Mastodon The Writing Desk: July 2019

31 July 2019

Special Guest Interview with Author Pam Lecky

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

London October 1886: Trapped in a troubled marriage, Lucy Lawrence is ripe for an adventure. But when she meets the enigmatic Phineas Stone, over the body of her husband in the mortuary, 
her world begins to fall apart.

I'm pleased to welcome Irish historical fiction author Pam Lecky to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

No Stone Unturned is the first book in my new series, The Lucy Lawrence Mysteries, set in Victorian London, and the wilds of Yorkshire in the north of England. The story centres round a suspicious death which has been made to look like an unfortunate accident, some stolen sapphires belonging to a Kashmiri maharajah, and a rather large unclaimed reward.

This story has been bubbling away at the back of my mind for some time. My first book was romantic suspense and although I really enjoyed writing it, I wanted to write something a little darker. The initial idea was the prodigal daughter returning home only to be embroiled in a crime, but I also wished to create a series in which I could develop the characters over time. 

Initially, Phineas Stone was to be the central character as the private investigator who specialises in insurance fraud, but the more I wrote about Lucy Lawrence, the louder her voice became. Eventually, the entire book was rewritten from her point of view and The Lucy Lawrence Mysteries were born!

Life for women in the Victorian age was very restricted and depending on your class, strict rules applied. I wanted to explore how a relatively young woman, with a strong personality and high intellect, would cope within the confines of a troubled marriage. Would she accept her lot or chafe at the bit? But in Lucy’s case, with no money and estranged from her family, she could not walk away. To do so, would mean social ruin. 

However, when circumstances finally release her (her husband’s sudden death), she struggles. Pretty much every man in her life so far has betrayed her on some level for their own ends. As a result, Lucy finds it difficult to trust her fate to any man.

Another theme, which emerged as I explored Lucy’s story, was the strong reliance on female friendship. I suspect this is what sustained many Victorian women, finding themselves in similar circumstances to Lucy. As the story progresses, Lucy comes to rely more and more on her maid Mary, who also begins to shine with talents hitherto unknown, namely a penchant for spying and intrigue. And when trouble does strike, it is her friends, Judith and Sarah, who Lucy turns to.

Lucy’s husband’s secrets continue to spill from the grave and then Lucy’s life is threatened. Somehow, she must rise to the challenges she faces. But who can she really trust? Phineas Stone appears to be working to his own agenda. Then comes a pivotal point in the story when Lucy realises she must take her destiny into her own hands and she sets out on a dangerous adventure in pursuit of the truth about her late husband and his less than legal activities. 

What is your preferred writing routine?

As I work part-time, my writing time is limited and precious. On the days I’m at home I also have to juggle the normal everyday stuff but I try to set aside a few hours to put pen to paper. If I’m not too tired on working days, I usually get a bit of editing done. Most days, I try to do a little marketing and promotion as well.

What advice do you have for new writers?

Whether you are traditionally published or an indie, you need to treat your writing as a business. You’re not just a scribbler of words, you are also an accountant, marketing expert, social media demon, graphic designer (for those wonderful ads and promos for social media), and a publicity expert. Once you launch a book into the world, all these other skills are called on. For me, it is always a relief and a pleasure to return to plain old writing!
What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

When I started out, I knew absolutely nothing. I just published with little or no planning, no budget and no idea how to get the word out. What I have learned (the hard way), is to start months before a book is released. Having a blog is great―you can publish posts related to the book (for me, these were posts based on my historical research). 

If you do this properly, it can create a bit of a buzz about the book. An author page on Facebook, using Twitter and Instagram, are other great ways to generate interest. I have also found interacting with readers and writers on social media helps. The writing community is very supportive. For my latest release, my author friends really helped create awareness. Another simple but effective marketing tool is to set up your book for pre-order at a discount and advertise it heavily.

Lastly, for me, entering competitions and seeking reviews from reputable groups such as the Historical Novel Society, helped get my debut novel off the ground (it was long-listed for their indie award). In Ireland, we are also very lucky to have the Carousel Aware Prize for Indie Authors: my novel was short-listed for novel of the year.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

No Stone Unturned often threw up some interesting questions. For instance, did Victorian households use rubbish bins? What kinds of trains were used in the London Underground in 1886? My collection of research books failed me.

I discovered that contacts online can be a useful source of information. Lee Jackson, a fellow historical fiction author, has written extensively on Victorian life. I contacted him on Twitter and he was able to tell me almost immediately what I needed to know about Victorian rubbish. The train question was a little trickier, as I also wished to know how long a particular journey took. Thankfully, I found the London Transport Museum online, and within 24 hours I had not only answers to my questions but copies of relevant timetables. 

Oh! And just in case you are interested, the Victorians did use domestic rubbish bins which were collected by dustmen in horse-drawn carts twice a day! 

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

In my debut novel, The Bowes Inheritance, one of the main characters succumbs to her illness and dies. That was a tough scene to write. Maybe I became too close to her, being in her head, as it were. I still can’t read that section without blubbing.

What are you planning to write next?

I’m in the developmental stages of a new project for my agent. I can’t give too much away at the moment other than the setting is most likely England and France just after WW1. The Roaring Twenties intrigues me. It must have been an interesting time to be alive. The world was hurting but changing rapidly. For me, this time presents a wealth of writing opportunities.

Then I also have to work on the sequel to No Stone Unturned which is in its second draft and I hope to publish it before year end. The next instalment is entitled Footprints in the Sand, and is set in Egypt. My heroine finds herself embroiled in the machinations and professional jealousies of rival English and French Egyptologists. When a prominent member of the profession is found murdered, she must keep her wits about her to solve the case and avoid meeting a similar fate. As I have ideas for at least another two books in this series, I believe I will be busy for some time to come.

Pam Lecky
# # #

About the Author

Pam Lecky is an Irish historical fiction author, writing crime, mystery, romance and the supernatural. Pam is represented by the Hardman & Swainson Literary Agency in London. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Society of Authors and has a particular love of the late Victorian era/early 20th Century. Her debut novel, The Bowes Inheritance, was awarded the B.R.A.G Medallion; shortlisted for the Carousel Aware Prize 2016; and long-listed for the Historical Novel Society 2016 Indie Award. Her short stories are available in an anthology, entitled Past Imperfect, which was published in April 2018. Find out more at and find Pam on Facebook and Twitter @pamlecky

21 July 2019

Book Review ~ MURDER, Now and Then, by Diana Jackson

Available on Amazon UK and on Amazon US

Think Midsomer murders meets Bergerac, set in the near future and based on an actual murder that took place in 1919, and you'll have a good idea of what to expect from Diana Jackson's latest thriller. Unlikely coincidences keep you guessing and, in classic murder mystery style, have you changing your mind several times about the killer's identity - or who the next victim might be.

I particularly liked the evocative scenes set in Diana's much-loved Channel Islands and could easily imagine this book as a successful  TV drama. The eventual denouement is original and inventive - I definitely didn't see it coming!  Highly recommended, Murder, Now and Then is one of those books you can't put down until the mystery is solved.

 # # #

About the Author

Diana Jackson is a full time author living in the UK. When not writing, Diana’s other passions are social history, gardening and cooking her own produce, Inspired by her great grandmother, an Alderney girl, her ‘Riduna Series’ novels take the reader from the mid Victorian era through to 1920. To find out about Diana Jackson’s other writing projects, you can visit her blog and find her on Twitter @Riduna

19 July 2019

Special Guest Interview with Author Michael J. Sahno

 New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

I'm pleased to welcome author Michael J. Sahno to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book:

Whizzers is about a recovering alcoholic named Mike who discovers that his six-year-old cousin, David, travels through time to bring comfort to those in need. Mike soon finds himself along for the ride, and while he gets the opportunity to bring solace to some of his greatest heroes, he must also confront his own greatest demons. It's not pure autobiography, but the main character is a fictionalized version of the author--so it's not only the best thing I've ever done, but also the most personal.

What is your preferred writing routine? 

I'm much better at editing in the morning, so since I started working for myself, I save my writing time for afternoons and evenings. I've been writing full-time since 2001, and I've had to do a lot of different types of projects. When it comes to creating a draft of any sort, I think of myself as a sprinter: I get a lot done in a short amount of time--and it's much higher quality than what most people think of as a "first draft"--but then I'm out of gas. I tend to block out 90-minute sessions for writing. Everything else happens around those.

What advice do you have for new writers? 

Better learn to dig ditches, too.

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

Oddly enough, I've found blog tours like the one that kicks off today with this post are great for raising awareness. Typically, blog tours build more awareness than actual sales--and, of course, it's impossible for an author to determine how many people navigate away from someone else's site to buy a book--but I've seen some large spikes in sales that coincided with a book launch. I've also found Twitter is an excellent way to network with other writers, many of whom will share your stuff. A percentage of my Twitter followers do some great promotion for me, which I appreciate.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research. 

Because this book was so personal and autobiographical, it required very little research. Most of my research was related to what genre to classify the novel, which I've not done much in the past--my other novels have essentially all been literary fiction, with differing subcategories. The only thing that comes to mind is that I mention a photo of Rabindranath Tagore in Whizzers, and I thought I recalled it being taken by a photographer named E.O. Hoppé. I don't know anything about E.O. Hoppé, but I Googled the name, and sure enough, I was right. That's who took the photo. I have no idea why I remembered such a specific piece of trivia, but I did.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

Without giving too much away, there's a scene where an adolescent version of myself is brutally bullied by a group of peers. It's based on an actual incident, which I visualized in detail and practically relived while writing the scene. I'm 54, and I'd never had the experience of breaking down and crying either during or after writing something, at least not that I can recall. But I did both. I can't even explain what an incredibly powerful, overwhelming, and ultimately healing experience that was.

What are you planning to write next?

I have a couple irons in the fire: one is my first work of historical fiction, and the other is a contemporary novel. No idea which will be completed first, but I'll probably toggle back and forth between them for a bit to figure out which one I can finish first.

Michael J. Sahno

# # #

About the Author

Born in Bristol, CT, Michael J. Sahno began writing stories at an early age. He obtained a Master of Arts in English from Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY at the age of twenty-four, going on to become a full-time professional writer in 2001. Whizzers is his fifth full-length work of fiction. Find out more at and find him on Twitter @MikeSahno

15 July 2019

Last Day: 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 

# # #

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 and find her on Twitter @nancy_blanton 

6 July 2019

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

Available from 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

# # #

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 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

# # #

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 or via Facebook and on Twitter @GemmaHAuthor.