Mastodon The Writing Desk: January 2018

31 January 2018

New Book Spotlight ~ Margaret Pole: The Countess in the Tower, by Susan Higginbotham

and on Amazon UK and Amazon US

The true story of 'The King's Curse';
the extraordinary life of Margaret
Pole, niece of Richard III, loyal
servant of the Tudors.

Of the many executions ordered by Henry VIII, surely the most horrifying was that of 67-year-old Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, hacked to pieces on the scaffold by a blundering headsman.

From the start, Margaret’s life had been marred by tragedy and violence: her father, George, Duke of Clarence, had been executed at the order of his own brother, Edward IV, and her naive young brother, Edward, Earl of Warwick, had spent most of his life in the Tower before being executed on the orders of Henry VII. 

Yet Margaret, friend to Katherine of Aragon and the beloved governess of her daughter Mary, had seemed destined for a happier fate until religious upheaval and rebellion caused Margaret and her family to fall from grace. 

From Margaret’s birth as the daughter of a royal duke to her beatification centuries after her death, Margaret Pole tells the story of one of the fortress’s most unlikely prisoners.

"At last, a biography of one of the most powerful and fascinating women of the Tudor period: the tragic and dramatic story of Margaret Pole, the last Plantagenet, has too long been overlooked." — Leanda de Lisle, author of Tudors: The Family Story

# # #

About the Author

Susan Higginbotham  runs her own historical fiction/history blog, History Refreshed by Susan Higginbotham, and owns a bulletin board, Historical Fiction Online. She has worked as an editor and an attorney and lives in Apex, North Carolina, with her family. You can find out more about her books at Find Susan on Faceboook and follow her on Twitter @S_Higginbotham

29 January 2018

Book review ~ The King's Pearl: Henry VIII and His Daughter Mary, by by Melita Thomas

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

I remember being taught at school about how Henry VIII's daughter Mary became known as 'Bloody Mary' after having hundreds of dissenters executed and burned at the stake. Since then I've realised her life - and relationship with her father - was far more complex.

In a new reappraisal of Mary Tudor's life, Melita Thomas has taken a thorough and well-researched approach. It is refreshing to know Melita can read Italian and French, so was able to refer to the original accounts of chroniclers of the time, rather than the many translations. 

The result is a a sensitive picture of a young girl growing old before her time in challenging circumstances. One aspect I'd not given much thought to before was her submission to her father and how Mary faced the impossible dilemma of risking her immortal soul by acknowledging her father as the supreme head of the church or risking her life defending her mother's faith.

The book ends with the death of Henry VIII, and although there is a short epilogue, I still fund many questions unanswered. I hope Melita Thomas will therefore write a companion volume which covers Mary's rise to power and later life, as there is so much 'misinformation' written by later protestant chroniclers. 

Last year I stood at the shared tomb of Queens Elizabeth and Mary in Westminster Abbey, listening to their imagined voices on the audio guide. It made me want to learn more about Mary Tudor, so The King's Pearl is a book I'm sure I will refer back to - highly recommended.

Tony Riches

# # #

About the Author

Melita Thomas is the co-founder and editor of Tudor Times, a repository of information about Britain in the period 1485-1625 Melita has loved history since being mesmerised by the BBC productions of ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ and ‘Elizabeth R’, when she was a little girl. After that, she read everything she could get her hands on about this most fascinating of dynasties. Captivated by the story of the Lady Mary galloping to Framingham to set up her standard and fight for her rights, Melita began her first book about the queen when she was 9. The manuscript is probably still in the attic! Whilst still pursuing a career in business, Melita took a course on writing biography, which led her and her business partner to the idea for Tudor Times, and gave her the inspiration to begin writing about Mary again. ‘The King’s Pearl: Henry VIII and his daughter Mary’ is her first book. She has several ideas for a second project, and hopes to settle on one and begin writing by the end of the year. In her spare time, Melita enjoys long distance walking. She is attempting to walk around the whole coast of Britain. You can follow her progress here. and find her on Facebook and Twitter @thetudortimes.

Disclosure: A review copy of The King's Pearl was kindly provided by Amberley Publishing 

28 January 2018

Historical Fiction Spotlight ~ Frailty of Human Affairs (Queenmaker Series Book 1) by Caroline Angus

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

London 1529 – Cardinal Wolsey has ruled England in King Henry VIII’s name for most of his reign. Now Henry wants to leave Queen Katherine, his extraordinary Spanish wife of twenty years, to marry Anne Boleyn and secure a male heir for the kingdom. Only God can end a marriage, through his appointed voices on Earth, the powerful Cardinal Wolsey, and Cardinal Campeggio sent from Rome in the Pope’s place.

Wolsey’s faithful attendant, commoner Thomas Cromwell, has the mind, the skills and the ambition to secure a royal annulment. Cromwell’s forgotten past in Italy reappears with Campeggio’s new attendant, Nicóla Frescobaldi, the peculiar son of Cromwell’s former Italian master. While the great Cardinals of Christendom fight the King, the Pope and their God for an annulment, Cromwell and Frescobaldi hold the power over a country at war with its own conscience.

Cromwell is called the double-minded man, whose golden eyes make money appear. Now Cromwell wants the power to destroy the Catholic Church in England. Frescobaldi is known as the waif-like creature, the Pope's favourite companion, but Frescobaldi wants freedom from Pope Clement and his Medici family in Italy. 

Cromwell and Frescobaldi will place themselves into the heart of religious and political influence as they strive to create an English queen, or lose their heads for their crimes and sinful secrets.

'Captivating... a new hero and villain in a classic tale...' Waikato Times

'Nothing punishes like secrets, and sadly they are a frailty all seem to suffer...' The Herald

'Frescobaldi is the strength and the weakness behind the famous Thomas Cromwell. These two can support one another in a cut-throat world of their own making...' The Evening Post

'In a world controlled by men and the Church, women are traded in attempts to take power, and Cromwell and Frescobaldi take the opportunity to control them all...' Northern Advocate

'Thomas Cromwell has exploded into fiction in recent years, but the addition of Frescobaldi changes how we can imagine the man behind the King...' Sunday Times

# # #

About the Author

Caroline Angus is a New Zealand author. A trained sailmaker, Caroline has gone from long hours behind sewing machines, to competing in national and international sailing regattas. With a degree in history from Valencia University and a New Zealand Diploma in Business, and thousands of hours studying the Spanish Civil War, plus Spanish and bullfighting history, it became Caroline’s time to turn to fiction, producing multiple books focusing on Spanish history. After three years studying English history, Tudor history and Shakespeare’s histories through King’s College London, the University of Leicester, the University of Southampton and the University of Warwick, Caroline is embarking on multiple trilogies set in the Tudor and Plantagenet eras. Caroline now lives in Auckland, New Zealand with her four young sons. Find out more at Caroline's website and find her on Twitter @Writer_Caroline.

19 January 2018

Book Review ~ The BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge by Rachel Thompson (Updated for 2018)

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

I’ve been following Rachel Thompson since I first started publishing five years ago – and have been grateful for her advice, which has helped my last three novels become Amazon best sellers. As well as being an author, Rachel has 184,000 followers on Twitter and 12,000 likes on Facebook.

You might think I don’t need her advice now - but things are changing all the time so it’s easy to miss something important. There is no shortage of well-intentioned advice and guidance out there but this is one book I’d recommend to all authors -  as it can save you valuable time when you could be writing.

Updated for 2018, Rachel’s BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge offers one good idea for each of the thirty days. Week one focusses on how to get the best from Twitter and I found I was picking up new tips despite being an active user.

I still find authors who think it’s a waste of time or have a picture of their cat and no links in their bio. I’ve met many interesting writers and connected with readers through Twitter, although like most things, what you get from it depends on what you put in.

Week two looks at Facebook – and I’ll admit to being a late and somewhat reluctant adopter. I found this section particularly useful as Facebook keep changing the rules. I’m always amazed at the ‘reach’ the right post can have on Facebook and it offers a very different level of engagement with readers. As Rachel points out, some readers are only on Facebook, so it’s worth creating an author page and following her advice.

Week three considers broader promotion, such as Amazon author pages, beta readers and the sometimes bewildering world of paid for promotion.  It took me a while to understand the benefits of giving books away for free but Rachel makes a good case for it. (I watched one weekend as readers downloaded hundreds of free promotion copies of one of my books – then only three left a review.)

In the final section Rachel discusses author websites, rankings, SEO and blogging. The section on understanding the demographics of your readers is very useful, as well as the states on the differing audiences for social media. I had a blog post go ‘viral’ once but never understood why, so it helps if you can use analytics to learn what’s going on.

I’ll leave the last word to Rachel Thompson: “Accept that nobody owes you anything.  It’s a privilege when anyone reads our work, let alone shares it or reviews it.”

Tony Riches 
# # #

About the Author

Rachel Thompson is the author of the multi award-winning and best-selling Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: ExposedFavorite. Rachel founded BadRedhead Media in 2011, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, IndieReader, FeminineCollective, BookMachine, BlueInk Review, and TransformationIsReal. She  lives in California (with her two kids and two cats). Find out more at Rachel's website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @RachelintheOC 

18 January 2018

Historical Fiction Spotlight ~ Daughters of the Night Sky, by Aimie K. Runyan

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

A novel—inspired by the most celebrated regiment in the Red Army—about a woman’s sacrifice, courage, and love in a time of war.

Russia, 1941. Katya Ivanova is a young pilot in a far-flung military academy in the Ural Mountains. From childhood, she’s dreamed of taking to the skies to escape her bleak mountain life. With the Nazis on the march across Europe, she is called on to use her wings to serve her country in its darkest hour. Not even the entreaties of her new husband—a sensitive artist who fears for her safety—can dissuade her from doing her part as a proud daughter of Russia.

After years of arduous training, Katya is assigned to the 588th Night Bomber Regiment—one of the only Soviet air units composed entirely of women. The Germans quickly learn to fear nocturnal raids by the daring fliers they call “Night Witches.” But the brutal campaign will exact a bitter toll on Katya and her sisters-in-arms. When the smoke of war clears, nothing will ever be the same—and one of Russia’s most decorated military heroines will face the most agonizing choice of all.

# # #

About the Author

Aimie K. Runyan writes to celebrate history’s unsung heroines. She is the author of two previous historical novels: Promised to the Crown and Duty to the Crown. She is active as an educator and a speaker in the writing community and beyond. She lives in Colorado with her wonderful husband and two (usually) adorable children. To learn more about Aimie and her work, please visit and follow her on Twitter @aimiekrunyan

15 January 2018

Book Review ~ Copycat by Alex Lake

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

When an old friend gets in touch, Sarah Havenant discovers that there are two Facebook profiles in her name. One is hers. The other, she has never seen. But everything in it is accurate. Photos of her friends, her husband, her kids. Photos from the day before. Photos of her new kitchen. Photos taken inside her house.

I've always felt a little uneasy about sharing personal details on Facebook - but what would you do if you found someone had stolen your Facebook identity?  It seems there is little you can do unless you can prove criminal intent. This is how Copycat, the latest thriller from author Alex Lake begins.

It's great to find a book you can't put down. Fast paced and innovative, the plot kept me guessing about how it would all end. The apparent lack of motive is a clever device that keeps up the mystery as the unfortunate Sarah struggles to understand events which become increasingly impossible to explain.

To make things worse, everyone around her, including her husband and the police, begin thinking these are all symptoms of escalating paranoia. She has no idea who would be doing this to her or why, so begins to suspect everyone.

I would have expected a qualified medical doctor to have been a little sharper than Sarah Havenant and I spotted some errors, such as wrong names used, which is odd for a commercially published novel. These were minor issues though as Copycat is one of the best thrillers I've read for a long time - highly recommended.

Tony Riches  

# # #

About the Author

Alex Lake is the pseudonym of a British novelist whose first book was one of Amazon UK's top ten debuts of 2012. Alex was born in the North West of England in the 1970s and now lives in  in Brunswick, Maine. You can follow Alex Lake on Twitter @Alexlakeauthor 

14 January 2018

Why You Should Consider Writing a Trilogy #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

For most writers, completing one book would seem more than enough of an achievement, so why would anyone make a commitment to writing three?  

There are real benefits of tackling any story as a trilogy and now I’ve written one I’m convinced it’s something any novelist should consider. The scope of a trilogy offers writers a liberating sense of space and freedom, as ideas hinted at in the first book can be developed and explored over the rest. This means the writer has space to explore the complexity of relationships that evolve over time, as well as the shifting social, political and economic context over years – or even generations, offering readers a more ‘immersive’ experience.

There are also practical and commercial considerations. If you follow the fashion for longer books, you have one opportunity to sell it and the promotion can only begin once it’s available for pre-order. I was able to promote book one of my Tudor trilogy while writing book two (and it became a best-seller in the UK, US and Australia.)  Readers began contacting me to ask when the next book would be available and I soon built an international reader base for the trilogy.

Similarly, although each book works as a ‘stand-alone’, I’ve seen evidence in my sales that even people who read them in the wrong order tend to buy the others. I also hadn’t realised Amazon (and other retailers) are happy to promote and market a trilogy (or any series) as a discounted single purchase, which is good value for readers and means your books are more likely to be ‘discovered’.
Finally, a trilogy offers a framework for developing work on an ‘epic’ scale. 

I realised there were countless novels about the court of King Henry VIII and his six wives, yet I could find almost nothing about the early Tudors who founded the dynasty. The idea for The Tudor Trilogy was that King Henry VIII’s father could be born in book one, ‘come of age’ in book two, and rule England in book three, so there would be plenty of scope to explore his life and times.

The first book of the trilogy was my fourth novel, so I had a good idea about the structure. In book one, OWEN, a Welsh servant of Queen Catherine of Valois, the lonely widow of King Henry V, falls in love with her and they marry in secret. Their eldest son Edmund Tudor marries the thirteen year-old heiress Lady Margaret Beaufort, and fathers a child with her to secure her inheritance. The birth of her son, Henry, nearly kills her, and when her husband dies mysteriously, his younger brother Jasper Tudor swears to protect them.

In book two, JASPER, they flee to exile in Brittany and plan to one day return and make Henry King of England. King Richard III has taken the throne and has a powerful army of thousands – while Jasper and Henry have nothing. Even the clothes they wear are paid for by the Duke of Brittany. So how can they possibly invade England and defeat King Richard at the Battle of Bosworth?

In the final book of the trilogy, HENRY, I explore how he brought peace to England by marrying Elizabeth of York, the beautiful daughter of his enemy, King Edward IV. The Tudor trilogy offers me the scope and depth to help readers understand how Henry’s second son became King Henry VIII, the tyrant who transformed the history of England forever. 

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.

12 January 2018

Special Guest Interview with Adam Kluger Author of Desperate Times: Short Stories

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Desperate Times: Short Stories, is a compendium of previously published flash fiction and short stories by Adam Kluger, inspired by the works of Bukowski, Hemingway, Fante, Mamet, Salinger & Fitzgerald., Desperate Times is also an eye into the American culture. Published by Belphegor Editions, edited by Whiskey Down Press, Desperate Times was inspired by the likes of Bukowski and Hemingway, to name a few. 

Today I'm pleased to welcome author Adam Kluger:

Why did you choose Bukowski? 

There are a lot of reasons. The humor, the honesty, the accessibility. When you find a writer that speaks to you-- like music - you just really appreciate it. Bukowski deserves all the love he gets. His writing delivers. Post Office, Women, Love is a Dog From Hell, Barfly, Ham on Rye, Hollywood and pretty much every book he ever wrote-- I've read them all and will keep re-reading them. The prose, the poetry - so good. His film with Barbet Schroeder- The Bukowski Tapes is just amazing. I could watch it over and over. Bukowski revered and promoted John Fante, who was also a terrific writer. Bukowski, to his credit also had the courage to criticize many of the literary world's over-rated writers--as being pompous and unreadable --which was criticism that was frankly long overdue.

What about Hemingway?  

Same thing. Hemingway knew how to write beautiful, sparse prose and he delivered. I loved his Iceberg theory and his other theories on writing. The Old Man And The Sea is a classic but so too are most of his short stories like The Killers, A Well Lighted Place and The Three Day Blow.  I also really enjoyed his Green Hills of Africa. An important writer.


Catcher in The Rye. Masterpiece. Franny and Zooey also praise-worthy. And his Nine Stories. Salinger was a good short story writer. A Perfect Day for Bananafish was powerful and memorable.

F. Scott Fitzgerald? 

Love Fitzgerald. So good. So talented. Gatsby was brilliant but his short stories were also worthy of notice from Bernice Bobs Her Hair to a Diamond as Big as the Ritz to the hilarious Pat Hobby Stories. To become the voice of a generation means you're pretty good.

What is Guy Lit?

A label. People come up with labels.  Who knows why? The truth of the matter is that Desperate Times is simply a collection of flash fiction and short stories about male protagonists who find themselves facing various conflicts. These stories do owe quite a bit to the rich American short story traditions that these previously mentioned literary giants (Bukowski, Hemingway) have already set forth. It's hard not to be inspired by their books and advice on writing. One modern writer I love just for his understanding of dialogue is David Mamet. Glengarry Glen Ross, Hurly Burly, Speed The Plow. Doesn't matter if you are writing for the stage or a short story. Great dialogue is great dialogue.

Who are your other literary heroes? 

Melville and Kerouac have all impacted me in various ways. How can you not read Moby Dick over and over and over and marvel at the timeless poetry within? Oscar Wilde's gorgeous use of description in his short stories is almost like that of a painter. Capote's facility with language at such a young age, Kerouac's exuberant jazz-like explorations, O'Henry's incredible sense of humor and use of Twain-like twists of phrasing. There are so many incredible American short story writers. My hope is that folks who pick up Desperate Times might also decide to explore America's great short story traditions.

Any other short story writers that have caught your attention? 

James Joyce, I love Dubliners which I just came across recently at a book fair in Kent, Ct. Joyce's writing style is such a pleasure to read and his ability to deliver a meaningful and resonant short story is so impressive.  While not a short story, I was greatly impressed recently by the classic French coming of age novel The Wanderer by Henri Alain Fournier. Also, I'm just now digging into the collected stories of Guy De Maupassant and was immediately blown away by the sheer beauty and profundity of  Moonlight. I also picked up a dog-eared copy of Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, which I've often wanted to read. It has a weird, unsettling, mythic quality to it due to the way that Anderson incorporates dreams with character sketches. Reminds me a bit of the feeling you get watching Blue Velvet or Twin Peaks.

Adam Kluger

# # #

About the Author

Adam Kluger is a New York City writer and artist and distant cousin of famed British sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein. Kluger attended the same high school as Jack Kerouac and draws inspiration from diverse literary sources that include Charles Bukowski, John Fante, Ernest Hemingway, and Herman Melville as well as artists Jean Dubuffet, Andy Warhol, Bob Ross, Eric Payson, and Pablo Picasso. Kluger is one of the leaders of New York's growing Anti-Art movement. Kluger has had over fifty short-stories published by various literary magazines and literary-arts outlets in the U.S., U.K., and Ireland.Adam is a proud dad and a terrible golfer who credits his current literary and art-world success to hard work, a willingness to completely ignore all the rules and the kindness and unflagging support of family and friends. Find out more at

11 January 2018

Book Spotlight: For the Winner, Book 2 of 3 in the Golden Apple Trilogy Series by Emily Hauser

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Some three thousand years ago, in a time before history, the warriors of Greece journeyed to the ends of the earth in the greatest expedition the world had ever seen. One woman fought alongside them.

Abandoned at birth on the slopes of Mount Pelion, Atalanta is determined to prove her worth to the father who cast her aside. Having taught herself to hunt and fight, and disguised as a man, she wins a place on the greatest voyage of that heroic age: with Jason and his band of Argonauts in search of the legendary Golden Fleece.

And it is here, in the company of men who will go down in history as heroes, that Atalanta must battle against the odds – and the will of the gods – to take control of her destiny and change her life forever.

With her unrivalled knowledge and captivating storytelling, Emily Hauser brings alive an ancient world where the gods can transform a mortal’s life on a whim, where warriors carve out names that will echo down the ages . . . and where one woman fights to determine her own fate.

'Kept me utterly absorbed. Here is a heroine to cheer for and a book to cherish.' Margot Livesey, author of THE HOUSE ON FORTUNE STREET and THE FLIGHT OF GEMMA HARDY

'Hauser recreates one of the oldest tales in Greek myth with great skill and panache.' Sunday Times

'Fascinating and innovative . . . Filled with intellectual erudition, passion and unparalleled imagination.' Antony Makrinos, Fellow in Classics at UCL

'A brilliant, epic tale full of breath-taking action . . . This gem of a book will leave you desperate for the next Emily Hauser novel.' Crystal King, author of FEAST OF SORROW 

 # # #

About the Author

Born in Brighton and brought up in Suffolk, Emily Hauser studied Classics at Cambridge, where she was taught by Mary Beard. She then went to Harvard on a Fulbright Scholarship, and now studies and teaches at Yale, where she is completing her PhD. For the Most Beautiful – the first book in a trilogy based on the myths of the Golden Apples – is her debut novel. Find out more on Emily’s website, and follow her on Twitter @ehauserwrites. 

Special Guest Post by Ralph Webster, Author of One More Moon: Goodbye Mussolini! One Woman's Story of Fate and Survival

Available for per-order from Amazon UK and Amazon US
Scheduled for release on February 28 2018

Goodreads Choice Nominee Ralph Webster tells the true story of his grandmother’s desperate journey from her life at the Pensione Alexandra in Naples to America - after Mussolini and the Fascists join with Hitler - and as countries across the world close their doors to Jewish refugees fleeing the spread of Nazi evil.

Whose voice?  A woman’s or a man’s?

This past week I was asked “how was writing One More Moon different from what I’d experienced when I wrote my last book?”  It’s a curious question - one that I find myself reflecting upon now that One More Moon is finished and I sit here not so patiently awaiting its release.  I can’t say I was overly conscious of this question when I was writing.  So now I ask myself had I considered the difference, had I recognized its significance, what would I have changed?  I am not big on second guessing.  What’s done is done.  Would it have changed the way I wrote One More Moon?

Old habits are hard to break.  At my age I am sure that I don’t change too much.  I like my chair and my desk.  I didn’t change the way I approached the writing  - the way I researched, my daily routine, the thought process - that all stayed the same.  I always take my craft seriously.  Even though this was a different story, little else in the process changed.  I still had the same sleepless nights when it seemed my head would burst with all the thoughts looking for a way out.  I still struggled to get the words on paper.  My emotions ran high and low.  My editor never asked about the difference.  Only one initial reviewer noticed.  I suppose that gave me a moment’s pause, but then I shrugged it off, and never gave it much more thought.

I realize now that it’s very obvious.  It was part of each and every word.  The difference?  My first book, A Smile in One Eye, is told by a man, my father.  Then I tried to put myself into my father’s head and explain his world from a man’s perspective.  My new book, One More Moon, is told by a woman, my grandmother.  This time I had to find her voice, understand the world from her vantage point, and speak the words she would have said. 

I was so focused on their journeys - so entirely different, one from Germany, the other from Italy, both grown, but at different ages in life, and from different sides of my family.  I remain convinced that they shared many of the same difficulties and emotions - the anguish, the loss, the confusion, the uncertainty, the isolation, the fears, the unknown, the way others reacted.  Yet, I don’t think I stopped and tried to express these emotions differently just because one was a man and the other a woman.  I didn’t instinctively prepare or choose male words and female words or male voices and female voices.  I simply was unaware of that nuance.  And, quite honestly, I really don’t want there to be one, at least one that’s recognizable.  My aim was to portray and project the individual characters as I knew them.  More than anything else, I wanted them to be real, true, and intimately known by the reader.

Now I wonder how readers will react.  Is there a commercial aspect to all of this?  Do readers prefer books written in a woman’s voice versus a man’s?  Did I make these characters authentic?  Should I have used a different pen name?  Will their voices stand up to the scrutiny of my readers?  When put to paper, what does distinguish a man’s voice from a woman’s?  Is there a stereotype one is supposed to follow? 

As One More Moon rolls out in the coming weeks and months I am sure I will learn many of the answers.  Readers have a way of being very direct in their observations.  They will tell me the answers.  Now I am just curious.

Ralph Webster 
# # #

About the Author

Award winning author Ralph Webster received worldwide acclaim for his first book, A Smile in One Eye: A Tear in the Other, which tells the story of his father’s flight from the Holocaust. Voted by readers as a Goodreads 2016 Choice Awards Nominee for Best Memoir/Autobiography, A Smile in One Eye: A Tear in the Other and his second book, One More Moon, are proven book club selections for thought-provoking and engaging discussions. Whether in person or online, Ralph welcomes and values his exchanges with readers and makes every effort to participate in conversations about his books. Now retired, he lives with his wife, Ginger, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Please contact Ralph to schedule via Skype or in person for your book club. Find out more at Ralph's website 

9 January 2018

The Devil is in the Details ~ Book Launch Guest Post by Author Rebecca Rosenberg

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

A riveting story of ambition and infidelity, 
The Secret Life of Mrs. London by Rebecca Rosenberg captures the fateful meeting of the Houdinis and Londons, the most remarkable couples of their time. Jack London, the most popular author in America, and Houdini, a world-renown escape artist, have reached the pinnacles of their careers in 1915. While their wives, Charmian London and Bess Houdini are opposites, they bond through their trials with the over-sized egos of their famous husbands. Free Love, blinding fame, tenuous success, and the Great War threaten them. The couples struggle to hold onto their marriages through the challenges, eventually 
succumbing to the lure of another’s arms … 
until one of them takes a stand … alone.

Here’s one of Rebecca’s writing techniques for the concept of show don’t tell:

Devilish good details … Most writing workshops focus on writing interesting characters, or a riveting plot rife with conflict, or the structure… all very important in crafting a story. But perhaps for historical novel readers, it is the spicy details that change our experience from commonplace to a story that transports us to a time long ago.

How does the author come up with these bits of intrigue that bond us to the character? Traveling to the locale, antique stores, searching old maps, scanning odd books or the internet? Yes.

In The Secret Life of Mrs. London, I used the Remington typewriter, the mimeograph, and the ediphone to illustrate the tools of the writing trade in the 1915-1917 period covered in the book. My characters, Charmian and Jack London actually used these apparatuses in their writing and they portray these characters and even what is happening in the story.

Charmian London typed on the Remington, as Jack London dictated his stories! She typed 100 words a minute. How is that even possible pushing those mechanical keys? The “prop” of the Remington, illustrates Charmian London’s education as a typist and working at Overland Journal. It characterizes her as an industrious, serious worker that pushes herself, not the norm of the day in 1915. But it occurs to me writing this blog, that the Remington typewriter also indicates a subservience to her husband Jack, because she it typing hiswords.

I was amazed to find out that Charmian actually copied Jack London’s manuscripts on an early mimeograph, invented by Edison in 1876. Each page had to be fed through and the ink dried. Within the manuscript, using the mimeograph showed the tedious, labor intensive process of creating a manuscript, which Charmian often did, since Jack London produced more than twenty novels in the fifteen years they worked together. Not to mention the articles and letters they wrote! Mountains of typing and mimeographing!

When the London’s bought an ediphone it marked a stark break in their togetherness. Jack could speak into the ediphone by himself, and later Charmian would type it up. Jack was no longer telling his stories to Charmian and watching her make them come alive on the page. And Charmian now had the freedom to spend time on her own writing. In fact, in later years, they hired a typist to transpose Jack’s ediphone recordings.

Other examples of how props are used to depict character traits and state of being, from my favorite authors:

From Kay Bratt, author of The Palest Ink. The title comes from an old Chinese proverb that says ‘The Palest Ink is better than the best memory’. She chose it because during the Cultural Revolution, people were not allowed to keep any sort of records or photos about what was really going on. Media was twisted to make those in power look good, and tragedies and truths were concealed. The most important object was Mao’s Little Red Book.

It is rumored to have landed in the hands of billions of people. During the Cultural Revolution in China, it was an unofficial requirement for every Chinese citizen to own, to read, and to carry it at all times. For their own safety, people memorized segments of it, to prove their loyalty and avoid persecution or death. Later, after the Cultural Revolution was shut down, Mao was exposed as a madman and the cause of millions of tragic deaths throughout China.

From Camille Di Maio, author of Before The Rain Falls. One of her characters, Della Lee Trujillo, is in a Texas women’s prison in the 1940s, convicted for the murder of her sister. As she is being driven to the prison from the courthouse, she clings to a rosary that had been her mother’s. Her mother deserted the family when she ran off with her lover, so Della begins to fear that it is tainted by her mother’s sin. As she prays, the words “Forgive us our trespasses…” plays in her mind and she recalls all the events that led up to that moment.

So what objects can best describe your character, and what he or she is going through? The use of unique props is a great example of a writer’s mantra: Show. Don’t Tell.

Rebecca Rosenberg

# # #
About the Author

A California native, Rebecca Rosenberg lives on a lavender farm with her family in Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon, where Jack London wrote from his Beauty Ranch. Rebecca is a long-time student of Jack London’s works and an avid fan of his daring wife, Charmian London. The Secret Life of Mrs. London is her debut novel, following her non-fiction, Lavender Fields of America. Find out more at Rebecca's website and follow her on Facebook.

8 January 2018

Special Guest Interview with Author Jennifer C Wilson

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Along Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile, royalty and commoners – living and dead – mingle amongst the museums, cafés and former royal residences. From Castle Hill to Abbey Strand, there is far more going on than meets the eye, as ghosts of every era and background make their home along the Mile. 

Today I would like to welcome author Jennifer C Wilson:

Tell us about your latest book

Last summer, Crooked Cat Books published my second Kindred Spirits novel, Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile, which follows the ‘lives’ of the ghosts of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. I’ve been trying to write about Mary, Queen of Scots for years, so when I decided to write a sequel, she was the obvious person, and I thought that Edinburgh would be the city she felt most at home in, despite being buried in Westminster Abbey.

The novel follows Queen Mary and her small court of ghosts, each with their own issues, and Mary especially, when her second husband Lord Darnley turns up. We also follow an Edinburgh ghost tour, where visitors and guides alike get a little more than they bargained for…

What is your preferred writing routine?

I always considered myself haphazard, but a writing friend told me I use the ‘mosaic approach’. I initially write lots of short scenes, snippets of dialogue and character-based scenes, until I reach 20-30,000 words. After a brief panic that nothing makes sense, I put everything on index cards, number those scenes and snippets, and shuffle them all around into something which resembles an order. Then I start linking them, and pulling the narrative together.

I also try to write something every day, whether it’s a blog post, an idea for a scene, or sitting down and building the word count. If I have a clear weekend, I can write up to 5,000 words, which makes me feel happier about weekdays when I cannot face more typing.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

To keep going. I wrote my first draft novel when I was in my teens, and rewrote the same plot for my first NaNoWriMo attempt in 2009 – both were awful. Next, I decided that ‘tale with a twist’ short stories in women’s magazines were easy, and clearly the way forward – I was wrong (short stories are difficult at the best of times, and definitely those with a twist you cannot see coming a mile off). I had some success with poetry, and went in that direction for a while, until finally stumbling across the Kindred Spirits idea (thanks to a poetry competition). I could so easily have given up, but I’m really thankful I didn’t.

Getting involved with other writers really helps too. Rejection or writers’ block doesn’t feel as bad when you’re with a group of other writers, all sharing tales of woe. And it’s even better when that same group can start sharing tales of joy. I joined a writing group a few years ago, and now co-run one of my own too, and I love their sense of community.

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

I struggled with this, and feel it’s only been the last year or so that things have begun to change. I fell into the ‘buy my book’ post trap on social media when my first novel came out, but luckily, Crooked Cat organised a series of webinars which explained the importance of not doing that! This last year, I’ve joined more Facebook groups interested in my field, and although still a bit of a ‘lurker’, I’ve really enjoyed chatting to people, and as a result, when I do share about my book, I feel less guilty, and I get more engagement as a result.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research.

This is difficult. I think, for Westminster Abbey, it was the sheer number and range of people buried or commemorated there. Over three thousand burials, including seventeen monarchs, as the ghosts repeat from the guidebook a couple of times. We all know how important the place is, as England’s, then Britain’s, national church, but it was still a surprise. You really cannot move without finding yourself standing on somebody’s grave, and having such a large potential cast-list was initially overwhelming, and why Westminster Abbey is the third in the series, not the second – I was originally too scared to tackle it.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

As part of the Kindred Spirits series, several spirits have found and passed through their ‘white light’. I won’t say who passes through in Kindred Spirits: Westminster Abbey, but when I was writing it, I was surprised to find myself in floods of tears. I hadn’t realised how invested I was in the scene!

What are you planning to write next?

I’m at an interesting crossroads right now! Last October, I self-published for the first time, and I am tempted to do it again with another timeslip project. I’ve also been working on a more traditional historical fiction (featuring Richard III – there’s a definite theme…). Finally, I’m contemplating a fourth Kindred Spirits novel, so am brainstorming possible locations.

Jennifer C Wilson
# # #

About the Author

Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who spent much of her childhood stalking Mary, Queen of Scots (initially accidentally, but then with intention). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consulting since graduating. Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to develop her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. She is also part of The Next Page, running workshops and other literary events in North Tyneside. Jennifer’s debut novel,Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, was released by Crooked Cat Books in October 2015, with Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile following in June 2017. She can be found online at her website, on Twitter and Facebook, as well as at The Next Page’s website. Her timeslip historical romance, The Last Plantagenet? Is available for download from Amazon.

7 January 2018

Special Guest Interview with Author JoAnn Spears

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

You've read all of the traditional, serious and romantic takes on the legendary characters of the English Renaissance. Why not try your Tudors and your Shakespeare with a new and different twist?

Today I would like to welcome author JoAnn Spears:

Tell us about your latest book

Both of my books are about Tudor history, with a comic and very irreverent twist.  The first involved a modern-day heroine meeting the early-generation Tudors on an astral plane.  The second takes the same heroine back to meet the latter-generation Tudors, and incorporates comic but complex Shakespeare conspiracy theory tied to the Tudors. 

What is your preferred writing routine?

I wish I could describe for you a rigorous or romantic routine, but I simply haven’t got one.  As a hobby author, I write in time stolen from full-time work, when and where I can sandwich it in and when inspiration hits.  The sandwiching part has gotten easier over time, and I can do a surprising lot in short bursts of time when I am in the zone, so to speak.  However, inspiration tends to be fitful, which accounts for the gaps between my first (2011) and second (2015) books and my second and recently started third.  I find I am particularly productive of prose on my porch, in airports and on planes.  As for ideas, they inevitably come when I am driving!

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

I don’t know that I’ve succeeded enough in the traditional sense to offer advice, but I can tell you that I have learned to relax and enjoy my writing by coming to think of it as a hobby rather than as a job that I am not making a whole lot of headway with.  Every good review I get makes me happy, and the fact that there are not thousands of them is okay.  The pressure is off.

I have also learned to stop apologizing for being self-published.  Around these parts, anyway-Upper East Tennessee¬–most folks are not terribly aware of, or troubled by, the distinction.  When they here ‘author’ and are told they can find me on Amazon, they don’t question my authoring credentials much.

That being said, I would not discourage anyone from sticking with it and going full-on for successful professional authorship.  I know of another local author here in East TN, Scott Pratt, who has made quite a success of self-published authorship and was recently signed into some kind of deal with Amazon.

I like to think that it is a big world, with plenty of room for whatever kind of writer one wants to be.

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

Truthfully, it was having the marvelous good fortune to have my first novel picked up by BookBub.  That was something of a fluke, or maybe an act of God.  I am hoping they will pick up the second one soon.  No luck so far, but I keep trying!

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

Because my books involve comic twists on history that was well known to me from my reading over the years, my research really consisted of filling in period details.  There were no big surprises about what happened way back then.  One big surprise though was that I did notice, in myself, a heretofore undiscovered interest in jewelry and bling.  Trivia and human interest about several famous Tudor-era jewels, such as the Mirror of Naples and the Lennox Jewel, are scattered through both of my books, and I was quite taken with what I learned.  It is pretty ironic really, as the only jewelry I wear myself is a pair of gold costume hoop earrings, my signature look, such as it is.  Those bejeweled Tudors would not know what to make of a ‘less is more’ person like me.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

Quite honestly, I don’t remember any particularly difficult scenes.  The difficult thing for me is actually taking scenes out. I write in what I call a kitchen sink style–that is, everything goes in but the kitchen sink, and then I go back in and purge.  I have had to dispense with some well-loved bits of business because they made a book too long or convoluted, or were too esoteric.  A subplot involving the legend of the ring given to Lord Essex by Elizabeth I, and his aborted attempt to return it to her to earn pardon from his execution, comes to mind.

What are you planning to write next?

I am heading to France in my third book.  Same heroine and scenario, new and different historical figures.

JoAnn Spears
# # #

About the Author

JoAnn Spears couldn't decide whether to major in English or History in college. Life stepped in, and she wound up with a Master's Degree in Nursing instead. A twenty-five year nursing career didn't extinguish that early interest in books and history-especially Tudor history. JoAnn enjoys writing but maintains her nursing license because a) you never stop being a nurse and b) her son thinks she should be sensible and not quit her day job. She also enjoys life in the beautiful mountains of northeast Tennessee, where she gardens, embroiders antique reproduction samplers, and teaches yoga in her Methodist church basement. JoAnn shares her home with three cats and the works of Jane Austen, Barbara Pym, Louisa May Alcott, and of course, Alison Weir.  You can find JoAnn on Twitter