Mastodon The Writing Desk: September 2018

29 September 2018

Visiting The Dylan Thomas Boathouse and Writing Hut in Laugharne

The poet, writer and broadcaster Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) lived at the boathouse overlooking the estuary in Laugharne in West Wales for the last four years of his life, and it's where he wrote his last work, the famous 'Under Milk Wood.' 

The boathouse now contains a museum with many original furnishings and memorabilia,  including Dylan's father's desk.  Here is an original letter from Dylan Thomas to Augustus John, asking for financial support:

This is the view of the Taff estuary from the boathouse at low tide:

The Writing Shed

Above the boathouse is the little 'writing shed' (which was originally the garage for the boathouse), where he wrote,  which has been preserved and is visited by people from all over the world.

View inside the 'Writing Hut' (Used as the header for this blog)

Writing routine

Dylan Thomas settled into a routine of reading and writing letters in the mornings, doing the crossword and drinking (heavily) in the nearby pub at lunchtime.  He would then work in his shed from two in the afternoon until seven in the evening.  It's said  he would read his work aloud, over and over, perfecting the alliteration and hearing the rhymes.

The hut had a simple stove for heating in the winter and Dylan covered the walls with photographs and magazine cuttings of his favourite poets, Byron, Whitman, Auden and William Blake.

28 September 2018

Special Guest Interview with Best-Selling Historical Fiction Author Robyn Young

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Henry Tudor has vanquished Richard III and claimed the throne of England, taking possession of a secret map. At the glittering court of the Medici in Florence, Lorenzo the Magnificent, ruler of the republic and head of the mysterious Academy, is engaged in a dangerous game of power with the Vatican. In Spain, the Catholic Monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand, have declared a crusade against Islam, forcing the Moors from Granada. Europe stands upon the brink of war, at the edge of a discovery that will change everything.

I'm pleased to welcome author Robyn Young to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

My latest novel is Court of Wolves, which came out in August. Opening in 1485, after the Battle of Bosworth and the crowning of Henry Tudor, it’s the second in the New World Rising series, following on from Sons of the Blood

My protagonist is Jack Wynter, bastard son of Sir Thomas Vaughan – a real figure from history, who was executed on a charge of treason by Richard III. Outlawed by Tudor, left with nothing to his name and no hope now of the life he’d dreamed of living, Jack follows a lead to Florence, hoping to unravel the legacy of secrets his father has left him. Here, he finds himself swept into a dangerous conspiracy in the court of the Medici family, under the republic’s powerful, enigmatic ruler, Lorenzo the Magnificent.

Meanwhile, Jack’s hated half-brother, Harry Vaughan, has been sent to Seville by his new master, Henry Tudor. A precious map, entrusted to Jack by their father and stolen by Harry, shows an unknown coastline out in the Atlantic. England’s new king is keen to explore the possibilities of this, but fears the interest of the Spanish monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand, who are considering plans to seek a trade route west, with a sailor named Columbus.

While Jack plots a course through the deadly, serpentine politics of Renaissance Florence, Harry fights to stay on track with his secret mission in Spain, where the king and queen are at war with the Moors in Granada. Neither brother knows that their paths are destined to collide.

What is your preferred writing routine?

It’s changed over the years, and always depends on what stage of a book I’m at (research or plotting, early chapters or racing to deadline), but I’ve always found morning my preferred, and most productive, time for writing. I might read for half an hour in bed first thing; wake my brain up. Then I’ll go to my computer and do a solid three to four hours. After that I’ll go for a bike ride or a walk, then have lunch.

Afternoons tend to hold a bit of a slump for me, although I find my new standing desk helpful at keeping my energy levels up. I’ll often do admin or catch up on emails at this point, then head back to writing for a few hours into the evening. Two or three months out from deadline, my pace picks up and I work long hours most days.

I find night writing exceptionally productive – if I’m up pre-dawn I can get a good few thousand words done by breakfast. But it’s terrible for sleep patterns and social life!

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Always a tough question. What worked for me might not work for others. But I guess my key bit of advice would be: edit, edit, edit!

I truly thought the first draft of my first novel would get published and was quite frankly astonished when I got the pile of rejection slips through my door.

It would be one more (also unpublished) novel, a foundation course in writing, a Masters in creative writing, a critically-constructive writing group, a good idea, twelve rewrites of that good idea, two years working with an agent, and two more rounds of publisher rejections before I had a novel – Brethren – published.

The main thing I learned in that time was just how crucial editing is as part of the writing, and publishing, process. Chances are, the draft you think is ready, still has a way to go.

Give yourself a break from it if you can (even a week can be beneficial), read some other novels, clear your head, then revisit it. Often, you’ll see where it needs more work once you’ve stepped back a little.

Good writing courses or groups can be an excellent way of honing your editing skills – but you have to be in a group that understands and engages with the critical process. Groups where you’re either constantly criticized or constantly praised can be incredibly stagnating for a writer.

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

I was very fortunate in that when I was first published, books had a multitude of platforms from which to reach readers. There were Borders and Ottakars, Waterstones, Woolworths, WHSmiths and a large number of independents, with Amazon only really just starting up. And, if your publisher was pushing you, as mine were, you had a good shot at the supermarket shelves.

There was a lot more space for books across the media – book clubs and book shows, interviews and reviews. You might even have had posters on tube and train stations, bus stops and high streets.

In those days, you could shift tens, even hundreds of thousands of books in a short space of time. My second published novel, Crusade, sold 16,000 in one week in paperback and went to number 2 in the Sunday Times.

Now, with so few bookshops, and the selling models so different, so little space in the media, and publishers far more reserved about which books to promote, even well-established authors fight to sell in the hundreds.

While I think newer authors are less fortunate in the sense that they would really struggle now to have such a huge boost at the start of their careers, I think they’re probably in stronger positions than we veterans to understand and learn for themselves what works to raise awareness of their books.

It’s one area I’m only now just getting to grips with, having been handed all that promotion and publicity on a plate through most of my career.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

Oh goodness, there’s always so much. Perhaps the most intriguing thing I came across during research for the New World Rising series, was the inscription on the tomb of Pope Innocent VIII, which credits him as being the pope under whom a ‘new world’ was discovered. But Innocent died in July 1492, a week before Columbus supposedly set sail on his first voyage… 

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

The hardest scene I’ve written was in my fifth novel, Renegade, part of my trilogy on the Scottish Wars of Independence. It was the execution of William Wallace in London. After scrubbing my brain of the Braveheart version, I delved into the scene with some gut-wrenching research, then set about writing it from the point of view of my protagonist in the novel, Robert Bruce, in the crowd, watching an ally, and indeed his own hope for his country, being eviscerated.

I didn’t want to dwell too much on the horror, but I did want to show just how barbaric it was, so the detail is pretty gruesome and left me feeling pretty sickened at having to write it.

What are you planning to write next?

Well, I still have the third book in the New World Rising series to go, but before that I’ve been given a fantastic opportunity to write something completely different, which has been on my mind for some time. It’s a contemporary crime thriller, with my first female protagonist, so a real departure for me, but I’m very much looking forward to it. I’ll be releasing more details in the coming months!

Robyn Young
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About the Author

Robyn’s first novel, Brethren, went straight into the Sunday Times top ten, where it remained for five weeks, becoming the bestselling hardback debut of 2006.  It entered the New York Times top twenty on publication in the US and was named book of the year by German newspaper Bild.  Her second novel, Crusade, reached number two in the charts and a third bestseller, Requiem, completed the trilogy. In 2007 she was named one of Waterstones’ twenty-five “authors of the future” judged by a panel of industry insiders who were asked to nominate the authors they believed would contribute the greatest body of work over the next quarter century. In 2010, the Brethren Trilogy was followed by the highly acclaimed, bestselling Insurrection Trilogy (Insurrection, Renegade & Kingdom), telling the story of Robert Bruce and his struggle against King Edward of England during the Scottish Wars of Independence. Her latest series, New World Rising, follows Jack Wynter, from the bloody turmoil of the Wars of the Roses through the chaos and splendour of Renaissance Europe. Jack’s story begins in Sons of the Blood and continues in Court of Wolves. Alongside writing novels, Robyn has collaborated on a WWII screenplay.  Her books have been published in 22 countries in 19 languages and together have sold almost 2 million copies. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Sussex and lives and writes in Brighton. Find out more at Robyn's website and find her on Twitter @RobynYoung36 

23 September 2018

Stories of the Tudors Podcast Six - Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland

Margaret was the eldest daughter of Henry Tudor and Elizabeth of York, and was born on 28 November 1489 at the Palace of Westminster, a year and a half before her famous brother,  who became King Henry VIII.

Henry VII wanted to use his daughter’s marriage to James IV of Scotland to end the wars, stop him supporting Perkin Warbeck, pretender to the English throne, and make a lasting alliance with Scotland. This podcast tells the story of what happened next.

Click here for the podcast: Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland

21 September 2018

Book Review - The Du Lac Prophecy: Book 4 of The Du Lac Chronicles, by Mary Anne Yarde

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

The much-awaited fourth book in the Du Lac Chronicles could be read as a stand-alone novel but to really understand the complex web of relationships I recommend starting with the first book.

You also need to brace yourself for some brutal action, as even by Du Lac standards, this has more than its share - from the first page to the last.

The strength of this series is the link back to ancient legends which form a tantalising backdrop as we learn a little more with each book. I particularly like the development of secondary characters, although I must warn readers not to get too fond of any of them!

The Du Lac Prophecy is a future classic, with an ending I'm sure even George R. R. Martin would be proud of.  Five out of five stars.

Tony Riches 

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About the Author

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

20 September 2018

Rival Queens: The Betrayal of Mary, Queen of Scots, by Kate Williams

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Elizabeth and Mary: cousins, rivals, queens. They loved each other, they hated each other – they could never escape one another.

Kate Williams’s thrilling new history tells the story of Elizabeth I of England and her betrayal of Mary, Queen of Scots. At the end of the Tudor era, here were two women on two thrones. But this was a man’s world and many believed that no woman should govern. All around Elizabeth and Mary were sycophants, spies and detractors who wanted their power, their favour and their bodies. And so they became one another’s closest confidants in the struggle to be both women and queens.

Alliances were few, but for many years theirs survived – until the forces rising against them, and the struggles of love and dynasty, drove them apart. It was a schism that would end in secret assassination plots, devastating betrayal and, eventually, the signing of Mary’s death warrant in Elizabeth’s hand.

Kate Williams’ Rival Queens offers an electrifying new perspective on Elizabeth and Mary, and the most important relationship of their lives – that which they had with one another.

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About the Author

Kate Williams studied her BA at Somerville College, Oxford where she was a College Scholar and received the Violet Vaughan Morgan University Scholarship. She then took her MA at Queen Mary, University of London and her DPhil at Oxford, where she received a graduate prize. She also took an MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway. She now teaches at Royal Holloway. Follow Kate on Twitter @KateWilliamsme and visit her website.

19 September 2018

Coming Soon: Marcia Meara Talks About The Emissary 2: To Love Somebody

They're back! Jake and Dodger are at it again, accompanied by their boss, the archangel Azrael.

I am so excited, I can hardly stand it. Once again, Nicki Forde Graphics Design has come up with a cover that does exactly what I wanted it to do. It provides a great-looking image that clearly links the second novella in my Emissary series with the first one. 

And it does this by putting Jake's big, red-and-white semi front and center, angel wings and all, but with a completely different background. In The Emissary 2: To Love Somebody, Jake and Dodger travel both coasts of Florida, day and night, working their emissarial magic wherever they find souls in trouble. For me, the palm fronds over the truck, the ocean in the background, and the moon shining down are perfect.

I can't give you an exact release date for The Emissary 2: To Love Sombody yet, as I still have a few more tiny odds and ends to finish up, including the blurb. But I'm 99.9% sure it will be available within a week or two, and I'll have more to share with you then. In the meantime, what do you think?

My heartfelt thanks to all the wonderful bloggers who have helped me share my new cover with the Immediate World! It's lovely to be part of such a supportive online community, and every single one of you is special to me. Thank you! NOTE: This is not a stand-alone novella, so now's a good time to grab the first one. You can read it in an evening and be all set for The Emissary 2. You'll find The Emissary 1 on Amazon HERE.

Marcia Meara
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About the Author

Marcia Meara lives in central Florida, just north of Orlando, with her husband of over thirty years, four big cats, and two small dachshunds. When not writing or blogging, she spends her time gardening, and enjoying the surprising amount of wildlife that manages to make a home in her suburban yard. At the age of five, Marcia declared she wanted to be an author, and is ecstatic that at age 69, she finally began pursuing that dream. Her belief in the redemptive power of love is a unifying factor in both of her popular series and her poetry. Today, she’s still going strong, and plans to keep on writing until she falls face down on the keyboard, which she figures would be a pretty good way to go! Marcia has published six novels, one novella, and one book of poetry to date, all of which are available on Amazon: Wake-Robin Ridge A Boy Named Rabbit: Wake-Robin Ridge Book 2 Harbinger: Wake-Robin Ridge Book 3 Swamp Ghosts: A Riverbend Novel Finding Hunter: Riverbend Book 2 That Darkest Place: Riverbend Book 3 The Emissary: A Riverbend Spinoff Novella Summer Magic: Poems of Life & Love Marcia’s Amazon Author Page Find our more at Marcia's website and find her on Facebook and  Twitter @marciameara

17 September 2018

Preparing for National Novel Writing Month #NaNoWriMo #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Stephen King once said ‘If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut.’

The first bit is easy. As a book reviewer, I have a healthy 'TBR' (to be read) list and several books 'on the go' at once. It’s the ‘write a lot’ bit that can cause the problem, particularly if it's an unusually mild autumn in the run up to Christmas. 

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) might be the answer for anyone who wants to learn how to write a lot (every day) while being part of a fun community who share an interest in creative writing.

On November 1st, NaNoWriMo participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-words of a novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. The organisers say ‘valuing enthusiasm, determination and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.’ (See )


I've made things a little harder by choosing historical fiction as my genre, so I start researching in September, sorting out timelines, making notes and gathering references. I like to visit actual locations for inspiration, and to track down original documents and sources - all of which takes time.

I also create a good outline before November. I use a simple Excel spreadsheet to track word count and notes on dates etc. for each chapter. I aim for twenty-five chapters of about four-thousand words, to arrive at a first draft for editing of around 100,000 words. 'Nano' can take me half way there in a month - but I like to know where I'm heading.

Although some writers like to 'wing it' and allow for creativity during November, I find it useful to make key writing decisions, such as choice of point of view, voice, where and when it will start - before I write a word. 

Writing Time

I can imagine some of you are saying you simply don't have the time - and I do understand. My children have long since left home, and I'm able to be a full time writer now, but things were very different when I 'won' my first NaNoWriMo (in 2011).

I’m not a 'night owl' when it comes to writing. I'm what they call a ‘lark,’ which means I wake early, my head full of ideas for plot and characters, so I write as much as I can first thing, then have the rest of the day to reach my target. 

I've learned  NOT to try to finish my 50,000 words on the 30th, as it's important to have space to catch up if you need it. I therefore aim to exceed my target by about a hundred words each day until I'm a full day ahead.

Now, as they say, the hard work starts.... Happy writing!

Tony Riches

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Do you have some great tips on #NaNoWriMo 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.

15 September 2018

New Book Review ~ The Norman Conquest: William the Conqueror's Subjugation of England, by Teresa Cole

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

One of the main historical dates most people can tell you is that the Battle of Hastings was fought in 1066 - and King Harold was killed by an arrow in the eye by William the Conqueror.

In this thought provoking new book Teresa Cole points out that over nine centuries later it's time to take a fresh look again at all the evidence - and the outcomes of the Norman Conquest of England. Most importantly, it is essential to examine the context for the account represented in the Bayeux tapestry.

I remember going on a school trip to see the tapestry as a child, and recall the 'comet with long hair' which Harold saw as an omen of doom. (ISTI MIRANT STELLA - These [people] look in wonder at the star). Teresa Cole points out that this was probably an appearance of Halley's comet - and it was visible at Easter 1066, not October, when William invaded (a detail ignored by the tapestry makers, who had the benefit of hindsight.)

This engaging book is packed with details and narrated in a lively style:
William the Bastard they called him, although probably not to his face. A strictly accurate description but not necessarily a term of endearment. In fact, there were not many who really loved William of Normandy - his wife, probably, and his inner circle of trusted friends. Even his children seemed to have mixed feelings.
I particularly liked Teresa Cole's chapter on 'The winners and losers of 1066: A Personal View'. Whatever they thought of him, William's victory removed at a stroke not only the King but every noble lord of note, transforming the future of England forever. He then proceeded, with the 'Doomsday Book', to note everything of value and share it between his followers.

Was Harold was killed by an arrow in the eye? All I can say is that there is an intriguing twist to King Harold's story, and you'll have to read the book to find out. Highly recommended. 

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Teresa Cole has been a teacher for thirty years. She has written several law books and a historical biography by Amberley, 'Henry V: The Life of the Warrior King & the Battle of Agincourt 1415' She lives just outside Bath, UK.

Disclosure: A review copy of this book was kindly provided by 
Amberley Publishing

9 September 2018

The Great Seal of Queen Elizabeth I

Seals were used on most documents in the past, to close them and to prove that the document really was from the person who sent it. Most seals had a picture of the owner and a motto or legend around the edge. It would usually show the type of job the owner did and contain information about their family.

However, a Great Seal was special – it belonged to the monarch and all important business that the monarch did had a Great Seal attached. If a document had this seal on it, it had the monarch’s ‘seal of approval’ as it contained the monarch’s wishes or commands.

The seal was made of a mix of resin and beeswax which turns a brown colour with age and regular use.

The Great Seal of Queen Elizabeth I was used by the Chancery, the Tudor Civil service, to show that the document attached was ordered in the Queen’s name. Elizabeth had her own personal ‘privy’ (private) seals for documents that she approved herself.

Queen Elizabeth used the first Great Seal from her coronation until 1586, after which she used the 'second seal' produced by the artist Nicholas Hilliard:

The second Great Seal of Queen Elizabeth I shows an unusual image the queen on horseback riding across what look like a field of flowering plants. The queen is depicted as a strong, feminine figure, not in military armour. 

The inscription around the edge reads: 
'Elizabetha dei gracia Anglie Francie et Hibernie Regina Fidei Defensor'
('Elizabeth by the Grace of God Queen of England, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith'). 
This second seal was 'surrendered' to King James Ist on his accession in May 3 1603 - and used by him for eleven weeks until his own seal was ready.

(Source National Archives)

7 September 2018

Book Launch ~ A Black Matter for the King by Matthew Willis & J.A. Ironside

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US


 Now a political hostage in Falaise, Ælfgifa forms an unlikely friendship with William, Duke of Normandy. William has been swift to recognize her skills and exploit them to his advantage. However, unbeknownst to the duke, Gifa is acting as a spy for her brother, Harold Godwinson, a possible rival for the English throne currently in the failing grip of
Edward the Confessor.

Homesick and alienated by the Norman court, Gifa is torn between the Duke's trust and the duty she owes her family. William has subdued his dissenting nobles, and a united Normandy is within his grasp. But the tides of power and influence are rarely still. As William’s stature grows, the circle of those he can trust shrinks.

Beyond the English Channel, William has received news of Edward's astonishing decree regarding the succession. Ælfgifa returns to an England where an undercurrent of discontent bubbles beneath the surface. An England that may soon erupt in conflict as one king dies and another is chosen. The ambitions of two powerful men will decide the fates of rival cultures in a single battle at Hastings that will change England, Europe, and the world in this compelling conclusion to the Oath & Crown series on the life and battles of William the Conqueror.

"There is little which is quite so exciting for me as discovering afresh, new talent in historical writing. In Willis and Ironside I feel I've found two writers who can carry me back to the past and can show me a time when, amid the brutality and irrationality of politics, there were still great characters, men of vision and daring, and women of intelligence and foresight. In fact these stories are a lot more than a short war series. They are a rich, extraordinarily well-researched, and meticulously told history of love, jealousy, honour, betrayal, deceit and death. It gives one version - convincingly told - of the curious oath sworn by Harold to William, but it is also the story of different nations, different cultures, and the clash when two warlords desire the same thing. In case I hadn't made it obvious, I loved these books. Sweeping history, battles galore, treachery, a cast of glorious, well-depicted characters - all in all, a fabulous story told brilliantly." - Author Michael Jecks

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About the Authors

J.A. Ironside (Jules) grew up in rural Dorset, surrounded by books - which pretty much set he up for life as a complete bibliophile. She loves speculative fiction of all stripes, especially fantasy and science fiction, although when it comes to the written word, she's not choosy and will read almost anything. Actually it would be fair to say she starts to go a bit peculiar if she doesn’t get through at least three books a week. She writes across various genres, both adult and YA fiction, and it’s a rare story if there isn’t a fantastical or speculative element in there somewhere. Jules has had several short stories published in magazines and anthologies, as well as recorded for literature podcasts. Books 1 and 2 of her popular Unveiled series are currently available with the 3rd and 4th books due for release Autumn/ Winter 2017. She also co-authored the sweeping epic historical Oath and Crown Duology with Matthew Willis, released June 2017 from Penmore Press. Jules now lives on the edge of the Cotswold way with her boyfriend creature and a small black and white cat, both of whom share a god-complex. Find out more at her website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @J_AnneIronside

Matthew Willis is an author of historical fiction, SF, fantasy and non-fiction. In June 2017 An Argument of Blood, the first of two historical novels about the Norman Conquest co-written with J.A. Ironside, was published. In 2015 his story Energy was shortlisted for the Bridport short story award. Matthew studied Literature and History of Science at the University of Kent, where he wrote an MA thesis on Joseph Conrad and sailed for the University in national competitions. He subsequently worked as a journalist for Autosport and F1 Racing magazines, before switching to a career with the National Health Service. His first non-fiction book, a history of the Blackburn Skua WW2 naval dive bomber, was published in 2007. He now has four non fiction books published with a fifth, a biography of test pilot Duncan Menzies, due later in 2017. He currently lives in Southampton and writes both fiction and non-fiction for a living. Find out more at his website and find him on Facebook and Twitter @NavalAirHistory

Wednesday, September 5 Excerpt at Passages to the Past
Friday, September 7 Feature at The Writing Desk
Monday, September 10 Review at Pursuing Stacie
Friday, September 14 Interview at Passages to the Past
Thursday, September 20 Review at Hoover Book Reviews
Friday, September 21 Review at Locks, Hooks and Books
Saturday, September 22 Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views
Sunday, September 23 Review at Bookramblings Review at Donna's Book Blog


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a signed copy of A Black Matter for the King to one lucky reader! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below. Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on September 23rd. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY. – Only one entry per household. – All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. – Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen. A Black Matter for the King

6 September 2018

Queen Victoria: Daughter, Wife, Mother, Widow, by Lucy Worsley

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Who was Queen Victoria? A little old lady, potato-like in appearance, dressed in everlasting black? Or a passionate young princess, a romantic heroine with a love of dancing? There is also a third Victoria - a woman who was also a remarkably successful queen, one who invented a new role for the monarchy. She found a way of being a respected sovereign in an age when people were deeply uncomfortable with having a woman on the throne.

As well as a queen, Victoria was a daughter, a wife, a mother and a widow, and at each of these steps along life's journey she was expected to conform to what society demanded of a woman. On the face of it, she was deeply conservative. But if you look at her actions rather than her words, she was in fact tearing up the rule book for how to be female.

By looking at the detail of twenty-four days of her life, through diaries, letters and more, we can see Victoria up close and personal. Examining her face-to-face, as she lived hour to hour, allows us to see, and to celebrate, the contradictions at the heart of British history's most recognisable woman.

'Such a brilliant idea! Drilling down into Victoria's diaries Worsley gives us Victoria in all her infinite variety - queen and mother, matriarch and minx...I loved it.' Daisy Goodwin, author, and creator of ITV's Victoria
'The glory of this book is in the details, and the specific moments, that Worsley chooses to single out for mention, and in her cheerful voice as she leads us by the hand to the next window of Victoria's life calendar.' The Times
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About the Author 

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

5 September 2018

Special Guest Interview with Historian Nicola Tallis, Author of Elizabeth’s Rival

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

The first biography of Lettice Knollys, one of the 
most prominent women of the Elizabethan era

I'm pleased to welcome historian and author Nicola Tallis to the Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book
Elizabeth’s Rival: The Tumultuous Tale of Lettice Knollys, Countess of Leicester was released in November 2017, and I have to say I had a brilliant time writing it! For me it was kind of like the follow on from my first book, and though the link isn’t immediately obvious it’s very much there. It was also quite a challenge, as although I work in the Tudor period, the Elizabethans are slightly later than what I’m used to – so it was actually really exciting to be able to work on something completely new, and research a person who’s never had a full-scale biography before.

What is your preferred writing routine?

I’d like to say Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm, but most writers will agree that it never turns out that way! I normally start writing at around 7.30am – sometimes earlier, and I can finish any time from around 6pm to 2am. It really depends on how entrenched you are in your writing – or how close your deadline is! Recently I’ve been writing seven days a week, but ideally I’d cut that down to five. My problem is that I just can’t leave it alone – writing becomes very addictive!

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

First of all choose a subject that inspires you and that you are passionate about – you can be working on one book for a number of years, so if it’s not about a topic that interests you then it’s pointless. Also, don’t give up – one thing I’ve learned is that you have to be determined and be able to roll with the punches – unless you’re extremely fortunate you’re bound to experience some. Being able to learn from feedback is crucial, and will make you a better writer in the long term.

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

Social media is obviously a huge platform, but my favourite thing ever is events – I really love having the opportunity to speak to people about my books, and nothing beats that face to face contact. I’ve been very fortunate to have done some events at some wonderful venues, and I’ve also got lots coming up – I think that when an audience can see how passionate you are about your subject it sparks their interest, too. And that, after all, is the whole point.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

Well, for starters I was amazed that nobody had fully written about Lettice before – it’s such a dramatic story, and I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to tell it. But I was really surprised about how my view of Elizabeth I changed throughout the course of my research – I definitely saw her in a very different light.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

The execution of Lettice’s son, Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex. Even though I didn’t have much empathy for him personally, and we have no record as to Lettice’s feelings, I really felt her loss – the numerous surviving letters she wrote to him convey the strength of her maternal feelings towards him, and to lose him in such violent circumstances must have been utterly heartbreaking. Essex was the last of Lettice’s son’s, and I really feel like with him died all of her hopes – from then on she led a very quiet life in the country.

What are you planning to write next?

I’m just putting the finishing touches to my PhD – All the Queen’s Jewels – and I’ve also been working on another book for the past year. But as to the subject, for the time being it’s a closely guarded secret – all will soon be revealed!

Nicola Tallis

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About the Author

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