better), plots that get your heart racing, and themes that make you think. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, Creative Writing, and Sociology from Baker University, which she uses to marry her love of the written word with her passion for the human experience. When she is not writing or working, Kate enjoys playing video games, antiquing, and wine tasting. She lives in the United States with her husband and furry children. You can learn more about Kate and her books on her website: and find her on Facebook and Twitter @KateMColby.

The Desertera Series

22 July 2017

Guest Post by Anthea Syrokou, Author of Eventually Julie

Available on Amazon UKAmazon US

Join Julie and her delightful and witty friends on a journey of fun, adventure, and passion. Set in and around Sydney, as well as London and Paris, Eventually Julie is a “finding yourself” romance that deals with being stuck in a rut and eventually finding the right ingredients
to live a life that is true.

Pinpointing the reason that I decided to write my novel, Eventually Julie, initially seemed like an arduous task. The character of Julie had been on my mind for some time, so the words just typed themselves at first. A writing plan soon followed, with many deflections and re-planning along the way, and a great deal of revising and editing.

As I look back, however, I recognise that it was during my counselling studies that many realisations occurred to me that inspired me to write Eventually Julie. I learned that we often place restrictions on ourselves. We may shy away from accepting who we truly are as individuals, and live our lives according to other people’s values instead of our own. This is where the character, Julie, was born.

There is often a passion; a zeal for life that is within many of us that is often repressed; needs that we aren’t even aware of that remain hidden. We often ignore our natural instincts, and choose to listen to our “automatic negative thoughts” without challenging them. We swallow these negative thoughts whole, without chewing the information and breaking it down to question its validity. We often fail to treat each thought like a hypothesis that needs to be tested and challenged. These thoughts are rapid and can be easily missed. Only by recognising that they exist can we challenge them before they begin to control our behaviour.

These are the concepts that were in the back of my mind when writing Eventually Julie; the fact that many of us can fall victim to our negative thoughts which contain many “shoulds", “oughts”, “musts”, “ifs”, and other debilitating inferences and introjections. Such restrictive language can form false beliefs and affect our choices in life — if we believe them to be true.

When writing this novel, I wanted to create a protagonist that feels so restricted with her choices; one that has so much passion within her but needs to find a way to reacquaint herself with the little girl inside — the girl who has so much confidence. Eventually Julie delves into this phenomenon; where we often mistrust our instincts and instead place obstacles in our own paths, sabotaging our dreams and our self-growth. Once we remove these obstacles and begin to rely on our internal locus of control, we discover our true selves and we can make informed choices and find meaning in life.

Similarly, the novel touches on “unfinished business” which can deter us from living in the “here and now”, as it hovers around in the background and prevents us from thinking clearly and attaining self-awareness. The protagonist, Julie, finds herself in this plight.

Nature and travelling have always inspired me. I believe that the environment can have a negative or positive effect on our state of mind. My writing is inspired by the environment I find myself in at a specific moment in time. I am constantly thinking and observing and striving to find beauty in life.

Beauty can be many things. It can be a career, travelling, a cup of coffee, music, writing, reading, art, nature — anything that inspires an individual and enriches his or her life.

Eventually Julie highlights the importance of beauty. The purity and rawness of the vineyards, one of the settings featured in the novel, has echoes with the idea of being true. The beauty of the cities in different parts of the world, and their unique and bold architectural styles, symbolise a person’s need to reach their true potential.

Eventually You is the delightful shop that features in the novel and sells organic products which all encourage acceptance and healing. The healing qualities in products such as candles, incense burners, and soaps, also highlight the theme of being true to our values.

Of course, this is all done with a dash of humour, a sprinkle of romance, and wonderful characters.

Set in and around Sydney, as well as London and Paris, Eventually Julie is a “finding yourself” romance, and is relatable to people who are stuck in a rut and are afraid or neglect to pursue their dreams and steer their own path. Julie’s career and relationship struggles will resonate with readers on a global level.

Anthea Syrokou

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About the Author

Anthea Syrokou is an author who grew up and resides in Sydney, Australia. Anthea’s love for writing was planted at a young age when she studied Greek mythology. Her love for literature continued well into her teenage years where she enjoyed reading novels from many of the great English writers. Anthea has a BA degree, majoring in Psychology and Industrial Relations, and a diploma in Counselling. She also studied Greek Literature at university and has worked in Direct Marketing, and Insurance and Investments. Anthea is currently working on her new novel, and is also writing articles and posts on everyday issues. When she isn’t writing or reading, Anthea enjoys travelling, yoga, spending time with her family, and escaping to the vineyards. A quiet house with some jazz playing in the background, surrounded by a few scented lit candles is her idea of relaxation. She lives with her husband and their two sons, and often jokes that she may be the only writer who doesn’t own a cat. Find out more at Anthea's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @antheasyrokou.

21 July 2017

Interview with Stephanie Churchill, Author of The King’s Daughter

Available for pre-order
on Amazon US and Amazon UK

In this gripping sequel to The Scribe's Daughter, a young woman finds herself unwittingly caught up in a maelstrom of power, intrigue, and shifting perceptions, where the line between ally and enemy is subtle, and the fragile facade of reality is easily broken.

Today I'm talking to Stephanie Churchill about her second book, The King’s Daughter, a sequel to The Scribe’s Daughter.

There may be readers who haven’t read the first book yet, so why don’t you start off by telling us a little bit about it?

The Scribe’s Daughter is fantasy, though it will appeal to historical fiction readers because everything about it echoes the historical without actually being historical.  I used my comfort and familiarity with history and historical novels to recreate a world that would be similar in feel.

At the beginning of the novel, we meet Kassia, a seventeen year-old orphan who is faced with a tough decision in her daily quest for survival.  She is a younger sister but finds herself in the position of providing for both herself and her older sister, Irisa.  The sisters cannot afford to pay rent, and when their landlord gives them an ultimatum -- pay up or become whores -- Kassia must make a difficult decision.  Events become complicated when very soon after, a stranger shows up at her doorstep to hire Kassia for a job that is ridiculously outside her skill set.  Not seeing any other choice, she takes him on.  Before long, Kassia finds herself swept away on a sometimes treacherous journey where she must use her resourcefulness and every measure of witty bravado to survive.  Along the way, mysteries of the sisters’ family history, a history they never knew existed, are realized and revealed.

Tell us a little bit about The King’s Daughter.

Much of this book overlaps the timeline of the first book as the sisters’ perspectives weave together to form a more complete view of what readers learned earlier.  Kassia and Irisa part ways early on in The Scribe’s Daughter.  The first few chapters of The King’s Daughter follow that overlapping timeline as Irisa learns about the same mysteries her sister did in the first book; however, Irisa’s story continues on from there, and she discovers even deeper mysteries than Kassia ever knew existed.  Facts are twisted sideways so that the mysteries take on new life.  Ultimately it is a character-driven book.  Irisa grows and develops as a person, but in her strength, she helps the development of the other significant protagonist in the story as well.  All of this is wrapped in mystery, political intrigue, a little love story, as well as action and adventure.

Your book reads like historical fiction.  Did you base any of the plot or characters on any real figures from history?

Without giving too much away for the sake of the plot, I’ll say that Edward IV and his daughter Elizabeth of York, who married Henry Tudor, were probably the biggest influences on two of my characters, though only loosely.

Did you plan to write multiple books when you started The Scribe’s Daughter?

When I began work on The Scribe’s Daughter, I had no long-range plan.  It was simply an experiment in writing first person.  Once I started writing Kassia however, I fell in love with her character and couldn’t stop.  Irisa was originally just a sub-character, and I had no real plan to develop her.  Once I got nearly half way through writing the first draft though, I realized that Irisa had a tale of her own to tell, and it was going to be very compelling.  I was intrigued by the idea of perspective and the differing views multiple people can have of the same events.  This was really the seed idea for the second book.  Once I got writing it, I discovered another selfish perk: I found that I missed Kassia terribly, and creating a book for Irisa allowed me to revisit the same world while taking off in a new direction even while inventing new people and places.  I can totally understand now why so many authors write a series!

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are there necessary connections between each book?

One of my advanced readers thought The King’s Daughter could be read as a stand-alone.  It’s hard for me to judge that as the author since I can never read the book with new eyes.  I would say however, that if a person wants to read it without having read the first one, it’s probably doable.  My caution would be though, that they would miss out on a lot of depth.  The second book weaves many tiny details from the first book: characters, places, mysteries, back stories, etc.  In fact, there are so many connections that many of the details may even be missed by most readers!

I have a plan for a third book, the story of Naria, Irisa and Kassia’s mother.  I left some dangling threads at the end of The King’s Daughter, and I really want to tie those up for readers.  This third book will have even more connections, ties, and connections to characters and events from the first two books.

Who should read your books?

I have found that my audience is more women than men, but both audiences have very dedicated fans.  The books were written for adults, though I tried to be sensitive to a wide audience so wrote it with that in mind, including teens.  Genre is difficult to pin down.  As I said earlier, the books read like historical fiction but are no doubt fantasy, even if not traditional fantasy.  There is no magic, no dragons or other fantastical beasts.  Everything is based in reality.  Readers of historical fiction should feel right at home with the books however, because I love history and historical fiction and attempted to inject the feel of that genre into my writing.  I often tell people that my books echo historical fiction even if they aren’t history.  More than that though, if you love deep characters, evocative settings, and a good plot, it doesn’t matter what genre you read.  You’ll enjoy the books!

The King’s Daughter will be released on September 1 and can be ordered from Amazon.

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About the Author

Stephanie Churchill grew up in the American Midwest, and after school moved to Washington, D.C. to work as a paralegal, moving to the Minneapolis metro area when she married.  She says, 'One day while on my lunch break from work, I visited a nearby bookstore and happened upon a book by author Sharon Kay Penman.  I’d never heard of her before, but the book looked interesting, so I bought it.  Immediately I become a rabid fan of her work. I discovered that Ms. Penman had fan club and that she happened to interact there frequently.  As a result of a casual comment she made about how writers generally don’t get detailed feedback from readers, I wrote her an embarrassingly long review of her latest book, Lionheart.  As a result of that review, she asked me what would become the most life-changing question: “Have you ever thought about writing?”  And The Scribe’s Daughter was born. Find out more at Stephanie's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @WriterChurchill.

20 July 2017

Guest Post by Dylan Callens, author of Interpretation

Available for pre-order on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Interpretation is a dystopian fiction that explores hope and happiness in the bleakest of conditions and what happens when it’s torn away.

Dreams.  We all have them but we don’t really know what they are. Scientifically speaking, the explanation is pretty lame.  According to WebMD, “Dreams are basically stories and images our mind creates while we sleep. Dreams can occur anytime during sleep. But most vivid dreams occur during deep, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, when the brain is most active. Some experts say we dream at least four to six times per night.”

That’s great and all.  But it doesn’t help us to understand our dreams. Many people put great stock in their dreams, believing them to be linked to daily events or some hidden truth about life.  But maybe they mean nothing at all.

According to an article in Time (Why Dreams Mean Less Than We Think, 2009), countless experiments have been conducted that link the way we feel to external data.  We make dumb choices based on things that we see all the time.  For example, in one study, people were asked to guess at how many African nations were members of the UN.  The researcher then spun a wheel of fortune which landed on a random number between zero and one hundred.  Respondents typically picked a number that was close to whatever number was on the wheel, even though it was obviously not tied to the question.  This suggests that what we see may have an impact on what we think, especially when we are not conscious of the association.

Even if that is the case, wouldn’t our dreams still mean something?  The external data that we see every day, the stuff that we are not even aware of, helps shape who we are.  It’s also not clear if the waking mind and sleeping mind necessarily processes that information the same way.

In my novel, Interpretation, there is some examination about dreams and what they could mean.  In one part, an artificial intelligence examines Carl Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections in search of creating its own plan for a dreaming humanity.  In his book, Jung says, “…In addition, I discussed her dreams with her. In this way I succeeded in uncovering her past, which the anamnesis had not clarified. I obtained information directly from the unconscious…”

According to Jung, he was able to interpret this patient’s dream and uncover details about her past that otherwise weren’t known to the patient.  Can this actually be done?  Do our dreams reveal secrets that we’ve hidden away in our subconscious?

In another part, Jung says, “…dreams with collective contents, containing a great deal of symbolic material...”  The collective contents in this case are those things which are common to mankind as a whole.  Although it’s not entirely clear what things these are, Jung believes that we inherited these ideas from our early origins and are hardwired into our brain.  While we might not be aware of what these things are in our day to day lives, these ideas exist at an unconscious level.

“…These dreams show that there is something in us which does not merely submit passively to the influence of the unconscious, but on the contrary rushes eagerly to meet it, identifying itself with the shadow…”  In Jungian psychology, the shadow is the stuff about ourselves of which we are not necessarily aware.  Jung wrote, "Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is."  While these are typically things that are negative and we don’t want to admit to ourselves, it is possible that we are not aware of our positive attributes.  For example, people with low self-esteem may not be able to identify what they are good at.  Dreams, then, are a way for us to see what is in that shadow.  Dreams let us reconcile some of the traits that we are unaware of, yet are heavily influenced by.

Whether you see dreams as revealing more about yourself, entertainment, or a waste of sleep, is obviously up to you.  I just enjoy incorporating them into writing.  In writing, they present an opportunity to let the imagination run wild and have fun.

Dylan Callens
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About the Author

Dylan Callens lands cleanly. That would be the headline of a newspaper built with an anagram generator. And although Dylan is a Welsh name meaning god or hero of the sea, he is not particularly fond of large bodies of water. His last name, Callens, might be Gaelic. If it is, his last name means rock. Rocks sink in the sea. Interestingly, he is neither Welsh nor Gaelic, but rather, French and German. The inherent contradictions and internal conflict in his life are obvious. Find out more at Dylan''s website and find him on Facebook and Twitter @TheNitzsch.

19 July 2017

Echoes – a journey: Guest Post by P.J Roscoe

New on Amazon UK
A signed copy is also available through

There are many casualties of war, but some refuse to be forgotten

‘Echoes’ the award-winning novel, has had one hell of a journey since I first began to write it twenty years ago. It began as ‘Ruined Echoes’ a short story of a woman as she travelled through time and how she survived as a 21st century woman in medieval Britain – been done to death, so changed it and changed it again to become, ‘Echoes’, a paranormal historical thriller moving between present day and the Tudor period when Henry Tudor won the battle of Bosworth. Bronwen Mortimer moves to the secluded village of Derwen to escape her past, but when she witnesses murder and becomes a serial rapist’s next target, she must face her past to have any chance of living in the present as the echoes of history move through time.

Echoes first began in June 1997 following the sudden death of our unborn son, Jac, my husband had to return to work and I was left alone, pondering how I was going to get through the rest of my life. I remember vividly, sitting at my kitchen table, a mug of coffee going cold beside me and a pencil in my hand as I stared into space, tears flowing down my cheeks. At some point, I began doodling on an old A4 scrap of paper and an image came into my head. With the image, came words and within an hour or so, a short story had emerged. The next day, when I realised I had survived a day without my son, I ran out and bought a new pad of A4 paper and began expanding the story. Within eight weeks I had a novel and was pregnant again.

With my pregnancy came a new surge of writing. I wrote short stories for magazines, historical articles for a Welsh magazine, ‘Country Quest’, but Echoes remained untouched for years, as my new daughter had special needs and needed my full attention. Many years later, I started an online writing course and was asked about a novel, Echoes resurfaced and worked on and my tutor encouraged me to send the first three chapters off to agents. Rejections were forthcoming, yet my enthusiasm did not wane and I persisted. Working on it, expanding it, changing it, all the time knowing it had to be read.
By 2008 I self-published on LULU, yet I was so self conscious,

I held a book launch, without any books!! I figured if they liked the copy I had, they would order it online – 13 people did. By 2012 I re-did Echoes and launched it on Amazon and held a proper book launch at a local theatre. 24 people came. That year ‘Echoes received an Honourable mention in the new England book festival. In 2013 it won the e-book category in the Paris book festival and in 2014 it was awarded an Honourable Mention in the London book festival and received five stars from Reader’s Favourite.

By this time I was ecstatic and trusted a publisher with my novel. Alas, she was a fraud. However, it got me in touch with another author who had begun her own publishing company, Doce Blant publishing and through her, I have had support and brilliant editing, a book cover and Echoes is at its full potential for the world.

And so, although Echoes was born of sorrow, it taught me strength, resilience and courage to see my own true path is to write.

Thank you

P.J Roscoe
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About the Author

P.J Roscoe lives in Wales with her husband Martin and daughter Megan. Starting out as an author of several historical articles published in 'Country Quest' a Wales & Border magazine, she moved onto writing short faerie stories for her daughter whilst penning Echoes following the death of her son at birth. She worked for Cruse Bereavement care as a trainer and volunteer whilst qualifying as a person-centered counsellor. She is a holistic therapist, a Chakradance facilitator and a drumming facilitator along with being a medium and mother to a child with Autism and Dyspraxia and it is these experiences that have helped to shape her stories. Find out more at her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @derwenna1

18 July 2017

Guest Post by David Ebsworth, author of Until the Curtain Falls, a new thriller set during the Spanish Civil War.

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

October 1938, and foreign correspondent Jack Telford is on the run in northern Spain, territory now controlled by Franco’s fascists. And he’s killed somebody close to the Generalísimo’s heart. Telford’s a hunted man, and hunted by three different and deadly enemies. In a climactic chase from Madrid to the Republic’s last outpost, in Alicante, during the closing days of the Spanish Civil War, Jack will learn hard lessons about the conflict between morality and survival.

“The image of the woman Telford had just killed would not leave him. He was almost sure she deserved to die. And, if he hadn’t drowned her first, he was fairly certain that he himself would now be dead.”  

I suppose that Spain and its civil wars are in my blood. An ancestor, Francis Crook Ebsworth, died there in 1837, fighting for the liberal Isabelino faction against the more reactionary Carlists. And then, as a trade union activist from the early 1970s onwards,

I worked closely with men who had volunteered to fight as part of the International Brigades – Merseysiders, like Jack Jones and Frank Deagan – on behalf of the Spanish Republic in the terrible conflict from 1936 until 1939, which was, itself, the opening chapter of the Second World War. That struggle began when, in July 1936, four insurgent generals, including Francisco Franco, launched a military coup to overthrow the elected Popular Front Government.

Three brutally cruel years followed, and sadly ended with Franco’s eventual victory and the establishment of yet another dictatorship for Spain, one that would last until 1975.

Meanwhile, I’d grown close to our ‘extended Spanish family’, many of whom had themselves supported the Republican cause. And so, when I was thinking about writing my second novel, during 2012, it seemed natural to think about the Spanish Civil War as the background – though I was obviously keen to find a “new angle” for the tale.

I began researching different aspects and, through sheer serendipity, came across a paper by American Professor Sandie Holguin, in which she’d uncovered the bizarre story of Franco’s Battlefield Tours, organised from mid-1938 onwards, while the outcome of the war was still in the balance – tours which attracted thousands of international tourists between 1938 and 1945. That’s right, all the way through the Second World War.

The result of all this was the publication of The Assassin’s Mark in 2013 and, this year, its sequel, Until the Curtain Falls – although, to be honest, Until the Curtain Falls can just as easily be read as a stand-alone story.

Between the two novels, I’ve been able to tell some generally untold and “stranger than fiction” stories of the Spanish Civil War: about the way that Franco used Battlefield Tourism and the Camino de Santiago as international propaganda tools; about Franco’s lair in Burgos and the barbarity of the neighbouring prisoner-of-war concentration camp at San Pedro de Cardeña; about the final months of the two-and-a-half year Siege of Madrid; about the secret story of Britain’s dirty involvement in the war’s politics; and about the tragedy of the closing chapter, in Alicante Province.

Then I needed some major characters through whom these stories could be told: left-wing correspondent for the weekly Reynolds News, Jack Telford; Franco’s Irish tour guide, Brendan Murphy; Jack’s mysterious travelling companion and fellow-journalist, Valerie Carter-Holt; Republican army Captain Fidel Constantino; and, in Madrid, the British consulate’s staff member, Ruby Waters.

I like to know my protagonists very well before I start writing and then, with only the most flexible of plot outlines, let them loose on the historical timeline – the “stranger than fiction” incidents I mentioned earlier – to see where their characters take the yarn.

In this case they rewarded me with enough material to fill the pages of these two thrillers: a suspicious accident in San Sebastián; a hostage siege in Spain’s most holy sanctuary; assassination attempts; an unexpected murder; mayhem in Burgos; enough guerrilla activity to rival For Whom The Bell Tolls; espionage and skulduggery in Madrid; a life-and-death chase to Spain’s Mediterranean coast; and twists galore during the finale in Alicante and beyond. Hopefully, Until the Curtain Falls will live up to its reputation as “a roller-coaster” ride, as a simple thriller, but might also serve – as historical fiction should always do – to bring this important period of history to a wider audience.

David Ebsworth
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About the Author

David Ebsworth is the pen name of writer Dave McCall, a former negotiator for Britain’s Transport & General Workers’ Union. He was born in Liverpool but has lived in Wrexham, North Wales, with his wife Ann since 1981 – though they now spend a significant part of each year in Alicante, Spain. Each of Dave’s six novels has been critically acclaimed by the Historical Novel Society and been awarded the coveted BRAG Medallion for independent authors. His work in progress is a series of nine novellas, covering the years from 1911 until 1919 and the lives of a Liverpudlian-Welsh family embroiled in the suffragette movement. Until the Curtain Falls is also the first of Dave’s books to be translated into another language, with the Spanish edition due for publication in November this year. For more information on the author and his work, visit his website at and find him on Twitter @EbsworthDavid.

Hemingway Editor Reviewed #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #writing

I've been using the previous version 2.0 of the Hemingway app to improve the draft of my latest novel, before sending it to my editor, so was interested to see what's new in version 3.0.

Originally an online tool, it was written by writers for writers. The app highlights long, complex sentences and common errors; if you see a yellow sentence, you can shorten or split it. Phrases in green have been marked to show passive voice:

You can write directly into the app but I prefer to copy and paste a chapter at a time and see how my writing is improving. I also found the readability functions useful for spotting long sentences and words with better alternatives. Over the course of a full length novel I reduced the number of errors, so my editor can focus on content rather than style.

New Features

Version 3 adds a new feature of publishing directly to WordPress blogs, either as a draft or live post, from the Hemingway Editor. You can also now import and export HTML Microsoft Word and pdf files The new feature I'll be using most is to have more than one file open at the same time,

The Hemingway App doesn’t turn you into Earnest Hemingway overnight but has proved a useful tool which I recommend to all writers. You can use it online or download it from

Tony Riches

Do you have some great writing tips you would like to share?
Please feel free to comment

The #AuthorToolboxBlogHop is a monthly event on the topic of resources and learning for authors. Feel free to hop around to the various blogs and see what you learn! The rules and sign-up form are below the list of hop participants. All authors at all stages of their careers are welcome to join in.

17 July 2017

Great Video About "The Making of Jane Austen" by Devoney Looser

New on Amazon US and Amazon UK

Just how did Jane Austen become the celebrity author and the inspiration for generations of loyal fans she is today? Devoney Looser’s The Making of Jane Austen turns to the people, performances, activism, and images that fostered Austen’s early fame, laying the groundwork
for the beloved author we think we know.

British women writers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries fascinate me. And yes, there were hundreds of them publishing their work. It wasn’t only Jane Austen and Mary Shelley. From the way the two of them are dominating the conversation today, however, you might be forgiven for thinking they were the only females in all England who ever thought to put pen to paper. They’re in the news now because each author is about to celebrate an important bicentenary: Austen for her death in July 1817 and Shelley for Frankenstein’s publication in January 1818. 

So much has been written about Austen’s and Shelley’s lives and works. Surely all of the best ideas have been expressed and the most significant research has been completed? It would take audacity on the part of a writer to sit down at the keyboard and think she might have anything new to add. Yet that’s exactly what I decided to do when I embarked on my book, The Making of Jane Austen (to be published 27 June). Previous literary critics have written about how Austen became an icon in the decades after her death. What I wanted to know is whether we might have overlooked a few things in our recording what is, after all, an incredibly complicated story of her remarkable rise to posthumous celebrity.

I discovered that we’d missed a great deal. I’m excited to report that I’ve corrected a few errors in previous scholarship and have dug up some strange skeletons from the Jane Austen afterlife-closet. I like to imagine this book as a history not only of Austen’s changing public image in the decades after she died but as a collective biography of her earliest devotees, entrepreneurs, and fans. My book charts how Austen’s fiction and characters morphed into every successive new popular medium and how important that transformation was to her reputation. I look at how Austen’s nineteenth- and twentieth-century image was shaped by book illustration, dramatization, film, politics and activism, and teachers, students, and schools. We just haven’t looked as carefully at those popular aspects of her fame as we have at her critical history.

There have been some terrific previous accounts of Austen’s fame; they deserve their due. But most focus squarely on the big names who loved and hated her: Rudyard Kipling and Winston Churchill loved Jane Austen, Mark Twain and Charlotte Brontë hated Jane Austen, and so on. We’ve described her most important scholars and critics, including pioneering editor R. W. Chapman and celebrated critic George Saintsbury, the man who’s said to have coined the word “Janeite.” We quote Virginia Woolf and Rebecca West on Austen. Then we call it a day.

But it wasn’t just famous authors and establishment critics who catapulted Austen to immortality. There were many lesser-known people who were working with great care and no small success to popularize her stories and characters, long before Longbourn or Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. My book shows that we can’t possibly understand how Jane Austen became an icon without learning about her popular innovators and their motivations and stories, too. Hundreds—thousands--of lesser-known writers, artists, actors, teachers, and fans shaped her image and told her history in new ways. They made Jane Austen. We’re still making and remaking her, as her stories inspire many to ask difficult questions, not only about who she was but about who we are or might be with her. That’s cause enough for celebration.

Devoney Looser
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About the Author

Devoney Looser is Professor of English at Arizona State University. Her recent writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The TLS, The Independent, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Entertainment Weekly. Devoney grew up in Minnesota and now lives in the desert, near a fantastic roller rink, and teaches women's writings and the history of the novel. She says, 'I met my husband--also an English professor and Austen scholar--over a conversation about Austen, and together we're raising tween sons who find Austen tolerable but un-tempting.' Find out more at and find Devoney on Twitter: @devoneylooser and @Making_Jane.

13 July 2017

Historical Fiction Spotlight: The King's Daughter, by Stephanie Churchill

Available for pre-order
on Amazon US and Amazon UK

In this gripping sequel to The Scribe's Daughter, a young woman finds herself unwittingly caught up in a maelstrom of power, intrigue, and shifting perceptions, where the line between ally and enemy is subtle, and the fragile facade of reality is easily broken.

Irisa's parents are dead and her younger sister Kassia is away on a journey when the sisters’ mysterious customer returns, urging Irisa to leave with him before disaster strikes. Can she trust him to keep her safe? 

How much does he know about the fate of her father? Only a voyage across the Eastmor Ocean to the land of her ancestors will reveal the truth about her family’s disturbing past. Once there, Irisa steps into a future she has unknowingly been prepared for since childhood, but what she discovers is far more sinister than she could have ever imagined. Will she have the courage to claim her inheritance for her own?

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About the Author

Stephanie Churchill grew up in the American Midwest, and after school moved to Washington, D.C. to work as a paralegal, moving to the Minneapolis metro area when she married.  She says, 'One day while on my lunch break from work, I visited a nearby bookstore and happened upon a book by author Sharon Kay Penman.  I’d never heard of her before, but the book looked interesting, so I bought it.  Immediately I become a rabid fan of her work. I discovered that Ms. Penman had fan club and that she happened to interact there frequently.  As a result of a casual comment she made about how writers generally don’t get detailed feedback from readers, I wrote her an embarrassingly long review of her latest book, Lionheart.  As a result of that review, she asked me what would become the most life-changing question: “Have you ever thought about writing?”  And The Scribe’s Daughter was born.'

Find out more at Stephanie's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @WriterChurchill.

11 July 2017

Book Review: Carol McGrath’s The Woman in The Shadows: Tudor England through the eyes of an influential woman


Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

When beautiful cloth merchant’s daughter Elizabeth Williams is widowed at the age of twenty-two, she is determined to make herself a success in the business she has learned from her father. But there are those who oppose a woman making her own way in the world, and soon Elizabeth realises she may have some powerful enemies – enemies who also know the truth about her late husband.

I recall being intrigued by the character of Elizabeth Cromwell after reading Wolf Hall, particularly after David Starkey’s assertion that the notion of Thomas Cromwell as a loving family man is total fiction.

This book tels the story  from Elizabeth’s point of view. Written in the first person, this touching and evocative account makes impressive use of the few known facts of Elizabeth’s life.

We are transported to a dangerous and dirty Tudor London, where you need to look over your shoulder and watch for cutpurses. I loved the details of daily life, of the Tudor attitudes to birth, marriage and death - and feel I understand what life was like as a medieval cloth merchant.

In an inspired break from the conventional timeline, we dip into the past for entire chapters. It reminded me of watching a skilled portrait artist at work, with increasing detail over broader brushwork until the result is three dimensional.

I cared about Elizabeth Cromwell. I worried about the way women were treated. I cheered at Elizabeth’s achievements and groaned at her mistakes. Highly recommended.

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Based in England, Carol McGrath writes Historical Fiction. She studied History at Queens University Belfast, has an MA in Creative Writing from the Seamus Heaney Centre, Queens University Belfast and an English MPhil from Royal Holloway, University of London. The Handfasted Wife is her debut novel, first in a trilogy titled The Daughters of Hastings. The second and third novels The Swan-Daughter and The Betrothed Sister have followed and are now available on Amazon and in bookshops. Carol is an historian specialising in the medieval era. Her first love, however, is writing. She is an avid reader and reviewer. Find out more at Carol's author website and find her on Twitter @carolmcgrath.

10 July 2017

The story of the statue of King Henry VII in Pembroke

The magnificent castle where Henry Tudor was born has dominated the town of Pembroke for centuries. Inside, visitors will find a ‘recreation’ of Henry Tudor’s mother, the fourteen-year-old Lady Margaret Beaufort, cradling her new born son—but they could be forgiven for driving past without realising the importance of our first Tudor king.

A small group of Pembrokeshire residents met to discuss raising funds to address this. The vision was to unveil a life-sized statue of Henry Tudor on the Mill bridge approaching Pembroke Castle. We wanted it to provide visitors with a great photo opportunity - and turn the area at the side of the Mill Bridge into an attractive public space with improved seating and flowers.

It seemed an ambitious challenge when we began. Led by Pembroke Town Councillor Linda Asman, we commissioned a talented local sculptor, Harriet Addyman, to develop small maquettes to show what the statue might look like. Local people and important local employer Valero, operators of the nearby oil refinery, donated £20,000 towards the cost of the statue, with Pembrokeshire County Council’s town centre support programme contributing match funding. One of the painted versions of the maquette found fame on TV with historian Lucy Worsley.

Lucy Worsley talking to Nathen Amin, Author of Tudor Wales
After many meetings and fundraising activities we were ready to progress to a full-size sculpture in clay. The result was one of the most impressive representations of Henry Tudor yet made, eight feet high, with his loyal greyhound at his side.

At last after many hours of work, the statue was cast in bronze by foundry specialist Martin Bellwood in nearby Clunderwen – so this statue of a King born in Pembroke has been entirely made in Pembrokeshire.

Casting the new statue at MB Fine Arts Foundry

Henry Tudor is assembled!

...and finally returns to Pembroke Castle

Unveiled on June 10th 2017  by Sara Edwards, Lord Lieutenant of Dyfed, the statute is already a focal point for the town.

A feasibility study is now being developed to create a Henry VII visitor centre, to tell the story of how he secured a victory at the battle of Bosworth Field to become our first Tudor king.

Mill Bridge in Pembroke today