15 July 2019

Owen - Book One of the Tudor Trilogy: On Special 99p / $1.24 Kindle Summer Reading Promotion

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Based on the true story of a forgotten hero, OWEN is the epic tale of one young man’s incredible courage and resilience as he changes the course of English history.

England 1422: Owen Tudor, a Welsh servant, waits in Windsor Castle to meet his new mistress, the beautiful and lonely Queen Catherine of Valois, widow of the warrior king, Henry V. Her infant son is crowned King of England and France, and while the country simmers on the brink of civil war, Owen becomes her protector.

They fall in love, risking Owen’s life and Queen Catherine’s reputation—but how do they found the dynasty which changes British history – the Tudors?

This is the first historical novel to fully explore the amazing life of Owen Tudor, grandfather of King Henry VII and the great-grandfather of King Henry VIII. Set against a background of the conflict between the Houses of Lancaster and York, which develops into what have become known as the Wars of the Roses, Owen’s story deserves to be told.

13 July 2019

The 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2019 #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Few of us have the time to search for the most useful websites for writers, so it's helpful that for the past six years, followers of The Write Life nominate the best 100, which are listed here:

The 2019 list is organised into ten categories: freelancing, inspiration, writing tools, blogging, creativity and craft, editing, podcasts, marketing and platform building, writing communities and publishing.

All sites are listed in alphabetical order within these categories, with numbers for ease of reading (not ranking). Take a look and subscribe to your favourites.

Do you have recommendations for other useful websites for writers you would like to share? Please feel free to comment below

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.

10 July 2019

Book Review: The Earl in Black Armor, by Nancy Blanton

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

IRELAND, 1635: When the clan leader sends Faolán Burke to Dublin to spy on Thomas Wentworth, the ruthless Lord Deputy of Ireland, the future of his centuries-old clan rests upon his shoulders. Wentworth is plotting to acquire clan lands of Connacht for an English Protestant plantation, displacing Irish families. To stop him, Faolán must discover misdeeds that could force King Charles to recall Wentworth to England.

How fascinating to see the English occupation of Ireland from the Irish perspective. The often harsh world of seventeenth century Dublin Castle is convincing and the character of Faolán Burke is perfectly placed to allow us an insight into the complex politics of the court of King Charles Ist.

I knew little of the history behind this story, and am grateful that Nancy Blanton provides such a well-researched account. I particularly liked the actual quotes at the a start of each chapter, which ground the events of the fictional narrative in reality.

The best villains can surprise us by revealing their human side, and by the end I felt some sympathy for Thomas Wentworth, despite his flawed character. Reading this book has led to me looking into the real history of the Irish Rebellion of 1641 and events leading up to the English Civil War . Highly recommended.

Tony Riches 

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About the Author

Nancy Blanton writes award-winning novels based in 17th century Irish history. Her latest, The Earl in Black Armor, tells a relentless story of loyalty, honor and betrayal in the Stuart era prior to the great Irish Rebellion of 1641. The Prince of Glencurragh, her second novel, occurs in 1634 during the English Plantation of Ireland. Her first novel, Sharavogue, is set in Ireland and the West Indies during the time of Oliver Cromwell. In non-fiction, Brand Yourself Royally in 8 Simple Steps is also a medalist, providing a valuable personal branding guide for authors, artists, and business consultants. Her blog, My Lady’s Closet, focuses on writing, books, historical fiction, research and travel. Ms. Blanton is a member of the Historical Novel Society and has worked as a journalist, magazine editor, corporate communications leader and brand manager. Her books celebrate her love of history and her Irish and English heritage. She lives in Florida.Find out more at www.nancyblanton.com and find her on Twitter @nancy_blanton 

6 July 2019

Book review: A Tapestry of Treason, by Anne O'Brien

Available for pre-order on Amazon UK and Amazon US

1399: Constance of York, Lady Despenser, proves herself more than a mere observer in the devious intrigues of her magnificently dysfunctional family, The House of York.

A Tapestry of Treason begins with an attempt to foretell the future, and I found myself trying to recall what I knew of the actual events of the time. Although I know a great deal about King Henry V, I knew less about how his father claimed the throne - and little of the story of Constance of York, Countess Despenser.

Anne O'Brien uses first-person narrative to take us deep within the troubling world of this amazing woman. It took me a little while to warm to Constance’s often cynical view of those around her. A deeply flawed character, it’s hard not to judge her against modern standards until we learn why she behave as she does.

Evocative and captivating, this wonderfully researched book is a good example of why we need historical fiction to ‘fill in the gaps’ of the historical record. On the face of it, Constance deserves everything she gets (and loses), yet we feel her frustration of having to watch from the sidelines of what is very much a man’s world.

I particularly liked the used of the tapestry of the title to provide threads of gold and silk which run through the narrative, reminding us that, even in the hardest times, this is a world of royal privilege.

This is the tenth historical fiction novel from Anne O'Brien. I have read them all, and in my view this is the best so far. Highly recommended.

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Anne O’Brien was born in West Yorkshire. After gaining a BA Honours degree in History at Manchester University and a Master’s in Education at Hull, she lived in East Yorkshire for many years as a teacher of history. She now lives with her husband in an eighteenth-century timber-framed cottage in the depths of the Welsh Marches in Herefordshire, on the borders between England and Wales, where she writes historical novels. The perfect place in which to bring medieval women back to life. Find out more at Anne's website  http://www.anneobrien.co.uk/ and find her on Facebook and Twitter @anne_obrien

5 July 2019

Guest Interview with Gemma Hollman, Author of Royal Witches: From Joan of Navarre to Elizabeth Woodville

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

I'm pleased to welcome author and historian Gemma Hollman to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

Until the mass hysteria of the seventeenth century, accusations of witchcraft in England were rare. However, in the fifteenth century four royal women, related in family and in court ties - Joan of Navarre, Eleanor Cobham, Jacquetta of Luxembourg and Elizabeth Woodville - were accused of practising witchcraft in order to kill or influence the king.

Some of these women may have turned to the dark arts, but the purpose of the accusations was purely political. Despite their status, these women were vulnerable because of their gender as the men around them moved them like pawns for political gains. Royal Witches explores the lives of these women, and the consequences of the accusations against them.

What is your preferred writing routine?

It took a while for me to truly get into a writing routine, but I found the best thing was to listen to my mood. Some people get up at 5am and write, others find they work best in the evening. I found that I do my best work during late morning and the afternoon, so I would spend the morning gearing myself up for the day and reading over what I had written the previous day to refresh my mind. Then I get to work, and make sure to allow myself regular breaks to keep my mind going! When my deadline got tight, I would use the evenings to do mundane tasks that didn’t take too much energy, like referencing.

What advice do you have for new writers?

Just do it! So many people have ideas for books, but are often scared to put pen to paper. If you think it’s a good idea, it probably is. Get words on the page, and you’ll find that the more you write the more you find your flow and your voice. You can edit and tighten up later, but there’s nothing worse than having an empty page!

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

Something all authors want to know! I think at the moment, social media and blogging is really the way to go. You are always going to have a ready market of readers who browse the history shelves in bookshops, so you want to try and market to those who may not normally consider buying your type of book. So many people are on social media today, it really is the biggest way to connect to people across the world. Make an account, talk about your book, but make sure to engage with other authors too – people are often happy to help out fellow authors!

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

That Edward IV was himself accused of using witchcraft by his brother, the Duke of Clarence! I had read plenty of books on Edward and whilst they mentioned his brother’s demise, no one thought this accusation was worth mentioning. It was only when I was reading the Parliament proceedings against Clarence that I found this nugget. Up to that point, near the end of my research, it had only seemingly been Royal women who were tangled up in the accusations, so it was certainly a surprise to see the King himself targeted, even if it was in a slightly different way.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

The hardest parts of my book to write were those where there are few sources – or few accessible sources. Although Eleanor Cobham was Duchess of Gloucester, there is very little material tracing her life in the 1430s. I had to talk about that period without losing sight of her, and having the readers wonder where she had gone to. The same happened with her predecessor in the book, Joan of Navarre. Her life in Brittany is also poorly documented, and there is very little written in English. I was able to work with some French sources but my language skills are limited! Trying to get a feel for what her life was like before she came to England was quite tricky, therefore, so I tried to just focus on some key events and bring those to life instead.

What are you planning to write next?

My passion certainly lies with strong women in the medieval period. I do have a soft spot for the royalty, so I am hoping to look at some earlier examples of women who managed to gain a lot of power in a time where it would not necessarily be expected they could do so. I have a few ideas in the works but don’t want to spoil any of them just yet!

Gemma Hollman

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About the Author

Gemma Hollman holds a Masters in Medieval History from the University of York. She runs Just History Posts blog and social media pages, and at present is working in an archive. She currently lives in Hertfordshire with her partner. Find out more at her website www.justhistoryposts.com or via Facebook and on Twitter @JustHistoryPost.