Mastodon The Writing Desk: December 2019

24 December 2019

New Historical Fiction Spotlight: The Occupation, by Deborah Swift

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

One woman’s secret war against the Nazis.
One man’s war against himself…

1940, Jersey: When Nazi forces occupy Jersey in the English Channel Islands, Céline Huber, who is married to a German, must decide where her loyalty lies.

Love for her island, and fear for her Jewish friend Rachel, soon propel her into a dangerous double life. Meanwhile, Céline’s husband Fred is conscripted into the Wehrmacht in occupied France.

Horrified by Nazi acts of atrocity and torture, he soon becomes a double agent for the French Resistance.

But when things go wrong, and his Nazi masters discover his true allegiance, he finds he has the whole of the German Army on his tail.

How far will Céline go for her best friend? Will Fred make his way home to her?

Or will their lives be changed forever by the brutality of war?

THE OCCUPATION is a moving war & military saga following the separate stories of a young man and woman through the years of the Second World War as they fight to survive.

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About the Author

Deborah Swift lives in North Lancashire on the edge of the Lake District and worked as a set and costume designer for theatre and TV. After gaining an MA in Creative Writing in 2007 Deborah now teach classes and courses in writing and provides editorial advice to writers and authors. Find out more at Deborah's website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @swiftstory

23 December 2019

Historical Fiction Spotlight: The Forsaken Monarch, by Amy Mantravadi

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

England is in chaos. The heir to the throne is dead. The king's only remaining legitimate child is Empress Maud, who is hundreds of miles away tending to her sick husband. Once a royal afterthought, Maud has suddenly become the most important woman in Europe.

Her father, King Henry I of England, wishes to use her as his pawn once again, but Maud dreams of a different future in which she controls her own destiny. Through heartbreak, conflicts, and great physical danger, she relies on the friends she has made to help her overcome immense obstacles.

But will she ever win the respect of both her father and her kingdom? More importantly, will she gain the child she so desperately craves?

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About the Author

Amy is the author of The Chronicle of Maud, a book series about Empress Mathilda of England. She maintains the "Church & State" blog at, where she discusses issues of politics, religion, and a little bit of everything else. She also served as Opinions Editor for her college newspaper at Taylor University in Upland, IN. Amy holds a B.A. in Political Science and Biblical Literature from Taylor, as well as an M.A. in Non-proliferation and International Security from King's College London. She spent four years working for the Egyptian Press Office in Washington, D.C., where she performed research and analysis for top government officials, among other duties. A lifelong lover of history, Amy likes to spend her free time writing (obviously!), reading (also obviously!), gardening, watching sports, and doing whatever else people in Dayton, Ohio tend to do. Find out more at Amy's website and find her on Twitter @AmyMantravadi 

22 December 2019

10 Publishing Myths: Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed, by W. Terry Whalin

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

10 Publishing Myths offers authors the chance to succeed in the publishing world by giving them practical tools they can use to succeed and dodge the myths of the industry.

The publishing world is filled with misconceptions and myths. Therefore, it is terrific for authors to have big ambitions as their book is being published, but, it is also important to be realistic and understand the world of publishing.

W. Terry Whalin has worked with hundreds of authors and published a number of bestsellers, and he knows that it is important to focus on creating a good book and not realistic about the business aspects. 

Within 10 Publishing Myths, Terry focuses on giving authors a realistic picture of the book world then detailing practical steps they can take to succeed. Inside 10 Publishing Myths, authors learn the actions they can take to succeed, they get a step-by-step guide for practical results, and so much more!
“Terry Whalin’s new book, 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed. gives authors solid action steps to take to be successful while increasing their understanding about the business of publishing. He breaks the myths that hinder authors in their journey.”  — Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief, Southern Writers Magazine.
“10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed is not merely a collection of “tips and tricks” for writers. Based on years of inside experience, author Terry Whalin offers straight-talk advice to anyone willing to do the hard work necessary for publishing success.”  — David Horton, Vice President Editorial, Bethany House Publishers 
“For years, so-called truths have floated around in the publishing world, and naïve writers have believed them. In 10 Publishing Myths, Terry reveals the truth and shares important principles that affect a writer’s success. Using examples and stories, he shows what works and then provides plenty of help—including action steps—to encourage writers on the right path. Terry’s vast experience in the industry makes this an excellent resource.”  — Cecil Murphey, bestselling author of 140 books, including 90 Minutes in Heaven (with Don Piper) and Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story  
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About the Author

Terry Whalin has loved books since his mother read And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street (the first Dr. Seuss book). He has worked both sides of the editorial desk—as an editor and a writer. He worked as a magazine editor and his magazine work has appeared in more than 50 publications. A former literary agent, Terry is an Acquisitions Editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written more than 60 books through traditional publishers in a wide range of topics from children’s books to biographies to co-authored books. Several of Terry’s books have sold over 100,000 copies. Terry is a popular speaker and teacher at numerous writers’ conferences and an active member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors . He lives near Denver, Colorado. Finds out more at  and find Terry on Twitter @terrywhalin.

17 December 2019

Special Guest Post by Dr Sarah A. Morris: The Tudor Travel Guide Goes Large in 2020!

It’s been an action-packed year! Having founded The Tudor Travel Guide in 2018, this year I feel we have got into our stride - and I say ‘we’ as The Tudor Travel Guide is not just me. I have my personal assistant, Rebecca, who helps with transcribing recordings and proof-reading numerous blogs and manuscripts. There is also Chris, my partner, who is my cameraman, sound recordist and video editor - all rolled into one!

We have been on quite a journey of discovery along the way. We have made mistakes. For example, see the time I forgot to switch on a guest’s microphone on location and Chris had to do a severe bit of post-production footwork to salvage the situation.

We’ve also had our fingers burned from time to time - and had to grow some thick skin along the way; see the time my first viral video exposed me to 71,000 people, some of whom seemed to make a living out of sending some pretty personal and cutting ‘feedback’ my way. Ouch!

The Tudor Travel Show

But all of it has encouraged us all to continue to push the boundaries and bring you new and improved blogs, podcasts and videos. So, in January of this year, I uploaded The Tudor Travel Guide’s first podcast: the inaugural episode of The Tudor Travel Show. And my word has the show evolved over the last 12 months!

Initially, all episodes were recorded in the studio. However, in May, I decided to take it to the next level and hit the road. Equipped with new tech that allowed for roaming and recording, my first on-site took place at Kenilworth Castle in May. It felt so good to be recording at a venue, bringing a much more direct and personal experience of some of the places under discussion.

About the same time, we also introduced the Tudor Travel Guide Newsdesk, as part of each monthly podcast. The TTTG newsdesk item is one of the most fun blogging tasks of the month for me, as I get to write about pivotal events that took place in the sixteenth century as if they were happening today. Quite illuminating! I hope you have been enjoying the shows. And if you haven’t tuned in yet, you can do so by going to the show’s homepage. You can also download and listen via Spotify and iTunes.

2019’s Most Popular Blog

Moving on through the year; the most popular blog of 2019 was The Death and Burial of Elizabeth I: Tales from Inside the Vault, which brought to light some long-forgotten details of Elizabeth I’s tomb. The blog drew upon a Victorian account of the search for the ‘lost’ tomb of James I of England, made by the then Dean of Westminster Abbey. To read the original is almost Indiana Jones-esque in its retelling!

One of the vaults he opened along the way, was the one enclosing the coffins of Elizabeth and her half-sister Mary. I was excited to bring to light some details he recounted, as I had never read about them before. It turned out that neither had many other people! Did you miss it? You can catch up via the link above.

The 1535 Virtual Progress - Sept 2019

One of the most popular events of this year has been the 1535 Virtual Progress, recorded as a joint collaboration with my co-author on the In the Footsteps books (In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn and In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII), Natalie Grueninger.

This four-part video series saw Nat and me in a discussion, as we followed Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII through Gloucestershire from Sudeley Castle in the north to Thornbury in the south of the county. Over 1000 people signed up to track the progress. That blew me away!

Looking Forward to 2020

The 1535 Mini-Progress Tour - 2020

On the back of the incredible success of the virtual progress, 2020 sees the launch of The Tudor Travel Guide’s inaugural Mini-Progress Tour. This is where we get to follow in the footsteps of Anne Boleyn for real, visiting places like Sudeley, Thornbury and Berkeley Castles, as well as Acton Court, which is rarely accessible to the public. Dates are fixed for 10-14 September 2020. We are running this in conjunction with British History Tours and if you would LOVE to join in what promises to be a truly memorable journey, you can find out more details and download a booking form via the British History Tours website.

Two other BIG events are on the cards for the first half of the year. Firstly, my novel, Le Temps Viendra: a Novel of Anne Boleyn, is relaunched. This second edition is being published by me, exclusively through Amazon. The original publisher closed down, and this means I have been able to do re-edits, so it is even better this time around! Volume I has just been released on Kindle. The paperback will be out soon. Volume II, which concludes this story of love, passion and betrayal, will be released in May 2020 in remembrance of Anne’s execution.

Also in May, The Tudor Travel Guide will be holding a virtual summit to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Field of Cloth of Gold. We already have some fabulous speakers lined up to talk about a range of different aspects of the event over four days. Here is just a flavour of what you might look forward to:

Dr Glenn Richardson is Professor of Early Modern History at St Mary’s University, and author of one of the latest books about ‘the Field’ called, The Field of Cloth of Gold (Yale and London, 2014). Glenn will be looking at the overall context and significance of the event from the English point of view.

Prof Charles Giry-Deloison is Professor of Modern History at the University D’Artois in France. He has also written about the Field in his book, ‘Le Camp du Drap D’Or’ and will be providing us with a complimentary, French perspective on the event.

Tracy Borman: Tracy is joint curator at Hampton Court Place, a best-selling author and historian, specialising in the Tudor period. She will be talking about Wolsey’s role in the event.
Professor Maria Hayward is a Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Southampton and an expert in Tudor textiles and clothing. She will be talking about the significance of dress at ‘the Feild’.

Claire Ridgeway: Claire is a best-selling author and the magic behind The Anne Boleyn Files. She is an expert on the Boleyns and will be talking about the significance of the event for the family.
Julian Munby is Head of Buildings Archaeology at Oxford Archaeology. He will be sharing his research, which identifies the position of the now lost castle and the fabulous temporary palace built by HenryVIII at Guines.

Brigitte Webster: Owner of Tudor Experience, is an expert on Tudor cookery and will be talking food at the Field of Cloth of Gold.

Natalie Grueninger and Sarah Morris: Authors of the best-selling ‘In the Footsteps’ books and other Tudor related fiction and non-fiction. We will be following the progress of Henry VIII from Greenwich to Calais, bringing to life the places en route and the events that took place along the way.

It’s going to be a fascinating event, and there will be so much to learn! The event will be free, and registration will open in April 2020.

This is just a taster of what’s in store. There are a few, other initiatives that I plan to get off the ground, but I wouldn’t want to share all the juice in one go now, would I? So, to hear about all the latest blogs, book launches, podcasts, videos and events make sure you subscribe to the blog via You will receive three specially created free giveaways over three days as a ‘welcome’ to The Tudor Travel Guide community. I hope to see you there soon!

Sarah A. Morris

13 December 2019

The Ghost of Madison Avenue, by Nancy Bilyeau

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

* * *  A Christmas Ghost Story in Old New York  * * * 

In this compelling and poignant story, bestselling author Nancy Bilyeau takes readers to New York City’s Morgan Library in December 1912, when two very different people haunted by lost love come together in an unexpected way.

Helen O’Neill, part of a tight-knit Irish-American family in the Bronx, is only too happy to report to work at the spectacular private library built on Madison Avenue by millionaire financier J. P. Morgan. The head librarian, the brilliant and beautiful Belle da Costa Greene, had hired Helen away from the Metropolitan Museum of Art after she witnessed Helen’s unusual talent with handling artifacts.

Helen soon discovers the Morgan Library is a place like no other, with its secret staircases, magical manuscripts, and mysterious murals. But that’s nothing compared to a person Helen alone sees: a young woman standing on Madison Avenue, looking as if she were keeping watch. In learning the woman’s true link to the Morgan, Helen must face the pain of her own past. She finds herself with a second chance at happiness on Christmas Eve—if she has the courage.

From the author of The Blue, the Joanna Stafford trilogy, and the soon-to-be published Dreamland, set in 1911 Coney Island, comes The Ghost of Madison Avenue, a story both thrilling and moving.

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About the Author

Nancy Bilyeau studied History at the University of Michigan and has worked on the staffs of "InStyle," "Good Housekeeping," and "Rolling Stone." She is currently the deputy editor of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at the Research Foundation of CUNY and a regular contributor to "Town & Country" and "The Vintage News." Nancy's mind is always in past centuries but she currently lives with her husband and two children in New York City. Find out more at Nancy's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @Tudorscribe

11 December 2019

Special Guest Interview with Author Susanne Dunlap

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

I'm pleased to welcome author Susanne Dunlap toi The Writing Desk

Tell us about your latest book

THE SPIRIT OF FIRE is book 2 in my trilogy, THE ORPHANS OF TOLOSA. It’s about two orphans trying to find the secret of their identities and their destiny during the final years of the Albigensian Crusades in 13th-century Languedoc.

What is your preferred writing routine?

I used to have a good routine, before my day job went away! LOL! Then I’d get up at 5am and write for about 2 hours on weekdays. Now that I’m working from home, I don’t have as much of a routine. I’m crazy busy doing my editing and book coaching work, and seem only able to work on my own writing when I go to community writing sessions. These are where a group of writers gets together and writes in a quiet space for an hour or more, then sometimes shares what they’ve written. The cooperative energy is great for generating new work.

Otherwise, getting out and going to the library to write is also good. Somehow I’ve managed to do quite a bit of my own writing even with everything else going on.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

There’s no right or wrong way to go about it. It’s important to get used to writing whether you feel the presence of the muse or not, but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t write every day. Find other writers to hang out with—no one else will understand how hard it is and what you’re working toward. And get beta readers who aren’t family members. Listen to constructive criticism, and keep working on your writing. It’s the only part of the whole process that’s entirely in your control.

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

If I could answer this I’d make a ton of money, LOL! I think just being present, posting on social media all the time, and not just saying “Buy my book!” (Although you have to do that), but taking part in conversations and encouraging other writers, sharing great books I’ve read etc. I do targeted Facebook ads and some Amazon ads. But the thing that works the best is a price promotion, honestly. And doing things like this virtual book tour, too!

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research.

I did the research for this trilogy many years ago, so it’s hard to think back. Perhaps the biggest thing I discovered, truly, was about the women troubadours and their lost art. Nowhere else in Europe that had a troubadour tradition had women practicing the art at such a high level. They were poets, composers, and performers, and they came from the upper echelons of society.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

I can’t tell you without a spoiler, unfortunately. A lot of bad things happened when the Catholic Church eventually drove the Cathars completely underground. It’s painful to recreate it all.

What are you planning to write next?

I’m working on the third book in a different series, my 18th-century YA historicals with a young violinist as a sleuth. It’s called The Versailles Betrayal. I’m also soon going to start editing book 3 of the trilogy, which I hope will be out next fall.

Susanne Dunlap

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About the Author

Susanne Dunlap is the author of six works of historical fiction. Two are for adults (Emilie’s Voice and Liszt’s Kiss, both published by Touchstone books of Simon & Schuster). Four are for young adults (The Musician’s Daughter, Anastasia’s Secret, In the Shadow of the Lamp, and The Academie, published by Bloomsbury). A graduate of Smith College with a PhD in Music History from Yale University, Susanne grew up in Buffalo, New York and has lived in London, Brooklyn and Northampton, MA. She now lives in Northampton with her long-time partner, Charles, has two grown daughters, three granddaughters, a grandson, a stepson and a stepdaughter, four step-grandsons and one step-granddaughter—that’s a total of four children and nine grandchildren! In her spare time she cycles in the beautiful Pioneer Valley.  For more information, please visit The Orphans of Tolosa website. You can follow author Susanne Dunlap on Facebook and Twitter @Susanne_Dunlap

5 December 2019

Historical Fiction Spotlight: Pirate Code (Capt. Jesamiah Acorne Book 2) by Helen Hollick

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

The Time : The Golden Age of Piracy - 1716
The Place : The Pirate Round - from the South African Coast
to the Caribbean

Escaping the bullying of his elder half-brother, from the age of fifteen Jesamiah Acorne has been a pirate with only two loves - his ship and his freedom. But his life is to change when he and his crewmates unsuccessfully attack a merchant ship off the coast of South Africa.

He is to meet Tiola Oldstagh an insignificant girl, or so he assumes - until she rescues him from a vicious attack, and almost certain death, by pirate hunters. And then he discovers what she really is; a healer, a midwife - and a white witch.

Tiola and Jesamiah become lovers, but the wealthy Stefan van Overstratten, a Cape Town Dutchman, also wants Tiola as his wife and Jesamiah's jealous brother, Phillipe Mereno, is determined to seek revenge for resentments of the past, a stolen ship and the insult of being cuckolded in his own home.

When the call of the sea and an opportunity to commandeer a beautiful ship - the Sea Witch - is put in Jesamiah's path he must make a choice between his life as a pirate or his love for Tiola. He wants both, but Mereno and van Overstratten want him dead.

In trouble, imprisoned in the darkness and stench that is the lowest part of his brother's ship, can Tiola, with her gift of Craft and the aid of his loyal crew, save him?

Using all her skills Tiola must conjure up a wind to rescue her lover, but first she must brave the darkness of the ocean depths and confront the supernatural being, Tethys, the Spirit of the Sea, an elemental who will stop at nothing to claim Jesamiah Acorne's soul and bones as a trophy for herself.

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About the Author

Helen moved from London in 2013 and now lives with her family in North Devon, in an eighteenth century farmhouse. First published in 1994, her passion now is her pirate character, Captain Jesamiah Acorne of the nautical adventure series, The Sea Witch Voyages. Helen became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (UK title A Hollow Crown) the story of Saxon Queen, Emma of Normandy. Her novel Harold the King (US title I Am The Chosen King) explores the events that led to the 1066 Battle of Hastings. Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy, set in the fifth century, is widely praised as a more down-to-earth historical version of the Arthurian legend. She has written three non-fiction books, Pirates: Truth and Tales, Smugglers in Fact and Fiction (to be published 2019) and as a supporter of indie writers, co-wrote Discovering the Diamond with her editor, Jo Field, a short advice guide for new writers. She runs the Discovering Diamonds review blog for historical fiction assisted by a team of enthusiastic reviewers.  Helen is published in various languages. For more information visit Helen's website and blog and follow her on Facebook
and Twitter @HelenHollick.